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Large numbers of people believe in demonstrably false phenomena, from UFOs and ESP to Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Even though these fictions have been repeatedly debunked and discredited, they persist in the human imagination and influence our beliefs and our society. Spinning tales of fantastical creatures may seem like a harmless pastime, but when pseudoscientists make "revolutionary" claims about the world and its history, evidence-based science, public policy, and human progress suffer.
Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero complete an entertaining, educational, and definitive text on a variety of cryptids, presenting both the arguments for and against their existence and systematically challenging the pseudoscience perpetuating their myths. After opening chapters examining the nature and practitioners of pseudoscientific thought and marking its divergence from proper science, Loxton and Prothero take on Bigfoot; the Yeti, or the Abominable Snowman, and its cross-cultural incarnations; the Loch Ness monster and its many, highly publicized sightings; Champ, Ogopogo, and other lake monsters; the legend of the Sea Serpent; Mokele Mbembe, or the Congo dinosaur; and the Goat Sucker, otherwise know as the Chupucabra. They conclude with an analysis of the psychology behind persistent paranormal and extraordinary belief, identifying cryptozoology's major players, the character of its subculture, and its pernicious perversion of critical thinking in our society.
Foreword by Michael Shermer
1. Cryptozoology: Real Science or Pseudoscience?
2. Bigfoot: The Sasquatch
3. The Yeti: The Abominable Snowman
4. Nessie: The Loch Ness Monster
5. The Evolution of the Sea Serpent: From Hippocamp to Cadborosaurus
6. Mokele Mbembe: The Congo Dinosaur
7. Why Do People Believe in Monsters? The Complexity of Cryptozoology
Daniel Loxton is the editor of Junior Skeptic magazine, a staff writer for Skeptic magazine, and the author of Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be and Ankylosaur Attack (Tales of Prehistoric Life). He is also an illustrator specializing in complex computer-generated and mixed-media scenes of photorealistic creatures, such as dinosaurs and aliens. In addition to his many Junior Skeptic covers, he has designed covers for Yes Mag, Skeptic, Free Inquiry, and Princeton University's Common Sense. He has also contributed interior illustrations to the American Geological Institute's Geotimes magazine (now called Earth).
Donald R. Prothero is professor of geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles and lecturer in geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. A fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London, Prothero is on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation. In 1991, he received the Schuchert Award for outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40. He is the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of 22 books and more than 200 scientific papers, and his titles for Columbia University Press are Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters (which won the PSP Award for Excellence in Earth Sciences from the Association of American Publishers), From Greenhouse to Icehouse, and The Eocene-Oligocene Transition.
"Loxton and Prothero have written what may well be the most important work to date on cryptozoology, taking its rightful place in the annals of skeptical literature in particular and scientific literature in general. Abominable Science! is the defining work on cryptozoology of our generation."
– from the foreword by Michael Shermer, author of The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies
"Here, at last, is a scholarly, fully referenced work that presents a thoroughly reasonable, well-argued, skeptical perspective on some of the most iconic 'cryptids,' and it is fun to read and well illustrated to boot. Combining excellent and thorough research, ample references to the cryptozoological literature, and, most important, an appropriately level-headed, critical approach, Abominable Science! offers a novel, refreshing exploration of the world of cryptozoology."
– Darren Naish, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton
"Nearly everyone – scientist and layman alike – would love the Loch Ness monster and other 'cryptids' to be real. Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero, in their riveting exploration of cryptozoology, readily admit that some species (such as the living coelacanth and even the mountain gorilla) remained hidden to human experience until relatively recently. Yet they insist on hard evidence, thus running counter to the preferences of those who prefer to believe. Abominable Science! is a well-told, engaging story of skepticism. Loxton and Prothero present a lucid and compelling case to counter the false claims of cryptozoology."
– Niles Eldredge, American Museum of Natural History, author of Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life
"[Abominable Science!] is as valuable for its analysis of the hunted as it is for the light it shines on the still-hopeful hunters."
– Publishers Weekly
"Highly recommended for readers looking for scientific but accessible evaluations of the existence of five notable cryptids that have captured our imaginations. Likely to be popular."
– Library Journal (starred review)
"Groundbreaking [...] A must-have. There is nothing else like it."
– Sharon Hill, Doubtful News
"[Loxton and Prothero] offer us a sharp analysis of the quest for unreal critters – cryptids, as they are called – and the people who pursue them, shining an arc light onto the hoaxes and faked photos, the made-up films, faux corpses, delusions, lies and plain bad science that plague the field [...] [An] entertaining and thoroughly documented book."
– Margaret Wertheim, Wall Street Journal
"The authors, eminent and intrepid sceptics, seek evidence of fabulous big beasts and find nothing but fakes, folklore, pseudo-science and anecdote."
– Iain Finlayson, The Times (London)
"[Abominable Science!] is a never less than rigorous examination of the evidence, and a cultural history of cryptozoology."
– Daniel Cressey, Nature
"A good hard look at cryptozoology [...] Loxton and Prothero lay bare the psychological roots of why such mythical creatures exist in our own minds."
– The Scientist
"Skipping cryptozoology's usual sensationalism, [Abominable Science!] separates history and folklore from hoaxes and fakelore."
– Elisa Neckar, Discover
"[Abominable Science!] successfully reveals the influence of popular culture on what we think we see."
– Henry Gee, BBC Focus
"[Abominable Science!] goes back to the foundations of the Bigfoot legend and picks off the fur piece by piece."
– Christopher Farnsworth, New York Post
– Kyle Hill, But Not Simpler blog, Scientific American
"An exhaustively-researched, color-illustrated volume that details the cultural forces (and often individual people) responsible for shaping these beasts in the public's imagination."
– Justin Hickey, Open Letters Monthly
"Any science and nature collection should consider this a lively and loving acquisition."
– The Midwest Book Review
"Abominable Science! is science writing at its best."
– Glenn Dallas, San Francisco Book Review
"Many good laughs [...] Loxton and Prothero have done a fine job of describing monsters that have an entertainment value for everyone [...] "
– The Skeptic
"An entertaining, educational, passionate, and valuable book for readers interested in obtaining a scientific perspective on the field of cryptozoology. With marvelous artwork and deeply researched histories of the various creatures, this is an impressive and authoritative book."
– Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University, author of The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myths in Greek and Roman Times