The paper Andrew Winston and I wrote* on the mythical taboo on race/intelligence research has caused a mini-stir over on Twitter. Nathan Cofnas is particularly upset, claiming I have defamed him. A polite word for Cofnas’s claim is “nonsense.” There are many impolite words that you could substitute for that one. Let me explain why.
Cofnas claims that I wrote he advocated racial segregation. He first made the accusation on Twitter and then wrote a blog post about it. He begins by objecting to this Daily Nous post and claims that I resurrected the idea that he was an advocate of racial segregation. But, here’s what I wrote:
Hereditarian researchers still call for establishing a two-tiered educational system for White and Black people (Cofnas, 2020, p. 134).
Cofnas writes: “John Jackson knew this was false because (a) it’s ridiculous and (b) he was aware of my article in Spectator USA, which explicitly addressed this lie. But now the claim that I advocate segregation has become the go-to smear on Twitter.”
Here’s the problem. 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 call for a “two-tiered educational system for White and Black people.” Here is Cofnas making that exact claim:
It could not be more clear that, in this quotation from Cofnas’s paper, he claims that hereditarians have advocated educational programs based on “ethnic” groups. He then cites the following scholars as evidence that hereditarians advocate such programs:
- Gottfredson, L. S. (2005a). Suppressing Intelligence Research: Hurting Those We Intend to Help. In R. Wright & N. A. Cummings (Eds.), Destructive trends in mental health: The well-intentioned path to harm (pp. 155–187). Routledge.
- Gottfredson, L. S. (2005b). What if the hereditarian hypothesis is true? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11, 311–319.
- Jensen, A. R. (1969). How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement? Harvard Educational Review, 39, 1–123.
- Lubinski, D., & Humphreys, L. G. (1997). Incorporating general intelligence into epidemiology and the social sciences. Intelligence, 24, 159–201.
It is perfectly correct, therefore, to cite Cofnas’s paper to evidence the claim that hereditarians advocate a “two-tiered” system of education based on racial or, if you prefer, “ethnic,” groups. There seems to be ample evidence, supplied by Cofnas himself, that hereditarian researchers advocate for these kinds of programs. For a devastating critique of the idea that education should be tailored in such a way, see this wonderful post by Jonathan Kaplan.
Cofnas is spinning the idea that I claimed he advocated segregation out of whole cloth. I wrote an entire book about psychologists who did use their science to advocate for Jim Crow segregation–an ugly history that contemporary hereditarians pretend never happened. In that book, I made quite clear that Jensen disavowed the use of his research to support Jim Crow when arch-segregationist, Carleton Putnam attempted to recruit him to the cause:
Of course, even while denying his work could support segregation, Jensen happily collaborated with them when he testified in front of Congress alongside segregationists, cited a neo-Nazi to define races in his 1969 article, and touted his eugenic fantasies for a notorious white supremacist website. Cofnas was silent when I pointed out that his work was praised at those white supremacist websites.
Hereditarians simply ignore the uses to which the radical right put their work. They prefer to take on the role of innocent victim and attack those who simply read and report on what they have written correctly.
*Andrew co-wrote the paper with me but the passage that offends Cofnas was mine and I take full responsibility for it. Andrew is not writing this blog which represents only my opinions, not his.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
“He then cites the following scholars as evidence that hereditarians advocate such programs:
Gottfredson, L. S. (2005a). Suppressing Intelligence Research: Hurting Those We Intend to Help. In R. Wright & N. A. Cummings (Eds.), Destructive trends in mental health: The well-intentioned path to harm (pp. 155–187). Routledge.
Gottfredson, L. S. (2005b). What if the hereditarian hypothesis is true? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11, 311–319.
Jensen, A. R. (1969). How much can we boost IQ and scholastic achievement? Harvard Educational Review, 39, 1–123.
Lubinski, D., & Humphreys, L. G. (1997). Incorporating general intelligence into epidemiology and the social sciences. Intelligence, 24, 159–201.
It is perfectly correct, therefore, to cite Cofnas’s paper to evidence the claim that hereditarians advocate a “two-tiered” system of education based on racial or, if you prefer, “ethnic,” groups. There seems to be ample evidence, supplied by Cofnas himself, that hereditarian researchers advocate for these kinds of programs.”
Do any of these articles actually say what you claim that (Cofnas is claiming that) they are saying, though?
Bless Arthur Jensen for opposing efforts on the part of segregationists to recruit him for their cause. Racial segregation in education is, of course, completely unacceptable due to the wide overlap in abilities between white and black students. (Now, separate classes for smart and slow students might not necessarily be a bad idea–and we already have some of this with special education classes and with Advanced Placement classes–but such classes won’t separate their students based on their race; there could be disparate impact, of course, but that’s different from putting everyone of one race in one class and everyone of another race in another class.)
As for Arthur Jensen’s American Renaissance interview, I don’t view it as being particularly problematic. Do you? Perhaps Jensen should have encouraged single mothers (of any race) to use sperm from smart sperm donors (of any race) as opposed to completely discouraging low-IQ single mothers from reproducing at all, though. After all, a lot of people want to pass on their genes, even if their genes–like my own genes (I suffer from ADHD, anxiety, and high blood pressure, for instance)–aren’t the best genes in regards to everything. (I personally want to reproduce exclusively through IVF and to do embryo selection for desirable traits such as intelligence 20 or 30 years down the line once this technology will become much more advanced. Is this a wrong or bad desire on my own part?)
IF you don’t find Jensen lending his authority and credibility to Taylor, then we have very little common ground to have a discussion. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/jared-taylor
Cofnas has a history of incorrectly claiming people have “defamed” or “libelled” him. He doesn’t know the definition of those words. He legally threatened me and other individuals over his RationalWiki article a year ago (https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Nathan_Cofnas), but his legal threats never materialised of course. Cofnas also has little to no understanding of UK defamation law:https://twitter.com/nathancofnas/status/1314744271388377088
Cofnas oddly claims “Any statement, whether true or false, that damages someone’s reputation is “defamation” in UK law.” This is incorrect. In English defamation law, there is presumption of falsity – this means a defamatory statement is presumed to be false, unless the defendant can prove it is substantially true which provides an outright defence to defamation. A true statement therefore cannot be defamatory, otherwise substantial truth wouldn’t provide a legal defence. Aside from substantial truth, another legal defence to defamation is honest opinion. It seems Cofnas is also misunderstands that completely as well.
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I think Cofnas’ tweet where he said he doesn’t have “highly developed views” on “where the line ought to be drawn between opinion/defamation” is based on the lawsuit, Kirkegaard v Smith where I was defendant. If we go to his website we find:
“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. ODS 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 ODS’s statements were “defamatory” but “expressions of opinion,” so Kirkegaard dropped the case. Besides getting banned from contributing to some websites, there is rarely a penalty for libeling people on the Internet.”
Most of this is inaccurate. While it’s true a judge ruled my comments were “expressions of opinion that are defamatory”, Cofnas has quote-mined this preliminary ruling and does not mention the judge clarified “For the avoidance of doubt, I am not deciding the question of serious harm under s 1 of the Defamation Act 2013.” https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2019/3393.html
There are two requirements for comments to be defamatory – the comments must be false (not substantially true) and must also cause serious harm. Serious harm in the sense of reputational harm is an absolute prerequisite in a defamation action. The judge never ruled on this issue because it was a preliminary hearing concerning the meaning of my comments (fact versus opinion and the judge ruled in my favour they were opinions). So my comments were never ruled to be in toto defamation. The serious harm question was never ruled on or even discussed, all the judge was saying is my comments passed the first (not second) perquisite – my comments were false. There’s nothing “bizarre” about the ruling, the problem is Cofnas is an imbecile who either never read the preliminary judgement properly, or worse, is lying. Probably a mixture of both.
I filed for a summary judgement that was meant to take place on 2 June 2020. The summary judgement would have decided the serious harm question i.e. did my opinions that were ruled to be false cause Kirkegaard reputational harm. A little over a week before that hearing, Kirkegaard discontinued the lawsuit knowing the judge would have almost certainly ruled my comments did not cause him serious harm and were honest opinions providing me with a legal defence to defamation. So he discontinued and the hearing was cancelled. He then became liable to pay my legal fees while winning no damages. I’m still waiting for the final costs order.
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