Are Pterosaurs “Still Dead?”

Jonathan David Whitcomb, at home in Long Beach, California

Last year, three persons ridiculed me, Jonathan Whitcomb, in three online posts, each one depending on an earlier post or web page with similar disdain for the concept of modern pterosaurs. But it was more than simple ridicule: I consider it libel. Let’s examine the most recent criticism (Nov 24th: “This just in: Pterosaurs are STILL dead, maybe even more so”), which is the most dependent on previous online publications.

I consider much of these criticisms to be bulverism, which involves changing the subject by trying to point out another person’s weakness. I would be happy to write only about the concept of modern pterosaurs, but the accusations against me need to be addressed. I feel sure that honesty is always important, and even just an insinuation of dishonesty needs to be examined.

Post by “Idoubtit”

This young lady goes by the name of “idoubtit.” Is that her real name? I doubt it, but I found it amusing that the origin of the criticism that resulted in her writing a post about me was this: I used two pen names in some of my online writings, for a limited time.

I do not accuse any of the following of dishonesty, for I can’t see into their hearts:

  1. idoubtit (writer on Doubtful News blog)
  2. Donald Prothero (real name of a paleontologist)
  3. Paul Zachary Myers (real name of an associate professor of biology)
  4. Owosso Harpist (a man or woman who plays the harp)

Yet three of the four posts that I have examined contain words like “deception” and “lies,” and three of them are mostly about me or my ideas. If any of them had some kind of talent for discerning my motivations, they failed to reveal that talent in their writings.

The post by idoubtit was apparently written after she had read the post by Dr. Prothero, who apparently had first read the post by Professor Myers. Prothero also cited the post by Owosso Harpist (apparently the creator of the site “stupid dinosaur lies”), so he may have been influenced by both of them before he wrote his post “Fake Pterosaurs and Sock Puppets.” I also found it amusing that Dr. Prothero said, near the end of his post, “So beware of citing stuff off the internet.”

Let’s now consider the post by idoubtit, “This just in: Pterosaurs are STILL dead, maybe even more so.”

Avoiding Continuous Libel

To her credit, idoubtit refrained from repeating the word “deception” in her reply to my reply to her post. I explained how I had been honest in my online writings and she changed the subject (rather than apologize or admit I just might have been honest). She then questioned why I was pursuing a “dead end.”

I noticed something similar in Dr. Prothero’s replies to my replies to his post: He refrained from repeating the word “deception.” In fact, he did not even reply to my comment about my own honesty; he replied to my comments about the concept of modern pterosaurs only briefly: displaying the URL’s of sites I consider libelous against me.

Are Creationists Liars?

Her post is mostly about me, but she implies that I am one of a number of creationists, and there she finds fault: Idoubtit admits creationists may be nice people but she then says that they are “deliberately deceiving people to undermine science.” That does not sound very nice to me.

I have far more experience, over the past eleven years in particular, in working with and communicating with Biblical creationists who actively support these living-pterosaur investigations. I have found them to be honest in their writings and lectures, regardless of how vehemently our critics dispute our concepts.

Remember, when I proclaimed my personal honesty, in a comment under her post, that idoubtit stepped back from any accusation against me regarding honesty. She then said nothing about deception. But unfortunately she failed to make any modification to her accusation in the body of her post.

Conclusion

This post by idoubtit strongly suggests to me that this young lady is extremely ignorant of what is actually happening in living-pterosaur investigations. If she had read only 1% of my online writings, even just choosing them at random rather than looking for something to criticize, she would have been far better informed. She would have done better if she had avoided bulverism.

Communicate with Jonathan D. Whitcomb

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Jonathan Whitcomb and Witnesses of Pterosaurs

So only about 25%-40% of what I call credible eyewitnesses of pterosaurs are even capable of talking to anybody about what they saw. And of those who are capable of it, I guess only about 20% maximum actually telephone or email a cryptozoologist. [More-recent estimates put the number of eyewitnesses, worldwide, in the millions.]

“Stupid Dinosaur Lies” or Truth?

The oldest online attack against the honesty of cryptozoologists who publicized their belief in living pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea—that site may have originated as early as mid-2005 or as late as late-2008 . . . one original page on “Stupid Dinosaur Lies,” and it had at least five errors in one sentence.

Jonathan Whitcomb Interviewed by Dave Scott

“Yes, they are alive indeed. In fact, my associates and I believe there are more than one species in different parts of the world. It’s incredible but we’ll get into that: explain how that happened. Yeah, they are alive.”

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front cover of the nonfiction 360-page book by Whitcomb

Fourth edition of the paperback Searching for Ropens and Finding God

The first paragraph of the introduction in this nonfiction:

Expect answers in this book: why my associates and I traveled to a remote tropical island to search for living pterosaurs and why only a few professors have given us any hope that they still live. What about adventures, with danger, failure, and success? Yes, expect those, but I hope my readers will discover more than adventure—a purpose in life—as worthy a purpose as I have found. This is no instruction manual for finding God, yet I suggest that the spiritual quest gives us the highest reward.

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Expert on “Pterodactyls”

The original comments on this question (Am I, Jonathan Whitcomb, a “pterodactyl expert?”) were on a forum discussion thread on cryptozoology.com (about Dec 30, 2010 to Jan 1, 2011). I neither participated in that discussion nor badgered anybody to bring up the subject. Since most of those comments were very negative about me, and that page has become prominent online, I have replied to various aspects of it and will continue here with replies to some of the words of “ape man.” My critics are experts at writing bulverisms. (For general info on me, see the media page: Jonathan Whitcomb, subtitled “Pterosaur Expert.”)

A double misspelling of my first name (“Johnathon”) does not necessarily mean that “ape man” has been careless in his reading of my writings on the subject of apparent living pterosaurs (AKA “pterodactyls”), but other evidences suggest he has been careless indeed.

Criticism on “solitary” expert qualification

“Do you know what Johnathon Whitcomb’s solitary expert qualifications are? The expert qualifications listed in his book and on every creationist website? Here you go:

Jonathan D. Whitcomb, certified court videographer”

Answer

None of my writings even hint that my sole qualification as an expert is in my certification as a forensic videographer. I have mentioned how my experiences interviewing accident victims while videotaping them (for attorney firms) helped prepare me to interview native eyewitnesses on Umboi Island while I videotaped them. But communicating with eyewitnesses—that in itself has helped me to learn how to get to the relevant truth about apparent pterosaurs that are observed by people around the world.

What does “ape man” mean by “on every creationist website?” He seems oblivious to at least the vast majority of my online writings, for perhaps only about 1%-2% of them are about the Biblical-creationist relevance to reports of modern living pterosaurs. Is it possible that “ape man” has read most of my web pages and blog posts, which number over a thousand? Hardly likely. If he has read anything, it seems much more likely to have been from searching for creationist pages on living pterosaurs (I have written at least a few). But he seems to have read little, if anything, written by me.

The singular “book” suggests even more that he has read little if anything of my writings, for I have written more than one book. I would suggest to “ape man” that he keep an open mind about what it may take for a person to become an expert at something.

Criticism on “Minimal Research”

“He is a CREATIONIST who did minimal research about legendary creatures and fossil flying reptiles, then tried to mash them together.”

Answer

What is “ape man” talking about? One of my books? A blog post? A traditional web page? My scientific paper (published in a peer-reviewed journal of science)? Which one?

What research has “ape man” done? Why does he not quote something that I have written? As it is, I have no idea what he means. My best guess is that he has imagined many negative things about me and my writings and has written from his imagination.

Criticism on no Credentials

“Johnathon Whitcomb does not have any credentials that make him an expert on prehistoric creatures, not professionally nor academically.”

Answer

Mr. “ape man” seems to have forgotten where he is: commenting on a forum thread of cryptozoology-dot-com. The particular sub-topic is “prehistoric survivors,” under “cryptids.” Obviously that means sightings of apparent ancient animals like pterosaurs. Need I mention that there may be no paleontologist in the world, regardless of PhD’s, who is anything like an expert in sightings of apparent modern pterosaurs? To take this one more step, there may be no scientist, no professor, no paleontologist in the world who has as much experience with sightings of apparent living pterosaurs as I have.

To the best of my knowledge, I have written more original material on sightings of apparent pterosaurs (and the possibility of modern pterosaurs and related subjects) than all other cryptozoologists, all other paleontologists, and all other professors (of all branches of science) in all the world, put together, during the past eight years. Some of my writings have elicited technical corrections from those who are open minded to the possibility of modern pterosaurs; I am grateful for their suggestions. But it seems strange to me that “ape man” seems to believe that I am the least qualified person in the world.

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Pterodactyl Expert

My lack of qualifications in paleontology is irrelevant in cryptozoology. I do not examine fossils of pterodactyls, I examine eyewitness testimony.

Bulverism

I once heard a Sunday school teacher say something like this: “A person who is damned is like a river that is dammed. When someone is spiritually hindered, that person has allowed a blockage to form, a blockage to progress.” I think we need to keep communications open, without fear. Bulverism blocks communication; that blockage needs to be cleared away.

Bulverism Revisited

In reasoning about the possibility of one or more species of extant pterosaurs, we still may encounter pure bulverism. Let’s take a closer look at this: Avoiding reasoning by making ones opponent appear so silly that further discussion is unnecessary.

I began my investigation of living-pterosaur eyewitness reports when I was a forensic videographer, an independent specialist for various attorney firms in Southern California. Perhaps more relevant, over many years I have sat on a number of juries, in both civil and criminal cases. I am aware that a trial attorney will sometimes try to make an opposing witness appear to have poor judgment or be unqualified in some way. I think this is not what C. S. Lewis meant when he invented the word “bulverism,” for the overall atmosphere in a courtroom is reasoning.

When someone publishes a web site with a URL that includes the words “stupid” and “lies,” and the point of the site is to ridicule those who promote the idea of living dinosaurs or living pterosaurs, “bulverism” probably fits (I will not link to that URL). Of course “libel” also fits, but the point is this: Individuals are attacked, real persons, me and my associates. Quotations of what we say can be hard to find on that site; the attacker’s portrayal of our motivations, easy to find. An average reader who gets very far on that site is unlikely to search out the actual words and deeds of living-pterosaur investigators. Why search for the writings of people who are both stupid and liars? But what if the critical mistake is in the one making accusations?

Let’s look at the various ideas offered and compare conflicting ideas through reasoning. Most writers have something useful to say, even when error is mixed with truth, so let’s concentrate on the merits, or lack thereof, of ideas and not the weaknesses, real or not, of those who write.

“Finding him credible supports your agenda.”

Last December, I wrote “More Critics, Less Reasoning.” If only more persons would think carefully before criticising! I still marvel that someone would be so dismissive of the possibility of a species of extant pterosaur somewhere on earth, so dismissive of any eyewitness account that contradicted their belief, so dismissive of the person who suggested an eyewitness is credible. Is it reasonable that everyone who disagrees with us, on any subject, must have unworthy motivations? Why should the subject of living pterosaurs be different, with only believers having an “agenda?”

I don’t know why Karl, in a comment on cryptozoology.com, said “Finding him credible supports your agenda.” Perhaps I have made that same kind of mistake in my life, but I feel that this approach, this bulverism, is a poor choice. I now recognize more clearly the value of open reasoning in communications. If Karl continues to believe I have questionable motivations, that is his choice; I hope he will someday choose better.

I once heard a Sunday school teacher say something like this: “A person who is damned is like a river that is dammed. When someone is spiritually hindered, that person has allowed a blockage to form, a blockage to progress.” I think we need to keep communications open, without fear. Bulverism blocks communication; that blockage needs to be cleared away.

For more information: Bulverism explained by Oloryn.

More Critics, Less Reasoning

Early yesterday morning, November 30, 2010, I posted a short announcement on the “Cryptids on the Wing” forum of Cryptozoology.com. The quick, negative responses were no surprise to me, for I have received similar dismissals, for years, on this forum. The first criticism deserves attention here, as an example of bulverism.

Aside from the image of Mr. Kuhn’s sketch, the bulk of my own posting is in the first paragraph:

I gave Mr. Kuhn a surprise phone call earlier this year (2010). I talked with him for some time and found him to be highly credible. He answered my questions as an honest person would. He stands by his long account of the encounter almost four decades ago, even though he has been ridiculed by at least a few skeptics.

 Half a day after my comment was posted, the first reply came up; it was from “Karl.” His first sentence seemed to me a perfect example of bulverism:

Finding him credible supports your agenda.

What human who ever lived on this earth has ever said or done anything that was contrary to that person’s personal purpose? I admit to being human. So what is the difference between “purpose” and “agenda?” Karl’s choice of words simply means that he objects to my purpose, for that is the way the word “agenda” is now used among those fluent in English (but not necessarily both adept at and involved in reasoning). He insinuates that I have an improper purpose.

How is his first sentence an example of bulverism? It says nothing about the point: a sighting that suggests pterosaurs are still living; it avoids reasoning on the subject, instead pointing out a flaw or supposed flaw in an opponent, the essence of bulverism.

The next sentence wraps up what Karl had to say, at least at this time:

He can be as credible as you need him to be, but his story remains incredible, and contradicts common sense.

He continues the bulverism (referring to my own needs), concluding his remarks with a statement that the story (of Kuhn’s sighting of two pterosaurs in Cuba, in 1971) is incredible, contradicting “common sense.” He ends there, apparently assuming that everybody should therefore dismiss the story, with no other explanation necessary. Let’s look more closely.

Should every human experience that is out of the ordinary be dismissed because it is unusual? Where would astronomy be if all solar eclipses were disbelieved? Did the “unsinkable” Titanic actually avoid sinking, because one report of a disaster was incredible? No, the label of “incredible” does not, in itself, require anyone to dismiss a reported human experience.

So why not set aside my personal purpose and Karl’s personal purpose, to examine what Eskin Kuhn says that he personally experienced?