Aug 24, 2022
I have an essay that my friends won’t let me post because it’s too spicy. It would be called something like How To Respond To Common Criticisms Of Effective Altruism (In Your Head Only, Definitely Never Do This In Real Life), and it starts:
Q: I don’t approve of how effective altruists keep donating to weird sci-fi charities.
A: Are you donating 10% of your income to normal, down-to-earth charities?
Q: Long-termism is just an excuse to avoid helping people today!
A: Are you helping people today?
Q: I think charity is a distraction from the hard work of systemic change.
A: Are you working hard to produce systemic change?
Q: Here are some exotic philosophical scenarios where utilitarianism gives the wrong answer.
A: Are you donating 10% of your income to poor people who aren’t in those exotic philosophical scenarios?
Many people will answer yes to all of these! In which case, fine! But…well, suppose you’re a Christian. An atheist comes up to you and says “Christianity is stupid, because the New International Version of the Bible has serious translation errors”.
You might immediately have questions like “Couldn’t you just use a different Bible version?” or “Couldn’t you just worship Jesus and love your fellow man while accepting that you might be misunderstanding parts of the Bible?”
But beyond that, you might wonder why the atheist didn’t think of these things. Are the translation errors his real objection to Christianity, or is he just seizing on them as an excuse? And if he’s just seizing on them as an excuse, what’s his real objection? And why isn’t he trying to convince you of that?