Book Review on Amazon
On April 12, 2013, a skeptic of pterosaur sightings posted a brief review on Amazon, dismissing my recently published book Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea. At first, the review appeared to me a mistake or a dishonest attack, for my book examines many sightings of apparent pterosaurs and emphasizes four critical encounters, four pillars of cryptozoological credibility in my opinion, not just “two” reports; I thought perhaps ”WS” referred to a different book, not mine. After looking more closely, I noticed the adjective “intriguing:” The critic wrote, “The book really consists of one or two intriguing reports.” But the other adjective, “really,” can mislead people into thinking my book examines no more than two eyewitness sightings, which is far from the truth.
Perhaps WS gave my book two stars instead of one because the reviewer found one or two of the reports intriguing; WS doesn’t say. But I’ll address some of the criticisms.
I was also struck by the title of the book review, “more religion than investigation,” for I had carefully avoided including any preaching while writing Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea (LPAPNG). This is a cryptozoology book that exhorts open-minded examination of eyewitness evidence, nothing like a book on religion. Part of one page refers to the non-religious accomplishments of a few Biblical creationist explorers, their interviews with natives in Papua New Guinea, but that hardly changes the genre of the book: “cryptozoology.”
False “Racism” Statement
I have done a word scanning of this book. The words completely absent include:
Nobody will find any of those words in the book, for they’re absent.
The reviewer wrote the following:
He describes science . . . and even equates it with racism . . .
At first, the comment on racism lead me to suspect the person writing this review had not read my book but some other publication instead, or had read more than one author and had become confused. Never in my life have I written anything that even hinted at the idea that science “equates” “with racism.” I then scanned the book for the word “native” and found nothing supporting the critic’s words, but I found two statements almost relevant:
The natives were not trying to deceive us into believing in a fictional creature, contrary to what some American critics later proclaimed. [from the chapter "Another Expedition on Umboi Island"]
Was WS thinking that accusing natives of dishonesty is racism? I can see that possibility. But why would the critic believe that “some American critics” equates with “science?”
WS says that I complain “that scientists no longer believe in human honesty.” Where did I say that? Searching again in the book, scanning it for “lie,” (equivalent to “deceive” and related to “honesty”), I found the following in the first chapter:
On that point, I have found many rejections of eyewitness testimonies to be far from objective and far from mild-mannered. One skeptic, a non-scientist, built a whole web site to ridicule the concept of modern dinosaurs and pterosaurs, putting the words “stupid” and “lies” into the URL address of the site. [from the first chapter, "How can pterosaurs be alive?"]
Did WS overlook “non” and equate “non-scientist” with “science?” Many readers, including myself, have made that kind of reading mistake, especially when we are expecting a particular point of view in what we’re reading. Was the critic simply careless in reading only portions of the book? WS gives no material explanation and gives no example for his conclusions. Why? The more merciful explanation that I see is that WS was careless; I will not assume the worst.
I sometimes write about pterosaurs and religion, but this book, Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea, has almost no religious content at all except for a few sentences about expeditions of creationist cryptozoologists who interviewed native eyewitnesses in Papua New Guinea. This is a cryptozoology book, notwithstanding WS makes no mention of that fact.
I think I know what WS meant when, in the middle of the brief review, that critic wrote, “Maybe someone will give this subject a serious treatment at some point, but this isn’t it.” I suspect WS means that the book is not a “serious treatment” and perhaps the “subject” was eyewitness accounts of apparent pterosaurs. The critic gives no details or explanation. I respond, “Maybe someone will write a more precise review, based on the actual contents of the book, but this review isn’t it.”
Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea
You will here find reports of encounters with apparent living pterosaurs, including many accounts never before published in any book. Other sighting reports are condensed from the print book “Searching for Ropens.” The ebook you are now examining is neither exhaustive nor rudimentary, but it explains most of what most Australians, and others, need to know about what might, on rare occasions, fly over their heads at night.
I believe in living pterosaurs and hope they will soon be officially discovered. More important, I believe in you, that you can soar above dogmatic assumptions about extinctions. I hope that you already understand that we are more than a by-product of culture: Our existence transcends the boundaries of the human cultural assumptions that have shaped our beliefs.
Now is the time for us to listen carefully, to think clearly, and to act accordingly rather than simply react when a cultural belief is contradicted: now, not after the official scientific discovery of modern living pterosaurs.
After WS communicated with me about our differing points of view, he agreed to change the title of his review to “More scientific approach would have been more effective.” More recently, I noticed that I had neglected to include the word “cryptozoology” in the Amazon “Book Description.” I have now submitted additional words to make the genre clear. (I’m as human as anyone else.)
Readers have come forward, soon after the publication of this negative review, offering support for my book. A notable comment comes from the prolific author Michael Newton, who wrote one of the most respected nonfiction books of cryptozoology ever published, Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Here is what he says about my newest book:
“Jonathan Whitcomb’s Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea adds important new information to his previous works on this subject. Disputes over theology aside, ‘young earth’ creationists remain the primary dedicated field researchers pursuing reports of these most intriguing cryptids.”
Michael Newton Author of 78 nonfiction books, including many on cryptozoology
Why believe in a living pterosaur? Why disbelieve an eyewitness of a living pterosaur? Some who first learn about these investigations assume they are using scientific skepticism when they skip the decision to investigate for themselves. Of course, not everybody can delve into every report that appears to have the eery glow of the paranormal. But skipping the decision to look deeper is not scientific, even when the word “science” is used in repeating a century-plus old indoctrination of a whole society.
This species of critic is not satisfied at destroying an idea; they appear anxious to destroy the reputation of anyone who disagrees with them. More than once this kind of critic, on this online forum, has accused me of dishonesty for using something other than my real name, and this when those same critics use fantastic online names that must be made-up. Once, on the same forum of commentators with obviously made-up online names, I was accused of deception for using my real initials instead of my real full name. Really!
From the third edition of the nonfiction book Live Pterosaurs in America
“Since the two ropen expeditions of 2004, in Papua New Guinea, more Americans have learned of the living-pterosaur investigations and the many resulting eyewitness interviews. Many web pages have sprung up, many of them by explorers themselves. But despite other web pages, by scornful critics who never went anywhere and never interviewed anyone, those two expeditions, and those that preceded and followed them, are causing an awakening, opening human minds in the birth of a new perspective: Universal pterosaur extinction has been an assumption; some pterosaur species are still living.”
Referring to creationists, in the first sentence Konkus uses the word “idiocy,” and in the second sentence, “idiot.” Starting off like that brings up the concept of bulverism. Also in the second sentence, Konkus gives a straw man argument, rather than quoting any creationist.
Third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America (nonfiction/cryptozoology)
From an Amazon review of the second edition of this book:
This is an updated review of the book and I am changing my rating to 5 stars. This book has been on my shelf for almost a year now. I pick it up every now and then and a part of me becomes more impressed by the book every time. . . . I highly recommend this. You may find yourself almost believing in it, although that is not even the authors intent! Whitcomb painstakingly reviews every account for credibility and reason. This man is not a crank. He tries to weed out would be hoaxes and miss-identification. This is not a guy looking to create evidence to confirm his own beliefs. On top of this, I have great respect for a guy who follows his dreams so passionately. He has traveled to Papua New Guinea to search for the creature there and this book is somewhat of a sequel if you will. After Whitcomb traveled to New Guinea, he started to collect more stories from North America concerning the pterosaur like creature . . .
Whitcomb is a pterosaur expert in the cryptozoological sense, interviewing eyewitnesses of flying creatures whose descriptions make them obvious candidates for a modern-pterosaur interpretation.
How sad that some critics have misunderstood not only the nature of faith in God but the nature of science! Consider now the importance of human experience. How can science exist without human experience? By definition, operational science involves what is repeatable and observable. Galileo succeeded, in the long run, because he provided a way for people to see not just specks of light circling Jupiter: a way for people to open their eyes to a new idea. Others could repeat the same observations—that is an example of operational science.
To call a number of persons “liars or deluded” because they make similar observations—that criticism now needs to be addressed. It came about in June of 2007, on a forum discussion on cryptozoology.com. “Rainbow Medicine Man” (RMM), after a number of comments by several writers of various opinions said (among other things):
- No 6K year Earth, friend. That is not so. And not being so is a FACT, not a theory.
- The Geological record is very accurate, and consistent. Also a FACT.
- There’s no fossil record of any ptero since 65M years. If some managed to survive, they would’ve changed beyond recognition, but they haven’t; they went extinct. No Ramphorynchus!. Again, a fact.
That is why I claim that these who say to have seen pteros are liars. Or deluded. It is surprising the percentage, of lately, of Creationists between the witness. Ask myself why?.
But RMM was replying to my statements, and I was not commenting on the age of the earth or the accuracy of the “Geologic record” or fossils. I made two long postings. The first one mostly referred to the Destination Truth expedition (which was NOT a Creationist expedition at all) in which a flying light was videotaped; later analysis could not find any explanation for the cause of the light. My second posting mostly referred to sightings of apparent pterosaurs and to those sightings in which an apparent pterosaur was seen to glow.
Why did RMM bring up the subject of religion? Why did he assume that all the investigators have the same religious belief? In the same comment, he later said, “Some Christian factions are really dangerous.” He seems to be oblivious to the possibility that the investigators I mentioned or alluded to may have a wide variety of religious beliefs, for some of them were members of the Destination Truth expedition, which was not at all a religious excursion, despite the name. Did RMM look only at the outward appearance of the name “Destination Truth” and assume that all those explorers had the same “dangerous” religious beliefs as me and Garth Guessman and David Woetzel?
Listing ones beliefs and appending each one with the word “FACT”—that does not prove ones beliefs. And it does not prove that those eyewitnesses who have seen something outside the philosophy of RMM are all “liars” or “deluded.”
Besides the possibility of Frigate Bird misidentification, what else do critics suggest? Perhaps the oldest misidentification suggestion, for reports of living pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea, has been “Flying Fox fruit bat.” It seems to satisfy reports of large featherless flying creatures in the southwest Pacific, but there are problems with “misidentified bat.”
Fruit Bats or Pterosaurs?
Look at the details in eyewitness accounts, for details often shoot down the misidentified-fruit-bat conjecture. A long tail mocks that interpretation, as does fish-eating and hanging right-side-up on a tree trunk. A giant size may also shoot down the Flying Fox, especially when the wingspan is estimated at over twenty feet. In addition, that long horn at the back of the head—that indicates a non-fruit-bat, for that bat has nothing like that pterosaur-like appendage.
Duane Hodgkinson, on the mainland of New Guinea in 1944, and his army buddy saw a giant flying creature take off into the air. Why “giant?” For one thing, Hodgkinson estimated the length of the tail to be “at least ten or fifteen feet.” (The Flying Fox fruit bat has almost no tail.) In addition, the wingspan appeared to be close to thirty feet, far too large to be any bat. It now appears obvious that this World War II veteran had witnessed the rare daylight-flight of a giant ropen.
Some critics suggest that descriptions of a long tail come from a bird’s feet, held back while flying. Consider details in the eyewitness testimonies. Hodgkinson first saw his “pterodactyl” when it was running to get airborne. The feet of a bird cannot appear to be running and held back straight at the same time.
Another problem with “misidentified tail” is this: Many eyewitnesses are sure about the lack of any feathers on what they saw. Birds have feathers, even those birds that may appear to have a long tail when their feet are held back in flight.
And what about overall size? One eyewitness described the length of the flying creature he saw: close to the width of the road on which he was driving. His estimate was probably not far wrong, for the creature was flying low as it crossed that road. I later measured that road myself: close to thirty feet. No bird has feet long enough to make its total length anywhere near thirty feet.
One or two critics, at least, have suggested that eyewitnesses exaggerate size because of fear or surprise. A couple of problems jump out at me there. For one, why would a bird cause anyone to be surprised or fearful enough to think that they had seen a “pterodactyl?” In Hodgkinson’s case, he first thought that he was watching a bird, for it was flapping its wings. Only later, after he had considered the details on that flying creature and its extraordinary size, did Hodgkinson think “pterodactyl.”
Some eyewitnesses have no fear, for the flying creature is far away, at least when they first notice it. Obviously fear does not cause any misidentification when there is no fear.
Some Youtube viewers may have taken a Frigate bird for a ropen, but that is irrelevant to the many sightings of flying creatures that are obviously not Frigate birds. For those who still may doubt, consider these characteristics of the ropen and its behavior: glowing brightly at night, carrying away the recently-buried body of an adult human, appearing in clear daylight with a wingspan of at least twenty-two feet, carrying giant clams up into the interior of Umboi Island (clam shells over fifty pounds). The ropen is no misidentified Frigate bird.
Misidentified Mechanical Model
Some critics suggest a mechanical model caused an eyewitness to believe in a living pterosaur. Under scrutiny, this breaks down. How could Hodgkinson have seen a model pterodactyl in that remote jungle wilderness in 1944? And how could that model, flying years later but in that same area, pick up an adult human and carry the victim away to be eaten?
For recent sightings of pterosaurs, in the United States, how do model pterodactyls fly without any sound and behave like living giant pterosaurs? Why do so many eyewitnesses mention the graceful flights? Those characteristics need to be addressed, not dismissed or ignored. And why, when some eyewitnesses have shown no fear, do critics fear the obvious: modern living pterosaurs?
When several thing each suggest a living Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur, suggestions of a misidentified bird, bat, or model evaporate. The problem is not that all eyewitnesses misidentify a non-pterosaur: Critics misidentify pterosaur sightings for anything and everything else that they can imagine.
“The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.” I believe Nikola Tesla was thinking clearly when he said that. I also believe that we need clear thinking in the scientists of today, at least as much as in the time of Tesla. It appears to me difficult to define, although its opposite appears easy to expose. Perhaps we should be grateful for extremes that help us to distinguish between foggy and clear thinking. I suggest a couple of examples.
A few years ago, a critic of living-pterosaurs investigations appeared offended that I had, on one of my own web pages, included a link to a creationist site; he demanded that I remove that link, insinuating that I should not be taken seriously because of that link. I now suggest that those who can be offended by such a thing should consider this: Bias is not necessarily confined to those who disagree with you.
I later found a site produced by another critic; he used the words “lies” and “stupid” in his URL, with the content of his site ridiculing me and my associates. Not to repeat much of the content, I simply refer to part of it: He declared that “John Whitcomb” had been sponsored by Carl Baugh and led a group of creationists in an expedition in Africa; I have never gone by the name of “John,” have never been sponsored by Carl Baugh for anything, have never led any group of creationists on any expedition anywhere, and have never set foot in Africa.
Regarding his URL, I have told the truth, not lies; I hope that he was simply ignorant of my intentions. I make no comment about “stupid,” although I sometimes admit that my general intelligence may be inferior to that of some of my readers and my education may seem less impressive than that of some of my critics (not, it seems, this one), but let’s return to ”clear thinking,” for that is the subject.
I admit this subject cries for me to dig more deeply and learn more about human thinking, but one thing is obvious: We need to listen to each other, regardless of previous disagreements and regardless of differing labels. Truth can be found in the thoughts of those appearing to be most ignorant and foolish. Even my own most vehement critic did reveal some truth about me: My last name is “Whitcomb” and I am active in promoting the concept of modern living pterosaurs; this critic may have actually helped promote awareness of the case for living pterosaurs.
By the way, I did explore a remote island in Papua New Guinea (north of Australia) in 2004. I traveled to P.N.G. alone and found an interpreter on the mainland, before taking a small ship to Umboi Island. I interviewed many eyewitnesses of the ropen. My associates and I are convinced that this nocturnal flying creature is a modern Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur.
My critic may have confused Papua New Guinea with a small country in Western Africa. He may also have confused me with John C. Whitcomb who wrote The Genesis Flood many years ago. He may also have been confused by my assistance from Paul Nation, who was once a close associate of Carl Baugh. He may also have been confused about the two expeditions of 2004, for the second one was led by two American creationists and they followed my expedition by only a few weeks.
After I had replied to this web site, stating the inaccuracies, changes were made, including the correct spelling of my name: “Jonathan Whitcomb.” The newer page mentions nothing about my being in Africa. I appreciate that correction.
But many other inaccuracies were added, related to sightings and the living-pterosaur investigations. For example, the two indava lights videotaped by Paul Nation in 2006 were compared with high-speed UFO’s (the two lights were actually sitting motionless on the top of a nearby ridge). The critic mentioned those videotaped lights “flying in the sky above the peaks of volcanoes located on Umboi Island created by creationists possessing fake credentials.” (I suspect he was trying too hard to cram too many criticisms into one sentence.) At any rate, the videotaped lights were on the mainland of Papua New Guinea, nowhere near Umboi Island. I’m afraid that the critic has a problem with clear thinking, for he still tends to become confused.
I don’t know why this critic uses the words “lies” and “stupid” for me and my associates; I assume that it is also from some kind of confusion.
Objective interview methods of Guessman & Woetzel (2nd Umboi Island expedition of 2004)
“Objective Ministries” is a parody or hoax. The university is nonexistent. There’s no “objectiveministries.”
Regarding the sighting reported by Eskin Kuhn (two pterosaurs flying in Cuba in 1971), according to one blog writer, “The claim is a hoax. I no longer have the patience for dealing with creationist-related debunkings and I have no intention of actually writing up one for this topic.” But read the whole blog entry (it’s short) and you’ll find not a milligram of evidence for any hoax. It seems to be just another case of a critic ridiculing a concept because it is supported by persons who have the label “creationist.”
I have interviewed Eskin Kuhn (early 2010) by surprising him with a phone call; he had no time to prepare how to respond. The first thing he said to me was something like, “It was a long time ago.” He confirmed that the desciption he gave of the two apparent pterosaurs was an honest report of what he had seen; in early 2010 he had nothing to add, subtract, or change. I was moved by the high credibility of this man who has, since his 1971 sighting, been doubted by some critics. But I found strong indications that there was no hoax.
Let us recognize that much ridicule against living-pterosaur investigations has, at its root, a controversay regarding origin philosophies. Those who ridicule the researchers and interviewers often do so because they have adopted a different life-origin paradigm, very unlike that of creationists.
More about the pterosaur sighting by Eskin Kuhn
Compare the pterosaur sketches by Kuhn and Tullock