Do they exist? I hear all the time, “If they exist, why isn’t there any evidence?” Well, what kind of evidence? Witnesses? Thousands of people who have seen them? Stories dating back to the indigenous peoples of this continent. The fact is, that Native American Tribes all over the continent have names for this creature tells us much. It was seen, and interacted with, and the names often tell of the perceptions of the tribes toward this creature. Then, there are stories from trappers and miners and settlers in this country. Even a president.
Just to show a few of the names:
Zuni Indians-Atahsaia, “The Canibal Demon.”
Dakota (East)/Sioux Indian, Chiha tanka, “Big Elder Brother.”
Seminole Indian, Esti Capcaki, “Tall Man.”
Cherokee Indian, Kecleh-Kudleh, “Hairy Savage.”
Yakama/Klickitat Indian, Qui yihahs, “The Five Brothers.”
Iroquois/Seneca Indian, Ge no sqwa, “Stone Giants.”
Note that these names come from the southeast, the Mid-Atlantic region, the plains, the Northwest.
The response? Academics scientists and skeptics, who simply dismiss the accounts. Somehow they believe that, even though they may have never set foot outside a city, that they know more about the natural world that the ones who live in the midst of it.
What other evidence?
Verbal reports: Besides the above mentioned reports, there are literally thousands upon thousands of reports of modern people who have seen something. Many come from long before Sasquatch became so iconic, from a time when people had no idea what they were seeing. There are Bigfoot websites all over the internet. Each has its own section with reports. The BFRO website has probably the biggest and best organized section of reports.
One of my favorites is one about a woman who is camping in southern Colorado. She comes out of her tent and is face to face, twelve feet away from a female and her youngster. They stare at each other and then the creature lopes away. Bears don’t lope. And, just to counter the next comment, she had worked at a bear rescue/rehab facility and knew bears. While I personally don’t know her, a number of my friends do. She is no wacko.
The response? What were they smoking? Were they drinking? Invariably, these are the most intelligent comments that critiques can muster.
Photographic and video: There are hundreds and hundreds of photos and videos. Now I am hard to impress and will not accept any blobsquatch picture or anything where someone has to say, “Look, see, there are the eyes, there is a nose.” No, I don’t buy that. But, even after weeding those out, there are at least a hundred interesting videos. And there are thousands of photos.
The response? It’s fake. It’s a bear. It’s shadows. It’s pareidolia. (seeing faces in clouds). It’s a bear. A guy in a monkey suit. That seems to be the most common, knee jerk reaction.
Audio evidence: There are numerous recordings of vocalizations, most notably the Ron Moorehead recordings.These recordings have been studied by linguists from University of Wyoming. The conclusion was that it is language with syntax.
The response? Pretty much silence or just calling it babble.
Physical evidence: Hundreds of plaster casts exist of footprints and handprints taken from all over the world, which are remarkable in their similarities with each other. Hair samples and scat samples also exist. These have been tested for DNA numerous times but truthfully, I am not prepared to discuss this line of evidence. This is way out of my realm of expertise.
The response? It’s just a bear paw. I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t a Bigfoot because Bigfoot doesn’t exist.
So what it boils down to is that Bigfoot doesn’t exist because there is no evidence because you discount all the evidence. Perhaps what people are really saying is, “Prove it.” But, evidence is not proof. But it leads to the truth.
But let me lay of bit of wisdom down: Cynicism is not wisdom nor is it a sign of intelligence. Skepticism, however is crucial. Let’s look at the famous Patterson Gimlin film. It’s a microcosm of the entire issue. In Geology there is a concept called a “type section.” It is where a rock formation is first formally studied and anytime a geologist has a question as to whether a particular outcrop is, say, the Fountain Formation, the geologist will compare it to the formal type section in Fountain Colorado.
The PG film is the type section for Bigfoot study. Let’s look deeper as to why. These two men, Bob Gimlin and Roger Patterson, went out looking for Bigfoot. Massive perseverance paid off and after a month of riding they came across one. And they were prepared. More or less as they almost did not get the film. Even though they were looking for the creature, when reality gobsmacked them, they almost did not get it. Roger had trouble getting the camera from the saddle bag. He was running, looking for a better vantage point. He fell in the creek, all while Bob stood by with a rifle at the ready. And, amazingly, to this day, there has not been a film as clear and informative.
It is important to remember that the images from that film have become iconic. They are engraved in our culture. But these two men did not even know what they were looking for, only that they would know it when they saw it. What is remarkable is that so many of the videos taken since have shown a remarkable resemblance to the creature on the film.
Before we go any further, we need to talk about the claim that the film is debunked, that someone claimed to have been in on the hoax. It’s important to note the fact that even though someone claims to have been in on it does not make it so. And yet, people tend to hang on to those ideas and dismiss any evidence to the contrary. There is a picture out there that supposedly shows the suit that Roger Patterson had made, indicating that he was prepared to hoax a sighting. That Roger was a bit of a sketchy character has never been questioned. He may have even been prepared to perpetrate a hoax. But Patterson and Gimlin actually did find what they were looking for and ultimately it was not necessary! Patterson may well have been sketchy but even sketchy folks can have great moments. Note that the suit, in the picture in question, is BROWN. Look at the film. The creature is decidedly and unequivocally BLACK! Or to put it another way, how could they have had this suit made when they did not know what it looked like?
Let’s digress for a moment. How many folks have seen a gorilla on a street corner, often twirling a sign to advertise a sandwich shop or a car wash? Has anyone, ever once said, “Oh my God! It’s a gorilla on the loose! Call the police! Or has anyone gone to the primate house at the zoo and lamented all those people in monkey suits? If you have, please contact me. If you haven’t, I ask you, “Why?” The answer is because the proportions are all wrong. Arms to long or too short. Legs are wrong. The posture is wrong. In short, you never did those things because A MAN IN A MONKEY SUIT DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A MONKEY! Or, has anyone ever donned a monkey suit and tried running through the woods? Running gracefully in big old fake feet with a big helmet that restricts your vision is not easy, so I would imagine. I have never actually tried it. Again, if you have, let us know. So the most common reply, “A guy in a monkey suit,” just really does not make sense. Not even a little bit.
Now let’s go back to the PG film and the events surrounding it. Within days of the sighting there were numerous pictures made of the foot prints and at least ten plaster casts made of the foot prints. These prints told an amazing story, especially connected with the footage. They showed a creature with a foot that was very different from a human. A person would not be able to create a print like it. It flexed in the middle and not at the toe. It did not have an arch. It had what is called a “compliant gait,” where the feet strike the ground in line, not side by side.
Now, ranchers are smart people. You have to be to do the work that they do. But could these two have been able to create a whole new kind of foot design and create models to fake the contrived prints? That stretches credibility. Would they have thought to attach breasts to the monkey suit? Maybe, but somehow, I don’t think so.
So, back to the fakery issue. If it was faked, did the hoaxer have a 42 inch stride? And later a 68 to 72-inch stride when investigators tracked it into the woods where it appeared to break into a run. Did the hoaxer have a 14 in barefoot print? Did the hoaxer weigh roughly 700 pounds? That is what it took to make a similar indentation in the sand bar.
Using this film as our type section we compare it to all other videos (and footprints and handprints and other evidence) that come to light. The resemblance between them, from California to Kentucky to China is remarkable. It is, in fact, astounding.
http://www.nativevillage.org. The list of names above.
Other interesting name websites:
Stabilized Patterson Gimlin Film:
Watch other videos by M.K. Davis
http://www.cryptozoonews.com/morris-obit/ See the pictures especially.
The Tikoloshe, found in Zulu mythology are said to be small, imp like creatures that possess various forms of magical powers. The Zulus describe the Tikoloshe as being about as tall as a typical Gnome or Gremlin. Their heads are similar in appearance to that of a teddy bear’s head which has a large, boney protrusion running from the forehead to the back of the skull. They use this protrusion to “head butt” other creatures if necessary. Still others believe that the Tikoloshe appear more like a large man-like bear who possesses immense physical strength. They are able to become invisible by swallowing a pebble and are said to favor sour milk, “snuff”, and women.
Tikoloshe are mischievous beings that often enjoy targeting schoolchildren. When the Tikoloshe attack, they usually leave the children with long, itchy scratches on their backs, arms and legs. One such attack of this sort was said to have occurred near Johannesburg, South Africa in a town called Soweto. A creature resembling the Tikoloshe terrorized an entire school for an unspecified period of time. It became so prevalent however that the children in the area eventually nicknamed the Tikoloshe, “Pinky-Pinky”.
Most often, Tikoloshe are said to be seen only by those that have been cursed in some way by a Shaman. Zulus typically state that they have never seen the Tikoloshe. Many others however, believe that is not true. They believe that many people actually do see the Tikoloshe but will never state it publically for fear that the Tikoloshe will eventually return to seek retribution. People fear them so much that they will go to extreme measures to prevent any additional attacks or retribution by the Tikoloshe. They will stack bricks under their bed posts so that their beds are raised at least three feet off of the floor. By doing this, their hope is that the Tikoloshe will be unable to reach them while they are asleep. Once the Tikoloshe have been discovered a witch doctor must be summoned and use his magic to banish them from the area.
Similar sightings of the Tikoloshe have been reported by the Bantu tribe in neighboring Zimbabwe. The Tokoloshe, as the Bantu know them, have the same general appearances as those given by the Zulus but with one big difference. The Tokoloshe, according to the Bantu, also have a large penis which the Tokoloshe slings over one of their shoulders. The Tokoloshe’s primary activities remain the same though according to Bantu folklore. They carry out mischievous attacks against children or can even be summoned to cause trouble for others. They can also be used to simply scare someone or to even cause death. When the Tokoloshe are not otherwise occupied they make love to their witch mistress who afterwards provides them with milk and food.
Look to the skies. Is something is there? Is it a bird? A plane? Or is it a winged monster terrorizing the skies? Are Thunderbirds real? It is a question people have asked for centuries. Many Native American tribes believe the thunderbird is a divine being in animal form. Others believe it to be a long extinct flying dinosaur. Many in the scientific community dismiss the stories as folklore. Can there really be a giant winged beast soaring the skies looking for human prey? Have we been knocked several links down the food chain? The answers may never be known. Let’s explore the legend and history of this winged beast. Hear eyewitness accounts of terror from the skies and decide for yourself. The truth may surprise you.
Wikipedia defines the word Thunderbird as a Cryptozoological term used to describe a large, bird-like creature, generally identified with Native American tradition. Throughout most of history and in most cultures there have been tales, stories, and legends of giant birds. The legend of the Thunderbird reaches back hundreds of years as part of the mythology of several Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes region. This obscure legend might have remained strictly a part of those cultures had it not been for the numerous reports of this great winged creature by the "white man" over the centuries. According to the Native American myths, the giant Thunderbird could shoot lightning from its eyes, and its wings were so enormous that they created peals of thunder when they flapped.
The Thunderbird legend has survived in many present day Native American cultures. Though the Thunderbird myth varies from region to region and tribe to tribe, the Thunderbird was, in the eyes of the ancient Native Americans, a magical animal that was sent by their gods to protect them from the powers of evil. Riding on the wings of the storm, the Thunderbird embodied the power of the storm. Its eyes flashed fire, its cry was like the crack of lightning, and its mighty wings beat with the sound of rolling thunder, ever protecting its people from the powers of evil.
There are at least three different legends of the Thunderbird available to us today. These legends may shed some light on what this mythical creature was like. The first account comes from the Winnebago Indians of the northern Midwest and Plains states. A second comes from the Passamaquoddy Indians of Maine. And a third comes from the Quillayute; a Chimakoan tribe living along the Quillayute River, a six-mile river on the Olympic Peninsula, near Seattle, Washington
The Winnebago were an ancient and powerful people that once spread out from Wisconsin all across the northern Midwest and Plains states to Nebraska. They believed that the Thunderbirds were powerful, eagle-like divine creatures that were able to affect the winds and created storms, lightning, thunder, and rain. They also believed that they could take the form of humans.
They believed Thunderbirds were powerful and warlike avian spirits who animate the gray clouds with thunder and lightning. Together with the Waterspirits, they were the first spirits that Earthmaker created. Their name, Wak'âdja, means, "Divine Ones." On the model of other tribes, they are conventionally called "Thunderbirds," since they alone possess lightning. Their basic somatic form runs the gamut of several species of birds, the hawk and the eagle being the most common. However, they are far stronger in build and have polychrome plumage that gives them a magnificent appearance unrivaled by the birds of earth. Their voices are like the sounds of flutes, recalling both the whistle of wind and the voices of raptors.
Another primary source is from the legends of the Passamaquoddy Indians, who lived in the northeast, in the Quoddy Loop area of Maine and New Brunswick. The Thunderbirds, according to the Passamaquoddy, were men who could transform themselves into flying creatures. These men also processed the power to transform others Indian braves into a Thunderbirds.
This is a very old legend. The story goes something like this. One day two Indians departed their village on a quest to find the origin of thunder. They travelled north through the valleys to the high mountains. When they got there they saw the mountains rocking back and forth. One Indian said, "I will leap through the cleft before it closes. If I am caught, you continue to find the origin of thunder." The Indians steadied themselves and jumped. The first one succeeded in going through the cleft before it closed, but the second one was caught and squashed. On the other side, the first Indian saw a large plain with a group of wigwams. He watched from the shadows at a number of Indians playing a ball game. After a little while, these players said to each other, "It is time to go." They disappeared into their wigwams to put on wings. They came out with their bows and arrows and flew away over the mountains to the south. This was how the Passamaquoddy Indian discovered the homes of the thunderbirds.
The surviving Passamaquoddy Indian brave was so happy he had found the homes of the thunderbirds, he leaped for joy. The remaining old men of that tribe surrounded the young Indian brave and asked him, "What do you want? Who are you?" He replied he was on a quest to discover the origin of thunder and wanted to know the secret of the birdmen. The old men decided to help him. They put the lone Indian into a large mortar and pounded him until all of his bones were broken. They molded him into a new body with wings like the thunderbird, and gave him a bow and some arrows and sent him away in flight. The Indian soared high into the sky and became a powerful Thunderbird. Legend says he soars high in the sky watching over the good Indians.
Another Thunderbird story can be found in the myths and legends of the Quillayute Indians of the Pacific Northwest. The Quillayute describe the Thunderbird as essentially a giant flying creature with feathers and supernatural powers. According to the geologic record, no avian (bird) has ever been discovered as large as the creature the Quillayute described. However, there were flying creatures that were that large - the giant Pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus Northropi, native to the Mesozoic Period (65 million - 230 million years ago) had a wingspan of 33 feet. Quetzalcoatlus Northropi was possibly the largest flying creature on earth in any period. A fully grown Quetzalcoatlus was quite capable of catching and carrying humans. On problem with this theory is the fact that the thunderbird is described as having feathers. However, recent evidence out of China suggests that at least some dinosaurs may have had feathers.
In this story, disaster had struck the Quillayute - rain and hail had fallen for many days, destroying all of the edible plants and making it impossible to fish. Many of their people had been killed by the hail, which was followed by sleet and snow. Out of food, the Quillayute were desperate, and the Great Chief was forced to call upon the Great Spirit for help.
The people waited. No one spoke. There was nothing but silence and darkness. Suddenly, there came a great noise, and flashes of lightning cut the darkness. A deep whirring sound, like giant wings beating, came from the place of the setting sun. All of the people turned to gaze toward the sky above the ocean as a huge, bird-shaped creature flew toward them. This bird was larger than any they had ever seen. Its wings, from tip to tip, were twice as long as a war canoe. It had a huge, curving beak, and its eyes glowed like fire. The people saw that its great claws held a living, giant whale. In silence, they watched while Thunderbird - for so the bird was named by everyone - carefully lowered the whale to the ground before them. It then flew high in the sky and went back to the thunder and lightning it had come from. The Quillayute still pay homage to the Thunderbird. They have never forgotten the visit from the Thunderbird that ended long days of hunger and death. For on the prairie near their village are big, round stones that the grandfathers say are the hardened hailstones of that storm long ago.
Are Thunderbirds real, or are they just an Indian myth? Fact or fiction, the legend of the Thunderbird is a subject of controversy. The Indian legends can’t explain why there are similar stories of Thunderbirds found in the Middle East and around the world. It is known by different names in various countries: In Egypt it is called the Phoenix. It is known as the Simurgh in Iran, and in Persia it is called the Amrzs. Stories of these birds had existed in Persian and in Arabic oral tradition for hundreds of years.
Skeptic say that perhaps the legends are retold to account for the African ostrich, or perhaps even the enormous Aepyornis elephant bird, which was larger than an ostrich but was extinct around 120 AD. The giant bird theme also appears in Hindu and Buddhist mythology as the Garuda, a great, winged beast that the creator-god Vishnu rides. Ancient Jewish tradition called such a creature Ziz, and it is large enough to block out the sun. Mythology in Fiji records a similar bird called a Kanivatu, and in China it is known as a Peng.
One legend says a Thunderbird attacked Sinbad the Sailor’s ship and injured the crew; the story was eventually written down in 1001 Nights’. Even the 13th century trader and explorer, Marco Polo, wrote of these birds:
“It was for all the world like an eagle, but one indeed of enormous size; so big in fact that its quills were twelve paces long and thick in proportion. And it is so strong that it will seize an elephant in its talons and carry him high into the air and drop him so that he is smashed to pieces; having so killed him, the bird swoops down on him and eats him at leisure.”
Could a Turkey Vulture with a wingspan of up to 6 feet be the culprit? Could it be a simple eagle? The largest and most powerful eagle in the world is the American Harpy eagle, with a wingspan of seven feet. But even the Harpy could only lift something the size of a rabbit.
Modern Thunderbird theories are less mythical and more scientific. Some well renown cryptozoologists believe that the thunderbird is a Giant Condor, also called an Aiolornis. These birds had a wingspan of up to 18 feet and dominated the skies. They became extinct 13,000 years ago, but some believe they may still exist today and reside inside the United States. Others believe the thunderbird may be a Prehistoric Pterodactyls that somehow survived the extinction of the dinosaurs. The debate rages on.
The size of the Teratorn was large enough to pick up a man and carry him off.
Some cryptozoologists have a hard time grasping how such a large bird could even possibly take flight. Aiolornis incredibilis (previously known as Teratornis) was a vulture-like creature which had the wingspan of about 16 feet (5 meters) yet was still capable of flight. This bird originated from, you guessed it, North America. While this bird would never have been seen by human beings. A relative of it, Teratornis Merriami, might have been seen by early American Indians.
WING OF THE GIANT BIRD (Photo missing)
This is believed to be the humerus bone of a Teratorn wing. The bone measured fourteen inches in length, which translates into a wingspan with a minimum of twelve feet to as much as sixteen feet, possibly larger. A similar humerus unearthed in Argentina measured twenty-two inches, indicating a wingspan of twenty-five feet.
Above (from Padian 1985): A generalized bird wing (hum= humerus,
r= radius, u= ulna, c= carpus, mc= metacarpus, I-III= numbered digits).
Feather size is estimated to have been 1.5 meters (60 inches...that is, FIVE FEET long); and 20 centimeters wide (8 inches). The large wing size would limit this bird to more open areas such as the South American pampas or the North American Great Plains as maneuverability around trees and shrubs would be difficult. It is not presently known if this Teratorn actively flew by flapping its wings or if it mostly soared as do present-day Condors.
Argentine scientists' have unearthed the fossil remains of what seems to be the world's largest known flying bird, Argentavis Magnificens. With a wingspan of 25 feet, the bird measured' 11 feet from beak to tail, and weighed in at l60 to 170 lbs. Its first wing bone, the humerus, was approximately 22 inches long.
Largest "Terror Bird" Fossil Found in Argentina [NationalGeographic 2006-10-25]
The Phorusrhacid, or terror bird, was a massive creature with a sharp, curving beak. The fossilized skull of this new specimen is seen in the bottom photo side by side with the modern California condor skull. It is 2.3 feet (almost a meter) long and represents the largest bird skull ever found. Could this be the feared Thunderbird?
Terror birds were the biggest birds the world has ever seen. These birds had skulls that were two and a half feet [almost a meter] in length. They were colossal animals. The new, currently unnamed species stood about ten feet (three meters) tall and had a head as big as that of a horse. The largest terror birds could likely swallow dog-size prey in a single gulp, experts say. The bird's most striking feature, literally, was its giant nose, a roughly 18-inch (46-centimeter) beak with a sharp, curving hook shaped like an eagle's beak.
These birds used their beaks to impale or bludgeon their prey. A single hit from their massive skulls would have killed anything immediately. Terror birds were first discovered in the late 1800s and are believed to have become South America's top predators after the dinosaurs died off 65 million years ago. Could the terror bird still be alive today?
A gigantic bird has been sighted in Pennsylvania. On the evening of Tuesday, September 25, 2001, a 19-year-old claimed to have seen an enormous winged creature flying over Route 119 in South Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The witness's attention was drawn to the sky by a sound that resembled "flags flapping in a thunderstorm." Looking up, the witness saw what appeared to be a bird that had a wingspan of an estimated 10 to 15 feet and a head about three feet long.
On September 25, the witness told researcher Dennis Smeltzer, that the huge black or grayish-brown bird passed overhead at about 50 to 60 feet. "I wouldn't say it was flapping its wings gracefully," the witness told Smeltzer, "but almost horrifically flapping its wings very slowly, then gliding above the passing big rig trucks."
The witness observed the creature for about 90 seconds in total, even seeing it land on the branches of a dead tree, which nearly broke under its great weight. Unfortunately, no other witnesses saw the bird on this date, and no tangible evidence could be found for the bird after the site was searched. What makes this story more interesting, however - even plausible - is that other sightings of similar description were reported in Pennsylvania in June and July, 2001.
On June 13, a resident of Greenville, Pa. was startled by the great size of the grayish-black creature seen soaring overhead, at first thinking it was a small airplane, or ultralight aircraft! This witness observed the bird for at least 20 minutes, clearly seeing its fully feathered body and confidently estimating its wingspan to be about 15 feet and its body length at about 5 feet. This bird, too, was seen to perch on a tree for at least 15 minutes before taking to air again and flying off toward the south. A neighbor of this witness claimed to have seen the creature the next day, describing it as "the biggest bird I ever saw."
Less than a month later, on July 6, a witness in Erie County, Pa. reported a very similar sighting, according to an item in Fortean Times magazine. Again, the creature's wingspan was estimated to be 15 to 17 feet and was described as "dark gray with little or no neck, and a circle of black under its head. Its beak was very thin and long - about a foot in length."
There were multiple sightings of Thunderbirds in Pennsylvania. If these reports are accurate, these birds are the largest flying creatures yet identified by science. By comparison, the largest known bird is the wandering albatross with a wingspan of up to 12 feet. The largest predatory birds - which the Thunderbird is most often likened to - are the Andean condor (10.5-foot wingspan) and the California condor (10-foot wingspan).
Among the most controversial reports happened on July 25, 1977, near Kickapoo Creek, in Lawndale, Logan County, Illinois. About 9 p.m. a group of three boys were at play in a residential back yard when two large birds approached and chased the boys. Two boys escaped unharmed, but the third boy, 10-year-old Marlon Lowe did not. One bird suddenly swooped down and grabbed the boy, carrying him a few feet before dropping him, apparently because of his frightened mother’s screams. The incident occurred in front of seven witnesses. All of whom described exactly the same thing: two huge, coal-black birds with long, white-ringed necks, long curled beaks, and wingspans of 10 or more feet.
More recently, in an article published on Wednesday October 16, 2002, in the Anchorage Daily News, a report of "a giant winged creature like something out of Jurassic Park" was sighted several times in Southwest Alaska. The pilot that spotted the creature was flying passengers to Manokotak, Alaska. He estimated its wingspan to match the length of a wing on one side of his Cessna 207, about 14 feet. Other people have put the wingspan in a similar range.
Skeptics believe the mysterious bird was probably a Steller Sea Eagle; a bird with a wingspan of up to eight feet. On March 2008, several reports were recorded of strange, flying creatures in Chile, and other areas of South America. Many individuals claimed to have seen a very large, raptor-like bird with an 18 to 20 foot wingspan.
Numerous sightings of the thunderbird continue today. In the last 100 years Thunderbird sightings have increased exponentially. Many people have claimed to have seen a great bird soaring high in the skies. In fact, numerous witnesses have claimed to have seen creatures that resembled pterodactyls; the winged reptiles that should have been extinct 60 million years ago. Are all these people suffering from some mass delusion? Are the skies filled with monstrous winged creatures? Are thunderbirds real? In the end, we have to decide for ourselves.
Next time you see a large shadow swooping across the ground, take cover. It might be a large eagle? It might be a low flying aircraft? Or it might be a Thunder Bird, and you might be lunch.
Stories that tell of diminutive humanoid creatures, running the gamut from magical and spiritual to decidedly material in nature, are a widely dispersed feature of human folklore. Nowhere in the world however does the possibility of fiction maturing into fact hinge so precipitously close, and yet so frustratingly far, to confirmation than in the Indonesian islands of Southeast Asia and Oceana.
On the largest of the exclusively Indonesian islands, Sumatra, local legend has persisted for centuries of an indigenous primate known as the “Orang Pendek” (literally, “short person”). Everyone from the Suku Anak Dalam (an indigenous Sumatran forest-dwelling people), to the island’s local villagers, to the Old Dutch colonists and modern Western visitors, have all described the same animal. The accounts delineate the Orang Pendek as a short ape standing roughly 1 meter (3 feet) tall, covered in short hair, possessed of a strong chest and arms, and, perhaps most importantly, habitually bipedal.
The discovery of an extant habitually bipedal primate anywhere in the world would be huge news, as human beings are currently understood to be the only surviving members of the habitually bipedal primate clade, hominins. A small handful of individuals, most notably conservationist Debbie Martyr, have been looking for the Orang Pendek in Sumatra for over a decade (recently National Geographic even funded an expedition to search for the elusive dwarf). Many, including Debbie Martyr, claim to have seen the creature, but to this date no hard quantifiable and/or testable evidence has surfaced, not even a blurry photograph. The most substantial body of evidence currently available to a serious investigation would be the amassed accounts of locals.
Believers cite the sheer quantity and uniformity of sightings and legends among Sumatran witnesses as strong evidence, as well as the fact that among a local mythology replete with magical beings the Orang Pendek is particularly non-magical, just another animal of the island (one fond of raiding crops). Critics point to the same vastness and diversity of local superstitions as indication of just how seriously this legend should really be taken (not very). They attribute reported sightings to misidentification of the island’s native documented animals, such as Gibbons, Sun Bears (the world’s smallest bear), and maybe even rare Orangutans. All three of those animals are capable of brief periods of bipedal locomotion.
Interest in the Orang Pendek has been heightened somewhat in the last several years due in no small part to one of the most significant paleoanthropological discoveries of the last decade. Just a few islands to the southeast of Sumatra is situated the comparatively smaller isle, Flores. Here a similar folk-story to that of the Orang Pendek endures; that of the Ebu Gogo.
The Ebu Gogo are described by locals as also being roughly 1 meter tall, long haired and pot-bellied, having protruding ears, an awkward gait, and noticeable length in their arms and fingers. What is so intriguing about the Ebu Gogo myth though is that in 2004 a team of Australian and Indonesian paleoanthropologists discovered the remains of a hominin species in Flores’ Liang Bua Cave that seems to match the Ebu Gogo description well. The remains include an incomplete adult female skeleton (LB1), fragments from at least nine other individuals, and an assortment of stone tools.
Though the interpretation of the remains is a matter of debate among scientists, the prevailing view is that they represent an entirely new species of hominin; Homo floresiensis. The female specimen would have stood barely 3 feet tall and exhibited a surprisingly small cranial capacity of only 417 cm3, roughly the same as a chimpanzee’s (for comparison, a modern human’s cranial capacity is roughly 1100-1700 cm3 and Homo erectus, which was known to inhabit the nearby island of Java and from which H. floresiensis is believed to have diverged, boasted an average of 900 cm3). Some researchers have proposed that H. floresiensis does not actually represent a new species, but is instead a human specimen which suffered from a severe pathological growth disorder known as microcephaly. This hypothesis has been largely rejected however, and the current dominant hypothesis is that they represent a population of H. erectus who diverged into a new species through a process known as “Island Dwarfism” or “Insular Dwarfing”. In these instances, the relative scarcity of resources on smaller islands presents a unique set of challenges to organisms who reside there. This means that smaller individuals with lower caloric and dietary requirements than larger individuals will be selected for and ultimately be more reproductively successful. Indeed, the Stegodon, a type of dwarf elephant, is also known to have inhabited Flores contemporaneously with H. floresiensis and was even a likely prey animal for them.
One of the more astonishing factoids about the H. floresiensis case is that there are strong indications that they continued to live on the island until at least 13,000-12,000 years ago, when a volcanic eruption is presumed to have wiped them out. This is remarkably recent survival in the spectrum of hominin evolution and it has been suggested that the modern Ebu Gogo myth stems from either a collective cultural memory of past co-habitation or even that a small, isolated population of H. floresiensis survives to this day on Flores. The case of H. floresiensis, either way, prompted the following remarks from British paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Henry Gee in the journal Nature.
“The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as yetis are founded on grains of truth.
In the light of the Flores skeleton, a recent initiative to scour central Sumatra for 'orang pendek' can be viewed in a more serious light. This small, hairy, manlike creature has hitherto been known only from Malay folklore, a debatable strand of hair and a footprint. Now, cryptozoology, the study of such fabulous creatures, can come in from the cold.” – Henry Gee
P. Brown et al. A new small-bodied hominin from the Late Pleistocene of Flores,
Indonesia. Nature. Vol. 431. 28 Oct 2004.
A. Brumm et al. Early stone technology on Flores and its implications for Homo
floresiensis. Nature. Vol. 441. 06 Jan 2006.
Dunning, Brian. Orang Pendek: Forest Hobbit of Sumatra. Skeptoid # 77.
04 Dec 2007. http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4077
D. Falk, et al. Brain shape in human microcephalics and Homo floresiensis.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol. 104 no. 7.
13 Feb 2007.
Gee, Henry. Flores, God and Cryptozoology. Nature News. 25 Oct 2004.
In Search of Orang Pendek. What is Orang Pendek?.
R. Jurmain, L. Kilgore, and W. Trevathan. Essentials of Physical Anthropology. 7th ed.
Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. 2006.
Roberts, Richard. Villagers speak of the small, hairy Ebu Gogo.
Though this organization is called the “Crypto Science Society”, it is generally understood that its membership is open to all interested students coming from any and all disciplines of study. This means that though some of you are coming onboard with an already firm grasp of the concept of science, many of you might not be. Indeed, many of our current membership are pursuing majors in disciplines wholly removed from the natural, applied, or social sciences. And that is ok. The scope of our mission and ambition is more than wide enough to not only accommodate a diverse array of talents, but to find valuable application for those skills as well.
That said, if we are going to call ourselves a society of science then it is in our best interests to establish in clear and certain terms what exactly science is so that not only will we all be on the same page, but that we may project the appropriate public image for a group so named. We hope that you will take a moment to look over this section; it will be an invaluable illustration of the type of conceptual and methodological approaches we strive at all times to handle our subject matter with. A commitment to the objective and dispassionate scientific method is perhaps our most important distinguishing characteristic when compared to other similar organizations.
Science, From the Latin “scientia”, Meaning “knowledge”
The scientific method is perhaps one of the most profound and important developments in the human quest to understand ourselves, our world, the universe, and indeed the very nature of existence and reality. Though science can trace its roots back thousands of years, at least as far as some of the most renowned Ancient Greek philosophers and perhaps even further, and even though it evolved, developed, and progressed throughout the ages since then, it truly came into its own as a modern method of widespread practice during a period referred to historically as the “scientific revolution”. This revolution in human industry is generally agreed to have begun in the year 1543 in Europe with the publication of two seminal books: De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) by Nicolaus Copernicus and De humani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) by Andreas Vesalius. This period lasted until well into the 17th century and saw a plethora of advances in virtually every scientific field, laying much of the groundwork for the modern era.
Though it defies over-simple definitions, science can be described as a method of inquiry used to investigate the natural, observable world and universe. It is a continuous systematic effort to expand and increase the totality of human knowledge through disciplined research. It adheres to a particular set of guiding principles, which will be described in detail presently.
These days, human efforts to make heads and tails of such things can generally be divided into three categories; religion, philosophy, and science. The three are hardly mutually exclusive, overlap can and does occur. However, the cores of their essences are distinct enough to warrant separate billing.
Religion typically approaches these matters through a system of revelation from an often abstract supernatural source (sometimes anthropomorphized). Anthropologists define religion as “A set of beliefs in supernatural forces that functions to provide meaning, peace of mind, and a sense of control over unexplainable phenomena.” (Ferraro, pp. 338) This is of course a blanket definition, as religions are very nearly as diverse as the myriad cultures which constitute humankind. Though their histories and particular characteristics are wonderfully individual, the important thing in this context to remember about religion is that its explanations of things are dependent upon divine or supernatural revelation.
Philosophy (love of wisdom) approaches these matters through a purely cerebral system of reasoned argument and logical critique. Though observations of the world around us (often referred to as empiricism) constitute foundational pillars of a significant portion of philosophical history, philosophers are also notorious for not trusting wholly in the evidence of their senses. Philosophy can at once be considered a type of ancestral intermediate between religion and science (indeed, they both owe much of their development to philosophical traditions) and also a very unique, stand-alone entity in and of itself. Largely concerned with very fundamental human questions, such as the nature of truth, ethics, aesthetics, and existence itself, philosophy draws its strength from the capacity for reason and highly refined logical argumentation.
Science. “At its core, science is concerned with understanding the nature of the world
around us by using observation and reasoning. To begin with, we assume that natural forces acting now have always acted, that the fundamental nature of the universe has not changed since its inception, and that it is not changing now. A number of complimentary approaches allow understanding of natural phenomena – there is no one ‘right way’.
“Scientists also attempt to be as objective as possible in the interpretation of the data and observations they have collected. Because scientists themselves are human, this is not completely possible; because science is a collective endeavor subject to scrutiny, however, it is self-correcting. Results from one person are verified by others, and if the results cannot be repeated, they are rejected.
The classic view of the scientific method is that observations lead to hypotheses that in turn make experimentally testable predictions. In this way, we dispassionately evaluate new ideas to arrive at an increasingly accurate view of nature.” (Raven, et al. pp. 4)
A key concept to grasp concerning the scientific approach is that the subject being investigated by scientists has to be empirically observable in some way or another; there needs to be a way to measure and/or quantify it, and it has to be falsifiable. If a thing cannot be measured, quantified, or in any way lend itself to confirmation or falsification through experimentation then science, for now, simply has nothing to say about it and it must remain an unsubstantiated claim. Finally, the results of a scientist’s research, even if they seem sound when presented, have to be able to be reproduced independently by other scientists. In this way, science regulates itself and becomes self-correcting through peer review; catching mistakes, miscalculations, and even attempts to misrepresent and twist one’s findings to advance a particular personal agenda.
Scientific research is generally divided into two overarching categories: Basic, or Experimental, and applied. Basic research aims to answer questions and expand human knowledge for its own sake. Applied research then attempts to take what has been learned through basic research and use it to address human problems and challenges, such as increasing crop yields, fighting diseases, generating energy, improving transportation, and much more besides. Coming at the angle of what exactly scientists study, science can be broadly categorized into the Natural Sciences (Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and etc), the Social Sciences (Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology, and etc), and the Applied Sciences (Architecture, Engineering, Medicine, and etc). These definitions are not absolute, as it is not uncommon for a discipline to be difficult to pigeonhole into just one category. Anthropology, for example, leans heavily on biology and earth sciences, depending on the sub-discipline.
Deductive and Inductive Reasoning
There are two primary methods of arriving at logical conclusions used by science. These are deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. Generally speaking, deductive reasoning applies general known or observed principles to arrive at specific results, and inductive reasoning collects specific observations and uses them to build general principles.
If you know a basic principle to be generally true, you can apply deductive reasoning to reach a generally accurate conclusion from that principle. For example; if you know that all birds have feathers, and you find an animal that does not have feathers, you might reasonably conclude that that animal is not a bird (it’s probably not a dinosaur either).
Inductive reasoning on the other hand systematically accumulates individual observations and then analyzes them to see what general conclusions might be drawn. For example; if sparrows have feathers, robins have feathers, peacocks have feathers, Big Bird has feathers, emus have feathers, and blue footed boobies have feathers, then you might logically conclude that all birds have feathers. This is the reasoning most often used by scientists, for it leaves one with an experimentally testable hypothesis. Inductive reasoning first became widely important to science in the 1600’s, when the pioneers of physics inferred their renowned principles, such as the famed Newtonian Laws of Motion, from meticulous experimentation.
Hypothetically Speaking: Controls and Variables
The all-important hypothesis, as previously stated, is a logical conclusion, a possibility, based off of careful observations, which is then put to the test to determine whether it is possibly true or probably false. Hypotheses are the driving force behind all scientific investigation; without a hypothesis a scientist has little or nothing to investigate through experimentation. Let’s suppose that your friend is calling to you from across the room, but you cannot hear him. Why might this be? You consider the possibilities and formulate some hypotheses: A) You have left your earphones in and cannot hear your friend over the soothing melodies of Snoop Dogg. B) You are in a crowded cafeteria and all the gossip is drowning out your friend’s voice. C) Your friend is mute, and you cannot hear him because he is calling to you in the American Sign Language. D) You actually can hear your friend, but are pretending not to because you are a wanker.
Now that you have some ideas you can start testing them, or experimenting. To begin with, you check your ears and find that no, there are no earphones or buds in that region; you have disproved the hypothesis that it is your music player. Next, you look around yourself and determine by the general absence of people, noise, and polyester lunch meat that you are not in a crowded cafeteria. With two possibilities eliminated you look over at your friend and see that he is moving his lips, not his hands, so is probably attempting to communicate verbally. That leaves you with the last hypothesis. It is certainly possible that something else is at play here to obscure your friend’s voice, but the dissolution of the first three hypotheses shows us that it is more likely that you may, in fact, be a wanker.
Two of the most important things to keep in mind while conducting an experiment are the control and variables. Oftentimes a scientist will be interested in investigating something the outcome of which is influenced by several different factors, known as variables. Say, for example, that you are investigating the rate of plant growth. The variables at play here which could influence the rate of growth may include time, exposure to light, water supply, soil content, the space between competing plants, the species of plant being studied, predation by animals, and more. In order to accurately determine the effect that one of these variables has on the rate of plant growth, all other variables in the experiment must be kept constant. If we suppose you are interested in how light affects the rate of plant growth you would want to set up your experiment in such a way that the light variable is altered in a known way and all others remain uniform.
You would first need to establish a control experiment, in which the light variable was left unaltered from the established standard (for the sake of this discussion we will arbitrate 8 hours of direct exposure at 100 watts every day for 4 weeks). The control experiment will provide your ‘standard’ data with which you can compare the data gathered from the following experiments. In these experiments you would then alter the standard in known increments, such as the number of hours of direct exposure each day or the wattage used. Since your experiments are in every other known way identical, any variation in plant growth rate that occurs can reasonably be attributed to the variance in light exposure.
One of the stoutest challenges in science is determining and establishing your control experiment in such a way that the variable you are interested in studying is isolated. The nature of variables becomes more complex as well, the further you delve into the sciences. One must learn to distinguish between dependent and independent variables, how to represent the gathered data graphically if applicable, how to account for and consider margins of error, and more. For now however, it is only important that you grasp this essential concept.
Theories and Hypotheses: The Difference
When the word ‘theory’ is used in everyday conversation it is generally used in a context that implies something along the lines of mere conjecture or a guess, sometimes educated. This common usage can cause confusion when talking about scientific theory, as scientists mean something very different when they say ‘theory’. The common usage of ‘theory’ is much closer, scientifically speaking, to a hypothesis. In science nothing is ever absolute and entirely beyond refute. Science assumes that we don’t know everything there is to know about everything, and that emerging evidence and discoveries can drastically alter or even completely replace current understandings of scientific paradigms. This means for example that though the theory of gravity is one of the most well-accepted bedrocks of the natural sciences, boasting a host of complimentary proofs, it is always possible that someone can come along and present overwhelming evidence that disproves the theory of gravity. This is unlikely, but still, possible. In this way science maintains itself as a self-correcting process that, ideally, does not fall into a position of inflexible dogma.
Though everything in science is always open to contention, there are instances where a particular concept or model continues to gain more and more supporting evidence, emerging as the clear favorite among competing hypotheses. When this happens and it becomes increasingly difficult to say that the nature of things is anything but the model presented, it becomes a theory: a hypothesis or model supported by such an overwhelming body of supporting evidence that it becomes widely accepted by the scientific community as true. ‘Theory’ is the highest pillar to which a scientific concept or principle can ascend, and is only possible after a long and grueling process of acquiring a multitude of peer-reviewed proofs.
An important example of this confusion in contemporary America is seen in the debate between fundamental religious faithful, known as Creationists, and the scientific community over the theory of evolution. Though it is debated on many fronts and levels, one common point raised by Creationists is that evolution is “only a theory”, not realizing what ‘theory’ really means when used by the scientific community. This confusion creates the impression that scientists are not really at a satisfied consensus concerning the concept of evolution and that something which has not even been proven yet is being taught as true to students; when in fact there is an overwhelming consensus among scientists that it is actually one of the most well-supported of any theory within the natural sciences. Regardless of what side, if any, you favor in the debate, this is probably the most relevant contemporary example of the confusion that can arise from this definitional discrepancy.
An important tool in the belt of any scientist attempting to determine the plausibility of competing hypotheses is the Principle of Parsimony (a similar and well-known concept you may be familiar with is “Occam’s Razor”). The principle of parsimony, simply put, favors the hypothesis that requires the least assumptions.
For example: We know that many insects have wings, and that bats have wings. We also know that winged insects first evolved long before bats emerged. So how did bats get wings, if we are looking for an evolutionary ancestor? Does it make more sense that a group of winged insects, over many generations, kept their wings and A) lost their exoskeleton B) evolved vertebrae, a post-anal tail, and an internal bony skeleton that follows the basic plan of all vertebrate animals C) lost one pair of legs D) lost their antennae E) evolved an advanced circulatory, respiratory, and nervous system F) evolved mammary glands and hair G) stopped reproducing via eggs and began giving placental live birth H) evolved endothermic body temperature regulation I) grew to the size of bats J) and lost and evolved countless other discrepancies between the vertebrate mammal and insect body plans… or… does it make more sense that A) a rodent ancestor which already had all the evolutionary characteristics of a vertebrate mammal eventually evolved a gliding membrane on its forelimbs, like the ones found on flying squirrels, B) which then continued to evolve into wings once natural selection began to favor this advantage? The principle of parsimony would point us towards the second possibility in this case.
Reductionism and Holism
We mentioned earlier that there is a deductive and inductive approach that one can take to scientific inquiry. There is another pair of approaches worth mentioning briefly. These two methods are called Reductionism and Holism. The methods themselves are dichotomously opposite to each other, but science benefits the most when it considers the results of both methods in conjunction.
Reductionism investigates things by breaking them down into their component parts and learning how each individual piece functions.
Holism adheres to the creed that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, and that when you consider the complex, integrated functions of many interconnected parts within a system, you become aware of emergent properties that are not apparent at reduced networks of complexity.
These are at their cores philosophical approaches adapted to the scientific method. Neither one is the “right” way to do science and neither one alone can ever give us as complete a picture as the both considered together can. While reductionism is fantastic for figuring out the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts of things, holism allows us to take a step back and see how everything begins to fit together in the big picture. For the larger part of scientific history reductionism has been the favorite, most prevalent approach, but holism has in recent years gained a fresh revitalization through several “systems” sciences.
Objectivity and Bias
Objectivity is often touted as one of the paragons of scientific integrity; for good reason, too, but not without certain footnotes. Though practicing scientists strive for the highest degree of objectivity possible, absolute objectivity is never possible, due to the fact that scientists are human beings; finite, participating members of the universe they investigate. The subjective nature of human existence means that some degree of subjectivity will always creep into even the most objectively executed experiments. However, the afore-mentioned point that science is a collaborative, peer-reviewed effort means that science is self-correcting and can therefore accommodate this capacity for human error.
Occasionally, however, those conducting research do not hold themselves to the strictest standards of objectivity. In these instances the data collected by the researcher(s) is presented in a manner that is inconsistent with the actuality of their findings. This can arise for a number of different reasons, such as deliberate tampering with the subject evidence, clever phrasing which twists the interpretation of findings to imply something which was not actually found, or a researcher who’s desire to achieve a particular result from their research is so strong that they interpret any data they receive as evidence in support of their hypothesis, when in fact there may be no such link.
This last one is of particular importance to our organization. The phenomenon is a type of cognitive bias known as confirmation bias. Confirmation bias describes the tendency to either pursue or interpret evidence in a manner that lends itself to the confirmation of one’s preconceived hypotheses. Confirmation bias is a common argument raised against those who attempt to study paranormal subject matter. For example; those who examine photographs of strange light phenomenon caught unintentionally and called, in rather broad strokes, ‘orbs’ are regularly accused of jumping to the conclusion that the image in question is some paranormal phenomenon and not something more natural such as dust particles catching the light.
As easy as it is for the undeterred believers to succumb to confirmation bias, it is also not impossible for hard-line skeptics to be just as susceptible. Using the same ‘orb’ example as before, the automatic assumption that the image of an ‘orb’ is a light-catching dust-particle and nothing else would be a type of confirmation bias.
It is not our intent to point fingers at either believers or skeptics and accuse them of bad science. The point to be made and taken from this is that regardless of which end of the spectrum one gravitates towards, confirmation bias can seriously compromise the integrity of research conducted.
Remember: Wanting a thing to be true does NOT make it true! It is OK to ‘disprove’ a tested hypothesis! Science is far better at disproving things than conclusively proving them, and it only means that you have eliminated one out of numerous possibilities concerning your subject matter, and will ultimately help you to refine your focus, arrive at a more complete synthesis of understanding, and learn how you may approach your subject from a different and innovative angle. ‘Disproving’ a hypothesis does not equal failure; it is knowledge gained, just like any other experiment and carries inherent value because of that (in experiments represented statistically this is called “failing to reject the null hypothesis”). You might also gain the respect of your colleagues and detractors (if not those who fund your research), if you are willing to publish a result which is contrary to what you originally thought to be the case, as it demonstrates a firm commitment to the scientific method and objectivity.
The Sins of Pseudoscience
Prefix “pseudo” From Ancient Greek, Meaning “false”
Pseudoscience, as the name implies, is false science. Pseudoscience can arise either intentionally or unintentionally, but the end result is something which masquerades as science but which does not adhere to some or all of the protocols of legitimate scientific method. For example: if you wanted to prove that all college students are naturally smarter than people who do not attend college, and use as your proof a comprehensive survey which demonstrates that college students receive 100% more ‘A’ grades than people who do not go to college, this is false science. It is false because the people who do not go to college do not attend classes and therefore have no grades to compare with. It is not an accurate or balanced measure of intelligence in any way, and therefore is dismissible. Pseudoscience is similar to the confirmation bias discussed earlier; indeed confirmation bias can easily lead to pseudoscience. Pseudoscience is an ultimately broader term though, as it can be born of other motives besides an unfaltering belief in something (such as the deliberate promotion of something one knows not to be true in order to earn a profit or fame).
The explanation of what pseudoscience is need not be a long or exhausting one. However, it is a pitfall to which our organization must be especially wary of, and that point must be stressed. So much of the subject matter with which we are interested, such as the ‘paranormal’ is in and of itself considered pseudoscience at best (rubbishy balderdash at worst) by the scientific community (admittedly, much of the blame for that can be attributed to the practices of various charlatans and hoaxers, and of researchers with an obvious confirmation bias). If ever we want our subject matter to be taken seriously, then it is absolutely imperative that we guard at all times against the trap of pseudoscience.
As a closing note, there is one more important point that is especially critical for our organization to keep in mind when investigating subject material often regarded as less than scientific. This cornerstone principle is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The burden of proof rests on the shoulders of the person or party making a claim. If, for example, you are convinced that water is not composed of two hydrogen molecules loosely bonded to one oxygen molecule, and that it is instead made up of ultra-microscopic LEGOs, you had better have a tremendous and airtight body of evidence handy to back up such a claim.
It is important to remember that this rule in and of itself is not an attempt to suppress radical ideas and reject offhand anything that doesn’t fit with contemporary paradigms. Though there are certainly very stubborn individuals within any given community that may exhibit those characteristics, the ‘extraordinary proof’ rule of thumb is a legitimate one. Its purpose is two-fold.
First, it exists because science, as a discipline, is perpetually building off of past research to push the envelope of knowledge and discovery even further. It is heavily dependent on the information that has been determined before by meticulous, peer-reviewed research carried out by disciplined individuals. When a new piece of information is researched and published within a given field it requires a comparatively more moderate level of proof because it fits into a pre-established knowledge set, or information known “a priori” (from Latin, meaning “from what comes before”). A claim that falls far outside of the parameters of research conducted a priori by its nature demands a markedly increased level of evidence. Remember the Principle of Parsimony which we discussed earlier. This is why, for example, the plaster casts of footprints and a bevy of eyewitness claims alone cannot be considered conclusive proof of the existence of Sasquatch. Intriguing, to be sure, merit for further investigation by interested parties, to be certain, but not definitive proof.
Secondly, this requisite of extraordinary proof acts as a filter, or safeguard, against scientific research being inundated by frauds, hoaxers, and those who would assert something outlandish to further their own personal agendas. For an excellent example of the damage this kind of activity can cause to scientific knowledge (and subsequently the need to guard against it), Google the “Piltdown Man” when you get a chance.
In short, do not be offended by the ‘extraordinary proof’ requirement. It is not meant to stymie the efforts of those who study subjects which fall outside of the contemporary paradigms. It is simply a safety mechanism in place to assure that when something radically new is presented to the scientific community that it is thoroughly researched and credible, not the victim of unknown variables.
An Investigation in to the Study of UFO's and the Possibility of Extraterrestrial Origin: By Dion ne Ernst
Unidentified Flying Objects, more commonly known as UFOs, are a fascinating subject for study as they have amassed large amounts of controversy and skepticism over the years. The most controversial aspect of this subject can arguably be expressed as the belief by some that they are extraterrestrial in origin. By definition, a real UFO cannot be identified, and thus the origin of the object must then be considered. If the origin is not extraterrestrial, what other possibilities remain? Should Top-Secret military test aircraft could be considered? Perhaps the millions of people who claim to see UFOs are simply misinterpreting explainable phenomena. If this is the case, then what is to be said for the thousands of cases that remain unexplained even after rigorous evaluation? What cannot be denied throughout the study of UFOs is that people are definitely experiencing something, and a percentage of those experiences continue to be unexplained.
The case for the extraterrestrial origin of UFOs might begin with some numbers which discuss the possibility of life on other planets. In 1961, Dr. Frank Drake came up with the Drake equation. This equation took into account all the aspects of our galaxy, and came up with a number of worlds capable of producing intelligent life capable of technological communication. The number derived from the Drake equation was 10,000 in the Milky Way Galaxy alone, and there are billions more galaxies beyond ours. The percentage of probability that there is intelligent life somewhere else mathematically exceeds 100%. If we can conceive that there are other forms of life out there, can we then conceive the possibility of that life being able to get here?
One of the most valid arguments skeptics hold against the possibility of existing alien aircraft says that it would simply be impossible for extraterrestrial life to get here. Present day technology does not hold any current knowledge of a working craft that would be able to travel the distances required to make the trip; at least not in any reasonable amount of time. Physics does, however, yield theoretical possibilities of long distance space travel.
Alpha Centauri is the closest star to our sun and is a distance of 4.2 light years away. At our current technology and at the speed with which we are able to reach the moon, it would take over 100,000 years to get there. Einstein’s theory of Relativity also gives us a universal speed limit, in which we cannot exceed the speed of light. Even if we could near this speed, it would still take over four years to get near this star. One alternative notion of space travel, however, utilizes the theoretical bending of the fabric of space itself. Rather then the conventional belief that the shortest distance between two points has to be a straight line, this type of theory allows us to bend that line as if folding a string to bring the two endpoints together. The equations of general relativity allow for the theoretical possibility to bend the fabric of space and take a shortcut, otherwise known as a wormhole. Although certainly not conventional, the theory is still a mathematical possibility. There have been many scientists throughout history that have publicly claimed their opinions regarding the impossibility of technologies that we now hold today. Who knows what we might be capable of in 100, 500, or even 1000 years.
Another consideration to be made in the investigation of UFO sightings is the credibility of the source from which they come. UFO investigation in the past has often been greeted with much criticism. Many people claiming to have had experiences which they could not explain have been hesitant to come forward. During investigation, consideration is taken as to the credibility of the witness, weather at the time of the sighting, Air Force or commercial plane activity in the vicinity, and so on. Once identifiable activity is insufficient to explain a sighting, then the event, and/ or the object witnessed, can be categorized as unidentifiable.
The majority of reported UFO sightings began after an event that took place on June 24th of 1947. On this date, an American business man by the name of Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine separate unidentified flying objects while flying in his private plane near Mount Rainier, Washington. He described the objects as having lights of various colors and moving very fast, much faster then any flight that we were capable of at the time. This report received a large amount of public and media attention, and began a trend of many subsequent UFO sightings, including the famous Roswell incident in July of 1947.
The Roswell, New Mexico incident also garnered much hype. The incident began when a rancher named Mac Brazel reportedly found strange material strewn about his property which he could not identify. He brought some of the material home and reported his find to the authorities. Two commanding officers from the Roswell Army Air Field were sent to investigate; Major Jesse Marcel and Captain Sheridan Cavitt. At first, a press release was issued by Army Command at Roswell stating that a “flying disc” had been recovered. (qtd. in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ufo.) Later this statement would be retracted, and the explanation of top-secret weather balloon material would be offered to the public as an explanation for the debris. There was even a picture taken of Major Jesse Marcel holding the supposed weather balloon debris. Most accepted the army’s explanation of a weather balloon at this time, and the hype surrounding the incident largely subsided.
It wasn’t until the late 1970’s that the Roswell incident became an interesting subject to the public once again. Then retired Major Jesse Marcel stated publicly that the weather balloon story was an elaborate government cover-up, and that the material which he is seen with in the above mentioned photograph was not the same as what was recovered from Mac Brazel’s property. He stated that the army had indeed recovered material that was likely from a flying disc and extraterrestrial in origin. Although often debunked by reports released by the government, the story still holds the attention of many. There have been hundreds of first and second hand witnesses that have testified to seeing things that support Mr. Marcel’s retracted account of events and an elaborate cover-up orchestrated by the United States government.
Some have hypothesized as to why so many UFO sightings seem to have sprung up at this time, seemingly beginning with the report of Kenneth Arnold. UFO investigators may have two possible answers to this question. First of all, one could argue that the evidence for UFOs stems back much further then 1947. There have been reports of strange sightings in newspapers as far back as at least the 19th century, long before Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers had their first flight in 1903. Some of the reports from this time have witnesses describing objects in the sky as “disc shaped” or “torpedo shaped” and “flying at wonderful speed”, long before the terms flying saucer or UFO had ever been coined. (qtd. in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ufo)
An argument can also be made that people have been seeing strange things in the sky long before even these reports occurred. Older reports are much more difficult to assess then new ones, since there is no way to prove or disprove their accuracy. Some reports have been interpreted as being natural phenomena of which we are now aware, such as comets, meteors, or atmospheric phenomena. Others, however, are not so easily explained away. One example may be the April 14th, 1561 incident in which there were reportedly many objects that filled the sky of Nuremburg, Germany that do not fit conventional descriptions of any known astronomical or atmospheric anomalies. There have even been some ancient cave paintings that have been interpreted by some as showing people observing what resembles discs in the sky above.
The second argument that may be made to explain the timing of the multitude of UFO sightings might have to do with what humans were experimenting with at the time. By 1945 the United States had developed operational nuclear weapons, which they then used to attack the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima during World War II in 1945. It was a revolutionary and frightening move in the direction of advanced warfare. If indeed an extraterrestrial society with intelligence surpassing ours were aware of our existence, it might then be reasonable to assume that the interest in our species would have heightened during this time.
Not all reported UFOs remain unidentified. In fact, 95% of all reported UFO sightings can be explained by known phenomena. The large majority of these are often uncovered as being hoaxes, misidentified aircraft, or naturally occurring phenomena. Despite these possible explanations, a large number of Americans believe that UFOs exist. According to one poll taken by Industrial Research and Development Magazine in 1979, only 8% of the 100,000 polled said that UFOs definitely did not exist. 27% said they definitely did, 34% said probably, 12% were undecided and 20% said probably not. Of those that considered the possibility of UFOs, 44% believed that their origin was outer space. (Friedman, 209)
Although polls can be notoriously inaccurate, it does bring into question the trust of the government by the general public. Of most known cases of UFO sightings, government cover-up is often alleged. What conclusions can be made when the government makes allegations to debunk the witness’ claims? If the people having sightings are deemed reliable after investigations, then it is up to us whether or not they are to be believed. If the decision is made that the witness is believable, then it must be concluded that the government’s explanation is not. Indeed, it has become notorious in UFO lore that the government explanation of notorious incidents does not often match the descriptions given by eye-witnesses.
One such incident, which holds much validity in the category of reliable sources and physical evidence, occurred in December of 1980 in the Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk, England. The incident occurred in the vicinity of two military bases; Royal Air Force Woodbridge and Royal Air Force Bentwaters. Both were being operated by the United States Air Force at the time. The first sighting occurred in the early hours of the morning on December 26th by two USAF patrolmen. They reportedly described flashing lights that appeared through the trees. They were joined by others from the base, including a technical sergeant specializing in aircraft accidents. Upon their return, they reported an extremely close encounter with a UFO and statements were taken.
The next night, strange lights were again seen. Another group of military officials were enlisted to investigate. Included in the group was then Deputy Base Commander Colonel Lieutenant Halt who brought with him a Dictaphone to record their findings. In the area where the UFO had been seen the previous night, the group observed high levels of radiation by a Geiger counter. The men also observed damage to trees and strange indentations on the ground where the UFO was supposed to have landed. Samples of some of the damaged organic material were taken, as well as photographs and measurements of the indentations found at the sight. The group then began to witness anomalous lights, changing colors and weaving through the trees and behaving in a way they were unable to explain. The lights reportedly seemed to be under some kind of intelligent control, and at one point moved high into the sky and shot beams of light back down into the forest and at the base.
After the incident had occurred, Deputy Commander Halt made a report of what they had witnessed. It was then decided by higher ranking government officials, as stated by Colonel Halt, that no public statement regarding the sightings would be made. Later, it was reported by some of the witnesses that they were forced to sign a paper stating that the lights that were observed that night were nothing more than a lighthouse beacon off in the distance. This was the official explanation offered by the government for this particular incident. In rebuttal to this explanation, Admiral Lord Hill Norton, former Chief of Defense Staff for the UK, stated “One explanation is that it actually happened as Colonel Halt purported; the other explanation is that it didn’t, and in that case one is bound to assume that Colonel Halt and all his men were hallucinating”. (Out of the Blue, documentary interview)
The government has since made the statement that the incident at Rendlesham is of no defense interest. This also reaffirms that the report made by Colonel Halt and the audio recording of the incident were all the result of nothing more than a mistaken sighting of the lighthouse beacon, according to the government. To this, Admiral Lord Hill Norton again refutes, by saying “That the Colonel of an Air Force base in Suffolk and his merry men are hallucinating, when there are nuclear armed aircraft on base, must be of defense interest. If indeed what he says took place did, and why on earth should he make it up, then surely the entry of a vehicle from outer space, certainly not man-made, to a defense base in this country, also cannot fail to be of defense interest.” (Out of the Blue, documentary interview)
One other case in which the official government explanation does not seem to match witness descriptions is the mysterious Phoenix lights incident of 1997. A number of pictures and videos were taken of mysterious lights above the city. Many witnesses described distinctly seeing a very large triangular craft, with lights on the bottom traveling slowly overhead. Some reported that they were very close to the craft and described it in great detail. By some accounts, the craft was reportedly almost a mile wide. The official explanation given in this case was that the lights reported to be a UFO were actually military test flares. Governor Symington promised the people a full investigation into the matter. When a press conference was called to address the issue, the governor introduced the “guilty party” and brought in a man dressed in a comical alien suit. (Out of the Blue, 6/19/97 press conference) Many of the people of Arizona reported feeling like this only meant that their concerns had never been taken seriously, and that they never would be.
In the myriad of UFO sightings, each case is looked at individually from an investigator’s point of view. Each individual witness’ story is scrutinized, and compared with subsequent statements to search for inconsistencies or validating points. Of the millions of Americans that claim to have seen UFOs, most express frustration at the government’s refusal to take their claims seriously. Most also speak of witnessing amazing technology of which we humans are not yet capable. Is this not a subject of which the government should be concerned? Is it also possible, given the many eye-witness accounts, that the government does in fact have knowledge of extraterrestrial visitation and has kept it classified all these years?
The repercussions on our society of a discovery of this magnitude should not be taken lightly. To prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that intelligent alien life forms exist would perhaps be the most important discovery in all of human history. It is for this reason that investigation into UFO phenomena should continue, and with vigor. To completely deny the possibility of the existence of UFOs is to deny the claims of millions and millions of people, and implies mistrust of what our race has become. If just one of these reports were factual, the implications would be astounding. It is so important, especially in our present state, to seek that trust in our fellow human. It may just be the key to opening doors that could yield a possibility beyond all imagination.
Friedman, Stanton T. Flying Saucers and Science: A Scientist Investigates the Mysteries of UFOs. New Jersey: Career Press, 2008
“Unidentified Flying Objects.” Wikipedia.org 2008 Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ufo
“Out of the Blue” UFO Investigation Documentary, Narrated by Peter Coyote. SciFi Channel. June, 2008
Matthews, Rupert Alien Encounters New Jersey, Chartwell Books Inc. 2008
Friedman, Stanton T. Flying Saucers and Science: A Scientist Investigates the Mysteries of UFOs. New Jersey: Career Press, 2008
http://www.merriam-webster.com/ Online Dictionary
“Out of the Blue” – Documentary on UFO Investigation SciFi channel June, 2008
The Crypto Science Society journal began as a means to document the semester proceeding when the organization was founded as a student group from Metropolitan State University of Denver. The journal is a compendium of research and writing submitted and conducted by society members.
Studies may incomputerate methodological approaches from varies disciplines reflecting the diverse educational backgrounds of the society member, such as; Aviation and Aerospace, Engineering, Education and Literature, Anthropology and Folklore, Art, integrated healing practices, Curanderismo Environmental Science, Ecological Restoration, Psychology, and the occult.