Saturday, September 6, 2008

More Bigfoot Fluff on the Local News.....

This one stings a little. I love Tennessee, especially the capital city of Nashville. It is a beautiful and vibrant place to live, even for someone like me, an atheist who doesn't particularly care for country music, and I spent three of the best years of my life there. I have nothing but fond memories of the place, and miss it dearly but, alas, I must admit that it fares no better than other cities when it comes to local news reporting of pseudoscience.

Today, WSMV Nashville brings us a brief report and an accompanying video covering the discovery of a "mysterious" footprint by a retired builder from Cookeville, Tennessee. The footprint, which is claimed by owner Harold Jackson to be thousands of years old, is a mess that barely resembles something made by a hominid species. There is the faint outline of what could be toes, and an indentation that appears to be a heal, but the whole thing might very easily be just another example of pareidolia. I think it is of too poor a quality to be a hoax but that is also a consideration. And though the report qualifies Jackson as an amateur archaeologist, he is quoted saying that he doesn't "know anything about archaeology or anything".

The title of the report, "Scientists Interested In Large Footprint Discovery", hardly counts as news, but in this day and age, where outlets jump at any fluff piece involving pseudoscience or the paranormal, it isn't too suprising. Nor is the fact that the only scientist specifially named as being interested in the discovery is oft quoted Dr. Jeffrey Meldrum, whose skeptical take on the recent Bigfoot corpse hoax was paraded around the news circuit as if it was some kind of unique opinion that required being a "Bigfoot expert" to hold, and whose best evidence for the existence of the creature is the argument ad populi that so many outdoorsmen and hunters can't all be wrong. Yes, Meldrum is a skeptic like Larry King is a skeptic and he employs critical thinking in regards to Bigfoot like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did to fairies. Besides, calling oneself a scientific expert on a fictional entity is dubious at best, even if you have a PhD in anatomy to go along with your doctorate in confirmation bias.

The report sinks even lower into pseudojournalism when it is revealed, as if it is in some way meaningful, that Channel 4 has yet to even speak with Meldrum, or to reach Tennessee state archaeologist Nick Fielder for comment on the footprint. It isn't news that you didn't talk to somebody. You don't get credit for not doing your job when it comes to reporting. I have no doubt that lots of famous and important people are interested in whether or not Bigfoot exists, and many reputable scientists would be qualified to discuss this finding, but just mentioning the name of one is obviously thrown in to lend more credibility to this worthless bit of fluff.

1 comment:

The Laundress said...

shhh, correction, Tennessee is the capital city of Nashville. Everybody knows this... except people from (other than Nashville) Tennessee.