In search of…a real search

LennyFriend of the show and recent focus of our attention Sharon Hill (we’re not stalking, I swear) likes the Channel 4 “Bigfoot Files” episode on the Yeti:

You should have seen me smiling when the show began with EXACTLY the right tone: Dr. Bryan Sykes, geneticist who is heading the DNA analysis portion of the project through Oxford University, is not looking for evidence for the Yeti. He is looking for ANSWERS.

Her full review is here. Even if you haven’t yet seen the show (full disclosure, I have not yet watched it), you should give it a read.

The point with which I’d take some exception is embedded within this paragraph:

Three samples of supposed Yeti hairs were analyzed by Sykes. He has taken on the most ambitious Bigfoot DNA project ever simply because, he says, he is curious. Sykes chastises cryptozoologists slightly by saying science does not reject this field. “Show me the evidence and I’ll examine it.” As of late, there are several big budget searches for Sasquatch. Therefore, there should be far fewer rants about how money, attention and science has been withheld from cryptid studies. Cryptozoologists must stop making excuses and put forth what they have. If it does not show a primate as Bigfoot is described, then this is solid reasoning to conclude that such an animal does NOT exists.

Kudos to Sykes, indeed, for his approach. He is demonstrating a truly scientific attitude towards the subject of relic hominids. While I’m still waiting to find out what, if anything, he found from the small connection I have with his study (maybe we’ll find out on TV like everyone else), I think his approach is the one to take regardless of where you stand on the issue of bigfoot, Yeti, or whatever.

The thing that made me raise my eyebrow was the “several big budget searches” part of her statement. Here are the “searches” I can think of after spending some time pondering…

  • Sykes’ study. It’s a “search” in that he’s looking into the sources of hair samples submitted to him but it’s not the kind of field study I’d like to see with real trained biologists with a knowledge of primate behavior on the ground in the right kind of habitat.
  • Ketchum’s, uh, study. “Scientific” in that she sent samples to scientists and “big budget” in that it couldn’t have been cheap (and we know Melba didn’t pay for it), but that’s about where it ends. Discussions of lemur people and angel DNA put a full stop to any further discussion of her or her work. Not the sort of attention that does anyone any good at all.
  • SyFy’s Finding Bigfoot…? In no way scientific and not that big of a budget. Any “searches” done for a cable TV audience are the furthest thing from science and are meaningless. Same goes for Joe Rogan, Josh Gates, and any other well intentioned TV personality.
  • The Falcon Project. No offense to Dr. Meldrum, but this is the equivalent of vaporware at the moment. A concept in search of funding. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t, but either way, this is really just another endeavor from someone already in the world of cryptozoology to bring forward more evidence he hopes a larger scientific audience will pay attention to (hint: they probably won’t).

And that’s all I got. One actually scientific new and interesting look at evidence already collected by the same essentially ignored crew of citizen naturalists spending their own resources and time looking for an animal hardly anyone in the academic or scientific world will give the time of day along with a bunch of nutty distractions.

Skeptics gleefully criticize the evidence that’s out there but, thus far, none are apparently willing to do more than highlight the lunatic fringes for entertainment purposes and/or make sweeping pronouncements regarding the results of tests made to the relative paucity of hard physical remains that have been preserved. Surely, we have made some progress in the past ten years or so with regard to legitimacy, but we have a very long way to go until a fair judge could say the subject of relic hominids is being given anything like the kind of attention the circumstantial evidence suggests it deserves.

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Posted in Miscellaneous sasquatchery
29 comments on “In search of…a real search
  1. Donn says:

    Couldn’t have said it better. Game, set, match.

    So of course I’ll add.

    Sykes doesn’t have a body, which means anything he says remains questionable. People get this bass-ackwards. A DNA signature is only worth anything with a type specimen to which it is referred. To run a bunch of tests on a hair and tell me, what, that THAT HAIR is what a yeti looks like? Oh. OK.

    Show me a species recognized based on tests run on anything but a recognizable piece of that species.

    Right.

  2. Donn says:

    Should have added: anyone could figure out that none of the other three “searches” are anything deserving of the name.

  3. Lesley says:

    Brian. Do you know if anyone has heard back about results? This programme – unlike the first – seems to have no leaks at all. I don’t know whether that’s good or bad though.

  4. Lesley says:

    Thank you. As I said – I don’t know what to make of that.

  5. I think the discussion between Bigfoot proponents and skeptics is not really so much about existence as it is about interest. The real question is, “Is the evidence for Bigfoot that is available to review now sufficient to warrant spending time and resources to carry out a definitive inquiry?” That seems to be where the disagreement really lies. It’s a fair question. It would be better if those leaning more toward the “no such thing” side would abandon hearsay notions that this is somehow “big business”, or that there are a lot of funded, well-organized teams of field researchers out there looking and somehow unable to come up with anything. The argument is circular – without funding we can’t prove the animal; without proving the animal we won’t fund any research. Good for Sykes for doing a real study (although I have some questions regarding whom is claiming the hair to be “Yeti” hair…), but it’s unfortunate that he is propagating the ‘plenty of people looking’ myth while trying to solve the Yeti mystery.

    • Donn says:

      If it isn’t the footprints; the Patty film; the encounter reports; the overall volume and consistency of the evidence; the etc….I would have to say that the biggest earmark of skeptical ignorance of this topic is the “all this looking and no proof” canard.

      Everything else with this volume and consistency of evidence is proven. They can start here any time they’re ready.

  6. Lesley says:

    And so I will.

    I know speculation is a fruitless exercise at the moment, but it’s hard not to. It just seems to me that, if Professor Sykes had any significant finds, there would be some sort of ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink’, going on. People can’t help doing that and as far as I can see there’s been nothing. I just hope that he doesn’t say anything which the scofftics can jump on and use to say “Sykes says all Bigfoots are bears,” I’d like him to, at least, say that the research is worth pursuing.

  7. James Batten Jr. says:

    James Batten Jr. says: Original post 21Oct2013. Now 23Oct2013..I may have messed up my posting on this article..I had two posts, then tried to remove one and now am not sure what I have..anyway, I’m reposting a thought I had on 10/21/13…everyone says this creature is smart and cunning, which should fill in part of my original post.

    October 21, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    I would like to enter a thought on the existence of “BigFoot” But to do so requires thinking outside the box. I’m a believer in creationism, so my theory probably won’t match yours, but say if you do believe totally in the Bible the you know Genesis 25 talks about the births of Esau and Jacob. Esau was born covered in long reddish hair..Jacob was not. Esau was the hunter, Jacob more or less tilled the earth and tended to the livestock. Esau (who was the first born) was given the birthright, he gave up his birthright to Jacob foolishly. Short story, Jacob’s mother wrapped his hands and arms in long animal fur so that when Issac (who was dying and blind now) felt of Jacob, he would think it was Esau and pass on the family’s birthright; which he did. Jacob was terrified of Esau, he was huge, and covered in red hairy fur and hid for a while until times were safer. I think Esau’s punishment because he gave up God’s given birthright which was handed first to Abraham, then Issac, and now given to Jacob was to wander as a hunter, and perhaps started the line we now refer to as “Bigfoot”
    Sure, its out there, but do you have any better ideas where “Bigfoot” came from? Its plausible to Christians who are staunch creationists…there’s a whole lot stuff explained in the Bible about man’s history on the Earth if you’re open to hearing it.

  8. James Batten Jr. says:

    A quick followup: Since there have been sightings worldwide, to say this creature couldn’t migrate would be foolish as how to explain why knowledge of a “Bigfoot” would exist in places such as Tibet and here in middle America. Something is going on. Just my two cents.

  9. Jerry R Howell says:

    When you here hoof beats, think horses, not unicorns. Bears seem to be the most logical answer. But who knows.

    I would really like to see a surge in wildlife conservation efforts, at the federal and state levels More qualified persons in the field, actually helping the existing wildlife. And maybe they will find a “wood ape”, Worste case, we help a population of wildlife species that actually is proven to exist.

    Jerry

    • Brian Brown says:

      “Bears seem to be the most logical answer.”

      To what question? Bears are undoubtedly the source of some marginal reports but implying that bigfoot=bears is unreasonable and demonstrates a real ignorance of the encounter record.

      • Jerry R Howell says:

        Really? Its a proven biological animal. The Yeti is not. The most unlikely actual animal, like possums in a gorilla suit, is more likely than a “wood ape” in the frozen mountains of Tibet.

        Its hard to distance yourself from a personal experience. Just ask anyone that has been converted and filled with a religious spirit. But they can be less than truefull. In your latest podcast, you and Scott stated that over 20,000 sightings couldn’t all be untrue. Why not? If you are surrounded by ghost hunters, and then go to a house that was told to be haunted. Bet you will be convinced there is a ghost that made a door slam or a chill in the room. Certain cults have at least 20,000 members. They are talked into believing the world is going to end and sell all of their belongings and give the money to the church.

        Oh, and to comment on Scott’s remark that being an atheists is being what all the cool kids are doing. Several atheist have lost families, their past lives, jobs, friends, or even their lives because they can not abide in a belief. Please don’t liken coming out as as atheist to a wild phase a teenager goes through. Yes, more people are openly coming in non belief. They are no longer silent, nor do should they be. Its not a fad, its just a non belief. And no, we atheists are not afraid of saying I do not know. That phrase opens up the trail and error that makes science awesome! We don’t huddle in the fall back mode of a god did it, end of story.

        Jerry

      • Brian Brown says:

        I guess the difference between you and I, Jerry, is that I would not presume to dismiss the accounts of those I’ve done nothing to really understand. You’ve taken the classic crouch of he who has absolute faith that we humans have discovered all there is to know in the natural world. You sound like someone who’s never had a face to face conversation with a person who’s encountered something that clearly could not have been a bear. But why should you? All those personal accounts are worthless, right? Synonymous with “religious conversion,” right?

        Also, since we’re on the subject, please don’t assume the tiresome victimized atheist position. I’m one too (and it was me saying all the cool kids were atheists, not Scott – It was a joke so chill out). So many atheists are radically uptight and no better that evangelicals in that they feel its their job to push their system of belief out and onto anyone who doesn’t fit their model. That might have something to do with the losing of jobs, family, friends, etc. I find I have the best success with my friends of faith when I don’t question that faith or in any way judge them. That’s just how I like to go through life, though. Judge and judge not. Live and let live. Maybe that’s another difference between us.

    • Spence says:

      Atheism *is* a belief – believing in anything that can’t be proven is belief. Atheism can no more be proven by the scientific method than Christianity, Islam, Sikh, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, etc. Atheism is a form of belief about our afterlife – just that we don’t have one and that in no case do we have a soul, or energy, other than that out in body.

      Atheism can’t be proven any more than ghosts. Both rely on our human desire to explain what may or may not happen when we die. Not able to be proven by the scientific method. And yes, people have been murdered because they do not believe in an afterlife at all. More have been murdered because their view of the afterlife doesn’t conform to those of others as well. Because there haven’t been large-scale “atheist movements” those who believe in no afterlife haven’t been slaughtered by the tens of millions like, say, Jews. Over our human existence, those who claim to worship a particular “god” have been more likely to be murdered in masse. So stop playing like a member of a group that has been the victim of a religious group. Atheism may be a belief, but by self-definition, it’s not a religion.

      Believing there is nothing after life is just that – a belief. Hey, I’m a fan of Bill Maher and Theresa Caputo… I hope most of us are that complicated! We don’t really *know* and so listen to many ideas – with skepticism.

      Belief is complicated. Absolute belief/non-belief (which is belief) isn’t skeptical!

      So, believing wood apes are real absolutely isn’t scientific, but neither is believing they can’t be real.

      Skepticism is using the scientific method to find out if wood apes are real – or not real. That requires a hypothesis that cannot require an absolute!

  10. Donn says:

    And when the footprints look like a primate; and people are describing a primate…a bear is not the thing to look for. ;-)

    • Donn says:

      The most likely animal is something that looks, sounds and behaves like the animal reported. In the case of this animal, that is not a bear.

      See, this is the problem with scientists, right here: “Its a proven biological animal. The Yeti is not.” And whose fault is that? From fourth grade science fair, it is pounded into scientists’ heads that if it is not proven it is not real. This is so obviously false – did Pluto leap into existence when we acknowledged what it was? – that it’s amazing that educated laymen let scientists get away with it. But I see scientists making this very obvous mistake over and over and over.

      To assume that because some people are lying, they all must be, is an assumption that would leave you unable to execute the simplest transactions of daily life. It is, in other words, a non-starter. If there is no reason to believe someone is lying, one believes he is telling the truth. Skeptics seem utterly unable to mentally handle this situation. They conclude that the only alternative is to accept the witness’s allegation as societal truth, scientific proof. This is so obviously Not Done that it’s amazing that educated people let skeptics get away with it. But I see skeptics making this very obvous mistake over and over and over. And not getting called on it. Well I am calling them on it.

      What bigfoot witnesses are seeing is clearly not a bear, clearly not a man in a suit, and clearly not any known animal. What, precisely, they are seeing is UNRESOLVED. Tough concept? Oh, I have faith in you. Please stop letting me down.

  11. Jerry R Howell says:

    Well, I see you won’t post my last comment. I figured as much. Good luck in your world. Keep giving make believe creatures human like characteristics,

    Oh, I do believe we will find new species. They will be mostly small bugs or fishes, lurking in the depths. And I don’t think I ever said we have found everything there is to find. But I do know if something unknown is going to be discovered, it will be by real scientists and field researchers. Not weekend “Bobos”.

    Jerry

    • James Batten Jr. says:

      I agree on the “BoBo” comment. Still, like I explained before, there’s so much we don’t know, I respect everyone’s opinion and hope they respect mine. I enjoy debating diverse opinions; thats how we learn… (Be so boring otherwise) Anyway, I still think Genesis 25 (Esau and Jacob) is a fair place to at least exchange thoughts and ideas about our “bigfoot” friend.

      • You are correct, there is so much that we don’t know. Was it Plato that said the more he learns the more you found out he didn’t know?

        Well, if we use the Jewish Torra (sp?) as a factual document and not a document for faith, then doesn’t that open the door to use the stories of Greek and Roman gods? I think its better to use actual scientific documents. The old testament has been argued as actual fact to just stories of how we should live and serve a deity. And that is among believers.

  12. Jerry R Howell says:

    At sometime, Brian, you have to weight the evidence and use a “bat shit crazy” scale to it. I dismiss those that believe in dragons and unicorns. I dismiss in those the think all of the creatures of the world fit on a boat. I dismiss those that think they are under the spell of the devil. So yes, 200,000 or even 2,000,000 people can say they saw a “wood ape”, but noone has gotten a picture (except for an old guy on horseback at Bluff Creek 40 years ago), found a believable foot print, or provided any bio-matter from said creature. Hmmm……..

    Give a Hoot and don’t Pollute while Squatchin!

    • Donn says:

      “I don’t see it so it isn’t real.”

      You could have just said “I reject your reality and replace it with my own.” Would have saved you a lot of typing.

      True Believers come in all stripes. But this kind is the least interesting, gotta say, kinda like True Believers in atheism.

      • When had anyone ever said, “I don’t see it so it isn’t real.”? The odds that there are undiscovered animals and plants is very good. The odds of an upright walking large primate that runs around at night is very, very small.

        Why is me not believing in a deity have anything to do with this? And we don’t “believe” in atheism, we do not have belief in religion or deities. That is all atheism is. Its like off being a tv channel. We do not hold to a certain belief in anything. Allot of us us science to explain things. And I don’t see that as a bad thing.

        So are you implying that belief in “wood apes” is like a religion? If so, I do agree with you!

  13. Donn says:

    Not really, but you can believe what you want. I just like to be paying attention to the things I express opinions about.

  14. Spence says:

    I’m a nit-picker – Finding Bigfoot is produced by Animal Planet, part of Discovery Communications, not SyFy’s Universal.

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