I’m a bit sad that no-one jumped on the story of Galileo and Urban VIII., but having Galileo, Wegner, Darwin and Russel’s teapot in on discussion already made my day.
Just one more thing to remark, no offence to anyone in this topic: I detect a slight undercurrent of ascribing pivotal scientific breakthroughs to singular personalities, and I just want to throw in a kilo new-ton of “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Which reminds me, someone told me that Newton was insulting Robert Hooke when writing that…)
Anyway, I wanted to opine to everyone lurking or finding this topic in the far future that I believe we are really good at telling stories about people, but not so good about ideas and scientific progress. And many of this stories are getting in the way, just like folk-lore about non-existing entities in any encyclopedia…
Young people are on top of this. They understand that Wikipedia is a starting point for a topic, as it should be. My nephew is being taught this in school, even. They’re learning how to research past where Wikipedia starts. The kids are alright, it turns out.
Except all of science? There are armies of biologists out there every day looking for new species. If giant apex predators were still out there, we’d have found them.
I concur with your overall thesis that the folklore of these animals is a critical part of them and certainly belongs in Wikipedia (although folklore needs to be sourced too- “I heard a thing in a pub” is not gonna cut it). That said, this:
… is a false dichotomy. Folklore can contain pseudoscience and very often does. In fact it’s why we have science. Because people figured out that pure folklore was leading us astray a lot and we needed a better way to figure out which herbs really cured headaches and such.
We can respect the folklore and document cryptids as pseudoscience, which is what they are until real evidence exists for them. Folklore is not scientific evidence, generally speaking. That’s the key. Millions of people believe things that are demonstrably false every day. It’s why we need science.
A lot of people seem to be taking the position that everything should be treated as science until proved to not exist, but that is not how science works. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim, and cryptid people make a lot of claims, then get mad when science disregards them for lack of evidence. This is how it works. Alternatively, science is also bottom up- we observe something out of place for what we know and we trace down the leads to see what it is. Cryptids have no such leads that don’t lead to dead ends (clumps of fur that are bear, photographs that people admit to hoaxing, etc). This idea that science isn’t being “fair” by dismissing Cryptids is fallacious. You think something is real? Pony up the evidence. Until then, you are pseudoscience.
Absolutely! I was leaning a lot on the phrase “scientific consensus” for a reason. Science is a process and a method, not a bunch of people. It works because it is effectively smarter than the sum of the parts of the flawed humans doing said science. It’s important to focus on the consensus, because you can always find one or two people who believe things at the fringes that aren’t well supported yet and may never be. Furthermore lots of scientists believe crackpot things on their own. There are cosmologists who are Young Earth Creationists, which is about as intense as cognitive dissonance can get, but here we are. The consensus is always what matters, not any individual scientist that someone found who said a thing.