Posted by: Craig Woolheater on May 22nd, 2007
In the post here on Cryptomundo regarding Ben Radford’s review of Jeff Meldrum’s book, Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, Ben mentions his having just returned from Pocatello, and the fact that he met with Meldrum.
Here are some additional details of that meeting published last week in the Idaho State Journal.
Is bigfoot “bad” science?
POCATELLO – The editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, Benjamin Radford, worries valuable research dollars are being wasted on topics such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, UFOs and little green men.
Radford is convinced such researchers damage the name of science by studying fiction and calling it fact.
But Jeff Meldrum, a leading expert on Bigfoot and an associate professor of anthropology and anatomy at Idaho State University, takes exception to Radford’s label for his work – “bad science.”
The skeptic and the believer traded arguments Thursday night at the Pond Student Union ballroom after Radford concluded a speech delving into the harm that can be done when impostors are treated as the equals of scientists by the public.
About 50 people attended the speech, organized by ISU biology staff members and others.
Radford said he’s seen far too many people dedicate their lives to unworthy causes, only to retire after unfulfilled careers.
“It’s not what’s possible, it’s what’s probable,” Radford said during his 45-minute talk. “These things deal with empirical questions. Either it is or it is not. Either Bigfoot exists, or he does not exist.”
Radford noted many people believe in ghosts, aliens and other natural phenomena because they often misunderstand what science is. They consider personal anecdotes to be evidence which supports their claims supporting the existence of monsters and UFOs.
However, these stories cannot be taken seriously because people don’t take scientific considerations into account, such as control groups, validity, or the scientific method, Radford argued.
But Meldrum sees no reason why anecdotes should be so easily dismissed. Many Sasquatch sightings and stories have been reported by knowledgeable and experienced experts, such as forest rangers, veterinarians and wildlife biologists.
Regardless of the reported sightings, Radford claims that the evidence for Bigfoot is no better now than it was five, ten, or even 50 years ago.
Sasquatch enthusiasts argue that better evidence would exist if there were more money and more opportunity for research, Radford said.
“Research should follow good evidence and not the other way around,” Radford said.
Last year, Radford came to the Bigfoot conference at Idaho State University hoping to see new evidence, but instead found that a film from 1967 was still being analyzed as one of the most supporting pieces of evidence.
Another supposedly new piece of evidence was that of a body print found in the woods believed to have been left by a Bigfoot. Radford believes that the print could just as easily have been left by a kneeling elk.
Responding during the question-and-answer session of the speech, Meldrum asked Radford what constituted evidence to him. Radford answered that evidence should be tangible and testable. There have been no Bigfoot bones found or anything more concrete than an ambiguous print in mud, the skeptic said.
Even the 1967 film offers evidence to Meldrum. Every time the film is studied, Meldrum said something new comes up.
Furthermore, he said he and other scientists have compared the Bigfoot print – he notes it was actually found in clay – with a print from a kneeling elk.
They didn’t match.
When the elk print was made, Meldrum said Radford asked to see it but was denied access due to his lack of expertise.
Meldrum notes his research on Bigfoot is just one facet of his larger research at ISU. His main emphases are human locomotion and bipedalism.
If Bigfoot does exist, Meldrum said it would help humans to learn more about themselves, as well as the North American ape.
And if it doesn’t exist?
Meldrum still feels that his studies will have had a purpose – helping to prove that Bigfoot doesn’t exist is worthwhile, in his estimation, too.
Whether Bigfoot is real or not, and whether it is “bad” science or “good” science, the legendary creature is still leaving footprints on today’s scientific world. – Idaho State Journal
May 18, 2007