Episode 55: I doubt it

BFS 055: I doubt it

Episode 55 of The Bigfoot Show has reproachfully arched its eyebrow at the internet like that woman in a bar who doesn’t buy your best pick-up line. On the show this time, Sharon Hill, editor of the Doubtful News blog and advocate of critical thinking discussing the skeptical take on the world of sasquatchery, including the dual darlings of DNA deducting Melba Ketchum and Bryan Sykes.

Score this one from iTunes, Stitcher Smart Radio, or via the direct download linkage.

Show notes after the jump…

Show Notes

Sharon’s list of paranormal TV shows

Sharon’s recent article on Ketchum on Huffington Post

Intro music: “Black Magic Woman” by Santana

Outro music: “The Skeptic in the Room” by Eddie Scott

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Posted in Episodes
42 comments on “Episode 55: I doubt it
  1. idoubtit says:

    Damn, Brian: Everyone is going to think I’m grumpy. You are perpetuating the stereotype. :-P

  2. David NC says:

    Idoubtit. I do not think you grumpy at all. It would be great if all skeptics had a personality such as yours.

  3. Kevin M. says:

    I thought this was a great show- Thanks for doing it.

  4. […] Episode 55 guest Sharon Hill has posted to her blog an account of how she ran afoul of the BFRO’s purity police. Turns out, she wrote an article for Doubtful News about Bryan Sykes’ new Yeti book and posted it to the BFRO Facebook group. Innocuous enough. You’d think those interested in Sykes’ work (and there are lots) would be happy to read the information (keep in mind, she’s done a crackerjack job of keeping everyone current on the Ketchum madness).  […]

  5. To me, as a skeptic (har har) this was your best show yet. Sharon was great. I wish I could get my scoffing friends to listen to this show, but they are so convinced the whole subject of Bigfoot is a colossal joke they won’t even give this five minutes of their time. Fantastic show!

  6. Rob Baird says:

    Thanks for having Sharon on the show. I was interested to note that when Sharon brought up the issue of the unreliability of eye-witness testimony, Brain went silent. It reminded me of when Brian gave his testimony from area X about seeing something running up a hill at a preternaturally fast pace. To him, he saw two sasquattle. Does Brian ever think to himself “I saw what I wanted to see, maybe that’s not what was really there”?

    • Brian Brown says:

      I “went silent” because I didn’t have Sharon on to debate the existence of bigfoot. I don’t feel the need to constantly defend my experiences from those who have differing opinions. My silence should not be construed as anything other than respectful listening as part of a polite conversation. And no, I never think “I saw what I wanted to see” when thinking back on that encounter.

      Let’s recall the facts. I was one of four people who saw the animals. The one with the least best view of them. To me, they were black and terrifically fast and charged up a steep hill in a way inconsistent with any other animal with which I have experience. *Had it been just me* I would not have raised that experience to the level of “bigfoot sighting.” To that point, I’ve been entirely consistent.

      In fact, it wasn’t just me. Two of the people I was with saw their back legs scissor as they moved up the hill. They saw that the figures were bent over and not using their front appendages to move. One of them saw the two figures walking along before they started up the hill. One other of them, after we went to the area of the sighting quickly afterward, saw one of the figures walking upslope from right to left, upright, through an approximately 15-20 foot break in the foliage.

      My sighting didn’t take place in a vacuum. There were other witnesses who had a better view than I did. For me to assume a dogmatically skeptical stance in the face of their observations would, in my mind, be ridiculous.

      • Rob Baird says:

        I am not suggesting that you be dogmatically skeptical, just a bit less confident in your own eyes and brain, as well as less confident in the reliability of the eyes and brains of your fellow believers. Of course taken to extremes, one could take my comments to endorse a universal skepticism of all knowledge claims. That’s not my position.

        Perhaps you and your companions saw some birds, and you all misinterpreted what you saw, primed as you were to see a hairy biped. Some film would be nice.

        Later in the episode you claim to “know” that bigfoot exists. All you really know is how your brain interpreted what you saw, and interpreted other experiences. A brain is not like film or a tape recorder. Everything is constructed, and re-constructed.

        I do enjoy your show. I’ve listened to every episode.

      • Brian Brown says:

        They were not birds. And I have no issue whatsoever saying I know these animals to be real. I don’t think you need to believe that based on my word, but please don’t suggest we’re seeing birds and confusing them for bipedal hairy primates.

  7. Rob Baird says:

    I am aware that you “have no issue whatsoever saying [you] know these animals to be real”. You say it all the time.

    What I’m saying is the strength of your belief is unjustified by the evidence. You are overly confident in yourself as an eyewitness.

    • Brian Brown says:

      You are more than welcome to your opinion.

    • Bede Alcuin says:

      This is absolutely ridiculous. I am reminded of Pyrrhonic skepticism, a radical and inane view that challenges whether any claim can be demonstrated as true; that is, nothing can ever be known. You say this is not your position; however, your words indicate otherwise.

      You should know that Empiricism insists that our knowledge ultimately comes from our senses. It is sensory information that provides the information that our mind can take up, combine, and make judgments about. Empiricism insists that the contents of our mind
      ultimately have their source in the world of experience, which we gain through our senses. This is why the Scientific Method begins with observation.

      This is not to say that Brian’s senses are the basis for knowledge for others, but they are the source for everything Brian knows; therefore, he trusts them. If he did not, he would be in a seriously debilitative state. To suggest to a person that perhaps he or she is investing too much trust in his or her own senses because he or she claims to have had an experience around which we cannot wrap our own minds is exemplary of a radically skeptical mind. If you don’t believe him, that’s one thing, and Brian would probably tell you that you certainly have that prerogative and it’s no skin off his back; however, if you tell him he puts too much confidence in his own senses (simply because he has no physical evidence to back his claim, and you can’t wrap your mind around it), well, that’s just pure arrogance.

      • Rob Baird says:

        Thank’s for the feedback. Maybe you could explore some of literature on scientific skepticism to better understand my viewpoint. Demon Haunted World is a good place to start. How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life is also outstanding.

      • Donn says:

        Right.

        If a witness says he saw something, and one can find nothing to make one question the witness’s visual acuity, mental state or environment in which the observation happened…well, find out what he saw or not as you will, but you have no standing to question it.

        We all of us trust our eyes virtually every second of the day. It is beyond irrational to say things like “well on this topic, we can’t.”

  8. […] on BFS 55, my guest Sharon Hill said a few things that, at the time, I recognized as the kinds of comments […]

    • Rob Baird says:

      Have you guys never had the experience of seeing something that your brain interpreted as a particular thing and then later upon closer examination you realize it is something else entirely?

      I am suggesting a very mild and widely held epistemic principle: don’t trust your senses 100% 100% of the time. Just consider the very real possibility that you might be mistaken.

      • Brian Brown says:

        Can I trust them, like, 75% 50% of the time? Or 80% 33% of the time? What’s the acceptable ratio? I only ask because some of things I’ve experienced have happened lots of times and I just want to know what’s a safe percentage of the time I should totally discount my own sense and how often it’s OK with you that I don’t.

      • Donn says:

        It’s one thing when…OK, one example is when I saw an eagle that degraded to a hawk and then to a crow. But the point is, I made the correct, in that and many other examples, right on the spot.

        You’d have to be really a good seller of soap to convince me that every sasquatch sighter who wasn’t lying mistook something mundane for a huge bipedal primate that doesn’t exist, and is holding that view against all comers, ridicule and lost friends and jobs and sig others be damned. That’s asking me, basically, not to trust anything about people or external reality, at all, and it’s waaaay too much to ask of me. It’d be way easier for you to prove the animal real, all by your lonesome, than to persuade me of that. Shoot, both you and I might’s well ditch everything life taught us if we’re gonna accept theses like that.

  9. Rob Baird says:

    So, you guys give a great deal of credence to eyewitnesses who report seeing Sasquattle.

    What about the thousands of Americans who report being abducted by aliens? Are those stories just as believable? If not, why not?

    • Brian Brown says:

      I’m not very familiar with the types of hard evidence that are involved with claims of alien abduction. Have they found flakes of alien skin at the sites of abduction accounts? Alien footprints? Are there images of aliens abducting people? Does the report record have some kind of internal consistency or correlation with something other than human population density?

      From what I understand, there’s a reason some people think they’ve been abducted having to do with mental states while asleep, etc. Again, no expert and barely interested in it, but there’s a plausible explanation for the accounts (and, from what I understand, it’s pretty much just accounts). Reports of bigfoot, as I’ve pointed out in the post after this one, have correlations and parallels to the natural world. They don’t *prove* that wood apes are real, but they strongly suggest that the reports we have are mostly what you would expect from an animal, not a hallucination or hoaxes or whatever. If a proponent of alien abduction can make a similar case, then I’d say, skeptically, that there may be a reason to more fully explore the phenomenon. I would not say that it’s reason to believe aliens are abducting people, only that, if the data has some interesting consistencies as the bigfoot encounter reports do, that further inquiry is warranted.

      That’s what a real skeptic is. A person willing to weigh and follow evidence to whatever conclusion it takes us to. Not someone trying to win an argument that their point of view is correct. Not someone who makes wild claims and exaggerations about the other side’s positions. I am open minded (and experienced) enough to know we, as a species, have not yet discovered all there is to discover.

      • Rob Baird says:

        That is a very good answer.

        In summary, you would say the alien abduction stories occur in isolation, with no other evidence, whereas the Sasquattle reports occur in a context of other data, footprints, pant-hoots and whatever else. In addition, the prior probability of Sasquattle being out there is greater than the prior probability of aliens travelling many light-years to insert anal probes in folks.

        If that is an accurate summary and re-statement of your position, then I agree with it.

        Of all the strange phenomena skeptics are interested in, Bigfoot is the most likely to turn out to be real. But at this point, I do not find the available evidence persuasive. If I had some kind of encounter as you have, I might change my mind.

        I have never met these folks who say it is “impossible” that Sasquattle are out there. That is a ridiculous and irrational position.

      • Brian Brown says:

        The personal experience thing is the wild card. It should only be played by the skeptic when the person with the experience tries to use it in a debate as a reason for the other person to accept the reality of the animal. I don’t do that. I say what happened to me and defend my interpretation of the events, but my experiences are only one more piece of the overall encounter record and have no more or less weight than any other.

  10. Rob Baird says:

    I just went to the NAWAC site, and the first thing I saw made this skeptic cringe:

    “Dedicated to proving the existence of the animal commonly referred to as Bigfoot.”

    Such an unscientific statement! Should be “Dedicated to investigating whether or not Bigfoot exists.”

  11. Rob Baird says:

    “Dedicated to searching for a cure for ALS” would be better.

  12. David Hamby says:

    Rob. The taking of a specimen is NAWAC’s main objective, thus the proving of the phenomenon. The data that they gather until the type specimen is collected will just be an added bonus.

    • Rob Baird says:

      Great. But that does not changer the fact that the statement “Dedicated to proving the existence of the animal commonly referred to as Bigfoot” is unscientific.

    • Brian Brown says:

      We already know they’re real. We’ve seen them, interacted with them. Now, we’re trying to prove them. Scientifically.

      • Rob Baird says:

        We are going around in circles. I am fully aware that you claim to ‘know’ these animals exist. My position is that you are insufficiently justified to your knowledge claim. You are being overly promiscuous with what you claim to know.

        From listening to your podcast, it seems that you and I would agree that bigfootery is lousy with clowns. Also from listening to your podcast, it seems you want to separate yourself from those buffoons. Great! I think you should take steps to be more serious and scientific than those knuckleheads.

        So start acting like a scientist and stop claiming to know things you don’t. Otherwise, there is no important difference between you and the cranks.

  13. Bede Alcuin says:

    Rob Baird,

    Why must you be an arrogant ass? How arrogant of you to tell someone that they are “insufficiently justified” to make a “knowledge claim,” particularly since you’re not there with them to catch every sweat and blood drop. Essentially, you have no damn idea what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and what their findings are, other than what they have chosen to share with you. You know nothing.

    The irony is, my pompous blowhard friend, is that you do not–cannot–grasp that you’re completely “insufficiently justified” to tell someone else they are “insufficiently justified” to make a claim about something about which you know little or nothing. Who are you to tell these guys that they are “insufficiently justified” to make their claims? Simply because the claim has not been independently verified yet does not invalidate the claim. Moreover, their claims are no less simply because you cannot wrap your pseudo-intellectual mind around them.

    If you know anything at all about science–and according to your incessant self-aggrandizement, you must have written the friggin’ book on it–you know that it takes time. Natural history is replete with examples of discoveries taking, not days, not months, or even years, but sometimes damn decades before a body of work is complete. My suggestion for you is that you go play in the street somewhere and dodge a few cars while these guys continue on their course of testing, validating, and reporting their findings of something, that if it bears fruit, could be the zoological discovery of the age.

    You must believe–or perhaps you are nervous or even frightened–in your heart of hearts, that Brian’s reports have a modicum of legitimacy to them; otherwise, you would not expend time and energy here, on the “BIGFOOT” Show blog (a blog about something that is as relevant as the Easter Bunny, according to your world view).

    There’s the real story here: That self-professed “skeptics” would get in their vehicles, ride across town to the other side of the tracks, and hang out with the infidels. Don’t give me some crap about saving the lost, imparting your wisdom to the mindless ruffians, and edifying the unholy. You’re here because you thinking there might be something to all this, and Brian Brown has tapped into that.

    • Rob Baird says:

      Thanks for the feedback.

      “Essentially, you have no damn idea what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and what their findings are, other than what they have chosen to share with you.”

      This is true. They should make their methods and findings more readily available.

      “Simply because the claim has not been independently verified yet does not invalidate the claim.”

      I agree, and I never implied otherwise.

      “according to your incessant self-aggrandizement”

      I’m confused. To what are you referring? Be specific. Thanks!

  14. Bede Alcuin says:

    Wow. Imagine this. Scientists positing that something existed and then they set out to prove it, over decades, and expending much in the way of resources and finances, in the face of skeptical sleestaks and nattering nabobs of negativity who said thinking something exists and then looking for it was not science (but nothing more than a wild-goose chase). Some things never change.

    http://www.timsavageassociates.com/higgs-boson-the-small-particle-making-big-waves/

    • Rob Baird says:

      The important difference being that the scientists at CERN did not claim to ‘know’ the Higgs was real until they did.

      Still waiting for examples of my “incessant self-aggrandizement”. Thanks!

      • Brian Brown says:

        Pretty sure there were a number of physicists who “knew” the Higgs was there.

        In either event, if someone has had sufficient personal experience to know something to be true it’s not unreasonable for that person to say so. It would be unreasonable for that person to say you, too, should feel as they do based on those experiences, but nobody serious is doing that. Nobody here, anyway.

  15. idoubtit says:

    They predicted it would be there based on calculations. Lo and behold, there is was. We’ve done this with species as well. One example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthopan_morgani (lots of fossil predictions have turned successfully as well). But Bigfoot as a hypothesis to explain has not done so well. More evidence goes against the argument than for it.

    Prediction is one of the glories of science.

  16. Rob Baird says:

    Any physicists who claimed to ‘know’ the Higgs was real prior to this year was insufficiently justified to make that claim. Even now the existence of the Higgs is considered tentative.

    I suspect even if I had the experiences you Brian claim to have had, I would still not claim to know bigfoots exist.

  17. Bede Alcuin says:

    The only argument against it is that it has yet to be officially discovered. There is no evidence, absolutely none, that it does not exist. There is no evidence, none, that it cannot exist. None. One can argue about the likelihood that it exists; but there is absolutely no evidence that it does not exist.

    There is, on the other hand, some evidence that it does exist. Whether or not one wants to accept the evidence is another thing entirely. To be sure, the evidence is not up to the level of validation yet; however, there is evidence for it.

    There is also–and this seems lost on you when referencing Gigantopithecus–a precedence for a megafaunal primate of some sort that existed in Asia. The fact that its contemporary, the red panda, crossed into N. America, makes it at least possible that it could have crossed as well. Whether it did or not is of course a mystery; however, it is not at all unreasonable to posit that it could have done so. Moreover, it is not unreasonable, or unscientific, to posit that the basis for these mystery ape encounters *could* lie in some sort of remnant population of relic anthropoid. Primatologist Mike Reid doesn’t scoff at the idea as you do: “I would love to believe that mystery primates exist. As a scientist I remain skeptical until better evidence surfaces. I was lucky enough to meet some of the pioneers of Sasquatch research such as Rene Dahinden and Dr. Grover Krantz and I appreciate their passion for finding it. It would be great to think that relic primates exist and that some even made it to North America. It would re-write our current knowledge of great ape evolution. Based on what I have read and know there would have to be a number of species represented by different creatures such as Sasquatch and Orang-Pendek (literal translation is “short-person). Based on descriptions by eye witnesses Gigantopithecus seems like a good candidate for Sasquatch while Orang-Pendek may be a relic species such as Homo floresiensis.” (http://bizarrezoology.blogspot.com/2013/01/an-interview-with-primatologist-michael.html)

    Rob Baird, your self-aggrandizement oozes from your posts. Your last post is no exception: “I would still not claim to know bigfoot exists…” (Translation: You’re not at my level, blah, blah, blah).

    Aside from knowing that should there be some discovery of a large ape in our future it will be the zoological discovery of the age–there are, after all, some 8,000-10,000 new species discovered every year, and scientists estimate that there are millions still to be discovered–it is precisely because of close-minded people such as you who do not much more than nip at the heels of the Brian Browns of the world, and try to “school” people on just why this animal does not and cannot exist that I want so very much for Brian and his group to succeed. Then I hope they invite you to the announcement and rub your very faces in the crotch of the specimen. Yes, that will be a glorious day.

    Success to you Brian Brown and the NAWAC!

    • Rob Baird says:

      “There is no evidence, absolutely none, that it does not exist.”

      What would be evidence that bigfoot does not exist?

      As I suspected, ‘my self-aggrandizement’ exits only in your imagination. Along with other things.

  18. Barry Newman says:

    i think skeptics think they are better because they can’t fill in the blanks. She alienated many groups of people and feels justified in doing so. Seems a skeptic is like a world atheist who who is proud of not knowing anything. i live as a learner and change as needed.

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