Thursday, January 22, 2015

Stop The Bigfoot Madness, Please

It amazes me that TV producers can create a show about hunting for Bigfoot. It's not like Bigfoot sightings have the bulk or evidence behind them that other paranormal-type phenomena have. So I don't know why other shows about the paranormal feel they need to include Bigfoot "experts," unless it's because these guys write books and so they are willing to come on shows. We've also heard the latest twist: Bigfoot is actually an inter-dimensional being! Why? Backward logic: We've never found a shred of physical evidence that Bigfoot is real, so we're going to explain that away by saying Bigfoot comes from another dimension and therefore doesn't have to eat, leave crap lying around, or die. I can't address that one; it seems like a last-resort kind of thing. "Sure we don't have any evidence, and yeah, a real forest ape kind of creature would need a breeding population of thousands to exist and we'd find dead ones, so since we've already decided Bigfoot exists, it must be interdimensional."  Whatever. I'm only going to address Bigfoot as a real, evolved creature of *this* world...
"Bigfoot"

Bigfoot sightings, at least as far as real flesh and blood (not interdimensional) creatures,  fall into two categories: Bears that are misidentified, and hoaxes. That's it. If decades of nothing but hoaxes, misidentification and no actual evidence for their existence can't convince you, I don't know what will, but we'll go over some of the facts anyway...

A) Nobody has ever found a dead Bigfoot. This is not insignificant. There is no real, living animal that hasn't had a body turn up here and there. This is often the way we find out that some obscure animal we thought was extinct is actually still around. Everything that lives, dies. If there are no dead Bigfoot creatures, it's only because there are no Bigfoot pseudo-apes that are alive, either.  It's important to note, I suppose, that basic biology requires several thousand animals to maintain a breeding population. Apparently there are Bigfoot creatures all over America - and the world - but nobody has found a dead one or a family group. It's always one-off sightings by panicky city folk who haven't spent enough time in the woods to know what they're looking at.

B) All the videos are hoaxes. All the "scientific" evidence, like claims of finding DNA or hair or feces,  are hoaxes. People have confessed to them or have been caught and exposed, and we know that's true.If Bigfoot existed, getting a clear video wouldn't be a problem. Anyone can go in the woods and get videos of bears. Heck, you can get them in most cities, or at least the suburbs. Finding Bigfoot turds (and DNA with them)  wouldn't be a problem, either. A giant animal that would have to consume tons of food and leave tons of waste behind? The forests should be covered ankle-deep in Bigfoot crap ... unless the animal doesn't really exist, of course.

C) Bigfoot sightings that aren't hoaxes, are bears. It's the illusion of high strangeness that makes Bigfoot reports seem credible to some. Think of it this way: in a county of hundreds of millions of people, some of them are going to have close encounters with bears - every single day. For almost all of them, the story will be; "I was driving down the road and a bear ran out in front of me, and I almost hit it!" ..And that's the end. You'll never hear that one on the news. But all it takes is one person ..maybe one out of a hundred thousand bear encounters, to say "Hey a Bigfoot ran across the road in front of me!" - and now we're supposed to think this is what really happened.

MOST people know a bear when they see one, and so you never hear about their encounters. The rare person who lets their imagination and predisposition construct a cryptid encounter in their minds - they are the ones you hear about.

What's wrong with these people? Nothing, basically. Some of them may have overactive imaginations. Some of them may just harbor a deep longing to see a Bigfoot, or anything that's strange. If they said they saw a leprechaun instead of a Bigfoot, they probably wouldn't have the instant support group gathering around, telling them that what they thought they saw was the real deal. If a person longs to see a fairy, they might talk themselves into seeing one but they will be more likely to (correctly) question their memories and assessment of the situation, due to the lack of a supportive network of people who will rally around them..

Beyond that: apparently some people are expecting bears to look like cartoons or what you see in the zoo. There are lots of bear encounters all over the world, so it is probably only a tiny minority of people who misread the situation. That's all it takes, though..

The diversity of wild bears is amazing. They can be tall and skinny or short and fat, and everything in between. They can have tiny ears, short muzzles. If you can think of it, there are bears that have it. In fact, we should probably break down some things most people don't know about bears:

  1. Bears in the wild are not like zoo bears. They can be fat or very thin, short or long muzzled. It's just the genetic variation that is natural in the wild.
  2. Bear coats are often uneven in color. Especially around shedding time, it's not unusual to see a bear that is brown on top and black around the waist. It makes it look like it's wearing pants. This is just a difference between top coat and undercoat color, though.
  3. Yes, bears do walk around on hind legs, and they do look ape-like when they do that. For bears, it is easier to go around on all fours most of the time, but when they have an injured front paw (common because bears fight each other ) they will spend extended periods walking and even running on two legs.
  4. Bears kill stuff. Yes, even black bears where people swear up and down they just eat berries. That's not true. Black bears like berries a lot but they will kill and eat small animals as the opportunity arises.
  5. An injured bear screams like a human being. Perhaps it's Hollywood's fault that people think bears sound like Godzilla. Their voice range is very similar to an adult human  voice range. This is very cringe-inducing if you encounter an injured bear - or you hunt them.
  6. Bears sometimes lose their ear shells in fights, or to frostbite. Bears also can go bald. The same diseases that cause racoons and coyotes to lose their hair and be mistaken for Chupacabra can give bears a bald face, head, or even whole body. There aren't a lot of bears with baldness or no ears, but they have the maximum likelihood of being misidentified. Not that you need that much: As I pointed out, of the many bear encounters every day,  it only takes a tiny percentage of panicky, crypto-minded people to keep the Bigfoot myth alive.
When you know this stuff, you can readily see how bears get mistaken for forest apes on a regular basis. I think the only reason it doesn't happen more often is because only a minority of people are of a mind to think a big hairy beast is a Bigfoot. Misidentification is just too easy, and the difference between "I saw a bear" and "I saw a Bigfoot" comes down to mindset and expectations.

SOURCE: Outdoor person, here. I grew up in the woods of the Pacific Northwest (where Bigfoot is supposed to be common), and have hunted bear for food. That was my old life. Even though I don't do it anymore, I am an expert tracker and hunter. Everyone I knew, growing up, hunted. I've seen dozens and dozens of bears in the wild, including way too up close and personal, including bears with patchwork coats and semi-bald ones - and many walking/running on two legs. But not one Bigfoot. I think Bigfoot experts are mostly armchair outdoorsmen who haven't spent enough time in the woods to know a bear from some cryptozoological character. Even when you get a story where someone is called an "experienced outdoorsman" - when you read the story you find out that the guy's vast "experience" consists of going on weekend camping adventures a couple of times a year. People who really live in the woods and have spent their lives there never see a Bigfoot. And that fact alone should convince you that Bigfoot does not exist, at least as far as it being a literal forest ape of some sort..

A bald bear - it happens
There is much more, of course, like the fact that this imaginary creature doesn't fit anywhere in the food chain. Are they predators? What do they kill? Are they herbivores?  Why aren't they seen grazing? There's just no place you can fit them that makes any sense. In the meantime, actual apes and chimps - some varieties of  which are quite endangered and have low population densities - can easily be found in their natural habitat, in part because we know what they eat so we know where to look for them. Everything has to eat. If Bigfoot existed, it would be eating something... LOTS of something, since they're supposed to be huge. Even a low population density of Bigfoot animals would be consuming tons of whatever it is that it is supposed to eat - and thus would be easy enough to find.

And finally, if you have a weird sighting, why on earth would you jump to a cryptozoological character as the explanation? It's like; all the Chupacabra sightings where there were photos or the creature was found, have turned out to be raccoons or coyotes with mange. The people who took the photos or found the creature swore up and down that it was Chupacabra, but the evidence proved them wrong. At some point you have to say, "okay, witness testimony is unreliable, and we have solid evidence that they're just plain wrong with these reports."  But no, we keep jumping to the weirdest explanation possible.

I've already pointed out the fact that these are bears. Bigfoot is never seen except in areas with bears. No bears = no Bigfoot sightings. But even if you were to insist that it wasn't a bear, but an ape-like creature, the next logical explanation would be an ape that escaped from a circus or zoo. A supernatural cryptid would be the absolute bottom of the list, yet that's where Bigfoot believers go first.

VERDICT: Debunked. Debunked over and over again. Bigfoot is a mythological creature, like the unicorn. The only differences: 1) Bears exist and people mistake them for apes when they're running around on two legs, and 2) Bigfoot hoaxers abound. People seem less interested in hoaxing unicorn sightings, but knowing human nature, I wouldn't be surprised to find that becomes a thing in the future. All that is actually needed is a supportive community of people (especially people who write books) to say that unicorns are real, and they will gain the same level of respectability as Bigfoot.

After decades of Bigfoot hunts, big rewards for evidence of Bigfoot's existence, and an almost endless parade of hoaxers, the verdict is undeniable. If you keep believing in Bigfoot, you must be getting something out of it. But there are plenty of real mysteries out there to explore and research, where your high strangeness affinity might be more productive. Or, you know, go shoot a unicorn and have your picture taken with it. Bigfoot or Unicorn: The odds of success are the same.

Bottom Line: There are many people who make a living off of promoting the existence of Bigfoot and other cryptozooids. Without the professionals hawking their books and lectures, Bigfoot would be considered as real as unicorns and leprechauns. Alas, there will always be cynical people lining up to fleece the public, and we just have to live with that.

I should also note that Bigfoot is not in the same class as other phenomena like ghosts, apparitions, and hauntings, because we know what people are seeing with Bigfoot sightings. There is a huge pool of paranormal experiences related to spirit hauntings, and their cause is hard to pin down or explain -  but the pool of Bigfoot sighters is very small[1], easy to explain, and they fall into just two categories: Hoaxers and people who don't know a bear when they see one...Unless you want to go to the latest fallback position that Bigfoot is an interdimensional being. I don't even know how to calculate the odds of that being true but if that were the case then people are wasting their time hunting for them because they would pop in and out of our reality on a random basis.

[1] How small is the pool of sightings keeping the Bigfoot myth alive? According to several sources, there have been a total of 3,313 Bigfoot "sightings" in North America in the last 92 years as of this posting. That's just 36 sightings per year, on average. To put that in perspective: The Bigfoot myth is being kept alive by just 0.000001 percent of the population. Bigfoot sighters are rarer than people who think they are in constant telepathic communication with Venusians, or people who claim they can fly using the power of their minds. In contrast there are millions of encounters with bears in North America every year.

Other sources of information:
Why Bigfoot is unlikely, if you know what unlikely means
10 Reasons why Bigfoot's a Bust

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this post or blog is meant to suggest that the supernatural or paranormal does not exist. The fact is, I don't know. All I can do is look at the evidence to see if it stands up to the test of very simple scrutiny. If it passes, yay. If it fails, oh well... there's always next time. Investigators are human. I'm human. We all make mistakes. My pointing out the mistakes that others make should not be taken to imply that they are wrong in general, or that the things they investigate are only the product of imagination.

11 comments:

  1. You, my dear, are an absolute blithering fucking moron if you think that every sighting of Bigfoot for the past 3 centuries is a misidentified bipedal bear. You've done ZERO research into the topic and your totally misplaced dismissal of the entire subject only serves to reinforce your complete lack of understanding of the topic. You should stick to writing about something you actually understand--what that might be, I have no clue. But it most certainly isn't Sasquatch. I, along with TENS OF THOUSANDS of people over the past 200 years, have personally seen this creature and it's as real and flesh and blood as your tiny little closed-minded brain rattling around in your numb skull. You cannot tell me what I did or didn't see. PERIOD. Once you experience a sighting, it changes your entire world view. Obviously you've never had a sighting yourself or you would be absolutely disgusted with yourself. Here's a suggestion: shut down your computer and head out into the woods since you live in a Bigfoot hotspot. Aside from that, fuck you and fuck your shitball "research" idiotbag.

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    1. I will ignore the unwarranted personal insults, and I already covered my expertise in the subject. You have a strong emotional attachment to this belief, and you can't believe that your memory might have tricked you. Your use of personal attacks also suggests that you have some problems that only a professional can deal with, but we'll leave that alone. As far as strong beliefs based on experiences that may or may not have happened as you remember them; that's all pretty normal, actually. Welcome to the human race. :) ...However, it's not evidence for anything.

      Memory is an extremely fallible thing. Researchers have found that false memories can easily be introduced, and once introduced, subjects will continue to swear by them even when they are shown that the memory is false.

      In one such study, researchers introduced a false memory of meeting Bugs Bunny at Disneyland by simply Photoshopping the rabbit into a family photo. The people immediately recalled the event and talked about how silly the rabbit character acted. The Disneyland employee in the rabbit suit did the voice and everything. Except it never happened. Bugs Bunny is a Warner Bros character and nobody has ever met Bugs at Disneyland. When the researchers explained this at the end, nobody was willing to abandon their false memory. They all insisted it really happened.

      Bottom line: you can't trust your own memory, and that is proven over and over again. If you realized just that one thing (which is scientifically proven to be true) you might feel differently about your recollection. I could link to a hundred studies that show this but you know how to use Google, I'm sure. :)

      Had you taken a photo at the time, you would have shown it to other people and they would have said it looked like a bear and you would have questioned your memory perhaps. But because all you have is a memory, it just gets bigger and more solid in your mind with each retelling and recollection. Which is how memory really works.

      The way you can know that there is no such thing as Bigfoot (at least as an actual, living forest ape) is by the fact that nobody has ever found one. You just have tales (as you said, from thousands of people ...or about .0001 percent of the population, to keep that number in perspective). If Bigfoot were a real, living creature, as you suggest, there would be a dead one found here and there, at a minimum. But there's been nothing...ever. Dozens of hoaxes, sure, but nothing substantial or real.

      In fact, even Bigfoot experts have started to abandon the idea that Bigfoot is an actual north American ape creature. The latest meme is that Bigfoot is an inter-dimensional being, and that's why nobody ever finds a dead one,or Bigfoot turds, or anything else. I can't make this stuff up. And if you want to go there, then that's okay. It's completely non-falsifiable (unlike Bigfoot as forest ape) so it has that going for it. So maybe you met an inter-dimensional being... I can't argue with that one, and really I don't even want to.

      Anyway, I kind of feel bad that you felt personally insulted, and I want to apologize for that. I can't apologize for my article because it's 100 percent factually accurate, but I sympathize with those who are tied to this belief. Anyway, this isn't about you. I don't even know you (and frankly, you sound kind of scary and possibly violent so I don't really want to). This has been a general discussion of the scientific evidence. Nothing personal at all.

      Humans are fallible creatures with very faulty memories and that's just a fact. That is true of all humans. You're human - and that's not an insult.

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    2. I'm not a fan of the guy's disrespect; let me say that upfront. His "strong emotional attachment" to the subject, however, could very well be chalked up to his actually having seen a bigfoot rather than misidentifying a bear.

      Your arguments against the existent of bigfoot are sensible, but of course that doesn't make them valid---there are logical fallacies if your conclusion is "bigfoot does not exist."

      The biggest indicator of an actual phenomenon would be the footprint evidence, which could only be reasonably explained, given the overwhelming number, as misidentified bear double-prints, which are easy enough to identify and which they are not. Hoaxes do not adequately explain the number and location of footprint finds; in fact, such a massive conspiracy---that's what it would have to be to explain the anatomical details found in such abundance in even old casts---would be more farfetched than the existence of an actual animal.

      The Bugs Bunny memory example you give is an example of deceit rather than a product of how the human mind works; those people only constructed a false memory because the fact the photo was a lie was not considered; maintenance of the false belief is whole different psychological question. "Trust" in the scientific community's consensus works similarly for subjects like Bigfoot, UFOs, and ghosts; the fact that it's a consensus of people who have done little investigating of the subjects is not considered. I find the sort of misrepresented popular psychology/neurology (think "Your Bleeped Up Brain") you rely on to support bigfoot's nonexistence better explains the mechanism of social indoctrination that explains why we think things like "Iraq has WMDs," or "what you saw can't be real," than it explains away Bigfoot.

      In fact, if you're so determined to highlight the unreliability of eyewitness testimony and memory, you need to stop wasting time with Bigfoot and join the Innocence Project to get wrongly convicted people out of prison... except the sort of people who get wrongly convicted are the sort of people many suspect to be guilty---that conforms to our worldview.

      Excepting scientific investigators (who don't have to be scientists, but should be rational) and people who may have actually seen what they claim, worldview is what this is all about for the adamant believers on both sides of the Bigfoot question. We do live in a world where an animal can go undiscovered---depends on the nature of the animal. It's also possible, however unlikely, that all people are unreliable fools who can't trust their own eyes, but I don't believe that.

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    3. Oh, I have no doubt that the previous commenter believes he saw a Bigfoot. That's why he's so confrontational about it. I get that. It's a valid experience in his mind, and no one could tell him otherwise.

      The false memory experiment was of course "deceit" in that it was an experiment. It proved that people can and do have false memories which they fully believe to be true memories. The reason for that experiment, though, was that we already knew this happens in regular life and involving no deceit (unless you count people deceiving themselves). The experiment simply verified that it is a brain process going on, and that it happens to everyone. That is, it doesn't require a special kind of person with an overactive imagination. Thus, my citation is valid and to the point in this case.

      I don't think people are "unreliable fools" and that was never my point. Anyone who got that idea, I apologize. But I do understand the foibles of memory and brain function. Eyewitnesses even to relatively mundane events make mistakes, to the point that nobody gets everything right when they recall an event. As strangeness increases, the error rate dramatically rises.

      That's because memory is not a recording in any sense but instead is a synthesis of pieces of information drawn from past experience stored in the brain. There are more than enough studies on this, for anyone interested. The bottom line there is that memories are never 100 percent right-on and if they are of a "high-strange" event, they're probably well off the mark of what really happened.

      The fact is, there is not one shred of evidence that Bigfoot exists. Nothing. Including the footprints you claim. If you have such evidence, produce it! There are plenty of people out there ready to do analysis. Yes, people say they have the goods; but when produced it always turns out to be either misidentification or hoaxes. No claims of evidence have ever been validated, no matter what you've been told by Bigfoot believers. That's why I can state with confidence that such a creature does not exist - at least as far as being a literal physical being, such as a forest ape - and no one will come forward with evidence to show otherwise.

      Now, if you want to go with the extradimensional being argument, that's fine. I won't argue with that. But for all the reasons I stated, there is just no reason to believe in a North American forest ape, whether you call it Bigfoot, Sasquatch or Yeti. Prove me wrong and I will retract that statement. ...I won't hold my breath waiting for that, though. :)

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    4. You're an idiot the guy is right about the bear stupid

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  2. Ooh the irony of him calling you a blithering moron for not believing such stupidity. I'm pretty sure he's seen a leprechaun and unicorn too.

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  3. John Smith...I'm not sure what to make of your reply. I admire the passion but I'm appalled at the rudeness and ratiocination. The day we have the factual, data-driven commenter being called a "blithering idiot" by the anecdotally supported, Bigfoot enthusiast...things are breaking down. The burden of proof falls on the observer to provide factual data supporting the existence of bigfoot. It is not incumbent on Ms. Pagani to refute or explain 3 centuries of misidentification from the same species that brought you the "earth is the center of the universe" theory. The same 3 centuries of "sightings"you cite as evidence have failed to produce a body, feces, blood, hair, or film and photographs that will stand up to scientific scrutiny. How can you possibly call someone stupid from such an imbecilic precipace?

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  4. I completely agree with your debunking. I would also like to add, people like to make up stuff in their story about what they saw and the explanation for the over 200 people have bigfoot sightings is 1. a bear 2. someone trying to get famous or 3. just an insane person

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  5. Who the hell goes out to look for bigfoot poop? That's almost as crazy as believing bigfoot is interdimensional. What does it even look like? Also no one has ever debunked the Patterson Gimlin film... Ever. Sure, countless of people have claimed they were the man in the suit, but that proves nothing. People will do anything for publicity. And, no one can explain how Roger Patterson was capable of creating such a high tech suit with such little money in the 1960s, let alone explain the inhuman proportions or gait. We haven't even seen this suit or any proof it exists or has existed (just like bigfoot). Although, we kind of do have proof. There have been miles of tracks of footprints. I mean like, trackways that go on for a ridiculous length. Who would do that? And especially all overnight? Might as well just make fake bigfoot poop. I don't think it's possible to dismiss all audio and video recordings as hoaxes when some of them cannot be explained. Also, the lack of sightings shouldn't be as surprising since they're allegedly very elusive, so pick your poison. And no one is going to shoot a bigfoot any time soon, if they do exist, because they're way too human like. My two cents.

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  6. Got to say it's not looking good for the big foot guy , people are quick to say 'closed minded' but we should give ourselves credit for understanding North American wildlife well . Mr. big foot doesn't seem to fit into the eco system . I wish all these people that keep seeing it would get some evidence that they could pass along . Plenty of photos of blobsquach'

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  7. I've been looking over the claims made for the morphology and locomotor behaviors of Bigfoot, and in terms of those issues, it seems that this alleged creature is all over the road--why not just call it 'SuperSquatch?' It is claimed it can do just about everything, from habitual smooth bipedalism, running to sprinting, quadrupedalism (always unspecified, however, as to exactly what kind of quad behavior it uses), below branch suspension and jumping from arboreal locations, etc. The reality, however, is that form and function are related, and it has to have some kind of functional/morphological coherence, including making sense within the environmental constraints in which believers think it exists and engages in these alleged behaviors. There is a concept in physical anthropology called 'total morphological pattern,' and you can't just cobble together any features and behaviors. And the few 'research papers' I've read so far lack any quantification and analysis of allegedly observed behaviors. You have to quantify something in order to extract some kind of pattern from what is allegedly observed. The observations alone, while interesting or intriguing, do not make a complete 'study.' I do think that there are 2 types of Bigfoot advocates; the earnest and sincere believers on the one hand, and the dishonest grifters on the other who take advantage of that sincerity. I like the first group because of their intense curiosity, and I have absolutely no use for the second.

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