“Stupid Dinosaur Lies” or Truth?

Australia and Papua New Guinea stamps on passport

Within the past few weeks, at least two posts have accused me, Jonathan Whitcomb, of deceiving people. The second writer, “idoubtit,” seems to have been convinced by the first one, Dr. Donald Prothero, regarding my online writing behavior. But when Prothero responded to me, he appeared to reveal two sources for his conviction that I have used deception, and the earliest source is the site Stupid Dinosaur Lies, more recently relabeled “PaleoFairy Tales Exposed.” Let’s look into this more deeply.

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; I don’t recall. I do remember, and recorded in my file, one original page on Stupid Dinosaur Lies, and it had at least five errors in one sentence:

  1. Misspelling of my first name: “John” (should have been Jonathan)
  2. Misspelling of my surname: “Whittcomb” (should have been Whitcomb)
  3. Was I really sponsored by Carl Baugh? No.
  4. Did I really lead YEC creationists on an expedition? No.
  5. Was the expedition really in Africa? No.

That’s a lot of mistakes in one sentence, those errors of fact, and the truth can be verified. I do not imply that this sentence remained on that site for years, but it was similar to other declarations on the original site: full of errors. I have no interest, at least for the moment, in reading recent pages of that site. If the writer has recognized those errors and admitted them, then good for him (or her).

Let me make this plain: I am not accusing the originator of Stupid Dinosaur Lies of deception. I am defending the honesty of me and my associates. That ludicrous sentence with five errors does suggest the writer was more likely to have been careless than dishonest. But the accusations, direct or indirect, are against those of us who have traveled to Papua New Guinea to search for living pterosaurs and those who later reported what was found in eyewitness testimonies.

Whitcomb-Paina Expedition of 2004

I recognize that writers sometimes make mistakes with errors of fact; I myself am a writer, and the first edition of my first book included the misspelling of the surname of my interpreter on Umboi Island (correct is Paina). What you are now reading was published on December 11, 2014, but I made corrections 24 hours later, correcting errors in both English grammar and in statements of fact (“September 22nd” is correct for my arrival date in Papua New Guinea in 2004, as you will read below).

So why do I bring up one sentence written by a skeptic years ago? It’s in the nature of his accusation and the relevance to my expedition ten years ago. The error is far deeper than that one sentence with five mistakes.

Let’s begin by establishing that I really did travel to Papua New Guinea.

Australia and Papua New Guinea stamps on passport

Passport page (Jonathan David Whitcomb) for Australia and Papua New Guinea

The following is to the best of my knowledge of what happened ten years ago.

The above image of a page in my passport shows a departure date from Australia: September 21, 2004. We boarded the plane in Cairns, AU, on that date, but we had to get off the plane before it took off, for the pilot was unhappy with a problem with the paperwork for the flight or paperwork for the plane. Although he had no doubt that the plane was safe, he went by the book and refused to fly it until the paperwork was corrected. We, the passengers, were taken off the plane and got a free night in a hotel in Cairns. We took off without further incident the next day, September 22nd. That explains the date of arrival in Papua New Guinea (it was a short flight).

Honesty of Jonathan Whitcomb, in the  past

The critical point is this: Skeptics who wrote online comments and pages that at least implied that I was less than honesty—those critics failed to see the landscape of the forest, instead focusing on a stain on the bark of one tree, a stain they assumed must be bird poop . . . so to speak.

I returned home to the United States convinced that the ropen is real and a modern Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur (I am still convinced of that). I wrote countless web pages and blog posts on the subject, which probably relates to why that skeptic created his own site: Stupid Dinosaur Lies.

Yet he probably failed to see a simple problem with his proclamations about dishonesty: I returned home to the United States declaring that I had seen nothing like a living pterosaur. I even failed to see the brief light that natives of Umboi Island have observed flying at night for so long.

Now please consider the problem with a “lie” accusation here:

  • Jonathan Whitcomb writes about the possibility of modern pterosaurs
  • He never saw anything like a living pterosaur on his expedition

Remember, this is not about my foolishness, which is irrelevant here; it’s about my honesty. If I had any desire to deceive anybody into believing in extant pterosaurs, I would have declared I had seen something flying over my head. I admitted that I had seen no animal that supported my belief. Therefore I was honest.

Honesty in the present

So how can my accusers respond to the above? Have I somehow become dishonest at some time in the past ten years? Do a Google search on “apparent pterosaur” (using those quote marks) and see what comes up: not many pages from skeptics who dispute the possibility that any pterosaur can be still living; most of the pages were written by me, with some of them obviously being written years ago and some of them more recently. In other words, my posts and pages dominate all others, when one searches online with “apparent pterosaur,” and that means the following:

I admit: a particular sighting may have come from something other than a pterosaur.

Does that look like a declaration of a liar who wants to deceive people into believing in modern pterosaurs? The point of modern pterosaurs is in the overall landscape of eyewitness testimonies: Many of them (not all) are from encounters with modern living pterosaurs, including large Rhamphorhynchoid ones.

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Honesty in Reports of Modern Pterosaurs

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. . . . A deceiver intends to lead someone away from truth; intention is a critical ingredient of the poison. Nobody can accidentally deceive anyone.

Dr. Prothero and “Fake Pterosaurs”

 I avoid linking to libelous pages, and this one includes “Whitcomb admitted the deception in July, 2014″ and links to one of my posts. Strange to tell, but that post of mine explains why I was NOT being dishonest in using pen names.

The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Big Truth

This same critic says that sightings are “made by natives . . . plagued by superstition,” but where is the evidence of any plague of superstition? . . . My own experience in Papua New Guinea has shown that this is not the case. Whatever superstitions the natives of Umboi have, they are not mentioned or implied when native eyewitnesses report what they have seen (almost without exception). This critic has explored what remote island, interviewed what native? Has this critic even read an original eyewitness report? If so, where is the evidence for relevant superstition?

Bulverism Revisited

An average reader who gets very far on that [libelous] 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?

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Honesty in Reports of Modern Pterosaurs

Jonathan Whitcomb on his 2004 expedition in Papua New Guinea

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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Pterosaur Eyewitness Reliability

village huts in Sudan, Africa

I’ve not yet seen with my own eyes a living pterosaur. I explored a remote island in Papua New Guinea in 2004 but failed to see the ropen. I walked through a wildlife reserve in Orange County, California, in 2008, but failed to see the ropen-like flying creature. I set up a game camera in Lakewood, California, in mid-2012, but after examining 9,823 photographs I have failed to see any image of a living pterosaur. So why do I believe that they exist? It’s the eyewitness reports.

What do the following descriptions have in common (quoting eyewitnesses)?

  1. no feathers / tail it was very long & had a bushy or hairy tip / long bone looking thing sticking out the back of its head
  2. the same sort of texture as suede (i.e no feathers) / had a long thin tail
  3. They don’t have any feathers / tails about 3 to 4 meters long / LONG NECK
  4. no feathers / [tail length] 7 meters / diamond [on tail]
  5. no feathers in sight / longish narrow tail / [out the back of the head] It was like a horn
  6. did not appear to have any feathers / a long, skinny, pointed tail / diamond shape at the tip [of the tail]
  7. he had no feathers
  8. the head had a crest . . . solid, not feathery at all / tail was very long / [tail] ended in a thick, heart-shaped pad

Featherlessness and a long tail—these are reported from around the world. Sometimes an eyewitness will also report a head crest, sometimes a long neck, sometimes a structure at the end of the tail (“diamond”). For the above, here are the eyewitness report locations:

  1. Sudan, Africa – July of 1988 – from a native
  2. Spain – summer of 2007 – from a man from England
  3. city of Pagbilao, Quezon Province, Philippines – around 1994 – from a native
  4. Lake Pung, Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea – about 1994 – from natives
  5. Bougainville Island, (Papua) New Guinea – 1971 – from an Australian
  6. Brampton, Ontario, Canada – 2004 – from a Canadian
  7. Zaandam, Holland (Netherlands) – from a Dutch man
  8. Near Winder, Georgia, USA – 2008 – from a Georgian lady

Many other eyewitness reports we could examine, with flying-creature descriptions that clearly tie in with the above sightings. I once interviewed an attorney who had witnessed a giant featherless flying creature with a tail about fifteen feet long. Last week I received an email from a U. S. marine stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; he saw a large flying creature with a “cone protruding from behind its head” and a “very long tail” that had “a diamond shape at the end.” That sighting was on January 2, 2013.

These kinds of descriptions can be found in accounts from around the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia and Papua New Guinea, although not every eyewitness has noticed every one of the following details:

  • lack of feathers
  • long tail
  • structure at the end of the tail
  • head crest
  • long neck

But many eyewitness report two or three of the above, especially featherless appearance and long tail.

Eyewitnesses from various countries, of various cultures, with various languages—those common persons have encountered uncommon flying creatures, but significant details in descriptions are commonly repeated: long tail, head crest, structure at tail end, no feathers. Those differences in the eyewitnesses, when added to similarities in descriptions, equal an actual creature, a real flying creature, not extinct but living in our modern world of diversified humans.

Why Doubt Pterosaur Extinction?

Is the pterosaur-extinction idea a modern concept? No. It’s an old assumption, originating about two centuries ago, and it deserves to be buried alongside the long-held assumption (long ago dismissed) that the sun revolves around the earth.

The first pterosaur fossil discovery, in 1784 (four years before George Washington was elected president), was decades before Charles Darwin began writing about evolution. Where did those early fossil researchers get the idea of pterosaur extinction? It was just an assumption, originating from a few researchers who were ignorant of extant nocturnal pterosaurs. That leaves a world of room for us to doubt the universal extinction of all species of pterosaurs.

For those who still think extant pterosaurs are hard to believe, they should try explaining human mentality to an animal. The less intelligent animals live by instinct and to some extent by experience; the most intelligent animals learn more from experience and from following parents who have experiences the younger ones have not yet had. I know that human imagination is important, but some humans would be much better off following the examples of intelligent animals, for imagining ancient extinctions is far less reliable than listening to eyewitnesses of living creatures.

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village huts in Sudan, Africa

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Clear Thinking

“Trust one eyewitness of a plane crash over the imaginations of a hundred professors who’ve agreed how that plane should fly.”

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Bulverism and Extant Pterosaurs

C. S. Lewis, in the mid-20th Century, noticed an unfortunate trend becoming popular . . . bulverism

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Boy sees pterosaur in Texas

pterosaur seen by Aaron Tullock in Texas in about 1995I interviewed Aaron Tullock by email in January of this year. I delayed publishing his account until I had established a firm credibility base for this eyewitness, for part of his description of the apparent pterosaur differs from other accounts: The long-tailed flying creature was mostly colored orange and black.

Late in the afternoon of a day with “only a few clouds,” eight-year-old Aaron was looking around the yard of his grandparents’ home. Something flew over his head (coming from behind him, so he could not have seen it coming) and stopped by hovering eight feet above the ground.

The creature flew away before the boy’s mother entered the yard, and she discounted the encounter as a combination of a bird and a child’s imagination. His young age might seem to count against his credibility, but he reported many details that count against this coming from the imagination of an eight-year-old. A number of factors count against any hoax with this account. The long tail with a Rhamphorhynchoid-like shape at the end, together with absence of feathers—these count against any misidentification involving a bird or bat. What’s left except “Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur?”

I’ll give this more attention before I write the second edition of Live Pterosaurs in America. (The 2nd edition might not be published before early 2011.)

More: Giant Rhamphorhynchoid flies over Lake Pung, Papua New Guinea