Posted by: Craig Woolheater on September 5th, 2013
Contrast this one review (and I would discard an even more outrageous review by Bill Munns who calls for a ridiculous ban on the book) with the series of reviews in more science-based forums.shill
This book entitled “Abominable Science” achieves a level of scientific and journalistic hypocrisy that warrants the publisher recalling the book. The reason is that one of the co-authors, Daniel Loxton, has written a fairly substantial portion of this book practicing the very “abominable science” the book proportedly sets out to expose. In other words, he has demonstrated a journalistic or scientific hypocrisy that is either grossly negligent, grossly incompetent, or so blatantly biased that he humiliates the scientific process and journalistic professionalism alike.
In Chapter One, Co-Author Donald Prothero describes very admirably and meticulously what is good science and what is not. Sadly, in Chapter Two, Co-Author Loxton proceeds to evaluate the famous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin “Bigfoot” film from page 44-50 and Mr. Loxton does nearly everything that his co-author has just explained to us that we cannot rely upon. Co-Author Loxton is discussing a topic in which there is a wealth of fine empirical data and a equally voluminous heap of poor anecdotal evidence and the author totally dismisses the fine empirical data with absolutely no justifiable explanation, and wallows in the poor anecdotal evidence instead as if it were splendidly scientific. The author also looks to material nine or more years outdated, and demonstrates virtually no awareness of new research, data, developments, or shifts of the landscape of the controversy more recently than 9 years ago, when there has been tremendous new material and analysis work worthy of his evaluation. This is intolerable and unconscionable in a work proportedly to be educating the public about good science.
While my criticism focuses on Mr. Loxton’s segment of the book focused on the famous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin Film, we must wonder if that travesty of hypocritical fodder is an isolated moment of scientific dementia or is it the tip of a much larger iceberg of unscientific and heavily biased writing throughout his half of the book’s authorship. When a write “cooks” a story with disregard for facts and academic responsibility or journalistic fairness and accuracy, that incident generally casts a profound suspicion over the entire body of the writer’s work. Thus, while I focus this concern on one section, the concern may put a serious cloud over the book in general.
As Co-Author Prothero states in his fine Chapter One, page 4-5, “Science is about testing hypotheses, or offering ideas that may explain some facet of nature and seeing if they hold up to critical scrutiny. As philosopher Karl Popper pointed out, science is not about proving things true, but proving them false.”
Hand in hand with this concept is the criteria for quality of evidence, which science relies upon. Empirical evidence (that which is quantifiable, testable and can be validated with objective verification) is superior to circumstantial, testimonial, and anecdotal evidence. Co-Author Prothero remarks on page 13 that ” The endorsement of your next-door neighbor may be good enough to make simple decisions, but anecdotal evidence counts for very little in science.” Empirical evidence is superior, and in the matter of the Patterson-Gimlin Film, the film image data and related film footage data are true empirical evidence.
And then, in Chapter Two, what does Co-Author Loxton do? He dismisses the empirical evidence (the film image data) out of hand with no apparent qualification to make such a judgment, and then wallows in anecdotal evidence for the remainder of the text. Loxton boldly states on page 44 that “no one knows whether the film depicts a real sasquatch or a man in a gorilla suit.” He than states on page 47 “In the absence of a type specimen or smoking gun evidence of a hoax, the film is, ultimately, unable to speak for itself.” Thus he has stated that the empirical evidence (the actual film) cannot speak for itself, when all classical evidence criteria values empirical evidence precisely because it can speak for itself and is not vulnerable to a person’s interpretive description or distortion. Clearly. Mr. Loxton does not understand evidence, and that does not bode well for a person trying to write scientifically.
A scholarly dismissal of the film as “unable to speak for itself” would require one of two criteria, and Mr. Loxton demonstrates neither. One would be that if Mr. Loxton himself held verifiable and demonstrated expertise in the subject, and outlined a paragraph or two on why his dismissal of the film image data was reasonable and correct. He does not. The alternative would be for Mr. Loxton to do proper research and find out who today has verifiable expertise in analyzing the film image data, and then quote and reference that authority’s appraisal of the film image data and why it cannot speak for itself. He does not.
The film image data has remarkable integrity and value. So on what basis did author Loxton reject this excellent evidence? He does not disclose any criteria, any authority, any expertise or any methodology for such a rejection. The sad reality is that he probably rejected it because he does not understand it, and he wants to win the argument of convincing the readers his personal opinion is correct, that the film is a hoax. If so, this is unconscionable for a book intended to educate the reader in good science.
Author Loxton frequently cites Greg Long’s book “Making of Bigfoot” as if this publication were of sterling integrity and unimpeachable truth, when the book is merely several hundred pages of 25 year old recollections. Loxton should have read his co-author Prothero’s remarks on page 14 citing the following passage: “As psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has shown, eyewitness account of events and their memory of them are notoriously unreliable.” And Greg Long’s book, which Loxton so admires and relies upon, is composed entirely of such notoriously unreliable 25 year old recollections. Now that we know author Loxton embraces “notoriously unreliable” evidence with enthusiasm, and rejects empirical evidence with casual indifference, his integrity as a science writer is highly suspect.
Sadly, Mr. Loxton’s co-author, Donald Prothero also has a blind side when it comes to the value of image data analysis. Mr. Prothero opens Chapter One with a discussion of the “Georgia Bigfoot Body” hoax, but the author fails to acknowledge that within 24 hours of the release of the first photo of this “body in a freezer”, various analysts had searched the internet, found the commercial costume mask which was purchased to make the frozen body head, and exposed the hoax long before the press conference Mr. Prothero describes. Another claim of a photographed bigfoot, called the Tongami Video, was similarly proven to be a hoax by image data analysis and an internet search to find the commercial costume mask used for that hoaxed video. Finally, image data analysis was used most recently to expose the rumored “incredible video footage of a young female bigfoot named Matilda” as being a modified Chewbacca mask and fur costume, and it was image data analysis which was responsible for the proof of hoax.
Apparently neither of the authors appreciates the value of image data analysis in exposing bigfoot hoaxes and they hesitate to apply the same technology process to the Patterson Gimlin film image data and hopefully expose it for the hoax they try to imply it must be. They would rather wallow in character assassination and pass it off as good science.
If the film truly were a hoax perpetrated in 1967, we must consider that no hoaxer can anticipate analysis technology 45 years into the future, and design a hoax to withstand the inspection of the new technology. Thus, if the film is a hoax, new technology should be able to prove it so with absolute certainty. And in that regard, the film image data is the key to the solution of this controversy. Yet Mr. Loxton dismisses it as useless, with no consideration of it’s potential to prove a hoax, if indeed a hoax were actually perpetrated at that filmed event. Time (and new analysis technology) always favor empirical evidence and improve the capacity to evaluate it, and time degrades testimonial or anecdotal evidence. Looking at the PGF 45 years after it was filmed, Mr. Loxton discards what time improves and embraces what time degrades.
Mr. Loxton does not understand this data and what it can or cannot prove. He has apparently not made any due diligence effort to seek out contemporary authorities who do understand this evidence, but his most unconscionable decision is to deceive the readers and misrepresents the idea to suggest no one else may find scientific merit to the PGF image data, simply because he doesn’t. His portion of this book on the Patterson-Gimlin Film is a travesty in terms of responsible science, critical thinking, academic merit, and journalistic integrity.
The only reason to buy this book is so if the publishers value their own integrity and recall the book, the few copies sold already will be collectable as novelties.Bill Munns