Ropen Seen by Duane Hodgkinson

By living-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

Over the past thirteen years, I’ve often written about the pterosaur sighting by Duane Hodgkinson. My associates and I consider his sighting report to be one of the more important ones in our field of cryptozoology.

Why do I mention his ropen sighting again? The skeptical writings of Glen Kuban need to be answered, for his recent remarks about Duane Hodgkinson can be extremely misleading, even if Kuban is sincere and even if he has never been dishonest. Indeed, he seems to me to have mislead himself, but I’ll save that subject for later.

“Living Pterosaurs” by Glen Kuban

As of late October, 2017, this web page is enormous: According to Character-Count-Online, it has 229,223 characters, which is more text than is found in many books. At 5.1 characters per average word, “Living Pterosaurs” would have almost 45,000 words, but it seems that Kuban sometimes uses longer words: Character-Counter-Online reveals his online publication has only 36,273 words. Take it in context: Many web pages and blog posts have between 100 and 400 words.

What’s the relevance? This web page is apparently orchestrated to convince people of one or more of the following:

  1. Living-pterosaur cryptozoological investigations have failed
  2. Eyewitness reports of non-extinct pterosaurs have practically no value
  3. “Creationists” who believe in living pterosaurs are wrong
  4. All pterosaur species are extremely likely to have become extinct many millions of years ago

So what’s wrong with those points? In Western societies, mass extinctions of all species of dinosaurs and pterosaurs are taken for granted. Axioms of standard paleontology are trumpeted into our ears since early childhood, so what’s wrong with somebody publishing a web page portraying that all pterosaurs are extinct? It’s the many hundreds of paragraphs. “The lady doth protest too much.”

If the investigations into eyewitness reports of apparent living pterosaurs are as worthless as Kuban portrays them to be, then why did he write and publish a web page that is about 100 times as large as a typical web page on the internet? Why has he gone to such enormous trouble to convince people of what the vast majority of Westerners take for granted: the idea that all species of pterosaurs are long extinct? Surely part of the reason is because somewhere deep down he has come to doubt that extinction axiom and is trying to convince himself that my associates and I are completely wrong.

Duane Hodgkinson — Eyewitness of a Living Pterosaur (LP)

Before reading any part of Glen Kuban’s web page, please be aware of the following:

  • Kuban probably never communicated with Hodgkinson
  • Kuban possibly never interviewed ANY LP eyewitness
  • Kuban is NOT a cryptozoologist

With the above three points in mind, after reading the following feel free to visit Kuban’s “Living Pterosaur” web page, for you’ll then be better prepared to be objective in comparing our differing opinions about the possibility of living pterosaurs.

Garth Guessman and I have interviewed Duane Hodgkinson extensively with independent interviews. Guessman and I understand what this World War II veteran told us about his army buddy, the other man who also saw the huge “pterodactyl.”

To the best of my (Jonathan Whitcomb) knowledge, that army buddy never did anything like deny seeing a giant pterodactyl except within the first few seconds or minutes of their sighting. Nothing in our interviews with Hodgkinson indicate anything other than the following:

The army buddy was adamant about not wanting to talk about the encounter. He never denied that they had seen a pterosaur, in the usual sense of denying something. He never said anything that would suggest there was any bird or any bat involved. He simply insisted that he would keep quiet about what they had seen. In other words, he made it clear that he would never admit that they had seen a gigantic living pterosaur.

In other words, it’s quite possible that, after leaving that jungle clearing, the buddy never mentioned the encounter, preferring to keep quiet about it for the rest of his life.

Now see what Kuban says in the October 7th version of “Living Pterosaurs:”

“Hodgkinson’s friend and fellow witness to the incident was a biologist, and denies that they ever saw a pterosaur.”

Take that in context. Kuban apparently never communicated with either Hodgkinson or the army buddy. Guessman and I have interviewed Hodgkinson, and it was clear to us what the veteran said about the buddy who had no desire to tell anybody that they had seen a living pterosaur the size of a small airplane. The denial was ONLY immediately after the sighting, and nothing was said by that buddy about any possibility of any misidentification.

In other words, that buddy preferred to pretend that they had seen nothing at all. If anyone has interviewed that man, I would be interested to know what he said, but all we have to go on, for now, is what Hodgkinson has told us.

Kuban says, “Whitcomb displays a large degree of confirmation bias here, by fully trusting Hodgkinson’s word and memory, while dismissing without basis the testimony of his more scientifically knowledgeable friend.” Yet Kuban never seems to have interviewed either eyewitness, and Guessman and I have interviewed the only one who has, apparently, ever been interviewed regarding this sighting in 1944.

Kuban seems to have completely missed the point that seems perfectly clear to me and to Guessman: The army buddy had no intention of setting himself up for ridicule. Why would any soldier want to be laughed at and made to look like a fool?

Do Guessman and I, who have personally interviewed Hodgkinson, have a bias that is more severe than that of Kuban, who has apparently never interviewed anyone? Let’s look at this logically:

If the buddy was indeed “more scientifically knowledgeable,” as Kuban says he was, then why is no mention ever made about any possible misidentification? Why did neither of the eyewitnesses, apparently, ever say anything about any misidentified bird or bat? Only one explanation do I see here: Almost any person with education in science who saw a strange bird or bat in a jungle clearing, and who had a companion who said that it was a pterodactyl, would say SOMETHING about the possibility that it was a bird or a bat. Why did that “scientifically knowledgeable” man insist that they had seen nothing? It’s this: Hodgkinson was right and no bird or bat was involved.

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ropen eyewitness Duane Hodgkinson, a World War II veteran

The late Duane Hodgkinson, who was a flight instructor

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A Psychologist saw a Living Pterosaur

Sighting on Bougainville Island, New Guinea, in 1971, and how it relates to the pterosaur sighting by Duane Hodgkinson

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Nonfiction books for LDS

The nonfiction Searching for Ropens and Finding God was written for readers of all faiths, with astonishing eyewitness accounts from around the world, from ordinary persons from different cultures and religions.

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American soldier sees a “pterodactyl”

Duane Hodgkinson saw a living pterosaur

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Confirmation Bias and Living Pterosaurs

Paiva and I have not declared that it [the apparent pterosaur in a photo] must be a species of Pteranodon. We simply suggest it appears similar. In other words, we have stated something very similar to what Kuban states or implies: It gives some persons the impression that it is like a Pteranodon.

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Books by LDS Authors

This includes the cryptozoology book Searching for Ropens and Finding God (by Jonathan Whitcomb of Murray, Utah).

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Cryptozoology books for Mormons and other Christians

I knew from the beginning that some readers would be LDS, yet I mostly had a broader audience in mind: Christians who had long maintained faith in the Savior of mankind but who had become troubled by the philosophies of the world, in particular indoctrination into the extreme naturalism philosophy . . .

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Confirmation Bias and Living Pterosaurs

By the modern-pterosaur author Jonathan Whitcomb

Glen Kuban has written a long online article: “Living Pterosaurs (Pterodactyls)?” I now acknowledge that he often revises that page, and details that I publish, including quotations, may be seen by him, resulting in corrections that he will make in it. If things continue as they have, in the months of March, April, and May, of 2017, however, the most serious problems in “Living Pterosaurs” will not be much affected by his changes. Why? He continually falls into confirmation bias.

In keeping with his tendency to fall into this kind of error, he has recently fallen into confirmation bias in his writings on the Ptp photograph that the physicist Clifford Paiva and I have been examining. He mentions that the animal in this photo resembles a Pteranodon (apparently meaning it gives some persons that impression), but he gives two lists of reasons why the animal differs from what is now known to paleontologists from fossils of the Pteranodon. He gives those two lists as if they were evidence against that animal being a modern pterosaur.

In reality, Paiva and I have not declared that it must be a species of Pteranodon. We simply suggest it appears similar. In other words, we have stated something very similar to what Kuban states or implies: It gives some persons the impression that it is like a Pteranodon. In compiling those two lists, Kuban believed he was giving people evidence that the animal seen in that photo was not a modern pterosaur. In reality, his two lists are completely irrelevant.

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possibly genuine photo of a 19th-century pterosaur

Kuban himself uses the word “Pteranodon” in his page of criticisms

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The Nature of Confirmation Bias

When a person wants an idea to be true, he or she can be misled by wishful thinking. The person may stop gathering information when the evidence already gathered appears to confirm the views or prejudices he or she would like to be true.

From an objective perspective, a piece of evidence may have a number of possible interpretations, but when someone falls into confirmation bias, that person looks only at an interpretation that fits what he or she wants to be true.

Even when one piece of evidence is actually more likely to fit a person’s desire, it can lead to confirmation bias if that person then refuses to look at any other evidence that could contradict what he or she wants to be true.

Let’s look at one example:

“Very Relevant” Blunder in Glen Kuban’s “Living Pterosaurs” 

The skeptic mentions the use of the word ropen in the village language of the PNG native Jacob Kepas, a Baptist minister. Papua New Guinea has hundreds of local languages. In the village tongue of Pastor Kepas, “ropen” means  bird.

But the skeptic Glen Kuban makes a big mistake in his online article: “This seems like a very relevant piece of information.” It’s more like the opposite: totally irrelevant, unless you believe that a hippopotamus must be a horse that lives in a river.

In the real world, one language often takes a word from another language, but that word can easily change its meaning in the language doing the borrowing. That seems to have happened with the Kovai language of Umboi Island and the local language of the natives of the village where Kepas lived as a child. Which language was first to use the word ropen is unknown, but the other one likely did the borrowing, unless a third language was involved.

For anyone wanting to carry Kuban’s insinuation to its destination, answer this question: Do almost all trees have human hands growing out of them? The answer: No. Since “ropen” in one language means bird, must the word ropen in another language mean bird? No.

As a bird very slightly resembles a modern pterosaur of Umboi Island, a human hand very slightly resembles a branch of a tree. In the Tok Pisin language of Papua New Guinea, the phrase “han bilong diwai” means a tree branch, but word-for-word it appears to say “hand of a tree.” (Han comes from the English word hand.) In other words, that connection between two languages is not evidence that the nocturnal flying creature that glows as it flies over Umboi Island is a species of bird. It is completely IRRELEVANT to the controversy in the Western world over interpretations of eyewitness accounts of apparent modern pterosaurs.

Glen Kuban has again fallen into confirmation bias, expecting to find evidence against extant pterosaurs in modern times, finding something that looks like it may be such evidence, and jumping to the conclusion that it is. Publishing it online, in the long article “Living Pterosaurs”—that practically proves that he did fall into confirmation bias, regarding the word ropen existing in two different languages.

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Confirmation Bias in a Skeptic of the Ptp Photograph

I suggest the writer of that page [BAMPP] has fallen into both confirmation bias and belief perseverance. The combination of the writer’s bias and the extreme length of his online page can cause readers to assume that there must be serious problems with living-pterosaur investigations.

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Pterosaur in an old photograph

I don’t know if the Ptp photograph was from Vicksburg in 1864; that appears to be just an online rumor. But Clifford Paiva and I have examined evidence that it was recorded before about the year 1870 . . .

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Skeptical responses to the Pteranodon photograph

The winged creature with a Pteranodon-like head shown in Figure-1—that was officially declared to be a genuine pterosaur by Clifford Paiva* and me, Jonathan Whitcomb, on January 14, 2017.

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Photograph in the book Modern Pterosaurs

My friend and associate Cliff Paiva suggested I write this little book, after we agreed that the image of an apparent Pteranodon, in an old photograph, was a real animal.

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Are Modern Pterosaurs “Pseudo-Dragons?”

This is a reply to the post “The Pseudo-Dragons of Genesis Park, Part 13” by Owosso Harpist. For the most part, it’s a scathing attack on the online writings of my associate David Woetzel. Yet it refers to living-pterosaur investigations in general and accuses me and my associates of being not only delusional but potentially dishonest, so I must respond.

I am not replying to the whole post, for it is long, but certain mistakes need correcting. I point out these errors, not to imply that everything that Owosso Harpist has written is faulty, but simply to put as much truth as I can before as many online readers as possible.

To the best of my knowledge, Owosso Harpist (a pen name) is an amateur harpist who works part time as a janitor. I do not relate this to ridicule O.H., for I myself worked as a janitor in my younger years. In addition, as a young adult I once played a wind instrument in a duet, for a wedding prelude, in which my sister played a harp similar to the one now played by O.H.; I respect this musical instrument and those who seek to master its use. I relate these things because that’s about all that I know about this person except for the critical writings that include this post “Pseudo-Dragons . . .”

Point by Point Reply to Part of the Post by O.H.

Q: Are creationists deluded, thinking any large flying creature is a pterosaur?

A: Do an online search with apparent pterosaur. Notice that the vast majority of pages are either written by me, Jonathan Whitcomb, or are about one of my books about modern pterosaurs. I often use the phrase “apparent pterosaur” because I recognize that an individual sighting may have come about from something other than a pterosaur.

I have also noticed that some of my associates have also shown caution in their conclusions about individual sighting reports, at least sometimes. I don’t know where O.H. got this idea about extreme bias among creationists, but it appears this critic has not done enough research, at least not with an open mind to the possibility that my associates and I might not always be entirely wrong.

Q: Do “details” in reports indicate sightings are of NON-pterosaurs?

A: O.H. mentions no details, in the first part of her post, but I will do so now: Patty Carson saw a featherless winged creature at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in or around 1965. That flying creature had teeth and a long head crest. It also had a flange at the end of its long tail. Here is the sketch she drew of what she encountered:

sketch by Patty Carson: long-tailed featherless flying creature

If this critic uses the word pterosaur only for precise species known from fossils, I can understand why she might think that eyewitness report details differ from what we know from fossils. But I and my associates use the word pterosaur in a more general sense, meaning we include those modern flying creatures that appear to be descended from pterosaurs that were related to the ones that left fossils that paleontologists have already discovered.

Q: Is “every” report of a living pterosaur “without proof of evidence?”

A: Eyewitness testimony is a form of evidence. In fact there would be no science or scientist without testimonies of human experience. What O.H. may have been thinking about is physical evidence to accompany testimonies.

Yet even there, this critic seems to be thinking only in a narrow sense: a dead or living pterosaur or an egg, perhaps. But the greatest weakness in this critic’s statement about “every” report is this: Owosso Harpist probably has very limited knowledge of the actual sighting reports. Why did she fail to mention the name of Patty Carson or the following names?

  • Brian Hennessy
  • Jacob Kepas
  • Sandra Paradise
  • Eskin Kuhn
  • Peter Beach
  • Evelyn Cheesman
  • Sherry Cooper
  • Professor Steven Watters

Q: Is “every” report “likely” to be from a native who is plagued by superstition?

A: Where does O.H. get that idea? Has that critic observed and listened to my videotaped interviews with natives on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea? I see nothing on this particular post (Pseudo-Dragons . . . Part 13) that supports that possibility. I learned about native superstitions in some villages of Umboi Island. I interviewed natives in three villages, including Gomlongon and Opai. Almost without exception, those witnesses reported details to me that were not part of their superstitions. They simply told me what they had seen.

Q: Have natives “likely” been paid by creationists to give a particular kind of report, in other words “false reports?”

A: Where is the evidence? Where did O.H. get that idea? That may be not far from the worst possible form of bulverism.

Q: Were natives “likely” “coerced” into giving a particular kind of testimony?

A: This speculation has the same weakness as the previous accusation and deserves to be dismissed.

Accuracy in the Duane Hodgkinson Report

Owosso Harpist does point out a real weakness in one of David Woetzel’s web pages. My associate quotes from a book by James B. Sweeney, A Pictorial History of Sea Monsters (1972), which has many mistakes that are not immediately corrected by Woetzel. (See the above link.) But even with all of those mistakes, a person is more likely to learn the truth from those words than from much of what I have seen in the post written by O.H.: “The Pseudo-Dragons of Genesis Park, Part 13.”

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Are Pterosaurs “Still Dead?”

I consider much of these criticisms to be bulverism, which involves changing the subject by trying to point out another person’s weakness. I would be happy to write only about the concept of modern pterosaurs, but the accusations against me need to be addressed.

Dr. Donald Prothero and “Fake Pterosaurs”

For those who go to that link in question, it may become obvious that I was not trying to deceive anybody concerning reports of modern living pterosaurs, including the flying creature called ropen; for those who read only that post by Prothero, however, it can seem like I’ve tried to deceive people about the ropen and that I did so almost single-handedly. Let us look deeper.

A Modern Pterosaur

Countless eyewitnesses, in many countries  across the planet, have pondered what it  was they had seen. But ropens continue to  fly overhead, continuing to shock humans  who had assumed that all pterosaurs had  become extinct millions of years ago.

Ten Year Anniversary of a Ropen Expedition

A few weeks after my expedition on Umboi Island, David Woetzel and Garth Guessman arrived in Papua New Guinea. It’s now been ten years since our two expeditions in 2004, but what we learned from interviewing natives—that still needs more publicity, for few Americans have heard about our discoveries in cryptozoology.

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Who is a Scientist?

Whitcomb at a ropen sighting location in California

Jonathan Whitcomb at a sighting location where he installed a deer camera

I have written one scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal of science. Yes, only one. Most of those honored with the title scientist have written many scientific papers, and those men and women generally have advanced educational degrees. I have no advanced degree in science, yes none. With all that said, however, beware of over-simplistic thinking.

With limited obvious credentials, why do I suggest I am an expert in my specialty, a field most persons would assume is a branch of science? My associates and I are experts in a narrow branch of cryptozoology, namely in sighting reports of modern pterosaurs, and cryptozoology is not considered a branch of zoology. Yet there’s much more.

I have probably spent more hours on this subject than any other person on the planet, over 10,000 hours over the past eleven years. That in itself does not make me a scientist, of course, but that much time can sometimes open the door leading into scientific investigation, and this is the critical question: Have I, Jonathan Whitcomb, stepped through that door?

This is hardly my favorite subject, why I am a scientist. Why do I write about it now? An acclaimed paleontologist recently wrote a post, mostly about me. I will not mention his name here, but he has written more than 30 books and more than 250 scientific papers, according to Wikipedia. That led another writer to also write about me and assume that I am not a scientist. That second post is why I write about how I, Jonathan Whitcomb, can indeed be a scientist.

It was the second writer, who does not appear to be a scientist herself, who wrote, “Whitcomb, who is not a scientist by any stretch,” but let’s confine ourselves to the first post, written by the man who is an undisputed scientist.

It could have been a prized recommendation for my eleven years of work in my field, if only he had said something positive about me; but no, this particular scientist ridiculed my work, concentrating on accusing me of writing dishonestly and inappropriately. He provides no proof of my supposedly shameful motivations, but his sources, in my opinion, are just libelous web pages that also ridicule me as dishonest and underhanded.

If only this particular paleontologist had devoted himself to scientific reasoning, rather than assume I was deceitful and then ridicule my religious beliefs! Unfortunately he avoided anything scientific in his post. Yes, this acclaimed scientist, in that post, said nothing scientific.

I may be more of an investigative reporter than a scientist and certainly more like a journalist than a jurist who judges the honesty of someone on trial. I do not accuse my accusers of dishonesty. But the subject now is science; please consider the following.

I have analyzed statistics from 128 sighting reports, accumulated and recorded systematically at the end of 2012. My analysis revealed three separate factors that each demonstrated it was unlikely that any significant number of hoaxers could have been involved in those 128 eyewitness accounts.

I could say more, but I now submit that this particular part of my work was scientific, using mathematics to gain knowledge about one of the major objections that skeptics had brought up about reported sightings of living pterosaurs. The old hoax-conjecture has been disproven.

I hope that I have never used bulverism, as one paleontologist has done, in ridiculing someone with whom I disagree. I suggest that each of us participate in discussing the issues themselves rather than accusing others of deceit or making fun of other’s religious beliefs. Why should a scientist abandon scientific discussion in diving into dirty politics?

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Richard Syrett interviewed Jonathan Whitcomb for Canadian television showJonathan Whitcomb interviewed by Richard Syrett in 2012

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Is Jonathan Whitcomb a Paleontologist?

I’ve received emails from eyewitnesses from four continents plus islands in the Pacific, emails about flying creatures that resemble “primitive” or “prehistoric” animals more than any bird or bat. On occasion I am able to talk with an eyewitness by phone or by face-to-face interview. One critical point here, unappreciated by some paleontologists, is that those eyewitnesses come from various countries and have different backgrounds and beliefs, including differing religious beliefs.

“Stupid Dinosaur Lies” or the Truth?

Let me make this plain: I am not accusing the originator of Stupid Dinosaur Lies of deception. I am defending the honesty of me and my associates. That ludicrous sentence with five errors does suggest the writer was more likely to have been careless than dishonest. But the accusations, direct or indirect, are against those of us who have traveled to Papua New Guinea to search for living pterosaurs and those who later reported what was found in eyewitness testimonies.

Modern Pterosaurs and Biology Professors

One of the web pages that caught this professor’s attention was my post “Bioluminescent Pterosaurs in Southwest Washington State.” We need to be clear about the differences between two professors, for Peter Beach has also taught biology but he has no doubt that modern pterosaurs live in the state of Washington and elsewhere.

Long Review of book by Whitcomb

Anyway, do these things really still fly? I want to believe in big flying dinosaurs roaming the skies, but experience and common sense argue against it. So far I have never been chased by one as I wander through town. . . .

I spotted a book “Live Pterosaurs in America” by Jonathan David Whitcomb, a nonfiction analysis of actual sightings in the USA.  This I had to own, so I immediately ordered it from Amazon, and a few days later it was mine! And you know what — I’m glad I bought it, and have enjoyed reading it.

Definition of who is a scientist

A scientist, in a broad sense, is one engaging in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge. In a more restricted sense, a scientist may refer to an individual who uses the scientific method.

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Ropen Only Extinct on Wikipedia

Last month, the “Ropen” page was deleted on Wikipedia, apparently with the aid of self-appointed editors, one of whom carelessly deleted a valid entry that would have saved that page from deletion. Nevertheless, one online dictionary has maintained that page, or one very similar to it:

Ropen in an online encyclopedia

On Umboi Island the word “ropen” refers to a large nocturnal creature that glows briefly as it flies. The ropen is the subject of folklore (like a man but also like a spirit) but it’s believed by some natives to be a real animal.

“TheFreeDictionary” is not without problems in the page on ropens. It displays a conservation status (“Vulnerable” with listing “IUCN 3.1”), but the International Union for Conservation of Nature does not show anything online with the word “ropen.” I find the online encyclopedia reference to “vulnerable” interesting but it can be misleading: The ropen is still a cryptid (as of early September, 2014), not officially listed as a living species in biology text books and other resources in biology.

Regarding the definition of “ropen,” that encyclopedia-dictionary quotation is outdated. In my nonfiction Searching for Ropens and Finding God, it is defined thus: “A modern pterosaur with Rhamphorhynchoid characteristics.”

Food for the Ropen (quoting from the appendix of that book)

In the summer of 2007, in clear daylight, a giant ropen appeared to be chasing a flock of birds over a wildlife sanctuary near the University of California at Irvine. That may relate to the two “dragons” reported in California newspapers in 1891, creatures that were also called “pterodactyls.” They were reported to have devoured mudhens in a pond “at two or three champs of the jaws.”

Danger to Humans

Although Marfa Lights in Texas have been occasionally reported to be friendly, a large ropen, in some areas of this planet, would love to take you out, to eat. According to Gerald McIsaac, author of Bird From Hell, people have been attacked in northern British Columbia, sometimes killed, by flying creatures he believes are modern pterosaurs. I’ve read his book and communicated with him for years, and I’ve come to believe he may be right.

Where do Ropens Nest?

In his book Bird From Hell, McIsaac reports a nest encounter in British Columbia. A teenage girl had hiked up a hill alone one summer day and found a large nest with about twenty eggs. As she was about to pick up one of them, a strange creature attacked her, and she ran down the hill and escaped. I read nothing about wings on that creature, but McIsaac believes it was a pterosaur.

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Sep12, 2014, encyclopedia entry for "Ropen"“Encyclopedia-TheFreeDictionary” entry for “Ropen” (Sep 15, 2014)

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Ropen Pterosaur

Many species of pterosaur may have  become extinct, but at least a few of the  two main types have survived. They are  sometimes called “pterodactyls,” “flying  dinosaurs,” “dinosaur birds,” or “dragons.”

Ropen – a Modern Pterosaur

Not only natives have seen this “dragon”  or “pterodactyl” in Papua New Guinea. In  1971 (when the islands were known as  “New Guinea”), the Brian Hennessy, of  Australia, witnessed something strange on  the island of Bougainville: a long-tailed  flying creature that had not a feather in  sight.

Ropen Light Sighting

“My sighting was so quick that it was impossible to get a video—maybe 2 seconds  . . . almost golden and shimmering around the edges. . . . There was no tail and it was flying horizontal from  Mt. Barik toward  Mt. Tolo [on Umboi Island in 2004, a few weeks after the Whitcomb-Paina expedition in that same area of Papua New Guinea].”

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Biology Professors and Living Pterosaurs

The biology professor who is a critic of reports of modern pterosaurs made it clear: “The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer.” I will not mention his name here (nor link to his page), but the post in question, on his personal blog, was dated August 17,2014, and titled, “There are no living pterosaurs, and ‘ropen’ is a stupid fantasy.”

One of the web pages that caught this professor’s attention was my post “Bioluminescent Pterosaurs in Southwest Washington State.” We need to be clear about the differences between two professors, for Peter Beach has also taught biology but he has no doubt that modern pterosaurs live in the state of Washington and elsewhere.

Critic who Teaches Biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris

  • Is upset about the many web pages written by Jonathan Whitcomb
  • Proclaims himself an athiest
  • Has written a blog post very critical of Whitcomb’s writings
  • Teaches at the University of Minnesota, Morris

Peter Beach

  • Supports the modern-pterosaur idea shared by Whitcomb
  • Believes in the Bible and in a Divine creation
  • Wrote the foreword in the first edition of my book Searching for Ropens
  • Used to teach biology at a local college (He lives near Portland, OR)

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Peter Beach explains flying light by Yakima River

Peter Beach interviewed at sighting location in southeast Washington state

Scientific Approach or Name Calling?

I would not label the online publishing of ideas by those with whom I disagree “dropping turds.” I never dreamed a biology professor would do that. Since one professor of biology (NOT Professor Beach), has referred to my online writings with that label, I will respond: Reason on ideas, if you would attract wise readers (feces attract flies and dung beetles, as most biologists will tell you). I am grateful that Professor Peter Beach is infinitely more kind than that other professor of biology.

From the first two pages of the introduction in the third edition of my Searching for Ropens and Finding God:

Responding to a strange idea by negatively labeling its advocate—that can blind us or at least blur the border between truth and error, even if our concept is better. When in human history has one person always been wrong? And when one pearl is found in the mud of an old oyster bed, expect another.

. . . If each of us listens more thoughtfully to those with whom we have disagreed in the past, what an accomplishment! This is not a “how to win friends” book, yet I will continue to keep that concept in mind as I write; please keep it in mind as you read. Each of us needs to listen—to learn to listen much better, for some of us.

The living-pterosaur critic did some searching online, apparently, and said, “There isn’t any evidence. There’s just one fanatic.” He then pointed out that many of the web pages were written by me. He might have hit closer to the target if he had said “one fanatic writer,” however, for although I seem to have written far more on this subject than anyone else, as an investigator of living-pterosaur sightings I am hardly alone.

I have several associates, including Professor Peter Beach and Milt Marcy, who fully agree with the concept of modern living pterosaurs. In addition, we have several American explorers who have searched remote jungles in Papua New Guinea, looking for those elusive nocturnal flying creatures. Yet we have much more: countless eyewitnesses, from around the world, who have seen these wonderful animals. I have estimated that between 7 million and 128 million persons now living, at some time in their lives and somewhere on this planet, have seen a living pterosaur. Call me a “fanatic,” if you like, but I have explained those number on pages 304-305 of my book Searching for Ropens and Finding God. Regardless of how some persons label me, and regardless of how critics may cry out that I have exaggerated with “between 7 million and 128 million,” I am not alone.

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No “Ropen Myth” in Washington State

. . . it was in the late morning . . . [in late May of 2010].  My wife and I were coming back from . . . on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.  At the time we lived in the Portland Oregon area, and we were driving back west on I-84 to get home.

. . . coming left to right across the highway about 100 yards (give or take) in front of us came the most odd looking thing I have ever seen flying.  My wife and I both immediately said “what was that?”   It was flying pretty low to the ground probably only about 30 feet or so off the ground, and we only had about 2 seconds of visual on it . . .

It had a longer neck, crested head, big curved wings that connected at the back of the body, and a long tail.  Out of all those things the tail is what really stood out to me.  The tail was longer then the animals whole body from tip of head to base of tail. . . .

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Pterosaur Sighting in North Carolina

Universal extinction is the assumption, in Western culture, regarding pterosaurs, so when somebody reports a pterosaur sighting in Raleigh, North Carolina, we can expect objections from skeptics. That’s what we got earlier this year, on a musicians’ forum called “The Gear Page.” The sighting was around March 24, 2013:

Ok… so I saw a Pterodactyl up close tonight. Not joking. . . .

I was driving along on I-540 in Raleigh at sundown tonight, cruising at about 70 mph, heading to my weekly jam session with my buddy. All of a sudden I see the HUGE bird looking thing fly across the overpass I was on, maybe 20-25 feet in front of my car and about 7 or 8 feet off the ground. . . .

. . . it had an enormous pointed beak, with a pointed top of its head. . . . the wingspan was probably about 5-6 feet . . . bony wing structure ending in points (almost like sails) with what looked like small claws in the middle . . . the body looked like greyish fur or dark skin. . . .

The eyewitness also reported what appeared to be two legs that were held out behind the creature and a long tail that had “a spade at the end.” Perhaps the most critical factor in the observation was that the legs were separate from the long tail that had a structure at its end, for that suggests a non-extinct Rhamphorhynchus-type pterosaur.

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Interstate-540 highway near Raleigh, North Carolina --- photograph by Dougtone

Highway I-540 near Raleigh, N.C. – photo by Dougtone

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Remark by a Critic-Skeptic

More than likely what your brain remembers that you saw, is not what [occurred] in reality. . . . [Eyewitnesses] are the most unreliable source of information that I know of.

I understand that eyewitnesses sometimes appear to remember one or more details that turn out to be completely wrong; in fact, this is common. I myself have encountered that human mental weakness after answering police questions about my observations of a man who was running away from the scene of a homicide in Pasadena, California, many years ago. After that, and after other personal experiences with misinterpretations, I have learned to be more careful about drawing conclusions about what I remember about an experience.

But the skeptic who made the above remark appears to be unaware of a human weakness that has even greater potential for error than eyewitness error: interpreting another person’s experience according to our own pre-conceived assumptions.

What is Even More Unreliable Than Eyewitness Testimony?

To best understand this problem, let’s examine what can happen with eyewitness error. We’ll use a true-life example from years ago, in a usually peaceful neighborhood, not in North Carolina, in Long Beach, California. I don’t recall all the details, but what I add does not change any relevant principle: In the basics, this really happened, although it has no direct relationship to any pterodactyl sighting.

Brad brought his daughter home from high school one afternoon and walked with her into the house; she was crying, obviously upset about something. They soon left, leaving the house with nobody home.

Later that day, Brad returned but entered through the back door, or at least entered where the back door used to be. He called the police to report the door that had been broken down. The police officer was embarrassed in answering the report. Here’s why:

While Brad was gone, a neighbor had reported to the police that a strange man had taken a young lady captive at gun point, taking the girl into that house. You know the rest.

So what happened in the mind of the eyewitness? He saw a man, with something in his hand, walking with a young lady who was in tears. The eyewitness unconsciously used his imagination to fill in the appearance of a gun, or saw only just enough that he believed that it could have been a gun. Also critical in this misunderstanding, he did not recognize that the man was his neighbor, not a stranger to the neighborhood. If he had recognized the man as father to the young lady, the eyewitness would not have allowed his imagination to run wild.

But what about the police officer who received the report? Would it have been appropriate for him to assume that no gun was involved? Of course police officers must be prepared for the worst and respond to that kind of report.

What if a police officer received a report of a man with a gun, a man who had a Nazi swastika emblem on his shirt? If the police officer had been raised from childhood with the believe that all Nazis had become extinct in 1945, would that justify ignoring the report and assuming there was no gun involved? This reveals another weakness in reasoning.

What is less reliable than eyewitness testimony? It’s imagining that somebody did not experience what was described because it does not fit well into the assumptions of the person who received the report. Changing a report to be more in harmony with our own assumptions is far more likely to result in errors than reporting a personal experience.

Both the eyewitness and the one receiving the report are human. Both are subject to the human weakness of mentally manipulating what is experienced to become more harmonious with deeply held assumptions. The different between these two persons is that the eyewitness directly experienced what was reported; the other person has no direct experience, only the report and his imagination.

Changing details in a report of another person’s experience is like looking out a window smeared with rain drops and observing what is happening in the living room of your neighbor’s house across the street. You do so by looking through two windows that are both smeared by rain drops. The eyewitness, on the other hand, looks through only one window smeared with rain drops. Beware of trying to peer into another person’s mind to manipulate things to harmonize with your own assumptions.

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Why Pterosaur Extinction may be Wrong

At about sundown, but with sufficient light, on March 23, 2013, the eyewitness . . . was driving on the I-540, in or near Raleigh, North Carolina, when he had his encounter.

Little Known Pterodactyl Sightings

I saw [it] in October 2009 in Charlotte, NC . . . it was at night. I was standing outside my car on the phone when I saw the creature emerge directly over the three-story building I was standing next to. . . . It looked like what I had seen in a Jurassic Park movie . . . [I got] my cousin, who was in my passenger seat, out the car so I didn’t see it alone. He did . . . I know what we saw. [North Carolina pterosaur sighting in Live Pterodactyl blog]

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