Monday, July 14, 2014

There Be Dragons

Let me recommend Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero's Abominable Science--an informative and fairly enjoyable book about cryptozoology.  Humans have always believed in fantastical animals, so it should be no surprise that legends like Bigfoot, the Yeti and the Loch Ness monster live on today.

It's not impossible for new species to be discovered. In fact, it happens all the time, sometimes even those made up of fairly large individuals.  But, as Loxton and Prothero explain, the evidence for most modern cryptids is weak, and doesn't tend to meet even minimal scientific standards.  And while you can't prove a negative, it sure would be nice to get a carcass.  Instead, you get tons of special pleading from "experts" on things that probably don't exist.

I suppose to a lot of people, it's exciting to believe in these animals.  And to a few others, this belief is lucrative.  So I expect we'll keep getting sightings.  But really, the world of science is pretty exciting itself, with the added advantage you get to check out animals that actually exist.


Anonymous Denver Guy said...

And yet even serious science spends a lot of time and effort trying to find evidence of extra-terrestial intelligent life.

I suppose a line can be drawn between those looking for radio messages (SETI) and those who believe we have already been visited, but still, science does seem to seek excitement. It's not enough to study the vagaries of cliamte conditions, you have to predict imminent doom to garner funding and press coverage.

8:05 AM, July 14, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Not sure if I see the connection between researching questionable claims about animals on Earth and checking to see if there might be life anywhere else aside from this planet.

Anyway, despite the Drake Equation and all that, I don't think SETI has been that well-funded or respected or glamorous in the scientific community--perhaps you're thinking of the movies.

9:10 AM, July 15, 2014  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I was just noting that in science, as in many professions, there is a draw to the glamorous pursuits. Or at least, that's what the media (and movies) want to dwell on.

When you get down to it, the search for evidence of intelligence life many lighyears away is as useless to the concerns of mankind as trying to find bigfoot or the loch ness monster. I'm not saying it isn't fun to speculate about such things, but that is true about all sensationalistic science projects.

9:24 AM, July 15, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

There may be a draw to glamorous pursuits, but that wouldn't be SETI, which is a dead end place that no serious scientist would want to be stuck in.

On the other hand, actually finding extra-terrestrial life would be an amazing discovery. Far from useless, it could change everything. But Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster, though probably fictional, wouldn't matter that much if they were real.

9:31 AM, July 15, 2014  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

If it was discovered that extra-terrestial life exists a 1000+ lightyears away, I don't see how it would change much on earth. Now, if it was discovered they live among us (ala "Men in Black"), I agree - big difference.

I am also surprised at the near manic excitement expressed by sicentists (at least the ones quoted in the media) when they think they have found evidence of life once existing on Mars. Again - if there were aliens living on Mars, that would be big. But if a fassilized lichen is someday discovered on a rock on Mars, I don't see it making much difference to humankind on Earth.

8:11 AM, July 16, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it 'facilized'?

11:19 AM, July 17, 2014  

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