Friday, April 26, 2013

Why Cryptozoology is Not a Pseudoscience

According to The Skeptic's Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience by Michael Shermer, cryptozoology is literally defined as, "the search for hidden animals". To the majority of scientists, it would be no wonder that cryptozoology is included in an encyclopedia of pseudoscientific topics. However, I completely disagree. You see, cryptozoology is not always pseudoscience. It sometimes can be, but not always. I will now explain why.

Cryptozoology is not, and can not, be considered a pseudoscience. This is due to several reasons, which I will now explain in greater detail. One of Karl Popper's main criteria of what makes something truly scientific or not is whether or not it is falsifiable. And, believe it or not, it turns out that cryptozoological hypotheses actually can be falsified, just like other hypotheses which just happen, for whatever reason, to be much more widely-accepted by more "mainstream" fields of scientific inquiry.

For example, let's say that someone wanted to test the hypothesis that a large, unidentified aquatic animal lives in Loch Ness, Scotland. For the sake of argument, we'll just say that sufficient technology to thoroughly search the entire loch has already been invented by this point. If a complete and thorough search of the entire loch turns up nothing, then that basically falsifies the hypothesis that there are large, unidentified aquatic animals living in Loch Ness.

Now, the technology needed for such an operation might be far beyond anyone's financial and practical reach. However, theoretically, it is certainly possible for this idea to be falsified. Therefore, it would, indeed, be very erroneous to call it "pseudoscientific".

Now, I am very well aware of the fact that many people who are involved in the field of cryptozoology do not use correct scientific methodology. However, as I pointed out in my very first post back on June 13, 2012, it is certainly possible, indeed, to use correct scientific methods of inquiry in the field of cryptozoology.
As I pointed out at the beginning of this post, many skeptics, even critics of cryptozoology, freely acknowledge the fact that it does not always have to be pseudoscientific, necessarily. Prominent skeptics Michael Shermer and Benjamin Radford are good examples of this. Ben Radford has stated that cryptozoology, unlike topics such as ghosts and creationism, isn't really pseudoscience. And Shermer, in his aforementioned book, stated that cryptozoology ranges from being "pseudoscientific to useful and interesting, depending on how it is practiced". And I could not agree with them any more.

In conclusion, cryptozoology is not always pseudoscience. There is no denying the fact that, a lot of times, it is. However, at other times, it can also be a valid example of solid, well-grounded scientific inquiry. And my goal is for this blog to be an example of the latter.