Paleozoologist Dr. Darren Naish exposes the bad science the created and sustains Cadborosaurus. Discussions with cryptozoologists is a frustrating business.
Michael Woodley, Cameron McCormick and myself recently argued that an alleged ‘baby Cadborosaurus’ was very likely no baby sea-serpent at all [via Bousfield and LeBlond], but rather a mangled and half-remembered description of a pipefish. We tabulated the various observations reported by the witness (William Hagelund), compared them to lists of characters compiled by examining numerous candidate species, and showed as clearly as possible that the pipefish identification is the one that best matches Hagelund’s observations. In other words, we did our best to examine the identity of the alleged creature in an empirical, critical fashion.
But after receiving a series of emails from an apparently frustrated Ed Bousfield, I feel it’s time to say publicly that the published work on ‘Cadborosaurus’ is terrible science and more to do with the imagination and preconceptions of the protagonists than anything to do with actual biology.
Frankly, I’m tired of being told that I and my colleagues are the ones with the ridiculous ideas, the ones who aren’t thinking things through in proper scientific fashion, or the ones who are failing to recognise the true phylogenetic affinities of organisms reported by eyewitnesses.
…all in all, the published research on ‘Cadborosaurus’ involves improbable conclusions, a lack of critical analysis, and a lack of the conservatism and restraint that’s normal in scientific research. It’s just bad, bad science. Furthermore, the primary supporters of the alleged reality of ‘Cadborosaurus’ have displayed a frustrating arrogance, lack of humility and stubborn attitude whenever their ideas are – quite justifiably – placed under scrutiny.
Source: @TetZoo (Darren Naish) on Twitter
This piece does a fine job of taking you through the history of how Caddy came into being. With plenty of illustrations, also noted are all the other MANY things the sea creature could be besides a surviving population of plesiosaurs as Bousfield and LeBlond have alleged. The article highlights a number of problems inherent in cryptozoology – use of eyewitness accounts, later creative interpretation of these accounts, unwarranted assumptions made from photographs, their lack of ability to argue at a high scientific level and, probably most critically, their habit of defending the more extraordinary conclusions. This can be seen in Bigfoot circles possibly more so than sea cryptids. Because peer review is a key component of doing science, these bad habits hinder the field from being credible as a branch of biology/zoology. I’ve argued before about cryptozoology and paranormal investigators, if the evidence was any good, then someone WOULD take you seriously. Many skeptics aren’t dismissive, we are curious (that’s why we keep up on the subject) but we not going to fall for a just-so story.
As one commentator notes: “I wish that more cryptozoologists would stop taking any challenge to their conclusions as personal attacks or attempts by the “closed-minded” to dismiss their work.” Real scientists have to face criticism and answer for shortcomings. Instead, cryptozoology proponents have closed off skeptical criticism even when it is supported by a sound foundation in what we already know to be true. I’m very entertained by this exchange between the sides that has come out in print.