Saturday, February 2, 2013

What Is Science And Is It Important To Bigfoot?

Bigfoot DNA Sequenced In Upcoming Genetics Study

In light of the recent claims regarding the genetic origins of the creature we call Bigfoot, which have not, to date, been backed up by the release or publication of any legitimate data or the corroborating opinion of any other scientist privy to this data, I thought it important to present a little information on how those of us who work in mainstream science are trained and why any claim of scientific fact must first stand up to the steps of Scientific Methodology and the Peer Review Process.   

Is Science even important to Bigfoot?  Well obviously Bigfoot don’t care if what we are doing is scientific or not, in fact unless we are directly affecting their food, family or territory, I don’t think they give us a lot of thought at all other than how to avoid us.  But to those of us who spend an unbelievable amount of time thinking about THEM, especially in the pursuit of evidence or proof of their existence, it should be very important.  I am not going to talk about the mechanics of fieldwork and sample collection, there are a lot more experienced people than I who have covered this topic, instead I am going to attempt to convey why the process of the “Scientific Method” is paramount to any attempt at moving this pursuit into the world of mainstream society and academia.  Of course if you are only concerned with your own personal encounter/s or experience/s, whatever those may entail, then you are not interested in the scientific process.  But if you want to share your experiences with others specifically to try to convince them of the reality of this species, or to make claims of fact about them, then you need to understand why many are not just going to take your word for it without something substantial to back up your stories.  Because without proper documentation or evidence even the most honest and believable person is left with only their word, which may prove compelling but is still only going to amount to a story.  We may believe you as a person or a friend, and your stories could become valuable to the record of anecdotal evidence, but when it comes to proving anything to the skeptics or the professional academic community, someone’s word or belief is simply not going to cut it. 

Bigfoot Size
So what is "Science"? 

The process of science is iterative: Meaning that it is a repetitive process designed to allow one to reach a goal or result by going back and building upon what one has already uncovered in order to dig further and further until everything that is possible to be known has been revealed.

“Science circles back on itself so that useful ideas are built upon and used to learn even more about the natural world. This often means that successive investigations of a topic lead back to the same question, but at deeper and deeper levels.”
The process of science is not predetermined:  One can not embark on experiments or research with a goal of revealing the truth with one’s mind already made up about what the answer is going to be.  That would only lead to the dismissal of anything that did not fit into one's predetermined belief no matter how clearly it reveals itself to be the true answer.  A true scientist is open to any possibility and is ready to go where the facts may lead.
“Any point in the process leads to many possible next steps, and where that next step leads could be a surprise. For example, instead of leading to a conclusion about tectonic movement, testing an idea about plate tectonics could lead to an observation of an unexpected rock layer. And that rock layer could trigger an interest in marine extinctions, which could spark a question about the dinosaur extinction — which might take the investigator off in an entirely new direction.”
(How Science Works)
At the heart of the process of science is testing.

“In science, all ideas are tested with evidence from the natural world, which may take many different approaches.  You can't move through the process of science without examining how that evidence reflects on your ideas about how the world works — even if that means giving up a favorite hypothesis.”  (How Science Works)  Trying to disprove one's own theory or conclusion is as important in true science as it is to prove that it is true, one must be ready to address any outcome that can prove a previous conclusion false.

And testing is done by working within the frame of the Scientific Method. “The Scientific Method is a logical and rational order of steps by which scientists come to conclusions about the world around them. The Scientific Method helps to organize thoughts and procedures so that scientists can be confident in the answers they find.”  (Science Made Simple

Overview of Scientific Method
The Scientific Method is a general problem solving methodology that can be used by anyone.  There are five basic steps in most versions of the Scientific Method:

Observation/Question – “The question can refer to the explanation of a specific observation, as in "Why is the sky blue?", but can also be open-ended, as in "Does sound travel faster in air than in water?" or "How can I design a drug to cure this particular disease?"

Research – “This stage also involves looking up and evaluating previous evidence from other scientists, as well as considering one's own experience. If the answer is already known, a different question that builds on the previous evidence can be posed.”

“An hypothesis is a conjecture, based on the knowledge obtained while formulating the question, that may explain an observed behavior of a part of our universe. The hypothesis might be very specific, or it might be broad”  Sometimes a Null Hypothesis is used for statistical comparison of the hypothesis, or to show that there is no relationship between two objects of study.

Experimentation – “The purpose of an experiment is to determine whether observations of the real world agree with or conflict with the predictions derived from an hypothesis. If they agree, confidence in the hypothesis increases; otherwise, it decreases. Agreement does not assure that the hypothesis is true; future experiments may reveal problems.”

Conclusion – “This involves determining what the results of the experiment show and deciding on the next actions to take. If the evidence has falsified the hypothesis, a new hypothesis is required; if the experiment supports the hypothesis but the evidence is not strong enough for high confidence, other predictions from the hypothesis must be tested. Once a hypothesis is strongly supported by evidence, a new question can be asked to provide further insight on the same topic. Evidence from other scientists and one's own experience can be incorporated at any stage in the process.”  (The Scientific Method)

“Frequently the scientific method is employed not only by a single person, but also by several people cooperating directly or indirectly. Such cooperation can be regarded as one of the defining elements of a scientific community. Various techniques have been developed to ensure the integrity of scientific methodology within such an environment.”  One of the most important of these techniques is peer review.

Peer Review:
In order to present novel data and discoveries to the rest of the scientific community scientists rely on the process of publication in a Peer Reviewed Scientific Journal. Every field of science has at least one Journal that serves as a record for the research that has taken place in the past as well as all ongoing contributions taking place today.  Frontiers in Zoology is an example of one of the most prominent journals in the field of Zoology.  These journals then use the process of peer review to evaluate the validity of the work in question.  A group of usually one to three anonymous fellow scientists, in the same or a similar area of research will evaluate the work for the editors of the journal.  “The referees may or may not recommend publication, publication with suggested modifications, or, sometimes, publication in another journal. This serves to keep the scientific literature free of unscientific or pseudoscientific work, to help cut down on obvious errors, and generally otherwise to improve the quality of the material.  One drawback of peer review is that is can “have limitations when considering research outside the conventional scientific paradigm: problems of "groupthink" can interfere with open and fair deliberation of some new research.”  This "drawback" has affected the ability of those with possibly valid evidence of Bigfoot from being taken seriously in the past, but now with outlets like Dr. Meldrum's Relict Hominoid Inquiry, a legitimate peer reviewed journal, and the current study underway by Dr. Sykes
Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project the options are opening up.   (The Scientific Method)

Some Of The Aspects Important To The Peer Review Process Are:

Reproducibility:  Scientists are human and prone to mistakes along the way just like everyone, or once in awhile one may even be responsible for the purposeful falsification of data and results. Therefore, experiments are commonly repeated several times, including by other scientists, to make sure the original finding can be duplicated, thus validating the results.

Archiving:  Because of the importance of reproducibility scientists and their research associates are required to keep notebooks with detailed and accurate documentation of their procedures and methods, raw data, and analysis, which comply to the standards set by the Journal, Grant Funding Agency, FDA or other Government Agency which oversee their area of work.  This is done in order to “provide evidence of the effectiveness and integrity of the procedure and assist in reproduction." 
(The Scientific Method)

Data Sharing:
  This is important so other scientists or peer reviewer can replicate the work and thus validate its’ authenticity and reproducibility.  Researchers are expected to provide this in a timely manner and if they do not provide their data “an appeal can be made to the journal editors who published the study or to the institution which funded the research.”  (The Scientific Method)

                                                                          Abominable Snowman
Merton's Norms:                                

“In 1942, Robert K. Merton identified a small set of "norms" which characterized what makes a "real" science.”   The violation of one or more of these norms resulted in a determination of non-science or pseudoscience for that particular claim.

Merton's norms are defined as:

Originality: The tests and research done must present something new to the scientific community.

Detachment: The scientists' reasons for practicing this science must be simply for the expansion of their knowledge. The scientists should not have personal reasons to expect certain results.

Universality: No person should be able to more easily obtain the information of a test than another person. Social class, religion, ethnicity, or any other personal factors should not be factors in someone's ability to receive or perform a type of science.

Skepticism: Scientific facts must not be based solely on faith. One should always question every case and argument and constantly check for errors or invalid claims.

Public accessibility: Any scientific knowledge one obtains should be made available to everyone. The results of any research should be openly published and shared with the scientific community.  (The Scientific Method)

So since we have had a look at what constitutes Legitimate Science, let’s take a look at the definition of Pseudoscience:                                                  
“Pseudoscience is a claim, belief, or practice which is presented as scientific, but does not adhere to a valid scientific method, lacks supporting evidence or plausibility, cannot be reliably tested, or otherwise lacks scientific status.  Pseudoscience is often characterized by the use of vague, contradictory, exaggerated or unprovable claims, an over-reliance on confirmation rather than rigorous attempts at refutation, a lack of openness to evaluation by other experts, and a general absence of systematic processes to rationally develop theories.”

“A field, practice, or body of knowledge can reasonably be called pseudoscientific when it is presented as consistent with the norms of scientific research, but it demonstrably fails to meet these norms.  Science is also distinguishable from revelation, theology, or spirituality in that it offers insight into the physical world obtained by empirical research and testing. Commonly held beliefs in popular science may not meet the criteria of science. "Pop" science may blur the divide between science and pseudoscience among the general public, and may also involve science fiction. Pseudoscientific beliefs are widespread, even among public school science teachers and newspaper reporters.

The demarcation problem between science and pseudoscience has ethical political implications, as well as philosophical and scientific issues. Differentiating science from pseudoscience has practical implications in the case of health care, expert testimony, environmental policies, and science education. Distinguishing scientific facts and theories from pseudoscientific beliefs such as those found in astrology, medical quackery, and occult beliefs combined with scientific concepts, is part of science education and scientific literacy.”

In 1978, Paul Thagard proposed that pseudoscience is primarily distinguishable from science when it is less progressive than alternative theories over a long period of time, and its proponents fail to acknowledge or address problems with the theory"  (Pseudoscience)
In my observation those who practice pseudoscience have a marked habit of relying on blanket dismissals for why their belief or work is not accepted by mainstream academia.  For example: the government does not want this information known or it would produce mass hysteria or limit their control over us”; or “other scientists will not accept this data because they are jealous", or "if admitted this was true it would force mainstream science to start all over again”, instead of actually bothering to provide reproducible and valid proof for what they are proposing.  You will find a lot of what qualifies as pseudoscience amongst those who are fond of conspiracy theories, ancient alien theories and those trying to defend their particular spiritual or religious belief.  

Here is a great new article discussing one of the fallacies pseudoscientists use to excuse their lack of legitimate data to back up their claims:  Ketchum’s Galileo Gambit

Pseudoscience tends to refuse to acknowledge problems within their theory and quite often relies on a circular argument to defend their point. “Circular reasoning is an attempt to support a statement by simply repeating the statement in different or stronger terms.  In this fallacy, the reason given is nothing more than a restatement of the conclusion that poses as the reason for the conclusion.”  (Circular Reasoning)

Back to Bigfoot:

So now that we have taken a look at what "Science" actually is and isn't, our next step can be to look at some examples of claims regarding Bigfoot that can and can not be made scientifically.  This will be the subject of an upcoming article, but until then try to keep some of the above points in mind the next time someone makes a statement of absolute fact regarding Bigfoot without being willing to share the evidence, or perhaps even having any to back it up.

National Geographic: The Truth Behind Bigfoot

Here are the latest updates for the Ketchum DNA Study in the News, a study which so far has exhibeted classic PseudoScience in action:  Please Show Us The Sequencing Data!


  1. Thanks for a very helpful article. It's been quite a few years since my last science class, so this was a great little review!

  2. I am glad you enjoyed it! I had to write it in a bit of a hurry or I would have added more Bigfoot related analogies, but I hope to do that in the follow up piece!

  3. I really enjoyed your article. I first learned about it on the Bigfoot Evidence Blog. I'm glad to see that there are people who care about the science behind this kind of stuff. I'm a skeptic, but I have no problem with people believing in Bigfoot as long as they feel the evidence is compelling. Blind acceptance is annoying. I've been following this fiasco ever since I first learned about it in November. I've written an article that you might like. I mention you therein since you seem to be one of the earliest people to report the creation of the journal on godaddy:

    Best regards,


  4. Thank you Jim! I just wish there were more people concerned with the truth and not just feeling good about closing their eyes and accepting unsubstantiated claims just because it is what they want to hear. I will be reporting more on this once I and some of my Geneticist Colleagues finish analyzing all her data, that is if she ever releases the sequencing that she based her conclusions upon.....