I had a discussion with Melba Ketchum today on Twitter regarding her continued claims that Bigfoot will be proven true. Some of it spilled over to Facebook – her favorite communication outlet. I was surprised she responded and it went on for quite a while. For those of you who missed it, good for you. But here it is mostly in its entirety (a few other tweets weren’t worth adding); see what you can glean from this.
For background, note that my site, Doubtful News, has been critical of Melba’s work with good cause. I also wrote a chronicle of the history of her project for Skeptical Briefs (which you can see here The Ketchum Project: What to Believe about Bigfoot DNA ‘Science’ – CSI) and in Skeptical Inquirer. I’m not some lone skeptic picking at her claims. She has the entire scientific community against her. She revels in being the maverick, persecuted, pulls the Galileo gambit. I find it distasteful.
This is the first time she responded to me in public. She should totally stop doing that.
Don’t flatter yourself (again). Gee, she thinks pretty highly of herself. This is not a battle. It’s supposed to be a discussion. I also don’t think I was unprofessional. She is making some seriously OUTRAGEOUS claims, not me.
There is good reason to attack the “journal” and good reason to criticize this work. She is in denial about that. We come from such different starting points that there was NO chance that we could agree on some premises and progress. Especially on social media. But I hope this was enlightening to at least reveal where she is coming from and where I am coming from.
Update 2023: The social media links are broken now. But for posterity, I did save the quotes from December 6, 2013 on Twitter:
Me: “You made your case with the paper, press releases, and in public. There was nothing new to ask you. I consulted experts instead to make sure I understood it correctly. That’s the skeptical process.”
MK: “If you were not just interested in bashing the study, you would have asked questions about our blind studies/other controls.”
Me: “The case for this should not be made to a blogger. It should be spelled out adequately in a published journal. Your journal did not allow rebuttals or letters, if I recall correctly. How were scientists to respond in line with traditional scientific publishing? This study was unorthodox in its presentation. Red flag.”
MK: “The peer reviewers didn’t even bash the science, they didn’t like the results since they were not consistent with Darwinism.”
Me: “Red flag number two (a GIANT one). If your results are inconsistent with the main tenet of biology, one of the most established theories on earth, you need to seriously consider that you are totally WRONG.”
MK: “If you people would print fact and not opinion, you wouldn’t be saying that. I am not hyping, just supporting our resesearch.”
Me: “There’s that “you people” again. Consider me the public, Melba. I have a right to question the extraordinary claim you made and to criticize your responses to those questions. I was also the voice of many who felt the exact same way and had similar concerns. I had been following the project for a long while and did comprehensive research on it. I’m not sure why she thinks I haven’t seen everything that was made public on it.”
“Why are you discussing this on Twitter? I’ve seen all you have produced and expert opinion on it. It failed.”Why are you discussing this on Twitter? I’ve seen all you have produced and expert opinion on it. It failed.”
“Put your work in the right format in a proper journal and take the criticism to heart. That’s how SCIENCE works.”Put your work in the right format in a proper journal and take the criticism to heart. That’s how SCIENCE works.”
“Real scientists answer the criticism with better data, not constant excuses.”
Doctor Atlantis (Blake Smith of MonsterTalk) chimes in: “Oh wow! Do you think your study is strong evidence that the Darwin paradigm is wrong?”
MK: “No, there is evolution, but it is more complex than simply Darwin’s original theory.”
Me: “Sorry, but your words reveal your non-expertise about evolution.”
MK: “If you need answers, I suggest you contact a real scientist/ professor emeritus, David H Swenson on FB. He did an indy review.”
Me: “I’ve seen it. Unimpressed. One review does not trump the scientific community.”
MK: “Journalists should be fair and balanced and would print both sides. We have scientists supporting the study.”
Me: “HOLY COW this is awful. I can’t believe she quoted Fox (Faux) News. She is not aware of false balance.”
“WRONG. This is not Faux News. DN (Doubtful News) reports the sound evidence and does not give equal time to poor evidence or nonsense claims.”
MK: “You just proved you are a FAUX journalist regrettably. Otherwise you would speak to scientists supporting the study also.”
Me: “I am not a journalist. We are a site that promotes scientific skepticism and call out questionable claims and bad science.”
“She does not understand the purpose of Doubtful News. At all. I’ve never said I was a jouralist. Never. Maybe I should send her my bio…”
MK: “There is no point speaking with you. I am sorry you are so closed minded and have apparently spoken with skeptical scientists.”
Me: “You are right. There is no point. That’s mutual. Serious discussions should not happen on Twitter.”
DoctorAtlantis: “Do you think you’ll be able to overturn current understanding of all evolution – or just human origins?”
MK: “The problem is that they are the opposite of what we are as far as hybrids. They have more novel DNA with only a % of human.”
DoctorAtlantis: “Time will tell. The whole genomes have so much novel sequence that they do not fit well in the current “Tree of Life”.”
I wish she WOULDN’T respond to me. There is no need. Your science should speak for itself. And my work speaks for itself. I’ve been more than fair with Melba (compared to some real nastiness from others in the Bigfoot community) and my commentary was mostly about her study, not her personally. But her personal beliefs became so entwined with her claims, and her belief biases everything she says, that I can’t take her seriously.
Just stop, Melba, you only dig your hole deeper.
If she is this committed to protecting the Forest People, she needs to go back to the drawing board and do better next time. They are poorly served by her research and behavior.