Thursday, 11 July 2013

Still Blogging Nessie Three Years On

It was on the 18th July 2010 that I published my first article on this blog. It wasn't much, basically a "Welcome to the Loch Ness Blog" post which flagged my intentions and nothing more. At the time, I had no idea whether it would have any impact on people's perceptions of the Loch Ness Monster and even to this day, I find such a metric hard to quantify.

Be that as it may, the blog has increased in popularity as people seeking old and new information on Nessie make their visits. That first post currently has a modest page hit of 509. The most popular posting to date is Marcus Atkinson's sonar story with over 81,000 hits. Behind that lies one of my favourites - the analysis of the Hugh Gray photograph.

In terms of search engines, a Google search for "loch ness monster" usually finds the blog somewhere on the first page of results which has some relevance as not every Google user goes beyond the first page.

Again, this helps gets the message out as people do not know exactly where to find the material. Nevertheless, what people think of what they read no doubt covers a wide spectrum! One thing is certain, though. If people are not reading it, they are not being affected by it. Those reading it may have ascertained the ethos of the blog. It is to defend the Loch Ness Monster and attack opposition arguments.

That may sound a tad bellicose, but it is an argument rather than a war. It is based on words rather than weapons.  It is a strategy that uses the same tools that sceptical commentators claim to use. Indeed, some sceptics reading this may smirk and assure themselves that they have exclusive access to these tools, but I disagree.

Over these three years, I have gotten used to various remarks ascribed by sceptics to those who believe in the existence of large, unknown animals in Loch Ness. They're now like water off a plesiosaur's back. However, that does not diminish the motivation to state one's own case.

There will be phrases such as "gullible", not "grown up" or indulging in the equivalent of reading entrails. Meanwhile, eyewitness reports are sarcastically demoted to "ancient texts" as if they had as much relevance to life today as the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Such is the attitude of some sceptics to those who believe or know there is a monster in Loch Ness. Such is the hardening of scepticism towards opposing views over the last quarter of a century as they began to dominate the game.

Scepticism applies science and critical thinking whilst we seemingly apply the throwing of juju bones. As I have surveyed and analysed the so called application of science and logic by scepticism, I sometimes wonder if the roles are better reversed.

There is no better example than the recent claim by an Italian scientist that Loch Ness Monster sightings are attributable to earthquakes along the Great Glen fault.  It is a ridiculous claim that is easily refuted but since it is a scientist that proclaims it and since some thinking must have been involved, then surely we ought to genuflect before it?

Then there was the claim in 2006 by paleontologist, Neil Clark, that some sightings were attributable to circus elephants swimming in Loch Ness. Not as daft as earthquake bubbles but one that is again not backed up by the evidence. Again, do we swallow this explanation hook, line and sinker because it came from someone who claimed to apply the scientific method?

Going back to the 1960s, we had eminent zoologist, Maurice Burton, extolling the virtues of vegetable mats floating around Loch Ness. No one now believes this has any logical force or evidential compulsion.

So much for scientists you may say, but sceptics sidestep these issues by claiming that these theories are postulated by scientists who may be expert in one field, but not in others relevant to Loch Ness. Which prompts me to ask whether they themselves are qualified in the fields they speak on. What do I mean by that?

Today, Loch Ness Monster sightings are dismissed on the premise that they are ordinary objects seen in out-of-ordinary circumstances. So it is not seismic bubbles, elephants or rotting mats but just a log or a boat wake or a string of birds seen in the wrong place at the wrong time.

By way of example, over on the Loch Ness Monster Debate Facebook page, one researcher told all and sundry that the famous Greta Finlay case was merely a sighting of a deer and a boat wake. When that monstrous explanation surfaced, even fellow sceptics did not accept it:

"I think skeptics claiming what the Finlay's saw was a Deer is a bit of an insult to their intelligence really as I'm sure being resident in the area, they would have seen the odd one every now and again!"

"I find the "deer debunk" a little bit of a stretch myself, anyone with even minimal experience in the outdoors can identify a deer."

I agree with them, it does not make sense and if I was a sceptic it would be more logical just to call it a hoax. But having read the claims of scepticism these last three years, it became evident that there was one theory that was being promoted which to me has about as much kudos as bubbles and pachyderms.

It is the theory that people entering the Loch Ness Zone, come under some psychological change that makes them see monsters instead of deers and other objects. We are not talking about people who make honest mistakes about standing waves half a mile away. This apparently covers even sightings only 20 yards away!

Remember I talked about those not qualified to speak? Well, if you are going to talk about gross misperceptions, I suspect you need to be qualified in matter of neurology as it appertains to the visual, perceptual and memory portions of the brain. I don't think I have met such a person in the field of Loch Ness research yet, but the implication is that there exists a rigorous scientific framework for this. 

I don't see any such books, experiments or peer reviewed scientific papers which compel anyone to accept that Nessie sightings can be explained in this way. There has been experiments with poles bobbing up and down in the water, but nothing conclusive. The theory does not even appear to be falsifiable (i.e. it always comes up with an explanation). If anyone says that all sightings can be explained in such a way (apart from the ones they decide are hoaxes), ask them for scientific proof.

But the "battle" continues apace. I noted this article with the bold title "It’s time to finally give up on the Loch Ness Monster". Really? Tell me why!

For a start we are swiftly directed to a recent blog piece on Scientific American by Darren Naish who has rehashed an analysis of various Nessie photos. Let us see how cutting a piece of critical thinking it is. Well, for a start, it is not Mr. Naish's own critical thinking as most sceptics just regurgitate what others have said. As it turns out, his article has more logical holes in it than the proverbial Swiss cheese.

For a start, he tells us that:

"sightings and photographic and sonar evidence can be satisfactorily explained as mistaken or embellished encounters with known animals (including swimming deer, water birds, seals, and small cetaceans), waves, or optical illusions."

However, and in the light of what I just said, he prefaces that statement with the words "I am of the opinion that ...". In other words, this is no scientific fact that he is presenting, it is just his opinion. Why is that? Because he can't prove it!

He further says:

"The expectation that there’s an unknown animal in Loch Ness almost certainly explains the recent history of sightings."

There's that unproven theory again but now he tells us it is a near certainty it is true without any evidence to conclusively prove it. But crucial to that theory is the absence of monster reports before monster fever struck in 1933:

".. there is no tradition of sightings, nor are their old historical reports or anything like that pre-dating the 1930s"

This is complete nonsense, and I have devoted an entire book to disproving it. But if people were claiming to see Nessie before 1933, his theory about modern monster expectations takes a serious blow.

Naish then proceeds through some well known hoaxes such as the Wilson and Shiels photographs. He then calls fake on the famous picture of Nessie approaching Castle Urquhart by Peter MacNab. He claims it is too big and too dark but claims the real bad news was Roy Mackal's analysis in 1976. That analysis was shown to be irrelevant in my own article on the picture. Darren should have had no problem finding the article, you type "peter macnab loch ness" into Google and it comes up as top match. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

Darren's debunking of Peter O' Connor's picture is then executed but again he is almost completely reliant on what others have said (in this case, Maurice Burton). Did Naish critique Burton's analysis? You can bet your ass he didn't and therein lies a problem. Sceptics do not critique sceptics in any meaningful degree. Never mind, that's my job .. .and anyone else that cares to join me.

Then the Rines photos and the recent Edwards picture are shot down and with some reason I have to agree. But what about the other pictures? Has Darren committed a logical non-sequiter by making his readers assume that if these are fakes then so are the rest? Yes, he has.

So, with that, he says, "So that's that! We move on." I wish they would and leave Loch Ness to the rest of us (and Charlie Sheen)!

Three years on, the modus operandi of scepticism has become more familiar to me. In fact, as one reader suggested, it can be perceived as more than a scientific norm, it is a social and cultural norm. In other words, it is fashionable to be a sceptic. Laissez faire principles apply as supply and demand produces more sceptics and we reach saturation point. You can't move for them now on cryptozoological forums! Back in the 60s and 70s, I suspect the situation was the complete opposite - again because it was more fashionable to believe in high strangeness.

But to be fashionable leads to lack of competition, which leads to lack of peer review and leads to obesity in critical thinking which leads to ill thought out arguments which more often than not are proposed rather than proven.

Will scepticism accept any of this? Of course it won't. Will this blog continue to find the flaws in their arguments? All I can say is, here's to another three years!












25 comments:

  1. Indeed GB, here's to another 3 years! Congratulations on 1095 days of sharp and thoughtful content. Your blog has been a revelatory pleasure and never ending source of inspiration to follow. Many thanks for your efforts and insights.

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  2. Congratulations, Roland.

    "Nessie" is there. It's only a matter of time, someday we will know the truth.

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  3. It seems that just because the skeptics and debunkers provide their own idiotic dismissals of a loch ness monster, it does not necessarily follow that there is such a creature

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  4. I'd like to add to my previous 'idiotic dismissal' comment.

    Since most every DSLR can also shoot high def video, it might behoove such monster hunters to maybe try using a rather simple and inexpensive steadycam type device which uses a simple counterbalance to keep the camera steady while handhold filming

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  5. Yes, please let me add my "Congrats" to the list. Do keep up the marvelous work. And thanks for another rebuttal of "skeptical" claims :)

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  6. I truly believe that you are the Constance Whyte of the 21st century.

    But, in keeping with the subject matter, it's best just to show a glimpse of stocking. Otherwise it would be a bit of a drag for the sceptics.

    *AnonStg*

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  7. Great work ! This mystery is so compelling, cheers to you for the best researched and intelligent Nessie blog.

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  8. Hi - thanks for writing about my Tetrapod Zoology article. The specifics of your article (e.g., that I should have critiqued Burton's conclusion on the O'Connor photo) are very peculiar since, in all cases concerned, the smackdowns are definitive so far as I can tell and don't leave reasonable room for doubt. Unless, that is, that you want the photos to be real simply because, you know, you want them to be. Indeed, on a more general point, I'm confused as to why you keep implying and saying that critical thinking and scepticism is a bad thing. Seriously, you think that we should endorse stuff just because it's appealing? Feel free to comment at Tetrapod Zoology and I will happily respond to whatever criticisms you have. Something tells me, however, that you won't do this.

    ps - what's with all the 'Anonymous' comments ahead of mine? Very weird.

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    1. Darren, I will post a comment on your website and I will asking about your theories not mine. To be fair, I had not yet posted my assessment of Burton, so you don't know where I am coming from on that.

      Good science is good, bad science is bad.

      Good critical thinking is good, bad critical thinking is bad.

      I see it all the time from so called critical thinkers.

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    2. Darren:

      I stumbled upon the original incarnation of your article years ago and enjoyed the hell out of it! It was a fun introduction to your site.

      Consider me a fan!

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  9. Keep up the good work GB, it certainly stimulates both sides of the argument and I think it's fair to say that you have more than begun to bring the LNM back to life. Here's to many more years of your Blog.

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  10. I read this article too. Complete crap! Also, I loved your book. I tend to favor the "drifting in and out of our reality" when it comes to lake monsters. But, I could be wrong! Keep up the excellent work. This blog rocks!!

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  11. Jenny Haniver13 July 2013 16:31

    GB, have you any information on the Dick Jenkyns sighting? I've seen exactly two recounts of it: one on a website which favours the idea of a giant 'slug' creature in Loch Ness, and one on Google books... Any idea or insight would be welcomed!

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  12. I'm a big fan of your blog GB, I think the quality of your analytical work and your critical thinking are second-to-none. Looking forward with much interest to years more of this great blog!

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  13. Thanks for a great three years and long may you continue to blog.

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  14. GB this seems like a good juncture to bring up a point that's been buggin' me for a while.

    Why's the Loch called Ness?

    Supposedly it's an ancient word meaning "roarer" or "roaring" as in one presumes a noisy river.

    But does the loch roar or is it even particularly noisy?

    In which case what if it's really derived from the same ancient root nose comes from making it Loch Nose?

    But since it actually resembles if anything a slitted mouth then mightn't Nose be alluding to a creature with cousins seen round the world variously described as having horse or dog like heads or to put it another way horse or dog like noses?

    You've probably already touched on this elsewhere in which case I apologise for teaching you to suck eggs.

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    1. "Urquhart and Glenmoriston in Olden Times" has the legendary account (page 5) and also muses on whether Ness is named after a goddess.

      You can see it at:

      http://archive.org/stream/urquhartglenmori00mack/urquhartglenmori00mack_djvu.txt

      Loch Nis — Loch Ness. For the legendary origin see pp. 5-7.
      The word is in Gaelic pronounced " Ne6sh," not Ness.
      Adamnan wrote it Nim, or ^em; and in the 12th cen-
      tury, and down to the 16th, the usual spelling is i7«s or
      Nys. The word is not derived from the Fall of Foyers —
      an-Eas (pronounced "ess") — as has been imagined.
      Keeping in view what was said at the beginning of this
      Appendix as to analysis, Adamnan's Nisa or Nesa must,
      according to Celtic phonetics, stand for an original Nesta
      (Nestis?). The st, again, has to be analysed into either
      ts or ds. Thus we get the root net, or ned , the latter of
      which suits our case, for it appears in the Sanskrit nadi,
      a river. There was a Greek Neda ; Nestos or Nessus was
      the river bounding Macedonia on the east; and Nessonis'
      was a lake of Thessaly. The German word allied is
      netzen, to wet. One is tempted to think of the mythic
      Ness, mother of Conchobar or Conachar Mac Nessa, who
      is associated with Loch Ness in one of the old hero-tales
      (see p. 5). She seems to have been a river-goddess, for
      she gave birth to Conchobar under extraordinary circum-
      stances by the river Conchobar ("High-foam," Foam-
      ing), whence he derived his name. The worship of
      rivers, as we know from Gildas, and from river-names
      such as Dee (goddess), and Don (Diana), was prevalent
      among the Celts. Loch Ness is called after the river
      Ness, as is always the case with loch and river ; but
      Adamnan insists on it — Niscv fuminis lacum — the lake of
      the river Ness.



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  15. Belated congratulations on your third year of blogging, Roland! Though we may not agree on the existence of Nessie, your site is absolutely, without question, one of my favorites to read, and I literally check it daily. Here's to another three years and beyond!

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  16. Longtime lurker, first-time poster; your anniversary has prompted me to write you like I've meant to for some time now. I'm a babbling Yank, so I hope you'll forgive my verbosity.

    The very first thing I ever looked up in a search engine back in the 90's was "Loch Ness Monster", because I was so hungry for any and all news on Nessie after the whole "Surgeon's Photograph is definitely a hoax because Some Old Guy With An Old Axe To Grind said so on his deathbed" (and of course, people never EVER tell lies on their deathbed, not even for a bit of fame, so it MUST be true. Seriously, what evidence did Spurling have, other than his story?), and there were so few sites about Nessie in a positive yet somewhat skeptical light (i.e., there IS something in Loch Ness, but let's not assume EVERY claim or photo is true until we study it closer), I nearly gave up hope on Nessie after nearly 40 years of belief/love/obsession; in the few I found, everyone either blindly believed (off-puttingly ridiculous, I love her too, but have you NO logic?) or totally dismissed any and all theories (open your mind a bit, it's about to implode). I was bereft; doesn't anyone still believe yet *think*? Then I read your blog just a few months ago, and dude, I gotta tell ya, I fell in love with it the moment that I read that you occasionally do "night hunts" for her. For YEARS now, I have been yelling to the world "WHY does everyone look for her in the broad daylight?! If you were a skittish animal of any kind, especially one that doesn't want to be run over by boats, wouldn't you just kick it somewhere safe and hidden until it got dark, and THEN come out?! WHY DOESN'T ANYONE LOOK FOR HER AT NIGHT?!" So when I read your reports on night hunting, it was with utter joy; THIS guy Gets It! THIS guy, I like! Straight to the "Check Daily/Often" Bookmarks.

    I call myself a semi-skeptical believer, which IMHO, is the way to go with any High Strangeness; I believe that very likely exists, but I want to examine the evidence/accounts and calculate their likelihood, not automatically assume it's true or false. Growing up in the Strange Seventies (Sea Serpents, Sasquatch, Saucers, Spirits, Satanism, Sorcery-- so many S's!), I ate up every book on everything weird I could find (I blame "In Search Of..."), and blindly believed everything. as a child does. Now that I'm older, I take everything with a baseball-sized grain of salt. My Inner Scully wants to look for/find the Reasonable and Logical Explanation, but my Inner Mulder always has Answers That Ask More Questions, so if you show me evidence I cannot easily dispute, you've got my attention.

    And Roland (May I call you Roland? It's one of my very favourite names), you most certainly have my attention, along with my appreciation and sincere thanks. You have done more in-depth analysis of All Things Ness than I have ever seen, in print or online. Clearly a labour of love, and of determination. So, if you ever start to let The Haters get you down (and as we all know, they gonna hate, that's what they do), please rest assured that at least one weird but wonderful woman in Southern California thinks you and your blog are awesome. Please, don't ever stop; keep her alive for both the Old Timers and the Newbies.

    Cheers, thanks a lot,

    Storm

    (P.S. The li'l kid in me still thinks she's a dragon. I mean, everybody knows that the last few dragons in the world hid themselves in the deepest waters and the highest mountains, duh. ;)

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    1. Thanks, Storm and others for your kind comments.

      Night hunting, yup. I has a certain ring to it. The old LNI did it in the 1960s, just drifting out on a boat at the dead of night. Dinsdale spent many a night alone on is boat from which has psring some strange tales.

      I like the way they do it in "Finding Bigfoot", Get the FLIR and night vision goggles out and hit the loch at 2am. Would make for great viewing.

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    2. Oh wow, you're right, of course; I haven't read Tim's book since I was a girl, and had totally forgotten about his nighthunts! Or was I remembering them semi-consciously, and wondering why no one did it anymore? In any case, I'd bet my bat'leth that she comes out and cruises around at night, fearless of any boats or prying eyes.

      Also, I forgot to thank you for the absolutely amazing work you've done on the Hugh Grey photo; the amount of detail you were able to achieve astounded me-- how had no one noticed the li'l fish-face before? Because everyone was looking at a super-fuzzy several generations copied version that made it look to some like a dog with a stick, which I never noticed until someone pointed it out, then I couldn't stop seeing it, until I saw your research and report. Any time someone talks down the Grey Photo as a fake, I tell them to read your report and think again.

      As we say in San Diego; dude, you RULE.

      Yours in Nessiana,

      Storm

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    3. Hugh GrAy, of course, not GrEy. (slinks away wishing there was an edit feature)

      Hoping you have a lovely holiday,

      Storm

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  17. I suppose the thing that irritates me the most are the people who were so sure that there was a large unidentified living creature in the loch. They spent a huge amount of time telling us all that the mystery was very much alive and they wrote books, pamphlets, set up tourist locations and bused them around the loch. Now that their bubble has burst due to some evidence not being what they believed and retirement looming in the not too distant future they are only too glad to dismiss anything or anyone who brings forward evidence whether sighting, sonar or photo.............Let people believe in what they choose as they all have the right (as did the majority of skeptics who enjoyed the sixties and seventies hey day)to make rational decisions and keep the legend alive!!
    Great Blog, I look forward to checking in to see what is new!

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  18. Hello.

    I've been reading your blog for over a year now. Keep posting.

    Just thought I would run by you two new books about Nessie (or have large parts about Nessie in them):

    "The Monster Triology Guidebook: How ti find a bigfoot, a yeti, and the Loch Ness Monster" by Peter Byrne (Hancockhouse Books, 2013; 176 pages, paperback, but high-clay content paper, and many color photos of Byrne's expeditions to the Pacific Northwest, the Himalaya, and Loch Ness, including what I would term historical imagery from the Himalayas) and

    "The Man Who Filmed Nessie: Time Dinsdale and the Enigma of Loch Ness" by Angus Dinsdale (Hancockhouse Books, 2013; 256 pages, with a color photo insert section in the middle, with, again, what I would term historical imagery from Loch Ness).

    I am still in the midst of reading them, but I thought I would give you a heads up on them. The first one I have mostly read, and it's okay, but not as informational (as a "guide") as I was hoping; the second I have only barely begun it, so I can't comment, but is written from Angus' perspective.

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