Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Footprints yeti again.

A team of Japanese researchers claim to have found Yeti footprints in Nepal.

"The footprints were about 20 centimetres (eight inches) long and looked like a human's," Yoshiteru Takahashi, the leader of the Yeti Project Nepal, told AFP in Kathmandu on Monday.

I've just measured mine. They are 9.5 inches and I don't think I have particularly big feet. Those footprints sound like they were made by someone smaller than me. The photo of the footprint looks very human indeed.

There might well be yetis out there. There might well be Bigfoot out there too - although the last one (the body in the freezer) was another hoax. The 'yeti hair' found recently turned out to be goat hair. I'd put no credence at all in a footprint that looks exactly like a human footprint, and a small one at that. Barefoot in the snow isn't pleasant, but anyone could bear it long enough to make a few footprints.

But Takahashi said the footprints were proof enough.

No. They are not. No footprint is proof of anything. The footprint is not the foot - even if it were unusual, even if it had three long toes and claws on the ends, it's not possible to prove it wasn't made by a polystyrene cutout of the base of a 'foot'. I'm not saying they faked this print. I'm saying they can't prove they didn't.

None of the footprints, the crop circles, the dents left allegedly by alien ships' landing pads, none of the impressions left by something that might or might not have been there, none of that is proof of anything. If you are sure they weren't faked then you can count them as evidence, but not proof. That evidence applies only to your own investigation. It will not convince someone else so it isn't proof.

I sound pedantic, I know, but some words have very precise meanings when used in a scientific context. Proof is one of them It's a very strong word to bandy around because if you prove something, then you can demonstrate it to others in such a way that they find it difficult to refute what you say. No dent in the ground is ever going to be proof.

Evidence is less strong. Evidence is what leads to research. It's what makes a researcher begin and continue his research. Evidence is not, and never will be, the end point of research. It's accumulated information applicable to only one researcher or research team (although often, researchers share evidence, they do so on the understanding that it is not proof). Evidence is open to question, proof should withstand questioning.

So these footprints are not proof. They are not even convincing evidence, in my view, but that's a matter for the researchers involved.

All study of anything regarded as paranormal, including cryptozoology, attracts a lot of flak from the scientific community. In the spirit of independent, dispassionate research into all aspects of the world, they'd shut us all down completely if they could. Displaying a footprint that looks very human indeed and calling it proof of a yeti is just handing those guys the ammunition.

Photographs of the prints have been posted on the expedition's website,

Unfotunately I don't read Japanese at all so haven't been able to navigate that site. The article quoted at the start is on Yahoo news, and might not be around long. If I find a more permanent link I'll update this.

I'll have a look around when my teeth stop grinding.


Southern Writer said...

Have you considered the size of feet in Japan? Eight inches is probably huge to them. It was probably some American kid. Or maybe it was Scary Monster. Remember him?

Romulus Crowe said...

I remember Scary. His new blog seems to have closed down.

So maybe he's gone for a walk, barefoot in the snow. You never know...

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