Of all the branches of the pseudo-scientific tumbleweed that blows around the fringe-intellectual landscape, cryptozoology is the closest thing in spirit to Real Science (TM). The cryptozoologists are a lot like us, in that they have a legitimate love of critters, the environment, and the general rad-ness of the World. Of course, where we find beauty and wonder in the scientific exploration of the world around us, the cryptozoologist eschews biology and ecology for a more populist-style of old school prophet/naturalist, wandering the wilds and shaking their fists at the rest of us. Still, given as much disdain as they often show for basic field biology and science in general, I love 'em anyway! It's hard not to be charmed by their enthusiasm (often evidenced with just a hint of vitriol on the pre-eminent cryptozoology site on the web, Loren Coleman's Cryptomundo site); you can see something of what made us all go into the sciences reflected in their wild-eyed cryptid hunts.
Of course, the REALLY interesting part of cryptozoology is that skewed nature; what makes some folks into cryptozoologists, and makes others into biologists? And what makes cryptozoology so damn interesting to the public at large? Good luck finding something on The Science Channel or Discovery dealing with the intricacies of ecology, or the comparative anatomy of coelomates! But I guarantee that there is a show on RIGHT NOW about Bigfoot or Alien Big Cats or Mkoele Mbembe somewhere on one of those "scienceish" channels. Why!?!
Well, due to my inside track to the world of The History of Science (thanks Megan!), maybe we'll have some scholarly insight into Cryptozoology world. Joshua Blu Buhs has written a book entitled Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend (click on the link for an excerpt and and interview). The synopsis of the book sounds pretty nifty:
I don't know if the cryptozoologists out there are going to like it, but I think it sounds pretty neat! Might make some good readin' for the field, while we're out there contemplating geology and the wonder of the real world!
Last August, two men in rural Georgia announced that they had killed Bigfoot.
The claim drew instant, feverish attention, leading to more than 1,000 news
stories worldwide—despite the fact that nearly everyone knew it was a hoax.
Though Bigfoot may not exist, there’s no denying Bigfoot mania.
With Bigfoot, Joshua Blu Buhs traces the wild and wooly story of America’s favorite homegrown monster. He begins with nineteenth-century accounts of wildmen roaming the forests of America, treks to the Himalayas to reckon with the Abominable Snowman, then takes us to northern California in 1958, when reports of a hairy hominid loping through remote woodlands marked Bigfoot’s emergence as a modern marvel. Buhs delves deeply into the trove of lore and misinformation that has sprung up around Bigfoot in the ensuing half century. We meet charlatans,
pseudo-scientists, and dedicated hunters of the beast—and with Buhs as our
guide, the focus is always less on evaluating their claims than on understanding
why Bigfoot has inspired all this drama and devotion in the first place. What
does our fascination with this monster say about our modern relationship to
wilderness, individuality, class, consumerism, and the media?
Writing with a scientist’s skepticism but an enthusiast’s deep engagement, Buhs invests the story of Bigfoot with the detail and power of a novel, offering the definitive take on this elusive beast.