Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pseudo-Skeptic Sharon Hill Gets no Respect for Behaving Worse Than Badly

Editor of the Bigfoot Times, Daniel Perez, comments throughout a recent Bigfoot debunking article by Sharon Hill in red text. I've reproduced the article below. In the article itself, an book review by Bill Munns is mentioned and linked to. Please do read that Amazon review after reading Sharon Hill's article with Daniel Perez's added red comments sparsely throughout. But before you do all that, I implore any doubters to visit this linked page here on Undebunking Bigfoot and watch at least the first video from National Geographic detailing Munns' unprecedented restoration and analysis of the the famous Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film of 1967. 

Because try as Munns does to impress upon the reader how powerful the new film analysis is, no words alone can adequately achieve the same results as the visual medium when dealing with visual evidence. At the end of the Sharon Hill article, Daniel Perez reveals that he told her via email that "she is no researcher, just a writer," and he adds a "psuedo-scientist" as well. Amen to that. 

Munns' film analysis is coupled with his experimental work trying to build a Bigfoot costume to match the 1967 film and co-authorship of  a peer-reviewed paper showing it couldn't have been a costume. Munns studied film and worked for 35 years making monsters for films, museums, and wildlife exhibits, thus is highly-qualified for the study he has done.  

Unless you're a pseudo-skeptic, his conclusions cannot be glossed over or dismissed out of hand.  Hill did exactly this when she chose to focus on the first line of his review that stated, "This book entitled 'Abominable Science' achieves a level of scientific and journalistic hypocrisy that warrants the publisher recalling the book." 

She chose to paint this statement as if it were some type of literal demand to the publishers to have the book recalled, as opposed to a literary device. In her focus on his hyperbole, she avoided acknowledging the other 1,450 words in his review focused on the importance of the empirical evidence over anecdotal based objections. Again, look at his work linked to above and you decide what was more important in his review, his opening line, or the message to get empirical before claiming to be skeptical.

Cursing at someone for telling you that you are not living up to your skeptic/researcher title, when that is in fact the case, is behaving worse than badly.

Cryptozoloogy Gets Respect While Bigfooters Behave Badly

By Sharon Hill, researcher, scientific consultant, Editor of
Posted on September 10, 2013, 5:26 p.m.

 The book, Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie and other Famous Cryptids by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero is very different than other monster books. You can get an idea about the quality of the volume from the reviews by Nature, theWall Street JournalThe Times of London, Discover magazine, etc. here. They liked the book. It's beautifully produced, level-headed, readable, and chock-full of fine scholarship with references to original sources.

[Editor of the Bigfoot Times, Daniel Perez, comments. The people at Nature, the Wall Street Journal, The Times of London and Discover, in general, know very little about the topic and are star struck that the book is published by Columbia University Press. There is no question the book is beautifully produced and loaded with good pictures and illustrations but when writer Sharon Hill states, "chock-full of scholarship," she plainly does not know what she is talking about. The two most devastating and critical reviews were posted to by myself and by a person from the U.K.,  R. Watson. As I am no Nessie researcher, Watson opened my eyes to how bad this book is through and through. In brief he writes, ..."the authors began to dig a hole for themselves in terms of accurarcy." Later, "A major omission..." "...the authors seem to be selective in what they say..." and more, "Again, it is what is not said rather than said this is significant here." And some more: "But the book seems intent on whitewashing every witness with the same brush." You would be better off reading Watson's entire review of the book to get the real flavor, but at least what I have quoted here gets the point across].
Who didn't like the book? Bigfooters.
Why didn't they like it? Because it effectively poked holes in their beloved idea of Bigfoot reality. It clearly made the case that the current practice of popular cryptozoology is a cheap imitation of science. This book is a challenge to their structure. One reviewer [BILL MUNNS] even demanded to the publisher that the book be withdrawnAnother [DANIEL PEREZ] panned the book based on a few chapters and a few possible errors without clear indication he read the rest. Comments berating him for that were met with the response from the peanut gallery: "Why should I read this book? I know what the nonbeliever skeptics say." [Here is what I posted in reply to Sharon Hill in "I have no qualified opinion outside of the subjects I discussed but if what I reviewed represents the tone of this volume, I need not go any further in discussion. My best, Daniel Perez"]
Talk about closed-mindedness! (I have talked about that before, this was a blatant example.) They respond with condescension and name calling as well (referring to skeptics as "scoftics") instead of pointing out the disagreements and providing counter references in defense.  Maybe it's because they don't have a defense. It's been over 50 years. We still have no proof of Bigfoot in the bag. That's got to be embarrassing. But, wow, did they throw a hissy fit about it. This book hit a nerve and Loxton and Prothero should be proud.
Bigfootery these days is extremely unscientific, resembling a religion in more ways than one. There are the priests and the saints (the TV Squatchers, the authors, and few scientists and advocates who promote the cause), there are relics (footprints, hair samples, etc), there is cryptozoological canon (the Patterson-Gimlin film, certain books by experts now deceased) but most of all there are followers with faith. Bigfooters have experiences that they attribute by default to their monster of choice - they hear tree knocking and vocalizations, they have stones thrown at them, they find tree structures and broken limbs that they interpret as a form of communication. Some say there are habituation sites where Bigfoots repeatedly visit and accept food from human neighbors.
If that sounds like convincing evidence to you, pause a moment.
Those are all stories and interpretation of observations based on wishful thinking. We have never found solid evidence of a Bigfoot. Tracks, traces, anecdotes... shouldn't there be MORE than that? Individuals have different ideas about what evidence is convincing to them. My bar is set much higher in response to this particular claim due to its implausible nature. This is why scientist are not too interested in cryptid-hunting. The evidence is weak and explainable through other means. It's extreme to think that if there was a new ape out there to find in North America that, first, we would not already have found it decades ago, and, second, that scientists would not be falling over themselves trying to study it.
When critical thinkers approach the subject of Bigfoot (or cryptozoology in general) with a focus on the evidence, they are met with reproach. We are challenging much more than the claim; we challenge their belief. They will resort to what Biblical literalists will do to evolutionists - they demonize, call us names, misquote [This is exactly what Sharon Hill did, misquote me. -Daniel Perez], pick at small mistakes, and take words and ideas out of context. They create an extreme position and shoot it down (called a "straw man" argument) because it's a power play to make them feel superior. (Note that some aggressive "skeptics" will do that and it's not fair play in that case either.) All the while, they skirt the MAJOR flaws in their own conclusions.
Bigfoot-themed and other cryptozoology blogs and forums are typically hostile to skeptics, even moderate ones like myself. They can't understand why we even want to participate since we are going to "deny" everything. Gee, sorry for being interested in the topic and in getting a good answer for peoples' experiences. Questioning is not denying, it's thinking.
One popular Bigfoot blog posts every crazy claim or video under the heading "Bigfoot Evidence". They get hits regardless that the content can be outwardly sexist and rude and crude comments are allowed. Those that contribute to this site are considered Bigfoot "experts" even though their qualifications are shallow and questionable. Their information comes from one side only and they won't acknowledge skeptical input unless they have an opportunity to mock it. (The exact same methods are used on other paranormal sites that refuse to acknowledge critical pieces about their pet topics. Hmm... cowardly? Yes. And, I would add, intellectually dishonest.) It's seen to be more profitable, socially and economically, to be a Bigfoot believer than a scientific skeptic. While I'd like that to change, I don't think it will.
We have every reason to question the Bigfoot evidence out there. It's not good, it's flimsy. Oh, sure, a hundred people will chime in and disagree. I expect that. Just like Loxton and Prothero expected huge pushback from the Bigfoot community. Predictably, that's what they got. These outraged commentators provide nothing new or convincing. Just like the tired old arguments in favor of Creationism, Bigfooters have their go-to tales and favorite examples. Why have these theories not been supported by stronger evidence over time? The field has not advanced, except in public popularity. Bigfoot is an icon, a commodity. But it's still not a valid animal.
Are you on the fence about Bigfoot, just curious about the topic? Want a great example of solid research written in an entertaining fashion? Pick up a copy of Abominable Science and weigh that against what you see on TV and on the pro-Bigfoot internet sites. Note the tone, language and quality of arguments of each circle. Observe the difference between examining the evidence of the subject and having faith in it. There is a HUGE and obvious gap.
[When I wrote Sharon Hill after reading this piece via the e-mail for her Doubtful News, and told her point blank, she is no researcher, just a writer, she responded with: "Don't contact me again. Unless you have a Goddamn Bigfoot." If anyone is a practicing psuedo-scientist, it is her. That she misquoted me so badly might speak volumes about her other writings.]