New WordPress blog

Hey everybody! I want you all to know that I have a new blog at I know a lot of people have been unhappy about the awful ads and awful commenting system on my Patheos blog, which has in turn left me not-very-motivated to blog more, which has led to the blog just sort [Read More…]

Effective Altruism and the LessWrong-o-sphere: an observation

Ozy has an excellent post up titled “On Exclusion”, that makes a distinction between anti-evangelistic, non-evangelistic, and evangelistic groups. Anti-evangelistic groups  are the ones that active throw up barriers to entry–religions that prefer members be born into them, like Judaism. Evangelistic groups are the obvious ones–political movements, Christianity. The interesting case is non-evangelistic groups. They [Read More…]

Effective Altruism and feminism

Disclaimer stolen from Ben’s blog: “this should probably not be the first thing you read about effective altruism. It’ll give you a pretty biased impression! If that’s you, try something from the reading list I compiled instead.” So there’s been a bit of arguing on the internet in the past week over whether the Effective [Read More…]

How bad is life at subsistence?

In my previous post, I compiled citations from historical thinkers on how awful life was back in their day. But such citations aren’t conclusive–maybe they were exaggerating for effect. Or maybe people with severe depression are grossly overrepresented in the ranks of intellectuals. Or who knows. So in this post, I want to examine the question more directly. [Read More…]

Historical thinkers on human misery

The possibility that some–perhaps many–lives may not be worth living is depressing to think about. But it’s one that should worry effective altruists and people interested in utilitarian ethics. Among EAs interested in animal welfare, it’s widely thought that the lives of animals in factory farms are so bad as to not be worth living. [Read More…]

Self-interested activism and gay rights

On Tumblr, Kelsey (a.k.a. theunitofcaring) had a really good post on the politics of coming out (I’ve bolded a paragraph that I think is especially important): Hmm. Harvey Milk’s time is sufficiently different from ours that I’m not sure I can disagree with him, but I think I do disagree about today. My sister and [Read More…]

How selfish are voters?

Last month, I wrote a post where I talked a bit about Bryan Caplan’s book The Myth of the Rational Voter. Specifically, I talked about the idea that because any one voter is unlikely to swing the outcome of an election, voting provides a way for people to feel altruistic on the cheap. Therefore, in some situations, [Read More…]

Notes on Robert Fogel’s Without Consent or Contract

In response to my previous post on animal rights and slavery, Wayne of Direct Action Everywhere suggested that the argument made in that post was at odds with the findings of economist Robert Fogel as to how slavery was abolished. So I picked up Fogel’s book Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery. Having [Read More…]

Slavery abolition and animal rights: the biggest problem

When I talk to people involved in animal rights, I frequently hear people make analogies to the abolition of slavery, made with an optimistic spin: “if we managed to abolish slavery, we can abolish animal agriculture,” “if these tactics worked for abolishing slavery, they should work for abolishing animal agriculture,” and so on. I think [Read More…]