A notorious troll and cyberstalker named Oliver D. Smith wrote a 5,600-word hit piece with 115 references about me for a website called RationalWiki. This is one of the first results to show up when you Google my name.
What Is RationalWiki?
RationalWiki is a Wikipedia-style website that lets people post smears about scholars and public figures who study controversial topics or are perceived to be conservatives.
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.”
Who Is Oliver D. Smith?
Smith suffers from serious mental illnesses including schizophrenia. He is what sociologists call a NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training), and he has unlimited time for cyberstalking and harassing people. After being banned from editing Wikipedia he created a new account and was banned again…more than 100 times. Soon after creating the entry about me he was banned from editing RationalWiki for doxing another editor, but he found a way to circumvent the ban.
Before becoming a radical leftist circa 2012 Smith 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.”
In 2018 he posted the false claim on several Internet message boards that independent scholar Emil Kirkegaard is a pedophile (e.g., “it’s obvious to anyone, Kirkegaard is a paedophile”). In 2019 Kirkegaard sued him for libel in England. Smith argued that, although his statements were false, they were “expressions of opinion” rather than “statements of fact.” (The bar to win damages against someone for defamatory expressions of opinion is much higher than for defamatory statements of fact, since you must prove that the opinions were not “honestly held.”) An English judge made the bizarre ruling that Smith’s statements were “defamatory” but “expressions of opinion,” so Kirkegaard dropped the case.
False and Misleading Claims about Me
The entry about me begins:
Nathan Cofnas is a right-wing anti-vegan activist, climate change denier and PhD philosophy student who supports hereditarianism and “human-biodiversity” pseudoscience. He is rather notorious online for claiming people have libelled him and threatening people with libel suits.
My anti-vegan “activism” consists in publishing two papers (including one coauthored with a prominent nutrition researcher) on the possible health benefits of meat in a leading peer-reviewed nutrition journal (here and here).
The claim that I am a “climate change denier” is based mainly on my article in The Weekly Standard about the fallacy of appealing to scientific authority, and how the consensus-of-97% statistic is fake. Smith goes on to say that “Cofnas describes scientists who accept the overwhelming evidence of anthropogenic global warning [as] ‘climate alarmists.'” This is false, since I never denied that there has been some anthropogenic warming. “Climate alarmism” refers to some extreme claims about what actions are called for in response to global warming.
I have published multiple papers on the scientific and ethical issues surrounding hereditarianism in respected peer-reviewed journals (e.g., here). These papers have been favorably cited and promoted on social media by mainstream experts on psychometrics. I have never used the term “human-biodiversity.”
In the section, “Threatening people with libel suits,” Smith lists several people/organizations, including himself, whom I supposedly threatened to sue for libel. This is a complete lie. I have never threatened to sue anyone. Smith collected every one of my tweets from the last few years that described someone as having “smeared” or “libeled” me, and pretends that I was threatening to sue them. In fact, I was simply describing people’s behavior—no legal threat was ever made or implied. If I were going to threaten to sue someone, I would do so under the guidance of a lawyer, not by tweeting that someone had “smeared” me.
Smith quotes a tweet where I say that “I’ve consulted with lawyers in both the US and the UK about this very issue [i.e., libel],” and falsely claims this was a legal threat. In fact, I was explaining why I wouldn’t sue someone who had libeled me. I have never publicly revealed which instance(s) of libel I consulted with lawyers about. In principle, I support libel laws. I don’t believe you should be allowed to, for example, express your dislike for someone by publishing a false claim that they are a pedophile.
I’m not going to go through all 5,600 words of the entry about me line by line. In most cases one can easily uncover Smith’s lies by following the references (when there are any) to see how they are being misrepresented. In short: don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, even if it’s written on a site that looks like Wikipedia…or even if it’s actually on Wikipedia.