Oxford University racist lecturer

Senior Oxford Uni academic argues ‘blacks are more stupid than whites’ in unearthed emails

Professor Nick Bostrom has apologised on his website in a bid to ‘get ahead’ of ‘smear campaigns’ against him


A distinguished academic at the University of Oxford has apologised for a historic email in which he argued “blacks are more stupid than whites”.

In the email he said he “liked” the sentence and believed it to be true but he won’t have much “success” if he speaks like that because people will think: “I hate those bloody n*****s!!!!”.

Professor Nick Bostrom, who is based in the faculty of philosophy and is the director of both an Oxford University institute and programme, made the comments as part of a mailing list for an internet forum, The Extropians, in 1996.

The university has opened an investigation into the ethic professor’s remarks whilst the philosophy faculty chair has written to students to offer them support for those affected by the incident.

In a statement published on his website, Bostrom said he is choosing to apologise and publish the historic email after he heard rumours it had been uncovered and the fear he will be “maliciously framed” and it used in smear campaigns against him.

“I have caught wind that somebody has been digging through the archives of the Extropians with a view towards finding embarrassing materials to disseminate about people,” he said at the start of his apology.

“To get ahead of this, I want to clean out my own closet, and get rid of the very worst of the worst in my contribution file.”

Oxford University racist lecturer

Professor Bostrom speaking as part of a Ted Talk in 2015

Bostrom described the forum as a place for conversations about “science fiction, future, future technologies, society and all sorts of random things”, but admitted there was lots of “silly, mistaken, or outright offensive stuff” published.

Despite publishing the contents of the email in full and warning to “read on at your peril”, he offers a caveat in his apology by saying: “The context was a thread about offensive content and offensive communication styles.”

In the historic email, he wrote: “I have always liked the uncompromisingly objective way of thinking and speaking: the more counterintuitive and repugnant a formulation, the more it appeals to me given that it is logically correct. Take for example the following sentence:

“Blacks are more stupid than whites.

“I like that sentence and think it is true. But recently I have begun to believe that I won’t have much success with most people if I speak like that. They would think that I were a ‘racist’: that I disliked black people and thought that is is fair if blacks are treated badly. I don’t.

“It’s just that based on what I have read, I think it is probable that black people have a lower average IQ than mankind in general, and I think that IQ is highly correlated with what we normally mean by ‘smart’ and ‘stupid’.

“I may be wrong about the facts, but that is what the sentence means for me. For most people, however, the sentence seems to be synonmous with: ‘I hate those bloody n*****s!!!!

“My point is that while speaking with the provocativeness of unashamed objectivity would be appreciated by me and many others in this list, it may be a less effective strategy in communicating with some of the people ‘out there’.

“I think it is laudable if you accustom people to the offensiveness of truth, but be prepared that you may suffer some personal damage.”

Professor Bostrom has now said the statement did not represent his views at the time, and he “repudiates this disgusting email”.

Oxford University racist lecturer

Proessor Bostrom is director of the Oxford Future of Humanity Institute as well as being director of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Imapacts of Future Technology. Via Marvin Lagonera on Unsplash

He claimed to have taken the email down at the time within 24 hours and immediately apologised. In the apology statement published on his website, whilst maintaining provocative communication styles do have a place in academic discussions, he added it should not have been done “like this!”.

Professor Bostrom then points out his personal charity work which has gone towards fighting social inequalities.

“I’ve given many thousands of pounds to organisations including to the SCI Foundation, GiveDirectly, the Black Health Alliance, the Iodine Global Network, Basic Needs and the Christian Blind Mission,” he said.

He does not completely denounce his comments about relative IQ in his apology. “I think it is deeply unfair that unequal access to education, nutrients, and basic healthcare leads to inequality in social outcomes, including sometimes disparities in skills and cognitive capacity.”

On the university’s website, Oxford lauds the feats of the academic pointing out he was the highest ranked analytic philosopher as part Prospect magazine’s World Thinkers list in 2014 and a recipient of a Eugene R Gannon Award.

A spokesperson for the University of Oxford told The Tab: “The University and Faculty of Philosophy is currently investigating the matter but condemns in the strongest terms possible the views this particular academic expressed in his communications.

“Neither the content nor language are in line with our strong commitment to diversity and equality.”

Professor Nick Bostrom has been approached for comment. 

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