Believing in Bigfoot

Continuing with our week of Halloween-themed posts.

The Associated Press reports today that members of Sasquatch Watch of Virginia were looking for Bigfoot in the Allegheny Mountain highlands of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area in West Virginia. The group didn't have a sighting, but they did take footprint casts.

I was a huge Bigfoot fan when I was a kid. For some reason, Bigfoot was huge in the 70s. Sunday morning had Bigfoot and Wildboy (1977):

And in 1976 the Bionic Man had a big fight with Bigfoot (and we found out, during the fight, that Bigfoot was actually a robot! Man, was I surprised as a kid.):

A lot of this craze was probably kicked off by the famous Patterson-Gimlin film which came out in 1967, the year I was born:

I ate this stuff up as a kid. I hunted for Bigfoot in the Pennsylvania woods behind my grandparents house. I read books about Bigfoot. I even tried to convince my friends that Bigfoot lived in our neighborhood by walking around in the snow late at night in Bigfoot snowshoes, a Christmas present I asked for, that looked kind of like this:

Now you might be wondering, what does Bigfoot have to do with psychology and religion? Well, my very first published paper after getting my PhD was an examination of how beliefs in the paranormal (e.g., ESP, aliens, Bigfoot) relate to beliefs in the supernatural (e.g., God, angels, miracles). At times these seem very similar, like seeing Jesus in a piece of toast:

Or the paranoia and conspiracy theory similarities between alien abduction accounts and the Left Behind series. It's these similarities that drive people like Dennett, Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens crazy.

So is there a difference between believing in Bigfoot versus believing in angels? Or even God? I can't say that my study shed a lot of light on the issue, but I don't think I've ever stopped asking that question and pondering the answers.

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4 thoughts on “Believing in Bigfoot”

  1. Interesting. But I can't get past the piece of toast. It doesn't look like Jesus to me. It looks like Frank Zappa, don't you reckon? :)

  2. A former college roommate of mine is a firm believer in Bigfoot. He's very intelligent and reflective. Yet he believes in Bigfoot, exorcisms, and pretty regularly chooses to disbelieve things which he is told are "science".

    It's quite odd. But he thinks I'm uncritical and naive for dismissing Bigfoot while believing in, say, God. He also maintains that I have more reason to believe in Bigfoot (as a close friend of mine - him - is "certain" that he's heard a Bigfoot, and his close friend from back in Washington is "certain" that he's seen a Bigfoot) than in, say, evolution (for which my only expert testimony is far more removed, obscure, and less empirically sound).

    Not sure what to make of it. He also claims, without any lack in certitude, that he used to break rocks with his magic (when he was a pagan in high school, before he converted to Christianity). All the while, a very intelligent, careful, self-critical, and reasonable guy.

  3. I don't have much to say either way about Bigfoot; for some reason I have never felt much of a draw toward that particular urban legend. However, a couple friends and I have been known to get into some epic brawls regarding the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. One guy firmly believes in Nessie, the other resolutely denies even the slightest possibility of his existence, and I play the skeptical antagonist, picking the side that seems to be losing in order to ensure that the debate rages ever onward.

    The funniest part of it is that we all share a fairly similar approach to faith--having developed many of out personal beliefs through shared discussions and lessons while attending church together throughout high school--and yet we will often draw on that faith to support both of the polar opposite opinions. in fact, the great nessie debate has often stemmed from, or led into, some of our most intense theological discussions.

  4. It was such a nice movie which I had ever seen in my life. Man in big foot was an interesting news at that time. It was quite strange at that time. 

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