Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Survived Bigfoot

A very good friend of mine runs a podcast over at Less Than Credulous. In the premier episode of 2013, he went over an interesting article that brought to light the possibility of more branches on our evolutionary tree than we previously thought existed.

Because of that episode (and persistent insomnia combine with a dash of poor taste), I decided to overindulge my curiosity and watch various "documentaries" and television series on ancient civilizations (the ones that weren't influenced by aliens, anyway), ghosts, legendary monsters, and the eternal hunt for Bigfoot.

Most of these shows were created with a simple formula:

Outlandish presumption + bad science + cheap camera equipment/terrible reenactments = ratings!

If it's a ghost, then it very well could be the dead trying to contact the living. If it's a possession, then it has to be demonic forces trying to control a young child. If it's one (or more than one) UFO sighting, then it must be of extraterrestrial origin. (As an aside, the aforementioned shows are all on a network that also has a series dedicated to the joys of bacon - and eating as much of it as possible - so take from that what you will and extrapolate what the viewer demographics are like.)

Then I turned to Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot. I'm not even sure why I watch this, other than to see the mental gymnastics the cast jumps through to get from Instance A to "IT MUST BE A SASQUATCH!" (Or 'squatch, as is the preferred lingo of the show.) My problems with this show are twofold. The first is that we're not even given the premise of if Bigfoot exists. The premise the show runs with is that Bigfoot exists, an we can't believe how crafty it is at remaining hidden when there's obviously evidence all over the place (except when people are actively looking for it - because Bigfoot obviously travels along some kind of scalar telemetry). The second issue I have is that there is one biologist (as in a person who possibly once knew a real scientific field at one point) to offer a balanced point of view - which is done in such a way as to show the lack of 'Squatch presence is the exception that proves the rule that they are everywhere.

This is not to say that Finding Bigfoot isn't an educational show for the Sasquatch enthusiast. In fact, I've put together a short list of things I've learned about Bigfoot since overdosing on the series:

  • If you hear noises in the woods at night, it's probably a Sasquatch
  • If you hear animals that aren't Bigfoot, they're probably alerting one another about the presence of a Sasquatch
  • Bigfoot is omnivorous, but we've never figure out how many calories it needs to sustain its weight/height/active lifestyle
  • There are often forest fires in northern California that drive animals out from the wild. Those left behind typically die. Why have we never seen a Sasquatch trying to escape these wildfires? On the other side of things, why haven't we found any remains (not just where fires have taken place - but anywhere)?
  • Given the last point, Bigfoot is probably a pyro. Also, Bigfoot's a bit of a jerk. (See how I applied good science there?)
  • If you can't find something you swear you might have seen, it's most likely Bigfoot. My keys (and one of my socks, when I did laundry the other day) exhibited some pretty classic 'Squatch behavior.
  • From re-enactment footage, Bigfoot has not evolved much past mid-90s computer renderings.
Now, apart from ripping on Sasquatch - an if he existed, he damn well would show up to defend himself - I want to bring this back to proper skepticism (something that the cast of Finding Bigfoot does not employ). We hear something along the lines of "I saw Bigfoot" and we tend to scoff. People everywhere experience things they cannot immediately explain. I don't know military and commercial flight patterns - much less satellite orbits - so if I see something in the sky that doesn't immediately fall into the aircraft/balloon/bird/Frisbee category, then it is unidentified (to me). Does it make it extraterrestrial in origin because of my lack of facts? No. (Everyone knows most UFOs come from inside our hollow earth, anyway.) But with a little research - much like carving an elephant from a block of stone - I can tell you what I didn't see, without using "aliens must be visiting our planet" as my starting point.

What I'm saying is people everywhere see things they can't explain, an applied skepticism can help narrow down the probable subjects. This is not to be confused with cynicism, which will lead us to scoff at any outlandish claim of "I saw a thing!" (no matter how much fun it is to take that route). 

Let me draw it back to the opening of this post. Sasquatch, the Orang Pendek, the Yeti, or any of these other Bigfoot-esque creatures that seem to be very prevalent - but whose existence is never (as yet) verified - probably don't exist. We cannot stack anecdotal evidence against scientific proof and say that because the former outweighs the latter, then science is wrong. That's a scary road to travel down when we apply it to things that aren't Bigfoot (such as when human life begins, if people have souls, etc.). 

However, the evidence that there might be more branches on our evolutionary tree does open up the possibility that there are more things on Earth than are dreamed of in our philosophies (a bad paraphrase). There is a chance that Sasquatch-esque beings existed at one point - and possibly never died out. Does that mean they definitely exist? No. Nothing definitely exists unless there's actual proof - and a broken tree or a few howls in the night do not make for scientific evidence. 

Besides, I'm pretty sure Bigfoot owns a bunch of burrow owls. They're in it with the aliens! And we have definitive proof of what the queers are doing to the soil!

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