Posted by: Craig Woolheater on May 21st, 2007
In the May-June 2007 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, a cadre of skeptics review Jeff Meldrum’s book, Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science.
The list includes Ben Radford, Michael R. Dennett, Matt Crowley, and David J. Daegling.
Ben Radford shared the review with me to share with the readers of Cryptomundo.
As there were four separate reviews, I will share them individually over the next few days here at Cryptomundo.
This is the second part of the review, Michael Dennett’s review of the book.
The Nonsense and Non-Science of Sasquatch
Benjamin Radford, Michael R. Dennett, Matt Crowley, and David J. Daegling
Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. By Jeff Meldrum.
Forge Books, New York, 2006. ISBN 0-765-31216-6.
Psst, you can purchase the book at Amazon.com for only $18.45. Click on the book cover to be whisked away to Amazon.com to purchase the book.
(SI) Editor’s note: This review is comprised of analyses by four noted researchers of Bigfoot claims, each of whom was asked to briefly critique the book on their areas of expertise.
Michael Dennett, a longtime observer of the Bigfoot phenomena, has investigated and written about the Bermuda Triangle, UFOs, lake monsters, and so-called psychic sleuths.
Jeff Meldrum accepts “evidence” produced by Paul Freeman, an admitted hoaxer of Bigfoot footprints, as a basis for proof of Bigfoot. Recounting the fact that some of Freeman’s Sasquatch “hair” samples turned out to be manmade fibers, he says
On the surface, this appears to be a clear-cut case of hoaxing. However, others, including a retired game warden, have also discovered suspicious hair that likewise turned out to be similar synthetic fibers. It has been suggested that these resilient fibers have something of a pervasive environmental contaminant, although the extent of this has not been determined. It should be noted that Freeman has collected several samples of true hair that number among Fahrenbach’s collection of possible Sasquatch hair, including samples from which degraded DNA was extracted by researchers at Ohio State University. It seems unjustified to throw out all the evidence as a result of a case of misidentification.” (p. 267)
This is not the only mention of Freeman evidence in the book. On Meldrum’s first unannounced meeting with Freeman, he says he tried to “size up the person, his reliability and motivations.” Then (even to Meldrum’s surprise) Freeman said, “Would you like to see some fresh tracks? I just found the first tracks of the spring earlier this morning.” Meldrum went for the bait and was shown a series of many tracks that he determined could not be faked (p. 23-24). By the date of this incident (ca. 1996), Freeman had been associated with many items of hoaxed or suspect Bigfoot evidence extending over a decade, and in fact many Bigfoot researchers independently regarded Freeman as a hoaxer based on nearly identical encounters.
As a “credentialed scientist” Meldrum implies that he cannot be fooled. So when Paul Freeman produced an eight-inch-wide Sasquatch handprint showing a creature with a “non-opposable thumb” (p. 110) he did not see this as evidence of a hoax. Instead, Meldrum states that the human opposable thumbs permit a “precision grip” that appears to have been refined “relatively late in human evolution.” a fact that is correlated with the progressive sophistication of tool manufacture,” and therefore Sasquatch branched from the primate line before this adaptation.
Michael Dennett was struck by the similarity between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his commitment to spiritualism and Meldrum’s handling of Bigfoot “evidence.” Even when mediums were caught faking spirit manifestations, Doyle would not acknowledge this and persisted in his belief despite clear and contrary evidence.
Just as Doyle found evidence for ghosts, Meldrum finds evidence of Sasquatch almost everywhere. On a Bigfoot expedition in 1997, he recounts, “As I slung my pack off, a softball-sized rock sailed onto the trail a mere few feet away. There was no high point nearby from which a rock might have been dislodged by a rainstorm. Nor did it simply roll onto the trail from uphill. It had been airborne; it had been lobbed. For the first time on this excursion the hair on my neck stood on end; there was that subjective, but inescapable sense of being watched” (p. 31). For Doyle, this tale would have been proof of spirit manifestations. A more contemporary view would have identified the rock toss as a classic poltergeist event, not evidence for Sasquatch.
Meldrum’s book raises the art of omission and cherry-picking data selection to great heights. One example is his reference to dermal ridges and valleys (fingerprints) found on a footprint cast. Fingerprint examiner Edward Palma is quoted as saying dermals couldn’t be faked, and furthermore, “Palma was able to trace the ridge pattern over the entire breadth of the forefoot” (p. 252). Meldrum does not tell the reader the cast is yet another Paul Freeman “find,” nor does he mention that even some Bigfoot proponents believe it fake. Significantly, he fails to tell his readers that, according to the late Grover Krantz in his 1992 book Big Footprints, Ed Palma examined a Bigfoot cast from Bloomington, Indiana, and he “pronounced the several patches of ridge detail as consistent with a real primate foot,” (Krantz p. 84). Furthermore, the Bloomington print was “examined by the tracker Bob Titmus, and fingerprinter Ed Palma, the two best experts available, and they both thought it looked genuine” (Krantz p. 200). The Bloomington track was later revealed as a fake intended to demonstrate how Krantz and his “experts” could be fooled.
But perhaps the most deliberate example of omission is the findings of another Bigfoot proponent, fingerprint expert Jimmy Chilcutt. Chilcutt had also examined this freeman cast and dismissed it as evidence for Sasquatch commenting the “casting had been enhanced manually with a human fingerprint.” Some might excuse this omission if Meldrum disagreed with Chilcutt, but less than two pages later he presents Chilcutt as an expert on Sasquatch dermal ridges! – Michael R. Dennett
You can read Benjamin Radford’s review of the book, the first part of the review here at Cryptomundo at Radford Reviews Meldrum.