June 14, 2017

Living Pterosaurs and Skepticism

By the modern-pterosaur expert Jonathan Whitcomb

Previous post on this subject: "Modern Pterosaur in an Old Photo"

Criticisms of Living Pterosaur (LP) Investigations

I'm grateful that no recent online criticisms appear to attack me or my associates with accusations of dishonesty. Yet the validity of our investigations have been constantly under attack from a man who appears to be protecting old assumptions or standards of paleontology.

Glen Kuban and I do have a few things in common, although we stand on opposite poles with evidence for modern pterosaurs.

  • Each of us believes the other one is not objective: too biased
  • We are passionate about our perspectives
  • We have each written tens of thousands of words, online, on the possibility of modern pterosaurs (yet we often come to opposite conclusions)

The Size of the Article "Living Pterosaurs" by Kuban

This online publication is longer than many books. Using an online character counter, I found that his June 14, 2017, version of "Living Pterosaurs" has 218,798 characters. Divide that by 5.1 and you'll see the estimated number of words in Kuban's article: 42,902.

Take that in perspective. An average blog post may have about 300 words, although they vary a lot in length, depending on the subject. That means "Living Pterosaurs" is about 143 times as long as an average blog post. The author certainly takes his subject seriously.

Yet take that in perspective: Over the past 14 years, I have written well over a thousand web pages and blog posts about modern pterosaurs, with relatively few of them short, and a significant portion of Kuban's article is about me and my writings. In fact, he mentions my name 405 times in his one long publication (Whitcomb is spelled correctly 404 times). Most blog posts probably have fewer than that many total words.

Factual Errors in "Living Pterosaurs"

Be aware that when I point out a factual error in "Living Pterosaurs," Kuban may correct that error in a reasonable time. But the potential underlying source for those errors does not necessarily vanish when he makes that kind of correction. I suggest he has a major problem with bias, and that it has greatly influenced his long online publication.

1) Wrong quote source and completely out of context

Kuban says that in my book Searching for Ropens and Finding God (the edition published in 2014, which is the 4th edition), it says that "keeping witness identities secret will help avoid 'making life too easy for hoaxers'," and he puts the apparent quotation in quote marks: "making life too easy for hoaxers." But when I did a search process on a pdf version of that book, nothing remotely like those words could be found. It appears that Kuban has made a factual error in this.

I then did a Google search with those six words in quote marks and found only one page that appears to exist online: that place in Kuban's page where he appears to quote from my book. So if he did not get those six words in the book where he says they exist and those exact words don't seem to exist online except where he wrote them, where did he get those six words?

I searched in my most recent book, Modern Pterosaurs, and those words are not there, but when I searched in my book Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition) I found them on page 18. Yet the context is completely different:

". . . the reasonings behind my judgements [sic] of eyewitness credibility are often kept secret, to avoid making life too easy for hoaxers."
It has nothing to do with eyewitnesses being anonymous. The beginning of the paragraph says, "I kept certain facts about the person and his testimony secret," but then the subject changes:

". . . But anonymity of the eyewitness is only one reason for my secrecy. Until the ropen and other pterosaur-like creatures graduate from cryptozoology into zoology, until they are acknowledged and classified in scientific journals, investigators may be vulnerable to a hoax; the reasonings behind . . ."
In other words, Kuban made two factual errors in one sentence, and the result is this: It makes my communications with eyewitnesses, over a period of almost 14 years, appear to be of little value, when someone reads those words in Kuban's article.

Here's an image of part of page 18 from my book:

2) Amateur mistake: NOT a computer generated image

Kuban states that the sketch reported to have been drawn by Susan Wooten "actually appears to be a computer generated digital image." He gives no reason for that conclusion, so my best guess for what he was thinking is this: He found some version of that image, a version that had a pattern in the interior shading of the image. But the outline is critically important, not the inside shading.

The above image was taken from the Amazon page of Live Pterosaurs in America, showing a tiny bit of interior shading

The original image was a line drawing, with no shading inside the lines of the animal's wings and body. Perhaps I should have just left it that way when I published it in the book. But Kuban makes a factual error, for he then says, "raising questions about how it was made and by whom, and how closely it resembled what she actually saw (or originally drew?). In reality, you don't need to read my book (Live Pterosaurs in America) to find much information this: Do an online search with "Susan Wooten sighting" and read her own words and see her sketch without any interior shading.

In other words, there is no question about how it was made (a simple line drawing), no question about who made it (Wooten), no question about how closely it resembles what she drew (she approved the multiple publications of the image). One person with no professional experience with digital image processing might think there was a problem, but no real problem has ever existed here.

3) Not all flying lights are pterosaurs

Kuban says, concerning various flying lights, "Whitcomb suggests that they all may be due to 'bioluminescent' pterosaurs." Yet those are his words; he gives not quote or suggestion for where I said that. Since his statement appears all-encompassing ("all may be due to"), I suggest he made another factual error here, for that is not at all what I have portrayed in my writings.

I believe that SOME of the strange flying lights seen in various places in the world may be from bioluminescent pterosaurs, but many others may be from other sources.


I believe that Kuban has made a significant number of other factual errors in "Living Pterosaurs," but I'll not make my own post any longer here. His factual errors appear to me to be of the kind that come from not just simple carelessness: from a significant bias against the possibility that the LP investigations conducted by me and by my associates have been important and that many eyewitness sighting reports are valid evidence for the existence of modern pterosaurs.


Copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb ("Civil War Pterosaur Photograph and Skepticism" on modernpterosaurs.blogspot.com)

Civil War soldiers with a modern pterosaur
Before giving a brief history of our investigations of this old photograph, I present a recent discovery related to the source of what we now call “Ptp,” what some people would call the “Civil War” Pteranodon photo.

A reply to Glen Kuban
Scientific skepticism can be useful, when a scientist is criticized on a particular point. It can sometimes allow him or her to make a needed correction and improve the original idea. But when extreme bias exists in either that scientist or the one doing the criticism, problems arise.

A partial reply to Glen Kuban
Unfortunately, in revising “Living Pterosaurs (Pterodactyls),” Kuban added a long string of paragraphs that attacked the possibility that Ptp might be a genuine photograph. I could write a book in response to his web page of 60+ paragraphs, but we’ll have to settle for a short reply here, concentrating on a few details in some of the new paragraphs.

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