Continuing miseducation on Bigfoot

Community and small local colleges typically provide non-credit continuing education courses for the locals at low cost. As I’ve written about previously, it’s often art or history classes, computer training, those sorts of things. But also frequently offered are “classes” on paranormal nonsense like “How to develop your psychic powers,” “Ghost Hunting 101,” and “Tarot Reading”. I tried to sign up for some of these classes, which are inexpensive and offered after normal work hours, but the enrollment failed to meet the minimum numbers. (Darn! Yay! I can’t decide.) They are taught by adjunct faculty who often do not have a doctorate or even a masters degree. Some do not even have any formal university education but are considered local experts in a topic. Association with the facility, though, lends a very prominent sense of respectability where it’s sometimes not warranted. And, boy howdy, do some of these adjunct instructors run that line of cred to the limit.

Mostly these offerings are harmless. Yet there are a few cases when the level of woo-woo deserves a public scolding. Check out the latest incident of a ridiculous offering of pseudoscience at Centralia College in Washington.

Bigfoot Enthusiast to Offer New Spring Class at Centralia College. ‘The Old Ones, the First Americans’: Course Builds on his Bigfoot Research, Incorporates Stones He Found Depicting the Creature

Mitchel Townsend, with the college’s department of continuing and community education, will feature some of his new archeological discoveries that include hybrid hominin art and stone carvings.

According to Townsend, the class will try to identify “the very first Americans through Native American legends, new scientific theories about population migration and his own multidisciplinary independent research.”

This blotch or stain can be anything. Or nothing. To say it depicts Bigfoot is a very very long stretch since Bigfoot has never been shown to exist as a real creature.

Townsend is a Bigfoot believer. He says that these rocks depict elephants, bears and a creature similar to that seen in the Patterson-Gimlin film, the famous iconic Bigfoot evidence. His contention is that Bigfoot is a cross between Native Americans and apes. He also mentions carbon dating these rocks, which makes no sense. The rocks do not look like art and they DON’T look like Bigfoot. Though he trumpets otherwise, he has not had his ideas properly published in a scientific journal and tested. The claims do not fit in with anything currently accepted in archaeology, biology or anthropology, yet he says that his research has not been proven wrong. (I have an invisible dragon to show you, then.) A further look into Townsend’s claims reveals he talks big but has no justification for the credibility he claims.

Jason Colavito wrote about Townsend’s ideas in this post where he says the following:

Townsend, who has repeatedly claimed to have found evidence for Bigfoot such as teeth marks near his home in Washington, describes himself as a college volunteer and says that he teaches the course for free. Townsend has previously offered a continuing education class in “Bigfoot 101,” but the cost to learn about fictitious giant apes has risen significantly. In 2014, the Bigfoot 101 course was just $5, but today The Old Ones will set you back $20.

Jason also remarks on Townsend’s ideas of Solutreans as the first and true native Americans. Check out the link for more on that. Andy White describes some bizarreness about Townsend who appears to also be known as “Dr. Jonny Dagger”. Under this name, he attempted to raise money via Kickstarter to fund a scientific effort to “find and prove the existence of Sasquatch”. The impression you get from this page (which raised $1) is that this guy thinks very highly of himself. Remember, he wrote this: “Dr. Jonny Dagger is the real deal and has been described as the NEW “Indiana Jones”.” In his one video on YouTube, he calls himself a “true pioneer” of Bigfoot research. Why the other name? Why the ridiculous pictures of him in face paint and camo out “tracking Bigfoot”?

It is not clear that he ever obtained a doctorate degree or has any education pertinent to this specialized field. He lists his credentials on the Amazon page for his self-published “textbook” but no mention of his degree fields. From the “About the Author” blurb:

Mitchel Townsend is perhaps the world’s foremost authority upon Bigfoot related research and science. His research results are without peer and speak for themselves.

Citations needed for those whoppers.

I also found this quote:

He has also studied several science-related fields at several universities in the West Coast, and he possesses a master’s degree in organizational leadership. He has also studied several science-related fields at several universities in the West Coast, and he possesses a master’s degree in organizational leadership.

He does love to call himself “Professor” even though he is not a full faculty member. And he likes to praise himself highly including mentioning his GPA. What about this paper he published? Guess where it’s published? JUST GUESS…

You get a prize if you guessed Melba Ketchum’s website the Sasquatch Genome Project. Just to be thorough, I checked Google Scholar and can not find any paper by MN Townsend that has been published. It does not appear that his claims of the bones being chewed by Bigfoot have been substantiated at all, just like Melba’s efforts to prove Bigfoot was a hybrid human. Townsend’s three author paper did not generate any reasonable discussion because it was not very good or convincing. I got through the first two pages and realized it was a big effort to say nothing substantial and say it poorly with a lot of sciencey-sounding words. But if you have time to spare or want to use it as an exercise in your actual accredited college-level classes, it’s a nice exercise in spotting the unsupported assumptions and failing to provide substantive evidence for your claims. (Pro Tip: No credible paper on taphonomy defines what taphonomy is. There are red flags that signal these authors are conjuring scientificity instead of exhibiting true expertise.) What we should see from a credible academic is not egregiously egotistical self-promotion but a CV with listed credentials, some references in respectable outlets, and certainly a more professional presentation. We have none of that from Townsend.

From Townsend’s Kickstarter effort. It’s not surprising the campaign did not succeed in raising the requested $35,000.

Should this guy be teaching anything? He fits many of the characteristics of a crank. But it’s not unusual for this level of nonsense to be passed off by wanna-be academics in these public programs. They are using the opportunity to bolster their reputation by associating with an academic institution, no matter in what capacity, and successfully snookering at least some of their audience. It would be advantageous for Centralia College to stop promoting this garbage as “education”. It’s miseducation.

UPDATE (17-Apr 2017) Steven Streufert contacted me with some additional info. He originally made the connection between Jonny Dagger and Townsend back in 2015 with help from other Bigfooters. (Here is the link I should have included in the post above.) Steven informed me of two other behaviors that ruin any credibility of Townsend. First, he threatened to sue Steven for his post. (Oh, please, what a crank move!) And, Townsend deleted about 12 videos from his YouTube channel. One of which he did “in character AS Jonny Dagger.” I think that tells you more than you need to know about this guy.

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