RationalWiki is a Wikipedia-style website that libels scholars and public figures who study controversial topics or are perceived to be conservatives. One of its editors decided to target me, and created an entry saying that I’m a “quasi alt-right pseudoscientist.”
When people post lies about you on the Internet it’s usually best to ignore it. But in this case I think a response is warranted for two reasons. First, RationalWiki is favored by Google’s algorithm, so virtually always comes up at the top of the search results. Second, it has an air of credibility due to its resemblance to Wikipedia—it uses the same software and is often mistaken for Wikipedia—and the fact that it mixes a certain amount of truth in with lies and misrepresentations.
RationalWiki’s standard accusation against the scholars it targets is that they are “pseudoscientists.” For example, the entry for a leading behavioral geneticist at King’s College London, Robert Plomin, is classified under “pseudoscience.” Even Cambridge University Press has an entry, which is classified under “pseudoscience” as well as “racism.” CUP is described as “ostensibly a respectable academic publisher [that] routinely publishes material espousing racialism and hereditarianism, some of it written by known white nationalists and pseudoscientists. The publication of this material by Cambridge University Press, as well as similar material published by Oxford University Press, is sometimes brought up by racialists to argue that their ideas are real science….[I]t is in fact a garbage publisher.” Targets are often accused of being “white nationalists” or “alt-right.” (The “alt-right” is a political movement whose members support white nationalism, hold negative attitudes toward nonwhites, and believe that Jews are undermining white gentile civilization for their own benefit.)
Anyone with an Internet connection can create pages and edit RationalWiki. This is true for Wikipedia as well. The difference is that Wikipedia has a community of editors who make an (imperfect) effort to remove falsehoods and obviously biased content. RationalWiki’s editors will accept almost any contribution so long as it’s written from a radical left-wing perspective. This means that anyone can pursue a vendetta against any academic/journalist/commentator by creating a negative RationalWiki page about them, and their writing will be prominently displayed when the person is Googled and will often be confused for a Wikipedia entry.
The entry about me was written by a single, anonymous contributor on April 21st and 22nd, 2019. However, I know the identity of the writer. He is a notorious troll and cyberstalker named Oliver D. Smith. ODS suffers from serious mental illnesses including schizophrenia. After being banned from editing Wikipedia he created a new account and was banned again…more than 100 times. But he is given free rein on RationalWiki. Before becoming a radical leftist circa 2012 he was associated with the far right. He contributed to the neo-Nazi Internet forum Stormfront, where he wrote the following in 2008: “I have been in support of white nationalism since i was 16…and i oppose multiracialism.” As of September 2019 he is being sued for libel for falsely calling someone a pedophile on the Internet—since he has no defense he will presumably lose the case.
My page is based almost entirely on tweets, most of which are taken out of context or given insane interpretations. I feel it would be tedious to try to give the full story behind each tweet, but I’ll briefly describe the context in which many of them were written. In 2018 I published an academic paper criticizing alt-right thought leader Kevin MacDonald—a retired psychology professor at California State University, Long Beach who argues that Jews are genetically and culturally adapted to undermine gentile society to advance their own group interests. The paper stimulated an intense debate that played out in academic journals, magazines, preprints on ResearchGate, and Twitter. I engaged with MacDonald on his own terms, since I believe this is the most productive way to conduct such a debate. That means I never called him names or dismissed him as an anti-Semite or anything like that. Some of my tweets criticizing his theory have been (willfully) misinterpreted by ODS and others as expressing support for white nationalism and/or the alt-right. I do not know for sure what their motivations are, but some people find it rewarding to accuse others of being racists or white nationalists regardless of whether the accusation is true or justified.
I published the comments below on April 25th, 2019. Since then ODS made some minor updates to my page. I do not plan on responding again, except to make one point. He added me to a list of people “using the alt-center label,” which he claims is used by “individuals in the alt-right community who try to present themselves as political centrists and moderates.” This is a lie. I never even heard the term “alt-center” until I read on RationalWiki that this is how I describe myself. I also do not identify, nor have I ever described myself, as a “centrist” or a “moderate.” I do not have strong political views, but if I had to choose a label it would be Burkean conservative.
Nathan Cofnas is a quasi-alt-right pseudoscientist associated with the HBD (“human-biodiversity”) movement.
First, the “pseudoscientist” accusation: At the time this was written my website listed 12 academic publications (all with links to the full text). Presumably it is in these papers that I promulgated my “pseudoscience.” To back up the accusation, you would expect to see some illustrations from my scholarly work. There are none. The page’s bibliography contains 31 references. Approximately half are to tweets (12 references are to my tweets, 3 to other people’s tweets). There is only a single reference to one of my academic papers, and 3 references to popular articles I wrote. The page does not contain a quote from any of my papers or articles. It does not even attempt to summarize any of my papers.
I don’t know why I am accused of being “quasi-alt-right” rather than “alt-right.” Maybe it’s because the main thing I’m known for is criticizing the alt-right. Most people who search my name online know this. It could be that ODS decided it wouldn’t be a credible lie to call me “alt-right” without qualification—thus I am “quasi-alt-right.”
I don’t know what the “HBD…movement” is.
Cofnas is affiliated with the Ulster Institute for Social Research…
False. I am not “affiliated” with the Ulster Institute for Social Research.
and attended the pseudoscientific London Conference on Intelligence in 2017 where he met Edward Dutton…
When I was an undergraduate I developed an interest in the scientific study of intelligence and became friends with my classmate Michael Woodley, who went on to become an intelligence researcher. Woodley helped organize a conference on this subject at University College London, and I attended a few of the talks. (This was in 2016—I was in the UK at the time because I was studying for an MPhil at Cambridge.) If I remember correctly, the first talk was by Gerhard Meisenberg, who claimed that men and women have equal mean IQs. Noah Carl gave a talk about whether intelligence is sufficient to explain the overrepresentation of liberals in academia. I don’t remember the details of the other talks I heard—I think some of them were about developments in psychometrics, and I am not a psychometrician.
The conference became controversial because some journalists described it as a “secret eugenics conference.” UCL disavowed it and stripped the main organizer (James Thompson) of his title “honorary senior lecturer.” As far as I can remember—and I think I would remember—none of the talks that I heard were about “eugenics.” In any case, I am not an intelligence researcher, so even if the conference was “pseudoscientific” it would not be my pseudoscience.
I’m not sure why it’s noteworthy that I met Edward Dutton. Dutton wrote a defense of Kevin MacDonald’s theory that Jews are genetically adapted to undermine gentile society. I published a rebuttal to Dutton that strongly criticized his approach to science.
and has written a book published by the Ulster Institute for Social Research (reviewed by Michael A. Woodley of Menie, although he later withdrew it from publication).
In 2012 the Ulster Institute published a book I wrote when I was an undergraduate. A couple months later I asked them to withdraw it from publication. They agreed to do so, and gave up their claims to the copyright. That is my connection to the Ulster Institute.
While Cofnas rejects anti-Semitism because he is Jewish and has debated Kevin MacDonald, he espouses many viewpoints shared by the alt-right such as anti-feminism, anti-left-wing/progressive politics, social conservatism, climate-change denial, hereditarianism, racialism and eugenics.
There are multiple lies packed into this sentence. Some of the viewpoints that I supposedly espouse concern topics that I have never publicly commented on at all, such as feminism and social conservatism. No evidence whatsoever is given that I espouse “anti-feminism” or “social conservatism.” In fact I am not a social conservative. “Feminism” means lots of different things. If it means we should provide equal opportunities and equal protection for women, I’m for it. If it means men and women are biologically identical, I’m against it. In any case, ODS made these claims up out of whole cloth. I’ve never endorsed “eugenics.” (As of now I haven’t thought through the issue of eugenics, and don’t have developed views on it. If “eugenics” means state-sponsored murder, I’m against it. If it means allowing parents to select embryos, I’m probably in favor of it. It’s noteworthy that some leading political philosophers on the left, including John Rawls and Allen Buchanan, have endorsed versions of eugenics.) Comments on “climate-change denial” are below.
Cofnas is sympathetic to climate-change denial, for example he questions the scientific consensus of anthropogenic (man-made) global warming and claims he disagrees with labelling climate-change denialists as pseudoscientists, furthermore he describes scientists who accept the evidence of anthropogenic global warning as “climate alarmists”:
Big mistake to equate “climate change denial” w/ creationism. Evolution is one of the most successful theories in history supported by all evidence for 160 yrs. Climate alarmism is based on computer models w/ poor record of prediction and fake “consensus.” —@nathancofnas
The first reference  is to my article in The Weekly Standard, which explains that the “consensus of 97%” of climate scientists that climate change poses catastrophic risks is a fake statistic. ODS makes no attempt to refute my argument.
The debate is not about whether there has been some man-made global warming. All serious so-called “climate deniers” acknowledge that carbon dioxide has a greenhouse effect, and that human activities have caused some warming. The controversy concerns (a) how much warming we could potentially cause and (b) whether the warming poses dangers that are worse than the consequences of lowering CO2 emissions. My view is that we should not try to settle the issue by appealing to authority or taking polls of scientists. I stand by my tweet saying that the theory of catastrophic global warming—a highly politicized theory based on computer models that contradict each other and whose predictive power is far from proven—should not be equated with one of the best-supported theories in all of science—evolution.
Cofnas formerly studied under Neven Sesardić. Like Sesardić, he identifies as a proponent of hereditarianism and “racial realism” (a term used by white nationalists like David Duke as well as the HBD online movement). He argues human races are valid biological categories against the scientific consensus they’re not…
ODS can claim that human races aren’t valid biological categories, but it can’t say that this is the “scientific consensus” because many prominent scientists say that race is a valid category. For example, David Reich, who runs a leading genetics lab at Harvard, just published a book containing a chapter called “The Genomics of Race and Identity,” which discusses the genetic basis of race and the possibility that there are significant, genetically based race differences in traits like intelligence. He writes: “whether we like it or not, there is no stopping the genome revolution. The results that it is producing are making it impossible to maintain the orthodoxy [about race] established over the last half century, as they are revealing hard evidence of substantial differences across populations.” There may still be a controversy about race and race differences, but my view that race is real is not opposed to “the scientific consensus.”
he disagrees with the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2019) Statement on Race and Racism:
The usual pseudoscience: race isn’t real b/c we share 99.9% of our DNA & “a substantial body of research demonstrates” that race diffs are caused by “interpersonal” & “structural racism.” —@nathancofnas
The quote is from my tweet about the American Association of Physical Anthropologists’ recent statement on race. The statement claims that “Race does not provide an accurate representation of human biological variation.” Part of the evidence marshalled to support this assertion is that “Humans share the vast majority (99.9%) of our DNA in common.” I do indeed view the AAPA’s statement as politically motivated pseudoscience. And the race-isn’t-real theory is being rejected by a growing number of mainstream scientists, particularly those who are aware of developments in genetics (which does not necessarily include physical anthropologists).
In regards to the average IQ of Ashkenazi Jews, Cofnas defends the hereditarianism hypothesis opposed to environmental explanations:
Jews have a higher average IQ than gentiles because of genes, not because Jewish mothers train their children to be good at taking IQ tests. —@nathancofnas
My quote is misrepresented. Someone wrote on Twitter: “I wish someone would translate this [study] for someone like me – the scientifically illiterate.” My response was a summary of the study (which I was not involved with), not a declaration of belief.
In 2015, Cofnas published an article in Foundations of Science that has been criticised for making misleading claims about race and distorting (cited) sources:
The February 2015 edition of your journal included a paper by Nathan Cofnas (Science is Not Always “Self-Correcting”) which referenced my 1988 article, “A New Look at Morton’s’ Research.” Unfortunately, Cofnas has misrepresented the conclusions of my paper to make it appear that my findings verified the craniological research and overall conclusions of Samuel George Morton. Although my re-measurements of the Morton collection of skull did indicate that Morton’s measuring technique generated data that was “reasonable accurate,” I also prominently noted that the way in which Morton classified human into races (as he defined the term race) was “meaningless.” Thus, Morton was measuring arbitrary subsets. As a result, his anthropometric research was pointless. Morton might as well have been accurately measuring the skulls of twenty-four categories of humans whose names began with different letters of the alphabet. I am dismayed that Cofnas has failed to mention the most important aspect of my research. It is only recently that I found out Cofnas’ colleague, Neven Sesardic also misrepresented my work in a similar way in his 2005 book Making Sense of Heritability. —John Michael
This is the one place where ODS (sort of) engages with my work, not by quoting what I said or explaining why it’s “pseudoscience,” but by copying and pasting a criticism from someone’s personal website.
In the 19th century, American naturalist Samuel George Morton measured the cranial capacity of nearly 1,000 human skulls of different races. He reported that the races differ in mean cranial capacity, with Caucasians having the highest and Africans the lowest. In his book, The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould reanalyzed Morton’s data, and claimed that there were no significant differences in cranial capacity among the races. John Michael—at the time an undergraduate—remeasured more than 20% of Morton’s skulls and concluded that Morton was right and Gould was wrong.
In my 2015 paper I wrote the following: “Michael (1988) actually did remeasure more than 20% of Morton’s skulls (the collection has been preserved), and found no evidence of bias on Morton’s part.” This was an accurate representation of the conclusion of Michael (1988, pp. 351, 353), which said: “Of the crania measured by Morton, 201 were randomly selected for remeasurement….Contrary to Gould’s interpretation, I conclude that Morton’s research was conducted with integrity….He was attempting to understand racial variation and not, as Gould claims, trying to prove Caucasian racial or intellectual superiority.”
John Michael, however, claimed that I “misrepresented” him. Michael left academia after receiving his BA, but he hosts a website (michael1988.com) where he comments on issues related to his paper. He did not claim that the statement I made about his analysis of Morton was incorrect. Rather, he said that I misrepresented him because I didn’t mention the fact that, in his paper, he stated that he objected to the study of race in general because he believes that race is meaningless. I can only say that I think he is unfamiliar with citation practices in academia. A paper that reports an empirical finding can include the author’s opinions on various topics. A researcher who cites the empirical finding is not obligated to give a platform to the cited author’s opinions that are not relevant to the issue in question.
In December 2018, Cofnas defended Islamophobic pseudoscientist Noah Carl writing “Noah is a good guy” and ranting about left-wing academics:
This is the hill we must die on: We cannot allow Noah Carl to be fired/penalized for heresy. The left always wins in academia, not by winning arguments but by censoring & intimidating. Successful persecution of Noah would mean the end of free thought in the UK for a generation. —@nathancofnas
Regarding the accusation against Noah Carl, see his response to his own RationalWiki entry (which was also written by ODS).
ODS wrote a libelous RationalWiki entry about Carl and emailed it to the authorities at St Edmund’s College, Cambridge, where Carl was employed. The RationalWiki page also inspired the students at St Edmund’s to begin protesting Carl. In response the College launched an investigation. As of now Carl’s case has not been resolved. I stand by my claim that allowing him to be penalized for controversial research will have disastrous consequences for free thought in the UK. (UPDATE: Carl was fired and is suing St Edmund’s College.)
Cofnas is an anti-vegetarian and bizarrely argues vegetarianism is a form of political correctness.
Reference  is to a tweet where I comment that veganism may carry health risks. ODS fails to mention that I published a paper on the potential health risks of vegetarianism in a leading peer-reviewed nutrition journal—presumably because this makes me seem like less of a crackpot than if I’m just a guy who writes “anti-vegetarian” tweets. If he wants to establish that I’m a pseudoscientist, he should refute the argument in my peer-reviewed paper.
Reference  is to a tweet where I say, not that “vegetarianism is a form of political correctness” (which doesn’t even make sense), but “Vegetarianism/veganism are part of the package of political correctness.” There’s a lot to say about the politics surrounding meat and diet. I don’t want to undertake a long analysis, but I think the basic idea expressed in the tweet is obviously correct: there is some relationship between vegetarianism and political correctness.
“Ok, he’s a racist but not a white nationalist. Glad we can all agree at last. Sorry for calling you a white nationalist Nathan, should have called you a hateful racist as*hole instead. Please accept my apology.” —@RealYeyoZa
For some reason anonymous Twitter troll @RealYeyoZa is cited as an authority. The reason this is surprising is that most of @RealYeyoZa’s tweets ridicule leftism, and he has stated that he himself believes in race differences in intelligence. But on Twitter, @RealYeyoZa claimed: “i got a DM with some reliable info about him [Cofnas]. He’s a full blown white nationalist…” He would not reveal the “info” that proved I’m a white nationalist. When I noted that “I’m a Jew living in Korea with my Korean wife while engaging in a war with the alt-right,” and that he was clearly a liar, he responded with the tweet quoted above.
Cofnas is right-wing, arguably racist, and shares many alt-right viewpoints (especially concerning race). He has claimed the alt-right has “some basis in logic and facts”, but is critical of the alt-right for its anti-Semitism.
The first sentence here doesn’t make any specific claims, so I can’t really respond. The second sentence misrepresents my tweet where I say that the alt-right has “some basis in logic and facts,” making it sound like I support the alt-right except for its anti-Semitism. In the tweet I was pointing out that, if you want to have a productive debate, you have to acknowledge when your interlocutor is right about something. Some anti-racists have condemned me for critiquing Kevin MacDonald’s theory about Judaism because to engage with him, and acknowledge when he says something true, supposedly “legitimizes” him. Condemning alt-righters without making an effort to understand the logic behind their views, and without acknowledging that it’s possible for them to be ever be right about something, is in my opinion a foolish strategy.
Despite being Jewish, Cofnas dislikes the ADL and he opposes feminism and left-wing politics.
Reference  is to a tweet where I say nothing about feminism or left-wing politics in general. (The tweet says: “I have criticized leftists just as much as I have the alt-right.” This does not mean that I oppose “left-wing politics.” In fact I support some left-wing policies and oppose others.) Here is the article in Quillette (not cited by RationalWiki) where I explain my problems with the ADL.
Cofnas is a fan of the philosopher Michael Levin who the SPLC describe as an “unabashed white supremacist”.
Reference  is to a tweet which says the following: “Here’s the AmRen store: store.amren.com There’s a book by Michael Levin, and ‘The Color of Crime’—probably the most well-known AmRen publication—is also written by a Jew.” I was responding to a tweet asking me to give the “names and links to writings of Jews who promote White nationalism.” I have never said anything good or bad about Michael Levin, and certainly never said I was a “fan” of his.
On Twitter he follows alt-right individuals and white nationalists such as Emil Kirkegaard (whom he often retweets), Hbdchick, Lauren Southern, Stefan Molyneux and Steve Sailer.
People who are familiar with Twitter know that following does not mean endorsement.