Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fortean Bigfoot

The discussion continues over on Cryptomundo about weird, UFO, telepathic, anomalous and Fortean Bigfoot.

One of my points, as well as a truly sincere question, involves this information, or data. These stories exist; they're real. The stories, not the question of the experience itself. So, as I asked, do we accept the BF sighting, but not the UFO sighting? Do we include the BF report, but pretend we never heard anything about the witness also communicating with the creature?

I also made the point that including this anomalous data in the research is not the same as accepting it as real,understanding it, or approving it.

Here's what I commented over on Cryptomundo:

Thanks for the facilitation of this intriguing topic Craig.

Lots of interesting comments, as to be expected!

As I said, I realize that cryptozoology and the search for Bigfoot in a quest for its scientific validity has a hard enough time being taken seriously. I am completely sympathetic to that, and any "nonsense" about telepathic communcations, UFOs, or any other Fortean/high strangeness events associated with Bigfoot is to be rejected. BUT...

Having read several dozens of stories about these types of encounters, and knowing, personally, a few people that have had them, what do you do about them?

Are these people lying? I doubt very much the ones I've spoken with personally are. Always possible of course, as with anything. But I doubt it.

One of the issues here, for me, is: when do you decide, as a researcher, to reject something? A legitimate question.

If you're interviewing a BF witness, and they reveal they saw a UFO at the same time, or that they were in some sort of telepathic communication with BF, or some other "weird" event, what do you do?

Leave it out or ignore it? Accept the BF sighting, but not the other stuff? Reject the whole thing, including the BF sighting, because of the other stuff?

While I understand the fact of science needing physical, solid evidence that can be measured, etc. if these other things are present, they're a part of the experience. It isn't the witnesses or researcher's "fault" that they are a part of the experience.

So now what?

These are valid quesitons. As Nick Redfern pointed out in his recent articles on this topic, these stories are, and you can't just reject them because you feel like it. (on his blog UFO Mystic and in this issue of UFO Magazine.)

Keeping the stories as part of the data isn't the same as believing in them, or accepting them. But it's a start towards including all the evidence you find, as part of the research into the phenomena.

2 comments:

Lisa A. Shiel said...

Here's the comment I just submitted to CryptoMundo:

I find it enlightening that the vast majority of people who have commented on this topic do so anonymously. They must hide behind a screen name before they feel bold enough to ridicule and insult others. If you don't have the nerve to own up to your statements then you are engaged not in an adult discussion, but in a round of gossip. Apparently, the readers of this site prefer to remain cryptids themselves.

As for the content of the comments, I'd like to point out several issues.

DWA said, concerning Bigfoot/UFO sightings, “Why have I never read a sighting report yet on a sas website that describes such an occurrence” and “I've read a lot of sighting reports, and none of them mentions any paranormal phenomena.” Obviously DWA is not as well-versed in Bigfoot sightings as he/she believes. The Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society (www.pabigfootsociety.com) and researcher Stan Gordon (www.stangordon.com) include on their pages sightings that involve UFOs and other high strangeness. Books discussing the topic include Janet & Colin Bord's “Bigfoot Casebook” and “Alien Animals,” Thom Powell's excellent “The Locals,” and my “Backyard Bigfoot.” And this is by no means an exhaustive bibliography.

DWA also suggests researchers, when confronted with UFO/Bigfoot information, “leave the data out of the database.” Some Bigfoot researchers seem to do this already -- but researchers who purge data because they dislike it are guilty of intellectual dishonesty. You cannot call yourself a researcher -- or a scientist -- if you only consider the evidence that supports your theory.

Both DWA and MattBille claim that cryptozoology is a hard science. I wish this were true. Unfortunately, it is not. Coining a scientific-sounding name for a type of research does not make it a branch of science. The same goes for calling UFO research “ufology.” Both terms serve as a kind of shorthand, an alternative to more wieldy terms. According to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, cryptozoology is “the study of and search for animals and esp. legendary animals (as Sasquatch) usu. in order to evaluate the possibility of their existence.” Zoology, on the other hand, is “a branch of biology.” Tacking “ology” onto the end of a word does not a a scientific discipline make. The sad fact is that neither cryptozoology nor ufology has -- or will anytime soon -- achieve scientific acceptance.

In many comments, the word “paranormal” is tossed around like a hot potato. Going back to the dictionary, paranormal means “ not scientifically explainable.” I hate to break this to all of you, but as of right now Bigfoot is scientifically unexplainable, just like UFOs. You cannot scientifically study or explain a phenomenon unless you can repeat it in a controlled environment.

As a matter of fact, more scientists engage in UFO-related research than Bigfoot research. Stanton Friedman, Bruce Maccabee, William Levengood, Phyllis Budinger..the list could go on for pages. Ufology has amassed just as much physical evidence as Bigfoot research has -- perhaps more. To dismiss UFOs as “visions” or “hallucinations” proves only that the person making such a comment lacks sufficient knowledge of the topic.

We all need to ask ourselves, what is the goal of Bigfoot research? To prove Bigfoot are apes? Or to discover the truth about their nature and behavior? If you want to prove they're apes, you must ignore evidence. If you want the truth, you must examine all data, no matter how disturbing to your sensitive psyche, and determine the reasons to accept or reject it. Rejecting data based on personal bias, fear, or arrogance serves no purpose, scientific or otherwise.

In a perfect world, we could all formulate our own theories and discuss them intelligently. Apparently, few people who commented here share my sentiments. If you want to ignore evidence, or ridicule it, that's your prerogative. But don't call yourself a researcher or a scientist. And be honest about it, at least. Place a disclaimer on your website, book, or comment stating “I have ignored certain evidence because it displeased me.”

By the way, Bigfoot can be both a paranormal creature and a flesh-and-blood animal. Only someone who misunderstands the concept of paranormal would assert that flesh-and-blood and UFO-related cannot both apply to Bigfoot. According to this idea, a human being who has a psychic experience would no longer be a flesh-and-blood human being.

Yes, I see a definite connection between Bigfoot and UFOs, as well as other types of high strangeness. I have interviewed witnesses who had paranormal Bigfoot encounters, but never reported them out of fear of ridicule from Bigfoot researchers. They revealed their strange encounters to me only after lengthy discussions about their “normal” encounters. Instead of sucking up to mainstream science, we should show the witnesses -- who have provided the bulk of information about Bigfoot -- the respect they deserve by not tossing out data.

Lisa A. Shiel
www.BigfootQuest.com

R. Lee said...

Lisa, I just read your post over there, and it's very good. And thanks for responding to my call (where is Lisa Shiel? lol)

I'm in the process of posting a response to your comments.

thanks,
Regan