Posted by: Craig Woolheater on November 18th, 2006
It has come to my attention that Stanford University is offering a course concerning cryptozoology.
The course is entitled Dinosaurs, Sea Serpents and Abominable Snowmen: Unknown Animals in Modern History
The course is within the Program in History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.
The following is taken from Stanford’s website introducing the course.
Why do we accept today that fossils are the remains of massive prehistoric animals, when the idea of extinction – much less dinosaurs – wasn’t on the radar just two centuries ago? Why did Thomas Jefferson think the Lewis and Clark expedition would find mastodons roaming the Wild West? Why does the Loch Ness Monster have a scientific name (that’s Nessiteras rhombopteryx to you!) and does this make it any more real? Can it be possible that who you are determines whether you can see a yeti? What can these animals tell historians about the people who see them? And what can historians say about the animals that scientists can’t?
— Peder Roberts
Why does the Loch ness Monster have a scientific name despite generally being considered not to exist? How did Native Americans think about fossils, and how did this knowledge relate to European paleontology? Why do ‘living fossils’ attract so much attention? Who exactly determines the ‘right’ way to study – or even just represent – the sasquatch or the yeti?
The central goal of this course is to examine how the way people think about these and other animals is related to their historical context. Our case studies include dinosaurs, mastodons, the Gloucester Sea Serpent, the yeti, the mountain gorilla, lake monsters, and the Flores ‘hobbit people’. We will use a variety of sources including media reports, photographs, movies, personal recollections, historical analyses, scientific papers and documents, novels, and comic books.
- Consider how scientific evidence can inform historical research, and vice versa.
- Learn how to work with a range of primary sources, not limited to written texts.
- Explore the relationship between popular culture and scientic knowledge.
- Analyze how and why individuals claim expertise or priviledged knowledge.
- Examine the relationship between knowledge claims and the intellectual and cultural context within which they are made.
The course syllabus is available for download as a pdf file here on Cryptomundo.
Of particular interest to myself is week 9 of the course, starting on November 27, re-convening after the Thanksgiving break. The subject for that week is Abominable Snowmen.
The primary source for Examining the Sasquatch is John Bindernagel’s North America’s Great Ape: The Sasquatch.
Alton Higgins’ paper Evaluating Purported Sasquatch Photographic Evidence is listed as one of two secondary sources. Alton is a member of the Bigfoot research group that I am involved with, the Texas Bigfoot Research Center.
Another source for this interesting course is Cryptomundo itself. Loren’s post Indonesian Coelacanth Filmed is listed as a source for the (Re)Discovery of the Coelacanth section of the course.
Bravo Professor Peder Roberts for teaching this course!