Update on the Civil War Photograph
The original post below was written in April of 2013, long before the early-2017 proclamation by Clifford Paiva and me, Jonathan Whitcomb. For a more up-to-date post, see “Skeptical Responses to Civil War Pteranodon Photo.”
I don’t display this version of this photograph as clear and convincing evidence for a giant pterosaur living during the American Civil War. As of 5:00 a.m., April 10, 2013, after spending several days researching and analyzing comments on this photo, and personally examining the photo itself, I rate the probability of its authenticity, in its original portrayal of a modern pterosaur, at only 30% [but before the end of January, 2017, this estimate approached much closer to 100%. See “Skeptical Responses to Civil War Pteranodon Photo”]: More than likely those soldiers were not posing for a photograph next to the body of a recently deceased pterosaur, at least close to how it appears here. But comments from skeptics I found unconvincing and worse.
I do submit others’ comments on this photo as clear and convincing evidence for Western bias against the concept of a species of pterosaur living in human times.
Who is Jonathan Whitcomb?
I believe I have written more nonfiction books and blog posts on modern pterosaurs than any other person on earth, which quantity of words proves nothing about my own objectiveness, to be sure; but those who’ve read even a little in those books and blog posts should have no doubt about this: I have spent much time and thought on the subject, more than any other person on earth, as far as I know, and that should count.
Who am I to judge bias against the possibility of modern pterosaurs? I cannot look into the heart of each skeptic who dismisses reports of living “pterodactyls,” but I draw conclusions from the reasoning in many of their comments. I often see similarities in weak arguments for universal extinction and weak arguments in dismissing eyewitness testimony. Consider what has been written about this apparently old photo of six Civil War soldiers and a huge Pteranodon-like winged creature or what looks like that kind of pterosaur.
Missing Fingers of Soldier #1
Some skeptics have pointed out missing fingers and opposing thumb on this poor Union soldier (above), the first man on the left in the top photo. It’s unlikely from any injury suffered during the Civil War. Those critics give this detail as if evidence of a hoax. Let’s look a little deeper by comparing his rifle with that of soldier number six:
Of course this man, soldier #6, has his fingers intact, but look at the rifle. What else is missing from the enlarged image of soldier #1, besides fingers? I’m no Civil War expert, but I see that soldier #6 has his rifle turned in a way that reveals the gun’s ramrod. Soldier #1, on the other hand, has a rifle in which the ramrod is not showing.Why could not soldier #1 be holding onto a ramrod that is turned away from our view? How obvious! But it takes time and thought to discover that kind of detail.
We have a more serious problem with the missing fingers insinuation. Consider hows and whys of photo manipulation regarding soldier #1. If a Photoshop job caused the soldier to have missing fingers, how did that occur? The critic, probably unknowingly, brings up the possibility of a cut and paste hoax operation; that brings up a big problem.
If an adept Photoshop hoaxer made a slight error and cut off that soldier’s fingers, what happened? He would have cut out the original rifle in an old Civil War photo, and then pasted onto the image another rifle. But why would he do such a thing? (And why not just paste an image of a giant Pteranodon onto a photo of Civil War soldiers?) Why bother cutting out and pasting rifles?
Did the original photograph show a soldier without a rifle? Then why was that soldier holding out his arm, as if holding a rifle? The critics who bring up missing fingers completely fail to comprehend both a ramrod ramification and the unbelievable image-origins that their words imply.
With all that said, I myself do not imply that no manipulation was done on the image shown in the top photo, the image with six Union soldiers. I have found details that could be explained through an image-manipulation hoax, both by Photoshop and older techniques. But most of the details that Skeptics bring up as if evidence for a hoax are either worthless or of questionable value.
Bias Against Modern Pterosaurs
Why do so many skeptics simply dismiss this Civil War photo as if it had been proven to have arisen from a hoax? Western people have been indoctrinated, for generations, into universal extinction dogma. It’s drilled into us since early childhood. How difficult it is for us to accept a photograph of an apparent recently-deceased or still living pterosaur!
That severe bias can cause a skeptic to latch onto any little detail in a photo, proclaim it as evidence of a hoax, and then dismiss the whole matter. I don’t suggest anybody simply accept this photo on face value, to satisfy an inward desire that dinosaurs and pterosaurs might still live; I suggest we need to think more clearly, search more deeply, and try to be more open minded to various possibilities.
The sad truth is that if one of my associates or I were to photograph a modern living pterosaur tomorrow, and display the photo to the world, many skeptics would simply dismiss it as a Photoshop job. They would probably give it little attention except to search for something that would justify their previous conclusion about extinction. How we need clear objective thinking!
To begin, I do not present Photo #1 as overwhelming evidence for the existence of a huge modern living pterosaur that has a head suggesting a Pteranodon; I interview eyewitnesses, and some of them report sighting details that have convinced me that huge pterosaurs (rare and nocturnal as they may be) live in this modern world of ours.
My wife and I were sitting outside when motion from above the tree tops to our left caught my attention . . . We were looking at two extremely large birds flying together . . . 15-20′ wingspans . . . appeared to be featherless.
My associates and I hope that our efforts will someday directly yield photographic evidence and even the capture of one or more of these flying creatures; but for the moment, let’s consider photos that have already been held up as images of possible pterosaurs . . .