What would Yosemite Sam do?

fightin-wordsBack on BFS 55, my guest Sharon Hill said a few things that, at the time, I recognized as the kinds of comments one often hears as reasons the incredulous doubt the existence of the North American Wood Ape. My reasons for having Sharon on weren’t to have a public debate about the creature’s reality (neither of us were interested in that), but I knew when we were talking that at some point this post was going to happen. No self-respecting bigfoot blogger/podcaster/right-handed Virgo could let it slide by without some level of response.

To be clear, this isn’t meant to be a shot over her bow or anything. I’m not looking for a fight (Yosemite Sam graphic to the contrary). I’m only giving the proper responses to the issues she brought up as would anyone looking to further a reasoned conversation towards the resolution of a problem.

Sharon said:

So, what I’m looking at right now is, what is the evidence for this subject X, let’s say? And your idea of evidence might be the tremendous body of stories and the various eyewitness experiences that people have had, the few bits of physical evidence, the sounds and tracks and things like that. And my idea of evidence, when I look at that body of evidence, it’s pretty weak to me.

Stick a pin in the “body of stories” for a moment. I’ll come back to that.

I’m perfectly comfortable with skeptics dismissing sounds. To the best of my knowledge, no purported bigfoot sounds have ever been recorded while someone observed the bigfoot making them. All the sounds we believe to be attributed to bigfoot are not known to be from the animal. We have strong circumstantial reasons to think that the Ohio Howl, for example, is a wood ape vocalization, but as I said, I don’t know of any observations of one making the noise.

I’m also OK with the dismissal of hair, even though there are a number of them that have been collected that are not from any known animal. They share many attributes and are found in conjunction with other purported bigfoot activity, but lots of animals have hair and (at least so far…I’m looking at you, Sykes) none of the hairs produced have been shown through DNA analysis to originate from anything other than known creatures (even if the known creature is, nonetheless, quite surprising).

Detail of the cast of the left foot of a purported bigfoot, made by Sheriff Dennis Hereford on April 22, 1982 near Grays Harbor, WA.

Detail of the cast of the left footprint of a purported bigfoot, made by Sheriff Dennis Hereford on April 22, 1982 near Grays Harbor, WA.

Where I will draw a bright line is around tracks. Tracks are quite commonly used to study the activity of animals and can be compelling physical evidence of an animal’s presence. I think the incredulous don’t often have a thorough understanding of the size and scope of the track record we have so far.

While this post isn’t meant to be an in-depth defense of the track record, I’d draw attention in particular to the “Hereford Cast” as an exceptional example. I expect that the incredulous are influenced in their perspectives by the fact that tracks are often and easily faked, but there are several examples like the Hereford Cast that can’t easily be explained away as a carved wooden foot strapped to a boot. This was a track that showed an apparent organic interaction with the substrate into which it was pressed. The mud flowed around the toes as they depressed and the impressions left are wider at the bottom than they are at the top. This is entirely consistent with how a real toe with a fatty pad surrounding a bone would look in a track made under the same conditions as Hereford’s.

Of course, how one determines the relative weight of this kind of evidence is personal and subjective. I would hope that an objective judge would consider the entire body of track evidence before dismissing it all as weak.

Sharon went on to say:

Science doesn’t really work at all with anecdotes. Anecdotes can guide you in a direction to look, but on their own, they’re pretty useless because they’re subjective and we can’t reproduce them. And science is all about universalism, that anybody could collect this data and it should come out the same. We don’t see that for bigfoot claims.

Anecdotes are evidence. They’re a form of observation. They’re difficult to control for, I admit, because different people will be able to recollect different things and some people will conflate their feelings about bigfoot with a sighting of something mundane like a bear, but even the most conservative paring of the encounter record still leaves valuable data.

For example, recently a PhD candidate in geology and sasquatch skeptic named Josh Stevens mapped the BFRO database of 3,313 encounters.

Stevens notes:

Right away you can see that sightings are not evenly distributed. At first glance, it looks a lot like a map of population distribution. After all, you would expect sightings to be the most frequent in areas where there are a lot of people. But a bivariate view of the data shows a very different story. There are distinct regions where sightings are incredibly common, despite a very sparse population. On the other hand, in some of the most densely populated areas sasquatch sightings are exceedingly rare.

I’m not thrilled that he used the BFRO database in that I’m not confident that all the reports were investigated and vetted using consistent levels of inquiry and skepticism. However, as directional data, it’s compelling. Bigfoot are not seen where people are. This is not the first time a correlation between something other than population density has been observed with regard to the encounter record.

The North American Wood Ape Conservancy picked up on an observation first made by John Green in Apes Among Us. Reports of bigfoot encounters have an interesting habit of following rainfall patterns, waterways, and certain types of habitat.

People more often report seeing wood apes where there’s more rainfall and forest cover than they do where there isn’t. And the number of people present, based on population density figures, does not correlate with the locations of sightings. Just what you’d expect from an animal.

Other looks into the encounter and track records produce more interesting natural correlations. Dr. Henner Fahrenbach, in 1998, published a study on measurements and estimates of dimensions regarding wood apes. His findings are well known among enthusiasts and demonstrate, among other things, natural distributions of foot metrics.

The data from encounter reports and track castings strongly suggests an apparently natural common source. The dataset is not perfect, no. But it’s the data we have and the direction it points is fairly apparent. If the stories were all either made up, hallucinations, or the result of hoaxing, would they demonstrate natural distribution? If all the footprints were similarly misidentified bear tracks or wooden strap-ons, would they do the same? It may be impossible to say, but the reality is they do look natural and that’s not insignificant.

Sharon continued:

And then, we can look at all these other lines of evidence that feed in to thinking about this subject, and that would be the population studies. Does it make sense that there’s only a couple of these? And that all of a sudden, when they were first only ever found in the Northwest, all of a sudden now they’re found all the way to Florida, and, you know, and Pennsylvania

While estimates of population size vary widely, nobody in the field is suggesting there are “only a couple” of them. The assumption is, for these to be real animals, in at least some pockets there are breeding populations. That’s the only explanation for how an animal could be repeatedly encountered over many decades. One of the main drivers of the NAWAC is the concern that their populations might be in serious trouble. But without concerted study on a scale no current group is attempting or capable of achieving, there’s really no way to know for sure.

Additionally, it’s a common misperception that bigfoot were only ever found in the Pacific Northwest. It’s just not true. There are many historical accounts of encounters with bigfoot-like animals from all over the country. They’ve been appearing in the media for as long as there has been media. As I said on the show, in the areas in which the NAWAC has traditionally operated (Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas), stories of wild hairy men in the woods are quite prevalent and have been from well before the activities of the 50’s and 60’s around Bluff Creek, CA, brought the idea of “Bigfoot” before a world stage.

Back to Sharon:

So, the evidence just starts to just not look very strong. And so what I’m looking at is the various lines of evidence — paleontologically, geographically, ecologically — things don’t add up for me.

I’m sure Sharon’s aware of the Gigantopithecus hypothesis (sounds like, but is not, an episode of The Big Bang Theory). Giganto lived in Southeast Asia and could have crossed to North America when the Beringian land bridge connected the two continents, just as the Red Panda is now known to have. There’s currently no way to tell if wood apes are descendants of giganto, but it’s a known animal in the paleontological record that could have moved from one part of the world to another via a known geographic feature we know other animals (like, perhaps, man) used.

In conclusion, I’m not suggesting that any of what I’ve presented here rises to the level of proof that wood apes exist or that Sharon’s positions are invalid or anything like that. There are reasons reasonable people (even those who have never had a personal experience) would come to the conclusion that these animals might be real. There seems to be ample evidence suggesting a more significant exploration of the subject should be undertaken, not by groups of amateur weekend naturalists, but by trained biologists.

You don’t need to be a reasonable person to get into a fight over this kind of thing, but only reasonable people can be part of answering the question posed by the evidence or, at least, responding to the evidence in some coherent way.

Many thanks to Alton Higgins who, while I was formulating this post, was doing the same and pulled together some of the supporting data found within it. 

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Posted in Miscellaneous sasquatchery
64 comments on “What would Yosemite Sam do?
  1. Donn says:

    Well, the difference between your observations and Sharon’s:

    Sharon doesn’t back hers with evidence.

    That people like Sharon don’t understand that anecdotes are evidence not only bespeaks a lack of research but a narrowness of focus. 99.9% of all scientific research is conducted on things we already know are real. But that research proceeds based on following up observations that can be called nothing other than anecdotal until they are followed up and proven.

    Most scientists really have no idea how to deal with sasquatch evidence, because the 99.9% is all the science they are familiar with; they truly have no experience with proving the “unknown.”

  2. Lesley says:

    Thank you, Brian. This is some very useful information. Very well put together.

  3. Rob Baird says:

    OF COURSE anecdotes are evidence. Just extremely crappy evidence.

  4. Donn says:

    Not true.

    The only anecdotes that are ‘crappy’ evidence are those that lead us in a direction we later find false.

    When wood apes are proven, every single anecdote will become probably true – each a compelling but ignored piece of evidence.

  5. Donn says:

    I should have added to my previous post:

    The very discussion above shows the power of anecdotal evidence. When anecdotal reports are plotted, and the plot shows the distribution a biologist would expect were the phenomenon real, and the biologist doesn’t consider that interesting, I’d consider the biologist off her meds or in denial, one or the other.

    • idoubtit says:

      All anecdotes can also be explained by other causes. This is not a popular thing to say but it MUST be considered. Is it more likely that you made a mistake in interpretation or that a unknown ape has been living undocumented in North America for 60 years?

      • Donn says:

        What’s your evidence that thousands of people that one wouldn’t just expect to, you know, see an eight-foot ape in the daily execution of their lives are imagining or faking something for which people focusing directly relevant training on the topic vouch?

        Hmmmmmm??????????

        (They NEVER answer this question.)

        What is your explanation for these stories, and your evidence that you are right?

        (They never answer that one either.)

        If you produce none…I am not obliged to respect your stance. How science works. It would help scientists to understand that.

      • Bede Alcuin says:

        Yes, but as you know well Sharon, all research begins with observation, without exception. In fact, observational field studies are conducted routinely as regards any number of wildlife species. The difference, of course, between pure anecdotes and observations as part of a long term field study is that the observations are documented and recorded immediately as the observations are occurring, and quantified, analyzed, etc., (as apparently is the case with the Brian’s group, NAWAC.

        Which then leads to a question, a hypothesis, testing, collection, analysis, inferences, and discarding, modification, or validation of the hypothesis. (Brian’s group seems to still be neck-deep in this process, thus the reason for not producing any sort of formal paper and/or hard conclusion to release to the world).

        The problem here is that true research of this kind, right out of the research playbook as it were, has never truly occurred as regards this phenomenon. Ever. There just has been no protracted, comprehensive research along these lines dealing with this. So your assertion that more evidence should have been produced in sixty years is not really a fair assessment since there has been no well-funded, protracted, comprehensive, formal research conducted (even though there has been some evidence produced other than anecdotal). Had there been a protracted, in-depth, comprehensive study conducted, I would agree with you.

        Brian’s group apparently believes the approach they’re taking is yielding progress. You may not accept their claims at this point, but that is probably expected, given the nature of the claims. It seems apparent that they know how high the bar is and so, in the face of much criticism (and even threats in some cases), they persist undaunted in their objective to collect a specimen.

        “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan.

        “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny . . .’” – Isaac Asimov.

      • ChiSkeptic says:

        Hey Ms. IdoubtIt, ever hear of those mountain gorillas that were undiscovered rumours not that long ago? How about the Orang Pendek? The sightings also go back a LOT longer than 60 years. You have probably never seen a crankshaft either, but they do exist.

  6. Jean St Jean says:

    The other aspect of Sharon’s observations which were somewhat incomplete pertained to native american stories. Quite a few tribes view the creatures as real animals, some as real and spiritual some as purely spiritual. Kathy Strain’s book is a pretty comprehensive resource for this info. Granted it’s folkloric and generational anecdotes but animals are often eventually found based on native tales. Case in point, the Bili ape. Anna Nekaris has even said as much.

  7. Jean St Jean says:

    And Yosemite Sam would blast the varmints.

  8. Rob Baird says:

    Hey Brian, I’m curious: what do you think is the probability that a body will be found or live specimen captured in the next ten years?

  9. Billy Orban says:

    Unfortunately, it is the weekend naturalist (I count myself as one) who is most often in the area Bigfoot is likely to be found.Those of us who travel to & through wilderness in hopes of encountering a Wood Ape (or bear, or pileated wood pecker, or any number of other hard to see animals) aren’t always out to prove the existence of same and have little or no professional skill in handling any evidence we may find. The time in the woods alone, make exploration of remote regions fulfilling & gives perspective to our own existence, so we continue to go and continue to have experiences that “prove” Bigfoot’s existence to ourselves. Our anecdotes are sometimes shared, but as often, not. Serious wood ape research is better served when we do not. We do misjudge, misremember, misspeak. Scientists (and skeptics) are and should be dubious of our claims.

  10. All Down Hill says:

    Correction on one point. Ron Morehead and his crew WERE present during the recordings of Sierra Sounds in 1972 – 1974. Don’t forget the native american historical record. For example, the Cherokee knew which hunting grounds were the Nun Nu Wee’s and which was theirs.

  11. Doyle Vandewater says:

    I have had 3 encounters since 1969 all in same area.I do not need any further evidence to tell me they exist.The article eludes to the species being”in ttouble:” which I totally have to disagree with,especially here in Texas.Just take a look at a sightings map from the late 70’s and compare it with one now.The increase in Texas is obvious.While some of the sightings can be attributed to population expansion on our part,plus easier ways to share info I do not think that accounts for the vast majority.I am not proposing that their population is expanding like ours by any means.But thru the neches,Sabine.Trinity river watershed areas the sightings map speak for themselves.History has always been proven that with any species an increase in population includes an increase in territory.

    • Brian Brown says:

      The problem is you *can* explain increased sightings with more people in places they didn’t used to be. At this point, it’s impossible to know for sure.

    • idoubtit says:

      First, I can’t ever dismiss your own personal experiences. But as I said, the problem arises when those experiences are all that is used to convince the public of the reality of the animal. Then, it’s worthless to everyone but you.

      If the numbers are increasing, why hasn’t the evidence gotten any better over the last 60 years? The plural of anecdotes isn’t data. We should have more evidence that there are more around besides stories which can also be explained by cultural contagion and other means.

      Everyone: It may seem like I poke holes in stuff but I’m just showing you that you HAVE to make a better case to be convincing. You are asking me to accept something that is rather extraordinary. You have to do better than “I just know”.

      • Jean St Jean says:

        The fact that you pointout weaknesses in data and lines of thought is helpful to keep researches on track(providing they pay attention of course) The fact that you do it in a constructive ( and non-douchey way) is much appreciated. And perhaps more researchers might take you up on your suggestion that you could be used as a resource for stronger methodology controls if they were more aware of the opportunity. ( Ok, I night be stretching a bit there.)

  12. idoubtit says:

    I’d like to clarify the anecdotes part (then will add a bit about Gigantopithecus in a separate comment.)

    Anecdotes are evidence and just as Rob said above – crappy evidence. An anecdote is a personal story, uncontrolled, possibly non-reproducible, and subject to all sorts of bias. That’s why they are no good. Let me reference a post by someone I learn positive skepticism from, Dr. Steve Novella. This has to do with medicine (because anecdotes are so prevalent there) but the same applies here. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-role-of-anecdotes-in-science-based-medicine/

    Quote:

    Understanding the world through stories was a good strategy in the environment of our evolutionary history but is far too flawed to deal with the complex world we live in today. In fact, the discipline of science developed as a tool to go beyond the efficient but flawed techniques we evolved. Perhaps, for example, your friend became ill because of the raw eggs he consumed earlier in the day, and the plant had nothing to do with it. Evolutionary pressures favored a more simplistic approach to nature, one that tended to assume that apparent patterns were real.

    The primary weakness of anecdotes as evidence is that they are not controlled. This opens them up to many hidden variables that could potentially affect the results. We therefore cannot make any reliable assumptions about which variable (for example a specific treatment) was responsible for any apparent improvement.
    End quote.

    Then he describes a series of factors that make them unreliable. This is nothing new. It’s well established that anecdotes are not very helpful as evidence. They are too often mistakes or misinterpretations. I imagine this is difficult for most people to accept because personal stories are so compelling. You WANT to believe the story was absolutely true. But often skeptics study the ways humans fool themselves. Buying into anecdotes is one. I recommended Elizabeth Loftus’ book on Eyewitness Testimony for you to get a feel for how flawed our perception and memory is.

    You simply are NOT going to be able to compel the scientific community with anecdotes. It won’t happen.

  13. idoubtit says:

    The Giganto hypothesis…. Are any paleontologists suggesting that Giganto continued its line? No. Does any of the fossil evidence (teeth and jaws) suggest that it resembled what we think of as Sasquatch today? No. It was more related to orangutans than humans. All anthropological evidence we have does NOT support in any way the idea that Giganto migrated to North America. This is entirely speculation without support.

    I hate to say this and I don’t mean this to be personal to anyone but many people who speculate on this stuff are SO far out of their leagues in expertise, they don’t make a coherent argument about it. It’s just not as simple as: we have lots of stories and it sounds like it could be related to this fossil ape. There is A LOT more background to digest before this kind of stuff can be used to support a claim.

    http://www.skepticblog.org/2011/12/28/gigantopithecus-and-crackpot-cryptozoologists/

    • Donn says:

      Actually, the mainstream of scientists with training that would be directly relevant to this topic haven’t applied that training to the evidence. They toss up the same things I would expect a supermarket checkout clerk, or a car dealer, or an airline pilot, or a lawyer, or anyone else who lacks the training and acquaintance with the evidence, to say.

      They should be using that expertise in the way Meldrum and Bindernagel are. Or at the very least showing why those two are wrong. But they studiously avoid that; their proclamations proclaim them ignorant…and you defend them.

      Defend that.

      Before you do: this scenario has repeated itself countless times in the history of science. The Meldrums and the Bindernagels are almost invariably proven right over time.

    • Donn says:

      Paleontologists will pronounce on what they find. When they don’t find a fossil right away, they tend to set the lineage in stone, to go “no way.” Which is why we believed for decades that a creature was our evolutionary predecessor that we’re now thinking WE DID THE DIRTY WITH, and most of us have its DNA. Wanna try that tack back in 1957?

      One doesn’t just count on one scientific specialty to tell one anything.

      I will believe that proponents are out of their league in expertise when someone who allegedly is in the league demonstrates it by saying something proponents can’t immediately discount as silly merely by pointing to the evidence he refuses to examine.

      And how about Meldrum and Bindernagel? You in their league, when it comes to directly relevant specialty?

      (I hate how they insist on making me disrespect their views by refusing to answer cogent questions.)

    • Bede Alcuin says:

      The Gigantopithecus thesis only holds that there is a precedent in natural history for a large primate and that the idea of a large megafaunal primate is not so silly as some would think it is. Is it possible that something like Gigantopithecus crossed Beringia and made its way in some numbers across North America and is the basis of wood ape encounters in the 21st century? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But natural history does clearly show that a large megafaunal primate is not so radical an idea as some would suggest.

      As I have listened closely to Brian’s group, for example, I have never heard them say at all that this is what their quarry is. I have never heard anyone suggest there is any evidence for this. Everyone I have heard mention the issue is always quick to point out that there is no fossil evidence in North America for Gigantopithecus and there is no hard evidence to connect bigfoot sightings to Gigantopithecus. I have heard them say a number of times that they believe it’s possible that Gigantopithecus, or something like it, *could* have crossed Beringia into North America, like so many other faunal and floral species, to include Homo sapiens, and if so, could be the basis for these mystery ape encounters. (This is not difficult to believe when one considers that all the fossils for human ancestors can be placed in the bed of a pickup truck). This is not unreasonable nor would it be unprecedented. As Brian touched on, the red panda, a contemporary of Gigantopithecus apparently had no problems making it to N. America.

      Also, why talk down to the people with whom you are wanting to have a dialogue? Telling people that they are “so far out of their leagues in expertise” probably won’t lead to a proper and civil discourse.

  14. zorthron says:

    hi brian, i tried listening to Sharon but found her annoying. love your perspective and the way you keep the conversation moving, however.

    in my opinion (which will certainly raise hackles), the show is best with fewer “hosts” — as it can get bogged down. your interviews from the summer expeditions were tremendous. alton is also wonderful to listen to.

    if i wanted laughs or wit, i’d listen to Bill Hicks or my bootleg copy of a very stoned Kelba Metchum (sic) performing a DNA test on a 6-month old grilled cheese sandwich she found in her fridge beneath the log of hairy bologna that Mike Patterson sent her to be tested. (tastes like lemur-chicken!)

    i appreciate your and alton’s respect for the audience without the self-involved “look how clever i can be” b.s. that plagues almost all of “paranormal radio” (e.g., the Paracast’s Gene “let me wow you with my knowledge of crap TV and hopefully a producer will throw a bag of doubloons my way and did i tell you how old I am?”, etc.).

    keep up the good work, but please keep Sharon Hill away from the studio. but then again, it’s your show so do what you want! your well considered and written post about the show proves, once again, you’re among the elite interviewers in the field. George Knapp is another favorite, and he also is fast-paced, keeps it about the subject and interviewee, and isn’t making inane “jokes” every other line. of course, his stance on Ms. Ketchum proves that he is not infallible… like you and me! ;)

  15. Lesley says:

    Hello Sharon. I’m from the UK and have no personal experiences to draw on, nor any likelihood of having any – unless reports of hairy wildmen in the Cannock Chase have any basis in fact. :) However, I am very interested in this subject. Therefore, I draw, for some of my information about the Sasquatch on the anecdotes which are presented via the media, among other things.
    I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind commenting on how useful anecdotal evidence was in the case of the Bili Ape. The anecdotal stories were largely dismissed until someone managed to get some film footage. Now the creature is officially recognised and, obviously, therefore, has a basis in fact.
    Surely then were it not for those anecdotal stories, no one would have known where to look in the first place. Isn’t local knowledge a valuable tool for anyone wishing to investigate a local ecosystem and isn’t the best anecdotal evidence just that; valuable local knowledge both of environment and wildlife?

    Thank you for your time.

    • idoubtit says:

      Lesley, I’m not up on the details of the Bili Ape anecdotal evidence. But in that case, it was an animal that was different than other animals in the environment but possibly within an acceptable range of characteristics of the known ones. They eventually did get a close up look to assist in their determination. I think there are many examples of that. It’s quite different than the situation we have with Bigfoot.

      • Lesley says:

        The descriptions of the Bili ape were very strange. A giant chimpanzee that killed and ate lions. No one believed it. In fact the descriptions weren’t far off, although, to be fair, no one’s sure whether they kill the lions, but they’ve certainly been observed eating from the carcass of one.

        But in the case of Sasquatch, not only is there anecdotal evidence, isn’t it fair to say that there’s trace evidence along side that? Doesn’t that make the sightings more compelling?

      • Donn says:

        Well, this is an example of not thinking about this enough.

        Bindernagel has; and he shows that sasquatch falls very easily within known physical and behavioral parameters of known primates, the great apes (not to mention fossil bipedal hominids) in particular. (OF COURSE FOSSIL PRIMATES COUNT!)

        (Night vision/eyeshine? Prosimians have evolved it; monkeys have evolved it. Only apes haven’t? Oh wait….one has, if one pays attention to the evidence. Bipedalism? Um, one primate has. At least.)

        There are temperate-zone monkeys. There are temperate-zone – and polar – almost everything else. (Including – of course – us. Technology is just one more primate behavioral adaptation. There are others. And as has been pointed out, physical ones as well.)

        Apes are somehow exempt?

        Not if one studies the evidence and applies science to it, they aren’t.

    • mxyzptlk says:

      A couple points on Bili apes:

      First, the same sort of thing was said about mountain gorillas — that they were just local folklore. It didn’t take too long (maybe 50 years?) before an outsider found one and brought it out of the jungle — then it was no longer folklore.

      Bili apes were first heard of by outsiders in the 1990’s, and in a few short years photographs were taken and researchers encountered the apes. It was first photographed by a wildlife photographer who was in the Congo to document the bush meat trade, and he heard the folklore from the locals. Based on his findings (photos to accompany anecdotal evidence), other scientists set out to verify the information, and it wasn’t long before they encountered actual live specimens. One of the researchers who was sent to study the Bili apes was a primatologist named Shelly Williams; she and her group had a close encounter with a few Bili apes that tried to intimidate her. So that’s a case of researchers having a direct encounter they could document, which gave them more reason to continue their research. Since then they’ve been able to document more evidence of the ape, but as far as I know, it’s still up in the air as to if it’s a new species or a sub-species of chimp that displays certain features as a result of inbreeding (they’re apparently a relatively large but isolated population, which can lead to some inbreeding).

      The point is, in both cases of mountain gorillas and Bili apes, it didn’t take too long before live specimens were encountered. I don’t know how long people have been out looking for Bigfoot — at least over 100 years, no? But nothing like the data found for mountain gorillas and Bili apes have been found to back up the folklore. That’s not to say Bigfoot doesn’t exist; just that anecdotal evidence is really only valuable when hard evidence like a body can back it up. If over 100 years later people only found footprints of mountain gorillas, they’d probably be skeptical of their existence as well.

      • Donn says:

        Key point here:

        “Based on his findings (photos to accompany anecdotal evidence), other scientists set out to verify the information, and it wasn’t long before they encountered actual live specimens. …”

        Know what scientists did when Patterson brought back A MOVIE to back up not only the anecdotes but the footprints the subject made?

        “No way.” They called it history’s first example of a human faking a bigfoot, with no attention to the various physical extreme-unlikelihoods that would be involved; threw some invective; and only then – after carefully salting the ground to ensure no more curiosity seeds would sprout…back to sleep.

        We might have had confirmation in 1969, latest, if scientists had simply “set out to verify the information.”

  16. simon says:

    I do find that when we stray into the Giganto theories it does start to seem like a lot of wishful thinking. There may be a chance that it could have happened that way, and there are no doubt an infinitesimal other ways it could have equally happened, if it did at all. Ultimately, I tend to subscribe to the idea that you find the thing, prove it exists then evaluate its evolutionary history. To do it the other way round seems a waste of time on an animal that may not exist.

    I do think personal sightings and credible witness statements are worthwhile, but not so much as evidence of its existence. Rather, as others have said, I think they provide data for those wishing to seek the animal out and help motivate the community that has its confidence in the existence knocked by every incredible advocate that comes forward.

    With regards to the show, as one of those damned ‘fence-sitters’ wishing the animal would be discovered, but sceptical of some of the convinced assertions from Bigfooters, I found this show to be one of the most enjoyable I have listened to. I thought it was great to hear two representatives of their ‘communities’ (for want of a better term) moderately chat about these issues without the usual arrogance or chippiness you can get with some less reasonable representatives of these positions. Unlike the above commenter I enjoyed Sharon’s contributions and would look forward to hearing her on a show with the full team, similar to when Scott appeared on Monster Talk.

  17. Donn says:

    Sharon:

    Nope.

    This blog’s gone over – and graphically shown – why anecdotes aren’t crappy evidence (unless they lead one to a false conclusion). In fact: all science is anecdote, backed by advanced degrees. One can think of exceptions but they aren’t many. The reason scientists don’t understand this is…well…they accept that scientists in other disciplines have found what they’ve found and proven what they’ve proven, surprise!, just like laymen do.

    (If you are prepared to show me that sighting distributions, footprints, and the animal they represent, were conjured from whole cloth by primatologists and wildlife biologists – which is what the evidence almost certainly represents, if not a real animal – well we are all ears here.)

    Again, scientists can’t get their arms around the science of this topic, because in fact they do almost no research on things about which people are in denial but rather on things which everyone accepts. (Including: if you’re gonna tell me that fuzzy pics and radio thingamagloggers on a rheemahator are, well, a neutron star with one teaspoon’s mass heavier than a battleship, well, OK, sounds kinda off yer meds, but I’ll go with it, no skin off mine.)

    Or as Leila Hadj-Chikh – a scientist who thinks wood apes are real – puts it: most of what we know for sure is only stuff we think we know for sure. Most of that because of stories someone else told us. Unless you have confirmed the Astronomical Unit for yourself by setting the odometer to zero and flying to the sun.

    I’m just willing to trust normal everyday sane people who know what they saw, and describe it from scratch, just like most of us do with most people we do business with on a daily basis.

    I mean, I am as ready to accept that as I am “black holes.” Been to one…?

    • idoubtit says:

      Sorry, this is absurd and wrong in so many ways. But you have your views deeply ingrained and whatever I say would be a waste of time.

      • Donn says:

        Actually, I could say the very thing about the scientific mainstream’s (and your) take on this topic. You have spent no time on this that would encourage me to trust a single thing you say about it; and no ‘skeptical’ scientist I have heard from would be in a different boat from you.

        You (and they) just haven’t thought about this, and I mean every aspect of it, including the demonstrable truth of my above post, to the extent some of us – including scientists with directly relevant training – have; and what you say about it shows that, baldly and on its face.

  18. Donn says:

    Lesley:

    “The descriptions of the Bili ape were very strange. A giant chimpanzee that killed and ate lions. No one believed it. In fact the descriptions weren’t far off, although, to be fair, no one’s sure whether they kill the lions, but they’ve certainly been observed eating from the carcass of one.”

    Gorillas were monsters that hugged women to death too. Those anecdotes as well moved science in the right direction. Wrong didn’t matter.

    “But in the case of Sasquatch, not only is there anecdotal evidence, isn’t it fair to say that there’s trace evidence along side that? Doesn’t that make the sightings more compelling?”

    I am still waiting for the first shred of evidence that the footprints as a whole – even a barely-significant fragment of the ones found – were faked. (Big problem here: most of the people looking at this field think all the evidence is on YouTube.) Several people with world-class experience in diagnosing primate prints have entered the field to debunk the animal…and ended up concluding it’s real.

    In other words:

    Right.

    • Lesley says:

      Yes. And let’s not forget the on-going search for the Sumatran rhino. Based solely on a set of footprints.
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21963508
      “There has yet to be a visual sighting of the rhinos and their numbers remain unclear, the group says.”
      But there’s a search on for it.

      As an outsider I’m often concerned that double standards are being applied to the subject of Sasquatch and that concerns me.

      Sharon, forgive me, but whilst I remain sceptical of a creature I’ve never seen and whilst I find some of the antics of the more eccentric Bigfooters distateful, I see a lot of reasoned and rational thought behind some areas of Sasquatch research which, to my mind, should be encouraged.

      • Donn says:

        Lesley: Right again.

        When scientists, using their science, are pronouncing aspects of the evidence valid; when technical specialists, applying their technical specialties, follow suit; and their peers’ response ranges from sneering to stone silence, to say nothing of rational-sounding but uninformed dismissal…well, something is extremely rotten in the state of the biological sciences.

        I find it funny that not even skeptical scientists note that all of the true application of pure science to this field has been done by the proponents. Their focusing on the trash is just like the dog whose deepest thoughts are interrupted by: SQUIRREL!!!!!!!

        I was able to sort out the trash and get to the substance. And I used science to do it.

        That scientists can’t says nothing I can be happy with about their training.

      • idoubtit says:

        I also encourage rational thought. But there is an emotional investment in this topic that I can’t overcome with dialogue. I just hope that others who are not so personally convinced can see my POV and perhaps those of you who subscribe to Bigfoot as real can appreciate why I (and the general scientific community) finds the idea weakly supported.

        Regarding anecdotes: As I said, OF COURSE anecdotes can lead us to a fruitful investigation! So your examples are perfectly valid as are all other observations we have made that led us to interesting finds. The problem is that anecdotes SHOULD LEAD US TO BETTER EVIDENCE. This has not happened over the 60 years of looking for Bigfoot. I am having a very hard time with this quest that has not provided better information to support the animal’s existence. You are claiming that an enormous ape exists across the country and encounters humans. We have all this manpower and technology and still nothing solid! That is a serious problem and it does not make sense with how natural discoveries work.

        If you dismiss the problems of your field with special pleading, you are going on faith, not rational thought. That is not intellectually honest.

        Finally, I’ll reiterate once again, I’m all for a new approach and encourage sound investigation. I don’t really care what you think of other skeptics – I haven’t been going around declaring Bigfoot is a ridiculous myth and it’s silly to talk about (like some do). This is me as an individual giving you an insight into the scientific consensus view. You can find value in it or not. I feel qualified to speak on science/public issues, I’m not making this stuff up off the cuff. If you think that is not a proper angle in which to discuss this topic then that’s fine. Just don’t say you are doing science.

  19. Donn says:

    And Sharon, and Brian:

    Why not let the lady spend a month or two in X? >:)

    • Lesley says:

      “You can find value in it or not.”
      It’s incredibly valuable, Sharon. It helps people think of answers to questions they should be asking for themselves, And I believe that’s happening in some of the more credible groups,

  20. Doyle Vandewater says:

    Excellent points Don.I think there are 2 basic questions to the phenomena.1st is what which I think maybe solved soon.2nd is more difficult to quantify and that is the question of “why”..Why is it located here and not there.Why is it aggressive to some and not others.Why is it even here and what is its purpose.etc.I do not think the killing of 1 would bring us to these conclusions.And NO I am not a pro-kill advocate.Like everything man finds he needs to “dominate”that which he don’t understand.Both intelligence and physical prowess.I am afraid in the case of bigfoot that won’t be possible.I think we know what the inevitable outcome will be.I do not need science or anyone else to prove their existence to me.I have seen them and their display of violence.Unarmed and unaware we would be helpless.To me I feel they are N/A top apex predator in their environment.Save the largest of Kodiak they have no equal.If they hunt in groups then that have none.Top that off with superior speed,agility,and strength coupled with intelligence well I think you know where I’m going.I laugh when people ask why we never find their remains.We don’t find bear or other apex predators skeletons often ether.Maybe the reason is they are “prey” too.Just some random thoughts.

  21. idoubtit says:

    Donn wrote:
    “Actually, I could say the very thing about the scientific mainstream’s (and your) take on this topic. You have spent no time on this that would encourage me to trust a single thing you say about it; and no ‘skeptical’ scientist I have heard from would be in a different boat from you.

    You (and they) just haven’t thought about this, and I mean every aspect of it, including the demonstrable truth of my above post, to the extent some of us – including scientists with directly relevant training – have; and what you say about it shows that, baldly and on its face.”

    Again, completely absurd. Telling me I “just haven’t thought about this” is offensive. If you hate the scientific mainstream view so much, why not give it up for everything, if its so wrong. I’m not applying a special view just to this topic. I’m applying a standard across the board. But it’s distasteful to you, obviously.

    • Donn says:

      No it isn’t; and you’re displaying the emotional investment you decry. You just can’t see that.

      I entered this as a skeptic. That’s the way I enter anything. The proponents showed me their work. The ‘skeptics’ don’t.

      So.

      Why trust them? On their word?

      See how this works?

    • Donn says:

      Wow. Target-rich environment here!

      The bigfoot-skeptic view is offensive; it labels proponents kooks who could look at a bear and create a fantasy, or it labels them liars.

      My post is factually correct. You just haven’t thought about this sufficiently and it’s demonstrable. You don’t address the scientific proponents at all. This is probably because you know you are – as you put it elsewhere – out of your league. It’s better to pick on people who don’t know how to talk back to you, that it?

      Don’t want to be offensive, don’t start it.

  22. Donn says:

    Well, you were right, Brian. Fightin’ words. I’m having fun here!

    To those who may be having a problem seeing this: There is one way that skeptical scientists can let themselves off the hook. That is this way:

    “I think this is interesting; and I await the proof.” Now there’s no more you need to do but await the proof.

    When they say what the evidence represents, they have made an entry in a scientific discussion, and they must now defend that entry. How it works.

    That skeptics have been proven over and over wrong in the history of science is (1) because other skeptics proved them wrong by not simply trusting their assumptions and (2) because the science wasn’t being done…and now it was.

    For any scientist to make me think his stance on this holds water, he must show me the work, not simply toss off silly questions like “where are the bodies?”

    (My answer: I don’t know. Why don’t you have one yet? You’re the scientist. So you’re gonna leave this to amateurs and catcall all the while? Oh. Nice. You get paid to catcall?)

  23. Donn says:

    Sharon: let’s parse.

    “The problem is that anecdotes SHOULD LEAD US TO BETTER EVIDENCE. This has not happened over the 60 years of looking for Bigfoot.”

    WHO’S LOOKING!?!??! In Brian’s words: statistically, no one; and he’s right. A weekend wouldn’t confirm a weasel. Each one of the handful of scientific expedtions – a grand total of a couple of months or so, all told – has come back with evidence that would intrigue and excite any scientist who had been there. Including a FILM, associated with tracks of the kind of which many have been found, just where a biologist would expect them to be for the postulated animal.

    “I am having a very hard time with this quest that has not provided better information to support the animal’s existence.”

    Special pleading: Proof Not Occurring on My Personal Schedule.

    “You are claiming that an enormous ape exists across the country and encounters humans.”

    And thousands of people independently corroborate that claim, wot?

    “We have all this manpower and technology and still nothing solid!”

    Where has all that manpower and tech been applied TO THIS SEARCH? Show me your work. Until every biologist doing a field survey has Meldrum’s field guide in his knapsack my answer is, simply: it hasn’t.

    “That is a serious problem and it does not make sense with how natural discoveries work.”

    Oh, it aligns perfectly. Things are not discovered by people manifestly not looking.

  24. Jean St Jean says:

    It is indeed on the backs of the weekend warrior or citizen naturalist to prove if these creatures exist. There evidence isn’t enough to get more actual scientists willing to throw there reputations away by becoming associated with the topic. You can see that even with his reputation Brian Sykes is already being viewed somewhat disapprovingly and he’s not saying anything pro-bigfoot in any way(Yet at least). I do think that footage as good as what was taken of the bili ape would probably do the trick. But really only a body or bones will do. Thousands of sightings and hundreds of years of folklore are interesting and perhaps compelling enough in conjunction with the stronger footprint evidence to serve as a jumping of point for serious investigation, but not unequivocal proof. And one person’s personal experience must be amazing but, doesn’t serve as documentation of a new species. Having said all that, I believe in the possibility of the animal and I so want it to exist, but I haven’t seen anything that supports it enough outside of my personal bias to be objectively convinced.

    • Donn says:

      Actually, no, it is never on the backs of anyone to prove any scientific proposition, except the mainstream of science.

      Reason? Simple. They are the ones we trust when they say something.

      All the proponents can do is pile the evidence at the feet of science. This they have done, in spades. That scientists using their science have assembled the plausible hypothesis on the evidence presented is all that one needs to know that there is enough for the mainstream to get the proof. They know what we’re looking for; and they can see where it is.

      It’s actually up to them. What you are pointing out is where they are failing science, not how proponents are failing them.

  25. Donn says:

    No, YOU ARE, at least when it comes to this topic; and all I have to do is read what you write!

    Do the words “stick to what you know” resonate much?

    You are insisting on this talk-down thing; but you (and I’m lumping all you ‘skeptics’ together now’) aren’t attempting – to cite only one example of what you aren’t doing – to show any area in which I, you, or anyone have grounds to seriously contest, say, Meldrum. And one reason might be that he has far better and more relevant chops in this than you do.

    No, he does. And he applies them better; and actually I do too.

    Why is it that bigfoot skeptics always resort to this hair-pulling and name-calling?

    Inability to deal with the evidence in the way a scientist does is one possible answer, ya think? You are already getting called on it; I’m just adding my name to the chorus.

    What’s annoying about your presentation, you ask above? You want the answer? ^^^

    One thing that scientists addressing this topic steadfastly refuse to understand is that they might not be able to cogently apply their scientific chops – which are normally garnered in very narrow technical corners of the scientific vineyard – to science in other areas. You are a textbook example. Nothing wrong with it; just that when someone gets that arrogant about it, pointing out their ignorance becomes, well, fun.

    Nobel laureate Richard Feynman once said that science is about belief in the ignorance of experts.

    Believe that.

    Stop getting emotional about this!

  26. Brian Brown says:

    Ooookay, let’s chill this one out a bit, shall we?

  27. Lance Moody says:

    As a skeptic, I found the podcast through the Sharon Hill show and just finished listening to the subsequent one. It’s very well produced, funny and mostly reasonable.

    Scott and Brian point out that finding a bear as the source of one hair doesn’t prove that the Yeti doesn’t exist.

    True enough….

    It’s just a continuing line of evidence supporting the idea that Yeti and Bigfoot reports are more likely to be misidentified bears rather than a dubious and evidence-free new species of ape.

    The hosts seem unaware that there are bears all over the Himalayas. If Sykes is correct and has discovered a still extant sub-species of brown bears roaming the mountains, this is A LOT different than the discovery of a new unknown large primate (as one of the hosts implied). It doesn’t speak well for the Bigfoot faithful if we can identify such a bear sub-species in the remote and hostile Himalayas but believers can’t even find a bone from the Bigfeet they insist are teeming around Des Moines, Iowa and everywhere else in North America.

    Towards the end of the latest show one of the hosts seems to be describing a place that consistently delivers Bigfoot evidence. Unfortunately all of the evidence mentioned seems to be of the non-conclusive and essentially worthless stuff we see over and over: calls, rock throws, etc.

    If you are suggesting that you are aware of a relatively small place that reliably delivers Bigfoot evidence then I am disappointed and incredulous…

    This claim becomes completely laughable when one realizes that this is also the claim of EVERY SINGLE ONE of the weekend beer-swilling Bigfoot “researchers” as well! They all apparently have podcasts, too! You guys all seem to be just across the river from Bigfoot, hundreds or even thousands of you over this ENTIRE continent and yet not one of these folks can shoot a video tape that is in focus and convincing.

    Bigfoot operates exactly like every other paranormal and pseudoscientific idea: it is unfalsifiable. And that seems to be good enough for the believers.

    Lance

    • Lesley says:

      Hello, Lance. I’m reading through your post and, if you don’t mind, I’d just like to point out something that I think is relevant to one of your comments.

      “This claim becomes completely laughable when one realizes that this is also the claim of EVERY SINGLE ONE of the weekend beer-swilling Bigfoot “researchers” as well! They all apparently have podcasts, too! You guys all seem to be just across the river from Bigfoot, hundreds or even thousands of you over this ENTIRE continent and yet not one of these folks can shoot a video tape that is in focus and convincing.”

      Firstly, I really think that your use of phrases such as “beer-swilling Bigfoot “researchers” is ridiculous and inflammatory and that’s a shame because reasoned scepticism is a useful tool in this area of study. That comment … not so much. Pity.

      However. You did make one comment that I think can be answered and that’s with regards this ‘ENTIRE continent’. It might be worth commenting on the fact that, in the United States alone, there are currently 757 designated wilderness areas, totaling 109,511,966 acres of wilderness and forested land. One hundred and nine MILLION acres of land. Not just a few forests, but millions of acres of land which is defined as “an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”. Please can you tell me how it could be considered unreasonable that there might be an unknown animal living somewhere in there? That’s one of the reasons for my personal interest in this subject and why I find it impossible to dismiss.

      Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Wilderness

    • Brian Brown says:

      The hosts seem unaware that there are bears all over the Himalayas.

      The commenter seems unaware that Sykes has connected the DNA to an extinct polar bear.

      …Bigfeet they insist are teeming around Des Moines, Iowa and everywhere else in North America.

      Funny, I can’t recall anyone on this show or in any group I’m associated with (or *anyone* for that matter) saying the Des Moines area is teeming with sasquattle. I assume that if you’re interested in arguing points not being made by any serious individual in the field, then you yourself are not serious and are not actually skeptical.

      Unfortunately all of the evidence mentioned seems to be of the non-conclusive and essentially worthless stuff we see over and over: calls, rock throws, etc.

      Worthless as proof? Sure, perhaps. We’ve never said anything else but that. However, I’m curious to know how else these rocks are thrown at us and up onto roofs. Please don’t bother telling me it’s people until you perform at least a cursory review of the accounts we’ve put forward in previous shows and on the NAWAC website and in the thousands and thousands of posts on the Bigfoot Forums. I don’t have time to educate the ignorant, even the ignorant who have a high opinion of themselves.

      This claim becomes completely laughable when one realizes that this is also the claim of EVERY SINGLE ONE of the weekend beer-swilling Bigfoot “researchers” as well!

      Where does “beer-swiiling” come from? Is that from some evidence that even a small percentage of researchers are going about their effort in a drunken state (something that, from my experience, it patently untrue) or are you again being a condescending prick with visible prejudices against those who don’t follow “we’ve been everywhere and learned everything there is to know everywhere” party line?

      You guys all seem to be just across the river from Bigfoot, hundreds or even thousands of you over this ENTIRE continent and yet not one of these folks can shoot a video tape that is in focus and convincing.

      Luckily, I said in the post you’re commenting on (but clearly, as it is with most “skeptics”, you didn’t read it nor have you bothered to gain a simple understanding of what we assert) we have no way of knowing how many animals there are. Also pointed out in the article, based on analysis of the sightings record, they are not “everywhere.” But let’s not worry about facts, shall we? I can see you’re really getting a head of steam going.

      Also, WRT to video, *as we said on our last show* you claim to have listened to, you’ll know that video or images won’t do it. Because of close-minded people like you, the only evidence that will get serious attention is physical. A body or part of one.

      You’re an asshole, Lance, pure and simple. You’re not interested in having a reasonable conversation about evidence, you’re only interested in demeaning and insulting those with a different worldview because, I assume, it makes you feel like a better person. That’s very sad, Lance. Very sad indeed.

      • Donn says:

        Two quotes.

        One from Brian, above:

        I assume that if you’re interested in arguing points not being made by any serious individual in the field, then you yourself are not serious and are not actually skeptical.

        Another from a poster on the Bigfoot Forums re: Jeff Meldrum:

        One of the things Meldrum mentioned about critics who thinks he should waste his time on things like Facebook was his frustration in trying to share his 35 years of education and experience with people who have little or none of the same who just care to argue who about things that they have little background in so to even absorb the basics of what he is saying to them. While he and I were discussing another issue at the time involving another thread, one would not have to look far in this thread to find examples of what he meant. – Bigfoothunter

        Yep…

  28. […] of bigfoot encounters should be taken seriously). But, in cases where there is — at minimum — circumstantial evidence of a specific phenomena, to not investigate is to reject the very thing that’s allowed human […]

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