Willie MacAskill throws more fuel on the fire

MacAskill's unfortunte column is titled
"This week, let’s dump a few ice buckets to wipe out malaria too".
Mr. MacAskill tosses gasoline on the fire rather than water to put it out.  I talked about his prior "philosophical observations about the ALS/Ice Bucket Challenge here.  Now he does it again, doubling down on his ill-formed logic. As he has unfortunately seized the podium it really is time for some questions from the audience. You can read his latest journey into the land of crazy here....if you must.

He writes, in this ill-conceived column as follows:

"Those who participate in the ice bucket challenge donate to ALS not, seemingly, because they’ve thought about the many problems in the world, and tried to figure out how they personally can best address those problems. Instead, they donate simply because ALS is the originator of the challenge. This is problematic. We should reward the charities that we believe do the most good, not those that have the best marketing strategy, otherwise the most successful charities will be those that are best at soliciting funds, not those that are best at making the world a better place".

Outside of some bad grammar, let's find a nugget or two:

1.  "Instead they donate simply because ALS is the originator of the challenge".

Where to start, where to start.  Yo' William, my kids did the challenge.  They did it to raise money for a "Walk" regarding ALS. They didn't donate to ALS because it originated the idea.  Somehow you clearly write a belief that ALS is an entity and not a disease.  This stunt was originated and promoted by those who have an "oar in the water"; a family member (me in this case) or a friend with ALS.  As ALS isn't on most people's radar, the challenge has, in some small measure, put itself up to be seen. ALS didn’t start a thing.

2.  "We should reward charities that do the most good, not those with the best marketing strategies".

I'm particularly fond of that sentence.  MacAskill forgets that the American Cancer Society spends more money on marketing than has been spent on ALS TOTAL research each year, as does the Pancreatic Cancer Society, the MS society, and I could go on and on.  He implies that donating to ALS research "doesn't do the most good" so why give.

Let me 'splain something to you Willie -(as Ricky Ricardo used to say).  There are two types of ALS in a sense.  One type that you just "get" and another that seems like it runs genetically (familial).  The later is a small percentage of the total; some say about 10%. For those folks, all the limited research funds have perhaps isolated the gene that is partially responsible so familial genetic testing is somewhat possible.  For the other 90%, the sum total of research has produced 1 pill, RILUZOLE, that prolongs life for some by a couple of months, if it doesn't kill your liver first.  That's it.
3. "(funding won't go to)  not those that are best at making the world a better place".
I get it. We take the world view here.  Until we wipe out malaria we should do that before we move on to another deadly disease. That's all I can figure out; the 117 people in the US who died of malaria...well, they get the golden egg of donations to a worthwhile cause.

Slick Willie has an agenda not born of anything other than some statistics he pulls out of his hind end and then constructs silly arguments to support them.  Either that, and/or most likely his own business/charity, that "80,000 hours" thing that lists the following accomplishments under the "donate to me/us now":

·         Published over 100 blog posts, given one-on-one advice to over 100 people, and published an article in a major philosophy journal.
·         Seen several 80,000 Hours alumni donate over $80,000 each, and enter jobs at Google, McKinsey, Jane St and Rothschild.
·         Completely updated our brand and website.  

Yes I get it now. Verily.  Yup.


  1. The Pancreatic Cancer Society? That's not a thing. And if you look at dollar amount per person diagnosed with the disease annually, ALS receives twice as much from the NIH for research than pancreatic cancer. ALS is a horrible disease, but so many people are posting these videos to raise awareness for themselves and not for the cause. I wouldn't have an issue with the videos if the people doing them actually said something about ALS....a statistic...a fact....a website where people can go to donate...anything. Instead, they just dump ice on their head and mention the acronym. Someone posted a video today and I asked them to tell me what ALS was. They had no idea. If you have time to record yourself dumping water on your head and then post it to Facebook, you have time to at least Google the disease.

  2. Thank you for the comment. It made no sense but you gave it a good try.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.


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