As an Agonist contributor I have had an opportunity to add many of the different tags available under the Topics column. I noticed one recently that I’ve never used: Unproven Stories. What’s an Unproven Story?
Sasquatch came to mind. This is the tall, hairy human-like creature that is said to roam the woods of the Northwest United States. Sasquatch is the American yeti, probably invented when someone wondered why the Himalayas should have a monopoly on abominable snowmen.
Sasquatch used to be quite popular up to ten years ago, and you could always count on a one hour special on the History Channel or maybe Animal Planet, asking the rhetorical question: Is Sasquatch Real? Well, of course he was real, since they always showed this fifteen second footage of Sasquatch walking rather agilely through the Northwest forest. Then one day we learned that this footage was fake: the man who created it left a confession in his last will and testament.
Pretty much that was the end of Sasquatch. He pops up on television must less frequently, and producers don’t dare show that footage. All they’ve got as proof is some size 18 footprint cast that any teenager could have made up for a science project. End of Sasquatch, and one Unproven Story that has succumbed to reality.
But that’s not all. When is the last time you saw Elvis, or read of anybody seeing Elvis? For a while after his death, people just didn’t want to believe that the King was truly dead. Supermarket tabloids sold a lot of papers with grainy photos of Elvis being sighted in parking lots or at Dunkin’ Donuts (Krispy Kreme hadn’t been invented yet – Elvis would have loved those!)
Maybe the Elvis sightings got tiresome and editors found they were no longer selling papers, but for some reason they died out, just as Elvis did in real life. Yet another solved Unproven Story.
Over in the U.K., they’ve had two similar bouts with reality. One of the great modern myths – the Loch Ness Monster – succumbed to the same fate as Sasquatch. The de rigueur film clip of Nessie poking his or her snake-like head out of the waters of the Loch Ness was proven to be fake. The creator of this film was revealed and the fakery was explained.
The exact same thing happened to the craze over Crop Circles. Some young people admitted to creating Crop Circles and showed on the BBC how it was done. It was all relatively simple. This must have disappointed Queen Elizabeth – she had expressed some curiosity and a slight bit of alarm when the Crop Circle fad was generating several every day.
I too will miss Crop Circles. Many of them were magnificently designed – in fact too much so to attract the aliens, which was ostensibly the purpose of Crop Circles. Also, the Brits do their manias with a classiness that is totally lacking over in the U.S. The study of Crop Circles was dubbed Cerealogy, and a learned journal was produced for awhile. It was only a matter of time before Oxford or Eton offered a degree in Cerealogy.
So now we have four triumphs of reason over the Unproven, all in just a short period of time. What’s next? I would dearly love to put to rest the Shroud of Turin. One more nail was driven into this coffin today with this announcement out of Jerusalem:
I doubt if this will convince the true believers, though. We are after all talking about religious belief, which relegates to itself the power of faith as the only evidence necessary for the most preposterous of claims. Plus a lot of people make their living off the Shroud of Turin, not to mention alien abductions, the yeti, the chupacabra, and even something called the Jersey Devil (a creature which haunts southern New Jersey, of all places).
There are just some Unproven Stories that people want to believe in despite all the evidence. Some people think the U.S. Senate to be the Greatest Deliberative Body in the World (that’s how it describes itself). I think it deserves a more modern, realistic title: The Largest Regular Assemblage of Self-Perpetuating Multimillionaires Anywhere.
It is certainly an Unproven Story that the Senate is doing the Will of The People. I doubt that The People think so. Just a few years ago the voters of Missouri elected a dead man to the Senate rather than the Republican – hardly a vote of confidence in the Greatest Deliberative Body.
I think that if Elvis or Sasquatch were on the ballot they would easily get elected to the U.S. Senate. Yeah, yeah – it’s an Unproven Story; but try to disprove it. Let’s just call it an article of faith, that we’d all be better off if the Senate was populated by 100 mythical creatures like Sasquatch or the Jersey Devil. Any one of them would be far less terrifying than, say, Joe Lieberman.