| The colorful pseudoscience|
|Hating thy neighbour|
|Divide and conquer|
Nathan Cofnas is a right-wing[note 1] 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.
- 1 Background
- 2 Threatening people with libel suits
- 3 Pseudoscience and questionable views
- 4 Politics
- 5 RationalWiki
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
His CV on his website shows he's never had a job and oddly cites his non-academic webshite publications in the right-wing online magazine Quillette and conservative National Review Online. He has published in peer-reviewed journals such as The American Sociologist, Human Nature and Personality and Individual Differences. His co-authors include Islamophobes and eugenicists such as Noah Carl and Michael A. Woodley of Menie.
Cofnas claims to have been a vegetarian in his youth but he is now an anti-vegan activist and outspoken opponent of plant-based diets who instead promotes omnivorous diets. He bizarrely argues vegetarianism and veganism is a form of political correctness and claims "vegetarian and vegan diets may be associated with serious risks for fetuses and growing children".
Threatening people with libel suits
“”...so far critics have done little more than smear me with ad hominems and defamation...
“”I have a lot of people who are trying to smear me.
Cofnas is active on social media and primarily uses Twitter to get into heated debates with other users who do not share his views on the controversial topic of race and intelligence and HBD. In several of these past debates, Cofnas — was quick to claim his debate opponents libelled him, but the documented examples below show there was never any actual evidence for defamation. He has threatened people with libel suits for merely holding an opinion of him that isn't positive or for criticising his work.
In August 2018, Steven Klein a politics lecturer at King’s College London described Cofnas as follows:
Cofnas bizarrely responded by claiming Klein had smeared him despite all Klein did is post verifiable claims that are substantially true:
“”It noted two easily ascertained facts - you published with the Ulster Institute and attended the London conference. if there is something I am missing about that, the floor is yours to clarify.
In September 2018, Cofnas claimed Gerard Harbison a Professor of Chemistry at University of Nebraska had smeared him:
“”your research skills aren't very impressive. I'm a DPhil student in philosophy at Oxford. My AOS is the philosophy of biology--if you haven't heard of it, you obviously know nothing about analytic philosophy. Although you've smeared me several times now, you've...
In September 2019, Matthew Gabriele a Professor of Medieval Studies at Virginia Tech called Cofnas an anti-Semite after quoting one of his own controversial statements: "it is an undeniable fact that, in the past few hundred years, Jews have had a disproportionate influence on politics and culture in the Western world, if not the whole world." Cofnas responded by claiming Gabriele had libelled him.
In February 2020, Cofnas misleadingly claimed South Carolina philosophy professor Justin Weinberg posted lies about him that probably met the "legal criteria of defamation":
“”Also important: After the petition failed, Justin Weinberg used his platform to promote vicious lies that I argued for segregation/apartheid—lies that probably meet the legal criteria for defamation. Very few philosophers seem to be concerned about this flagrant abuse of power.
The article Cofnas claims is most likely libel, while posted by Wienberg was not written by him but Mazviita Chirimuuta, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, and Michael Dietrich, Professor and Chair, of the Department of History & Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh.
Cofnas seems to have misread Chirimuuta and Dietrich's article that doesn't claim he "argued for segregation/apartheid", but instead says one of his paper's "includes arguments as to why we might have to consider reintroduction of apartheid schemes" (emphasis added).
By October 2020 Cofnas seems to have retracted his dubious claim of libel and described Chirimuuta and Dietrich's article as preposterous.
“”I've consulted with lawyers in both the US and the UK about this very issue. I know exactly where the line is *legally*, and when I would be in a position to sue. Dishonesty is your shtick, so I'm sure you won't correct it. Just pointing out the misrepresentation for the record.
In October 2020 Cofnas incorrectly claimed John Jackson a historian at Michigan State University had defamed him by saying he supports racial segregation: "This is defamation per se, so I wouldn't need to prove damages." Jackson responded by showing Cofnas actually misread what he wrote: "The line that so offends Cofnas does not claim that Cofnas advocates segregation. The sentence does not even attribute the “two-tiered” idea as one advocated by Cofnas, but one advocated by “hereditarian researchers” when they call for a “two-tiered educational system for White and Black people." Jackson did not say Cofnas supports racial segregation but cited a Cofnas publication (in brackets) to make a claim hereditarians in the past have. After it was pointed out Cofnas misunderstood what was actually said, and he was made to look like an idiot, he backed down claiming "I definitely 'have a case' for suing him, though I won't do that and it would be difficult to win."
Cofnas later disingenuously said he never made a legal threat against Jackson, despite claiming to have "consulted with lawyers" and saying he "had a case" for suing him". Other individuals interacting at the time with Cofnas' tweets read them as clearly implying a legal threat.
“”Character assassination by RationalWiki: "Nathan Cofnas is a quasi-alt-right pseudoscientist associated with the HBD movement."
“”RationalWiki is a Wikipedia-style website that libels scholars and public figures who study controversial topics or are perceived to be conservatives.
Cofnas has repeatedly claimed RationalWiki and the creator of this article has libelled and smeared him, specifically complaining about the former description of him as "quasi-alt-right". According to the article creator "He [Nathan Cofnas] legally threatened me and other individuals over his RationalWiki article a year ago, but his legal threats never materialised of course." He (or someone close to him) created a whitewashed biography on Wikipedia likely in response to this RationalWiki page, but the article was deleted in July 2020.
Pseudoscience and questionable views
Cofnas is sympathetic to climate change denial, for example he denies the scientific consensus of anthropogenic global warming. He disagrees with labelling climate-change denialists as pseudoscientists, instead maintaining global-warming denial is a respectable position, furthermore he describes scientists who accept the overwhelming evidence of anthropogenic global warning, "climate alarmists":
Cofnas claims the academic consensus that recognises anthropogenic global warming is "fake". He ignores multiple surveys (Verheggen et al., 2014; Farnsworth and Lichter, 2011; Doran and Zimmerman, 2009) that consistently reveal 80-90% of experts agree human activity is mainly responsible for global warming. In Doran and Zimmerman (2009) this figure increases to over 97% for experts "who have published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change" (the same figure 97-98% is replicated in another study for the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field).
Cofnas has claimed without any evidence veganism decreases IQ and was incorrectly quoted by a journalist in a BBC article "How a Vegan Diet Could Affect Your Intelligence" as a biologist. The article writer Zaria Gorvett "admits there is no actual evidence demonstrating that a vegan diet leads to reduced intelligence, but she suggests it makes ‘intuitive sense’ that it does. She then goes on to fill a long opinion piece with wild speculation" and relies on outdated data. The article has subsequently been criticised as misleading and inaccurate. It has also been pointed out Cofnas is not a biologist nor even an expert on nutrition but "a philosophy student with no training in nutrition. His main area of interest appears to be, controversially, the supposed differences in intelligence between racial groups, and doubts about the consensus of opinion on causes of climate change."
Cofnas and the BBC article rely on a dubious 2003 IQ study of Kenyan schoolchildren with different diets. However this study has been widely criticised for being conducted on underweight and malnourished children, furthermore, "the diet given to the ‘plant based’ group lacked in energy, carbohydrates, fat, and protein to begin with."
Cofnas is quoted in the BBC article as saying "Without question, veganism can cause B12 and iron deficiencies". This ignores a sizable percentage of non-vegans are B12 deficient (9% of the US population is B12 deficient, while an additional 16% score in the low range that is potentially deficient, well below the average). In other words, B12 deficiency is not specifically a vegan-issue but a problem for many non-vegans as well. Dr. Josh Cullimore has criticised Cofnas for making this claim — "As a GP, I encounter vitamin B12 deficiency very commonly, and the vast majority of these patients eat animal products."
Controversy over paper
Cofnas' paper "Research on group differences in intelligence: A defense of free inquiry" (2020) published in Philosophical Psychology has been criticised by Mark Alfano, Associate Professor of philosophy at Macquarie University. Cofnas' paper was accompanied with an editor's note (Leeuwen and Herschbach, 2020) about why the journal decided to publish the paper despite acknowledging its controversy: "Cofnas’ paper certainly adopts provocative positions on a host of issues related to race, genetics, and IQ."
Alfano launched a petition to try to get Cofnas' paper retracted. Alfano and several other academics including Massimo Pigliucci (Larson et al. 2020) responded to the editor's note in the same journal, to "voice [our] concerns about the decision to publish the manuscript, which, in our opinion, fails to meet a range of academic quality standards usually expected of academic publications." Alfano and colleagues have criticised Cofnas' paper for confirmation bias, making unscientific claims about race and intelligence and using fallacious arguments such as straw man fallacy. For these reasons they argue the paper should not have passed peer-review and should be retracted: "We firmly believe that scholars carry the burden of preventing unscientific obstinacy from entering and distorting the scholarly literature, and we are here concerned that the editors of Philosophical Psychology either ignored such responsibility or took it very lightly." Cofnas' paper has been denounced by other academics including the philosopher Jason Stanley.
Although Alfano and colleagues have made legitimate criticisms of Cofnas' paper — Alfano has been criticised himself concerning his behaviour. This includes sending unsolicited emails to members of the editorial board of Philosophical Psychology to pressure them to retract the paper, calling for its entire editorial board to resign and trolling Cofnas on social media: "He [Alfano] did spar, ad hominem, on social media with Cofnas - probably in a way that didn’t help his argument." One of Alfano's keyboard warrior tweets to Cofnas was "You're about to learn why people generally avoid fucking with me." Alfano's tweet has since become a meme on Twitter. Alfano has also received criticism for tweeting he wants to "ruin his [Cofnas'] reputation permanently and deservedly". Cofnas responded calling Alfano "A sad, disturbed man". Cofnas later published an article in The Spectator saying "A group of philosophers led by Alfano decided to take their anger at the paper to the next level, and they set out to cancel its author (me)."
The view of most academics who voiced their opinion over the controversy in the comments section of a Daily Nous article is Cofnas' paper is poor quality but they don't support retracting the paper because of free speech and free inquiry. The creator of Cofnas' RationalWiki article has criticised Alfano's petition to retract the paper and warned it would back-fire in the sense Cofnas will play victim by claiming hereditarians have their views censored. This is in fact what happened and Cofnas has cited Alfano's petition as evidence of censorship and a "mob" coming after him.
Cees van Leeuwen, an editor of the journal Philosophical Psychology decided to quit after complaining that Larson et al. 2020 was published in the journal bypassing regular editor moderation as well as mentioning abuse they had received on social media:
After 25 years at the journal, I am resigning as editor of Philosophical Psychology.
The reason is the imminent publication of a commentary bypassing editor moderation. While my co-editor and part of the editorial board felt that a stream of insinuations and personal attacks on social media left them with no better choice, my resignation should be seen as taking a stand for an independent, non-partisan forum for philosophical debate. The journal has witnessed forceful clashes of opinion in the past, and I hope this will continue in the future. But efforts to enforce ill-motivated slogans upon the journal’s pages should be kept at bay, in particular when they are dressed in a cloak of social justice. I continue to support emphatically the very cause of antiracism these activists pretend to support, for which catfights within the academic establishment are as remote and ineffectual as they could possibly be. My only concern is that they will be grist to the mill of our detractors in and outside of academia.
I would like to express my gratitude to those who have contributed as reviewers to the journal, and my confidence in Mitchell Herschbach, the incumbent editor, and Taylor & Francis, the publisher, to steer the journal through its current turbulence.
The remaining editor-in-chief of Philosophical Psychology, Mitchell Herschbach in August 2020 published an article that said he had changed his views since writing the editor's note (Leeuwen and Herschbach, 2020). Herschbach now recognises there were flaws with the peer-review process that allowed Cofnas' paper to be published and that the journal will "implement procedural improvements so that, going forward, the journal better handles papers on controversial topics having sensitive moral and socio-political implications."
Hereditarianism, eugenics and race
Cofnas attended the pseudoscientific London Conference on Intelligence in 2016 where he met Edward Dutton. In 2012 he wrote a book published by the Ulster Institute for Social Research (reviewed by Michael A. Woodley of Menie, although he later withdrew it from publication). As of 2019, Cofnas denies he has links to Richard Lynn's Ulster Institute, despite observers have pointed out he's clearly part of the HBD "Lynn network" and on his social media is in the same circle as Emil Kirkegaard and Hbdchick. On his website he has defended the London Conference on Intelligence.
The author of the criticism of MacDonald’s work, Nathan Cofnas, travels in the same intellectual circles as Edward Dutton, who wrote the pro-MacDonald response. The two men met a few years ago at the London Conference on Intelligence, an annual gathering where attendees reportedly talk about contentious (and largely disproven) topics like eugenics, IQ, and the biology of racial difference.
Both men also have ties to the Ulster Institute for Social Research, a small British think-tank that publishes reports on racial differences, human evolution, and IQ. The organization is run by Richard Lynn, a controversial scholar popular among those who argue that black people are inherently less intelligent than white people. Cofnas published a book with the Ulster Institute in 2012, which he has since withdrawn from publication — hoping, he says, to preserve it for inclusion in future work. Dutton told me that he receives funding from the Institute, where he is an affiliated scholar.
“”Mainstream medicine already practices various forms of "eugenics." And work in genetics shows that "race" has a genetic basis (see, e.g., David Reich's recent book), so there is plenty of "race science" going on.
“”It's difficult to think of any important issue in our society that isn't affected by race differences in IQ—yet honest discussion of the topic is banned from mainstream television, newspapers, most university classrooms, etc. Not surprising that people are hungry for information.
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; 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."
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.
Cofnas erroneously claims the US black-white IQ gap is 15-18 points and isn't budging, when it is actually around 9.5 points and has been substantially reduced:
“”There have been many studies on the African American/white IQ gap of 15-18 points. (African Americans are ~30% European genetically.) No single study is definitive, but contrary to some false claims the gap isn't budging. Maybe you've seen this.
A Letter to Nathan Cofnas: Please Stop Misrepresenting my Research.
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.
Defence of Noah Carl
“”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.
Cofnas has made a bunch of Tweets that seem to imply he wants the alt-right to be accepting of Jews:
“”Your statements about the debate indicate that you think the alt-right is mistakenly hostile to Jews, such that I see your goal as to make the far right more welcoming for Jews.
For example, Cofnas wrote:
Anyone who points out Cofnas' racialist views and quasi-alt-right beliefs (minus the anti-Semitism), ends up with him lashing out and getting extremely defensive:
“”I'm not going to tell you my life story on twitter. I'm just asking, once again, that you stop making ignorant, irresponsible insinuations about me.
“”This is all based on how *you* have framed the debate. So I'm baffled by this whole charade. If those are your views, own them. If you don't want observers like me to come away with this impression, then you should correct these public statements.
Cofnas' response is to masquerade as some sort of crusader against political correctness:
In 2018 he co-wrote an article for Quillette criticising anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and Kevin MacDonald's literature. Co-author, Jonathan Anomaly is a eugenicist. Despite being Jewish, Cofnas dislikes the ADL and criticises left-wing politics. He has also engaged in sexist and anti-feminist trolling on Twitter (see below).
Cofnas has linked to the work of the controversial philosopher Michael Levin who the SPLC describe as an "unabashed white supremacist". Later he would deny endorsing Levin, claiming he just promotes Levin's literature.Do You Believe That?
Cofnas likes victim playing and claims because of this RationalWiki article, he's somehow being "harassed".Do You Believe That? Cofnas dislikes his RationalWiki page and wrote a section on his blog, claiming to rebut what was written here, despite it does no such thing.
Instead Cofnas has posted a bunch of demonstrably false and misleading statements, e.g.:
“”RationalWiki 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.”
In reality, there is a clear scientific consensus that human races are not valid biological categories. For example in a 2012 survey of American Anthropological Association members (n = 1909), 86% disagreed with the idea humans "may be subdivided into biological races." The Human Genome Project, American Association of Physical Anthropologists and American Anthropological Association have also all published statements that note human races don't exist. Cofnas rejects this consensus and cherry-picks David Reich a geneticist whose book chapter on race in Who We Are and How We Got Here, has been heavily criticised by 67 academics in an article titled "How Not To Talk About Race And Genetics" for containing inaccuracies and misunderstandings; further, they note that Reich's opinions about race are "seriously flawed".
In his page about RationalWiki Cofnas denies being an anti-feminist and says this was somehow made up "out of whole cloth". However, the anti-feminist description is well sourced and based on a provocative tweet he made trolling Katie Bouman. In April 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope Imaging team, including Bouman, published the first image of a black hole. Bouman's contribution has been widely regarded as a symbol of women's accomplishments in science. In response, anti-feminist trolls from the alt-right, incel and MGTOW communities have questioned or downplayed Bouman's involvement; on 14 April Nathan Cofnas joined these trolls on Twitter to claim the media had somehow lied about Bouman:
“”Would have been fine to hold up Katie Bouman as an ex of a successful female scientist. Why did the media have to lie and say she was "The woman behind the first black hole image" (BBC)? Completely predictable that this would provoke "trolls" and people who enjoy exposing lies.
Cofnas' troll tweet has been "liked" 83 times by alt-righters, anti-feminists and incels, e.g. Emil Kirkegaard (who openly identifies as a sexist), an incel user who goes by the name "inceluprising" and Robert Windhager who describes himself as a "plain normal old cis white male. Hates #PoliticalCorrectness".
- @nathancofnas (Twitter)
- Based Jew. @nathancofnas is both a race realist and a Jewish realist and no fan of the ADL. He's an Alt Right Jew trying to make the Alt Right better. A light unto the nations! Tikkun olam! Moshiach now! #613 by Luke Ford (08:44 - 14. March 2018) Twitter (archived from April 21, 2019).
- Vegetarianism/veganism are part of the package of political correctness. There may be a couple conservative vegans =) but in general this is promoted by liberals (even if many liberals don't live up to the ideal). by Nathan Cofnas (19:24 - 3 Dec 2018) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- Be careful of collateral damage to yourself. There's a growing community of ex-vegans/vegetarians… by Nathan Cofnas (06:48 - 2 Oca 2019) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- See here for accounts suspected of being Cofnas:
Finally, as a procedural point per WP:DISCUSSAFD, I'll just note that of all the Keep votes, only two are from editors with any track record prior to this AfD (the article's creator, Ali Pirhayati, and to a far lesser extent Mr Butterbur). Lmtrilling was created the day they began contributing to this discussion, and both GCicero187's and IP 2604…'s contributions to this AfD are their only edits to date. Generalrelative (talk) 20:43, 30 June 2020 (UTC)
- 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." by Nathan Cofnas (7:39 AM - 19 Apr 2019) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- Cofnas has publisher with the Ulster Institute, attended London conference on intelligence. He is part of the Lynn network. by Steven Klein (9:19 AM - 9 Aug 2018) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- This is consistent with family tradition (7/8 great-grandparents Jewish). by Nathan Cofnas (4:49 PM - 6 Feb 2019) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- (((race realism))) by Nathan Cofnas (7:30 AM - 20 Mar 2018) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- 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." Neglected topic in phil sci: many scientists are simply liars. See https://philpapers.org/archive/COFSIN.pdf … by Nathan Cofnas (09:10 - 20. Apr. 2019) Twitter (archived from April 21, 2019).
- 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.] by Nathan Cofnas (5:22 PM - 24 Jan 2019) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- What you need to know: Noah is the good guy. by Nathan Cofnas (02.22 - 7 Des 2018) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- 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. by Nathan Cofnas (7:24 PM - December 6, 2018) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- In my paper on Kevin MacDonald I acknowledged that the alt-right position has *some* basis in logic and facts, and isn't based only on deranged hatred. Many liberals accused me of "legitimizing" MacDonald/anti-Semitism. by Nathan Cofnas (6:40 AM - 5 Nov 2018) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).
- What the Alt-Right Gets Wrong About Jews by Jonathan Anomaly & Nathan Cofnas (March 15, 2018) Quillette (archived from March 27, 2019).
- (1) I never claimed to be on your "side." (2) I have criticized leftists just as much as I have the alt-right. I even wrote an article attacking the ADL. You could have easily discovered this by googling me--but you just make it up as you go along. Not worth "debating." by Nathan Cofnas (4:33 PM - 26 Nov 2018) Twitter (archived from April 24, 2019).