If Bigfoot researchers wish to be taken seriously, they could start by cleaning their own house. The biggest threat to their credibility is not skeptics nor a ridiculing public but instead those who provide an endless stream of bogus claims and evidence,”
The above is a quote from Bed Radford featured in an article on the International Business Times website about the recent Rick Dyer photos of the alleged big foot body. Dodgy Bigfoot “body” aside, the thing that really grabbed my attention was the idea that other individuals were in some way able to rectify the problem caused by people like Dyer.
This is an impossible task because there is a lack of formality to bigfoot research, just like ghost research and other forms of paranormal research. There are no official guidelines or standards, and there are no membership requirements meaning that anybody is able to become a Bigfoot researcher, a ghost researcher, a Chupacabra researcher, and so on.
When we think of group moral responsibility we think of a whole group being liable for the morally wrong actions of one or several members of the group. This type of responsibility typically involves groups possessing a significant degree of solidarity, and that just isn’t the case within paranormal research fields.
The word ‘community’ when applied to most forms of paranormal research is often loosely defined. Even those organisations which seek to make a unified progress within such research fields often have debates within their membership about what approach and methodologies are best! Within all communities then – no matter how loosely or well formed – it’s safe to say that there will always be those who act irrationally or irresponsibly. There will always be hoaxers, there will always be peadophile ghost hunters, there will always be arsonists. Is it really the responsibility of loosely formed collectives who don’t see eye-to-eye at the best of times to own those problems?
Sometimes, perhaps, but I don’t think it’s necessary for researchers to take to a metaphorical podium and speak out against every hoaxer or irresponsible researcher.
From personal experience I know that within ghost research communities there are individuals whose behaviour is horrendous, irrational and unethical on a sometimes upsetting scale. However there are people within those same communities who try to discourage such behaviour and offer a way of learning to become good and rational researchers, but this doesn’t negate the the irrational and irresponsible individuals or teams and it never will.
That’s an impossible task. There will always be such people and their existence does not mark some sort of failure on the part of the rest of the community whatsoever.
To put this in another context, let’s look at skeptics. A large group of individuals that are so diverse that trying to organise them is likened to ‘herding cats’. When certain skeptics made claims that sounded suspiciously like Social Darwinism, or were accused of sexually harrassing others that was a failure on the part of the individuals and nobody else. Responding to such happenings by claiming they meant no skeptic could be taken seriously would have been a quite a generalisation and a lazy dismissal.
I think I’ve gone slightly off track from Radford’s quote at this point, but I, for one, think this also works the other way around. The world of paranormal research is messy, complex and not perfect but I don’t think it has ever claimed to be. Within smaller communities there are always people trying to make things better, but it’s a struggle. They’re up against a lot, and I feel bad for them when they’re dismissed out of hand for not keeping their houses clean.