The Science Behind Bigfoot and Other Monsters

Daniel Loxton is a writer at Skeptic magazine. Donald R. Prothero is a paleontologist. They got together and wrote the new book Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, which may be a disappointment for people who buy it for the title alone. National Geographic News has an interview with both authors. A sample:

All the cryptids that you discuss in the book – Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, Mokele Mbembe – are very similar to things that exist or existed in the past: bears, primates, plesiosaurs, sauropods. Why the similarity?

DL: In some cases I think it's because they are the same. Bears are often associated with ogres or wildmen in folklore because they're pretty humanlike. Once that folklore is underway, you have the opportunity for people to make these misidentification errors where they see a bear and think it might be a bigfoot.

DP: These animals look like something familiar to us because the myths grow around whatever we've already just seen. Daniel pointed out in the book that the Mokele Mbembe myth emerged right about the time that large sauropod skeletons were first mounted in New York City and illustrated by people like Charles R. Knight. Then lo and behold, someone starts reporting one in the Congo, where it doesn't have any history prior to that.

The authors also discuss the phrase "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" at NatGeo News. Link

(Image credit: AP)

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And yet it is surprising how often animal control or someone else will get a call about a monstrous animal that, "is not a dog, I know what a dog looks like," or, "is not a cat, I know what a cat looks like," that turns out to be a dog or cat. Although in a some (but by far not all) of those cases, it is because people don't realize what mange can do to an animal, and that doesn't help with the bigfoot case.
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The thing about misidentification, especially bears for bigfoot, doesnt make sense. People go in the woods and expect to see bears. However, they see something hairy, and say, 'that's no bear.' So many times ive read about bigfoot witnesses saying "it wasn't a bear, I know what a bear looks like."
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