You may have heard it repeated over and over, but have you ever actually honestly asked yourself the question, is "cryptozoology" really a so-called "pseudoscience"? Is it really? First off, we need to understand what generally defines "pseudoscience" and go on from there. Below are listed certain general criteria required to identify pseudoscience:
- It has fixed ideas, it isn't willing to change with new evidence.
- It hasn't gone through adequate peer review, accurate science withstands ruthless peer review.
- It selects only favorable discoveries, it does not take into account all new discoveries.
- It sees criticism as conspiracy, it does not invite criticism.
- It presents non-repeatable results, results are not verifiable.
- It makes claims of widespread use, it doesn't limit claims of usefulness.
- It uses "ball-park" measurement, it doesn't use accurate measurement.
- It uses words that sound scientific and professional but are used incorrectly or in a misleading manner.
- It relies substantially on anecdotal evidence.
- It makes extraordinary claims in absence of extraordinary evidence.
- It makes claims that cannot be proven false.
- It makes claims that counter established scientific fact.
- It repeats claims that have been refuted.
Alright, seems pretty straightforward, but then how do we define "cryptozoology"? Cryptozoology is the study of, and/or search for, animals whose existence is currently unverified (commonly referred to as "cryptids"). Cryptozoology is in fact also a sub-field of a larger field referred to as "cryptobiology" (the study or search for unknown organisms), which also contains another sub-field known as "cryptobotany," which is the study or search for unknown plants. So why would anyone claim that cryptozoology would be a pseudoscience? Let's take a look at the following four quotes from Quora that talks about this issue, featuring my personal responses.
Unlike actual zoology, cryptozoology considers anecdote and folklore to be "evidence," starts from the premise that the fantastical creatures it purports to study must exist, and accepts no evidence that they do not.[Response: This is false. First off, "anecdotal evidence" is in fact a form of "evidence," hence the term. Second, cryptozoology does NOT start from the premise that any cryptid (unknown animal) in question actually exists, but it must consider the possibility. If you start by rejecting the very possibility, then surely no progress at all will be accomplished. And yes, if there is any serious evidence or indication that a cryptid in question does not actually exist, then that is definitely taken into serious consideration.]
Genuine science makes assertions that are falsifiable (that is, can be proven wrong) and then tries to fslsify them. Only if something resists falsification can it eventually be accepted, and even then, only until something comes along that falsifies it. Science's acceptance of a model or an idea is always qualified.[Response: No honest cryptozoologist would disagree.]
Cryptozoology starts with the premise that these creatures absolutely do exist, and then attempts to prove that they do. When these attempts fail--which they do--cryptozoologists do not use that failure to question the initial premise. They explain away the failures, often in very fanciful ways, but still insist that the creatures must exist. No evidence, or lack thereof, is sufficient to make them conclude they are chasing a phantasm.[Response: Again, NO, cryptozoology does NOT start with the premise that these creatures "absolutely do exist," but rather it starts with the premise that these creatures may or may not exist and then investigate which alternative is the currently most reasonable conclusion, and while it cannot definitely say that a certain cryptid does not exist, it can reasonably assume that it does not, given that there is enough reason to reject its existence. As far as "proving" the possible existence of cryptids goes, this has happened several times, such as with the famous gorilla, panda, kangaroo, Killer Whale, Komodo Dragon, and the African and Indonesian Coelacanths for example. A cryptozoologist cannot "fail" because their goal is merely to investigate whether or not a cryptid actually exists or not. They do NOT claim that the cryptid actually does exist and they do NOT insist that the cryptid must exist, especially not in lack of any adequate or significant evidence. If any cryptozoologists does display such behavior, then they are simply not doing a very good or productive job. It does NOT turn cryptozoology as a field of study into "pseudoscience."]
That isn't how science works.[Response: I definitely agree, and so would any honest cryptozoologist. However, it appears mr. Veaux doesn't quite comprehend how cryptozoology actually works.]
To answer your question specifically, there are certain conditions that need to be met to be considered pseudoscience. You can read more about it here:[Response: This is quite deceptive. First off, "fuzzy photos" are still a form of evidence, even if being of bad quality. They are not adequate evidence, however. Second, cryptozoology makes no claims, it is merely the study or investigation by which we arrive at a reasonable conclusion in regards to whether or not a purported unknown animal may or may not exist. Third, as far as Sasquatch goes, we do have more than "fuzzy photos," we have countless photos and videos of varying quality, countless eyewitness testimonies, several casts of tracks and claims of other physical evidence, several sound recordings, including various corroborating legends and tales from history. When investigating an issue like this, we have to take into account every piece of evidence, known recorded evidence as well as potentially yet-to-be uncovered evidence. We can't be biased, but we must be open.]
Let's review the list of conditions that define pseudoscience:
- Use of vague, exaggerated or untestable claims. Real science makes precise claims that are supported by evidence. Pseudoscience makes claims that are not. Let's use "sasquatch" as an example. Where is the evidence, solid, testable, scientific evidence, that support the claims? Fuzzy photos are not it.
[Response: That can go both ways. The extreme skeptic has extreme reliance on confirmation of refutation. To start with the premise that an unknown creature cannot exist is just as unprofessional and unproductive as one who starts with the premise that the unknown creature must exist. And mr. Simpson is lying, cryptozoologists do NOT intentionally seek out to prove Sasquatch, they seek to investigate whether or not the animal may actually exist or not. There is also NO "over-reliance on anecdotal evidence, mythology or any unscientific information."]
- Extreme reliance on confirmation rather than refutation. Pseudoscience looks for evidence that confirms the belief, and ignores evidence that refutes it. Science is the reverse – all evidence is examined and a conclusion is formed from that. Again, back to sasquatch – "cryptozoologists" attempt to find evidence that supports the existence, while ignoring all else, including the lack of evidence. There is also an over reliance on anecdote, mythology, and other unscientific information.
[Response: Cryptozoology is fully open to anyone. And yet again, cryptozoology do NOT intentionally seek out to prove Sasquatch, but it seeks to investigate whether or not Sasquatch actually may or may not exist.]
- Lack of openness to testing by other experts. Pseudoscience is generally not subject to peer review, or, if it is, it's generally by a biased review. Has there ever been one single article supporting the existence of sasquatch in any of the important science journals – Nature, Science, PNAS, or whatever?
[Response: The search for Sasquatch has uncovered an increasing amount of evidence (such as countless eyewitness testimonies from a wide variety of different people, and this is always difficult to just explain away, especially as the numbers are increasing), but never anything absolutely conclusive like a body or living creature. But again, cryptozoology merely gather and evaluate evidence and investigates which is the most reasonable alternative, i.e. that the creature either exists or doesn't exist, it does NOT claim that a creature does or doesn't exist and it does NOT intentionally seek to prove either conclusion.]
- Absence of progress. Pseudoscience generally doesn't progress, because of the lack of evidence. So, the search of sasquatch has never provided any significant evidence, while relying on claims that are over 100 years old. Much like the Loch Ness Monster or any other cryptozoology claims.
[Response: Correct, but cryptozoology is a field of study, NO pseudoscience. Certain people may be like that, but cryptozoology as a field isn't and cannot be.]
- Personalization of issues. Pseudoscience is often composed of closely tied social groups, who condemn others with personal attacks.
[Response: Don't mix cryptozoology in with such things. Again, certain people may be like that, but cryptozoology as a field isn't and cannot be.]
- Use of misleading language. They try to create scientific-sounding terms to add weight to claims and persuade non-experts to believe statements that may be false or meaningless.
Yes, there are times that "cryptozoology" got it right. But not because of the pseudoscience of cryptozoology, but because of the scientific method that was used by real scientists, subject to analysis and criticism of the review process, published in respected scientific journals. However, this is rare. Science has tried to find the Loch Ness Monster – there's nothing there.[Response: Yes, repeatedly, many times cryptozoology as a study has shown its conclusions from its research to be accurate and reliable. There is no "pseudoscience" in cryptozoology, the very definition of cryptozoology doesn't allow for it. Certain (perhaps inexperienced or naive) cryptozoologists (as with any scientist) may appear or act pseudoscientific in their works, words, and actions though. But don't confuse cryptozoology with pseudoscience. Also, "science" doesn't do or try anything, but it is up to "scientists" to conduct "scientific" work, and investigating whether or not the Loch Ness Monster may exist or not is conducting cryptozoological work. In this case, the evidence currently seems to point to that this creature doesn't exist (with the available evidence merely consisting of a variety of eyewitness reports), but even this current conclusion may change in the future. Science (including cryptozoology) must be subject to change and open to other possibilities.]
In the words of Tim Minchin, "Alternative medicine that has been proven to work is called 'medicine'."[Response: Cryptozoology performed by scientists with integrity is called merely cryptozoology, being a field of study WITHIN zoology. As far as blurry photos and testimonies from "hermits and pygmies" goes, each of these ARE in fact a form of evidence, regardless of its actual quality and quantity. Each piece of evidence that may be gathered is of great worth.]
Cryptozoology performed by real scientists who understand that testimonial from hermits and pygmies, and blurry photographs is not evidence, is called 'zoology'.
People like to point to things like coelacanth to back up their point that animals thought to be extinct may still be alive somewhere. Absolutely true. However, scientists who were skeptical of its existence up until compelling evidence was found were right to not believe.[Response: Bad choices of words. While it would have been proper to remain skeptical, it would have been improper to reject the existence of the animal without adequate investigation.]
There may indeed be a species of hominid living in the Canadian rockies, or some relic reptile living in Loch Ness, unknown to science. But until there is actual, compelling, tangible evidence, stories of such have to remain in the realm of fantasy and hearsay.[Response: Again, bad choice of words. It is proper to remain skeptical while adequate evidence is missing.
[Response: I can only say that I fully agree with mr. Weiler!]
In order to define something as pseudoscience you need to see what the researchers are claiming. If their claims are reasonable in relation to the evidence that they've gathered, then it isn't pseudoscience.
In every case I've investigated, the claim of pseudoscience was unwarranted because the researchers were not claiming anything beyond:
- The evidence that they actually had in hand.
- They thought that there was a mystery worth investigating.
It was in fact, the skeptics who were practicing pseudoscience by making claims without any supporting evidence. Calling something pseudoscience without investigating it thoroughly is a form of pseudoscience. Too often, it's just a bunch of people trying to feel superior to someone else through accusations and name calling.
To call cryptozoology a pseudoscience is patently incorrect. The subject that you study does create a condition of pseudoscience itself, rather it's how you study it that can create that condition. This means that you have to study something in depth and prove that the research is flawed before you can make the pseudoscience claim. Because I do not trust skeptical claims, which are almost always ridiculously superficial and biased, I check for myself.
It's almost always more complicated and nuanced than the skeptics make it out to be and the researchers are generally far more objective than they are portrayed.
In short, we have here displayed that people who are generally skeptical or even downright fighting against cryptozoology (or cryptobiology) have a very flawed understanding of this field of study, and we can conclude that cryptobiology (whether cryptozoology or cryptobotany) is certainly not any kind of "pseudoscience" as these skeptics would generally claim, because they make the claims out of ignorance as well as arrogance, and they do no good by fighting it.
The main goal is to investigate whether or not a certain cryptid may actually exist, or may have actually existed, or is merely the stuff of fables. A second greater goal may also be, given that a certain cryptid has been proven to exist, to further protect endangered species. This is further difficult to accomplish if extreme skeptics fight against it and deceive people into thinking that cryptobiology is some kind of "pseudoscience" and they are very anti-productive in doing so.