Monday, August 18, 2008

Big Foot

If you’re a dork, or spend a lot of time on the internet (I qualify on both counts) then by now you know that 2 hikers from Georgia (the state, not the country being bombed by Russia) claim to have found the carcass of a Big Foot. Apparently, they found it in June, put it into a freezer, set up a business plan and got to work.

Not since StarWars premiered in 1977 has such a full and comprehensive merchandising effort been undertaken. These guys have a website and $500 Big Foot Tours and hats and belt buckles and tee shirts and you name it—they have it with their logo imprinted on it.

They held a press conference on Friday, wearing hats that promoted their website where you can buy all of this merchandise. At this press conference, they announced to the world that—drum roll please—the initial results are inconclusive! Apparently, the DNA samples they sent to an undisclosed location were contaminated. One sample came back as a possum another came back as human and a third was too badly preserved for proper identification.

They explain the possum DNA by saying that the samples they sent were from the “animal’s” stomach. WHAT?

I’m about as far from being a scientist as you can get and even I know that the one place you never use for a DNA sample is an animal’s stomach! You get more reliable information from a single hair than you do for a stomach sample! Something stinks about this and it isn’t the supposed corpse that’s been rotting in a freezer for 3 months.

Now having already admitted to my dorkiness and my proclivity towards spending too much time on the internet, I suppose I risk losing no more street cred than I already have by admitting that I have a great interest in crytozoology—the study and search for previously unknown or unidentified animals.

I’m one of those goofy people who believe that there may actually be a Big Foot, a Loch Ness Monster, an Ogopogo, a Champ and a few other legendary animals out there somewhere. I don’t necessarily believe in them, but I do believe in the possibility of them and the idea of discovering new things about our planet that prove established science wrong is an appealing one for me. Science is arrogant and I love to see them knocked from their pedestal.

And there are serious people, serious scientists who are out there looking and serious reasons to think it fathomable that there could actually be something to the rumors of these cryptids (previously unknown and unclassified animals that we know of only from eyewitness accounts and folklore). The shining example of crytozoology is the coelacanth, a fish thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs, was discovered a few years back alive and well and apparently not alone off the coast of Madagascar.

Despite reports from local fisherman who had been catching them for years, scientists ignored their claims, deciding that a mere fisherman wouldn’t know what a coelacanth looked like and was obviously misidentifying another fish (because fishermen often have trouble identifying fish, even though they spend 12 or more hours a day catching them).

The fishermen were eventually proved correct when a fish was caught and kept and scientifically identified, providing hope for all those who believe that there are animals, living in known and populated areas that have simply yet to be discovered and classified.

Admittedly, it’s a big jump to go from that to there being sea monsters and big foots out there. Believing in the possibility that they might exist is a long way from being a believer—which many are and ardently so. This brings me back to these guys who claim to have a Big Foot stored away in a freezer somewhere and are out to make as much money as they possibly can from it. Their secrecy and three months worth of zero progress toward proving it’s real leads me and most others to conclude that we’re being taken. This won’t stop them from making a ton of money from a ton of geeks who are making their website temporarily more popular than Facebook, eBay and Google combined.

I have no problem with people making money off of gullible morons. I really don’t. You can fool some of the people, some of the time and why not make a buck or two off of them in the process. The problem is that this event, like the surgeon’s photo of nessie which was eventually proven to be a fake, make the idea of the possibility of these creatures existing seem more and more ridiculous to the public in general.

And while I have no problem with people who are of the opinion that these animals couldn’t possibly exist, I also kind of feel sorry for them. There’s something special about being able to believe in possibilities, and it doesn’t cost a damn thing to do so. You can’t prove for certain that Nessie, Big Foot, ghosts and such don’t exist—all that remains is the possibility that they just might.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather live in a world of infinite possibility than one of ascertained facts. Science was once certain that the world was flat and thought to the contrary was deemed ridiculous—now the opposite is true, which proves that just because science is certain of something, doesn’t make it so, even with the advances we’ve made in research and technology.

There’s a classic line from the movie Jurassic Park that describes it best. “Life will find a way.” It’s arrogant and foolish to ever think we know enough to rule any possibility out with any degree of certainty. I feel sorry for people who don’t recognize and believe in the wonder of life and the world in which we live.

And I feel sorrier still for those who make a buck from those who believe a little too much in those possibilities. They represent the extremes and as always, they make those of us holding the middle ground look like just as big of fools as they are—and that’s a sad, sad thing.


PenguinsWalkAmoungUs said...

As long as Megalodon is well and truly extinct, I'm okay with the rest of them.

Kate said...

ah, so it's about wanting to see the establishment -- science -- fall flat on its face? it's all making sense now!

i would like to point out that you don't have to believe in ridiculous myths (oh yeah, i did) to believe in possibility. sure, anything is possible, but many things are improbable. one of the best things about being human is the ability to entertain the unimagineable infinitely, but it doesn't mean such imaginings will manifest into actuality.

i totally dig you though. :)

Anonymous said...

People can be quite foolish at times huh? Im with you on this one..It would be great if one day we find out they were all wrong, not to mention interesting. All in the name of proving science wrong!! Hope you are doing well. :)

The mind. said...

When I first saw the article on the Big Foot, I was skeptic. Probably because my gut instinct told me that it was fake and it would soon come out that the whole thing was a hoax. I tried to look at the picture closely and see if I could see the fake fur, fingers..etc.

The whole thing didn't strike a chord of excitement that it must have done for a bunch of other people.

Yet, I wanted to believe it was true.

All I am doing now is glossing over articles stating that there was a website that was set up for it, money making scam, scientific research confirms...blah blah blah. Baloney! If I want the real deal, I am better off finding it myself.

My interests and energy are better devoted to the issues on lack of women in India and high rate of abortion because they are thought of as a liability instead of a person with brains. Now THAT really pisses me off!