Jonathan Whitcomb on his 2004 expedition in Papua New Guinea

Honesty in Reports of Modern Pterosaurs

Posted on Posted in Papua New Guinea, Reply to Skeptics

Introduction

Within the past few weeks, three web sites have caught my attention, each with a page accusing me of dishonesty. Two of them appear to be based on the other: the one first published online, a post by the biology professor P. Z. Myers; at least the other two writers appear to have been influenced by that professor before they wrote their own accusations against me. We’ll look at what dishonesty is and examine the credibility of those three proclamations about my guilt.

Starting with a bit of humor

The web browser I used yesterday had a weakness that amplified a funny result of looking at that post by Professor Myers. That page froze, allowing me to see only a small portion of his page that ridiculed the idea that any pterosaur could still be alive. I could view only the top of the page titled “There are no living pterosaurs, and ‘ropen’ is a stupid fantasy.”

Now see what I saw. Do you notice what’s so funny?

Life is funny: ad for a "live pterosaurs" book on blog post ridiculing living pterosaurs

It’s not so obvious in the above image, so look at the full size of what’s on the left side:

ad for third edition of "Live Pterosaurs in America"

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The site FreeThoughtBlogs appears to be one of the countless online publications that allow advertisers like Amazon to put up ads. As I understand it, the big advertisers have a way to catch pages that have words relevant to what is being sold. “living pterosaurs” caught Amazon’s automatic searcher, resulting in the ad insertion for my book, the third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America. I doubt that many of my books will be sold from that brief appearance of the ad on that page, but I thought it was funny. (By the way, I had nothing to do with causing that ad insertion by Amazon.)

What is “dishonest?”

The word dishonest can refer to three improper activities:

  • deceive
  • steal
  • cheat

Let’s confine ourselves, for the moment, with the concept of deceiving; much of what is written against me relates to this concept. The word deceive means to purposefully lead someone away from the truth. A word associated with it is lie: to say or write something deceitful. Now consider the details.

What does it mean to deceive?

A deceiver intends to lead someone away from truth; intention is a critical ingredient of the poison. Nobody can accidentally deceive anyone, as in carelessly typing on a keyboard and hitting “Tr” instead of “R,” resulting in a sentence about “Troy” instead of “Roy.” Someone can be mislead by a mistake like that; one cannot be deceived by that.

That is why I do not accuse those three skeptics of deceit in accusing me of deception. I understand the concept of the word, so I am responsible: I cannot properly accuse someone of telling a lie until I can see into that person’s heart and know of an improper intention there. I can look into my own heart, however, which brings up the key point of all this.

Did Jonathan Whitcomb deceive anyone?

I traveled to Papua New Guinea in 2004 and spent two weeks on Umboi Island. Skeptics who mention my name in the same paragraph where they write something like deceit—those critics don’t usually say much about my expedition in September and October of 2004. Consider what I said after I had returned to my home in Long Beach, California: I saw nothing like a pterosaur in Papua New Guinea.

Consider all the opportunities a liar would have in spending two weeks on a remote tropical island. The ropen is said to glow at night, while it flies from a mountain to a reef surrounding the island (or back again to a mountain). How easy it would be for a liar to later report an encounter of some kind! Yet I admitted that I did not see even a strange light in the sky. The first edition of my first book included, as I recall, the admission that I was asleep while my interpreter and another man saw the brief glow of the flying ropen. Nobody accuses me of lying about that, for obvious reasons.

For the past ten years, I have never gone back on that admission that I had seen nothing pterosaur-like in Papua New Guinea.

I have received many eyewitness reports, in fact from not only the southwest Pacific but from North America, Europe, and Africa. When publishing (online and in my nonfiction books) details about those many reports, I sometimes imply that a particular sighting might not have been a pterosaur encounter. Google “apparent pterosaur” right now, if you like, putting those two words within quote marks. Notice, on the first Google-page listing, that my name “Whitcomb” is found on each of the nine non-image pages. My own posts also dominate on the second Google-page listing. Now look at the third page of the Google listing: six of those posts are written by me.

How do my critics agree with me? We all seem to know that I passionately write about the concept of living pterosaurs. I sometimes consider the following possibility: Not only have I written more original material about this concept, over the past eleven years, than anyone else in the world; I seem to have written more original-sentences on this than all other writers in the world combined, at least according to a casual investigation with Google. So why does a search, within quote marks, using “apparent pterosaur” result in such a dominance from so many of my blogs? It’s because I so often admit the possibility that an individual sighting may have been of a modern pterosaur, but it could have been something else. Does that sound like I have been trying to deceive people?

Why believe in living pterosaurs?

So why do I so passionately proclaim that pterosaurs are still living? Well, I’ve never proclaimed that any significant numbers of species closely resembling many of those known from the fossils are still living; extinction seems to be an appropriate word for almost all of those species. In addition, I sometimes point out that a standard dictionary definition of pterosaur includes a word like “extinct,” so by the usual meaning no pterosaur can be alive, within that narrow viewpoint. I do proclaim that at least a small number of species of flying creatures are still alive, and they are descended from species related to pterosaurs known from fossils, with basic wing structures closely related to those of the fossils.

In other words, I promote the idea that some species of flying creatures, not yet classified in Western science, at least acknowledged as still living, do indeed still fly, and they deserve to be called pterosaurs. I call those flying creatures modern pterosaurs. Let that suffice for the moment.

Why do I have no doubt that such creatures still fly through the sky? The overall data from 128 sighting reports prove there was no major hoax involvement, and careful comparisons between detailed descriptions make it obvious that it is practically impossible that none of those 128 sightings were from an encounter with a modern pterosaur. Remember: All it takes is for one of those sightings to have been an encounter with a modern pterosaur, to shoot down that universal-extinction dogma.

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Donald Prothero and “Fake” Pterosaurs

Consider this: Not all online accusations of deceit are accurate.

Investigation by Whitcomb

. . . the “pterodactyl” described by the World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson is a real creature that lives in coastal areas of Papua New Guinea.

“Dinosaur Birds” writings by Jonathan Whitcomb

For the news media

Goodreads books on living pterosaurs

In Papua New Guinea and in the United States

Writings of Jonathan Whitcomb on Modern Pterosaur

Archives of posts by the cryptozoologist

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