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Abominable Science!: Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids Hardcover – August 6, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231153201
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231153201
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #359,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Loxton and Prothero have written what may well be the most important work to date on cryptozoology, taking its rightful place in the annals of skeptical literature in particular and scientific literature in general. Abominable Science! is the defining work on cryptozoology of our generation.

(from the foreword by Michael Shermer, author of The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies)

Here, at last, is a scholarly, fully referenced work that presents a thoroughly reasonable, well-argued, skeptical perspective on some of the most iconic 'cryptids,' and it is fun to read and well illustrated to boot. Combining excellent and thorough research, ample references to the cryptozoological literature, and, most important, an appropriately level-headed, critical approach, Abominable Science! offers a novel, refreshing exploration of the world of cryptozoology.

(Darren Naish, National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton)

Nearly everyone -- scientist and layman alike -- would love the Loch Ness monster and other 'cryptids' to be real. Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero, in their riveting exploration of cryptozoology, readily admit that some species (such as the living coelacanth and even the mountain gorilla) remained hidden to human experience until relatively recently. Yet they insist on hard evidence, thus running counter to the preferences of those who prefer to believe. Abominable Science! is a well-told, engaging story of skepticism. Loxton and Prothero present a lucid and compelling case to counter the false claims of cryptozoology.

(Niles Eldredge, American Museum of Natural History, author of Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life)

[ Abominable Science!] is as valuable for its analysis of the hunted as it is for the light it shines on the still-hopeful hunters.

(Publishers Weekly)

Highly recommended for readers looking for scientific but accessible evaluations of the existence of five notable cryptids that have captured our imaginations. Likely to be popular.

(Library Journal (starred review) 1900-01-00)

Groundbreaking.... A must-have. There is nothing else like it.Doubtful News

(Sharon Hill Doubtful News)

[Loxton and Prothero] offer us a sharp analysis of the quest for unreal critters -- cryptids, as they are called -- and the people who pursue them, shining an arc light onto the hoaxes and faked photos, the made-up films, faux corpses, delusions, lies and plain bad science that plague the field.... [An] entertaining and thoroughly documented book.Wall Street Journal

(Margaret Wertheim Wall Street Journal)

The authors, eminent and intrepid sceptics, seek evidence of fabulous big beasts and find nothing but fakes, folklore, pseudo-science and anecdote.

(Iain Finlayson The Times (London))

[ Abominable Science!] is a never less than rigorous examination of the evidence, and a cultural history of cryptozoology.

(Daniel Cressey Nature)

A good hard look at cryptozoology.... Loxton and Prothero lay bare the psychological roots of why such mythical creatures exist in our own minds.

(The Scientist)

Skipping cryptozoology's usual sensationalism, [ Abominable Science!] separates history and folklore from hoaxes and fakelore.

(Elisa Neckar Discover)

[ Abominable Science!] successfully reveals the influence of popular culture on what we think we see.

(Henry Gee BBC Focus)

They offer us a sharp analysis of the quest for unreal critters -- cryptids, as they are called -- and the people who pursue them, shining an arc light onto the hoaxes and faked photos, the made-up films, faux corpses, delusions, lies and plain bad science that plague the field.

(Margaret Wertheim Barron's)

[ Abominable Science!] goes back to the foundations of the Bigfoot legend and picks off the fur piece by piece.

(Christopher Farnsworth New York Post)

Fantastically thorough.

(Kyle Hill But Not Simpler blog, Scientific American)

An exhaustively-researched, color-illustrated volume that details the cultural forces (and often individual people) responsible for shaping these beasts in the public's imagination.

(Justin Hickey Open Letters Monthly)

Any science and nature collection should consider this a lively and loving acquisition.

(The Midwest Book Review)

Abominable Science! is science writing at its best.

(Glenn Dallas San Francisco Book Review)

Essential.

(CHOICE 1900-01-00)

Many good laughs... Loxton and Prothero have done a fine job of describing monsters that have an entertainment value for everyone...

(The Skeptic)

Review

An entertaining, educational, passionate, and valuable book for readers interested in obtaining a scientific perspective on the field of cryptozoology. With marvelous artwork and deeply researched histories of the various creatures, this is an impressive and authoritative book.

(Adrienne Mayor, Stanford University, author of The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myths in Greek and Roman Times)

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Customer Reviews

It's part reference book also.
kitz
One thing you are likely to see is that people will criticize the book for what it omits.
William
Donald R. Prothero and Daniel Loxton take turns at the helm.
Gwen Chabot Muir

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Dan Holland on July 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent piece of well-researched scholarship, and a very significant contribution to the field. It is welcome, if long overdue. It focuses primarily (quite correctly in my opinion) on the cultural evolution of selected cryptids, while occasionally dealing with underlying problems concerning evolutionary and ecological issues on the topic. The authors treat figures in the field of cryptozoology with perhaps more empathy and respect than they deserve, and there is generally a studied avoidance of the (understandable) temptation to intellectually skewer some of these folks. It closes with a discussion of the one of the fatal weaknesses of field of "cryptozoology" - its reluctance to "play by the rules" of science and the scientific method. Cryptozoologists bemoan the "lack of respect" they receive from main-line science and scientists, but any wounds they receive in this regard are largely self-inflicted. Well worth the money, and my thanks to the authors for this work.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Soyer on December 1, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
The Abominable Snowman. The Loch Ness Monster. Bigfoot. As a kid, I ate that stuff up. In fact, along with watching every monster movie I could, I also poured through the pages of Fate Magazine. Eventually one grows up -- but, in my case, only a little. Authors Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero have written a book, Abominable Science (Amazon link) about their investigations into such cryptozoological subjects.

Both authors are skeptics although as is quoted more than once in Abominable Science that, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." None the less, they are not believers that such critters as I've already mentioned, nor sea serpents or dinosaurs (in Africa,) exist at this time. Am I a believer? Not really, but I try to keep an open mind.

There are definitely two authors at work here with differing writing styles. Sometimes humor is shown, other times the prose is dry as a stick. There are numerous and often humorous anecdotes about the hoaxes foisted on the gullible public by pranksters. I enjoyed those sections quite a bit. In other parts, it's slow going. Their research is exhaustive. At times, in fact, it's exhausting; in a couple of chapters there's simply too much of it that simply isn't all that interesting. Incidentally, fully 40% of the book (according to my Kindle) is footnotes, references, etc.

For instance, the chapter on sea serpents recounts almost every single piece of historical writings about them. A few less examples would have moved things along, better. And yet, while I was reading the book a couple of months ago, two Oarfish washed up upon the western coast.
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22 of 30 people found the following review helpful By kitz on July 24, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
First off, while Kindle is great, I recommend you buy a physical copy of this book. It's so well made, it appears to weigh about 3 times what a normal book this size would weigh. Second, want to get your pre teen interesting in science, history, heck even art, this is the book. Of course adults will love it, I'm enjoying every chapter about each of my favorite monsters. (if you like monsters I suggest the podcast Monstertalk, it's wonderful). This is the gift for the person that loves watching "Finding Bigfoot", as well as the skeptics that wonder "just who thought up Bigfoot in the first place?" I know I'm just repeating myself, but this book has heft. You give it to someone (read it yourself of course) and it FEELS like a book should, your recipient will appreciate it. It's part reference book also. Next time there is one of those crazy paranormal shows on TV, pull the book off the shelf and enjoy the real story of the creature. Did I mention it's heavily illustrated? I belong to the local Bigfoot group, and I'm only going to let them LOOK at this book, it's too nice for them to borrow.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Matthew A. Bille on August 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Loxton and Prothero have written a very good book, a 4.5 star effort (I'll explain why I had to downgrade it just a bit) that goes on the "must reading" list for anyone interested in cryptozoology. I've been following this field for decades now without seeing anything that fills this niche - that of the scientific, skeptical (in the good sense of the word) consideration of the entire field and its most spectacular maybe-creatures.
Prothero, a geologist and paleontologist, and Loxton, a skeptical science writer (and a superb illustrator), start with the question of whether cryptozoology is a science or pseudoscience. They come down mainly on the latter side, arguing that cryptozoology as often practiced includes some of the sketchiest "science" being written today. They do nod to the recent discoveries in the animal world as evidence of what real field zoologists are accomplishing. (I do wish to note that "the beaked whale" (they mean the pygmy beaked whale, Mesoplodon peruvianus) is only one of several cetaceans described in the last two decades.)
Then it's on to the creatures, a chapter each for Bigfoot, the yeti, Nessie, the sea serpent, and mokele-mbembe. I accept the point, reinforced in the authors' much-appreciated response to a couple of queries from me, that a single book can only cover the most pivotal cases and must leave out many details even then. However, while I agree with the thrust of the argument in all cases save perhaps the sea serpent, there are some nits to pick amid the generally excellent text.
The authors ask good questions about sasquatch, including why wildlife biologists never come across it and why one of the foundational reports, William Roe's seemingly sincere declaration, was never actually investigated.
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