Tag Archives: Sharon Hill

Rule No. 1 for being Internet-smart: Never read NaturalNews

NATURAL NEWS BS 737
Natural News is the worst of the internet.

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon A. Hill via  Doubtful

Would you get your medical advice from a non-medical doctor with inadequate training? How about one investigated by the FBI for supporting killing of scientists? Would you get your news from a site that denies the basic tenets of science and how the universe works? How about a site that promotes policies that can result in death (AIDS denialism, anti-vaccine, homeopathic remedies for deadly diseases such as Ebola)? Is a site led by a alt med salesman that pushes baseless conspiracy theories and calls respected doctors and scientists names (or worse) a reputable source of information?

No. And this is really serious. NO.

natural news mike adamsLearn the name NATURALNEWS.COM and avoid it entirely. They call themselves “The world’s top news source on natural health”. They are the top source for health misinformation and pseudoscience. This is not in doubt:

Natural News: A Truly Deadly Brand of Pseudoscience (Big Think)

Why are so many Facebook friends sharing preposterous stories from Natural News? (Salon)

Don’t believe anything you read at Natural News (Grist)

Mike Adams, a.k.a. the Health Ranger, a health scamster profiled (ScienceBlogs)

Natural News’ Mike Adams libelously attacks Science-Based Medicine’s David Gorski

NN also publishes this disclaimer:

The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Truth Publishing assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material.

In other words, treat this site as a joke because it’s not a science, news, or medical site. And, if you do follow the terrible advice or take our word for it and then hurt yourself, we absolve ourselves of everything.

How noble, eh? Sadly, some people really do believe this stuff.

If you read NN, which is possible because the damn thing is very popular, you are indulging in the wrongness; please go prepared for massive doses of nonsense and delusional commentary. If you share any of these stories as useful or true, you need an immediate intervention. Every time you share one of their links, even to make fun of it, you add to their Google search ranking. So don’t do that. Just don’t ever click on that site for anything.

Skeptoid twice named NN the #1 Worst Anti-Science website:

Continue Reading @ Doubtful – – –

Faking Science Cred at a Sci-Fi Con: Not Smart

Paranormal investigators playing the role of “experts” and pretending to be scientific is not going to fly when the lack of deep knowledge is evident and there are actual scientists in the audience.

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

When it comes to Creationists, I’m actually fine when they say “God did it—that’s what I believe.” They don’t have a scientific worldview, and that’s their choice (I don’t think it’s a good choice, but that is not the point). They ought to be happy with their science-suspending miraculous explanations. Instead, a few try to interject the sciencey stuff in there and shoehorn blatantly unscientific ideas into a scientifical framework. They just don’t know what they are talking about. For the listener with a scientific background, it is painfully obvious that they are ignorant of how difficult research is, how rigorously it must be undertaken, how carefully definitions are crafted, and how diligently records are documented. hill-faking-cred-dog_250pxIt’s nails-on-a-chalkboard difficult for me to listen to. The champions at doing this same thing are paranormal investigators. So what happens when paranormal investigators give talks at a science-fiction convention? It doesn’t go over very well.

I was at RavenCon, a sci-fi fantasy convention in Richmond, Virginia, last April. As an invited speaker, I was there to talk about science from a scientist and skeptical advocate’s point of view. Bob Blaskiewicz, CSI’s “Conspiracy Guy,” was also there to talk about conspiracy theory. We aimed to bring the hammer down on nonsense thinking! Not really—we were going to schmooze and look at people in cool costumes and listen to presentations and panels about topics we just don’t get to talk about every day.

As with any such event, I expect that the invited speakers have prepared quality content. Many are professional authors and artists, and there were many scientists, too. One thing that is noticeable at these events is that the audience is pretty up on science and engineering. ElmerGhost02_250pxThe majority is really smart, read a lot, and comprehend and appreciate complexity and detail. This is not the best place to show off weak science cred.

The paranormal view has a presence at RavenCon. Not all sci-fi cons have speakers in that subject area. (I’ve been to the Paranormal track at DragonCon, but there is not an equivalent at Balticon.) In the lead up to RavenCon, the organizers invited Bob and me, perhaps partly to counter the presence of the paranormal group, to give some talks. One original idea was to have a panel about paranormal investigation with the different views represented, pro-paranormal versus application of scientific skepticism, or as I prefer to call it, evidence-based skepticism. However, this idea was scuttled when the leader of the paranormal group said she doesn’t do debates. (I actually don’t wonder why not.)

hill-faking-cred-muppet_250pxSo, they presented their talks and we presented ours separately. They didn’t come to our talks, but I went to theirs. I’m interested in their views and what they have found. The first presentation was by the group’s “scientist.” He did some demonstrations and experiments with chemicals (that should NOT have been used in a hotel ballroom) presumably to show that science looks like magic… or something. I thought the whole thing was rambling and pointless, meant to look “gee whiz” but was more like “Oh, Jeez…”

Up goes my hand: “Can you tell us about your scientific background?”

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Time To Give Up The Ghost?

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via Paranormal Pop Culture

I recall watching MTV’s “Fear” back in 2000 (or so) and thinking, “What easy TV drama! People just scare themselves and the viewers get drawn in!” Since the dawn of the modern paranormal encounter show 14 years ago, has anything really changed?

Adam Berry & Amy Bruni

Adam Berry & Amy Bruni

Nope, not really.

With Amy and Adam exiting “Ghost Hunters” we’re left wondering if they can launch a new media venture significantly different than the parade of ghost investigation shows we’ve watched for the past 10 years. I’d be pleasantly surprised if that could be pulled off but I doubt it. Shows are packaged to be different but underneath, it’s the same old lines, same old places and same tired ideas.

The attrition rate for ghost shows is high; “Ghost Hunters” is the standout exception in its 10th year. Many reality paranormal shows are long gone with “Ghost Hunters” remaining. Most of the original cast, however, is gone and the spinoffs have spun down. After losing so many of their key people, can the TAPS crew come up with something new? All the famous places have been “TAP-ped” already.

The ideas have run out so the embellishment and drama is amped up.

ElmerGhost02_250pxWe can see evidence for the staleness of the genre from the failure of “Deep South Paranormal” (Syfy), which only lasted one season after it got low ratings. Actual paranormal researchers, which you might think is a key part of the audience, have been vociferous in stating that reality TV ghost hunting shows in no way depict what they see in their own rounds. “Deep South Paranormal” was accused of perpetuating the myth that crews go around with gadgets to “prove” the paranormal, overreacting to any anomaly. Maybe the ghosts weren’t threatening enough so they had to add live alligators and snakes? Everyday paranormal investigators simply don’t like shows that portray their activities as a joke, even inadvertently. A few parodies have hit the web that suggest the concept of ghost hunting can be comedy gold.

It’s time for “Ghost Hunters” to hang up the gadgets and call it a career. They never once found evidence that  .  .  .

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I’m Not Making This Up: Why I’m Skeptical of Eyewitnesses

Sharon_hill_80pxBy via The Huffington Post

One of the major disconnects between those who practice effective skepticism and those who believe in paranormal possibilities (or are emotionally invested in unexplained mysteries) is over the topic of anecdotes and witnesses’ testimony.

tape recorder brain_300pxIf there is one fact that I wish we could all accept early in life, I would vote for drumming in the idea that memory is not like a tape recorder. If we learn this truth about the human mind, we could avoid so much trouble.

Memory is constructed. Pause a moment and let that sink in.

Memory is not objective, it is constructed by our own brains. It is not burned, or ingrained, or seared into it, as much as we would like to think that is the case. The truth is less precise, uncertain, and disturbing.

Most of us rely on our short- and long-term memories nearly every moment of the day. For the most part, our recollections are simple and good enough to get us through situations and day-to-day activities without much trouble, but false memories are ubiquitous.

I don’t trust my memory at all. I’ve seen it fail epically. That’s why I try to keep logs and records of what happened and when. I’ll take pictures of things I want to remember and write copious notes.

I’ve had a journal since I was 7. There have been times when I looked back on events and was dumbfounded at the dispute between what I thought had happened and what I wrote happened in my journal. For a moment, I doubt my journal! But that’s incorrect. My current memory had evolved into what I wanted it to be for my state right now. It had been reconstructed each time I accessed it in the intervening years.

memory falseI’d bet many of you think you have a great memory — that you can relate your observations clearly and accurately. But you’re wrong, too. Don’t feel bad about this! We are all imperfect when it comes to observing and remembering. Our brains are incredible things but they function mostly for self-preservation and propagation of the species, and only moderately well as an accurate memory collector.

Several paranormal subjects such as hauntings, UFO sightings, and Bigfoot reports rely solely on witnesses’ recollections. Sometimes years or decades pass, but the memory is still taken as credible and true because the people seem sincere. I’ve lost count of how many times the argument has been put to me that the eyewitness reports for Bigfoot are so compelling and voluminous that there must be something to them. Frequently, they present the really poor argument that if this was a court of law, Bigfoot would be ruled genuine. It’s more complicated than that.

Not only are our memories generally far from perfect, perception is poor too.

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Judging Paranormal Claims: Group-think Is Not a Good Thing

Sharon_hill_80pxBy via The Huffingtonpost

When I do interviews for paranormal-themed podcasts or radio-shows, I find myself stressing the difference between my skeptical approach and the paranormalist approach. It’s worlds apart, starting with the core questions we ask. The paranormalist will ask, “Can we find evidence of paranormal activity here?” I start out with, “What, if anything, happened?” I have not begun with the assumption that paranormal activity has played any role in this situation whatsoever. If you do assume that, you are biased from square one. You are far less likely to come to a sound conclusion.

ElmerGhost02_250pxThe paranormal researcher, I have found, often is interested in their subject area because of a personal experience. These experiences are emotional and confusing and probably highly disturbing to the individual. Once a person has this type of personal experience and believes it was of a paranormal nature (a haunting, seeing a UFO, or encountering Bigfoot, for example), it is impossible for anyone to reason them out of that interpretation. The memory becomes ingrained as a paranormal experience. It’s unlikely they will change that interpretation as their life progresses. Paranormal belief can be reinforced by positive feedback from social aspects, such as acceptability of the belief in pop culture or a social group of others who feel the same. Thus, we have diehard fans of paranormal reality TV and members of amateur paranormal research groups all over the place.

group think_150pxThe emotion and time people invest in their paranormal interest is not unlike a church or even a skeptics society — we feel a deep comfort in being around like minds and having our ideas bolstered.

However, being surrounded only by those who see things the same as you do is a severe roadblock to fair assessment of paranormal claims. We end up mired in group think with no innovative thoughts (which is why I also engage with pro-paranormal people). In order to get the best answer, we must put our ideas up for deliberation, engage in critical thought, and eliminate the subjective bias in the approach.

Many of us have grown up believing in the paranormal. We read all the expert’s books. We listened to the gurus and believed the eyewitnesses. Not too many of that crowd picked up the skeptical literature that addressed the flaws in those beloved paranormal ideas. There are good reasons why we tend only to hear what we want to here.

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Cornered and Someone Wants to Tell Me Their Paranormal Story

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via Huffington Post

One of the hazards of being a “skeptic” about paranormal subjects is that those who have had their own personal experiences or investigated a peculiar case like to play “Stump the Skeptic.”

“Oh, you are a Skeptic. Well, I have a story for you,” and then I get an earful.

GhostGirl_250pxHow do you explain that?” they conclude, with added self-satisfaction of a story well-told.

I can’t. And I’m not going to try to explain it.

Unless it’s a well researched case which has published documentation, I can’t say anything about it. It’s just a story. If I accepted every story I heard at face value every day, I’d be broke and in a mess of trouble. I am not accusing people of lying. I’m saying “I wasn’t there. It was not my experience,” so I’m not going to speculate about what you saw or what may have happened.

There is nothing to go on when cornered with these stories. I can’t fact check or confirm. I can’t pull an explanation out of a hat. I have no place to go with them except to say, “Hmm, interesting.”

Paranormal books are primarily these types of stories. It’s unusual for a case to be well-investigated compared to the thousands of stories that are related from eyewitnesses or referenced from other sources. Too many stories aren’t referenced at all. I was recently reading a book on local monsters and some accounts lacked accurate locations. There was no town of that name or there were no details. Useless. That is such poor quality evidence, it might as well be discarded since it is more likely wrong than helpful.

anecdote_200pxAnecdotes do not necessarily garner strength in numbers — not for paranormal subjects. A pile of unreliable tales is no better than one unreliable tale. It’s all hollow.

When it comes to local ghost and monster tales, the stories just exist and it is unclear where they originated. Such tales are great as local folklore. A problem arises when these anecdotes are elevated to “evidence.”

There is an over-reliance on anecdotes in the paranormal community — for hauntings, cryptozoology and ufology — as the basis of investigation. A case will start with an observation but if that is ALL that it is, with no physical evidence, no verification and a cold trail left to follow, there is nothing you can do with it but document it.

Had your own experience? Cherish it as your own. I just can’t help you and it’s a bit rude to put me on the spot. You had the experience. It’s up to you to provide evidence to support it, not for me to disprove your claim.

[end]

via Huffington Post

Open Up Your Mind and Let Your Brain Shut Off

Sharon_hill_80pxBy via The Huffington Post

People tell me I should be more open-minded.

There is a clichéd saying regarding open-mindedness: “Keep an open mind — but not so open that your brain falls out”.

This piece of advice is most often said to come from physicist Richard Feynman (1918-1988), but also a slew of other more or less famous people, most of them from the field of science: Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, James Oberg, Bertrand Russell, J. Robert Oppenheimer. It’s plausible that they all certainly said it at one time or another because it applies every time one is presented with a fringe or alternative explanation for something. It’s well worth remembering as a rule of thumb.

Because I peruse paranormal-themed sites and various “water-cooler” forums on the web, I frequently see ideas thrown out there that would qualify as amazing and paradigm-shifting. So, what do I think about this latest crazy thing, people ask?

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The Starchild skull.

Here’s a recent example. With all the recent speculation about “alien” remains, someone on Facebook mentioned Lloyd Pye who contends (for almost 15 years now) that a curiously-shaped skull he has is that of an alien-human hybrid. Called the “star child” skull, Pye promotes the story that this is proof that humans descended from extraterrestrial beings.

The plausibility of this idea is practically nil. There is no decent evidence in support of it except a nifty story. To accept it, we’d have to throw out all of what we know about human history, evolution, and a good bit of well-established physics. Just because of one odd-looking skull? No, thank you. That would be stupid. Thus, to consider such an idea takes me about a minute before I realize that would be unreasonable. It’s an imaginative idea, just like mermaids and remote viewing and time travelers. But in order to accept it, I’d have to discard too much (e.g., my brain and society’s accumulated knowledge). The evidence clearly suggests another more down-to-earth explanation. Since the skull DNA tested as human, and we know that certain genetic conditions can cause the enlargement of the skull in just this way, I’m going to accept the obvious and not some far-fetched story just for kicks.

Calling skeptics closed-minded because we discard wacky ideas is a common ploy. It’s often used as a personal insult because the skeptic has rejected a baseless idea that the promoters fancy. When you don’t have evidence to support your idea, observe that the proponent resorts to derogatory tactics.

But all ideas are not equal. Not all ideas are worthy of consideration.

“But all ideas are not equal. Not all ideas are worthy of consideration.”

It’s not about actually being open-minded towards new ideas. Instead, the proponent is accusing the skeptic of being stubborn, undemocratic and unfair. They see it as the skeptical person, being overly rational, ignoring a possibly worthwhile option to be considered. But all ideas are not equal. Not all ideas are worthy of consideration.

Let’s take another example: energy healing. I should be open-minded, reiki practitioners say, and try these forms of energy medicine where healing energy gets channeled or manipulated for better health. If someone offers these treatments to me and I just say “OK! Sounds good!” (and hand over my money) is that actually being open-minded? No. It’s swallowing what I’m being fed without a thought. The same would apply to . . .

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Weird Word Salad: The Terminology of the Unexplained

Sharon_hill_80px via The Huffington Post

Paranormal investigators say they look for evidence of paranormal activity. That phrase always confounded me. I don’t quite get it. What does it mean when someone says they have evidence of “paranormal activity”? And, how do you know it’s not normal activity that you just couldn’t ferret out?

ElmerGhost02_250pxThere is a problem with how the word paranormal is used because it is often utilized in a way that is perhaps not consistent with the original intent.

Language evolves. Let me take a shot at unpacking some of these definitions about unexplained phenomena. See if it makes sense.

“Paranormal” and other terms for strange goings-on have changed over time. The word paranormal was coined around 1920. It means “beside, above or beyond normal.” Therefore, it’s anything that isn’t “normal” — or, more precisely, it is used as a label for any phenomenon that appears to defy scientific understanding. Ok, right there is a tripping point. Whose scientific understanding? The observer who is calling it “paranormal”? If so, that is problematic as a theoretical physicist sees things a lot differently than a dentist or a police officer. So, it appears too subjective to be precise. Each person may have their own idea of what constitutes “paranormal activity”.

The term “paranormal” used to just mean extrasensory perception and psychic power but, since the 1970s in particular — thanks to TV shows and proliferation of the subject in popular culture — the term expanded in scope to include all mysterious phenomena seemingly shunned by standard scientific study. It was a convenient way to bring many similarly peculiar topics under one heading for ease of marketing. So today, it can include everything that sounds mysterious: UFOs, hauntings, monster sightings, strange disappearances, anomalous natural phenomena, coincidences, as well as psychic powers.

images.jpgUFONot everyone agrees that fields of study such as UFOlogy or cryptozoology (Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster and the like) should be considered paranormal but, if we think about the fact that after all this time, we have yet to document what these things actually are, that is beyond normal. Therefore, paranormal (arguably).

What appears as paranormal could essentially one day become normal. This has happened before with meteorites and still mysterious but likely explainable earthquakes lights and ball lightning. Or, we might not have developed the right technology or made the philosophical breakthrough yet to provide an explanation for some seemingly paranormal events. Perhaps we may find an instrument that can measure whatever it is that results in “hauntings” of a particular type. (Notice that I didn’t say an instrument that detects ghosts — an important distinction.)

Contrasted with paranormal is “supernatural.” To say something is supernatural is to conclude that the phenomenon operates outside the existing laws of nature. We would call such phenomena . . .

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The Internet: A Superhighway of Paranormal Hoaxes and Fakelore

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Huffington Post

It’s been a hot time for hoaxing thanks to the Internet. With Photoshop, citizen journalism sites, YouTube, and postboards for the latest photo leaks, it is way too easy to send a lie half way around the world before the truth can pull its shoes on.

This iconic image of the Lock Ness monster was hoaxed by Hugh Gray in 1933. (source)

In this post, I wrote about a busy week in paranormal-themed news. In chatting with a correspondent — Jeb Card, Visiting Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department of Miami University — over a shared interest in the state of the paranormal today or “occulture,” we got to talking about the state of hoaxing.

Make no mistake, hoaxing has always been around. Hoaxers have been trying to fool people by displaying their special skills (scams) or stupendous stories since the beginning of civilization, I think. But there is a particular history of hoaxing in occulture. Lately, it has gotten more frequent (or we sure notice it more), more absurd (to outdo the last one) and more involved (because the payout can be big while the scrutiny greater).

There are many famous hoaxes from this scene. It’s hard to say if it’s more common now than in the past. Some of the hoaxes, notes Jeb, have been very influential in the creation of popular folklore. Big ones have defined UFOlogy: Roswell and the Men in Black. Not everyone would conclude these are deliberate hoaxes — there is a grain of truth to them — but they went way out of control and now there are hoaxed videos, documents and tales based on these events that never happened the way the lore says it did. Stories like that, which have taken on a life of their own as if they were true, are called “fakelore.”

bigfoot-2The Bigfoot field is trampled over with fake footprints, stories, casts, photos and videos. It can’t be denied that the majority of Bigfoot stories are unbelievable, without supporting evidence, or obvious hoaxes. Every new bit of Bigfoot “evidence” these days makes us roll our eyes and say “SERIOUSLY!?” This reputation is damaging to those who truly believe something is out there to be found. The credibility of Bigfoot researchers scrapes the bottom of the barrel. The history of hoaxes colors this topic deeply when we realize that the seminal story of “Bigfoot,” Ray Wallace’s trackway, was revealed to be a hoax.

Actually, the same can be said for the Loch Ness Monster. The iconic Nessie photo — the long-neck arching out of the rippling water — was hoaxed.

A longtime follower of the occulture fields, Jeb says he can’t think of a time when these communities weren’t awash with . . .

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Foiled Again: Lake Monster, Bigfoot Body and Alien Humanoid All in One Week

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Huffington Post

It’s been a busy week in the world of the weird. Not a good one for those who hope to see the dawn of new worldviews or a shift in the paradigm. In one week, three stories topped the abnormal news headlines — all three hyped stories fell apart.

While the stories are still unfolding, it’s clear that they turned out to be nothing as promised.

Click image to view the fake monster video.

Click image to view the faked monster hump video.

First, there was this video of a lake creature swimming among boaters supposedly in Lough Foyle in Ireland. The video, taken by students one of which has the suggestive name Conall Melarkey, shows a hump moving rapidly through the water. The story gained widespread attention. The problem is that no animal can swim this way, no animal looks like this and, in consideration of the circumstances, the best explanation is that someone is towing a hump through the water. In all respects, this video is unbelievable. That is, it appears to be faked.

This second story is a bit more “inside baseball.” Many people will remember the Georgia Bigfoot Hoax of 2008 when two men, including Rick Dyer, teamed up with Bigfoot tracker Tom Biscardi to announce to the world they had a Bigfoot body in a freezer. There was even a press conference where Tom was adamant this was not a hoax, it was “the real deal.” Well, it was a hoax. Hard to fathom how a rubber suit with animal entrails would fool anyone for very long.

Rick has been telling anyone who will listen yet again that he has another Bigfoot body. This beast he supposedly shot during filming of a documentary called Shooting Bigfoot. The majority of Bigfoot enthusiasts did not buy it — once bitten, twice shy — and berated Dyer for his claims and his pay-per-view antics. The movie has come out and… there’s no body. But ever the profiteer, Dyer is still looking for money even though he says he is quitting the ‘footer world.’ Bye. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

alien603 836This week was the Citizens Hearing on Disclosure, an unofficial governmental hearing that provided a forum for testimony from believers in the reality of UFOs and alien visitation. It was nothing we haven’t heard before (and been unimpressed by). But, one very interesting aspect of this tale was about a six-inch, strange-looking mummified body, human-like but not quite right. The ribs, the head, the bone growth was strange. DNA testing showed it was human and of local Chilean origin where it was said to have been found in the Atacama desert. The Atacama humanoid was featured in the new movie “Sirius,” also about extraterrestrial visitation to Earth.

Study of the specimen’s bones by one expert delivered a shocking conclusion: the being was six to eight-years-old. Either the bone conclusions are wrong or we have a very bizarre find here.

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I Doubt It and Maybe You Should, Too

Sharon_hill_80pxBy Sharon Hill via The Huffington Post

On the hill behind my yard where I grew up, there was an Arborvitae tree in the shape of Sasquatch — small pointy head, huge shoulders and massive long body.

The outline of this monstrous Bigfoot looming in the darkness caused me a little anxiety as I rushed from the car to the house. I grew up fascinated by monsters, ghosts and strange things. They seemed real, out there in the woods, in the cemetery, or just beyond my senses. in search of title_300pxI checked out every book about monsters, haunted houses and UFOs from my school libraries. I learned about Loch Ness and psychic powers on In Search Of… with Leonard Nimoy. I can’t really explain why I was interested in these things or why I still am. But I’m certainly not the only one. Ghost hunting and monster tracking is a popular hobby these days thanks to cable TV programming.

My views about the paranormal and the mysterious have radically evolved since childhood. My opinion has swung like a pendulum from belief to disbelief and I progressively ended up in the center. I learned how to apply scientific skepticism. Skepticism is a process of evaluating things by emphasizing evidence and the tools of science. It’s an approach that I personally adopted and practiced. Why? Because I didn’t want to be fooled. I didn’t want to swallow a comforting story when I would rather have the truth.

The younger me, the Bigfoot believer, assumed that Bigfoot is out there. Why not? I mean, hundreds of people tell of their experiences of seeing, smelling, hearing or otherwise experiencing something that they attribute to our popular description of Bigfoot/Sasquatch. bigfoot-1Books are filled with stories. Stories are a gift to humanity but they are far from being hard data. Pictures of footprints and dark blobs are questionable. There’s hair here and there. There is also that famous film — named for those who captured the images, Patterson and Gimlin — taken of a large hairy creature striding rapidly across a California creek bed only to glance back and reveal her face for a moment.

I don’t have enough information to make a pronouncement on all the evidence. But it’s a logical error to say “why not?” when we really need to ask “why?” Why should I believe in this extraordinary creature? In the 50 years after that iconic film, the evidence for Bigfoot still consists of mainly lots of stories that can’t be double-checked. The rest of the evidence remains questionable — possible mistakes, misinterpretations, and a slew of hoaxes. After 50 years, we are no closer to finding Bigfoot. There is no body. The clues do not converge on a solid explanation. As much as I want to think that the creature is out there, strong evidence for it is still lacking.

Skepticism is a valuable thing to practice in proportion — not too much, not too little. This approach can be highly valuable when you are dealing with medical treatments, consumer products or investment. You can apply the same approach to other questionable claims like UFOs or psychics.

Sure, there is a downside. When you dig into the mysteries, they become . . .

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(Leonard Nimoy) In Search Of… Bigfoot
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