I was soooooo ready to write a fun Bigfoot post today. It has been a busy couple weeks for the fine art of Squatch-Watching. Not only has someone Photoshopped the Gimlin film to within an inch of its life, but there was also video of a strangely unmoving Bigfoot in the night and even a tiny invisible Bigfoot. These videos weren’t going to mock themselves!
Then Dr. Steven Novella had to go and rain on my parade.
Novella, whose Sketpic’s Guide to the Universe is a must-listen, appeared on the most recent episode of Rationally Speaking, another must-listen. He and co-hosts Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef had the kind of quality, intellectually stimulating conversation you’d expect from them, and I was thoroughly enjoying it as I drove home.
About 50 minutes in, they began to discuss a book they (Steven and Massimo) were writing together, and about 55 minutes in the subject turned to the way skeptics sometimes focus on “clearly absurd” beliefs and how focusing on being skeptical of the more ridiculous claims can inoculate one’s own thinking against questioning one’s own more reasonable beliefs. Novella offered his thoughts on why he feels these more extreme beliefs are worth critiquing:
“We always get asked, ‘Well, why are you bothering to once again debunk UFOs when everyone know’s they’re silly,’ or Bigfoot or whatever. And so I always — when I write about those sort of extreme wrong beliefs — to try to connect it to things people actually believe, not just the fringe […] so when I show you these logical fallacies and this bad reasoning and motivated reasoning and these extreme believers, I want you to derive the general rules that you will then apply to yourself in all of the very subtle forms that we all, every day do.”
Of course, he had to mention Bigfoot, and so my mind, already stewing with ideas for my latest Bigfoot article, latched on to what he was saying. And you know what? He’s right. And because he’s right, I’m going to stop writing about Bigfoot for awhile.
Here’s the thing: I like to write mocking posts about Bigfoot because it’s fun. I mean, some of these claims and beliefs are just so patently absurd that it’s hard to believe anyone can claim to believe in them with a straight face. I see how absurd the whole world of “Squatching” is, and I assume that the typical reader of this blog sees it, too. Writing Bigfoot posts, in the end, is for me a way of playing to the crowd for a laugh. Squatchers are the metaphorical fish in the barrel, ready for skeptical shooting.
But … am I gaining any insight by mocking these videos and reports? Moreover, am I really bringing anything of skeptical value to you, the reading audience? I don’t think I am, and I don’t think I do.
I’m sure I could approach claims of Bigfoot in a way that was valuable and insightful, as Novella describes. I’m sure I have in the past. But as I have grown more exasperated with the seemingly nonstop nonsense that flows from the Squatching community, I really don’t care about critical insight. I just want to point my finger and mock them, a skeptical Nelson to their Springfield of theories.
If I am going to be a better skeptic, I need to constantly challenge myself. And letting go of this easy target of weekly scorn is one of the ways I can help myself grow as a skeptical critic of popular culture. So for now, no more Bigfoot articles from yours truly. Maybe someday I’ll see something new that really warrants criticism and analysis. Until then, I’m going to look for harder but more rewarding things to write about.
Sorry, Tiny Invisible Bigfoot. Maybe some other time.