Ah, the Huffington Post! It’s one of the most-visited news sites on the Internet, but it also has the unfortunate habit of being fertile territory for non-critical articles on all sorts of woo. There’s a reason Skeptoid named it one of the Top 10 Worst Anti-Science Websites.
Yesterday, that reason was on full display as the stalwart bastion of journalistic truth published “Bigfoot Video, DNA Tests Raise Hopes For Believers In The Legendary Beast.” It was written by “paranormal expert” Lee Spiegel, whose HuffPo credits include everything from UFOs to Exorcisms to George Noory.
Some of the things apparently giving true believers hope in 2013 I’ve already covered here in the Skeptoid blog, including the alleged Bigfoot DNA sequencing. According to Spiegel, “Skeptics and believers are holding their collective breath waiting for the results of a peer-reviewed, five-year study conducted by Texas veterinarian Melba S. Ketchum.” Which is odd, since every skeptic I’ve read on this story has already found reasons to dismiss it.
Spiegel also points to the Find Bigfoot Facebook page, which he calls “one group of Bigfoot researchers,” as opposed to a bunch of people who’ve Liked a Facebook page; and he praises the “impressive number of videos” that the FBFB has gathered. These videos are all presented uncritically on the FBFB’s video page. It’s “impressive,” I suppose, if “impressive” means still touting the Patterson-Gimlin film. Not only are these people still holding it up as evidence, but check out this obsessively detailed digital overanalysis of the film. Wow!
Spiegel then offers this classic bit of Either-Or fallicious thinking:
Whether or not you believe Bigfoot exists, the FBFB video collection spans 45 years between 1967 and 2012 and begs the question: From a statistical point of view, is it reasonable to assume that every person who has taken and submitted these visual accounts is either confused or deliberately perpetrating a hoax? Or is it possible that even a small percentage of these eyewitnesses might have, in fact, honestly captured something unusual — and similar — on film or video and simply want to share it?
When you put it that way, of COURSE it seems unreasonable; that’s why it’s a fallacy. But even accepting that a “small percentage” of videos have been “honestly captured” doesn’t do a thing to prove the existence of Bigfoot. It just proves that someone has captured something not immediately identifiable on camera, and that someone else — in this case the FBFB and the broader Bigfoot community — has gathered these unidentifiable anomalies together and labeled them as evidence for something that they have no better evidence for.
So, with suspect DNA study, a collection of bad videos, and the forthcoming “Bigfoot Blimp,” do believers have reason to hope in 2013? I suppose. After all, shoddy evidence didn’t stop them from hoping in 2012, or in 2011, or in 2010. And regardless of what pans out in 2013, I’m sure bloggers like Spiegel and sites like HuffPo will be there to report it to us in the most uncritical, link-generating ways possible.