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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cryptozoology and Mythological Humanoids # 35 - Yetis and Sasquatches

With snow covering our ground and rooftops and icy winds blowing whenever we step outside I'm not surprised Yetis and Sasquatches capture my imagination and attention for research.

What are the legends of the Yeti and Sasquatch based on?

At the beginning of Wikipedia's post on the yeti, the word cryptozoology is used. This word, not found either of my large dictionaries, means the study of hidden animals. Considered a psuedoscience because it relies heavily on anecdotal evidence, stories and alleged sightings, cryptozoology searches for animals whose existence is unproven . Consider it more like the unauthorized X-files of science (frowned upon, ridiculed, housed in the basement) that occasionally contributes to the discovery of animals or humanoids not outside the realms of extreme possibility.

Cryptozoology serves a vital function in science. It keeps relevant stories about animals or humanoids believed by science to be extinct or only heard of in rural alleged sightings and folkloric anecdotal evidence. It feeds the imagination of people with hope. Much like science fiction and fantasy it leaves room for theories that are within the realms of extreme possibility but based on some flimsy evidence. That imagination poison Occam's Razor, the logical tool that states that the simplest answer is usually the correct one, doesn't have to terrorize the search for possible truths.

Cryptozoology fires my imagination and interest as a scientist and writer. The nice thing about fiction is that you don't have to be all howdy-toudy about truth and the facts and can spin theories about what might be despite the lack of evidence. This allows the imagination to think in ways that rational logical thought shies away from.

Take the recent discovery of evidence of Homo floresiensis, dubbed the Hobbit humanoid, that was found on the Indonesian island of Flores. Professor Tolkien was a follower of early hominid discoveries and held from folklore that there was probably a species of smaller humanoids that were present in early human prehistory that formed the basis of the many myths and legends about such beings. So in his writing he named the creatures Hobbits. Now science comes closer to fiction with this new discovery. Did his books help with the discovery in some way? Probably not, but they certainly helped with the dissemination of the information about the discovery.

In that light I will review with broad brush strokes the evidence and folklore about the aforementioned humanoids. Folklore and eyewitness accounts roughly places the yetis in the Himalayan Mountains and Sasquatches in northwestern North America. There are multiple eyewitness accounts of both creatures. There have been claims of bones, hair and footprints of yetis and Sasquatches, and even a scull piece of a yeti. Investigation and DNA testing has found that much of the evidence is or could be explained by bears in both regions and random hair samples of many animals. Though occasionally the hair samples are unidentifiable, leaving room for possibilities, these in all likelihood are from other rare animals not yet tested for comparison. Most scientist would state that there is insufficient evidence for the existence of either of these humanoids/animals.

But I, among many, am not satisfied with that answer. Enter our super hero: [Dunt, dunt, dunt, daaa.] Fiction. Occam's Razor, doesn't stop the fiction writer from spinning theories based on the folkloric evidence of where-there's-smoke-there's-fire. What could be the source of all this folklore about yetis and Sasquatches?

  1. The source of the legends could be bears, as many scientists say, but that doesn't explain the fact that bears inhabit many other areas near people, yet eyewitness accounts of yetis and Sasquatches are primarily limited to specific regions of origin.
  2. The legends could be the results of some unknown and rare species of bear or primate that has remained hidden in these remote regions. The recent discovery of Homo floresiensis fossils gives hope to the possibility of more small pockets of remnants of prehistoric humanoids or animal existing longer than previously believed possible.
  3. There are living species of humanoids in these regions that are adept at hiding from discovery.
  1. What do you think about the possible existence of yetis and Sasquatches?
  2. How do you feel about cryptozoology?
  3. How do you feel about the use of Achman's Razor in science to dictate what is reasonable to believe or not?
  4. What did you think of the TV show The X-files?

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