ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Bigfoot researchers remain optimistic that Sasquatch is out there; that the creature will one day be found. Why? Why do people continue to believe? We’ll talk to professional skeptic Michael Shermer about the nature of belief. And we’ll look at why—even for those who think Bigfoot is a complete myth—the idea of Bigfoot holds so much appeal. What makes us so fascinated by this creature? Why do we want so badly to believe that it’s out there? 
English
United States

TRANSCRIPT

00:00:00What Hi Todd How are you Fine House by connection I'm on another subpar Skype line with Todd Disa Tell the molecular primatologist at New York University he's got the information I've been waiting weeks for the results of the DNA analysis from the giant ground nests on the Olympic
00:00:24Peninsula Those ten foot diameter woven nests that a few people think might have been made by Bigfoot And I've been on pins and needles about this for weeks What if they've really got something What if they've made a huge fine But what if they haven't Thiss makes me
00:00:44nervous My palms are sweaty Okay here goes nothing So what did you find out One of the one of the results Well way sequenced five different samples that they had collected a while ago Part of the problem was there fairly old and so they're slightly degraded Nevertheless we
00:01:06still got millions of individual sequences sequences of DNA None of them were often unknown Primate The only primate we found was human And it was specifically really human not just close to human Was there anything at all Weird in the samples you got That was just a little
00:01:29bit different or inconclusive Well going down my list I got some bats and shrews But see And then I got lots of bear DNA as always a cz Well as miss talents So like Strunk or weasel rabbits really man bears and shrews and humans and bats but no
00:01:55Bigfoot I'm Laura Krantz and this is Wilding a Siri's about Sascha watch science and society It's a story about Bigfoot and those who are searching for it and why we want so very badly for something like Sasquatch to be out there I'm not in the least surprised that
00:02:27the tests found all those different animals Although Todd did mention one weird thing horse DNA And this wasn't a place where you'd find horses It's too steep to overgrown I suspect that came in you know as a probable contaminant Oh that's kind of interesting So back in Episode
00:02:48five when we first talked about DNA you might remember that I mentioned how contamination could be a problem Here's why anybody near that site who's walked through manure or field somewhere else is going to be carrying DNA with them He's speculating but it shows just how sensitive these
00:03:11DNA tests are and how they pick up even the smallest amounts Not on ly Do you need to you know be glove The new sterile equipment basically need to be pretty sterile yourself Humans aren't very sterile Basically you almost need to treat it like a crime scene I
00:03:28mean they are trying to carry out a proper forensic analysis So yes they don't need to have the full you know biohazard suit because again we get all of the deer there So if they leave some of theirs behind we'll see that But but again the on ly
00:03:47primate DNA we got was human So much time and effort and waiting and the strangest DNA belonged to a horse probably because of contamination I'm kind of bumped I mean I saw those nests They were weird So that's it really nothing Even if it wasn't Bigfoot I wanted
00:04:11it to at least be some sort of new discovery And if I'm feeling down I can only imagine how Jeff Meldrum is doing He's the anthropology professor from Idaho State University and the guy who sent in those nests samples You know I've kind of learned I've I've sort
00:04:26of steeled myself against negative results were inconclusive results because that has occurred so often I mean they've been many many times when we thought we might have had really had something But there was this major caveat that DNA was very degraded That's true Those samples were pretty old
00:04:45by the time they were analysed Sun and rain had battered the nests for a while before they bag them up and it sounds like they should have been stored differently to cause ice and moisture had built up in the sample bags So if Meldrum and the Olympic Project
00:04:59the Bigfoot research Organization out in Washington If they confined more nests newer nests they might be able to get better samples They have mapped I think twenty one plus nests along that particular drainage This is the area I went to way back in Episode one and the nests
00:05:18sat on a ridge line Other Brother Creek They now want to go over the ridge to the next range where conditions are very similar and see if there are any examples of nests to be found there And then there's one other thing Meldrum repeats the fact that the
00:05:34only primate DNA found belonged to humans and that raises a question for him We know that say chimpanzees share Can you work from ninety six ninety eight percent identical DNA with us And so if this creature is even more closely related to us then could we be mistaking
00:05:57SAS Questionnaire for human D N A And dismissing it as contamination I mean it would have to be really closely related to us which seems like a long shot And yet here I am crossing my fingers that they find more of these nests get better samples and try
00:06:15again which kind of gets to the question at the heart of all of this Why Why do we persevere even when the evidence doesn't add up What do we get out of chasing this ever elusive creature Why do we believe Michael Shermer seems like the right guy to
00:06:34answer at least one of those questions He's the author of many books including Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain a science historian with a background in psychology and the publisher of Skeptic magazine Our environment he says creates our beliefs In most of our beliefs Wei
00:06:54arrive at them for whatever reason emotional social peer group parents upbringing culture We're influenced by friends family colleagues society in general and as a result we develop certain beliefs Later we come up with the evidence to defend and rationalize those beliefs but the beliefs usually come first If
00:07:15I ask you why are you a Republican Her wire your Democrat You'll give me twelve reasons Oh I'm pro choice and I believe in God country You'll give me a good argument but probably that isn't the reason you ended up there in the first place And that's true
00:07:27for most of our beliefs It's not a scientific approach because to some degree we've already made up our minds We try to find evidence that shores up the belief we already have Not exactly objective We're not thes Mr Spot Logic machines We're just not you know reason is
00:07:44a tool that you have to employ actively and it takes some effort to do so And it's easier to fall into anecdotal thinking Vaccinated my son And you know three weeks later I get these weird symptoms Signature Doctor and he was diagnosed with autism The anecdote Girls don't
00:08:01count again The problem with big fun hunters these air anecdotes and anecdotes or not data Shermer has spent a lot of time debunking pseudo science and superstition and no surprise He's sceptical about Bigfoot to have say centuries of sightings be supported by a real species They couldn't just
00:08:27be three or four You would need a breeding population of a couple hundred at least And so by chance we should stumble across one of these bodies that died Yeah we know we need a body to show the rest of the world that Bigfoot is in fact real
00:08:43So Bigfoot people keep looking Shermer says That's not a bad thing in and of itself in a way you kind of have to do that in science Like the study people I know he's talking about the group of scientists searching for intelligent extraterrestrial life You know they'll say
00:08:59Well we don't know Yeah but you know why are you looking My senses is they kind of believe there's probably something out there Why else are we looking or people that run the particle accelerators that certain you know Looking for the Higgs BOS at CERN is a research
00:09:13institute in Switzerland Scientists there were trying to find an elusive physics particle the Higgs Bos on They wouldn't look if they didn't think it was probably there But of course it's good Scientists say Well we don't know until we run the experiment But of course we think it's
00:09:27probably there because we have some good arguments Yeah that's sort of normal It's normal for the Bigfoot people to keep looking to They wouldn't be looking if they didn't think it was there if they didn't believe But Shermer still argues the evidence isn't in their favor now that
00:09:42we have so many seven billion people running around the Earth and most of my cellphone cameras now if anything the number of side you should be going up and with so many roads with vehicles that be more roadkill or dead bodies on hiking trails that you would come
00:09:58across and that's not happening So the belief in big but seems contrary to the evidence that doesn't seem to bother squatters They talk about strange hair they found or fleeting shadows where the feeling of being watched in the woods They pull out their phones and share photos of
00:10:14supposed Bigfoot footprints or recordings of weird sounds They hold up these little bits and pieces is proof of Bigfoot's existence But Shermer says this is a textbook example of confirmation bias that you look for in fine confirming evidence for what you already believe you nor the dis confirming
00:10:31evidence our minds air Our brains are not like scientists They're more like lawyers marshalling evidence in support of your client In this case he argues the client is Sascha watch Then you interpret neutral signs as being evidence of that in the same way that ghost hunters you know
00:10:49you and I might go into in an abandoned theater and see a shadow or hear a weird noise and think Well it's an old building But if we primed you to say you know this building is haunted The story's air Incredible Now we're going to take you through
00:11:01and tell us your feelings You have about this People subject say Oh you know Yeah I had this really weird feeling I got tingles and the air was kind of cold And so basically you see or perceive what you already believe to confirm it I wondered about someone
00:11:17like Grover Though the guy was an actual scientist He knew about bias and the smarter somebody is the more educated they are the better they are at navigating around that problem and coming up with good arguments for why they were probably right They're better at rationalizing beliefs they
00:11:33arrived at for non smart reasons By all accounts Grover's reasons for seeking Sasquatch had to do with his lifelong interest in anthropology in human evolution But some of those non smart reasons as Shermer calls them could grow out of early life experiences like seeing Bigfoot movies or our
00:11:50relationships with certain people like a parent who believes in Bigfoot were taken with the whole idea of Bigfoot we believe And then we look for things to backup Bigfoot's existence thie exact opposite of how science is supposed to work But squatters argue that they don't believe they know
00:12:10They saw what they saw They heard what they heard And ultimately they say they don't care what other people think Now Belief is a loaded term in this world of sask watch My cousin Grover certainly didn't like it Well I wouldn't say I believe there was something out
00:12:25there The term belief usually means an opinion hell because it makes you feel good Meldrum also doesn't call himself a believer and even admits to not being one hundred percent sure How could I be in another The experiences that I've had have always been less than absolutely definitive
00:12:44on DH I wasn't there when the film was shot He's referring to the Patterson gamelan film I wasn't there when the footprints were laid down You know I have to say I'm not one hundred percent but I am quite convinced I'm convinced you know up there at the
00:12:57ninety nine point nine nine percent But I have to be honest I can't Otherwise it becomes belief he has To be honest he has to leave this room for doubt because he knows there's no definitive evidence One hundred percent certainty Sounds irrational For scientists especially belief doesn't amount
00:13:16to much so even if they are personally convinced of Bigfoot's existence They know that the Shermans of the world needs something indisputable and they don't have that yet This is the last main episode of Wild Thing I know I'm sad to see it end too but will help
00:13:48ease the pain by giving you two more bonus episodes One is an interview with William Dear the director of everyone's favorite Bigfoot movie Harry and the Hendersons and the other is not suitable for children It's an interview with Virginia Wade fame Bigfoot erotica Author Those are both coming
00:14:05up in the next couple weeks I know I haven't seen everything that's out there about Bigfoot or heard all the arguments in favor But because of this lack of hard proof I don't know if Bigfoot Israel I'm just not sure I'm not even half sure and yet I
00:14:26still want to be So it really isn't about science and logic There's more to it than that People continue to search for the SAS squatch to hold out hope for its existence because it gets to something deeper something elemental And when I asked why Bigfoot exerts such a
00:14:45strong poll a few answers kept reappearing over and over again I like the idea of Bigfoot is a wilder version of us I think everybody loves Bigfoot whether they think the animals are really or not And I think it has something to do with the Ark type of
00:15:01the wild man Cliff Barrack Men could be considered Bigfoot royalty He's been a Bigfoot investigator for twenty five years The last seven of those has been as a co host on Animal Planet's wildly successful show Finding Bigfoot Sask watches represent us in a way They are us in
00:15:21a way because we've left that behind But somehow they've persisted in that lifestyle where we once thrived In fact some of us might even long for those days Bigfoot as the road not taken an idea of the life that we Homo sapiens would have lived if we hadn't
00:15:38started farming paying taxes and working for the man We get back to our roots through Bigfoot Well it's sort of a wonderfully romantic belief to hold in tatters All the human evolution specialists at the American Museum of Natural History doesn't believe in Bigfoot but can definitely see the
00:15:58appeal of a wild cousin that there is some creature out there in in the woods It's that sort of human like but hasn't sold out to modern civilization I think is a wonderful romantic notion Tohave Bigfoot is family Or could be It would be like finding a long
00:16:16lost relative a famous one at that like Cousin Grover but bigger And I can see why that's tremendously exciting especially since Homo sapiens have always thought of themselves as being alone in the world But they haven't been alone for very long on DH It seems that you know
00:16:36within the last forty thirty thousand years we have basically eliminated all of our hominid relatives of whom we know at least four But maybe there are more from the face of the Earth and maybe maybe there is some kind of sort of residual guilt involved here and that
00:16:55we would really like to think of ourselves not quite as creatures that have done away with all of their extinct relatives But we've left something there to flourish A in a parallel kind of way For an anthropologist like Grover the idea must have been incredibly appealing It sparked
00:17:19the wonder of what it would be like to study a former version of ourselves toe look back in time And maybe since we managed to wipe out all those other hominids this would be a chance to atone an opportunity to save something instead of just destroying it I
00:17:34mean let's face it humans haven't been very nice to other species and we've eliminated our closest hominid competition with doing a pretty good job on eliminating the apes which our next closest relatives and our our closest living relatives And we're putting a lot of pressure on foreigners around
00:17:53the world of all kinds And we're not very kind to our planet either Cliff Barrack men again looking around with the cement and the pollution and we're oh crap in the bed that we sleep in But yet somehow they've avoided that predicament They meaning Bigfoot I think that
00:18:12probably that's why it kind of tugs at us They represent that something that we've left behind That in a way we long for that idea of polluting our own home is another one that came up again and again How humans are damaging the environment how Maybe we're driving
00:18:28Bigfoot to extinction So finding and saving a Sasquatch could be seen as a way of protecting our natural resource is John Kirk A Canadian policeman puts that reason at the top of his list the Raison de Tre For any Bigfoot research group is the cult eerie a motive
00:18:46The important motive which is conservation and preservation That's what I'm doing it for You have to prove they exist before you could save their habitat If sask watch exists it's definitely a rare species so finding one would probably mean a bunch of environmental protections I think time's worth
00:19:06preserving plain and simple But if you could put a biological rarity into that equation like they did with spotted out similarly on my objective is not to go out there and stop industries from cutting trees down But he is to preserve that habitat so that sask watches could
00:19:25thrive in their environment My goodness gracious me That's the only reason I would ever want to show the world that they existed Well let's be honest here That and personal satisfaction maybe a little bit of I told you so but you can understand the sentiment even if they
00:19:44don't exist There's nothing wrong with wanting to protect the environment that they might live in In fact Bigfoot would be a great mascot for conservation That's Kathy Strains argument She's been with the U S Forest Service for her entire career and thinks Bigfoot could become a stand in
00:20:00for Smokey the Bear I've always wondered why we haven't used Bigfoot Mora's A is a come out in camp You know we should have come out in Bigfoot campaign to get families outside so they could join Enjoy the outdoors get little exercise figure out some stuff about the
00:20:16forest We could have this represent the outdoors you know Come out to the woods search for Bigfoot Get to know your forests You know we always have these campaigns and get people out of the cities And everything we've been doing so far isn't working Nobody's coming to the
00:20:33forest so we need to try something different And if and if I can lead that effort using good food I would left you Are you listening for a service Bigfoot could be the ticket to getting more people out hiking and picnicking and a way to inject new life
00:20:47into our forests and parks But beyond finding a long lost relative or preserving the environment there's another reason that Bigfoot tugs at us the mystery the sense of the undiscovered I think it's because that means that there's still something out there that we haven't solved That there Still
00:21:09a mystery there still wildlands There's still something a natural about outside And so the idea that Bigfoot exists means it isn't all built on It's still got woods It still has these beautiful streams It's still wild that there still something out there that we don't know anything about
00:21:30and that's OK And if we do find it well that kind of changes everything Suddenly it's not about amateur Bigfoot hunters and citizens squatch ologists out in the forest In fact those woods probably end up off limits The scientists step in the government steps in Everyone wants a
00:21:49piece and Sasquatch ends up in a lab or a zoo You walk by his cage with your kids Look there's a Bigfoot They used to think they weren't riel Pretty cool that they found it Right now Let's go look at the elephants Talk about depressing sing It's bad
00:22:05enough to see tigers behind bars So I'd argue that definitive proof could ruin the magic and turn Bigfoot into just another ordinary creature We like a good mystery something that we can't quite explain or don't completely understand Think about the thrill we get when we glimpse something exotic
00:22:26or how fascinated we are with unexplored places The anticipation of going somewhere wild past that first line of trees into the deep dark woods Who knows what's out there or what we'll find Robert Piles studies butterflies but I'm not limited to butterflies I'm a general naturalist and I've
00:22:48spent sixty years of my seventy doing a lot of natural history And a lot of what one can learn about the living world through butterflies is transferrable to vertebrates is well so I have a pretty good biological background as well In order to look into the science of
00:23:06Bigfoot Pile looks a little like a young Kenny Rogers He has a phD in ecology and environmental studies from Yale He's a prolific writer of essays novels and natural history including his book Where Bigfoot Walks Crossing the Dark Divide Pile thinks this idea of the unknown The Wild
00:23:25explains why the mystery of Bigfoot continues to hold our attention looking at the wildness and then on the enormity and the the depth and the texture of this land we can just about imagine a Bigfoot could exist But when the forest is finally tamed outright then one will
00:23:48no longer be able to even imagine the presence of giant hairy apes in the forests And with that will flee not only the reality of Bigfoot but the shadow of Bigfoot in all of the other creatures and all the other things beyond the campfire to go with it
00:24:02If our world becomes so attained so proved and landscaped and paved that the idea of Bigfoot doesn't even seem possible then we as humans are worse off spiritually depleted he says I think we needed in a deep seated psychological way with our origins I think it goes all
00:24:23the way back to what we came from It's almost primal We still need that that that avatar outside beyond the fire we need that what's beyond us because of our own evolutionary origins And once we lose that I think we're probably all that much more susceptible to becoming
00:24:44tools of ah a fully mechanical electronic culture In other words non human and worlds away from our origins Frankly I think if we lose our connection to the wild will be far less human which means far less animal Thoreau's We are conscious of an animal within us a
00:25:06lot of people want to stay connected to that animal part of us and love the idea of a world wild and unexplored enough that Bigfoot or something like Bigfoot could still be out there And yes if it's not already obvious let me say it plainly I want big
00:25:21foot to be rial I want to believe If my cousin Grover were alive he'd probably be laughing at me because these poetic romantic feeling Zara's far from scientific is you can get And since he's the reason I'm even thinking about Bigfoot we're going to end all of this
00:25:45with a pilgrimage to see him Let's go to the other side since we have this table You might remember from way back in the first episode that I first learned about Grover from an article in The Washington Post The story said that Grover had donated his bones and
00:26:02those of his dogs to the Smithsonian and to Shin in Washington D C He gave them all of his papers to and most of the stuff is in the suburbs in the non descript beige building that houses the Smithsonian's anthropology archives Grover Stuff Dave Hunt is searching through
00:26:22Florida ceiling stacks of lockers and cabinets Here he's the collections manager for physical anthropology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History He's a cheerful friendly man with a bristly gray mustache and he oversees a veritable treasure trove of fascinating things taxidermied animals relics from across the globe
00:26:44And Grover himself he actually contacted Alyan said Well I understand that you were taking bodies for the museum I want to you know do that But I wanna be articulate into you know from the skeleton when he said that I you know this was two thousand one and
00:27:06I said Well that's multiple thousands of dollars to do And unless we had some reason for doing it there would not be that expenditure So Grover struck a deal with the Smithsonian if they weren't going to put him on display They at least had to put the skeletons
00:27:23of his three dogs in the drawers with him especially his favorite Clyde The museum said yes and took all his papers in his teaching materials to stuff like animal skeletons a handful of human skulls lots of bones and molds for making replicas of bones And then of course
00:27:40all of his Bigfoot footprints that he had Grover's collection of giant plaster casted Bigfoot footprints Yep The Bigfoot stuff is here in the Smithsonian one of America's greatest research institutions I dug through boxes of it looking through hand written letters to Grover old photos yellowed newspaper clippings and
00:28:04hand drawn quit sketches But Grover himself is not there He's right In downtown D C In a giant glass case in the National Museum of Natural History Dave Hunt had told Grover he would probably never end up on display But then a colleague needed something spectacular for the
00:28:23final piece in an exhibit on forensic anthropology I just went one I got the the end and I was I talked to him about Grover and Clyde and then I showed in that picture of Clyde's with his paws upon Grover's shoulders and he says food Let's fire them
00:28:45up like that And they did its jaw dropping a tall six foot four skeleton of a man leaning back slightly with the almost equally tall skeleton of a dog up on its hind legs Its paws on the man shoulders its muzzle just below his chin as though setting
00:29:02up for one last sloppy wet face lick People thought it was great and I was personally moved by the fact that there's Grover being ableto oversee and watch education because that was one of things he said to me when when we were talking on you know he said
00:29:20Well I guess you know I might as well just have my skeleton there even if I can't be wired up because I've always been a teacher and I might as well continue to be You can go see him too He and Clyde are still together in their glass
00:29:31case on the ground floor of the Natural History Museum overseeing students in an interactive science education lab I think he would have loved to know that he's still teaching I think he would have been happy to know that his work still serves is the example for Bigfoot hunters
00:29:47as well But unlike me who enjoys the mystery he'd rather have this question answered In fact he would have liked it settled a long time ago Not when I'm old or when I'm dead I would like it settled Now I do not particularly enjoy the search for the
00:30:05SAS crotch I would like to see the finish of the search but the search itself the activity the mystery the intrigue the romance of it I find this a bit of a drag I've got other things to do I've got a regular profession I'm studying human evolution This
00:30:24is possibly a part of it It is far from the whole picture Sorry Grover the search continues And honestly I hope it does for a long time Because after all this I'm not sure I want to find Sasquatch I prefer the mystery remain intact for people to go
00:30:43out to the woods and look for something to feel a sense of possibility and discovery to have something unknown lurking just outside the campfire ring to see a fleeting shadow and feel a chill down the back of your spine to believe in a wild thing Keep your love
00:31:11for Bigfoot and the show Go leave us a rate wherever you get your podcasts This really helps us get the word out about wild thing and check out our website wilding podcast dot com That's wilding podcast All one word We're also on the usual social media suspects Find
00:31:27us at Wilding Pot and if you see sask watchin the wild make sure to snap a photo blurry or otherwise and share it using the hashtag wild thing This podcast is a production of Fox two Personae special thanks to the Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives Wilding is created reported
00:31:46and produced by me Laura Krantz with help from Kelsey Rey Elisa Barba is our editor Scott Carney is our executive producer Our music is composed by routine or a bluey and mixed by Sanaa's mesh comport But a podcast like this isn't just made by a handful of radio
00:32:02nerds so I want to acknowledge the generosity of a few others including Shayne Corson and Derek Randall's of the Olympic Project for showing us the nests Cindy Cadell for taking some big foot newbies into the woods Todd and Diane niece for their hospitality at Beach foot Jeff Meldrum
00:32:19and Todd Disa tell both of whom patiently gave me hours of their time Diane Horton for sharing her memories of Grover And of course absolutely every voice you heard in this podcast and the dozens that you never did Yeah

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