Our old friend Benjamin Radford writes the “Bad Science” column for livescience. com, and his latest story has been picked up by the newswires: “Bigfoot Bounty: Reward Offered for Mysterious Monsters.” Apparently, Bushnell, the binocular maker, and “Field & Stream” magazine have teamed up to offer a $1 million prize to anyone who can bring incontrovertible evidence of Bigfoot to them by December 15th.
Of course, this is just a tongue-in-cheek publicity stunt, and their money is (as they know) completely safe. Even if they really meant it, and even if somebody came up with iron clad proof, requiring that it be “…verified and substantiated by a panel of scientific experts [including a zoologist and biologist]…” means that meeting the deadline would be all but impossible. You’d pretty much have to bring in a live Sasquatch with a wallet full of family snapshots and a complete DNA analysis, and even then the debate would rage on for months, years, and even decades.
It’s the prize concept that I find appealing, now that James Randi is going to discontinue his more general million dollar challenge, because somebody needs to be out there sponsoring the “put up or shut up” side of the skeptical “business” (and I use that word in the most metaphorical way possible). Or maybe I just think that a little ridicule goes a long way – I’m not really sure. There’s nothing that enrages the purveyors of woo more than the feeling that they aren’t being taken seriously, and we skeptics often bend over backwards not to smirk and giggle, even at some of the more outlandish claims. Well, I say let’s loosen up and have a nice public chuckle from time to time. Sure, it gives the nutjobs an excuse to dismiss us, but who cares? They’re going to ignore us anyway, and we can still apply all the tools of scientific skepticism to their idiocy, but I for one am tired of cranks borrowing legitimacy from skeptics who take them too seriously and treat them too politely, and if we sometimes let the public see us desperately trying to hold in the laughter, we make it harder for the wackos to use our very attention for their own gain.
Maybe we should sponsor a prize for the best crappy skeptical joke – Uri Geller has had the spot locked up for too long (ba-Dum bum). Like, ‘Bigfoot, the loch Ness monster, and a “grey” Alien walk into a bar, etc…’ or ‘How many yogic flyers does it take to screw in a lightbulb…’ or ‘A Medium has a parrot, and the parrot dies, and then….” I wish I could come up with the punch lines, but then so many times the chuckleheads provide their own. Maybe that’s what Randi’s been talking about all along. Hmmm.