The Abominable Snowman. The Loch Ness Monster. Bigfoot. As a kid, I ate that stuff up. In fact, along with watching every monster movie I could, I also poured through the pages of Fate Magazine. Eventually one grows up — but, in my case, only a little. Authors Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero have written a book, Abominable Science (Amazon link) about their investigations into such cryptozoological subjects.
Both authors are skeptics although as is quoted more than once in Abominable Science that, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” None the less, they are not believers that such critters as I’ve already mentioned, nor sea serpents or dinosaurs (in Africa,) exist at this time. Am I a believer? Not really, but I try to keep an open mind.
There are definitely two authors at work here with differing writing styles. Sometimes humor is shown, other times the prose is dry as a stick. There are numerous and often humorous anecdotes about the hoaxes foisted on the gullible public by pranksters. I enjoyed those sections quite a bit. In other parts, it’s slow going. Their research is exhaustive. At times, in fact, it’s exhausting; in a couple of chapters there’s simply too much of it that simply isn’t all that interesting. Incidentally, fully 40% of the book (according to my Kindle) is footnotes, references, etc.
For instance, the chapter on sea serpents recounts almost every single piece of historical writings about them. A few less examples would have moved things along, better. And yet, while I was reading the book a couple of months ago, two Oarfish washed up upon the western coast. These are snake-like creatures that can grow to be over 30 feet in length, with fearsome looking heads and could easily be mistaken as “sea serpents” and possibly have spawned such tales. Odd that THEY weren’t mentioned. Who knows what else lurks in the deep and hasn’t been discovered yet. Having said that, I’m more in agreement with them in other chapters.
Regarding Big Foot . . . Well, I think the authors are on sounder footing, pardon the pun. As they point out, with all the hunters and loggers and nature lovers tramping through the woods of North America, not one has come across a body or skeleton or even part of one that has tested positive as a new species.
Two points about the book rubbed me the wrong way. While it has nothing to do with the validity of what they are writing, the statement is made that such-and-such making claims about or went looking for a creature “had no training that would qualify him to undertake competent research on exotic animals.” This was regarding a biologist who mounted two expeditions to the African Congo in search of a supposedly not-extinct dinosaur. And, no, I don’t believe there are still dinosaurs roaming the veldt and yes, I believe that the scientist in question had an agenda. But, I also believe that plenty of non-professional enthusiasts have made numerous contributions to the sciences. All you need do is look to the field of astronomy for examples today.
Secondly, one of the authors, Donald R. Prothero, links belief in Big Foot, and cryptozoology in general, to the decline in science education in the United States. He goes on a tirade at the end of the book trying to link belief in sea serpents to belief in astrology, to creationism, to not-believing in man-made global warming, to the recession, to Republicans (because, I guess, no Democrat ever looked up their horoscope or believes in Big Foot) and finally to the wars in the middle-east. That’s quite a wide paint brush he wields in the final paragraphs.
Okay, if you’ve made it this far into my review, you want the bottom line: Parts of the book are interesting and the authors certainly take the wind out of the sails of some beliefs. Other sections are slow going and begging to be skipped over. I’ll grudgingly give it 3 out of 5 stars.