Words ending in –ology suggest science. The suffix itself means “the scientific study of a particular subject.” To many of us, then, science means knowing. But issues arise when people with scientific knowledge use it to study things that are thought by many to not exist.
Cryptozoology is the study of animals that aren’t known to exist, the prefix “crypto” from the Greek for hidden. So why is it considered a fake science? And those who study it fake scientists? (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v499/n7459/full/499406a.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20130725)
Probably the most well known of these hidden animals is Bigfoot, otherwise known as Sasquatch or any number of regional names from all over the globe. When it comes to alleged sightings of the creature, though, the United States kills the competition, with the number of sightings in Washington State soaring above the rest. (http://www.bfro.net/GDB/default.asp)
Because the high mountains and deep forests of the Pacific Northwest have emerged as a hotbed of amateur sightings, this is where researchers set their professional sights.
Probably the most often-quoted source, and author of a book on the subject, is Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum of Idaho State University. Widely approached as an authority (http://www.buzzfeed.com/timstelloh/the-hunter-the-hoaxer-and-the-battle-over-bigfoot#.wrxPv3KebZ) on the subject, he is one of a growing community of people who hope to make the hunt for Sasquatch more scientific.
The issue of “Bigfoot: Real Or Not?” is often divided by a far-too-thick line (http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/11/scientist-sets-out-to-prove-sasquatchs-existence-via-blimp/). To say people either believe in Bigfoot or don’t is, to some, oversimplifying the issue, and ignoring what good science really means.
Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics at Wolfson College, Oxford, started a Bigfoot DNA study in 2012. He made an open call for evidence of Bigfoot – or whatever equivalent – from all over the world and, after testing, published a report (http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/281/1789/20140161.full?sid=3e137e23-4ace-4ba1-a7b9-260630368149.). Thirty-seven hair samples were tested – some were discarded – but none were indicative of an unknown primate.
“I was mildly irritated that enthusiasts constantly complained that they had been ‘rejected by science’,” Sykes said in an email. “I know that science neither accepts nor rejects anything, merely comes to a conclusion through the evidence.”
In the case of that study, the evidence turned out, well, not to be. But Sykes made a point to say that eventhough the study didn’t prove the existence of a Bigfoot-type creature, it also didn’t disprove it.
Where Bigfoot enthusiasts shed some of their credibility in the science community’s eyes is in their approach. Scientists approach something new with the assumption that it is not true – or in this case, does not exist – and then try to gather enough evidence to change that assumption (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/but-not-simpler/2013/10/01/why-bigfoot-is-unlikely-only-if-you-know-what-unlikely-means/). The believers deal with the topic in almost the opposite way, never faltering in their beliefs, even when faced with countless hoaxes and disappointing dead ends.
Despite this minor war over methods, the idea that Bigfoot exists remains fiercely popular, especially in the Northwestern United States. There are more avid believers – with creditable scientific supporters – than ever. If evidence exists, there is no shortage of people who want to find it, and they will not stop searching.