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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“Monster” in a Civil War Photograph

By the extant-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

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, according to the photographic practice of using props to keep people motionless.

Paiva and I have not made any statement supporting the idea that the photo was taken during the American Civil War or that it was in Vicksburg, Mississippi. We do maintain, however, that this is valid evidence for an extant pterosaur in the 19th century.

I can see how somebody would call the animal in Ptp a monster, for that head is indeed frightening, at least it was to me many years ago, before I started investigating the eyewitness accounts of apparent pterosaurs that appear worldwide.

possibly genuine photo of a 19th-century pterosaur

The Civil War “Monster” photograph Ptp, declared genuine by Paiva and Whitcomb

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Confirmation Bias and Modern Pterosaurs

A critic recently wrote that my writings exhibited significant amounts of confirmation bias, yet he gave no example, no evidence to support that. He did point out that I had once had my doubts about the authenticity of the Ptp photograph but that I had changed my stand in 2017. That looks to me like evidence of absence of confirmation bias on my part, since he wrote that in the middle of his paragraphs attacking the possibility that Ptp is genuine. In other words, on the subject of the Civil War pterosaur photo in question, I displayed a significant lack of confirmation bias.

How is that? It requires an introduction.

I saw the Ptp photograph many years ago, possibly as long ago as 1968 (although it was not known by the name of “Ptp” until early 2017). I began investigating eyewitness reports of apparent modern pterosaurs in 2003. Since then, I have written a scientific paper in a peer-reviewed journal of science (on the subject of reports of modern pterosaurs), four nonfiction books (in nine editions) on the subject, and well over a thousand relevant web pages and blog posts.

In other words, I was aware of Ptp during those many years of writing in support of the concept that some species of pterosaurs are still living. Yet I had doubts about Ptp, doubts that went back many years: I got the impression that those long pointed wings looked a bit like two canoes or a canoe that had been cut in half. That image was shot down, however, early in 2017, and the canoe idea no longer holds water.

How does that relate to confirmation bias? I wrote a few blog posts on Ptp, in 2013, expressing my feelings: I was in limbo, about halfway between believing it had a genuine image of an extant pterosaur and believing it was some kind of hoax. If I was subject to confirmation bias, during those many years in which I wrote in support of the reality of extant pterosaurs, surely that tendency would have caused me to find some little clue that Ptp was genuine, and I would have completely supported the idea. In reality, I came to change my mind only after a canoe expert had convinced me that the wings of the animal in Ptp are not halves of a canoe.

Did I immediately rush into a writing campaign in support of the idea that Ptp had an authentic image of a modern pterosaur? No. I contacted the physicist Clifford Paiva, who informed me of the research he had been doing, over a period of years, on that photo. Then I looked more carefully at the photograph, coming to my own conclusions before writing about my convictions that Ptp is not a hoax.

In other words, I was not at all acting under confirmation bias in coming to the conclusion that Ptp has an authentic image of an extant pterosaur. If I had no confirmation bias then, when did I have it? The critic gives no details, failing to provide even a clue that would support his idea that I have acted from confirmation bias.

Do an online search with “apparent pterosaur” (in quotes). Notice that hundreds of results come up with Google. The first few pages show blog posts and web pages over a period of years, almost all of which were written by me. Yet look deeper and you’ll see that the phrase “apparent pterosaur” is used by me when referring to eyewitness reports that I have received, over a period of years. In other words, when I get a report from a person who has seen what that person believes could have been a living “pterodactyl,” I keep an open mind, referring to it as an “apparent pterosaur.” That means I am not subject to confirmation bias in my investigations in general, for my work in living-pterosaur investigation relates largely to those sighting reports.

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Potential Bias in a Photograph of a Modern Pterosaur

. . . when my associates and I were beginning our research, even before our two ropen expeditions in 2004, we were acting from a larger set of eyewitness reports than a typical skeptic would have imagined. Whatever bias we may have had many years ago, the skeptics’ declarations about it were greatly exaggerated.

Monster or pterosaur in a Civil War photograph

The Ptp photo has been around for a long time, apparently long before Freakylinks episodes and decades before Photoshop existed. The physicist Clifford Paiva (California) has examined this older photo in detail, finding a number of clues that this was a real man with his foot on the beak of a real animal.

The Bible and the pterosaur photograph

Clifford Paiva, a scientist living in California, this past January suggested I write a small book about what we have discovered in an old photograph. I just finished writing the nonfiction Modern Pterosaurs, which supports a Biblical timetable regarding the Flood of Noah.

Six American Civil War Soldiers and a Pterosaur

For the past three months, I’ve been looking carefully at the old photo that we now call “Ptp,” which has what appears to be six Union soldiers from around the time of the American Civil War. More important, it also has what appears to be a recently-deceased Pteranodon, which is a type of Pterodactyloid pterosaur, supposedly extinct.

 

Don’t Shoot Down That Pterodactyl

For the past three months, I’ve been looking carefully at the old photo that we now call “Ptp,” which has what appears to be six Union soldiers from around the time of the American Civil War. More important, it also has what appears to be a recently-deceased Pteranodon, which is a type of Pterodactyloid pterosaur, supposedly extinct.

possibly genuine photo of a 19th-century pterosaur

“Ptp” photograph, now declared genuine

Don’t shoot down that photo yet, however, just because it shows what many Westerners assume is impossible. Also, don’t be distracted by those who make careless criticisms of the images of the soldiers, taking attention away from the animal. Even if those skeptics don’t intend to employ a magician’s trick (distraction), the result is the same. We need to first look at that apparent Pteranodon.

The head of that apparent pterosaur (what many Americans would call a “pterodactyl”) is indeed like what would be expected of a Pteranodon, although not exactly so in every detail. But why should it be 100% like what paleontologists know from Pteranodon fossils? There is no scientific reason that a 19th century pterosaur should be exactly like what is known from fossils, so why should any skeptic object?

Compare Ptp with the Haxan Films Hoax Photo

Now compare Ptp with the television-show fake photo:

fabricated photo - Civil War reinactment

“Freakylinks” hoax photo (imitating Ptp)

The television-show promotional photo is a hoax, made in imitation of Ptp. It was made to look old, probably with something like Photoshop, but the Haxan Films trick-photo actually originated around the year 2000.

Shadows Under the Shoe

One skeptic has said that the shoe (of the soldier standing in front of the animal) does not make any shadow on the beak. That is contradicted by the physicist Clifford Paiva, who has shown us quite clearly that the shoe does cast a shadow on that beak:

shadows in this photo show this is real

Shadows (especially shown by the lower arrows) in Ptp photograph

Yet that skeptical remark caused another web site to mention an apparent lack of a shadow under the shoe. The original non-shadow comment is totally false.

What also see, from magnifying that area of Ptp, evidence that the photograph is indeed old. Paiva noticed a tree branch under the animal’s beak, indicating it was used as a prop. When was that technique used in photography, to keep a person or object still? Before about the year 1870.

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A Shocking Discovery: Nonfiction Modern Pterosaurs

The scientist Clifford Paiva suggested, in January of 2017, that I write a little book about a photograph that has been around a long time. I wrote Modern Pterosaurs in a nonfiction-cryptozoology genre, although it supports a Biblical time-table . . . Yet religion is almost entirely in the background, with an emphasis on what some persons call the “Civil War pterodactyl photo.”

Credibility of a Photo of a Modern Pterosaur

Until four years ago, I had mostly avoided using the “Pteranodon photo” in my writings. Part of my reluctance was in thinking that it appeared too good to be true: After all, for this to be genuine, it would have to have been around since about the middle of the 19th century.

Book About the Pteranodon Photograph

Before getting into the new book, Modern Pterosaurs, about the Ptp photograph, let’s consider the hoax image that has caused confusion: The Freakylinks photo.

Glen Kuban, a critic of living-pterosaur investigators for years, made a mistake regarding Ptp in his long online publication “Living Pterodactyls.” (He also made many other errors in that page, so it will not here be linked to.) As recently as March 26, 2017, one paragraph includes, “Alas, the photo has since been exposed as a hoax—a promotional stunt for a Fox television series.” Alas, that paragraph is next to a small image of Ptp, the photograph that is NOT associated with that television series (Freakylinks).

Civil War pterodactyl or hoax

Someone looking for evidence of Civil War reenactment may have little difficulty noticing one or more problems with the photo on the right. That’s a hoax-photo, made to promote the Freakylinks TV series that aired on the Fox Network from 2000-2001. The photo on the left, however, is older, apparently seen by many readers of a book in the mid-20th century.

Pteranodon in an old photo

On January 14, 2017, Clifford Paiva (a physicist in California) and I spoke by phone and agreed that the following photo has an image of a real animal, with real wings. We stopped short of insisting that it must have been a species of Pteranodon, but it has obvious similarities . . .

Photographie d’un ptérosaure moderne

(in the French language): “Deux photos sont similaires. Un seul est une blague.”

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A Pteranodon in a Civil War photo

“Uncommon bits of information” certainly fits a 19th century photograph of a recently-deceased pterosaur. Long viewed as a paranormal image, the old photo has now become the subject of a book, a nonfiction publication at that: Modern Pterosaurs.

Was a Pterodactyl Shot During the American Civil War?

The [photo] on the left, labeled “Ptp,” has been declared by me and by the scientist Clifford Paiva to have an authentic image of a real animal. In other words, we proclaim that a real animal was photographed, notwithstanding the head greatly resembles that of a Pteranodon . . .

Modern Pterosaurs

Who am I to write about the overall credibility of sighting reports of living “pterodactyls?” After all, this kind of flying creature is said to have become extinct by many millions of years ago.

Live Pterodactyl

Modern living pterosaurs are not confined to remote jungles or wildernesses, although many sightings are reported in Papua New Guinea.

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Credibility of a Photo of a Modern Pterosaur

By the living-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb (started this post about Jan 13, 2017)

Introduction

By about 2006, at least one or two skeptics had criticized our investigations with words that included this:

If it’s big and flies then it must be a pterosaur

Yet even when my associates and I were beginning our research, even before our two ropen expeditions in 2004, we were acting from a larger set of eyewitness reports than a typical skeptic would have imagined. Whatever bias we may have had many years ago, the skeptics’ declarations about it were greatly exaggerated.

Please bear with me, for this introduction is essential to understanding the value of photographic evidence for modern living pterosaurs. The credibility of an individual piece of evidence is one thing; overall credibility is something else. We’ll get to a photo of a non-extinct pterosaur soon enough.

After my Umboi Island expedition, I returned from Papua New Guinea with a determination to publicize what I had learned from the native eyewitnesses. I had always disbelieved in Darwin’s philosophy that life originated from evolution, yet my own perspective on eyewitness testimonies of apparent living pterosaurs—that did gradually evolve a bit. But that particular limited evolution was not toward overall doubt or belief: It was partly an increased awareness that I did not need to come any firm conclusion with every sighting report. I became completely convinced that some pterosaurs are still living on this planet, regardless of the credibility issues with new eyewitness reports.

I came to see the difference between the credibility of one eyewitness report and the overall evidence from all the reports. Early in 2013, I finished compiling much data from some of the more-credible sighting reports up until the end of 2012. Each eyewitness account I judged to be more than 50% likely to have come from an actual encounter with a modern pterosaur. That’s when I came to understand why I had become so firmly convinced of the reality of non-extinct pterosaurs: Those were 128 reports. Using my judgment that each report was more likely than not to have come from a valid sighting, the overall case was overwhelming. From a statistical perspective, it was practically impossible that none of those 128 sighting reports were from an actual living pterosaur. It’s basic math.

I know that a skeptic may attack my judgment regarding the value of individual reports. But this is cryptozoology, after all, not a biologist stooped over a laboratory table, measuring the wing of a recently-deceased Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.

No matter how a skeptic may feel about it, I am one of the world’s leading experts on sighting reports of apparent pterosaurs. A skeptic may assume, consciously or not, that he or she is objective while ridiculing me, but I am the expert here. Along with all the skeptics, I am human. Yet I have spent over 10,000 hours, in the course of over thirteen years, investigating this controversial subject, with eyewitness reports coming to me from five continents, mostly in emails but with some significant phone conversations and face-to-face interviews.

With all that said, it’s now time for a photo.

A known hoax-photo: non-pterosaur

Let’s begin with what we know, practically for sure. The following image is from a television production, a staged performance that has been said to be an imitation of another, possibly much older, photograph.

fabricated photo - Civil War reinactment

A staged performance, NOT actual Civil War soldiers

Once we know that the men shown above are actors, it easier to see that the thing at their feet is not actually a dead animal but a cheap imitation of one. Details about the television-show episode have little relevance here, but the production decisions that caused this particular staging—that can be important: This appears to be an imitation of an older photograph. I may go into details in another post.

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possibly genuine photo of a 19th-century pterosaur

Photo of a possible 19th-century Pteranodon (although maybe labeled “monster”)

Until four years ago, I had mostly avoided using the “Pteranodon photo” in my writings. Part of my reluctance was in thinking that it appeared too good to be true: After all, for this to be genuine, it would have to have been around since about the middle of the 19th century. Most people in the United States appeared to still believe in ancient dinosaur extinctions, and pterodactyls are thought of as flying dinosaurs. If we got through all the 20th century still believing that way, despite this old photo, then how could this image be what it appears to be? How could it be genuine?

Then I started looking deeper, and guess what: The “Pteranodon photo” is actually far more credible as evidence for modern pterosaurs than we had assumed. It really does deserve a closer examination.

Skeptical Look at the “Civil War Soldiers and Flying Monster” Photograph

One skeptic mentioned a man who pointed out three evidences that this was manipulated using Photoshop. One big problem jumps out here: Some persons report that they remember seeing this photo in the 1960’s or 1970’s. That was long before anything like Photoshop existed.

But it’s the first “red flag” that especially caught my attention:

“. . . the lack of fingers grasping the rifle held by one alleged soldier” [spelling corrected]

Woops! That detail (appearing on the surface to damage the photo’s credibility) actually might shoot down all three of the red flags, indirectly strengthening the case for the authenticity of this photo. The skeptic accidentally shot himself in the foot.

If anyone wanted to create a realistic hoax, for whatever reason, that appeared to be a photograph of a modern pterosaur, what would be needed? Create a realistic-looking pterosaur. The people standing around a recently-deceased pterodactyl—they would be far less important, hardly worth any trouble.

Why would anyone paste an image of a rifle onto a photograph of Civil War soldiers? Those guys already had rifles. Look at the whole picture, noticing the six soldiers holding rifles. It shows eight hands grasping those six rifles. What is the best explanation for that one hand that apparently has no fingers in front of the rifle? Take your pick, but it’s definitely not from anybody trying to create a fake pterosaur.

Notice that this hand is by far the closest (of those eight hands) to an edge of the photo. Maybe the development process had not become completed near that edge. Maybe better photographic development would have allowed those fingers to show up. But we have other possible explanations.

Is it hard to imagine that one out of eight hands holding rifles would actually have no fingers going around a rifle? Maybe one soldier had a blister on one hand.

A skeptic has pointed to those missing fingers as if evidence that the whole photograph is a hoax. If it proves anything, it is more likely the opposite. But coming to a knowledge of the truth sometimes requires digging into the details, using “the little grey cells.”

Look again at the soldier on the far left. Why would any man hold his arm out like that, as if he had a rifle, if he did not have a rifle? It doesn’t matter if he’s a real Civil War soldier or an actor imitating one. The man obviously had a gun when the photo was taken, regardless of where he put his fingers.

The skeptic said that this apparent Civil War photograph had multiple red flags indicating the “almost certain work of photoshop.” The first “red flag” is that hand that does not show any fingers. Now consider why a person would manipulate a photograph in such a way that those fingers would accidentally go missing. The obvious purpose would be this: to remove those fingers from a genuine photo so that it could be made to look like a hoax photo.

The implication we get from the skeptic who mentioned that “red flag” is this: that the fingers were in an original photo but Photoshop manipulating accidentally made those fingers disappear. How does that work? Pasting a rifle onto the image. Why would the careless Photoshop hoaxer ever paste a rifle onto a photograph that had a man holding out his arm? Because a rifle was missing and needed to be put there artificially. And that brings us back to the critical question: Why would any soldier ever put his hand out to his side and only pretend that he was holding a rifle?

When the impossible has been eliminated, what is left, however improbable, is the truth. What appears at a casual glance to be damning evidence of a fraud is, in reality, evidence of shallow thinking, and the most impressive case against the authenticity of this photograph of an apparent Pteranodon—that skeptic’s case—falls apart.

Those men, appearing very much like Civil War soldiers, and their rifles—those are genuine, with no significant doubt. But it brings up something else, a double-agent sort of counter-hoax possibility.

If Photoshop was used to tamper with this photo, it was most likely done to make the genuine photo look like is was tampered with. In other words, a genuine photo was messed with in a way to allow a person to “disprove” it by showing that Photoshop was used. I am not saying this is what happened, but it shows how weak is the skeptic’s “red flag” and that he should have thought about this more carefully. If he continues to insist that Photoshop was used with those missing fingers, then he may find himself becoming a suspect in a different kind of hoax: Messing with a genuine photo of a modern pterosaur to try to deceive people into disbelieving the photo.

So how does shooting down the first of three “red flags” shoot down the other two? The first shell was explosive, not blowing off human fingers but decimating the credibility of the skeptic. The other two “red flags” have their own problems, but that has been covered in one or two of my previous posts.

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Pterosaur Sightings and Photos of . . . Whatever

A critical support for the concept of modern living pterosaurs is the accumulation of sighting reports of those flying creatures. Direct eyewitness testimony of a pterosaur sighting is essential, even if we have to wait many years for photographic evidence.

Pterosaurs Alive

The account in the book continues, “I know what it was. It wasn’t a heron; it wasn’t a vulture; it wasn’t an albatross.” The eyewitness was shocked to see that the creature had both a head crest (common in Pterodactyloids) and a long tail with a “diamond tip” (common in Rhamphorhynchoids).

Ropen Sightings

  • The Big Picture of Modern Pterosaurs
  • Reply to Misidentification Conjectures
  • Rhamphorhynchoid Pterosaurs and Ropens
  • Ropens in Western USA
  • Big Flying Creature in Utah
  • Recent Ropen Sightings
  • Non-Ropen Pterosaur Sighting in Papua New Guinea
  • Van Meter Flying Creature

The Fiery Flying Serpent and Living Pterosaurs

. . . How does all that relate to “The fiery flying serpent and the geologic column?” It’s the dogmatic assertion that all species of pterosaurs should have become extinct many millions of years ago. If the problem were with only one paleontologist, I would not delve into the matter. But the problem is much deeper.

Introduction to Living Pterosaurs

Jonathan Whitcomb introduces basic concepts in living-pterosaur investigations

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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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