Tuesday, May 26, 2015

If You Don't Live There, Then You Don't Know


      My old pal 'Shawn' at the Bigfoot Evidence blog dusted off the 2012 survey by the Angus Reid Public Opinion Research group. It states that Americans are more likely to 'believe' in bigfoot than Europeans, and certain Europeans, namely Scots and Brits are more likely to doubt it, although these Europeans are more likely to 'believe' in the Loch Ness monster.

     The word 'believe' is in quotes because it is misleading in itself.  To believe means to accept something as real and true despite the lack of good evidence.  Most people, for example, believe in God even though there is no scientifically verifiable evidence.  (The Shorud of Turin and other religious artifacts are not seen as utterly verifiable.)
     The most interesting element of the Angus Reid survey is, I think, the disparity between the Americans and the Brits.  Bigfoot is as uniquely North American in origin as the Loch Ness monster , real or not, is uniquely a resident of the British Isles. Interestingly, both of these cryptids has overlap in these separate locations: there are Loch Ness-like monsters reported in American lakes like Champlain in New York, Flathead in Montana, and Cadboro Bay in British Columbia. Likewise, there are bigfoot-style creatures that are sometimes sighted in Great Britain.
     In 2004, while I was attending a paranormal conference in Denver, I had lunch with a guy from Inverness, Scotland.  At the time, I too, doubted the authenticity of the Loch Ness monster and I said so to this understanding Scot.  His cogent reply to my skepticism is something I will not forget.  He correctly pointed out that, the farther away we live from the place where some paranormal phenomenon originates, the more inaccurate our perspectives are likely to be.  He emphasized that he has no awareness of the plethora of evidence that argues in favor of bigfoot, but he suspects that people in the Pacific Northwest are much better informed. Similarly, people who live near Loch Ness are much more aware of the evidence for the Loch Ness monster.  Further, it was stressed that there are many more reports of the Loch Ness monster than most people realize.  There are even reports of Nessie outside the lake.  There is atlesat one fairly credible report of Nessie crossing the road before diving into Loch Ness and disappearing. But if you don't live near Loch Ness, don't expect to get the details of these extraordinary reports.
     The point here is as obvious as it is overlooked: As humans, we are all a bit ego-centric and provincial. We tend to accept information that local in origin and repeated.  We tend to reject information that is distant in origin and less-frequently repeated. It seems to be a part of human nature, but it is also a slightly dangerous tendency.  It makes us vulnerable to provincialism and ethnocentric thinking. Various acts of genocide throughout the ages, such as the holocaust of WW2, were know of locally at the time they were taking place, but greater public outrage was deflected by an uncertaintly and confusion surrounding the reports that did filter out to the world at large.
     The solution is as simple as it is contrary to human nature:  Keep an open mind and, to some extent, trust the word of 'the locals'.  If something is going on locally, it is the locals who ought ot know.  If you want the inside story, the locals usually have it. We are all entitiled to our opinion, but opinion and fact are not the same.  If you think you have the truth of the matter, but you have not checked with the locals, you probably don't know jack!

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