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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Bigfoot Is Racking Up Frequent Flier Miles

by Stephen Propatier

February 17, 2016

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Donate Bigfoot is the mythological ape-like creature of modern pop culture and cryptozoology. It's popular enough that there's even a show, Finding Bigfoot, dedicated to finding it. (I'm still waiting after nine seasons for them to find it!) Bigfoot is low-hanging fruit for critical thinkers: if you believe that bigfoot is actually a creature living and hiding in the Pacific Northwest then you have zero critical thinking skills. If you at least question that possibility then we can work with you.

Although bigfoot has long been a pop culture icon, it seems to be becoming a world traveler. The evolution of bigfoot sightings is a study in human psychology, and I'm fascinated by the contagious nature of cryptozoology. There appears to have been been a recent uptick in sasquatch sightings worldwide. While this is not at all evidence of bigfoot's existence, it does provide an interesting discussion surrounding the limitless reserves of credulity found in many cryptozoologists and bigfoot enthusiasts.

Reports of bigfoot abound, now that media has the ability to rapidly disseminate the legend throughout the world. Not surprisingly, bigfoot has migrated to English speaking countries first, then has trickled into other countries slowly. This is just how you would expect a narrative legend to propagate. Cryptozoology of course looks upon these sightings as more proof of the animal existence. Let's take a look at how scientific that thought is.

The website Cryptozoology News offers many hours of reading if you wish to deep-dive delusional thinking. Bigfoot sightings reported there abound worldwide: Australia, Holland, Great Britain, France, Germany and even Ukraine. In the US, bigfoot appears to like the coast. One report there gives a titillating eyewitness account of a bigfoot sighting in Ireland. That's right, Ireland!

This credulous reporting of nonsense is why cryptozoology has zero value and is considered a pseudoscience. Despite its science-y, academic-sounding name, cryptozoology functions more like a cult than a science. They begin with the assumption that bigfoot exists and move out from there. To overcome the obvious deficit of evidence, cryptozoology apologists make special pleas that bigfoot is an intelligent, reclusive primate that has avoided all detection. Even granting all of that nonsense, Irish bigfoot is still complete bunkum.

The legends are varied but it seems that all human cultures have some variation on this theme: a giant, reclusive, man-like creature that doesn't seem to fit in any discrete animal classification and has a remarkably supernatural ability to avoid being photographed in focus. There is no way that a large hominid can maintain a breeding population simultaneously all over the world and not have one bit of indisputable evidence.

For argument's sake, let's say it is possible. Let's say bigfoot is successfully hiding from us, there is no way no how that this creature has ever been in Ireland. How can I be so sure?

Simply put geography and history makes it completely impossible. Ireland is an island. In modern times there is just no way that a hominid is going to swim the English channel and establish a population on the island. Humans with wet suits and chase boats struggle to swim the channel. So unless it can build boats, a bipedal primate is not going to swim 21 miles in the North Atlantic with cross currents—never mind a whole breeding population.

I am sure that a cryptozoologist would point out that at one time the UK was a peninsula attached to Europe, until about 8,000 years ago. But so what? There is no chance that there has been a sustainably large but invisible hominids in the UK for the last 8,000 years. The lack of evidence is undeniable. In the medieval period, the formerly heavily forested UK and Ireland were almost completely clear cut. Ireland was shaved down to only 11% of its original forest. There is no old-growth left in the UK. Although 89% of Ireland's forests were stripped away, not one bigfoot was ever caught or killed. Not one was skin taken, no skeletons, no fossils, zero historical references of the great hunts for the giant beast. No animal can hide when you strip away 90% of its natural habitat.

And we're not talking about a rodent or a insect stowing away; bigfoot didn't get there by human transport. The animal is described by cryptozoologists (with, again, no evidence for the claim) as a seven-foot-tall bipedal primate. You're not going to miss that in your hold crossing the Atlantic, or overlook him in Coach on RyanAir. Large mammals—such as the aurochs, brown bear, wooly mammoth, cave lion, and others—have been extinct across the UK for a millennium or more, but we know that they existed there once because there's a large amount of evidence for them.

Credulously reporting that a couple has seen bigfoot in Ireland is just a belief system trying to prop up its ridiculous ideas by grasping at the flimsiest straws at hand. The eyewitnesses might not be at fault. Humans make mistakes, have altered states of consciousness, and are prone to neurosensory failures. They may be hoaxers or might themselves be hoaxed.

And you can apply this same line of reasoning to every other worldwide bigfoot sighting. Living in such a variety of habitats would make bigfoot one of the best-evolved species on Earth, which should raise some flags on its own. It seems totally incomprehensible that we would have no evidence for an animal like that and it seems more likely that the animal simply doesn't exist.

I will continue to use bigfoot as a litmus test for teaching critical thinking. If you are a die-hard bigfoot believer then you probably have a profound deficit in critical thinking skills. Scientific skepticism is just as great for people like you as it is for people like me! It will take a lot of work on your part. Skeptoid is a good place to start the journey. Welcome!

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You can follow me at Twitter @steveproacnp for a daily dose of skeptical nursing.

by Stephen Propatier

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