On the Life, the Universe & Everything Else Holiday Special, Brendan Curran-Johnson joins Gem, Laura, Ashlyn, and Lauren to talk about charitable giving, including how an organization qualifies as a charity, how to maximize the good your contributions can do, and some of the questionable practices of the most popular charities. The episode concludes with a rebroadcast of a segment from 2013’s holiday episode contrasting the various nativity accounts.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Definition of Charity: What is charitable? (Canada Revenue Agency)

Image vs. Effect: Dems help reopen a NC Repub office by David Weinberger (GoFundMe) | MEDIA ADVISORY: NCGOP Sees Encouraging Early Voting, Obama/Clinton Coalition Tired, Fail to Resonate in North Carolina | Courts are finally pointing out the racism behind voter ID laws (The Washington Post) | Today I did a lot of screaming about the anti-LGBT bill North Carolina passed (mcclure111) | Susan G. Komen Partners With Fracking Firm, Despite Possible Cancer Links (Huffington Post) | Pinkwashing (Wikipedia) | Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Promises to Spend $3 Billion to Research and Cure All Diseases (Forbes) | Mark Zuckerberg can’t believe India is debating net neutrality rather than being grateful for Facebook’s free internet (Quartz)

Effective Altruism: Effective altruism (Wikipedia) | GiveWell (Charity Reviews and Research) | Giving What We Can | 80,000 Hours | TRC #270: Effective Altruism + Drinking While Eating + Square on Toothpaste Tube (The Reality Check) | TRC #325: Cells On A Plane + Effective Donating Revisited + Sad Music (The Reality Check) | TRC #379: Charitable Giving + Premium vs Regular Gas + Elf On The Shelf (The Reality Check) | The Way to Produce a Person (The New York Times)

Donations in Kind: Understanding the Impact of Donated Clothes (WhyDev) | Why second-hand clothing donations are creating a dilemma for Kenya (The Guardian) | Stop donating canned goods to food drives: Your corned mutton castoffs are only making things worse (National Post) | Charities Need Your Money, Not Your Random Old Food (Slate) | The Problem With Little White Girls, Boys And Voluntourism (Huffington Post)

Winnipeg Harvest: Winnipeg Harvest | Winnipeg Harvest (Charity Intelligence)

Salvation Army: The Salvation Army in Canada Non-Discrimination | UK Salvation Army chief defends ban on gay members (PinkNews) | Here’s The Internal Document The Salvation Army Doesn’t Want You To See (Queerty)

World Vision: FAQs (World Vision International) | World Vision Canada statement on sexual orientation and hiring practices | A World Vision Donor Sponsored a Boy. The Outcome Was a Mystery to Both. (The New York Times)

Other Charities That Need Your Help: Top Charities (GiveWell) | American Civil Liberties Union | Canadian Civil Liberties Association | Planned Parenthood | Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights | Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860) | National Center for Transgender Equality | Trans Equality Rights in Canada | Advocating for LGBTQ Equality (Human Rights Campaign)

The “Charity Slump”: The Holiday Giving Season: A Make or Break Time for Small Charities (CanadaHelps) | Charitable Giving in America: Some Facts and Figures | Why Charities Receive Less During The Summer (CanadaHelps)

Other Links: Episode 72: The War on Christmas: A Brief History (LUEE) | Episode 107: Solving Homelessness (LUEE) | Power In A Union on Vimeo | C.R.E.A.M. (Wu-Tang Clan) | The best God joke ever (Emo Phillips) | Are We the Baddies? (That Mitchell and Webb Look)

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About Gem Newman

Medical student and former software developer. Host of the Life, the Universe & Everything Else podcast. Past organizer of the Winnipeg Skeptics. Former board chair at Bad Science Watch. Writer of things. Grower of beards. He/him.

2 responses

  1. Hi all,
    I very happy to see you covering charitable issues and appreciate the shout out regarding Effective Altruism! I think you got a lot of it bang on. 🙂
    That said, assuming as critical thinkers that you are open to feedback, there were a couple parts where I think you missed the mark or came off a bit playfully dismissive without supplying sufficient evidence/reasoning to justify it. E.g., x-risk/unfriendly AI, supposed egoism, to name a few.

    Wonder if there should be a cross-over where I come on your show and debate everyone? 🙂

    • Gem Newman says:

      Thanks, Darren. That sounds like fun. 🙂 I’m not sure how much there is to debate, though.

      I am certainly playfully dismissive of the “bad AI” X-risk in specific, because while I do think that it is probably a grave long-term concern, I have not been convinced that it’s a reasonable near-term risk. (I say this as a software developer who did an undergrad specialization in AI and who has worked for a tech company focusing on machine learning for nearly a decade. I am certainly not an expert on AI by any stretch, but I’m not exactly a layman either.) I would be astonished if any sort of general intelligence worth worrying about were to appear on the scene in my lifetime—although given my family history of heart disease, that only gives us a few decades, tops. 😉

      There is, of course, some variety of opinion among the panellists. I think Brendan (another software developer) is a little more dismissive of AI than I am. But given the real suffering that is currently all around us, I see the hypothetical threat of AI as less pressing. And it seems to me that so long as the population continues to grow, and so long as our moral calculus gives equal weight to hypothetical future suffering as it does to real current suffering, we’re always going to be solving the problems of the future rather than those of the here and now. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t think about those problems, but they do not seem, on the balance, to be the priority.

      I’d be happy to discuss this further. I’m always interested in your thoughts.

      And for what it’s worth (as I hope came through in the episode) I’m not personally convinced that egoism is really an issue for EA advocates. I think that charge would land more squarely with David Brooks and those who argue for a charitable outlook that is simply “internally ennobling” in character.