Sunday, December 12, 2010
Bigfoot Research: Intel not Science
If you consider yourself a "bigfoot researcher" and hold out hope that one day you will gather the evidence that proves the existence of bigfoot creatures, you may be searching the internet for information and advice that will help you succeed. Well, my advice to you is simple: Give up now and save yourself a lot of wasted time.
The modern era of bigfoot reaearch began in 1958 when Jerry Crew presented track casts to the Humboldt Times as evidence of mysterious bigfooted creatures. Since nothing much happened in bigfoot reaearch during the ensuing nine years, most argue that the modern era of research actually began in 1967 with the presentation of the Patterson/Gimlin Footage. Fine. Either way, bigfoot research has been around a while. Amateur American researchers have been at it for either forty or fifty years, and in that half century, every kind of trick, trap, and hunt that could possible be engineered by a single person or team of amateur researchers has been tried. Heck, I've tried most of them myself. Granted, that is bit of hyperbole, but you get the point. Guys with a lot more time and money than you or I have been trying to gather scientifically acceptable evidence for a long time now, and if they haven't succeeded, what makes you think you will?
While I am saying you'll never collect truly vaild scientific evidence, I'm not saying you should find another hobby. I'm just saying you will not be able to satisfy that rigorous expectation called scientific proof. That's because you cannot do science on an intelligent and elusive being that does not intend to cooperate with our attempts to scientifically document its existence. Even though various items of credible evidence have been gathered over the years, such as the PGF, the Skookum Cast, and more track casts and hair samples than you can shake a bag of plaster at, they all fail the rigors of science in one important regard: they cannot be replicated.
Science requires replication of any successful scientific result as a necessary aspect of a correctly applied scientific methodology. Photos are taken and videos are made, and some of them are even genuine, but nobody ever gets a second one at the same place or even anywhere nearby. Consequently, photographic results like the Patterson-Gimlin footage, however compelling, are summarily rejected. To an increasing number of observers, this is prima facie evidence that these creatures we are pursuing are more than smart, they're really smart. They may still make occasional mistakes, but they are smart enough to modify their behavior after one of their kind slips up. I am not sure of much in the bigfoot research game, but I am confident that you won't trick the same creature the same way twice. Ever.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't continue to conduct your own research, it just means that you are making a mistake by trying to be utterly scientific in your approach. Instead, you should recognize the difference between science and intelligence gathering, and recognize that it is more pragmatic to settle for collecting intel as opposed to unassailable scientific data.
The key shift involves the recognition that we are essentially spies and these things we are spying on are not dumb apes or wild animals. If they were, we'd have them by now. Overlooking the taxonomic argument that we ourselves are animals and apes, I'm saying the sasquatch have a very misleading appearance. Regardless of their primitive appearance, they are essentially the nocturnal equivalence of us. They are very intelligent and they are also adamantly opposed to being 'discovered.'
Said another way, we should regard them as guerrillas, not gorillas. They're like the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Viet Cong in Viet Nam, or the French Resistance during World War II. They hide from you as you look for them. They have their sentinels, their disguises, their ruses, and their hideouts. Whenever you get too close, they 'roll up the sidewalks' and retreat to those hideouts where you will not find them.
Bigfoot researchers, then, are like the CIA and the spooks at CIA are not utterly focused on unassailable proof when they evaluate the information they gather. I suspect they take spurious and incomplete data sources because sometimes that's all they can get, and they use them to look for recurring observations that suggest suspected patterns of behavior that might have predictive value. Everything they gather is a bit uncertain but this does not justify throwing that data away. It is understood that the quarry is smart enough to cover their tracks. Indirect and uncertain sources of information are still valued and exploited.
I'll never forget the poor fellow who piped up recently on one of the more conservative bigfoot research mailing lists with his fairly timid assertion that the bigfoot creatures can see in the dark. At least one of the quasi-scientific yobos on this list immediately pounced on him with demands for scientific proof of his assertion. Of course, the fellow had none, and after more back and forth discussion, this fellow finally was forced to qualify his earlier statement by saying he tentatively suspected that they could see in the dark. My God! Talk about a waste of time. Of course sasquatches can see in the dark! I can't prove it, but I am absolutely certain it is true, as I have been approached and even surrounded by nocturnal operators that had all the hallmarks of sasquatch on numerous occasions. I understand that my observations alone do not mean much, but they match the experience of so many others so precisely that I feel they speak to a fairly solid pattern of behavior.
That's how intel goes. It ain't science, but it ain't worthless, either. It's all we got and it may someday be useful in designing and executing a truly scientific experiment but we aren't there yet. Sasquatch research is still in its infancy, but we are gradually developing useful field methods. One such promising method is to seek out isolated ruralites who encounter sasquatch on some kind of regular basis. I, for one, regard such folks as goldmines of information. Others do not. Granted, there is the possibility that one or another person who claims to be a long term witness may be delusional or a deliberate liar. The CIA is ever mindful of that same scenario when they gather accounts from putative witnesses to rogue enemy activity. And how does the CIA process such possibilities? I would suppose they reject single sources of information that do not fit the patterns unless the reporting party is considered highly reliable based on an track record of verifiable observations.
Everyone of you out there may not agree, but my position is this: Someday we may be ready to do real science, but not right now. I wish we could do more science with this subject but you cannot do science with uncooperative experimental subjects that cannot be somehow controlled. When studying the sasquatch, you cannot isolate the experimental variables, you cannot make empirical observations, and you cannot replicate any experiment. So, we're left with intel,which is potentially useful if it is processed correctly. There are ways to process intel to glean useful informantion and that is what we have to figure out how to do.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a science teacher and I'm a big fan of science. But I'm also very aware of its limitations. And until such time as we can somehow build more trust between humanity, the diurnal hominids, and the sasquatch, the nocturnal hominids, we're going to have to settle for intel instead of science.
Posted by Thom Powell at 11:44 PM