Monday, September 8, 2008

Searching for a Devil Through "Science"

The Jersey Devil hunters are a motley crew of investigators who "explore that dark piney chasm between fact and legend, acting upon what most of us, at one time or another, have thought: something's out there" (nytimes article).

Cryptozoology is the study and/or search for animals that fall outside of traditional zoological classification: windigos, chupacabras, tatzelworms, and Jersey Devils, for example.

Forced out of the traditional field of zoology, cryptozoologists have had to blaze new trails in their pursuit of knowledge.

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn states:

those unwilling or unable to accommodate their work to [current science paradigms] must proceed in isolation or attach themselves to some other group. (19)

When seeking out a scientific "puzzle" to solve (i.e. proving the existence of the Jersey Devil) scientific communities use criterion based on the current paradigm within their field. "To a great extent these are the only problems that the community will admit as scientific." (Kuhn, 37).

So if there are a group of dedicated cryptozoologists who are dedicated to rigorous investigation, community collaboration (through journals and peer review of work), and are building upon an inherited understanding of the world chronicled by a previous generation of investigators, does that make the work of cryptozoologists "scientific", "psuedoscientific", or just plan "wonky"?

Chase the elusive definition of science with us by adding your thoughts in the comments section.

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