I foresee a trend in many of the posts I have in the “pipeline” and feel a need to write this post as a prerequisite entry before diving further. This post may be a bit on the bland side but should make future articles more cohesive and concise (Which, for you the reader, means less time reading and more time available to argue about bigfoot scat on Facebook).
With that being said, let’s dive in to the fascinating world of Anecdotal Evidence…(I promise I tried to make that sound exciting. Didn’t work.)
First things first, like my earlier post on critical thinking, I like to define exactly what I’m talking about so that we’re all clear and can go at this thing from the same direction…
Ah, so much to dive into in a simple definition.
Let’s break this down into sections and discuss the benefit and and unfortunate shortcomings of anecdote.
First, and likely most obvious, is that anecdote is non-scientific. Keep in mind, and we’ll discuss later, non-scientific does not mean unusable or worthless. It simply means that absolute, 100 percent, cold, hard, truth cannot be extrapolated from purely anecdotal evidence. Truth, as it relates to science, is gathered via the scientific method. The scientific method requires a hypothesis be tested to be proven or not supported. With no type specimen of a Sasquatch, no hypothesis may be tested via the scientific method. This certainly does not keep “experts” from speculating, but in the end, speculation is just about as useful as an assumption (and we all know what “assuming” does to you and me…)
As stated previously, anecdotal evidence does not provide proof. It simply does not. No matter how many “Sas” are seen, heard, or even “felt” (let’s not get into that…), proof cannot be garnered from pure anecdote. A howl of an unknown origin in the middle of the Pacific Northwest is not proof of a Sasquatch in the vicinity. Even rocks being tossed from a nearby treeline cannot, and will never be, accepted as absolute proof of bigfoot presence.
However, notice how I ever-so-fancifully italicized “pure” in the above paragraph. This brings us gracefully into the final part of the definition, and a welcome “positive” attribute of anecdote for all the many (including myself) bigfoot enthusiasts.
Anecdote can, and often does, assist research efforts into things that one day are found true by empirical, scientific methodologies. Anecdote is an integral part of proof. Oftentimes it is anecdote that spurs the scientific process into action.
Not too long ago, the Ivory Billed Woodpecker was thought to be completely gone. Extinct. Until a kayaker, trekking through an Arkansas waterway, reported seeing the bird alive. Later, because of this non-scientific experience, video footage and audio recordings were obtained and the bird was recognized, scientifically, to still exist.
The kayakers story was complete anecdote. Eyewitness testimony, at that. Yet it led to an incredible discovery.
I use this particular anecdote turned proof because of its striking similarity to the subject of this blog and the interest of its readers.
The woodpecker (though admittedly MUCH smaller), existing in incredibly small numbers (relatively speaking) was discovered through the help of a non-scientist enjoying the the outdoors, away from human civilization. The animal was eventually caught on camera and identified audibly with its distinctive “pecking”.
Now, I know it’s not the same thing. 800 lb primate compared to 3 ounce bird..I get it. That’s not what I want you to take away from this post. Please don’t let that be what you take away….
I want you to understand and acknowledge the limitations (and there are MANY) of anecdotal evidence. No matter the witness credibility, distinctiveness of “dermal ridges”, depth of howls in the night, anecdote cannot and never will be proof. However…
Anecdote can be the spark to ignite real scientific inquiry into a subject such as ours. Anecdote is integral and in most cases, a necessary step in encouraging real scientific inquiry to take place. In fact, it is very likely that anecdote, whether witness sighting or footprint, will be the catalyst for the official documentation of the creature we know as Sasquatch.
Anecdote is not and will never be enough. However, it is enormously important, and at the moment, all we have..