Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Beatrix Potter on the Loch Ness Monster

English children's book author Beatrix Potter (famed for Peter Rabbit and other animal characters) put forward a theory in 1934 on the Loch Ness Monsters' physiology, according to an unpublished letter to an author of a book on that mystery animal. The letter has recently been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum. (While the receiving author is unmentioned, I'm guessing it was R. T. Gould, who wrote The Loch Ness Monster and Others.)
According to the Times Online, Potter wrote:

"May I hazard a suggestion about the humps? These beasts — whatever they are — frequent deep waters. They are able to sustain immense variations of pressure. I suggest that the humps mainly result from a power of self inflation under a very elastic skin for the purpose of equalising pressure. Frogs & toads, especially the latter, have power of inflation. Toads let off acrid water. Their inflation is in the belly. But it is conceivable that this beast may have a very loose elastic skin all round its body."

Dunkleosteus

From The Age:

"The armour-plated fish Dunkleosteus was a 10 metre-long, 3,600 kg monster that terrorised other marine life in the Devonian Period, which spanned 415 million to 360 million years ago.
"While lacking true teeth, Dunkleosteus used two long, bony blades in its mouth to snap and crush nearly any creature unfortunate enough to encounter it.
Scientists at the Field Museum in Chicago and the University of Chicago decided to test Dunkleosteus's reputation for wielding some of the most powerful jaws ever on Earth, creating a biomechanical model to simulate its jaws.
"They came away impressed.
"In research published in Britain's Royal Society journal Biology Letters, they said the big fish's bite packed 5,000 kilograms of force.
"The bony blades in its mouth, almost certainly enamelled like teeth, concentrated the bite force into a small area at the tip at an astonishing force of 36,000 kg per square inch, they said." ...

"The researchers also determined that Dunkleosteus could open its mouth very rapidly - in a 50th of a second - which formed a suction force drawing prey into the gaping mouth. It is very rare for a fish to possess both a powerful and a fast bite, they said."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

10th Florida Panther killed this year

From NaplesNews:

"A tenth Florida panther has been killed in a vehicle collision this year, tying a mark for the deadliest year on record for the big cats. A female Florida panther was struck and killed on U.S. 41 East at around 11 p.m. Sunday between Manatee Road and Collier Boulevard, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Darrell Land in an e-mail.
"The cat was not wearing a radio collar, nor did it have a transponder chip, so the panther's existence and location were unknown until its body was found. The panther was killed within a few hundred yards of a middle school and an elementary school on a stretch of U.S. 41 that is slated to be widened from two to six lanes in coming years.
"The roadkill record was set at 10 in 2003. Last year, nine panthers died after getting hit.
"Scientists estimated between 70 and 100 Florida panthers are left, making the species one of the most endangered on the planet. Almost all of them live south of Lake Okeechobee."

More commentary on the growth of the Florida Panther population (and concerns as it moves into suburbia) can be found via the Washington Post.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Luminous Lizard

Fans of Ivan T. Sanderson will be familiar with his experience with a small lizard found on the island of Trinidad, Proctoporus shrevei. Sanderson claimed that this lizard was bioluminescent, noting that the small pores on its sides "lit up for a few seconds like the portholes of a ship," when handled. An evaluation of dead specimens by Dr. H. W. Parker in 1939 led to the suggestion of three possible answers: 1) true bioluminescence, 2) phosphorescence, and 3) highly reflective scales. There have been attempts to answer the question once and for all over the years, and the lizard has made its appearance in BioFortean materials for some time.

I was recently informed of a paper that appears to have laid the controversy to rest. In the Caribbean Journal of Science, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 422-6 (2004), ("Shedding Light on the Luminous Lizard...") the authors (Knight, Gutzke, and Quesnel) collected live specimens and tested the three hypotheses. The final answer appears to be that the lizard's "port" scales are highly reflective. The authors note:

"We found that if P. shrevei is observed along the same plane from which light is directed, the normally obvious white ocelli cannot be seen against the reflection from all other scales. But, when viewed from an angle oblique to the light source, the ocelli appear brighter, while surrounding scales show no reflection. By varying the angle of reflected light, an illusion is created that the ocellar scales are intermittently emitting light, thus providing an explanation of Sanderson’s original account of the lizard 'switch[ing] on its portholes.'"

This illusion of luminescence is achieved not only through the reflectivity, but through changes in the skin tone:

"Further enhancing the illusory effect of the reflective scales, dark pigment surrounding each white ocellar scale varies in intensity, apparently depending on the stress level of the animal. We observed that pigmentation becomes darker when lizards are initially handled, but fades to a lower intensity after several minutes. The darker surrounding pigment heightens the reflective effect of the ocelli and makes them appear a brighter white. When viewed immediately after handling the lizards, the ocelli appear to pulse or fluctuate in brightness as the surrounding pigment changes intensity. After a quiescent period, the ocelli are still reflective but do not appear as bright as when the surrounding skin pigmentation is darker."

So, when the lizard is stressed, it's skin darkens and provides greater emphasis for the reflective scales. As it quiets, the skin lightens and the reflectivity is less noticeable.

You can read more about this in the paper (along with notes on the lizard's cold-adapted physiology, which is unusual in a tropical species), which can be downloaded here. (PDF)

Friday, November 24, 2006

New Hampshire Sasquatch Report

Columnist Ed Parsons (MountWashingtonValley.com) provides details from a friend's sighting in the White Mountains' Ossipee Range of New Hampshire:

"My friend Peter Samuelson, 65, of Fryeburg, has been prospecting in these mountains for more than 40 years. Back in the late 1960s, when I was being introduced to the area by working summers up at the AMC, he was already prospecting far and wide in the mountains, carrying heavy packs of supplies in, and heavy packs of stones out." ...
"At first I found the idea amusing and certainly possible. But, then I realized he had honestly told me the story of what he and his friend Holly saw that day in the mountains — there is no reason to think otherwise — and an interpretation of the events should be left up to the reader. Even Samuelson himself isn’t sure at all what actually happened." ...
"It was mid-summer, 1979. Samuelson, his dog named Kat, and his girlfriend Holly Swaffield, then of Wolfeboro, were out prospecting in the Ossipee Range.
"'We drove in the Gilman Valley Road, parked at the gate and continued up the old road past the Tamworth/Ossipee town line,' he said. 'Then we cut into the woods on the right and headed west up Bald Mountain.'
"The ledgey Bald Mountain is taller than Mount Whittier and is located just south of it. From its open ledges, you can look directly below to Connor Pond, located in the center of the range.
"'We bushwhacked in two miles, up to the ledges on Bald,' Samuelson said. 'The area contains a lot of Conway granite and we were looking for contact zones, edges where two types of rock meet. Along these zones, it is possible to dig for pockets of beryls or topaz crystals.'
"As the trees opened up before them, and Connor Pond became visible far below to their left, they saw a strange sight about 100 yards ahead on the ledges.
"'It was a small structure, yet made of big stones, stacked on each other,' he said. 'The roof was flat and made of thatched hemlock bows. There was an opening, like a rustic doorway. We saw a giant man-like creature inside, about seven feet high, and back to us. It was totally covered with tangled gray hair about three inches long.'
"In the same instant that this all became visible to them, Kat began growling intensely and the creature started to make loud noises indicating it was upset.
"'I can’t describe the noise,' said Samuelson. 'Anyway, Holly freaked and we all felt threatened. We hightailed it out of there immediately, in the direction we had come. Only later, part way down the mountain, did we pause and ask yourselves, ‘What did we see?"'
"They had both carried cameras, but in the urgency to leave never thought to take a picture.
"Over the next few days, they told various acquaintances of their experience. Asked how these people reacted, Samuelson said with a smile, 'You know how.'
"A few months later, Holly excitedly called him and said she had been to the Wolfeboro Library and found a fascinating story. During a midwinter thaw in the 1890s, a person in a cabin on the shore of Connor Pond, located in the center of the Ossipee Range, saw an alarming thing. A dog had wandered out on the thawing pond. It fell through the ice and was floundering vainly for a long time to get out. Suddenly a large hairy human-like creature came out of the woods from the direction of Bald Mountain, reached out long arms and rescued the dog, then immediately disappeared back in the woods from the direction it first appeared.
"That old story added a little continuity to their own experience, no matter how unbelievable. Still, it took Samuelson a year to get his courage and curiosity up enough to return alone to the site of their mysterious and alarming encounter on Bald Mountain. Holly wouldn’t go with him. As he walked out onto to the ledges, he was struck again, this time because there was absolutely no sign of the structure they had seen the year before. He picked over the area thoroughly, looking for the slightest dent in the ledges where the big stones might have rested, stones that would normally take two or three people to move.
"There was nothing."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

Brown-and-White Panda Dies

The only known living brown-and-white panda, a genetic mutation (probably a recessive trait), has died without leaving any offspring, according to reports from China:

"The world's only brown-and-white panda has died at a zoo in north-west China's Shaanxi province, China's official Xinhua News Agency reports, quoting zoo officials.
"The 17-year-old male panda, Qin Qin, appeared normal on Tuesday, playing and eating congee and fruit, but was found dead at 5am (local time) on Wednesday, the report says.
"It says Qin Qin may have died from pulmonary edema, adding medical experts will conduct a post-mortem to determine the exact cause of death."


[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

Yangtze's Lost Dolphin


From the Guardian (London), comes a report on an expedition in China seeking any remaining Baiji, or Yangtze River dolphins:

"When they write the environmental history of early 21st-century China, the freshwater dolphin expedition now plying the Yangtze river may be seen as man's farewell to an animal it once worshipped. A team of the world's leading marine biologists is making a last-gasp search for the baiji, a dolphin that was revered as the goddess of Asia's mightiest river but is now probably the planet's most endangered mammal." ...
"The baiji expedition started out as a typically modern-day mission: a cascade of beer from the brewery sponsoring the launch, technical support from international research institutes and a shipfull of good intentions and high hopes. But more than halfway through the six-week expedition, the mood is grimmer as the participants contemplate the possibility that man may have killed off its first species of dolphin.
"Spotters on the two boats have yet to glimpse a pale dorsal fin or hear the telltale trace of a sonar whistle, but the organisers refuse to give up. 'The likelihood of the baiji being extinct in five to 10 years is 90% or more, but we must have hope and do everything possible,' says August Pflüger, head of baiji.org, a Swiss-based group devoted to saving whales and dolphins.
"Few people outside China have heard of the baiji, a light grey, long-snouted river dolphin that relies on sonar rather than its eyes to navigate through the murky Yangtze water. But even more than the panda, the demise of this mammal illustrates the sacrifices that the world's most populous country has made in its race to grow richer.
"In the 1950s, there were thousands of baiji in the Yangtze. By 1994, the number fell below 100. This year, there has only been one, unconfirmed, sighting." ...
"Whether this is too little, too late for the baiji will not be conclusively determined by the expedition. But if the most advanced survey of the river yet comes up blank, the baiji's prospects are grim. 'If we cannot find any baiji, the message to society will be that there is no hope for them,' says Wang."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Three Mouse Lemurs Described

German scientists have spent the last three years examining three new mouse lemurs, and have finally published descriptions. From Spiegel Online:

"Three years have passed since three new species of mouse lemur -- mircocebus bongolavensis, microcebus danfossi and microcebus lokobensis were discovered by German scientists in the forests of Madagascar. Nevertheless, a lot of time can pass before an animal species is officially "baptized" with a scientific name. The road to obtaining an official Latin name is a long one -- filled with pitfalls and hurdles that involve a painstaking research process into the new species that ends with a peer-reviewed study published in a scientific journal. Only after other scientists review the research, corrections are made and it is successfully defended can the scientific baptism finally be completed.
"Three species of mouse lemurs have now put this procedure behind them and they are officially the newest species of the primate world. Working together with colleagues in Madagascar, scientists at the Institute for Zoology at the University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) in Hanover, Germany discovered and classified the animals. The results of their research will be published in the forthcoming issue of the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution." ...
"For the lay person, these newly discovered species don't look all that different from other species. At first glance they all look the same. Because they live in the dark in the forest's think canopies, they lack the need to be visibly distinctive. This meant that the researchers had to inspect them very closely. First they discovered an animal whose tail was two centimeters longer than those of the others. But those are human problems: The mouse lemurs make it a bit easier for members of their own species: they can be recognised by their scent or cries -- at frequency levels that no person can hear." ...
"Kappeler belongs to a working group that has spent three years studying the dispersal of five specific lemur species in the rain forests of east Madagascar. He estimates that up to now only around half of all the species of lemur on the island have been discovered and named. And more new species will likely be announced in the coming year."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Madagascar Pochard rediscovered

From BirdLife news:

"The Madagascar Pochard, a diving duck last sighted in 1991 and feared ‘Possibly Extinct’, has been rediscovered during a survey in remote northern Madagascar.
"Conservationists from The Peregrine Fund Madagascar Project, discovered nine adults and four recently-hatched young on a remote lake, and have since revisited the site for further observations and data." ...

"The Madagascar Pochard Aythya innotata was until recently listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). The last pochard sighting was on Lake Alaotra in the Central Plateau of Madagascar in 1991 when a male was captured and kept in Antananarivo Zoological and Botanical Gardens until its death one year later. The lack of subsequent records despite intensive searches, and the intensity of threats to the species, had led to it being tagged as Possibly Extinct.
"The last record of multiple birds dates back to June 1960 when 20 birds were sighted on Lake Alaotra."


BirdLife suggest this provides hope for the other bird species currently listed by the IUCN Red List as Possibly Extinct.

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Polka and Sea Serpent





The polka was introduced to the world in 1835 in Prague. This form of dance, and music, has a Czechoslovakian origin in peasant dance, and is a fast paced duple time pattern. While we know of the polka these days through modern interpretations, such as popular singer and artist Weird Al Yankovic and Steve Urkel from the television show “Family Matters” (1989-1998), the music itself has rich heritage and is still danced and orchestrated for.

In 1825, the Austrian pianist, singer and impresario MORTIZ STRAKOSCH was born. He later died in Paris, France on October 9, 1887. Having received a classical training in Vienna, Strakosch traveled throughout Europe from the age of 11 on. In 1845 he came across the ocean to America where he continued as a pianist and composer. He would become the director of the Italian Opera in New York in 1859 and was influential in introducing musicians and singers of the day to wider audiences, including Clara Louise Kellogg. Strakosch produced various pieces of the years, and is perhaps best known for the opera Giovanna de Napoli from 1850. However, Strakosch did write at least two polkas during this same period in history, and therein lies the connection to cryptozoology and a little known musical piece that is over 150 years old.

In 1850 the “SEA SERPENT POLKA” was published by the GP Reed & Co., with lithography by J.W. Buford. This lithography shows a sea serpent in an oceanic bay, quite possibly the Nahant Bay area in Massachusetts. The Nahant, and surrounding areas, were locations of “sea serpent” reports throughout the 19th century and were well known through the world at that time.

Of course the SEA SERPENT POLKA is not the only musical cryptozoology collection. But, it is a little known example of a popular culture representation.


Do you know of more music inspired by CRYPTOZOOLOGY?


Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Yowie: Healy and Cropper


Recently published, The Yowie: In Search of Australia's Bigfoot, by Tony Healy and Paul Cropper. Looks like this will be a good addition to ABSM and global cryptozoology libraries. It retails for $19.95 and is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers.

Exotic Feline in Tennessee

While I won't be posting each and every news account of out-of-place exotic escapees here, this one is a good example of what we've seen over the last few years. From the Tennesseean:

"A wildlife officer says the large mystery cat near Warner Parks is in more danger than anyone in the neighborhood.
"Walter Cook, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency captive wildlife coordinator, said the feline is a caracal, not a cougar." ...

"Cook identified the animal after viewing a video he said was provided by WSMV-TV-Channel 4 of a large cat walking through a yard.
"Assuming it's the same cat others have reported, it's either a caracal or an Eurasian lynx, he said." ...

"The cat that Cook said he saw on the video had tufts on its ears, a tail that's a few inches long and is about 35-40 pounds, he said.
"One eyewitness had described the cat as 70 pounds, but Cook said that wildlife officials have learned to halve whatever people say when it comes to such sightings." ...

"Sightings from others took place last year in July and August and this year in July, August, September and November, Beazley said."

Of particular interest is the possibility of successful overwintering.

[Full news details posted to StrangeArk archive.]

Friday, November 17, 2006

Abyssal Bioluminescence


A new study of deep-sea bioluminescence reveals the presence of "hotspots" of communicative light displays:

"The team from the University of Bristol, Oceanlab at the University of Aberdeen, and the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton used a vehicle called a lander to record spontaneous light displays or bioluminescence produced by small abyssal creatures which were feeding at bait attached to the lander.
"Professor Monty Priede, Director of Oceanlab, said: 'This is the first time anyone has recorded spontaneous light emissions by bottom-living animals on the deep sea floor.
“'Previously, people had observed flashes of light from animals in the water disturbed by the approach of the submarine. Our lander stayed still, making no noise, and we got unique recordings of natural reactions of deep sea animals to food and each other.' ...
"On the deep sea floor of the Atlantic Ocean the team found that on average the number of light bursts decreased as they went deeper. They recorded 30 such events per hour at 1,000m depth but only three per hour at 4,000m. ...
“'We now know that throughout the abyssal sea floor there are occasional flashes of light but, where animals congregate at a food source, such as our bait, animals are communicating with one another through light. We imagine a dead whale that has fallen to the sea floor would be surrounded by lights making a vivid display in the darkness of the abyss which might attract predatory fishes.' ...
"The source of these lights in the deep remains a mystery but one likely explanation is small shrimp-like creatures swimming just above the sea floor. The team think they have identified the culprits off the West of Ireland but are waiting for independent checking of their work by scientific referees."

[Full news posted to
StrangeArk archive.]

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Different Phenotype, Different Species? Not Always.

Genetic research on some apparently different species of mouse lemurs shows they are only color variations. From EurekAlert:

"Historically, species classification has been based on comparison of visible physical characteristics of plants or animals. Kellie Heckman, a post-doctoral fellow in ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale, and her colleagues at other universities, used analysis of a mitochondrial gene, cytochrome b, to test the genetic relationship of 70 lemurs that were thought to belong to up to three different species. Their report was published in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.
"'Our study combined morphological, genetic, geographic, and ecological data giving a multidimensional, and hopefully more accurate picture of species diversity,' said Heckman. 'Over the past decade, the number of proposed species of these lemurs has jumped from two to fifteen, based on physical differences. It pointed to the need for caution when identifying new species solely on the basis of visual or genetic characteristics.'
"The lemurs they tested had three extremely different coat colors and lived in different types of forest locations in southern Madagascar -- classic characteristics of separate species. These researchers chose to compare mitochondrial cytochrome b as a gene marker that is known to change at a rate similar to that of speciation. Other common nuclear genes may evolve more slowly or more rapidly with population drift.
"Surprisingly, the researchers found that although the lemurs appeared to be different species because they were visually distinct, they did not differ genetically. According to the sequence of their cytochrome b genes, all belong to the same previously identified species, Microcebus griseorufus.
"The authors also show that lemurs with each of the three different coat colors could be found in all three geographical locations in similar proportions. They note that lemurs are nocturnal animals and tend to depend on auditory cues, or smell, more than on visual cues to recognise each other. They say that this could explain why a certain amount of variation in coat color does not affect species recognition in the mouse lemurs."


Another note on this study, from New Scientist, states:

"In 1992 there were only two known mouse lemur species. This number has since jumped to 15 thanks to more research in Madagascar. Heckman says that the new findings lead her to suspect that some of the 'new species' discovered recently may belong to previously reported ones."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

Men, Fish and Tackle (and Sea Monsters)


I've just reprinted Men, Fish and Tackle: The Story of J. A. Coxe, which is basically the reminescences of a deep-sea angler and tackle-maker. While the book was primarily first issued (1936) for fishing enthusiasts, it does have a small point of interest for cryptozoology enthusiasts. Coxe was an eyewitness to an unidentified sea creature off the coast of California. While he believed he had seen the creature a few times over the years, his best sighting occurred while he was fishing with a friend. The friend called his attention to the beast, which Coxe describes: "A thing was sticking up out of the water a good ten feet! It had a reptile like head—must have been four or five feet thick—was covered with coarse, reddish bristles—and had eyes as big as dinner plates! I’m not exaggerating a bit. It’s head kept turning back and forth—then it stopped turning and seemed to be looking at us." His discussion of what he saw is brief, but intriguing. Turns out, also, that the author of the book, Ralph Bandini, also had seen a sea creature in the Pacific. I'm still trying to track down a copy of the article he wrote about it; if I locate it, I'll reprint it in the BioFortean Review.
For more information on this book, see Coachwhip Publications.

China: Black-Crested Gibbons Found

From a People's Daily report (excerpt):

"Chinese researchers announced on Tuesday that they had found 17 wild black crested gibbons, a highly endangered species that was once even declared extinct in the 1950s, in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

"After more than two months of tracking, the researchers spotted the gibbons in three groups in the Bangliang forest area of Jingxi County.

"'Sightings of the gibbons show that forest ecology has improved significantly in Guangxi and that local people have become more positive in protecting wild animals,' said Zhou Fang, an animal expert with Guangxi University, who participated in the investigations.

"Sightings of the animal in Guangxi brought the total number of black crested gibbons in the world to about 50. In 2002, about 30 black crested gibbons were found in Cao Bang of Vietnam."

-----

It appears that there are several recognized subspecies of this primate, Nomascus concolor, all of which are endangered or critically endangered. It isn't immediately obvious which subspecies this report involves.

[News filed at StrangeArk archive.]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Cryptofiction Novel

Another POD novel about Sasquatch (this one from iUniverse). Appears to be a shorter novel, 122 pages, and not badly priced at $10.95. A press release states that there are eleven illustrations throughout the book by the cover artist.

The Unleashing: The Sasquatch Encounters, One, by Clint Romag

Book Description (from Amazon):
Overhead, a small charter plane buzzes the treetops of the Canadian wilderness, entering a zone of endless possibilities for the men on their annual hunting trip. Some are very experienced, while others hope to bag a trophy for the first time. What the men do not know is that a monster lurks below.
Chad Gamin, a rookie hunter, thought that the hunting trip would give him a good chance to spend time with his father. But as Chad, his father, best friend Shane, and another couple enter the deep woods in pursuit of untouched hunting grounds, they make a startling discovery that will forever change their lives. Their fatal mistake unleashes the rage of a creature thought only to live in legends and campfire stories: Bigfoot.
What follows is a massacre. The few hunters that survive the initial attack will desperately search for a way out of the forest, only to discover that an unrelenting monster is pursuing them.
www.ClintRomag.com

Monday, November 13, 2006

ISC

Most cryptozoology researchers are familiar with the late organization, the International Society of Cryptozoology. Due to some unfortunate problems in the latter years of the organization, it essentially ceased to function during the early 1990s. Richard Greenwell was planning a "resurrection" of sorts a few years back, but unfortunately died of cancer in 2005. While certain parties in popular cryptozoology seemed determined to undermine attempts to recreate the society (we won't discuss that here), there was still some hope that the individuals Greenwell had been working with might still manage to restart the ISC. This past week, I was told by the parties involved, that for various reasons, it just wasn't going to happen. This is a shame, as cryptozoology really could use an organized group that focuses on establishing a peer-reviewed scientific journal for publishing research.

Of some further interest, however, I was told that a) the ISC holdings [I assume correspondence and the like] will be placed in an archives available for public research, and b) the leftover journals and newsletters will eventually be made available for purchase (though the details have not yet been finalized). I hope that the chosen archives will be easily accessible for cryptozoological research, and am glad to hear that they won't just disappear like Sanderson's or SITU's or a myriad other investigation groups. I also hope the journals/newsletters will be made available for a reasonable sum, so that more enthusiasts can take advantage of the terrific information to be found in those pages. (And I still have a few gaps to fill myself...)

Religious Attacks?

In a recent blog commentary at Cryptomundo.com, Loren Coleman pointed to a Catholic blogger who posted on the Kansas City exhibition of the art and cryptozoology exhibition (that Loren helped put together). Apparently, this blogger stepped on Loren's toes by noting that the exhibition would "raise eyebrows." Loren's overreaction to this blossomed into "Catholic Left Attacks Cryptozoology." Never mind that it was a solitary blogger, not a diocese; forget that the artists themselves have no real interest in communicating what cryptozoology actually concerns... No, let's just throw out some rhetoric ("First it was the creationists and now it is the Catholic progressives that seem ready to assault cryptozoology.") and see if the cryptozoology community swallows it.

Can someone with a religious perspective effectively practice or understand science? Or even have a viewpoint on matters of science? (What does Loren say? "Who cares what the right or left religious writers say about cryptozoology and art?") I'm not a Catholic, but I am a Christian, and I find this implication offensive. Wouldn't it be just as ignorant to ask, "Who cares what artists say about cryptozoology?" or "Who cares what cryptozoologists say about art?" or "Who cares what cryptozoologists say about religion?"

Loren states, "Misunderstandings, assaults, and insults come from the religious right and the religious left," but let's be honest. Misunderstandings, assaults, and insults come from every perspective, even agnostic or purely naturalistic mindsets. To try and extrapolate a religious cultural viewpoint from a single individual's posting (and after misapprehending it to begin with), is poor logic.

The problem, I believe, lies in a misunderstanding of the nature of belief in science. There is an inaccurate concept that "belief" is only religious in nature, and is not found in science, or is antithetical to science. (Therefore, holding a belief, religious or otherwise, places one in strife with scientific reason.) That is not true, of course. If one points, for example, to fossils as an evidence for the common descent of all organisms through geological time, one is not pointing to a fact, but to a belief that flows from certain assumptions. By changing assumptions, one may end up changing a belief. The facts themselves (the presence of a fossil, the presence of certain elements within the fossil, the geologic strata in which the fossil is found) do not change, nor does the methodology used to study the fossil. But the assumptions one uses may create certain limitations (blinders) or may show different potential answers to the question being explored. And, like it or not, those assumptions are beliefs. If a biologist assumes that it is possible for a big hairy primate to have been overlooked by traditional discovery methodology, that biologist may consider examining evidence that another biologist (who assumes it is not possible) will ignore. The methodology doesn't change, the evidence doesn't change, only the assumptions change.

Take the definition of religion itself by a cultural anthropologist (Clifford Geertz, 1973, The Interpretation of Cultures, via a discussion list): "A religion is (1) a system of symbols which acts to (2) establish long-lasting moods and motivations in men by (3) formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and (4) clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that (5) the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic." Gee, we've never seen that outside organized religion, have we?

Rather than creating a false dichotomy (religion has beliefs, science has facts, never the twain shall meet), we should recognize that assumptions exist, and learn to be transparent about them rather than hiding them behind a false screen of subjective opinions masquerading as facts. If we know what the assumptions are, we can learn to recognize problems that accompany them, and hopefully resolve them or compensate for them (or even reconsider the assumptions) while seeking objective evidence.

Cryptozoology doesn't need any more of this "Religious Assault" misinformation. Researchers and enthusiasts come in every philosophical and religious shade, and most are capable of working with individuals of different persuasions. That cryptozoological discoveries may have relevance or interest beyond discovery science itself should not be decried or derided. That is the nature of science and philosophy, and should not affect the legitimate practice of cryptozoology.

[Note: Loren has posted a new commentary on Cryptomundo around my first response. To this, I'll just note that he misses my point. My argument was not that Art will shift cryptozoological concepts or that cryptozoology should hide from Art: rather, it is that when someone who doesn't know better takes the wrong tact with cryptozoology from Art, we shouldn't immediately blame that individual, particularly if we were contributing to the problem. If you are going to sleep with lions, don't be surprised if you end up with a few fingers missing. Second, Loren thinks I've misrepresented him when he talked about the "Right." Apparently, Loren has his own definition: he just means a "small minority," (the far, far, far "Right"?) a certain creationist and cadre. I think I know a bit more about the breadth and scope of creationists interested in cryptozoology, and I don't believe Loren knows where he's forming his boundaries here. As far as that certain creationist goes, I've been on record elsewhere that his credibility in either field is nil. But, again, it is no one's business whether someone "uses" cryptozoology for some purpose beyond cryptozoology itself, any more than if an environmentalist uses biogeographic data to push legislation for the protection of a species, so I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree.]

Starting Over

A couple years ago, I had started up a StrangeArk blog, but due to tech problems with the Mac I was using at the time, ended up putting it off for the future. Well, the future is here. This will probably end up being a team blog (after ironing out some details), with a focus, of course, on cryptozoology and anomalous biology.

At this point, I haven't decided whether to continue the StrangeArk news email list, or just move that to this blog.