Wednesday 15 June 2022

Dover Clown's Day Off

I've recently been in a debate with somebody on the internet (Yes, I know!) about the strange case of the Dover Demon. In this debate I have discovered a perfect example of the "clown's day off" fallacy. The Dover Demon is a strange creature reported by four people in three separate sightings on two nights in April 1977. They took place in the small and isolated town of Dover in Massachusetts USA. The being is described as four legged with very thin legs and prehensile paws on all four limbs. Its head was bulbous and had huge eyes that glowed green or orange. It had no other facial features. Despite its slight similarity to a grey alien, no spacecraft was reported in the vicinity at the time. The fact that it was seen near a river on all three occasions has led some researchers to suggest it might be an aquatic cryptid instead of an extraterrestrial. Or it might possibly be a "puckwudgee", an etheric being from Amerindian folklore. Skeptics mostly claim that the witnesses all saw a foal from a local farm, even though it was the wrong season, or a baby moose, although there are no wild moose in that region. This video is a good summary: However, it was on another more slapdash video that I had the debate. A YouTuber called "Richard Delmuth" wrote a very skeptical comment; which, needless to say, I took him to task for in a reply. He asserts that the witnesses all conspired to hoax their encounters. He is so certain of this that at the end of the comment he puts it: "Case CLOSED: HOAX!" (his emphasis). He correctly points out that all the witnesses were teenagers and attended the same school. No surprise there; Dover is a small place, a village by British standards, and it only has a single school. But then he goes on to add: "I think there are clues in Bartlett's sketch indicating the 'sighting' was a hoax. In the brief written description he provides he stated the skin colour of the thing was of a colour like purple. Curiously, he misspelled a simple word like 'purple' as 'PROPle'; an odd 'mistake' to make for a seventeen year old about to graduate high school!... Was he insinuating by misspelling the word that a PROP or model of the creature thing was used to sketch it from? Both Bartlett and Baxter made well delineated drawings of the thing... Baxter may have made the clay prop/model for them both to draw the images of the thing from." With those words he commits a classic case of the clown's day off fallacy. Source:
I call it the clown's day off fallacy because, theoretically, one could hypothesize that the Loch Ness Monster phenomenon was a total hoax perpetrated by a clown with a day off from the circus. You might ask "What clown? What circus?" but according to the fallacy, the skeptic does not need to answer this. He has made an alternative non-cryptid suggestion, and it doesn't matter how unlikely or absurd the alternative is; in fact it doesn't even matter if there is absolutely zero evidence that it ever occurred. All that matters is that it does not involve dinosaurs in a Scottish lake and therefore it wins by default, according to some principle I fail to understand. When using this fallacy, debunking becomes nothing more than a feat of the imagination. I explain more in my recent talk at SUFON, see the background link below; the relevant part starts around fifty-nine minutes in. Mr Delmuth has no evidence a prop was constructed. All he is going on is Bartlett's typo and the fact that Baxter happens to be an artist. That's a pretty flimsy correlation upon which to build your case; yet Delmuth ends his comment with the absolute certainty that his accusation is correct... I look forward to continuing our wrangle!
See here for background:

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