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Bigfoot And The Dragon In My Garage

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Disclaimer: This is not supposed to be an attack or a mockery of belief in bigfoot or research of it. What this is is a clarification if certain scientific principles; namely, what a hypothesis and a theory are, and what one would need to ask to scientifically look into bigfoot. I really do hope no one takes this the wrong way. I'd also like to apologize in advance if this is too long; it just takes a while to explain some of these concepts.

Now that that's out of the way, lets get the basics out of the way: a hypothesis is a possible explanation put forth to answer a question; a theory is an answer to a question that has evidence behind it. For example, Darwin had a hypothesis that natural selection caused the evolution of animals; that hypothesis turned out to have lots of evidence behind it, and is now the basis for the theory of evolution.

Next, we have to look at what a scientific question is. In science, observations and claims are made based on evidence, and for a hypothesis to try to explain something, it needs to be: 1. testable, and 2. falsifiable. This means that the hypothesis must be able to be tested and/or supported by evidence, and that it has to be able to be proven wrong if the evidence doesn't support it. Without those two elements, a question cannot be proven or disproven, and cannot be scientific. The falsifiable part is usually the biggest issue, and was addressed wonderfully by Carl Sagan with his famous "Dragon in my Garage" essay, as seen here:

In that example, the dragon's existence cannot be disproven, because the assertion of the dragon is not falsifiable. Could the dragon exist? Possibly, but not probably, and without evidence, there is no reason to say that it does, even though you can't say conclusively that it does not exist. A hypothesis that isn't falsifiable is meaningless (at least scientifically), because it can't be answered and doesn't provide a real explanation to anything. Providing such a hypothesis also leads to a dead end; something that can't be proven wrong can't be improved upon or understood better, and it usually can't be proven right.

Now, how does this relate to bigfoot? Well, since the debate of the creature's existence usually boils down to evidence (as it should), it seems far too common that people address the issue of evidence with hypotheses that aren't scientific. For example, saying that we can't physical evidence of bigfoot because bigfoot doesn't leave physical evidence, or that it's hard to capture them on film because they stay away from people. Both are ways to explain a problem, but neither is falsifiable. It may seem tempting to throw out explanations like that, for the very fact that they can't be proven wrong, but asking questions like that is a good way to get nowhere, scientifically speaking.

It's also important to look at how the scientific method usually operates: a question or problem is addressed, and conclusions are made based on evidence or observation. In regards to bigfoot research, the method for investigation is usually done the opposite way; conclusions are made, and evidence is drawn to support that conclusion. That may sound fairly harmless, until you realize the bias inherent in that way of researching. Say I want to prove that dragons really did, or do, exist. I could point to stories about dragons and the fact that many cultures around the world have them as evidence. I could even say that since giant reptilian creatures did exist at one point, that one of them could be a dragon, and we just haven't discovered that yet. If I only examined those two points, I (and maybe others) would think that I have a good case for the potential existence of dragons, but I would be mistaken. I would be leaving out the facts that all those stories are very different, and those giant reptiles lived long before any person could have ever made an account of them, let alone that there's no evidence for them breathing fire or even looking like traditional dragons. How you look at the evidence matters just as much as the evidence itself.

My general point is that for the question of bigfoot's existence to be investigated in a credible and scientific manner, it's best to approach it scientifically. And to do that, it's important to know what is science and what isn't, which is what I'm trying to make a little clearer with this post. If the questions are approached in that way, it's much easier to draw credible conclusions, and to have those conclusions taken seriously by others.

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You are aware, of course, of the extraterrestrials in Sagan's garage?

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Someone used this analogy with me during a discussion, can't remember who, I pointed out the difference is that I know bigfoot is real whereas no one I know has ever seen a dragon. Where I am concerned, the point was lost, but if you have no connection with anyone who has had a sighting or had one yourself then I can see how this might appear to be relevant.

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You are aware, of course, of the extraterrestrials in Sagan's garage?

Are you trying to use the fact that he had an interest in UFOs to discredit a very logical point he made regarding scientific study (what he devoted his life to)? That ad hominem doesn't work in this case, or even apply. Sagan was an astronomer, how could he not have an interest in them? Of course, interest would be the key word there; Sagan wasn't a believer in UFOs. He was pretty clear (even to the point of writing it into a few books) that he thought the possibility of alien visitation was "vanishingly small," and that he didn't think it had ever happened.

What I think is so great about Carl Sagan's approach is that he never rejected anything out of hand - you could tell he was naturally curious and was willing to look into anything before making up his mind about it. That's the very essence of what science should be.

Someone used this analogy with me during a discussion, can't remember who, I pointed out the difference is that I know bigfoot is real whereas no one I know has ever seen a dragon. Where I am concerned, the point was lost, but if you have no connection with anyone who has had a sighting or had one yourself then I can see how this might appear to be relevant.

I hope this doesn't sound too crude, but plenty of people know, or have known, lots of things, and not all of that knowledge turns out to be based in fact. That's why it's important to not tie yourself to absolutely knowing. In the case of dragons, most people actually did think they were real in the past. It was taken as fact, and some people still see things that can be seen as dragons. The History Channel had a show about them a few years ago that included reports of sightings, and I've seen a few online. A few years ago, baby dragon was found (apparently pickled) in a jar, and many seemed to think it could have been real, before it was revealed as a hoax.

To approach something in a scientific way, you have to use scientific methods. That includes assuming that not everything is known, and what is known isn't absolute.

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I hope this doesn't sound too crude, but plenty of people know, or have known, lots of things, and not all of that knowledge turns out to be based in fact. That's why it's important to not tie yourself to absolutely knowing. In the case of dragons, most people actually did think they were real in the past. It was taken as fact, and some people still see things that can be seen as dragons. The History Channel had a show about them a few years ago that included reports of sightings, and I've seen a few online. A few years ago, baby dragon was found (apparently pickled) in a jar, and many seemed to think it could have been real, before it was revealed as a hoax.

To approach something in a scientific way, you have to use scientific methods. That includes assuming that not everything is known, and what is known isn't absolute.

Your not rude but maybe people in the past saw a remnant species of dinosaurs and identified those creatures as dragons. I have not personally witnessed a dragon nor have I known anyone who has. I can't speak for present day dragon or sea monster reports but I can assure you I have not read of one that was seen in a garage. :)

One of my parents saw a bigfoot in his youth two feet in front of his face. It absolutely was a giant hairy black man from his perspective. There is no mistaking anything at that range. Therefore, bigfoot is absolutely real to me whether anyone else agrees with me or not,I would not expect them to but he did use the scientific method to identify what he saw. Observation is a part of the scientific method, right? Here is an abridged version from Wiki for you since it seems like you might need a refresher:

In the 20th century, a hypothetico-deductive model[12] for scientific method was formulated:

1. Use your experience: Consider the problem and try to make sense of it. Look for previous explanations. If this is a new problem to you, then move to step 2.

2. Form a conjecture: When nothing else is yet known, try to state an explanation, to someone else, or to your notebook.

3. Deduce a prediction from that explanation: If you assume 2 is true, what consequences follow?

4. Test: Look for the opposite of each consequence in order to disprove 2. It is a logical error to seek 3 directly as proof of 2. This error is called affirming the consequent.[13]

So to use my Dad's example he 1) used his experience to identify the creature that was positioned two feet in front of his face 2) decided it was an unknown 3) Deduced that it was not a bear or other animal native to Mississippi 4) What he saw wasn't quite human as it was hair covered and had no clothes, the hands were shaped differently than a human's and it had no whites to it's eyes, so that left a giant hairy black man as his only conclusion.....looks like he used the scientific method to me.

My point is just because Carl Sagan said it doesn't make it right. I think he used a bad analogy.

Edited by Jodie
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Huntster, on 09 May 2011 - 08:54 PM, said:

You are aware, of course, of the extraterrestrials in Sagan's garage?

Are you trying to use the fact that he had an interest in UFOs to discredit a very logical point he made regarding scientific study (what he devoted his life to)?

1) I will quite happily do so if others deny similar "logical points" with regard to sasquatchery

2) His fetish for extraterrestrials (and the massive funding for calling them) simply makes his comments regarding "dragons" in "garages" the most hilarious kind of hypocrisy

That ad hominem doesn't work in this case, or even apply.

1) It most certainly does

2) Continue to make a god out of him, and I'll take great joy in "ad homineming" him right back down to Earth.

Sagan was an astronomer, how could he not have an interest in them?

In the same way that official wildlife biologists appear to have no interest in sasquatches.

Of course, interest would be the key word there; Sagan wasn't a believer in UFOs.

He sure "believed" in massive funding to call them with a very expensive radio.

What I think is so great about Carl Sagan's approach is that he never rejected anything out of hand

He appeared to reject dragons in garages out of hand.

he was naturally curious and was willing to look into anything before making up his mind about it. That's the very essence of what science should be.

I sure wish more biologists thought that way with regard to sasquatchery.

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First, just to make sure this point is made clear: this thread is not about the existence of bigfoot, it's about the how scientific ideas apply to bigfoot research. I thought it was important to dedicate a thread to that concept, since so many people (including the general population, not just bigfooters) seem to be ignorant or have misunderstandings about the way that scientific research is conducted. That's not a bad thing; if everyone knew that, colleges wouldn't need to exist. I'm just trying to do my best to make some of this stuff clear to people here.

Now, onto Jodie's post: Of course observation is part of the scientific method. If your father saw something he genuinely couldn't explain, and bigfoot seemed like the best possibility, then yes, his observation was valid. I never said that everyone that sees a bigfoot is lying, or coming to their decision unscientifically. My point is that most bigfoot research isn't done to very scientific standards. When people wonder why bigfoot can't seem to be captured by gamecams and the answers they come up with are things like "bigfoot is invisible," or "it has a special sense that can detect things made by people, so it can stay away from them," the explanations they're offering are unscientific and (to put it bluntly) meaningless, for the reasons I listed above. If someone would say "Bigfoot exists and is a robust, bipedal hominid. The robust Australopithecines fit that bill very well, it doesn't matter that there's no evidence for them ever living outside of Africa, bigfoot needs to be related to them because it fits so well," they're doing flawed, and unscientific, research.

It is important to say that a non-falsifiable claim can't apply in science; Sagan was very right in making that point. He didn't come up with it, by the way, he was just offering an example to explain the concept to people that aren't scientists. You may think that his example was a poor one, but I think anyone would be hard-pressed to come up with a better way to demonstrate the point he was making. It's a great example of a non-falsifiable claim, and they are meaningless. It's also important to note that if someone wants to go with a claim like that (whether it's because they don't want to be proven wrong, or for some other reason), they're usually raising a lot of unanswerable questions in making that claim. For example: if bigfoot is invisible, is he invisible all the time? Some of the time? Can he control it? How would something even develop that ability? What is it and how does it work? If a claim can't be falsified, it leads nowhere.

Also, just another point about dragons: it's pretty much impossible for any human to have seen a living dinosaur. Too many millions of years separated them from us. The closest anyone has come to seeing a dinosaur (besides a bird), would be a fossil.

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1) I will quite happily do so if others deny similar "logical points" with regard to sasquatchery

2) His fetish for extraterrestrials (and the massive funding for calling them) simply makes his comments regarding "dragons" in "garages" the most hilarious kind of hypocrisy

1) It most certainly does

2) Continue to make a god out of him, and I'll take great joy in "ad homineming" him right back down to Earth.

In the same way that official wildlife biologists appear to have no interest in sasquatches.

He sure "believed" in massive funding to call them with a very expensive radio.

He appeared to reject dragons in garages out of hand.

I sure wish more biologists thought that way with regard to sasquatchery.

Plenty of biologists and anthropologists have interests in bigfoot (including a professor I had), and their attitude towards bigfoot is similar to what Sagan's attitude towards UFOs seemed to be. That is, that this is something that's really interesting, and I think it would be really cool if it existed, but the evidence doesn't add up, so I have to conclude that it probably doesn't, regardless of how I feel. In fact, that's the basically of what Jane Goodall has said about the subject.

By the way, I don't think of Sagan as a god, I just think he was a great scientist that had the rare gift of being able to explain scientific concepts extremely well. I admire that, as well as his efforts to spread tools for critical thinking.

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My point is just because Carl Sagan said it doesn't make it right. I think he used a bad analogy.

Hi Jodie,

You and I discussed Sagan's dragon back in December, and I'm still not convinced Sagan was using it as an analogy. The claims being made by the person with the dragon weren't supported by any evidence, so Sagan asked, "what's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?"

He appeared to reject dragons in garages out of hand.

No, he conducted further investigation and experimentation, which failed to confirm there were any dragons in the garage, so he asked the question above.

Huntster, have you read

saganbookDHW.jpg

Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised.

RayG

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Plenty of biologists and anthropologists have interests in bigfoot (including a professor I had)...

Yet none have gone to the extent of Sagan and his allies in securing government funding and support in a first ever official investigation like SETI. Why is that?

and their attitude towards bigfoot is similar to what Sagan's attitude towards UFOs seemed to be.

Some are. Too bad none have gone to the extent of Sagan and his allies in securing government funding and support in a first ever official investigation like SETI.

That is, that this is something that's really interesting, and I think it would be really cool if it existed, but the evidence doesn't add up, so I have to conclude that it probably doesn't, regardless of how I feel.

So why did SETI get funded to the tune of at least $60 million by government after pressure to do so by scientists like and including Sagan? There is actually much more evidence that sasquatches exist than extraterrestrials.

By the way, I don't think of Sagan as a god, I just think he was a great scientist that had the rare gift of being able to explain scientific concepts extremely well. I admire that, as well as his efforts to spread tools for critical thinking.

He was also a scientist caught red handed manipulating science for ideological and political reasons.

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No, he conducted further investigation and experimentation, which failed to confirm there were any dragons in the garage...

Carl Sagan has never been to my garage, nor millions of other garages. His "confirmation" is limited to the garages he investigated, isn't it?

Huntster, have you read

saganbookDHW.jpg

Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised.

No, thanks. After his nuclear winter fiasco, I wouldn't read a newspaper column of his. It's the same sort of deal as Ray Wallace and other hoaxers. Once you try to trick me with falsehoods, your word no longer has value.

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Yet none have gone to the extent of Sagan and his allies in securing government funding and support in a first ever official investigation like SETI. Why is that?

1) You don't need an expensive radio antennae array to detect evidence of bigfoot. A camera, rifle, or station wagon will do just fine. If, however, the objective is to detect radio signals from advanced civilizations light years away, the hardware is going to require a more substantial investment.

2) Sour grapes duly noted. When the scientific pillars of bigfootery (Meldrum?) can start to make cogent arguments for a significant investment in bigfoot research to the people who control the pursestrings you might see something different. Until that time, it's no more logical to complain about the money that went to SETI than it is to complain about the research money that has been invested in any similar endeavor, e.g., space race, cancer research, biofuels, etc.

3) Money invested, aliens not found, money pulled.

PS: Love to mention when this essay comes up that Dr. Sagan may not have had a dragon in his garage, but he most certainly did have a bright red Pegasus in there!

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Also, just another point about dragons: it's pretty much impossible for any human to have seen a living dinosaur. Too many millions of years separated them from us. The closest anyone has come to seeing a dinosaur (besides a bird), would be a fossil.

I see what you are saying and don't disagree with you. The scientific method is still used when people form a hypothesis they may not be able or just haven't gotten around to figuring out how to prove the point.I do think there is something fundamentally wrong with Carl Sagan's logic on this particular point.

As for the dinosaur comment, there are living dinosaurs that exist now, alligators, crocodiles, and giant monitor lizards to name a few. Then you have the modern day sightings report for anything from a brontosaurus type creature in Africa to pterodactyls in Texas. I don't know what folks are seeing but I would have to see it for myself to be convinced they were seeing relic dinosaur populations.

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IMO, he is giving an analogy that relates to everything cryptid. If his beliefs are reflected, from this analogy, it would seem to me that he did not believe in aliens, but was, "open to future data and to wonder what the cause might be that so many apparently sane and sober people, share the same strange delusion".

What he is saying, to me, makes perfect sense and can be applied to Bigfoot or any other cryptid. I think the analogy is pushed to extremes, to merely give a point, in general, of things that people claim to have seen, but cannot be proven. And to take the analogy further, I think that when the number of "apparently sane and sober people", that have seen the same unprovable thing, gets to be as many as it is with BF, it deserves much more attention than a few people seeing a dragon would. If I had to choose one thing that is the cause of my continued interest in BF, it would be the amount of seemingly credible, intelligent people that claim to have seen it.

No Dragons, but I do have a Bigfoot, in my garage...seriously, I do.

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I do think there is something fundamentally wrong with Carl Sagan's logic on this particular point.

The essay was intended to illustrate the logical fallacy known as "special pleading." It does so beautifully, and I use that adverb literally.

As for the dinosaur comment, there are living dinosaurs that exist now, alligators, crocodiles, and giant monitor lizards to name a few.

These animals are not dinosaurs. They are about as closely related to dinosaurs as you are to a rabbit. Birds, however, are dinosaurs. So yes, there are living dinosaurs today (about 10,000 different species in fact). These days, we often refer to the "non-avian dinosaurs" when we mean things like Brachiosaurus or Triceratops. Such creatures had vanished from the planet tens of millions of years before the first human could have laid eyes on them.

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