Martin J Clemens posted a link to his article on the evolution of Bigfoot on a forum I frequent, and I thought it woud be a fun opportunity to exercise my critical thinking skills. I had frequent nightmares about Bigfoot as a kid, so I have to say I had fun picking apart the arguments in this article…Here goes:
Since the presentation of the Patterson Video from October 20th, 1967, Bigfoot mania has swept the globe. As a cultural phenomenon, or more accurately, an urban legend, Bigfoot’s popularity has skyrocketed, since that cold autumn day, when two business associates, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, happened to encounter what is arguably the most controversial anthropological find of modern science.
I don’t think you can call a film that’s probably a guy in a bigfoot costume anthropological evidence. And maybe it’s controversial in your circle but I doubt many (if any) anthropologists are losing sleep over it.
As possibly the most famous entry in the anthropological category of ‘Cryptid’, the Sasquatch, or more commonly, Bigfoot, has garnered more than its fair share of attention, both from believers and sceptics alike.
Among the sceptical arguments against the existence of this oft-described monster of the woods, is the pseudo-scientific claim that such a creature, if it could have evolved in the first place, could not survive for such a long period of time and remain unknown to modern science.
I don’t think any skeptic would say it’s impossible that this creature exists, I certainly wouldn’t. But people have been looking for it for a long time and no evidence has been found. It’s unlikely that a population of these creatures could have gone undetected for such a long time especially with people actively looking for it. After such a long time without any evidence it’s reasonable to be dismissive of claims that there’s a bigfoot until actual evidence is brought to light.
What I hope to show in this article is the fundamental flaw in the above reasoning, and to demonstrate, through an abstract examination of the currently known ethos of the Sasquatch, that it is not only possible for such a creature to exist and to flourish, but that it may even be likely. In other words, I hope to debunk the debunkers.
Just because something is possible or even likely doesn’t make it true. Without evidence there’s no reason to think it’s true. The people who debunk bigfoot are simply looking at the evidence and pointing out that it’s not actually evidence for bigfoot.
Why have I taken this relatively safe position of attempting to discredit the sceptics, instead of purporting to support the supporters? In short, the paradox of my own scepticism does not escape me. At present, we, as a community of both sceptics and believers, have no real footholds with which to make our climb to the lofty height of proven correct. No live sample, no dead carcass, no impressively clear footage or photography and no unimpeachable testimony exist in support of either camp; but in spite of this relatively clear fact, sceptics continue to ridicule, berate and dismiss the opinions, evidence and claims of supporters.
Of course there’s no evidence in the skeptic’s camp, what would that look like? A photograph of not bigfoot? There’s no such thing as evidence that bigfoot doesn’t exist, it’s not possible to prove that bigfoot doesn’t exist. Skeptics simply scrutinize the so-called evidence in support of bigfoot but since there is nothing convincing thus far of course skeptics are dismissive of the claims of bigfoot believers.
Is it so far fetched to conceive of an as yet undiscovered bi-pedal hominid species that is large in stature, covered in ape like hair, and which is, apparently, intelligent enough to know that humanity should be avoided, even at the risk of injury and conflict? A growing number of enthusiasts, cryptozoologists, anthropologists and laymen would answer that question with a passionate ‘no’, though an equally large number of sceptics would intelligently argue the opposite.
It seems far-fetched to me, but that doesn’t matter. If someone were to give me actual evidence that such a creature existed I would believe it.
The basis of the sceptical claim is typically as follows: The scope of humanity is such that every corner of the earth is occupied by humans, or has been with certain fluctuation; (often adding in the following caveat) those small pockets of territory that are as yet undisturbed by human populations are either too small to support a breeding population of large mammals and to simultaneously allow them to remain hidden from scientific observation, or are environmentally unsuitable for a sustained mammalian population.
No, the skeptical claim is that there’s no evidence supporting bigfoot so there is no reason to believe such a creature exists until the evidence is found.
Admittedly, there is a fairly obvious logic to that argument, even though there are factual flaws. Not the least of which is the fact that there are stretches of undisturbed arboreal forest in northern Canada that are nearly the size of the State of Texas. Now obviously this doesn’t account for reported Sasquatch populations residing outside of Canada, though it does illustrate the type of logical misinformation used to debunk issues like Bigfoot.
That doesn’t prove anything. It might indicate the possibility of an undiscovered species, but that doesn’t make it probable. I find it hard to believe that there are undisturbed areas of forest the size of Texas though, I’d like it if someone could point out to me where these forests are.
The entire argument of Sasquatch real-estate may be moot anyway, as I shall try to illustrate. If we look at Bigfoot in evolutionary terms, we may be able to come up with a plausible theory to refute the sceptical claim.
I am hesitant to provide any preliminary qualification to this argument; for fear that I would do more damage to the natural selection theories on which I base my own theory in the process. It would be best if the reader had an understanding of both Darwinism and gene selection theory, but it’s not entirely necessary.
Darwinism? I’m assuming you mean evolutionary biology, which is a completely different thing than Darwinism.
Essentially, my argument is a simple abstraction of natural selection on the genetic level, which can explain firstly, how a creature such as Sasquatch could evolve, and secondly, how it could have adapted to survive, as a species, in relatively small breeding pools.
Let’s first look at the possibility of a large bi-pedal hominid evolving to the currently reported state of Bigfoot. This isn’t much of a stretch really, after all, we exist, the great apes exist, and lower hominids exist. All such species have evolved in various climates, in various population environments and with varying degrees of success (genetically speaking). When considering whether Bigfoot could have evolved from our common ancestry, it’s interesting to learn that the great apes of Africa held the very same cryptid title until their discovery in the late 19th century. British and American scientists believed the Gorilla to be a myth, until the first corpse was presented for examination, though no reasonable person would now say that apes don’t exist.
So, to answer the first part of the sceptical argument, yes, it most certainly is possible that a Sasquatch-like creature could have evolved from our common ancestry.
Of course it’s possible. Skeptics don’t say it’s impossible, just that there’s no evidence and thus no reason to believe sasquatches exist.
If we have reasonably established that Sasquatch evolution is possible, then we should now look at how such a creature might survive and remain hidden from science.
One aspect of the Sasquatch ethos that sets it apart from all other primates (except possibly us) is it’s intrinsic intelligence. The reasoning, memory and forethought often displayed by Bigfoot in well documented encounters, suggests that the species has developed a ‘big brain’, more than likely similar to the human brain. It would seem on first examination that the Sasquatch brain is less developed than the human brain, though it may simply be that it developed along different evolutionary requirements. Language and reason may be available to Bigfoot, but in different forms than we see in ourselves.
This is complete speculation.
All that would have been required for a big brain to have evolved in a second species (second may not be the correct ordering of big brain development, as some believe that whales and dolphins were the first to cross that finish line), is the survival and propagation of genes within the evolution of the Sasquatch, which tended to favour individuals with greater capacity for learning and reasoning. Meaning that the individual Sasquatch who held those traits was more likely to survive to a breeding age than those who did not, and therefore was more likely to pass on his genes to the next generation, thereby enabling successive generations to further adapt that particular genetic advantage, eventually becoming a species characteristic.
Incidentally, all other commonly held Bigfoot traits would be passed on in the same manner, and for the purposes of this argument, we needn’t provide a full explanation of the evolutionary process, it is enough to identify the specific traits that could have evolved, in order to refute the sceptic claim.
Again, just because something could have happened doesn’t mean it has.
In that effort, let’s look at what would be required for Sasquatch to survive as a species in small pockets of wilderness, all the while remaining hidden from humanity.
Firstly, many sceptics have claimed that the survival of a large mammalian species would require a breeding population in excess of 100,000 individuals in order to avoid natural extinction. This is true -give or take 10,000 individuals- however, it is only true if the species has a gestation rate, growth rate and life span that is similar to ours. With all that is unknown about the biology of the Sasquatch, it is conceivable that the environment in which they have evolved, has favoured genes for extended lifespan.
Biologists and Geneticists today can find no reason why humans cannot evolve (even artificially) to a lifespan of more than 200 years, and if this is so in humans, why can it not be so, naturally, in Sasquatch?
It’s possible for a species to have a long lifespan, so what? And humans could eventually live longer than 200 years, but that’s because of modern medicine, not evolution. There’s a big difference. This has no bearing on whether or not a separate species could evolve a long lifespan.
When considered on its own, an evolutionary predisposition for super-long lifespan may seem unlikely, but when considered along side all other known Sasquatch characteristics: sturdy build, well suited for mountain/heavy forest survival, large size, omnivorous nature; all these things could be interpreted to compliment a longer lifespan than humanity. It is entirely possible that Sasquatch have adapted their metabolic processes, to slow down growth and development and as such have greatly increased the time it takes them to reach breeding age. From a certain perspective, there do seem to be some advantages to such genetic adaptation; right from the start we know that species which reach breeding age later in life, tend to have smaller populations, which, in an environment that is geographically limited or which has limited food resources, would be a natural measure of population control, helping to ensure genetic survival.
I suggest that the immense size of Sasquatch is a testament to such an evolutionary trait, whereby, they have the time to invest in growth during a prolonged adolescence, before they would naturally begin to invest those same resources in procreation. The double effect of this characteristic might be that such a species would need a much smaller breeding pool in order to survive.
This is all baseless speculation. Coming up with an explanation for why the pop-culture idea of bigfoot could exist doesn’t prove anything.
However, none of this shows how or why Sasquatch is able to remain undetected in these small pockets of wilderness, or does it?
If the above is true, or even plausible, then it could follow that any creature that must wait for an extended period of time before reaching breeding age would also develop a mechanism for ensuring that each worthy individual was able to reach that age in a healthy state. Given the extended time frame, there would be a greater risk of the adolescent falling prey to various dangers in their environment (not the least of which would be predation by other species of hominid, i.e. us). A natural progression of this logic might lead one to the idea that the Sasquatch evolved a heightened xenophobic propensity. Simply put, they are naturally more fearful of members of other species, than other species might be of them. This would serve to ensure that each individual is afforded the same opportunity to mate and rear offspring.
Even if they’re extremely good at hiding there should still be evidence of their existence. Why haven’t there been any skeletons discovered? Feces? Fur? Habitats such as a den or cave? Something the size of a large human or a bear should leave behind traces that it exists. And if the bigfoot can be photographed or videotaped, they shouldn’t be impossible to find. There should be evidence in the places where these are taken, so why isn’t there an abundance of evidence for bigfoot?
And even if there is such thing as bigfoot and it’s skilled enough at hiding his tracks to leave no evidence behind, there is still no evidence, so this speculation is meaningless.
This is a fairly easy line of reasoning to follow, and can be further illustrated by looking at the historical conditions that could have led to such an evolutionary situation.
Among early primates, of which we know there were several variant species, each species evolution was dictated by two things. 1) The genetic make up they had to work with, and 2) the environment in which they needed to survive. For any one species, the evolutionary outcome of their survival was born of the minute adaptations and selection of successful genes along every successive generation. Those genes that were not successful did not make it into the next generation and therefore did not influence the adaptation of successive generations. In each environment, various species used various and alternate traits to varying levels of success, resulting in the wide array of primates we see today. While some experienced success in one direction, others when in another.
It is more than possible, and in my mind, is even likely that of the infinite evolutionary possibilities, the above scenario has played out in at least one species, and has led to the creature we now know as Sasquatch.
Again, because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s true.
In summary, I believe I have shown, however clumsily, that Sasquatch could have adapted through evolution, to be long lived and shy, which might have the effect of allowing them to survive in the smaller pockets of wilderness that remain available. This is not to say that they will be able to remain obscured in the face of ever encroaching human development and deforestation, and I suggest that if my theory is correct, then not only will sightings increase as we trespass on their territory, but those encounters will become increasingly violent as the Sasquatch are forced to coexist with other species beyond their natural comfort level.
You haven’t shown anything. Of course it’s possible that sasquatches exist, but there’s no evidence. All you have shown is that you can write a story about why these creatures might exist. In the absence of evidence there’s no reason to believe in bigfoot, and it’s impossible to come to any conclusions about their traits or their evolution.