Monday, May 11, 2009

Cryptozoology and the History of Science!!!

It's long been known that the psuedo-sciences are bad for your blood-pressure, whether it's creationists or homeopaths or AIDS/HIV deniers or Anti-Vaxxers or Embiggening Earthers. They just make me mad! But of all the pseudo-science wacknuttery out there, I actually have a great deal of sympathy for the poor, lonely, grumpy Cryptozoologist.

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:

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.

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!


BMP said...

Don't forget pseudo-mineralogy :~)

Loren Coleman said...

Thank you for the appreciated comments on my contributions at Cryptomundo.

I have been an educator at the university level (while giving talks to all ages) for most of my life. Thus I certainly understand the importance of passion and adventure in involving youthful minds in later scientific pursuits.

While few have pursued my chosen field as a lifelong career as I have, I appreciate cryptozoology as a gateway interest in which I have seen students go on into biology, zoology, anthropology, linguistics, paleoarchaeology, paleoclimatology, other fields, and, yes, even geology.

There actually, of course, is very little "pseudo" about cryptozoology, for those that wish to boldly go where no one has gone before in this special branch of zoology.

As to "vitriol," well, being a nice guy, good father, and a pacifist, I apologize if my Midwestern style of non-nonsense, grounded, good-humored writing comes across that way. Not my intent.

Best wishes,

Eric said...

Don't get me wrong Loren..."vitriol" is great across all disciplines! The more vitriol in a discipline, the healthier it is!

BMP said...

It did not come across that way at all, and I totally agree with your article. It's great for students to turn their interest into something positive, and though there likely won't be any bigfoots to find, there are plenty of new species to be discovered!

If you have heard of this 'pseudo-mineralogy', I recommend reading

Oftentimes a writer of such book will publish invented 'stone' names. And many people think they are real. Some are even trademarked names with a wacky story to help sell a product!

Eric said...

Phil - thanks for the link! It's always amazing at how stupid some of that psuedo-science is! At least in crytpozoology (as you say) there is the chance for something posititive to come out of it (growing up and moving onto biology or some other real science); but man, those xtl-healers don't even learns some basic mineralogy!

JoshuaBBuhs said...


Thanks for the notice. My name is Joshua Buhs and I am the author of Bigfoot: The life and Times of a Legend. Glad you're looking forward to it.

site said...

It won't truly have success, I consider this way.