It is not uncommon to see names “dropped” for the purpose of bolstering or supporting a particular cause or belief. Though namedropping certainly has some merit in particular circumstances, I have always considered the practice to generally be a rather pathetic one. In many cases, it appears to be little more than a desperate attempt by a group or faction to show non-believers or non-sympathizers that someone of “importance” believes as they do and stands by their cause. In effect, by namedropping, many groups or factions are basically admitting that their cause or belief does not or cannot stand on its own, and therefore, by namedropping, they are probably weakening their cause or belief more than strengthening it.
The field of cryptozoology is no stranger to the practice of namedropping. It is especially popular among those who believe in, or strongly accept the existence of, Bigfoot. While there are a small handful of names that are commonly dropped in the cryptozoology namedropping process, there are two names that are dropped more frequently than all the other names put together: Dr. Jane Goodall, one of the world’s leading primatologists, and Dr. Jeff Meldrum, a university professor who has been somewhat lionized in the field of Bigfoot or Sasquatch (whichever name you prefer) research.
Now to be clear, I have a great deal of respect for both Dr. Goodall and Dr. Meldrum. Dr. Goodall has especially proven herself an extremely valuable primatologist and scientist time and again under the most ardent conditions, and Dr. Meldrum never hesitates to put his actions where his mouth is. But despite Dr. Goodall’s excellence as a scientist and Dr. Meldrum’s commendable attitude as a researcher, both are nevertheless subject to human frailties that impede critical thinking with romantic notions and scientific bias.
So that I don’t appear presumptuous, I shall back up my accusations of human frailties among these two scientists, which is supported by mainstream science with its ready admission of such frailties even among the strictest and most respected scientists.
During an NPR interview, when asked about her opinion concerning Bigfoot or Sasquatch, Dr. Goodall responded: “Well now, you'll be amazed when I tell you that I'm sure that they exist.” She goes on to explain that her “assurance” is based entirely on (mostly Native American) anecdotal evidence, and a story about the DNA testing of alleged Yeti hair; a story she read in a “little tiny snippet in the newspaper” which offered no conclusions, but Dr. Goodall nevertheless surmised, “They don't match up with DNA cells from known animals, so—apes.”
Now everyone who even remotely understands critical thinking knows that Dr. Goodall didn’t have anywhere near enough information, especially from a “little tiny snippet in the newspaper” upon which to base such a conclusion. And even she admits, “That was just a wee bit in the newspaper and, obviously, we have to hear a little bit more about that.” So why would Dr. Goodall so readily say “apes”? Though many people will disagree with me, in my opinion, it is clearly a conclusion based on a personal bias. She is, after all, a leading primatologist who has grown affectionately close to the subjects she so enjoyably studies. Such affections and joy for apes can easily churn up emotions that create a desire to believe in a rumored, unknown ape-like creature; a desire which Dr. Goodall wastes no time admitting by stating in the same interview, “I'm a romantic, so I always wanted them to exist.” And finally, despite being “sure that they exist” initially, at the end of this portion of the interview (about “Yeti or Bigfoot or Sasquatch”), Dr. Goodall clearly states, “Of course, the big, the big criticism of all this is, "Where is the body?" You know, why isn't there a body? I can't answer that, and maybe they don't exist, but I want them to.” Not only does Dr. Goodall reiterate her “romantic desire” for their existence instead of her “assurance” of their existence, she clearly states that when it comes to their absolute existence, she really isn’t so sure after all. Dr. Goodall’s credentials are unquestionable, but just as unquestionable are her (admitted) romantic notions that, though rarely, can nonetheless clearly interfere with her critical thinking. So we see that Dr. Jane Goodall’s “belief” in Bigfoot is actually a “desire to believe” that is not based on her being a scientist as much as being a romantic. Therefore dropping Dr. Goodall’s name to support a belief in Bigfoot is no more effective than dropping any other name of someone who merely “wants to believe”.
As for those who will argue that as a leading primatologist, Dr. Goodall’s position is, by itself, enough to qualify her belief in Bigfoot, or at least the possibility of its existence. Let me remind you that all behavioral patterns pertaining to a very large, unknown ape-like creature in the forests of North America are purely anecdotal (much of which is completely without precedent) and absolutely all physical evidence is entirely inconclusive, which technically, in the strictest science, means that despite presumptions (however reasonable they may appear), no one can state with any certainty whatsoever that the rumored creature is, in fact, ape-like, or anything else-like for that matter; therefore no “expertise” (not Dr. Goodall’s or that of anyone else) can truly be “qualified” for “belief”.
Unlike Dr. Goodall, I don’t believe we can accuse Dr. Meldrum of being a “romantic”; at least not in the same sense. When it comes to researching Bigfoot or Sasquatch, Dr. Jeff Meldrum has—I think we can all agree—gone all out, and is recognized as the leading authority on the subject. Nevertheless, on page 20 of his book “Sasquatch—Legend Meets Science”, Dr. Meldrum admits that his first viewing of the Patterson film left a lasting impression on his young and adventurous mind. So we can say that Dr. Meldrum isn’t necessarily smitten with a “romantic notion” so much as a “lasting impression” that leads him to strongly accept the possible existence of Bigfoot. It is quite possibly this “lasting impression” that greatly influences his Sasquatch research, creating an undeniable bias in his approach. Despite his bias, Dr. Meldrum has never, as far as I know, stated that he believes in the absolute existence of Bigfoot or Sasquatch. To the contrary, in his book and many interviews, Dr. Meldrum recognizes the fact that a type specimen is necessary to establish existence; though he has stated his wish that DNA testing alone would be sufficient to that establishment. Also, on page 271 of his book “Sasquatch—Legend Meets Science”, Dr. Meldrum writes:
Belief generally connotes the acceptance of something as true in the absence of objective evidence or conclusive proof. It is usually equated with a position of faith. Science is about subjecting hypotheses to evaluation by marshaling evidence that may either refute, or lend support to a premise. Therefore, from a scientific standpoint I can say that a respectable portion of the evidence I have examined suggests, in an independent yet highly correlated manner, the existence of an unrecognized ape, known as Sasquatch.
The direction in which Dr. Meldrum leans in the Sasquatch debate is quite apparent in his quote, but as can plainly be seen, and as I emphasized in his quote, he clearly states that the evidence only suggests the existence of Sasquatch. Still, I’m curious as to just how highly correlated the evidence is, and [independently] by whom. As I have read in several science periodicals, the scientific method can, at times, be saturated with bias, which, more often than not, results in incorrect or misleading presumptions and conclusions.
So then, if you are among those who merely believe in the possibility of Bigfoot’s existence, then I suppose that dropping Dr. Meldrum’s name would not be entirely inappropriate. But doing so would obviously support your belief subjectively more than objectively, which would do little to promote it in an objective light. As for those who are sure that Bigfoot exists, dropping Dr. Meldrum’s name would be counterproductive, because he manifestly does not agree with you.
Anyway you look at it, namedropping to support a belief in Bigfoot or Sasquatch is either ineffective or negatively effective. So, to those who believe in the existence or possible existence of Bigfoot or Sasquatch and insist on dropping names: Drop away, but you’ll simply be hindering your belief, not supporting it.