2 thoughts on “Giant kraken lair discovered

  1. Greg,

    Great article. Can’t help responding…

    This is a good example of ex post facto science. The late Charles Camp proposed a theory to explain the observed arrangement and density of fossils: “[It] probably represented death by an accidental stranding or from a toxic plankton bloom” with a likelihood of a shallow-water death.

    “But no one had ever been able to prove that the beasts died in shallow water.” In fact, evidence tends to “suggest it was a deep water environment”. Which leaves the door open to a better, revised theory.

    Enter McMenamin and the giant kraken. Is this the “right” answer? The alleged Kraken was a cephalopod and therefore unlikely to remain in the fossil record…

    “That means the evidence for the murderous Kraken is circumstantial, which may leave some scientists rather skeptical. But McMenamin is not worried.” As there should be — a vigorous debate on the science of the theory.

    Just as with Camp’s earlier theory, McMenamin’s not only answers the evidence, but has implications (the ex post facto version of “predictive power” and “falsifiability” that you’ve discussed before) that will no doubt be analyzed in the same way Camp’s implication of a shallow-water death was analyzed.

    Real-time science, where we can manipulate a variable and see a result, is no doubt “cleaner”. But when we don’t have that luxury (there’s no ichthyosaurs, much less Kraken, around today) the process followed by Camp and McMenamin serves well.

    Since the article had more of a popular bent (e.g. “Even more creepy…”) I just wanted to surface the underlying methodology.

    All the best,


    • Thanks for that comment, Andrew. I’ve got some more flowery posts in the queue that touch on the need to apply falsifiability differently in the historical sciences and the soft sciences that in the hard sciences.

      My thoroughly un-classical education has caught up to me: “ex post facto” =? formulated, enacted, or operating retroactively. Looked it up. Yup!

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