Posted by: Craig Woolheater on May 24th, 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 third part of the review, Matt Crowley’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.
David J. Daegling is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida. He is the author of Bigfoot Exposed (2004, AltaMira Press).
Not only that, but Meldrum and Daegling were college roommates! Oh, the irony…
The Fossil Record
In Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, Jeff Meldrum suggests that Bigfoot arrived in the New World via the Bering land bridge. His hypothesis that Bigfoot represents the descendants of the Asian Gigantopithecus has the veneer of plausibility, until one remembers that there is material evidence of a parallel migration by humans all over the North American continent, where we have not a single Gigantopithecus fossil.
Meldrum is committed to the idea that the absence of Bigfoot fossils is not only problematic, but actually unsurprising, given the geographic circumstances of the giant’s migration route and habitat. The reason we have no bones, he explains, is that many if not most Bigfoot fossils are now buried at sea due to recent rises is sea level, and those bones remaining on dry land have been destroyed by the acidic soils of the Pacific Northwest (p. 103). These speculations might be persuasive except for the small detail that we have plenty of fossils preserved in sediments of the Pacific Northwest that postdate Bigfoot’s arrival.
The 1967 film of Bigfoot is defended by several assertions that are impossible to evaluate based on material in the book itself. Most incredible is the application of “reverse kinematics” to the film in which the three-dimensional movements of the film subject’s skeleton are reconstructed from the film’s two-dimensional images. How this is even theoretically – let alone methodologically – possible is never explained, but the reconstruction Meldrum champions is more clearly the result of imagination than credible forensic analysis. Meldrum recycles the argument that the film subject is too large to be a human in a costume, alternatively asserting and denying that it is possible to extract accurate absolute dimensions from the film. This might explain why he insists there is a reliable way to estimate subject height from the film, yet never manages to settle on a specific figure for stature. Some of the arguments become fantastically convoluted: to demonstrate that the filmed Bigfoot has a bulkier thorax than any living human (p. 163-164), Meldrum argues – based on concern over the instruments used to take measurements – that one must compare width of the back of the film subjectwith standardized measures of human chest width from the front at a different location. Doing this, Bigfoot indeed appears superhuman, an unsurprising result since thorax dimensions at these two locations differ with individuals! (See Anthropometry and Mass Distribution for Human Analogues, 1988, currently archived here.)
Other claims, such as the exposure of muscular herniations or the dynamics of the Achilles tendon, are made without serious consideration of alternative interpretations involving film artifacts or expected costume effects. Meldrum claims that one sequence in the film shows midfoot flexibility in the film subject – considered a hallmark Bigfoot trait. The image recruited to support this claim is too blurred and critical parts of the foot are actually obscured, but what would it mean if one could see this trait? A foot placed in an oversized, flexible furry shoe might show exactly the same thing. Pareidolia – the viewing of a vague stimulus yet seeing something distinct within it – is as likely an explanation for these intricate anatomical observations.
Meldrum’s most original contribution to Bigfoot research is his claim that footprints (and the 1967 film) provide evidence that Bigfoot possesses a flexible tranverse tarsal joint, a condition strikingly distinct from the fixed arch pattern of modern human feet. The evidence for this is that some Bigfoot tracks display pressure ridges along the middle of footprints that betray this joint’s position. If this trait is to be considered diagnostic, it follows that (1) other nonhuman primates having this feature can produce similar tracks; and (2) neither human feet nor phony Bigfoot feet have this ability. Meldrum explores neither premise. In fact, some human prints mimic this condition (a trip to a crowded beach confirms this), and bogus Sasquatch feet can produce this effect as well.
In sum, Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science desperately needed a logician and a psychologist. Among Meldrum’s parade of PhD experts we find few with any real expertise in the issues at hand, nor even a scientific approach. Meldrum is an anatomy expert, but his analysis of a forty-year-old Bigfoot film, as detailed and superficially impressive as it is, has little to do with real anatomy.
As the examples show, there is precious little science in the search for Bigfoot, and even less in Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. The top scientist searching for Bigfoot is unable or unwilling to distinguish good research from bad, science from pseudoscience. If Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science is in fact the best, most credible, and most scientific book to date on Bigfoot, the evidence is weaker than we imagined. The book’s copious photos, diagrams, and charts will likely impress lay readers with little understanding of the issues or the scientific methods, but those looking for a thorough, scientific analysis will be disappointed.-David J. Daegling
You can read Benjamin Radford’s review of the book, the first part of the review here at Cryptomundo at Radford Reviews Meldrum.
You can read Michaels Dennett’s review of the book, the second part of the review here at Cryptomundo at Michael Dennett Reviews Meldrum.
You can read Matt Crowley’s review of the book, the third part of the review here at Cryptomundo at Matt Crowley Reviews Meldrum.