Is there room in the Para/Crypto/Fortean world for a gun-toting, paranoid, bipolar, opinionated bastard? A lonely romantic in search of his lost soul? A knight, Samurai, gunslinger, born in the wrong century? A self-destructive, doom-driven survivor seeking redemption? A heavy drinking gonzo outlaw cryptozoologist whose ego is exceeded only by his libido?
No, there isn't. That's why I'm here...

09 January 2010

"Cherry-Picking" Our Evidence?

When researching strange phenomena, especially if, like me, you're of a "paranormal" bent, just how does one determine which accounts and reports are credible? This problem surfaces a lot when talking to total skeptics.
For example, I believe it's entirely possible (though admittedly not probable) that a population of large unknown primates can exist in the US. I'll point out to the skeptic that the majority of Bigfoot sightings occur in vast wilderness areas, regions that could concievably support and conceal such creatures. Mr. Skeptic will point out that Bigfoot has also been sighted in areas with a high population density, places without sufficient food and water sources, and where it would be well nigh impossible for such creatures to remain undiscovered. BF has been seen in the desert, near big cities, or in areas where any "wilderness" would be more accurately described as a "patch of woods". If I reply that I don't give much credibility to those reports, the response is that I'm picking and choosing my "evidence" in order to justify my position. And God forbid I bring up the possibility that BF is something other than a big ape. To open the door to the possibility of the paranormal means that (according to the skeptics, anyway) I might as well consider supermarket tabloid stories as credible data. To argue otherwise again results in the accusation that I'm just cherry-picking my evidence.
Consider the suggested Bigfoot-UFO connection. Bigfoot (or something similar) have been seen in areas of UFO activity. There are eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot entering, exiting, walking around outside, even piloting UFO's. There are other cases where the region with a number of Bigfoot sightings is also a region with high UFO activity. BUT, the vast majority of UFO lore contains NOTHING about Bigfoot encounters. Likewise, Bigfoot reports by and large make no mention whatsoever of UFO activity. So, if we take the volume of reports of both phenomena, the cases in which they actually overlap is quite small. It isn't (IMO) sufficient to establish a connection, but is it small enough to ignore completely? Should UFO phenomena be entirely dismissed as a factor in Bigfoot theories? (or vice versa?). Should such cases of "cross-phenomenal occurances" be studied and researched more closely within their respective communities? And can it be done without cherry-picking?
As usual, this entry contains far more questions than answers, but hey, that's just the nature of this business!


Autumnforest said...

That's a great subject and one I've wanted to discuss for a long time. There's a "muddying of the waters" when discussing Bigfoot sightings in say Mobile, Alabama versus Spokane, Washington. It reminds me a lot of the Mexico Complex of sightings that started with mass UFO sightings and then started into small aliens in caves and flying humanoids. There came a point where my logical mind said, "you had me with mass sightings, but now that you're seeing other weird shit, I'm not so sure anymore that the mass sightings were even legit." Let's admit, it reminds me of pub tales gone wild. Instead of trying to prove that Bigfoot is a real cryptid or a UFO occupant or from another dimension, we should probably look for the commonalities in the sightings and the legitimacy of those who report it. That dude in Gila Bend, AZ (the middle of the freakin desert) who had a Bigfoot family tale to tell, not so legitimate. We're talking one guy, supposedly shot it, can't find the body, does't seem to even look for the body...I'm highly suspicious. So, wade through the reports, find the ones that have several witnesses or repeated sightings in an area, mark that area on the map, look up dates and see what kind of UFO activity was going on, any wildfires that might have driven him out of the woods, whatever. Look for patterns, then the explanation of whether he's a beast or a paranormal being can be entertained. Yeah, it's a tough one, but not an impossible one. It just takes a team with incredible patience. Unfortunately, bigfoot hunting is like our police system. One city doesn't talk to another city, one state doesn't talk to another state. It's the same in ghost hunting. People are territorial with info. It really screws the pooch when it's done that way. I'm a very open ghost hunter, sharing info. I want others to verify what I found. But, not all BF hunters are like that. Jeez, Burt, you need to write a BF book about what he might be and compare and contrast the different theories and find supporting info.

Gummerfan said...

Somehow I knew Miss Haunted Formula would have a comment on this. ;)
You're absolutely right about the BF research community not sharing info. According to some, they know of some real definative evidence, but won't reveal any locations or details. Ooo-kaayy.
But again, so many accounts of strange phenomena rely on eyewitnesses. To say something like "Bigfoot is real, look at all the eyewitness reports", and then to turn around and discard an eyewitness report because it doesn't jibe, only makes it look like we're shooting ourselves in the foot. Either eyewitness evidence is valid and reliable, or it isn't. If an eyewitness sees a Bigfoot in the PNW, should his testimony be more valid than someone who sees a Bigfoot drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's?
I suppose the same could occur in haunting or ghost investigations. You've got people witnessing and experiencing something, a team of investigators goes in with their DVRs, cameras, voice recorders, and/or sensitives and mediums. The team doesn't find any evidence during their investigation. Maybe some undocumentable "personal experiences" at best. What then?
"Well, Mr. Homeowner, in your 20 years of residence here you've reported some strange stuff. But, after our 4 hour scientific investigation, we found nothing to support your claims. So, we can only conclude that you're either lying or insane. Have a nice day and don't call us again." What if it's something other than a ghost? Psychic/telekinetic activity? The Cosmic Joker just messing with them/us? A super secret government experiment in mind manipulation? Something the ghost hunters can't find because it's not what they were looking for?

Autumnforest said...

Hey Burt;
Witness reports can put people in jail, but only when they're really credible, so witness reports are good, but if you're sifting through 1000s of accounts, you have to narrow the field down to those witnesses with the most details, the most possible evidence, and the most witnesses at one scene. It makes sense. Ghost hunting runs into the same things. If you watch Ghost Hunters they can say to the owner, "You know, we found this cabinet that tends to open on its own. We're not saying that's what happened, but it's one explanation." I usually like to put a haunting in a context too, just like Bigfoot hunting. If someone saw a Bigfoot in Gila Bend, AZ (middle of the desert) I'm going to find that very hard to believe and no evidence to support it. If I go into a person's supposed haunted house and find no changes in EMF, no history of anything occurring on the property, and very infrequent reports of trouble, I'm going to have to say this place is more than likely not haunted. There's an extensive process before even going to a supposedly haunted home involving the owners keeping a journal of activity to look for patterns and witnesses. I like to go back and do a second study a couple months later to see if anything might show up that we didn't get the first time. It gives me time to review my notes, think of a new way to debunk and to incite activity, and then I feel better about coming to a conclusion. It's not really for me to tell someone if their home is haunted or not, so much as help them explain the explainable and find ways to live with the unexplainable, which is why counseling is a huge aspect of ghost hunting. The thing about Bigfoot is that you don't usually find him when looking for him, you stumble across him. You might not have plaster for a footprint or a camera to capture his image. I would love to see someone gather a map of the sightings and dates over the past several years and look at all the considerations from climate and wildfires and drought to seasonal changes to even geomagnetic activity. It'd be a huge project, but someone needs to look at Bigfoot in a more universal picture instead of just local.