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Re: cryptozoology?

Craig Heinselman wrote:

>         This is a nice quote from Bernard Heuvelmans:
> "The task of cryptozoology consists of demythifying the content of
> information in an attempt to make the inventory of the planet's fauna
> as complete as possible." ------ Bernard Heuvelmans

That is a fine aim, but cryptozoologists seem to fall into two camps:
those who are trying to  complete the inventory by standard
"zoological" means, and those who interpret "demythifying" as meaning
"trying to attach a factual basis to every myth".

I quite agree that often a myth derives from an observation, and that
often such observations may point towards new species. However, one
should never approach a myth *expecting* there to be this kernel of
truth, and one should certainly be willing to discard a myth as
baseless if a vast accumulation of evidence points that way.

Nessie is a case in point. Scottish myth supposed a 'mirror world'
below the surface of lochs - they could after all see it! - and chief
amongst the inhabitants of this world was the kelpie, a "water horse"
that was said to try to lure people into the mirror world (i.e. drown
them). Ness, as the biggest loch, was supposed to contain the biggest
kelpie, the Great Kelpie. But the source myth was clear - *all* lochs
were said to contain horse-like beasties.

Now Scotland is a fairly civilised country in modern times. People
live and work on the shores of the lochs, people with access to
education and modern means of communication. Yet no solid evidence for
'kelpies' has appeared, and eyewitness accounts have *all* been
centred around one well-publicised loch rather than all of them.
(Reminiscent of how the majority of UFO
sightings suddenly became "saucer-shaped" after the misreporting of a
sighting that displayed *movement-characteristics* like a skimmed

> What is the issue is to be open minded.

.. but not so open-minded that common sense falls out.

>         Is it fair to say that lake creatures ("monsters") don't exist
> in any lake?

However, it is quite fair to say that the odds are *very* greatly
against there being such fauna in well-studied lakes - which is
exactly what skeptics do say (when they are being sensibly skeptical
rather than resorting to sarcasm out of frustration with credulity)

> In that are we saying once more that because it is not
> proven, it is not there?

No, we are saying that if its not proven *and there has been ample
opportunity for such proof to be uncovered*, then it is very highly
unlikely that there is anything there. (At which point it becomes very
hard to justify further research effort).

The problem seems to be that the honest observation that it is
impossible to *disprove* such beasts is often trumpeted as some kind
of admission that they do exist by those who have an emotional
investment in them.


  Mark O'Leary,              |   Voice: +44 (0161) 2756110
  Network Support Officer,   |   Email: Mark.O'Leary@mcc.ac.uk
  Manchester Computing, UK   |      or: mark@mcc.ac.uk