A Case for Critical Thinking…

The world is full of “larger than life” characters, claims, and stories.

It is human nature to want to be found fantastic, unusual, extraordinary, and unique.

We long to be set apart from one another. We all long to stand out.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be “special”.

To a point.

Now, let’s extrapolate that innate, human desire to be found interesting and apply it to an already very unique subject.

Sasquatch.

Likely, if you’re reading this site then I don’t have to persuade you to be interested in the subject or even go so far as acknowledging the possibility of the existence of such a creature.

To some, the idea of “bigfoot” is about as far from reality as you could possibly get.

To others, however, it is not only plausible and possible, but likely or, to those who have seen this creature, definite.

I can argue plausible and possible, though cannot argue definitively to the animals existence, since I have never had my own “encounter”.

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence…” – Carl Sagan

I cannot make an extraordinary claim because I have no evidence, mundane nor extraordinary.

I can make assumptions based on critically analyzing claims and stories, gathering information from eyewitness testimony and investigating what is scientifically reasonable given what we know, what we don’t, and everything in-between.

These, however, remain assumptions. Nothing more. Nothing concrete. Certainly nothing definitive.

Herein lies the problem.

There are some individuals in the ever growing world of bigfoot that feel they can make claims with no evidence, anecdotal or empirical, to stake their claim upon.

Claims vary wildly from “expert” (a term that should be used in the loosest since; I cannot justify calling anyone an expert regarding a creature that has yet to be documented in any capacity, scientifically speaking) to “expert”. These claims range from the mundane assertion that Sasquatches have their own form of language to bigfoot is actually an alien species that travels dimension to dimension to avoid human contact.

One claim is reasonable based on what we can observe in supposedly similar species (often primates great apes, etc. are compared to Sasquatch) to something that is so far outside the mind of a reasonable person that no amount of critical thinking could ever justify to any extent, whatsoever.

Speaking of critical thinking, for the purposes of this site and many future articles that are on their way, we need to define exactly what I mean by critically thinking…

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness 

-definition from http://www.criticalthinking.org

In this particular definition I’d like to pull out the following for emphasis…

“In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.”

In other words, no matter the subject, the traits listed should apply. Critical thinking is the same process whether we are talking about a court case, political issues, and yes, even Sasquatch.

In short, we cannot apply a different set of standards when applying critical thinking across broad domains. We cannot act “unreasonably” and make grandiose claims that support our personal beliefs (though we often do) in political discussions nor in discussions about an 800 lb, undocumented, bipedal ape wandering the forests of North America.

Critical thinking necessitates being reasonable and making assumptions based on what we know or do not know or what is comparable or not comparable.

However, the situation gets even trickier when you attempt to critically think about something that is, in itself, quite unreasonable to some.

When discussing the creature, one must decide if (after critically thinking about the evidence supporting/not supporting the creatures existence) if you believe the animal itself to exist or not.

If you determine that the creature cannot possibly exist by applying critical thinking to the subject, then your arguments will reflect that. You can argue the lack of documentation via photo, video, etc. You can argue the admittion of hoaxers and scam artists. You can argue probability or lack thereof. You can argue that by reasonable, unbiased, universally accepted measures, the creature cannot exist.

If you determine, by critical analyzation, that the evidence supporting the creature is compelling,  your arguments can reflect that, as well. You can argue the thousands of witness sightings, track casts, etc. You can argue that by reasonable, unbiased, universally accepted measures, the creature exists.

Here’s an example of being reasonable and critically thinking regarding a particular “claim”;

“Witness ‘A’ claims to have seen Sasquatch no less than 23 times in the last 5 years. He knows where the creature will be, within one hundred yards accuracy, at any given time. The witness claims to have interacted with the creature on multiple occasions and that the animal has bonded with him. When asked for any evidence to corroborate their claims, Witness A says the creature doesn’t like his picture taken or the creature jumps into another dimension to avoid being photographed.”

A reasonable person, assuming they believe Sasquatch exists in the first place, will have several problems with this story.

Problem #1-

Witness A claims to have seen a creature so elusive that it has avoided actual scientific documentation for the entirety of its species existence, almost two dozen times in five years. This is unreasonable by most.

Problem #2-

Claims are being made that could be easily substantiated by photographic evidence, which a reasonable person would imagine, should be easily attainable due to the number of appearances Witness A has been privy to on a regular basis. A picture should not prove difficult to obtain with the number of different cameras available to anyone. The creature would not even know a camera was in use in most cases. This claim is unreasonable by most.

Problem #3-

Is there any scientific proof to the existence of other dimensions? Furthermore, even if there was, has any animal ever shown the ability to travel between them?

Obviously, a reasonable person would do well not to laugh at such claims.

By critically thinking through the above example, you can see that most reasonable people would find this story to be flawed in several areas and not worthy of further investigation.

Critical thinking requires that tough questions be asked and that unbiased opinions need to be formed based on what is reasonable.

Let’s look at this example;

“Witness B was driving down an old, rarely driven, Northern California road one night when something walked in front of his car. It appeared to be 8 feet tall (far taller than a human) and roughly 800 lbs (based on what the witness could see). The creature appeared to be covered in hair, with broad shoulders and an almost gorilla like appearance and gait. The creature hurried over the road as the witness drove closer.

The witness does not have any connection or previous experience with Sasquatch, nothing to gain by the sighting, and no family with any association to the creature. In other words, the witness has nothing to gain.

Again, if you have determined that the existence of bigfoot is reasonable, then this story passes a basic “critical thinking” test.

The witness has nothing to gain, has made no extraordinary claims, has no prior involvement with the subject of bigfoot nor does anyone close to the witness.

The creature acted the way a reasonable individual would assume a large animal would act and the location of the sighting was not overly populated and could potentially allow the creature to move, eat, and live relatively undisturbed.

Again, if the subject of Sasquatch is found reasonable by an individual, then this sighting would also display the traits of a reasonable person.

The reason for this post is not to promote diehard  skepticism and distrust but to encourage an open, reasonable mind, that can critically analyze a claim and determine for oneself if it holds water.

Tough questions need to be asked.

Hopefully, through this site, this can finally happen.

2 thoughts on “A Case for Critical Thinking…

  1. Thanks for a level-headed discussion of a subject that is often discussed through social media between people with one or the other extreme view of the subject. Being a part of a community of the very interested but far from expert crowd concerning Bigfoot is a welcome opportunity. I look forward to the discussions that I’m sure are ahead with other open-minded individuals who have been fascinated with the possibility of a North American ape for many years. Good luck with the wackos. 🙂

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  2. You’ve been thinking about this for a long time… haven’t you? It’s amazing how people just take for granted what a person says as Gospel – referring to Sasquatch Sightings. I like your article, the way you communicate, and the flow of your words. I’ve saved your bLog to my Favorites to read more of your musings.

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