Racism is something worse than controversial

Even Racist Dobby the House Elf can get a Cambridge appointment

Nathan Cofnas is another of those guys who has made an academic career out of racism, and it has paid off! He just got a three year appointment to Cambridge University!

An American academic who has expressed controversial views about racial differences in intelligence has been made an early career fellow in the University’s Philosophy faculty.

In 2019 Nathan Cofnas became embroiled in controversy over an article he wrote, in which he argued that genetic differences in IQ could exist between racial and ethnic groups. In the article Cofnas also said that since “truth is intrinsically valuable”, it is scientists’ duty to uncover it even when controversial.

“Controversial”. “Controversial” is not an adequate criterion for legitimate science. Here, Cofnas is using “controversial” as a substitute for “contradicted by the evidence”. Here’s a much better article that rebuts Cofnas’s nonsense.

With that in mind, we would like to respectfully point out that when racial realism is described only as being “provocative” or “controversial,” that comes disconcertingly close to saying that creationism, anti-vaccination, or climate change skepticism are just scientifically controversial ideas. Like these fringe ideas, racial realism belongs to a group of ideas that insist on their legitimacy in spite of (and not in the absence of) disproving empirical evidence – the quintessential definition of being unscientific. Hence, where the claims made by anti-vaxxers, creationists, climate denialists, and racial realists are, by many, seen as provocative, scientists find it lamentable when these ideas seep into academic journals, where they certainly do not belong.

Unfortunately, some people at Cambridge decided this “controversial” guy deserved a philosophy appointment. I hope they enjoy the controversy that follows!


  1. StevoR says

    I hope they don’t and hpope that it is made very clear to those people at Cambridge very quickly that racism gets zero tolerance.

  2. raven says

    In the article Cofnas also said that since “truth is intrinsically valuable”, it is scientists’ duty to uncover it even when controversial.

    As the OP points out, not all science that is controversial is actually…controversial.

    The age of the earth is supposedly controversial.
    Science says the earth is old at 4.5 billion years.
    The YEC creationists claim it is 6, 000 years old and there was that Big Boat genocide 4,300 years or so ago.

    The antivaxxers claim vaccines, a centuries old medical procedure are controversial.
    This is old and well established science.
    Claiming the Covid-19 vaccine is controversial killed 250,000 people in the USA, the number that would still be alive if they had gotten vaccinated.

    The antivaxxers claim that the Covid-19 vaccine is experimental and was not adequately tested. In the Real World, after 5 billion people have been vaccinated, we have a huge database on these vaccines.

    Same with evolution, the Germ Theory of Disease, and the power of prayer.

    Once something in science is established beyond reasonable doubt, we use it as part of our knowledge base and move on to discover new things.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    An upper-class institution in a nation with a history of slavery and colonialism promotes a racist? The DEVIL you say?

  4. StevoR says

    @2. raven : Controversy like Beauty is often in the (minds) eye of the beholder but working out when people are being bigoted – not all that hard really?

    Addendum to #1. Certainly for those in power who are clearly unashamedly racist anyhow.. to some degree racism is hard to avoid an d gets ingrained deeply in many of us without our choosing it but rather being steeped in it like a tea bag in hot water (only in reverse ~ish anyhow? Hope folks get gist of this.) but people should try to fight and avoid and not embrace it.

  5. bcw bcw says

    Note that the fellowship is basically partial funding of a post-doc job.
    https://www.leverhulme.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2023_ECF_guidance.pdf <- this is what he has.

    “The scheme is based on a pattern of joint support whereby the Leverhulme Trust will contribute
    50% of the Fellow’s total salary costs (including National Insurance, superannuation and
    London allowance, where applicable) up to a maximum of £26,000 in each year of the
    award, and the balance is to be contributed by the host institution. The Trust’s contribution in
    subsequent years will normally increase in line with pay awards and normal increments up to the
    annual maximum of £26,000. ”

    It’s mostly restricted to UK students so this is pretty much internal funding. “Prestige” is a relative term here.

  6. kome says

    It’s kinda like I said in the thread about Bryan Pesta. No idea is more readily accepted by the mainstream academic community than white supremacy. No idea gets less scrutiny and no idea gets more passionate defenders beating the “academic freedom” drum than white supremacy.
    This isn’t because every academic is a white supremacist, per se, but because white supremacist ideals have been baked into our entire civilization, the academy included. To that end, there is a sizable community within mainstream scientific and philosophical and other academic circles that do actively work to maintain the presence of white supremacist ideals as unquestionable axioms. Cofnas is one of them.
    And the majority of the rest of the academy – from administrators to professors to grad students – don’t find it worthwhile at all to combat white supremacy. It’s not their concern, because the disproportionately overwhelming majority of academics are themselves white. The system serves them, so they’ll only go so far when it comes to even acknowledging that it exists. It’s not their job. So while people like Cofnas are working to directly promote white supremacy, most of the rest of his colleagues will be indirectly maintaining it.

  7. says

    Confas’s article is titled “Research on group differences in intelligence: A defense of free inquiry.” So this guy is pre-emptively martyrbating and making it a “free speech” issue right in the title of his article. This is a strong indicator that he knows his beliefs are wrong and indefensible. IANAE. but I’m pretty sure Einstein didn’t pre-emptively scream about “free inquiry” in any of his published work.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    Are you talking about racism in Britain?
    Check out the result of the governments demonization of immigrants.
    “Immigration Centre attacked in Kent”
    Note it was a ‘terrorist attack’ until the culprit was found to be white.
    The link also brings up the dishonest immigration policies.

  9. birgerjohansson says

    One might diacuss which aspects of “IQ” are different. In the monotonous geography of Australia a good ability to find your way is crucial for the survival of hunter-gatherers.
    Över 50,000 years the selection pressure might make a real difference.
    There are plenty of anecdotal examples of aborigines being very good at finding their way in unknown areas. If this subject was studied in depth, we might have to add another dimension to “intelligence “.
    As for other aspects, it is possible there was less selection for other facets of the mind (in this example in Australia) but it is important to understand that I am not making value judgements. What works is selected for, it’s that simple.

  10. says

    I often think of the following: Suppose that a law were passed tomorrow that only black people with IQ’s above 120 could have children, and that only white people with IQ’s below 80 could have children. Come back in a hundred years and what would you find? A country full of smart black people and dumb white people.

    It would be hardly surprising if the average IQ of American blacks is significantly lower than American whites, because white people systematically bred black people as pack animals for 300 years. In my mind, this damage to the ability of American blacks to compete in the modern world is actually the most malignant thing that white people did to them; it is no more a genetic characteristic than the shoes they choose to wear. Here is the greatest justification, in my opinion, for massive reparations owed to black Americans, but I just can’t figure out what kind of reparation could really repair the damage.

  11. says

    Well, Green Eagle, a great way to start is by no longer pretending IQ tests aren’t weighted against the Black people in the first place and don’t meaningfully measure intelligence. Beside that, while there was a lot of forced pregnancies (I refused to refer to forcing humans to have children as “breeding”* in this context) more thought was given to strength, not against intelligence which wouldn’t make sense as you’d want the enslaved people to be able to follow instructions and perform tasks. You are also discounting the large number of enslaved people who could count white slave holders as their fathers, grandfathers, etc.

    ” In my mind, this damage to the ability of American blacks to compete in the modern world…”
    I guess blaming slavery for forced childbearing is one way to avoid looking at the effects of over a century of racist governmental policies, banking, employment, school funding, policing, and violence that all come together to keep Black people down in the US. Everything from redlining to voter suppression to stop & frisk to drug policies that treated crack differently from cocaine to the school to prison pipeline to Black students being punished more severely for the same behaviour as white students and Black adults being sentenced more harshly than white adults for the same crimes (not to mention the disparity in drug offenses despite a parity in drug use).

    But sure, I guess it’s easier to blame long dead people rather than accepting the system was broken from the start and has never been fixed.

    *There’s another word that starts with an “R” that I’ve avoided here, but yeah, it was centuries of that.

  12. lanir says

    Awhile ago I started thinking that racism at its core is just one simple statement: “those people aren’t people.” Everything but this statement is a shell game, a con. A deliberate distraction to keep you from realizing it’s all really this in the end. And it’s not like the problems with that are hard to figure out.

    How deluded do you have to be to think you alone are smart enough and willing to probe deeply into hard topics when this is all you’ve got to show for it in the end?

  13. StevoR says

    @ ^ lanir : Yes.

    If memory serves Isaac Asimov noted that no one wants to find that there are “races” superior to ours and then giove those people special treatment – its always about how we get “scientific” permission to treat grup X or / and Y worse..

    @ 10. Green Eagle :

    I often think of the following: Suppose that a law were passed tomorrow that only black people with IQ’s above 120 could have children, and that only white people with IQ’s below 80 could have children. Come back in a hundred years and what would you find?

    That that law got repealed really quickly and the govt that imposed it lost very badly in their next election and went down in infamy for attempting that? If not, that people cheated by learning how to beat and rigging the test for the results they wanted?

    That “IQ” isn’t inherited and lamarckian any more than Jewish people evolve to be foreskinless?

    Stephen Jay Gould had some good essays on IQ and how culturally biased and worthless they actually are if you are intrested in this area FYI.

  14. StevoR says

    PS. A mere hundred years time? I think your time scale for any evolution in our species with its rather long generation time is a wee bit off here. There’s a reason most scientists use lab rats rather than, say, lab tortoises you know!* (Yeah, I know, many reasons actually of which short generations and lifespans is just one.) I don’t think even a few thousand years would actually be long enough even IF intelligence was predominently down to genetic factors rather than a complex mixture of environment, genes and impact of pollutants eg lead and acccess to education.

    Also this Stephen Jay Gould book :


    Is the one I was mainly thinking of although he’s also written more and elsewhere on this topic & one I’d recommend. I’m sure others here can add other probly better examples and more recent texts worth reading.

    Thought I had to rush off soon but that’s changed. Hailing outside here now.

    .* Herpetologists specialising in tortoises excluded natch.