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CRYPTOZOOLOGY
A Critical Approach

by Cameron McCormick



Simply put, Cryptozoology is the study of animals that have somehow escaped the classification of organized science. The study was first named in the 1940's and 1950's by Zoologists Ivan Sanderson and Bernard Heuvelmans (unaware of one another), but the concept itself is quite old. For hundred years, individuals have looked for animals that were known from only rumor or legend; and in a few isolated incidents were successful (i.e. the Okapi). According to Heuvelmans, the first major step towards modern Cryptozoology was taken by Danish Zoologist Anthonid Cornelis Oudemans. Oudemans worked on a project in the late 19th century that described Sea-Serpents from anecdotal evidence, and treated the subject very seriously. Cryptozoology has evolved since then, but there is still discussion as to whether Cryptozoology is a scientific endeavor or a pseudoscientific one.

While the earliest Cryptozoologists were people with Zoological education, in recent times it has attracted a fairly large following from non-scientists. This has led to a very wide variety in the quality and plausibility of the work being done, with an especially large amount of fringe thinkers present on the internet. Some individuals have managed to work in UFOs, ghosts, vampires, and other beliefs into the Cryptozoological field, clearly moving very far away from the original intent of looking for unclassified animals. It is my opinion that these beliefs detract significantly from Cryptozoological credibility, and are best left separate. A related issue is that some conservative religious groups are pursuing "prehistoric survivors" or biblical beasts for various reasons. I am undecided what to think of this movement; while they are certainly prejudice in their reasons for looking, their amount of prejudice isn't really too different from a lot of "Cryptozoologists". Defining what or who a "Cryptozoologist" is in the first place is always a matter of confusion.

I would put individuals involved in Cryptozoology into two broad groups, "crypto-enthusiasts" and Cryptozoologists. I consider a "crypto-enthusiast" a person who has at least some knowledge and interest in Cryptozoology, although it does not take up much of their time. Perhaps the definitive difference is that they do not engage in serious, scientific (and time consuming) research. I would say that these people make up the vast majority of people involved in Cryptozoology. I consider myself a enthusiast. Cryptozoologists typically have some training in a field related to Cryptozoology, but I think some self-educated persons may also qualify. They frequently engage in original research, at least some of which is published. There is no way to formally determine who is a Cryptozoologist, and the "title" is typically self-appointed (sometimes inappropriately) since there is no way to earn a degree in Cryptozoology. There certainly are people who fall in between the categories, but I think this sums up who is involved in this field.

The main goal of Cryptozoology is to study potentially unknown animal species, referred to as "cryptids". As with everything in Cryptozoology, there is some discussion as to the basic division. Heuvelmans only wanted to study subjects which were likely to be unknown species, but others have a broader definition. Some would consider Out Of Place (OOP) animal, new color/patterns, and other relatively mundane creatures cryptids. For the most part, Cryptozoologists are mostly interested in creatures that look quite unlike any known species, and are thus likely to be new species. Perhaps the most widely studied animals unlikely to be new species are the OOP big cats in eastern North America, Europe, and Australia, but this is an exception. Some individuals mistakenly refer to animals such as the Coelacanth, Giant Squid, Gorilla, Okapi, et cetera, as cryptids, despite the fact that they were discovered decades before the word was coined (1983 by John Wall). I would like to establish a new category called proto-cryptids, animals that were discovered with Cryptozoology-like methods in the past, of which there are admittedly few.

Nothing is perfect, and there are some criticisms of Cryptozoology which need to be addressed. Despite claims to the contrary, Cryptozoology has not yet been directly involved in the discovery of a new species, and there are frequent incorrect claims that it was involved with "proto-cryptids" like gorillas and okapis. However, Richard Greenwell was involved with the discovery of the Onza, which is somehow related to the puma (a subspecies?). Another problem is the evidence used in Cryptozoology. Anecdotal evidence has a rather limited use due to the fallibility of human observation, and the inability to replicate it as evidence. It might be possible to predict when a sighting might occur, however, it is unprecedented and may or may not be usable as scientific evidence. The more tangible evidence such as footprints and video is much better, but it is rarer, and none of it is capable of incontrovertibly proving a cryptid. Some Cryptozoologists could be categorized as "believers", and have all of the problems associated with keeping a closed mind on the subject. This is notable when they reject numerous reports that don't fit into their "type", or use such circular reasoning as "anything is possible" as evidence. Despite that, there are still numerous Cryptozoologists trying to work as rationally as they can with the evidence.




Skepticism is often viewed as some sort of "adversary" to some people interested in Cryptozoology, but in reality it can only help improve the case for cryptids. It should be pointed out that the definition of "skeptic" in English vernacular is not completely accurate, and normally refers to persons who could be better labeled debunkers and cynics. Debunkers and cynics typically profess disbelief and can be analagous to an atheist. Scientific skeptics on the other hand, profess doubt on unproven ideas, and can be compared to an agnostic with an malleable opinion. I think that in this case, the middle ground is far safer than blind belief or disbelief. I should point out, however, that it may be necessairy to debunk some individual cases (i.e. obvious hoaxes), but I do not think it would be possible (or wise) to do it to an entire cryptid. I have noticed that several debunkers and cynics also appear to only have a surface knowlege of the cryptids they are disproving, and I hope this website will gather enough information to determine if a cryptid is plausible. Honestly, out of the 400+ varieties of cryptids that have been proposed, I seriously doubt that any more than a handful will get discovered, at least in my lifetime. I cannot prove or disprove anything (beyond a doubt) with this website, but it is my intent of using this site as a sort of critical "guide" as to which cryptids have the strongest evidence and are worth looking into further.

I hope that you find the basis of this website at least somewhat useful. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me at
Cameron_McCormick@umit.maine.edu                                                                     
Copyright 2006
Cameron McCormick

News:



Cryptids:
The potentially undiscovered species listed geographically.

Hoaxes & Mistakes

Information which is highly dubious, but still touted as "fact" on the internet.

Reviews:

A look at Cryptozoology literature, with a focus on the content.

An Introduction to Cryptozoology











































Skepticism and Cryptozoology
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