Skeptic: The Real Bigfoot Myth

Recently I have noticed a lot of conversations taking place in the bigfoot community on the subject of skeptics and skepticism. Unfortunately what I have read usually results in the same outcome; a matter of "us versus them". Choose your side accordingly. However, the truth of the matter is that skepticism belongs in the bigfoot community. The problem I see taking place is that instead of skepticism being an integral part of bigfoot research, it has become its own entity. Many people who take the self-titled position of "skeptic" do not practice healthy and true skepticism in my opinion. Instead they have isolated themselves along the outskirts of the bigfoot community, where they pick and attack any claims or evidence that comes out in support of the existence of these creatures. They use blanket statements such as "believers" to lump individuals together who are in support of these creatures existing factually, which in turn is a double standard. They themselves are "believers" as well. Their belief is that these creatures do not exist, and their position is based solely on this assumption.

Before I proceed I feel it only fair that I explain my own personal position on this matter.When I started this journey I was a full fledged skeptic. I had a strong interest in the subject matter, but I did not know one way or another if these things existed. I got to know people, heard their stories, saw the evidence, and still yet, it was not enough to convince me one way or another. It was then that I started going into the field for myself. I knew that no matter what I could trust myself and my own observations. There is a world of difference between looking at a plaster cast someone made of a supposed track, and finding yourself staring down at a barefooted track impression in the cold damp ground out in the middle of some of the most remote and rugged environments you have ever been in. It does tend to change one's perspective a bit. But still, in my mind it was just evidence to support the existence, it was not proof. My track finds were no more important than anyone else's. Eventually however, I started having encounters of my own. I was experiencing things that had an extremely limited number of rational explanations. Either these things really did exist, or I was witnessing a subculture of individuals who perpetrate bigfoot hoaxes Nation wide at all hours of the day in any number of random and remote areas, which as ridiculous as it seems, was still a possibility. That was until I had a sighting of my own. I now knew for a fact that these creatures do exist. I've spent my entire life studying wildlife, and I've spent the last 13 years focused on studying bigfoot. Much of that time was spent in the actual field. Even after all that, I know I have no way of proving they exist. The skeptical side of me still exists. In fact I find myself even more critical minded now than I was back then. I'm skeptical of any evidence or claims I'm presented with. People still lie, misidentify, etc. I allow for the evidence to lead my direction when forming an opinion. So it offends me when individuals choose to use blanket statements and lump people together with such words as "believer".

I don't believe these things exist, I know it. Just because you do not does not make my opinion invalid, nor does it mean I'm not really a true skeptic.

In fact, everyone is a skeptic to some degree. If you doubt a claim based on lack of evidence to support it, you are skeptical. Breathe easy now, there's nothing wrong with being skeptical. You can't just go around believing everything you hear. However, when you allow your doubt or disbelief to completely close off your mind to the possibility of something, with complete disregard to evidence or claims to support it, you are not being a true skeptic.

There are two key components to being a "healthy" skeptic in regards to bigfoot study. Scientific reasoning and critical thinking. You'll see these terms, or similar, tossed around a great deal by skeptics. In the field of bigfoot, critical thinking is absolutely necessary, but often excluded. The critical thinking baby usually gets thrown out right along with the common sense bathwater. Sorry, had to. But what is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is basically a way to reach a conclusion to determine if a claim is true, somewhat true, or not true at all. How one gets from point A to point B can vary from individual to individual however, and the combination of skill sets used has no set recipe. The obvious reason it is so important in the field of bigfoot study is because we deal with a lot of claims. The vast majority of bigfoot information comes in the form of claims, as opposed to tangible evidence such as tracks or photographs.

The problems arise when these tools are used incorrectly, or hidden behind to push one's own personal belief. While often times bigfoot "believers" are accused of manipulating information to argue their own personal belief, some self proclaimed skeptics are just as guilty, if not more so, for doing the same exact thing. The only difference is that they are pushing the belief that bigfoot does not exist. This occurs most often when either side is presenting a belief as fact. The interesting thing about that is while it is possible for someone to know bigfoot exists as a fact, it is not possible for someone to know bigfoot does not exist as a fact. Wrap your brain around that one for a moment.

Scientific reasoning is great. It deals with truths, therefore it must be a great asset for a skeptic to use right? Well, sometimes. Let's take the backbone of all scientific knowledge. The scientific method. Sometimes you will hear skeptics discredit evidence because scientific methodology was not followed. The problem is, most of what occurs in bigfoot research, the scientific method can not be applied to. If scientific methodology can not be applied to a given situation, how can one discredit said situation based on the lack of scientific methodology? For years people have been playing scientist in the bigfoot world. Most would agree that the bigfoot community needs more science, and scientists, involved. The truth is that while having scientists interested in the subject is beneficial because it's gives us a bit of serious accreditation, the field of bigfoot research has not reached the level of becoming a science issue. Not even close. That would require a specimen of some kind. The science that needs to be applied right now is forensics. That's what we're dealing with, claim investigations, event scenes, and the collection of evidence. Which is why "pseudo-skeptics" use it as a tool against cryptozoology.

The two most logical conclusions one could reach is that either the skeptic does not know what they are talking about, or that they do know, which is why they are trying to push it in a direction that would be impossible to argue against since it can't actually be applied to the given situation.

True scientific reasoning and true critical thinking both have one objective in common. They seek the truth, not the belief. Regardless of what that truth is. While a true skeptic may doubt something based on the evidence they have seen, they are not closed to the possibility. At most the true skeptic can only say they do not believe something is true based on the evidence they have seen at a given time.

Cynical and snide remarks. Condescension. Pushing beliefs. Making blanket statements such as "bigfoot believers do this" or "cryptozoologists always...". Criticizing and discounting what others have to say or offer due to differences of opinion or beliefs. Having the mindset that since you don't believe something exists, then any and all evidence in support of such must be false. None of these belong in true skepticism. If you see someone doing this, they are not a true skeptic.

The only difference between a "believer" and a skeptic is their starting point. Both should desire to ultimately reach the same finishing point. The truth. They shouldn't view one another as enemies, but should realize how each side can compliment the other, and work together to reach that ultimate goal of the truth. If you call yourself a skeptic, make sure you are holding yourself to the same standards that you hold everyone else to.

Comments

  1. Another exceptional piece written by someone who I think is probably the best Bigfoot current affairs commentator in town. Keep up the good work Matt. If I wasn't in the dog house on BFE I would have celebrated you on there big style, to which I will do in due course.

    Peace

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was also an example of a straw man argument. I'm not sure whom you are referring to but since my name is in the labels for this post, I can guess that it's me. I take exception to your descriptions of "skepticism" (in that it is not being practiced correctly), the scientific method and critical thinking. This is my part of my profession. This is my field of study. As I have said so many times, I have no gripe with anyone who seeks Bigfoot and has had their personal experience as a moving moment in their lives. My position is as a science and public advocate and when you claim you are being scientific or telling the public this is a natural creature, then I will point out the issues.

    I feel that most people who have been negative to what I have to say are so because it challenges their worldview and see me as an outsider pushing in. Actually, it is the Bigfooters that have pushed their way into the realm of science and the public. And, frankly, it's not working out well.

    By the way, I extensively researched and wrote the Media Guide to Skepticism with assistance from several of today's leading skeptics and philosophers. (Science is a community effort and so I felt to get this right, it should not just be my opinion but consensus). I stand by my practice of scientific skepticism.

    http://doubtfulnews.com/media-guide-to-skepticism/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny, Shawn Evidence was also in the tags. As was Melba Ketchum. I just made my tags relevant to the topic I was speaking about. You have been very outspoken and spoken about as of recent, which I'm sure you appreciate the hits. I wasn't talking about you though. Although I have witnessed you make some blanket statements here and there. In fact you even made at least one in the above comment.

      You act as though if someone is involved in the bigfoot field, they aren't allowed to know anything about or practice the scientific method or critical thinking. Only you can because you're a skeptic. Everyone is a skeptic. That's no different than giving yourself the title of cryptozoologist.

      For you to refer to my article as a straw man argument, and then give your own version of one to rebuttal against the things I wrote about is kind of humorous. For my article to be a dear Aunt Sally, then everything I stated must be false. So according to you, no one claiming to be skeptical has ever been anything but that, a true skeptic. My accusations are completely off base with every single person claiming skepticism. Because you know them all, and keep track of each and every one of the things they do and say. If you took time to actually read my article, you may have noticed I did not lump everyone together, nor did I throw one of your warm and fuzzy blankets across an entire group of people. I used words like "some" instead of "all". Meaning not everyone is guilty of the issues I am casting light on. Another aspect of the article, the one you obviously closely read, was that the entire thing was promoting skepticism, scientific reasoning, and critical thinking IN the bigfoot field.

      Instead you walk away with the attitude that I was way off base with a straw man argument that apparently could have just as easily been a child's crayon scribblings. Thank you for proving my point!

      Delete
    2. HA! Outstanding Matt!

      Delete
  3. How refreshing...something rational on a polarized topic. Wish you could apply the same logic to the radical right in Washington, maybe the goo faith and credit of this country wouldn't be such a mockery. Excellent thought and writing, Haven't been here before, haunt a lot of the other sites. Will be back.

    ReplyDelete
  4. A true skeptic need not be open to the possibility of bigfoot. No moreso than a true skeptic must be open to the possibility of dragons. A tired but very appropriate comparison.

    A true bigfoot skeptic doesn't yell "you're wrong" at the top of his lungs to the other camp. A true bigfoot skeptic asks proponents " SHOW me that you are right."



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