It’s been almost seven years since I began investigating reports of living pterosaurs. Around early 2004, I first met resistance to what I had published on web pages: eyewitness accounts of flying creatures that “modern” science declares universally extinct millions of years ago. But resistance continues, in various forms. I classify the objections: cryptozoology, misidentification, native superstition, religion. But what seems to feed the objections is fear. Critics fear an apparent threat to their philosophy or fear trusting someone who appears different, someone who could be lying. Jealousy might sometimes play a part, but let’s consider the basic objections themselves.
“Where is a dead body or a photograph of a pterosaur?” As of early 2010, living-pterosaur investigations have remained cryptozoological, for most of our evidence is still in eyewitness testimonies. I suggest that some critics have misunderstood cryptozoology; they recognize that our evidence is outside standard zoology, and they thereby assume that our declarations are without merit, as if we were trying to rewrite biology textbooks.
Those critics fail to appreciate the history of discovery, for example, the discovery of gorillas in Africa; early evidence was dismissed, perhaps because it was labeled “heresay.” But cryptozoology, when properly used, is like a prod for stubborn cattle that refuse to move. The cryptozoologist is not an insurgent trying to burn down principles of scientific inquiry but a motivator trying to motivate the zoologist to make official discoveries. I believe that my associates and I have used cryptozoology properly: to motivate biologists and others to search and research and discover. We hope that the creatures involved here, apparent living pterosaurs, will soon be officially discovered, graduating from cryptozoology to biology.
“Eyewitnesses are seeing ‘flying fox’ fruit bats or Frigate birds.” Nothing is easier than ignoring what passes through our hands, packing everything away while labeling the box with one word: “misidentification.” I suggest examining each eyewitness report. Duane Hodgkinson described a flying creature with a tail that was at least 10-15 feet long: obviously not any known bird or bat. Brian Hennessy described a beak that was indistinguishable from the rest of the head, a long tail, and no sign of feathers: not likely any bird or bat. Many eyewitnesses describe a bright glow from a nocturnal flying creature: not likely a fruit bat or a Frigate bird. How much better to examine descriptions rather than ignore them and only imagine what someone else has seen!
“Natives who talk about the ropen are superstitious.” As explained in the second edition of my book Searching for Ropens, a superstition can be harbored by any culture or society, not just uncivilized natives. But the natives of Umboi Island who told me about their personal observations of the ropen–those islanders left out traditions and legends while telling me about their experiences. They understood that I only wanted to know what they had seen, and they complied. That makes all their unmentioned superstitions irrelevant, for they were not interpreting (as Westerners often do) what their experiences meant: only what they had experienced, what they had seen.
“Live-pterosaur believers are creationists, so we can’t believe it.” What about Sir Isaac Newton? He may have spent more time studying, reasoning, and writing about Biblical scriptures than about science; does that force us to disbelieve in Calculus? Galileo believed that the Bible could “show us how to get to heaven” (but not “how the heavens should go”); does that force us to believe that the earth is the center of the universe? We don’t have to disbelieve in a mathematical or scientific achievement (or cryptozoological investigation) just because the scientists or investigators hold to different religious beliefs than we do.
Most of the explorers and investigators of living pterosaur reports have been labeled “creationists.” These individuals have held individual beliefs and approaches to communicating their beliefs. (I am one of them.) Our religious beliefs include concepts or perspectives on life-origin. Those who criticize us for those points of view often assume that we are significantly biased and unable to conduct our investigations objectively. But they fail to realize that every human has at least some potential for bias. The solution to the universal problem of human bias is to carefully examine the evidences and reasonings of investigators. Leave conjectures about bias-of-the-opponents to the post-mortem examination, should a hypothesis or theory prove itself dead.
At times, critics appear to accuse us of seeking to overthrow “science,” as if we were using cattle prods to force their pet cows into a slaughter house. I think of it more like opening the gate leading to a safer pasture and waving off cattle that are feeding on poisonous vegetation. But the conflict between strict Natusalism philosophy and belief in a creative God is a deep subject, too deep for treatment here.
Jonathan David Whitcomb
Live Pterosaur on WordPress.com
See also Giant Pterosaur or Exaggeration? “Is that an example of scientific criticism? No. It seems to be based on one of two ideas: 1) There is nothing more to be discovered in zoology . . .”