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Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience that aims to prove the existence of entities from the folklore record, such as Bigfoot or chupacabras, as well as animals otherwise considered extinct, such as non-avian dinosaurs. Cryptozoologists refer to these entities as cryptids. Because it does not follow the scientific method, cryptozoology is considered a pseudoscience by the academic world: it is neither a branch of zoology nor folkloristics.
As a field, cryptozoology originates from the works of colleagues Bernard Heuvelmans, a Belgian zoologist, and Ivan T. Sanderson, a Scottish zoologist. Notably, Heuvelmans published On the Track of Unknown Animals (French Sur la Piste des Bêtes Ignorées) in 1955, a landmark work among cryptozoologists that was followed by numerous other like works. Similarly, Sanderson published a series of books that assisted in developing hallmarks of cryptozoology, including Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life (1961).
The term cryptozoology dates from cryptozoologist circles from 1959 or before – Heuvelmans attributes the coinage of the term cryptozoology ('the study of hidden animals') to Sanderson. Patterned after cryptozoology, the term cryptid was coined in 1983 by cryptozoologist J. E. Wall in the Summer issue of the International Society of Cryptozoology newsletter. According to Wall "[It has been] suggested that new terms be coined to replace sensational and often misleading terms like 'monster'. My suggestion is 'cryptid', meaning a living thing having the quality of being hidden or unknown." The Oxford English Dictionary defines the noun cryptid as "an animal whose existence or survival to the present day is disputed or unsubstantiated; any animal of interest to a cryptozoologist". While used by most cryptozoologists, the term cryptid is not used by academic zoologists.
While biologists regularly identify new species, cryptozoologists often focus on creatures from the folklore record. Most famously, these include the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, chupacabras as well as other "imposing beasts that could be labeled as monsters". In their hunt for these entities, cryptozoologists may employ devices such as motion-sensitive cameras, night-vision equipment, and audio-recording equipment. While there have been attempts to codify cryptozoological approaches, unlike biologists, zoologists, botanists, and other academic disciplines, however, "there are no accepted, uniform, or successful methods for pursuing cryptids".
Some scholars have identified precursors to modern cryptozoology in certain medieval approaches to the folklore record, and the psychology behind the cryptozoology approach has been the subject of academic study.
The 2003 discovery of the fossil remains of Homo floresiensis was cited by paleontologist Henry Gee, a senior editor at the journal Nature, as possible evidence that "in geological terms, makes it more likely that stories of other mythical, human-like creatures such as yetis are founded on grains of truth." "Cryptozoology," Gee says, "can come in from the cold."
However, cryptozoology is widely criticised for an array of reasons and is rejected by the academic world. There is a broad consensus from academics that cryptozoology is a pseudoscience. The field is regularly criticized for reliance on anecdotal information and because cryptozoologists do not follow the scientific method, devoting a substantial portion of their efforts to investigations of animals that most scientists believe are unlikely to have existed.
In a 2011 foreword for The American Biology Teacher, then National Association of Biology Teachers president Dan Ward uses cryptozoology as an example of "technological pseudoscience" that may confuse students about the scientific method. Ward says that "Cryptozoology … is not valid science or even science at all. It is monster hunting." Historian of science Brian Regal includes an entry for cryptozoology in his Pseudoscience: A Critical Encyclopedia (2009). Regal says that "as an intellectual endeavor, cryptozoology has been studied as much as cryptozoologists have sought hidden animals".
- Unexplained appearances of mystery animals are reported all over the world today. Beliefs in the existence of fabulous and supernatural animals are ubiquitous and timeless. In the continents discovered by Europe indigenous beliefs and tales have strongly influenced the perceptions of the conquered confronted by a new natural environment. In parallel with the growing importance of the scientific approach, these traditional mythical tales have been endowed with sometimes highly artificial precision and have given birth to contemporary legends solidly entrenched in their territories. The belief self-perpetuates today through multiple observations enhanced by the media and encouraged (largely with the aim of gain for touristic promotion) by the local population, often genuinely convinced of the reality of this profitable phenomenon."
Campion-Vincent says that "four currents can be distinguished in the study of mysterious animal appearances": "Forteans" ("compiler[s] of anomalies" such as via publications like the Fortean Times), "occultists" (which she describes as related to "Forteans"), "folklorists", and "cryptozoologists". Regarding cryptozoologists, Campion-Vincent says that "this movement seems to deserve the appellation of parascience, like parapsychology: the same corpus is reviewed; many scientists participate, but for those who have an official status of university professor or researcher, the participation is a private hobby".
In her Encyclopedia of American Folklore, academic Linda Watts says that "folklore concerning unreal animals or beings, sometimes called monsters, is a popular field of inquiry" and describes cryptozoology as an example of "American narrative traditions" that "feature many monsters".
In his analysis of cryptozoology, folklorist Peter Dendle says that "cryptozoology devotees consciously position themselves in defiance of mainstream science" and that:
- The psychological significance of cryptozoology in the modern world .. serves to channel guilt over the decimation of species and destruction of the natural habitat; to recapture a sense of mysticism and danger in a world now perceived as fully charted and over-explored; and to articulate resentment of and defiance against a scientific community perceived as monopolising the pool of culturally acceptable beliefs.
In a paper published in 2013, Dendle refers to cryptozoologists as "contemporary monster hunters" that "keep alive a sense of wonder in a world that has been very thoroughly charted, mapped, and tracked, and that is largely available for close scrutiny on Google Earth and satellite imaging" and that "on the whole the devotion of substantial resources for this pursuit betrays a lack of awareness of the basis for scholarly consensus (largely ignoring, for instance, evidence of evolutionary biology and the fossil record)."
According to historian Mike Dash, few scientists doubt there are thousands of unknown animals, particularly invertebrates, awaiting discovery; however, cryptozoologists are largely uninterested in researching and cataloging newly discovered species of ants or beetles, instead focusing their efforts towards "more elusive" creatures that have often defied decades of work aimed at confirming their existence.
- Humans are the most inventive, deceptive, and gullible of all animals. Only those characteristics can explain the belief of some humans in creationism, in the arrival of UFO's with extraterrestrial beings, or in some aspects of cryptozoology. … In several respects the discussion and practice of cryptozoology sometimes, although not invariably, has demonstrated both deception and gullibility. An example seems to merit the old Latin saying 'I believe because it is incredible,' although Tertullian, its author, applied it in a way more applicable to the present day creationists.
There have been several organizations, of varying types, dedicated or related to cryptozoology. These include:
The Spring, 1983, issue featured an interview with Paul LeBlond and Forrest Wood, in which it was suggested that new terms be coined to replace sensational and often misleading terms like "monster." My suggestion is "cryptid," meaning a living thing having the quality of being hidden or unknown. As far as I know, this would be an entirely new word , describing those creatures which are (or may be) subjects of cryptozoological investigation.
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