Worshiping Bigfoot? [12/03/2007]

Jeffrey Meldrum, a scientist at Idaho State University is studying Sasquatch/Bigfoot footprints. I found out about this because of an article in Scientific American. Apparently this topic is too far into the fringe for the magazine to actually explain and examine his research. I think the story was trying to talk about being on the fringe and what that means, i.e. blanket criticism vs. critical peer review. However, the whole thing was rather vague and left me wondering.

What exactly is this "fringe"? How do we place areas of research along a spectrum of mainstream to controversial to fringe? How is the line drawn between fringe science and pseudoscience?

It even occurred to me that maybe the article was just thrown out there for the purpose of getting some hollaback letters to the editor next month. There haven't been enough crazy responses to articles lately.

But, on to the topic at hand.. Bigfoot. Why is this "fringe"?

  1. We know species come in and out of the fossil record for example the Coelacanth.
  2. And we know species are often mistakingly declared extinct and then found again like the ivory-billed woodpecker.
  3. We also know that some species like crocodiles remain seemingly unchanged over a very long time (living fossils).
  4. Over 90% of living species are estimated to be currently unidentified
So why is pursuit of truth about Bigfoot considered unreasonable for scientific inquiry? My guess is that because our culture considers Bigfoot a myth, people think it shouldn't be researched. Myths are made up, right? Wait, what about all those giant squid myths?

Here is a npr interview with Meldrum from last year.