29 February 2008

BF researchers are lay people practicing "vigilante science"

The University of California at Berkeley is currently hosting a gallery exhibit at its Hearst Museum containing plaster casts and other evidence donated by Professor Grover S. Krantz, noted Bigfoot researcher and one-time Berkeley graduate student.

The exhibit includes casts of the so-called Bossburg cripple. This individual creature left a track line totaling 1,089 tracks in the snow in December 1969 near the garbage pit at Bossburg, Washington along the Columbia River. The tracks were investigated and plaster casts were collected by Rene Dahinden and Ivan Marx. These casts are back on public exhibit for the first time in over a decade. The track series of the Bossburg cripple crossed railroad tracks, a roadway, climbed a steep hill and stepped back and forth over a 43-inch fence row. These tracks are unique in that the creature's right foot reveals deformities consistent with an anatomical foot structure including a mid-tarsal joint.

The Bossburg cripple's 17-inch track casts now on exhbit at University of California - Berkeley

Barry Bergman, public affairs director for Berkeley, wrote the following article published in the Berkleyan:

Sherrilyn Roush, an associate professor of philosophy at Berkeley and author of the recently published Tracking Truth: Knowledge, Evidence and Science, contributed the text entries for the new exhibit.

Speaking Friday at the gallery, Roush noted that scientists once refused to credit the claims of lay people who reported seeing meteorites falling from the sky. Drawing the analogy to the numerous eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot, many of them from Native Americans, she suggested scientists have been unduly dismissive of “marginal science.”

“Up to the early 19th century, the study of meteorites was considered marginal science,” she said, explaining that trained scientists were loath to make the connection between meteors, which many had seen with their own eyes, and the rocks that civilians reported falling into their backyards from the heavens and insisted were meteorites. “There was a long period in which scientists recognized the existence of one of these and not the other,” she said. “And it may surprise you that the one they recognized was not the one we had physical evidence for.”

As with Bigfoot, the scientific establishment “argued that meteorites were impossible,” Roush said. And, as with meteorites, “it’s certainly not impossible for a species that’s a hominid in-between human beings and apes to be living in the Northwest Territories. That’s not impossible at all.”

Just the same, she allowed, scouring every inch of the forests to prove the falsity of Bigfoot’s existence, while theoretically possible, is highly impractical. For science to advance, practitioners must employ their limited resources in ways most likely to lead to progress.

“In fact,” said Roush, “some people have remarked that this is the difference between philosophy and science. Philosophers consider all logical possibilities, and that may be why it looks like it doesn’t progress — we find it necessary to start from scratch every time.”

Still, scientists’ need to make assumptions about what’s plausible and what’s not, she added, shouldn’t deter ordinary citizens from practicing what she dubbed “vigilante science,” the “investigation by unauthorized lay people” of events and objects overlooked by the scientific establishment — just as birdwatchers and amateur astronomers already do.

“People should feel more entitled to go out and investigate things that scientists might say don’t exist,” declared Roush, citing “the broader purpose of science to find out what’s going on in the world.…What I’m saying is that the lay public can actually help science, and has a right, even a responsibility, to do so.”

In contrast to the dismissive attitude of most scientists toward Bigfoot and other such “anomalous events and objects,” Roush cited primatologist Jane Goodall, who recently told NPR of her confidence in the vast number of eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot encounters by Native Americans and others in the Northwest. Goodall also admitted to being “a romantic,” and said, “I always have wanted [Bigfoot] to exist.”

That, said Roush, is “an extremely mature attitude.”

I echo Professor Roush in encouraging BF researchers to practice "vigilante science." Similar to what amateur birdwatchers and astronomers are already doing, those of us who are pursuing observations of BF creatures are in the void of "marginal science." We are lay people working in a grey area that is being overlooked by the majority of government, university and institutional research scientists. We have the right, yes, even the responsibility, to search for explanations to anomalous events and entities whose existence has been dismissed by traditional science.

Let it be our mission to "boldly go where no man as gone before" and our goal to work on establishing data observation and collection techniques that results in physical evidence documenting the existence of BF creatures.