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Bigfoot: To Kill Or To Film

- C H A P T E R   T W O -

Hunting For Knowledge

It is fair to say that the inquiry into the snowman problem began by way of a hunt, not science. The coveted objective of numerous Himalayan expeditions by Western explorers and even of the Pamirs expedition by the Soviet Academy of Sciences was to hunt down the enigmatic hairy biped and show the trophy to an astounded world. A hunt mentality is still typical of such North American investigators as John Green and Grover Krantz. A totally different approach, with the mentality and strategy of science (i.e., hunting for knowledge, not trophies) was first introduced into the snowman investigation by Boris Porshnev, so it is worthwhile to look anew at this aspect of his work.

When a translation of Ivan Sanderson's article devoted to the Patterson film was published in a Soviet magazine, Boris Porshnev wrote (in part) the following in his commentary (1968):

The public is much taken by the illusion that the 'snowman' problem can only be solved by a sensational breakthrough. A single proof will be obtained and submitted: here you are! No, the process of science is more modest and more majestic. In its course knowledge is accumulated and deepened, new information is added to old information, and its overall reliability increases. A single sensation won't work if only because any sensation can be questioned: photographs and films can be faked, while a live specimen can be declared a rare pathological case, a freak of nature. Science operates, as a rule, not with isolated facts but with series of them. That is why only those investigators who have studied a great number of already known similar facts can judge the validity of the film taken by Patterson and Gimlin. ...This film can't make a revolution in science. When two, three, ten films are taken, their conclusiveness will increase, if the need for more and more 'proofs' does not gradually disappear even for the outsiders. ...Initially it seemed that some defendants had to submit a 'proof' to some judges, whereupon these experts will kindly take into their scholarly hands further progress of the investigation. Now we are clear that it is the defendants who are the only experts and specialists in the matter. Their circle will be joined and enlarged by young biologists who will want to acquire the existing knowledge and take up the torch. And the judges will be dozing away in armchairs in an empty hall... (Znanie-sila, 1968, No. 9, pp. 52,53)
This commentary shows that back in the 1960's Porshnev well understood what's what and who's who in our research. Free of illusions, he had a clear idea how to push it forward. In regard to Patterson's film, Porshnev's words do not mean that he considered the film documentary unimportant or unnecessary. No, he just put that piece of evidence in the context of ongoing research and correctly predicted that it would not resolve the problem — not because it is a film, but because a scientific problem of such magnitude is of necessity resolved in a different way, in a way of accumulating and deepening knowledge. Following Porshnev's train of thought, I wrote in our conference paper on the Patterson film that, "science can solve only those problems which it is ready to solve. Thus, an eventual delivery of traditional zoological material will resolve the hominoid problem not just by virtue of that fact alone, but also because science will have been prepared to accept the discovery by the entire course of the research, including, hopefully, this paper."

In the process of knowledge accumulation, coming information (including films) must be assessed. Some information will need to be accepted and some rejected. However, who is to do the accepting and rejecting? Who are the experts? Porshnev gives a clear answer, which, regrettably, is still unclear to some people. Of course, hominologists can and must use the expertise of other specialists, but the last word in the appraisal of evidence in hominology must belong to them (hominologists), not to outsiders.

In this connection, it must be said that Porshnev not only proceeded in a scientific manner about the hominoid problem but he happened to found a new science along the way. This fact has to be said loud and clear at last because most researchers in the field, John Green and Grover Krantz first and foremost, have not yet swallowed the news. John Napier stated that "if Bigfoot is real, then, as scientists we have a lot to explain. Among other things we shall have to rewrite the story of human evolution" (Bigfoot, p. 204). Napier shunned the rewriting, Porshnev was inspired by it, and right or wrong, he did it! Thus he was a generation ahead of other evolutionists who haven't yet even realized the necessity of the task.

On page 273 of his suppressed monograph, still existing in 180 rotaprint copies, Porshnev (1963) writes of the "destinies of the emerging science of relict hominoids." It fell to my lot to name the new branch of knowledge. This happened in 1972, and in 1973 I used the term hominology in my letters. In the second half of that decade the term began to be used in the press. However, was hominology really necessary? Wasn't cryptozoology sufficient to cover all enigmatic animals, including our "charges?" My answer in this regard is as follows. Even with the advent of cryptozoology, hominology is not only necessary but inevitable. The reason is that as soon as an object of cryptozoology (i.e., a cryptid) is recognized by zoology, it stops being a cryptid and gets under the auspices of one or another branch of zoology. Such was the fate of the okapi, the giant squid, the gorilla, and numerous other ex-cryptids. But relict hominoids have no discipline to fall into, except hominology. Zoology, primatology, anthropology, as we know these disciplines today, have no place for living wild human-like bipeds. The creatures' specifics are not dealt with by any one of the established sciences. Hominology is necessary and inevitable because between zoology and anthropology there is a big gap in knowledge, a no-man's land of science. So the hominologist is a hunter for knowledge in this no-man's land.

LEFT: Warren Thompson at the Bigfoot statue carved by Jim McClarin, Willow Creek, Northern California, April 1979. (Photo Credit: Warren Thompson.)
RIGHT: Your author afield in Kabarda, North Caucasus, back in 1970's the time of the "Great Debate."

Perhaps I should also mention here that in the family of sciences, hominology's elder sister is paleoanthropology. The elder sister deals with fossil ancestors of Homo sapiens while hominology deals with living pre-sapiens bipeds.

As I said in the beginning of this chapter, even the 1958 scientific expedition into the Pamirs was bent on hunting down a snowman, although the expedition members had a very vague idea what kind of animal they were after. Commenting on the results of the expedition in The Struggle for Troglodytes, Porshnev wrote, "We were obviously not prepared to interrogate nature prior to querying people who have lived for generations in that environment." So five years after the expedition, Porshnev's monograph, The Present State of the Question of Relict Hominoids, was the result of querying people, of drawing conclusions from a voluminous file of eyewitness reports gathered by the Snowman Commission of the Academy of Sciences. Chapter XI of the book (Preliminary Description of Homo troglodytes) is devoted to the morphology of the creature from head to foot; Chapter XII to its biology and Chapter XV to the ways and methods of searches. Here are two quotes from the latter chapter:

If we could find even a single place where tender-hearted inhabitants keep in contact with the animals which interest us, that would give us a key to the practical solution of the whole problem. Why? Because then perhaps it would be possible to repeat and enlarge the practice of giving food to the creatures, to use this method in other places. If we really manage even once to lure and feed a specimen of relict hominoid the whole further perspective of research must be based on repeating and enlarging this practice.

If proceeding most cautiously we succeed in conditioning the creature to come and take food in a definite place, that would be a real scientific victory. There is a basis for such prospects, namely, the above- mentioned cases in different geographical areas of local people habituating and even befriending relict hominoids. Scientific work could be launched in such a case even without direct contact of researchers with the specimen, for modern zoology boasts of an excellent means of taking color films with a telephoto lens at a great distance. A relict hominoid would then appear on the screen showing its usual movements and habits against a background of its natural environment. So step by step relict hominoids on earth could find themselves under man's protection and permanent scientific surveillance. At a certain moment it would be possible, of course, to observe the death of this creature. Then the anatomist would get a corpse for autopsy. Thus the perspective of studying Homo troglodytes looks as the reverse of zoology's canon: not from dissection to biology but from biology to dissection. (Porshnev 1963: pp. 390-393)

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