Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

MATTHEWS' MUMBLINGS: The Beginning of the World is Nigh

Tim Matthews is one of my best friends, and also - coincidentally - one of the most controversial figures in contemporary forteana. He has been involved with the CFZ for nearly a decade now, raising eyebrows wherever he goes.

As part of the CFZ Bloggythings (we really are going to have to think of a more appropriate name for them) we have given Timothy his own little soapbox, and boy does he know how to utilise it!

Whatever happens, scientists always seem to win. We are the mavericks and they are the discoverers. So what are we, this merry band of Cryptzoological warriors? Nerds? Geeks? Or, worse, "Enthusiasts"? Our mission, we claim, is to go where nobody has gone before, to think the unthinkable and to prove the unknowable and yet, so often, we come in second and third place when new news is announced.

It is said that this is because of money. If we had more money we'd go out and find more. Too often, perhaps, we're interested in discovering some uber-filmable sci-fi creature. Nessie, Anaconda (as seen on that film), Mega Sea Serpent or something else Paranormal and Potteresque. Life is, however, stranger, more diverse and, arguably, more accessible, if we only care to refocus and redouble our efforts.

Take, for example, a news story featured on the BBC's website this week about numerous discoveries - some 300 new species no less - of corals, anemones and sea spiders off the Southern Australian coast. It is the sort of story that will interest the more intelligent, and it should fascinate us, but Cryptozoologists were, it seems, slow to pick up on the story and not many people are interested in it.

Similar stories are to be found in the news...if you look. Coming late to Cryptozoology, but always having kept pets and been around them, it seems to me that Cryptozoologists have managed to maintain a certain aura of mystery around their subject. Despite this, it seems to me that there is very little within a Fortean construct here and much that is basic science. They are only mystery animals until discovered, and despite the doom and gloom predictions of massive loss of variety within ecosystems, those darned scientists keep coming up trumps with their fiendish methodology and finding new species. Worse, perhaps, is that even the most sceptical university bod, one who derides Cryptzoology, can hardly fail to look good if he finds something, as he can simply be "surprised and delighted" while we stand on the outside looking in...

So what price Cryptzoology now? Is it to give up on mainstream science and divert its attention to the realms of silliness, myth, paranoia and outright fakery that makes up 99.9% of the so-called "Paranormal" field of study? True, we could do with the sort of money that the fake Most Haunted produces for Living TV every year, but is that where we really want to go? There is a worrying fad now for us to get all weird, to talk much of window areas featuring ghosts UFOs and zombies, even in association with mystery animals, but this will take us nowhere. Clearly, some basic decision making as to our direction is required...and we must all pull in the same direction if we are to go down in history as more than hobbyists and fantasists.

There are scientists within the CFZ. We need more - and better! Even more important, we need young people to go to University, get qualified in relevant sciences and then start a slow yet deliberate Entryist process whereby funds can be diverted towards the search for mystery animals.

We need influence and funding. And we only get that inside the mainstream of the system, not outside in Fortean Conferences.........

Zoological, not Paranormal!


Paddy said...

And by the same token not all 'paranormal' is silliness.
It is just as possible to apply the scientific process to the investiagtion of unknown phenomenon as it is unknown animals.

Jon Downes said...

Agreed totally. But what Tim and I object to is the superstitious elements in the way that the `paranormal` is approached. There are - of course - a hell of a lot of things that are not explained by contemporary science, but they should be - as you say - approached, and investigated using "the scientific process". It is only then that the unexplained will become the explained.

Paddy said...

Exactly right, indeed I would say that in the majority of the areas of study that fall outside of the umbrella of 'mainstream science' that the highly publicised silliness (MH et al) is highly destructive to organisations that do attempt to do the subjects justice, and uncover new breakthroughs in scientific knowledge.
I work within the fields of mainstream science, but also attempt to apply the principles and process of that to the study of 'less mainstream' fields. It is a sad fact that, although not specifically hiding this from my colleges, I cannot afford to publicise it – as if I do I will no longer be taken seriously in my work (despite being well removed in disciplines).

Jon Downes said...

The CFZ believes that science should be about breaking boundaries, which is why we encourage people, whether working or just interested, in any fields of forteana to approach the subject in a scientific manner.

If we are to move forward we have to distance ourselves from the supersitious nonsense that surrounds so many of these subjects - including cryptozoology.

This is why I get so angry about cryptozoological books being placed in the `Mind, Body and Spirit` section of the bookshop together with `Astrology for your cat` and `How Crystal Healing saved my Sex Life`.....