This is the second part of a two-part feature on cryptozoology and what it takes to be viewed as a good one. If you missed Part 1, have no fear, you can find it right here.
The impact of Television cryptozoologists depends how you look at it
The image of cryptozoologists we’re fed by television is colored with successful hunts for clues, mysteries at every turn, and multiple sightings over short periods of time. The claims made by some of these TV-created experts are so outrageous the average high school biology class could flex enough scientific knowledge to discredit them. The problem for cryptozoologists is it only takes one of these unqualified TV-cryptos to use his pearlescent smile and snarky, “Kiss Me, I’m a Cryptozoologist,” name tag, to attract a swarm of media for a very public display of very bad information, thus giving everyone in the cryptozoology community a black eye.
"With anything that goes on the boob tube, there is a line between research and entertainment. If you’re going to cross that line then you have to make it clear. Some people in the business don’t do that. They come up with hoax, after hoax, after hoax, after hoax, and they get all kinds of attention, but they bring the wrong kind of attention to the subject matter and the rest of us pay for that," Cryptozoologist Scott Marlowe said.
My formerly negative view of cryptozoology was shaped primarily by television, and by really bad television it turns out.
It’s the same thing every time I turn certain shows on.
I think, “Okay … hmmm … Uhhh… Yeah, that sounds scientific.”
“Oo Oo Oo Miami Vice.”
During my conversation with the cryptozoologist, Marlowe, he said something that helped me understand my repulsion to some TV shows covering cryptozoological topics, but not to others. I never quite put my finger on what made my list of turnoffs powerful enough to make me want to thumb my nose at an entire profession. It all comes down to presentation.
How up front is the show whether its intention is entertainment or enlightenment? When I expect to be presented with something backed up by science, but instead get lots of re-enactments and talking-head speculation, I get agitated and immediately suspicious about the credibility of what I’m seeing.
“It can be a symbiosis that works very well, or it can be a disaster and work very badly. So it all depends on how much research people are prepared to do,” Marlowe said about the television exposure.
Unfortunately, cryptozoology has a knack for occasionally attracting folks whose grip on reality is outside the norm, but happen to make great television fodder. Marlowe referred to these people as delusionals, and they can take many forms. He said:
The delusionals’ mantra is they are going to find an undiscovered animal and get the Nobel prize for doing it. You’ll hear that over and over again. Or you’ll hear, ‘I’m going to make a million bucks on this thing.’
Those people are delusionals. Complete nut jobs.
It’s unrealistic to even think that’s going to happen. That’s an accident. That may happen, and bless you if you’re that lucky, but at some point later in life you’ll realize the significance of what happened to you.
A speech delivered by Jeff Goldblum in Jurrasic Park is applicable in the modern-day, highly competitive, wild-west culture brought on by not having an established degree program for cryptozoology. It’s one of Marlowe’s favorite movie quotes.
In Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s character talks about standing on the shoulders of geniuses, and building on what they’ve accomplished; but because you didn’t have to earn the knowledge yourself, you don’t really appreciate what it means. All you are going to do with it is try to package it, process it, slap it on a lunch pail, and try to make a buck on it. They don’t deserve the outcome achieved because they didn’t earn it.
That’s right. It’s exactly right.
On the positive side of the impact of television exposure, cryptozoology’s emergence in pop-culture has nearly made it a household word. So when data is collected prudently, gets evaluated using modern scientific principles, and then gets presented with the same attention to detail seen in the accepted sciences, each new discovery has the potential to become a publicity whirlwind powered by reputation-boosting credibility.
Cryptozoologists of this nature also occasionally get some television screen time and the opportunity to balance out the aforementioned nonsense with a shot of science. Who will capture the imagination of the public? Will it be the carnival-barker cryptozoologists hawking snake oil, or the lab-coat cryptozoologists and their gigabytes of research and results? Watching the continued trend of shows about cryptozoological subjects in the coming years could get interesting as the struggle for legitimacy continues. The issue for we the consumer is separating the cryptos better skilled at smiling pretty for the camera, from the ones who get down to the nitty gritty in the field and the lab.
The Sooner, the Better for Cryptozoology Acceptance
During his three decades of research, Marlowe has seen a number of potentially groundbreaking projects fall short of its goals because of unnecessary errors an established cryptozoology degree program might have prevented.
Much of the evidence that could otherwise be extremely useful, particularly DNA evidence, is sometimes manhandled so badly the results of any forensic analysis become botched or completely useless because someone really didn’t know what they were doing.
This is the Achilles heel, for example, of the Ketchum Project (aka The Melba Ketchum DNA Study or Bigfoot DNA Project). One reason that project was doomed form the start was the methodology used to collect the samples. When you have no viable, testable method of controlling the chain of custody, that’s a crucial issue in any investigation. So even if everything in the laboratory went swimmingly, and they did, there is no guarantee there was not a sample planted to create an issue. And of course, it is pretty obvious from the conclusions reached, there is a religious agenda tied to the outcome of the report. That’s something else that cannot be there from the scientific point of view. There is no way that study could have done any good, even with Dr. Ketchum’s relatively good credentials as a veterinarian, so while I applaud what she attempted to do, I decry it from the scientific point of view because of how it was done.
The issue with the Ketchum project came down to bagging, tagging, storing, and moving, samples correctly, but there are scarier issues threatening the very safety of insufficiently trained amateur cryptozoologists and charlatans alike.
Some of the chemicals used, such as blood enhancement reagents like Bluestar, are toxic and can kill you.
“Some people are getting out there not realizing they are dealing with extreme toxins that are going to kill them. These are all programs you would have to take in college,” he said.
Someone who doesn’t know what they are doing is not only a danger to themselves, but also a threat to an entire profession and others. Accepting cryptozoology as a legitimate field of study can save lives. It might sound like a grandiose claim, but it does contain some truth.
This is a major problem.
Marlowe says there are a couple of schools sniffing around the idea of giving consideration to cryptozoology, but so far none have truly pulled the trigger on a full-blown program. So cryptozoology continues to lurk around the fringes of accepted science, shunned by the elders, and being eaten alive by the parasites sucking the life out of it.
“We do need specialists in cryptozoology, but we gotta get to the first step of getting it recognized as a science first. That’s been my goal, and remains my goal, and one that hopefully gets accomplished before I leave this world” he said.
Marlowe has completed a mountain of college credit hours, but does not have a degree to show for it. It’s not because he doesn’t qualify for one, it is because he doesn’t qualify for the one he truly wants, which is one that doesn’t exist.
I have chosen, in protest of it not being a recognized science, to not apply for another degree. I just won’t do it. I’ve had several professors and department heads with whom I’ve worked, who are trying very hard to get me to find a university willing to recognize what I want to do (establish cryptozoology degree program). Until somebody does what I’m trying to do, and succeeds in getting someone to say, ‘ok, fine, this is a degree,’ the profession itself is never going to be legitimized.
I’m not at a point in my life where I’ve got to worry about building bridges and making empires. It’s either going to be the way I want it, or it’s not.
Creating an academic environment where recognition can be earned by using legitimate science to find answers to the mysterious questions of cryptozoology seems long overdue.
In the meantime, discoveries continue being made in cryptozoology
Don’t think just because there are some who have issues with the credibility of cryptozoologists, there are fascinating discoveries continuing to be made in the field. These breakthroughs also all have more than fuzzy photographs and sketchy eye-witness reports supporting them.
Solid research is what it’s going to take to change cryptozoology’s status.
I don’t think a dead Bigfoot in a freezer will help us get there. Neither will, ‘I have a Bigfoot trapped in my garage,’ or, ‘I’ve got a baby Bigfoot here in LA somewhere.’ That won’t help one iota, but I do think the time is coming. Especially now.
In the last couple of weeks we’ve discovered a new species of shark off South Carolina. There’s been some pretty compelling video of a Megalodon in the Pacific, There’s also been a pretty good piece of evidence coming from South Africa supporting the Megalodon. Not that long ago, the giant squid was discovered in japan, and some paleontologists believe that’s what the Megalodon fed on.
If that exists, then perhaps they do too.
How many ostensibly extinct species have we discovered in the past few years who were still alive? It is possible.
Is it also possible there is a large undiscovered ape roaming around somewhere?
We call everything here Bigfoot or Sasquatch, but there are similar creatures under similar names elsewhere in the world. One of which is the Bili Ape which was discovered by Karl Ammann, and documented by Shelly (Shelly Williams, PhD, a specialist in primate behavior), in central Africa that sat as misidentified remains on the shelf for 100 years before they realized it was another form of chimpanzee. So now we have the Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii, and here is a chimpanzee that stands taller than a gorilla, who walks habitually on two legs because of the terrain they live in. That is a Bigfoot. When people say we haven’t discovered Bigfoot, that’s bullshit. Yes, we have. If it is possible there, it’s possible elsewhere.
More important discoveries mentioned by Marlowe:
“I’ve even found a hair sample that was analyzed on TV and couldn’t be identified. There are things out there and nobody knows for sure what they are,” Marlowe said.
There is plenty of work to be done, in both the science of cryptozoology and in the battle against the public image monster that still haunts the legitimate pros. None of the necessary work will be harder than convincing academia to embrace cryptozoology and help its practitioners earn their rightful place among the other life scientists. This leaves cryptozoology in the tough position of being shunned by the mainstream because of the very issue the community seeks to eliminate with the establishment of a degree program — high-profile shenanigans by pseudo-cryptozoologists lacking scientific support for their claims.
When our chat concluded, I found myself convinced it is going to take a unified, CSI:Miami-style scientific effort from the best in the business, like Marlowe, for cryptozoology to earn widespread credibility, but at least that effort doesn’t lie outside the realm of possibility. The big question for now is what kind of discovery will it take to earn the key to that realm, so cryptozoologists can pursue the field’s limitless possibilities with vigor and validity?
About Scott Marlowe:
He is a cryptozoologist, educator, author, and actor. He is a founder of the Pangea Institute, an education initiative using cryptozoology to turn kids on to learning. Pangea was the result of his foster parenting efforts, where he noticed kids’ interest in learning sky-rocketed for topics like cryptozoology. From Pangea literature, “Our activities augment traditional academics by combining extraordinary knowledge gaining opportunities with various learning and teaching styles. Pangea’s programs include individual education, group learning, and kinesthetic, hands-on experiences.” It was through Pangea he established the online cryptozoology class at Florida Keys Community College. He is also the author of two books, The Cryptid Creatures of Florida, and Pangea Anthology. You can find out more about the Pangea Institute by visiting their website.
Marlowe has also appeared in several episodes of MonsterQuest as not only a cryptozoologist, but as an actor too. In a MonsterQuest episode about pirana, he played the role of Teddy Roosevelt in reenactments of the former president’s adventures on the Amazon River.