You may be wondering why there isn’t much in the course on cryptozoology. This is the study of animals that have not yet been shown to exist, for example unicorns and the Loch Ness monster. This week has seen some attention on the hunt for the Abominable Snowman, or Yeti, and claims from some scientists that they have uncovered evidence for their existence. Unfortunately (and this will explain why we don’t cover cryptozoology in A levels) they have done no such thing.
Science relies on the methodical gathering of evidence, testing and re-testing of hypotheses. The ‘scientists’ involved have gone straight past the boring bit of gathering valid data and gone straight to the headline grabbing phase. Their evidence consists of some hair (unidentified as yet, but it wouldn’t be difficult to do), an alleged nesy made from twigs (Really? Do you have any photos? No? How odd.) and footprints (guess they didn’t get any photos of those either). Science does not get to the truth by making unsubstantiated claims or listening to anecdotes (the Royal Society, probably the oldest scientific society in the world, has for its motto ‘Nulius in verba’, translated as ‘not by words’. This is a good description of the core of science; it is not enough to simply say or assert something, you must back it up with evidence. The evidence must be clearly available to other people to test (it’s no good making special pleading claims that only you can see the evidence, or ‘it did that when I tried it.’
It is possible that the yeti exists, but no valid evidence has been presented to demonstrate this. The scientific position remains that the yeti does not exist. If valid evidence emerges for the existence of these animals, then scientists will change their minds. It is however unlikely to be found. Resorting to boring old things like facts and evidence, creatures of the size proposed (and the same goes for Nessie) would have well understood need for territory, mating groups and reasonably sized gene pools to avoid in-breeding problems. From what we know of comparable sized animals, it is unlikely that something this big would have remained undetected.
New animals are discovered all the time, but it is rare indeed for legendary creatures like bigfoot and Nessie to be found living happily in our world.