No, I’m not talking about the TV show Supernatural. 😉
Just supernatural concepts, be they religious, paranormal, so-called fringe sciences, cryptozoology, anything along those lines.
This post has nothing to do with what I believe or don’t believe; I’m simply trying to understand the “scientific” attitude towards these topics.
In fact, what specifically prompted this question was an episode of Bones: The Truth in the Myth.
In this episode, the crew is investigating a murder that was seemingly related to cryptozoological studies. The character Bones does not believe that cryptozoology can be scientific because according to her:
Cryptozoology starts with a conclusion and then works backwards to prove it. That’s the opposite of science.
Let’s explore that notion, shall we?
Cryptozoology uses prior observations (reported sightings)
to form a testable hypothesis (the “conclusion” Bones claims they start with, that a certain creature exists)
and then sets out to find evidence to, well, test this hypothesis (looks for the creature and/or further evidence of its existence).
Now, I’m no scientist–most of what I know I learned in high school–but isn’t that basically the scientific method? I know there’s more to it than that, but still….
In fact, as far as I can tell, the only thing that truly makes it “unscientific” is that a scientific theory has to be negatable… that is, it must be possible to prove that the theory or hypothesis is incorrect. And, well, I’m not sure how you’d scientifically “prove” that something doesn’t exist.
Same problem with the “atheist versus religious” debate, as far as I’m concerned, both in the real world and in shows like this one.
Bones frequently disparages religion throughout the series for one reason or another, the anthropologist who seems to ignore cultural beliefs as largely irrelevant to her cultural studies, a symptom of other factors but never a cause worth investigating for itself… apparently not even when it relates to a criminal’s motives.
But that’s an argument for another day.
And to return to the particular episode in question: sure, they proved that the victim was not killed by the chupacabra, that that particular instance was a hoax.
But in what universe, in what “science,” does disproving one single instance disprove all sightings throughout history? Again, how does one “prove” that something does not exist?
- Announcing The International Cryptozoology Museum Journal (cryptomundo.com)
- All Myths Are True (tvtropes.org)
- Mutual Ufo Network Announces Fall Ufo-creature Conference (ufodigest.com)
- Bigfoot Pocket Journals (mcphee.com)
- Loxton and Prothero’s Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids; the Tet Zoo review (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
- American Monsters – Paranormal Podcast 351 (jimharold.com)
- Dear Skeptic: An Open Letter to the James Randi Educational Foundation (beliefnet.com)