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Bigfoot and other wild men of the forest - Comments

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 1 by Stafford Gordon

Eugenie Scott shoots her own fox within the first ten minutes by saying that without evidence scientists can't have a discourse with supernaturalists.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 14:37:00 UTC | #311394

plastictowel's Avatar Comment 2 by plastictowel

What do you mean stafford? I'm not sure I understand.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 14:51:00 UTC | #311404

theolgit's Avatar Comment 3 by theolgit

A couple of faux pas there. Plesiosaurs wer not dinosaurs although they were living in the same era. The basking shark is a shark it is not a whale.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 15:10:00 UTC | #311416

mbannonb's Avatar Comment 4 by mbannonb

Big Foot is really Cain walking the earth for his sins.

Well, that's what some mormons believe.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 15:25:00 UTC | #311424

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 5 by aquilacane

evidence first please

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 15:38:00 UTC | #311428

Crocket Lauderdale's Avatar Comment 6 by Crocket Lauderdale

A basking shark is a whale? That's news to me. Is a whale shark really a whale too?

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 15:39:00 UTC | #311429

zimmyis's Avatar Comment 7 by zimmyis

Is there any evidence that indicates there is/could actually be any great apes living in the world today that we have not yet discovered? Why would we even be looking if there isn't? It's no different than avidly searching for over-sized pigeons...

Folk law and myths are no basis for beginning a scientific investigation. There are so many possible roots to these myths, why would any sane person waste their time investigating them? Is there anybody seriously hunting werewolves nowadays? This is no different. Even speculation seems like a complete waste of time to me...

"That's nothing that a scientist can deal with" is said about supernatural bigfeets, but surely the same applies to any bigfeets, because the only "evidence" is some dodgy photos.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 15:43:00 UTC | #311431

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 8 by Russell Blackford

Plesiosaur = mesozoic-era reptile. It's not really a dinosaur, but I guess it was shorthand to say "mesozoic-era creature, extinct for many millions of years".

The basking shark mistake is a bit more embarrassing. I guess she had in mind that it's a filter-feeder like a baleen whale. But of course, it's still a shark.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 16:11:00 UTC | #311435

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 9 by Laurie Fraser

Whale shark is a shark, Crockett.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 16:15:00 UTC | #311438

decius's Avatar Comment 10 by decius

Just a quid pro quo, of course Eugene knows that it's a shark. It happens when thinking ahead what one is about to say.

She should be complimented for holding the whole presentation without reading from notes, rather than be nitpicked over quibbles.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 16:23:00 UTC | #311444

Russell Blackford's Avatar Comment 11 by Russell Blackford

Decius, I agree. I've done similar things sooo often. It's easy to misspeak ... and then only realise later what you said and what you really had in mind. Often, in my case, I realise when I wake up in the middle of the night. Dammit.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 16:30:00 UTC | #311448

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 12 by Laurie Fraser

I once spent a whole lesson referring to the author of "Tyger Tyger" as "Francis Bacon. Go figure - did I feel like an idiot.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 16:35:00 UTC | #311451

Anna Lane's Avatar Comment 13 by Anna Lane

Whats with this site tonight? I often lurk around here for some rational clear thinking to escape the chaos of this world, and what do I find? Bigfoot/Yeti and human cells grown to look like microscopic jellybabies!

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 17:29:00 UTC | #311475

Vergil's Avatar Comment 14 by Vergil

There seems to be a very narrow definition of the term "evidence". Of course eyewitness testimony and fuzzy photographs are evidence.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 17:38:00 UTC | #311478

Adam Morrison's Avatar Comment 15 by Adam Morrison

There's allways room for human-shaped, cell Jello

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 17:41:00 UTC | #311480

Crocket Lauderdale's Avatar Comment 16 by Crocket Lauderdale

Comment #326713 by Laurie Fraser

Whale shark is a shark, Crockett.

Thanks Laurie, I was just kidding around...just wanted to make sure that all filter feeding sharks hadn't been reclassified ;)

Comment #326706 by zimmyis

Is there any evidence that indicates there is/could actually be any great apes living in the world today that we have not yet discovered? Why would we even be looking if there isn't? It's no different than avidly searching for over-sized pigeons...

Alright, as a disclaimer, I have to admit that I sort of self-indoctrinated myself to the bigfoot phenomenon as a youngster. I still check out the bigfoot websites from time to time to read the new reports and see if there's any new "evidence". Guilty pleasure. Although I'm not a bigfoot believer, I've studied the phenomenon enough to understand the arguments and their rebuttals and I think I can make a fair critique here.

Is there any evidence? Yes. Is it any good? Nope. Not by any scientific standard. Although I would submit that's there's more evidence for bigfoot than there is for god, that's not really saying much. The only scientifically testable evidence so far has been the collection of a few hair samples and I believe one blood sample that was not an exact match with any known animal. Although I think this is interesting, it's really just a "god of the gaps" argument and doesn't really prove anything.

She mentioned "Giganto" as well a bit later in the program. To me this is only interesting in that it sets a precedence in the fossil record for primates achieving a size consistent with typical descriptions reported by those claiming to have seen a bigfoot creature. We know very little of Giganto other than it had big jaws and big teeth. As far as I know, we have no idea if this animal was bipedal or quadrapedal. We also have no evidence of this creature making the migration and necessary adaptations to North America as have other primates (humans). However, if there was any overlap between this creature's existence and that of early humans, it could be a possible "first cause" for the folklore shared by many indigenous peoples across the globe.

As for whether or not its a waste of time or not, well that's a fair question. I'd certainly prefer that my scientists spent their time researching cures for cancer than out searching for Yeti, but I also don't think that someone like Jeff Meldrum (who studies Primate bipedalism) should be laughed at for evaluating alleged bigfoot casts. The existence of bigfoot is a scientific question and as long as "bigfoot hunters" are using the scientific method I can make no judgements on their ambitions. It's different than looking for over sized pigeons because descriptions of bigfoot share many characteristics with known primates and it wouldn't be a stretch to guess that if one is ever discovered, it is indeed likely a primate. Certainly we could learn more about our evolutionary past through the discovery of another bipedal primate than we could with an over- sized pigeon right?

I love the work Eugenie is doing for our nation and I think she does a great job here in her presentation. Her analysis is very fair and she's definitely done her home work. My only critique is that her working rhetorical example of bigfoot as a 12 foot hairy creature in West Texas comes off as a bit of a straw man.

West Texas is by no means a hotbed of bigfoot activity and reports of 12 foot creatures are the extreme. The typical report are 7-9 feet for males with females typically being reported smaller. There are more plausible bigfoot definitions than the one she presented I would have liked to see her debunk a less extreme version. I'm kind of doing a bell-curve assessment here myself and I certainly could be wrong.

Although I agree with her argument that more alleged encounters in more places actually makes the creature LESS likely, I think she generally understates the vast remoteness of the lands these creatures are typically reported. Texas is huge! Check out Oregon on Google Earth...plenty of places to hide there.

Most of us here probably live in urban and suburban environments and it's easy to lose site of just how much earth there is outside of our little villages. I know it's just another god of the gaps argument, but I just tend to think that the gaps are a little bigger than she is implying in regards to alleged habitat.

Either way, the only way this will ever get solved is if he have a body. Sorry for the long post...I love this stuff :)

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 17:57:00 UTC | #311482

Vergil's Avatar Comment 17 by Vergil

Don't apologise Crocket. Your post is very refreshing amid all of the "He believes in God, what an idiot!" brick a brack usually posted around here.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 18:10:00 UTC | #311484

MaxD's Avatar Comment 18 by MaxD

I've been argueing with bigfoot advocates for a few months. I've read through the "scientific reports" of the BFRO and as a field biologist, I have found all of it remarkably laughable.

Some of the bigfoot experts have come up with bizarely detailed accounts of their biology, but no credible video footage? No type-specimen? No credible tissue? All very strange.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 18:17:00 UTC | #311485

Crocket Lauderdale's Avatar Comment 19 by Crocket Lauderdale

Comment #326763 by MaxD

I'm still not sure what to think about the BFRO. On one hand they are at least making an attempt to gather data into a format that may have some value. And I do think there are number of members there that are sincere and really trying to maintain some precision in their research. They also played a key role in debunking the "Georgia bigfoot body" hoax perpetrated this summer. Not bad for a bunch of bigfoot believers.

On the other hand, BFRO is essentially a commercial enterprise that uses "bigfoot expeditions" as a way to make money. On these expeditions people will pay money to stay out in the woods with BFRO members in areas suspected of activity. Customers will often report "wood knocking" or "vocalizations" as evidence. This activity might also have been perpetrated by the guides themselves. I suspect a Sherpa or two might have done similiar things on Yeti expeditions as well.

I agree, most of the reports are worthless. The ones I find the most interesting are the most benign...something like "school teacher see large upright animal walk across a logging-road on her morning commute". I guess I find those types of reports more interesting because there's nothing supernatural about them and the reporter doesn't really have anything to gain. This violates Mr. Sagan's "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" , however, so I guess I have to chuck those reports out as well.

*credible video footage - This might not even be possible. It could always be a man in a suit. Credible photographs are pretty much an oxymoron at this point as well.

Here's a link to my favorite "blobsquatch" report. I actually find this one more interesting than the Patterson Grimlin film that's usually presented. Although it's still debunkable, at least these photographs have reasonable references for size. Unfortunately, this is about as good as the evidence gets.

*credible tissue - none yet. The best shot so far was attempted when blood gathered from a bear repellent device outside of a remote fishing cabin in British Columbia. The sample was deemed too degraded by one independent analysis. In another it returned a sequence which had about a 1 in 5000 chance of being human in source. Interesting, but not conclusive by any means.

*No type specimen - This one gets tricky, but yeah, its the holy grail for a bigfoot hunter and really the only evidence worth anything at this point. Although we probably should have found a body by now, I don'think that argument is a deal breaker. Mother nature takes care of its dead pretty quickly in the wild and doesn't always leave a trace. Think how lucky we are when we find fossils. Also, many of the reports are made by hunters, and you think one would have shot one by now. The problem there is that the hunter first has to come to grips with what they are seeing, then they must decide if they want to pull the trigger on something that might be a man in a costume. That would be murder. As crazy as it sounds, some states actually have legislation against "shooting unknown primates" to prevent the accidental death of a hoaxer. They kind of treat bigfoot as an endangered species.

Since you are a field biologist, I'm curious as to what you think you would do if you had an encounter with such a creature. I think it's an interesting thought experiment.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 19:34:00 UTC | #311493

MaxD's Avatar Comment 20 by MaxD

I just prepared a long post but lost it when I accidently backed my browser up.

My big question for the bigfooters is why is that we don't here about this from really credible outdoors persons. People who made their living in the wilds. Why are there no serious accounts from people like Olaus, or Adolf Murie? Why is it almost always low rent accounts, from inexperienced observers? Why is that Bigfoot can elude the practiced eyes of experienced field biologists, and other naturalist types but almost always appear for a couple of deer hunters with their cell phone camera. I think this is a huge crevass in the credibility right from the word go.

Its true that photos can be faked, but I think if you had a build up of crisper clearer images (that maybe carved out a credible map of ranges-Have you noticed the BFRO suspects these creatures in nearly every state?) Then we might have something to go on, and a place to begin and reasons for doing so.

I spend months in the woods at a time, in remote areas. Whether I see them or not, I always see sure signs of tracks, scat, hair, scratching posts etc of numerous animals. However one thing I never have seen, nor heard any other biologist report any thing the bigfoot experts see. This seems like another nail in the coffin. Why is it that we haven't even got more of this going on?
"Didn't see any thing but man I found a big pile of scat and tons of prints." (This fall, I never saw a cougar for instance, but saw plenty of tracks on the trails to our trapping stations, and fresh scat every few days. The year before a biologist saw a cougar jump, and kill a deer on the same grounds. History, consistently aquired evidence. I wish I could say I had kept such a safe distance from the black bears in the area!)

This kind of report for bigfoot shouldn't be rare at all if these supposed creatures are as wide-spread as their experts claim. People working in the far off wild places should be seeing these signs more regularly but they just aren't.

The other thing I am somewhat puzzled by is the lack of fossil or archeological evidence for these things.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 20:53:00 UTC | #311503

freedom0f5peech's Avatar Comment 21 by freedom0f5peech

That's just what Eugenie Scott needs... more enemies... LOL!!! ;P

And to think, those Big Foot nutters were probably in favor of teaching evolution in the schools. LOL!!! ;P

Sorry, I'm feeling silly.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 22:10:00 UTC | #311517

Fuzzy Duck's Avatar Comment 22 by Fuzzy Duck

Thanks for posting this! I heard about this on the ol' Facespace, and wanted to attend.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 22:13:00 UTC | #311518

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 23 by robotaholic

lol freedom0f5peech LOL

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 22:15:00 UTC | #311519

Kit Finn's Avatar Comment 24 by Kit Finn

The decomposing basking-shark = plesiosaur idea has been around for ages, though. there was a case of one being washed up on the Orkney Islands in the 188(?)0s, scaring some local farmers and being subjected to a scientific study.

Fri, 23 Jan 2009 23:39:00 UTC | #311532

hmj's Avatar Comment 25 by hmj

Comment #326760 by Crocket Lauderdale

"The only scientifically testable evidence so far has been the collection of a few hair samples and I believe one blood sample that was not an exact match with any known animal."

Why dont you mention if DNA tests have been done on the hairs?

Sat, 24 Jan 2009 01:09:00 UTC | #311547

PERSON's Avatar Comment 26 by PERSON

"one blood sample that was not an exact match with any known animal"
Again, DNA testing is the key I guess. It'd be easy to fake something like this just by mixing the blood of two animals or otherwise adulterating it.

Sat, 24 Jan 2009 07:58:00 UTC | #311661

Crocket Lauderdale's Avatar Comment 27 by Crocket Lauderdale

Comment #326829 by hmj

Why dont you mention if DNA tests have been done on the hairs?

Well, from what I understand, most of the testing on alleged bigfoot hairs hasn't involved DNA testing. Most of the sample hairs given to scientists have been examined under a microscope and then compared to the known set of local species. For the bigfoot advocate, the most hopeful results would be "unknown animal". The only DNA tests I'm aware of on hair were performed on some hairs collected up in the Yukon territory. I believe these hairs turned out to be that of North American Bison.

Here's the bottom line, you can collect all the hair, scat, and blood you want, but if you don't have a type specimen with which to compare it to, it doesn't prove anything.

If you have any links to any published research or peer reviewed test results performed on alleged bigfoot samples that contradict what I said above, I would love to see it.

Sat, 24 Jan 2009 10:38:00 UTC | #311689

headcold's Avatar Comment 28 by headcold

I greatly respect what Eugenie Scott is doing, but I've been wondering recently if maybe the NCSE needs someone a bit more assertive and less librarian-ish to represent the teaching of evolution in schools.

Sat, 24 Jan 2009 11:19:00 UTC | #311700

HourglassMemory's Avatar Comment 29 by HourglassMemory

I see some of you feeling awkward that Euginie is actually bothering to talk about Big Foot and so on.

So what?
It's an entertaining talk.
She's right up there on my list with Dawkins when the topic is Evolution.
Needless to say that I don't mind listening to EITHER on ANY topic.

She seems to be a very nice lady.
Can you imagine her screaming?...

Sat, 24 Jan 2009 11:35:00 UTC | #311703

MaxD's Avatar Comment 30 by MaxD

I think there is a little bit of a bump in Bigfoot traffic thanks to youtube, and the internet I think so it is good that Eugenie is tackling it.

Sat, 24 Jan 2009 13:51:00 UTC | #311733