At the beginning of the 21st Century monsters still roam the remote, and sometimes not so remote, corners of our planet. It is our job to search for them. The Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] is - we believe - the largest professional, scientific and full-time organisation in the world dedicated to cryptozoology - the study of unknown animals. Since 1992 the CFZ has carried out an unparalleled programme of research and investigation all over the world. Since 2009 we have been running the increasingly popular CFZ Blog Network, and although there has been an American branch of the CFZ for over ten years now, it is only now that it has a dedicated blog.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

IS CRYPTOZOOLOGY A PSEUDOSCIENCE?

Some thoughts from Ye Editor.


Ye Editor (Ronan Coghlan)


As your scud through the Internet or read generally, you will sometimes see cryptozoology described as a pseudoscience.  One has to ask if this is a fair description and, if not, why not.

The word pseudoscience means a false science or, to put it another way, fake knowledge. This is a rather unkind way of describing it.  I would define cryptozoology as investigation into the possible truth of animals whose existence is uncertain.  This hardly amounts to fake knowledge senso strictu.  Fake knowledge refers to things which are definitely not true.  The creatures investigated by cryptozoologists are hypothetical creatures, but that doesn't mean that trying to find out if they exist is in itself unscientific.

Astronomers in the days of my youth and vigor had no certainty that there were planets circling stars other than the sun; such planets were completely hypothetical; yet astronomers searched for them and discovered them and their endeavors were not labelled pseudoscientific.

In the same way cryptozoologists search for hypothetical animals.  Just because they are hypothetical does not mean their non-existence is certain.  Even if their existence is in some cases highly improbable due to environmental or other factors, the possibility of their existence is at least  a matter of opinion.

However, generally evidence for such animals does not meet the criteria of modern science where usually tangible evidence is required, rather than legend, anecdote or blurry film.  For an animal's existence to be accepted as scientific that evidence must be falsifiable, which cryptozoological evidence is not.  Once a cryptid is actually discovered, like the mountain gorilla or okapi, it is a cryptid no longer.  It has then left cryptozoology and, being tangible, moved into the realm of zoology.

By modern standards, cryptozoology is not a science per se, because its researchers do not produce falsifiable data.  If they do produce such data in the nature of a convincing specimen, the animal is no longer a cryptid.  Cryptozoology by its nature deals with creatures not or not yet scientifically accepted.  This places it outside the boundaries of science.   But it is not a pseudoscience either, for it is not false science to try to prove the existence of something beyond current scientific knowledge, but which you suspect may exist.

If it is neither science nor pseudoscience, then what is it?  I like the term metascience, which indicates something beyond the boundaries of science, but which does not have the connotation of falsehood and delusion which is enshrined in the term pseudoscience.  If you don't look for things undiscovered and they happen to exist, you will never discover them.

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