Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Cryptozoology conferences: science and strangeness

Cryptozoology, the search for unclassified or presumed-extinct animals, is a subspecialty some argue is not needed, but, as it's defined by backers, it's not inherently unscientific.  The world is crawling, literally, with unknown species, from ants to dolphins to (just maybe) some large mammals like Sumatra's orang-pendek. The most famous "cryptid," a large North American primate known as Sasquatch or Bigfoot, is certainly a reach, but the premise is at least testable (given adequate time and money).
Cryptozoology conferences range from those trying to stick to science to those openly embracing the paranormal and ideas about shape-shifting or interdimensional beings or apparitions.  One of the better ones, Loren Coleman's International Cryptozoology Museum conference, has completed its second annual event in Portland, Maine. A week later, the larger CryptidCon was held in Frankfort, Kentucky.
I went to the first ICM Conference, had a great time, and found most of the presentations valuable (I covered cryptic bears of the world). I missed this year due to back surgery but hope to make it in 2018.  It sounds like the 2017 conference was interesting: I'm sorry I didn't get to go and meet Bruce Champagne, among others.  The conference presentation list does raise the question of whether animals that cannot exist as described (the "dogmen" of the upper Midwest) belong at a conference that supposedly is focused on finding real animals, but Linda Godfrey has made the point that it's a fact that a lot of people are reporting something like a wolf-like humanoid, even if that's not what they are seeing.  So it's at least a valid folkloric question, if not a zoological one, to ask what sparks such tales.
I've not been to CrypticCon. Sharon Hill, a skeptical writer whom I have always respected even though we've disagreed, filed a report on her Doubtful News blog.
Looking forward to ICM 2018!

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