Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids

Overview

Large numbers of people believe in demonstrably false phenomena, from UFOs and ESP to Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Even though these fictions have been repeatedly debunked and discredited, they persist in the human imagination and influence our beliefs and our society. Spinning tales of fantastical creatures may seem like a harmless pastime, but when pseudoscientists make "revolutionary" claims about the world and its history, evidence-based science, public policy, and ...

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Abominable Science: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and other Famous Cryptids

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Overview

Large numbers of people believe in demonstrably false phenomena, from UFOs and ESP to Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Even though these fictions have been repeatedly debunked and discredited, they persist in the human imagination and influence our beliefs and our society. Spinning tales of fantastical creatures may seem like a harmless pastime, but when pseudoscientists make "revolutionary" claims about the world and its history, evidence-based science, public policy, and human progress suffer.

Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero complete an entertaining, educational, and definitive text on a variety of cryptids, presenting both the arguments for and against their existence and systematically challenging the pseudoscience perpetuating their myths. After opening chapters examining the nature and practitioners of pseudoscientific thought and marking its divergence from proper science, Loxton and Prothero take on Bigfoot; the Yeti, or the Abominable Snowman, and its cross-cultural incarnations; the Loch Ness monster and its many, highly publicized sightings; Champ, Ogopogo, and other lake monsters; the legend of the Sea Serpent; Mokele Mbembe, or the Congo dinosaur; and the Goat Sucker, otherwise know as the Chupucabra. They conclude with an analysis of the psychology behind persistent paranormal and extraordinary belief, identifying cryptozoology's major players, the character of its subculture, and its pernicious perversion of critical thinking in our society.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Loxton and Prothero (Reality Check) stake out the world’s best-known (if never observed) cryptids and—unsurprisingly—come up with zilch. But that doesn’t mean the hunt isn’t an interesting one. In their breakdown of cryptozoology, the skeptical duo (Loxton is the editor of Junior Skeptic magazine) covers a vast swath of territory, from biology, geology, paleontology, and genetics, to anthropology, sociology, and folklore. Classic cryptids like Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, and sea serpents, as well as the lesser known Mokele Mbembe, an Apatosaurous-like dinosaur supposedly rampaging through the Congo, each get their due (and are duly dismissed as myths) in chapter-long entries. Loxton and Prothero ultimately conclude that “there is no solid evidence that any of the cryptids discussed in this book exist and much evidence that their existence is extremely unlikely.” So why the obsession with these fanciful beasts? And what of the weird world of amateur cryptozoologists? The authors address these questions and others in the illuminating final pages, where they rail against the dangers of pseudoscience and provocatively tie cryptozoology to the politics of creationism. This work is as valuable for its analysis of the hunted as it is for the light it shines on the still-hopeful hunters. 88 illus. and photos. (Aug. 6)
from the foreward by Michael Shermer

Loxton and Prothero have written what may well be the most important work to date on cryptozoology, taking its rightful place in the annals of skeptical literature in particular and scientific literature in general. Abominable Science! is the defining work on cryptozoology of our generation.

From the Publisher
Loxton and Prothero have written what may well be the most important work to date on cryptozoology, taking its rightful place in the annals of skeptical literature in particular and scientific literature in general. Abominable Science! is the defining work on cryptozoology of our generation.

Columbia University Press

Niles Eldredge

Nearly everyone--scientist and layman alike--would love the Loch Ness monster and other 'cryptids' to be real. Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero, in their riveting exploration of cryptozoology, readily admit that some species (such as the living coelacanth and even the mountain gorilla) remained hidden to human experience until relatively recently. Yet they insist on hard evidence, thus running counter to the preferences of those who prefer to believe. Abominable Science! is a well-told, engaging story of skepticism. Loxton and Prothero present a lucid and compelling case to counter the false claims of cryptozoology.

Darren Naish

Here, at last, is a scholarly, fully referenced work that presents a thoroughly reasonable, well-argued, skeptical perspective on some of the most iconic 'cryptids,' and it is fun to read and well illustrated to boot. Combining excellent and thorough research, ample references to the cryptozoological literature, and, most important, an appropriately level-headed, critical approach, Abominable Science! offers a novel, refreshing exploration of the world of cryptozoology.

Doubtful News - Sharon Hill

Groundbreaking.... A must-have. There is nothing else like it.

from the foreword by Michael Shermer

Loxton and Prothero have written what may well be the most important work to date on cryptozoology, taking its rightful place in the annals of skeptical literature in particular and scientific literature in general. Abominable Science! is the defining work on cryptozoology of our generation.

Wall Street Journal - Margaret Wertheim

They offer us a sharp analysis of the quest for unreal critters--cryptids, as they are called--and the people who pursue them, shining an arc light onto the hoaxes and faked photos, the made-up films, faux corpses, delusions, lies and plain bad science that plague the field.

The Times (London) - Iain Finlayson

The authors, eminent and intrepid sceptics, seek evidence of fabulous big beasts and find nothing but fakes, folklore, pseudo-science and anecdote.

Nature - Daniel Cressey

[ Abominable Science!] is a never less than rigorous examination of the evidence, and a cultural history of cryptozoology.

The Scientist

A good hard look at cryptozoology.... Loxton and Prothero lay bare the psychological roots of why such mythical creatures exist in our own minds.

Discover - Elisa Neckar

Skipping cryptozoology's usual sensationalism, [ Abominable Science!] separates history and folklore from hoaxes and fakelore.

BBC Focus - Henry Gee

[ Abominable Science!] successfully reveals the influence of popular culture on what we think we see.

New York Post - Christopher Farnsworth

[ Abominable Science!] goes back to the foundations of the Bigfoot legend and picks off the fur piece by piece.

But Not Simpler blog, Scientific American - Kyle Hill

Fantastically thorough.

Open Letters Monthly - Justin Hickey

An exhaustively-researched, color-illustrated volume that details the cultural forces (and often individual people) responsible for shaping these beasts in the public's imagination.

The Midwest Book Review

Any science and nature collection should consider this a lively and loving acquisition.

San Francisco Book Review - Glenn Dallas

Abominable Science! is science writing at its best.

CHOICE

Essential.

The Skeptic

Many good laughs... Loxton and Prothero have done a fine job of describing monsters that have an entertainment value for everyone...

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231153201
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 309,262
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Loxton is the editor of Junior Skeptic magazine, a staff writer for Skeptic magazine, and the author of Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be and Ankylosaur Attack (Tales of Prehistoric Life). He is also an illustrator specializing in complex computer-generated and mixed-media scenes of photorealistic creatures, such as dinosaurs and aliens. In addition to his many Junior Skeptic covers, he has designed covers for Yes Mag, Skeptic, Free Inquiry, and Princeton University's Common Sense. He has also contributed interior illustrations to the American Geological Institute's Geotimes magazine (now called Earth).

Donald R. Prothero is professor of geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles and lecturer in geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. A fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London, Prothero is on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation. In 1991, he received the Schuchert Award for outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40. He is the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of 22 books and more than 200 scientific papers, and his titles for Columbia University Press are Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters (which won the PSP Award for Excellence in Earth Sciences from the Association of American Publishers), From Greenhouse to Icehouse, and The Eocene-Oligocene Transition.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Michael ShermerPrefaceAcknowledgments1. Cryptozoology: Real Science or Pseudoscience?2. Bigfoot: The Sasquatch3. The Yeti: The Abominable Snowman4. Nessie: The Loch Ness Monster5. The Evolution of the Sea Serpent: From Hippocamp to Cadborosaurus6. Mokele Mbembe: The Congo Dinosaur7. Why Do People Believe in Monsters? The Complexity of CryptozoologyNotesIndex

Columbia University Press

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