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A new book is out about the study of legendary hidden animals -- Bigfoot, Yeti, Loch Ness Monster, Mokele Mbembe -- and it's getting positive attention from science outlets. Surprising? Not really. Cryptozoology is a fascinating topic that many of us can't help but enjoy. We love the ideas of monsters still out there in the shadows or deep under water. While the likelihood is that Bigfoot and his fellow cryptid creatures are not actually as they are portrayed in pop culture, cryptozoology is a social phenomenon worthy of attention.
The book, Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie and other Famous Cryptids
by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero is very different than other monster books. You can get an idea about the quality of the volume from the reviews by Nature
, theWall Street Journal
, The Times
of London, Discover
magazine, etc. here
. They liked the book. It's beautifully produced, level-headed, readable, and chock-full of fine scholarship with references to original sources.
Who didn't like the book? Bigfooters.
Why didn't they like it? Because it effectively poked holes in their beloved idea of Bigfoot reality. It clearly made the case that the current practice of popular cryptozoology is a cheap imitation of science. This book is a challenge to their structure. One reviewer evendemanded to the publisher that the book be withdrawn
! Another panned the book
based on a few chapters and a few possible errors without clear indication he read the rest. Comments berating him for that were met with the response from the peanut gallery: "Why should I read this book? I know what the nonbeliever skeptics say." Talk about closed-mindedness! (I have talked about that before
, this was a blatant example.) They respond with condescension and name calling as well (referring to skeptics as "scoftics
") instead of pointing out the disagreements and providing counter references in defense. Maybe it's because they don't have a defense. It's been over 50 years. We still have no proof of Bigfoot in the bag. That's got to be embarrassing. But, wow, did they throw a hissy fit about it. This book hit a nerve and Loxton and Prothero should be proud.
Bigfootery these days is extremely unscientific
, resembling a religion in more ways than one. There are the priests and the saints (the TV Squatchers
, the authors, and few scientists and advocates who promote the cause), there are relics (footprints, hair samples, etc), there is cryptozoological canon (the Patterson-Gimlin film, certain books by experts now deceased) but most of all there are followers with faith. Bigfooters have experiences that they attribute by default to their monster of choice - they hear tree knocking and vocalizations, they have stones thrown at them, they find tree structures and broken limbs that they interpret as a form of communication. Some say there are habituation sites where Bigfoots repeatedly visit and accept food from human neighbors.