Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sign up for eSkeptic (and a cryptozoology note)

SKEPTIC magazine offers a free eSkeptic weekly newsletter to be delivered to your inbox. It gives (of course) a skeptical viewpoint on things ranging from "mad gasser" folklore to psychics.
COMMENT: The problem I have with most avoewdly skeptical publications is that they lump cryptozoology in with ghost-hunting and all the other "pseudoscientific" phenomena. Not accurate. However unscientific the methods of some amatuer cryptid enthuiasts may be, cryptozoology deals in falsifiable hypothetheses and is therefore a science. You can never disprove the theory "There are ghosts haunting some old houses" but you CAN (assuming adequate resources) disprove "There is an apelike monster in those woods" or "There is a large unidentified creature in this lake." (Whether the resources are in fact available has nothing to do with whether the hypthesis meets science philosopher Karl Popper's time-tested falisfiability postulate.) Cryptozoologists have gone out into the field and disproven some cases, like the presence of unnautrally large predators in small Irish lakes and the claim of a mermaid-like creature off New Guinea called the ri. So I repeat - cryptozoology is logically a science, even if not always practiced as one. Unscientific activities no more invalidate cryptozoology than Fleishman and Ponds' unwarranted cold fusion claims invalidated nuclear physics. You can argue cryptozoology isn't needed, since people in "mainstream" fields of zoology are investigating reports and finding new species all the time (much more than most people realize), but again that doesn't invalidate the logic here. My view of cryptozoology is that it's a branch that applies scientific methods to discovery of new species but broadens somewhat the types of data considered to get an investigation started in the hopes of assuring we don't miss anything.

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