The awkward truth about choosing charities
Philosopher Peter Singer broaches an uncomfortable truth about the Make-A-Wish Foundation and GoFundMe pages.
PETER SINGER: I think there clearly are objective criteria for saying that some causes are better than others. One example that I give in the book, there's a charity called the Make-A-Wish Foundation which asks parents of very ill, often dying children to write in if their child has a wish that they would like to have fulfilled. Obviously, you know, it's a short-term wish. The foundation can't save their lives. And they write in and they do something—one example that I read about was a child who wanted to be Batkid for a day so he dressed up in a Batkid costume. The Make-A-Wish Foundation got a car rigged up to look like the Batmobile and somebody to look like Batman and they went out and captured the villain and all of that. The kid had a great day, undoubtedly. But the average cost of fulfilling a child's wish is $7,500. Now, if given to an effective organization, that could save two, three, four, maybe more children's lives. If you compare saving a child's life with giving a child one great day then anybody—the child, the parents—anybody would say oh, so much better to save the child's life of course. And you can save not just one child's life but more than one.
So I think we ought to think about that before we respond emotionally to what seems like a great idea: Give a dying kid a great day. We ought to think about: What else can you do with that? And that's the same for all the giving opportunities that we have on the internet now. If there's a GoFundMe appeal to save somebody's pet tortoise, something of that sort well, yeah, that's nice, but you need to think what else you could do with that money and possibly there are things that you would agree are really more important. As none of us have infinite bank accounts we do always have to think how much am I able to spare for really trying to help people or animals—obviously, I'm not against helping animals—but how much can I really spare to try to reduce suffering in the world? And then if I have that amount, what's the best way to spend it? How do I get the best value for what I'm donating?
- None of us have infinite bank accounts so when we make charitable donations we have to weigh up how to do it most effectively. What is the most suffering you can reduce for the amount of money you have?
- Philosopher Peter Singer uses the Make-A-Wish Foundation as an example. It's a much loved charity for the joy it gives to dying children. Yet the cost of the average wish is $7,500—an amount that, if spent effectively, can save one, two, three, four, or more children's lives, says Peter Singer.
- "We ought to think about that before we respond emotionally to what seems like a great idea," says Singer. "If you compare saving a child's life with giving a child one great day then anybody—the child, the parents—anybody would say 'Oh, so much better to save the child's life, of course.' And you can save not just one child's life but more than one."
New study of gamma rays and gravitational lensing points to the possible presence of dark matter.
- Analyzing data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, researchers find hints of dark matter.
- The scientists looked to spot a correlation between gravitational lensing and gamma rays.
- Future release of data can pinpoint whether the dark matter is really responsible for observed effects.
An inside look at common relationship problems that link to how we were raised.
- Fear of abandonment or other attachment issues can stem from childhood loss (the death of a parent) but can also stem from mistreatment or emotional neglect as a child.
- Longitudinal studies have proven that a child's inability to maintain healthy relationships may be significantly impaired by having an insecure attachment to a primary caregiver during their early development.
- While these are common relationship problems that may be rooted in childhood experiences, as adults, we can break the cycle.
Tech is rising and America's middle class is vanishing. Here's what to do.
- The rise of new technologies is making the United States more economically unequal, says Professor Ramesh Srinivasan. Americans should be pushing the current presidential candidates hard for answers on how they will bring economic security and how they will ensure that technological transitions benefit all of us.
- "We are at an inflection point when it comes to top-down control over very many different aspects of our lives through privatized corporate power over technology," says Srinivasan. Now is the time to debate solutions like basic income and worker-owned cooperatives.
- Concurrently, individuals should develop digital literacy and get educated on the potential solutions. Srinivasan recommends taking free online and open courses from universities like Stanford and MIT, and reading books and quality journalism on these issues.