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Re: DINOSAUR digest 675



    I agree that we should probably end this Mokele-Membe discussion.  
However, in my last response I inadvertently made some imprecise  
statements about the individual who claimed to have seen MM, the 
distance that MM was spotted at, and the size of a turtle relevant to 
one of the sightings.  I also did not provide the exact literature 
references.  I have since looked them up, and would appreciate the 
opportunity to clarify these points now, in the interest of accuracy.  
After this, I will try not to say anything more on the topic, unless 
someone catches a live sauropod or plesiosaur!
    First, I mentioned that a french scientists had several years ago 
claimed to have seen MM in Lake Telle (Congo, Africa).  His name, which 
I neglected to mention, is Marcellin Agnagna.  
    Second, the source was the _Cryptozoology_ (the Journal of the 
International Society of Cryptozoology), Vol. 2, Winter 1983, p. 
103-112.
    Third, whereas I claimed that the animal was spotted at a distance 
of over a hundred meters, the distance was actualy given as 240 to 300 
meters.  So, while my statement was not false (300 is over 100!), the 
actual stated distance even more strongly supports my statement that 
the object's distance would make an accurate ID difficult at best, 
especiall since only the neck and head were claimed to have been seen.  
    Forth, I stated that the author said he had seen a turtle in the 
lake with a shell over a meter long.  In checking the article again, I 
find that the shell was stated to be OVER 2 METERS long.  Again, this y 
further undermines the certainty that what the author saw was a 
sauropod. It also makes it all the more perplexing why the author did 
not try to document the turtle, since such a giant turtle would be a 
stupendous find itself.  Of course, as with the MM, Agnatha produced no 
produced no pictures of the turtle, or any other tangible evidence of 
it.  Seems his camera always has trouble whenever something unusual 
appears.
    Fifth, I failed to mention in my previous message that the author 
noted that the maximum water depth in Lake Telle is 2-3 meters.  This 
too makes the MM claims very suspicious.  It is not very likely that a 
sauropod (a "brontosaur" like dinosaur) could inhabit a lake of such 
shallow depth and not frequently disturb the water and expose itself, 
especialyl since sauropods breath air.  Why did not Agnagna just wait 
until the thing had to surface again?  If his camera did not work the 
first time, certainly he could have just taken pictures when the thing 
came up again.  These and many other questions make the entire account 
suspicious.
     Indeed, I made a detailed reply to the article in a subsequent 
issue of the Journal (Vol 3, 1994, p. 137-140), and will gladly send 
anyone interested (I also included drawings showing how a turtle and 
snake can present sillouetts similar to a sauropod from a distance on 
water).    
     Ben's comments that those who discount MM and similar accounts 
must be ignorant of the cryptozoology literature are therefore 
unfounded.  I've read all the books he mentions and more, and for years 
I followed the journal artivles on the subject.  NONE of them impressed 
me as providing convincing evidence of MM, Nessie, Bigfoot, or similar 
fantastic animals.  
     No, we cannot say that ever person claiming to have seen a 
fantastic beast was lying, as Ben suggests.  Many crypto animals 
probably have SOME basis.  For example, repeated sightings of a 
"Mermaid" in one area turned out to be a new species (or subspecies) or 
sea cow. That's good, but illustrates the important point: less 
fantastic explanations must be ruled out before fantastic ones are 
accepoted or seriously entertained, especailly by scientists.  As I 
said before, most cryptoz people seem to prefer to assume "unicorns" 
rather than horses when they hear hoofbeats.  They actively seek 
fantastic explanations and evidence for them, while often ignoring or 
discounting contrary evidence or more parsimonious explanations.    
 The same goes for individual pieces of evidence. For example, in one 
issue of the journal Cryptozoology claims were made that some BigFoot 
tracks showed "dermal ridges" (finger prints on the toes, if you will), 
and that these were essentially "impossible to fake."  And yet there 
are several ways such prints could be faked (I wrote an article 
enumerating them).  The point is, the wishful thinking of many in the 
movement causes them to both jump to unjustified conclusions, as well 
as to fail to adequately explore less fantastic explanations of the 
same phenomena.  
    Last, Ben shows a fundamental misunderstanding when he says that we 
cannot prove that all the MM sightings are lies.  Ben, we don't have 
to!  Whenever fantastic claims are made THE BURDEN OF PROOF LIES WITH 
THE CLAIMANT, NOT THOSE QUESTIONING THE CLAIM.  We do not have to prove 
that all the sightings are lies or mistakes.  Those supporting them 
have the burden of demonstrating that they are true!     

Glen Kuban