Is Cryptozoology a Valid Science – No

The question of whether cryptozoology is a valid science or not is one that I found harder to answer than I first expected.  Cryptozoology literally means the search for hidden animals.  Those that claim to be cryptozoologists often look for such things as bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, living dinosaurs, etc.  The mainstream scientific community does not generally agree that cryptozoology should be considered an actual science.  

There are traditionally certain protocols followed by scientists in different fields that qualify what they do as a valid science.  Arguably most importantly, they must use what is called the scientific method, which consists of four parts.  The four parts are observation, hypothesis, testing and review.  Basically this means that you observe phenomena, you make a hypothesis to explain why you think this phenomenon is happening, you and others carry out tests on your hypothesis and document them, and finally your results are reviewed by others in the field to check their validity.  The process can vary a little depending on the field.  For example, hypotheses in physics can often be easily tested to see if they hold up.  This can be a bit harder in fields such as biology where you are dealing with living creatures which operate by less fixed rules.

For me the question of whether cryptozoology is a valid science or not rests heavily on the scientific method.  Those who believe that it shouldn’t be considered a science cite problems such as; a large reliance on eyewitness testimony claims that are very questionable on their face being given credence, and others.  The fact that the animals being searched for are often creatures of myth or legend, does not lend the cryptozoologists much credit with the scientific community either.  I think dismissing it offhand as a pseudoscience may be a bit premature though.  One example that crossed my mind was archaeology.  Archaeologists have been known to find new discoveries that they may have not have even been searching for because a local told them of their existence.  They didn’t necessarily have a working hypothesis for that particular discovery but could none the less use the scientific method in it’s subsequent study.  Archaeology is of course a recognized science although it generally lacks the element of repeatability, which is an important factor in the scientific method.  I can see some parallels between archaeology and cryptozoology.  The cryptozoologist may be told by someone that they saw a particularly mysterious creature in their yard and others in the area have claimed to have seen it too (Observation).  The cryptozoologist could take the statements of the individuals who claim to have seen the creature. She could then decide what she should expect to find based on what the witness’s claimed to have seen (Hypothesis). She would then carefully investigate the claims by searching the areas, for corroborating evidence (Testing).  She could laboriously collect evidence, document and organize the findings and write out a thorough paper explaining the process and findings.  

You can see in this example one way in which the cryptozoologist could utilize the scientific method in their work.  The one major problem that I see though is the last part of the process; publishing and peer review.  There are no real recognized journals that cater to cryptozoology and consequently no peers to review the work.  This is one of the reasons that I don’t think that cryptozoology can be considered a valid science yet.  There is a term that I believe fits it better in its current state and that is proto-science.  Wikipedia includes a definition for proto-science that states, “”proto-science” may be used in reference to any “set of beliefs or theories that have not yet been tested adequately by the scientific method but which are otherwise consistent with existing science, [thus being] a new science working to establish itself as legitimate science”(1).  I think this could be the proper category for cryptozoology if its adherents begin to follow the scientific method rigorously and honestly.  What we generally see is people who appear to have no clue about the scientific method just going out somewhat randomly in to the woods and sitting around hoping for something to show up.  I do think there is probably a minority though that could scientifically and professionally advance cryptozoology in to the title of a valid science if they prove themselves over time.