Board secretary at Animal Charity Evaluators. Involved with the EA movement since 2011. More info at Blog at

Wiki Contributions


What are the 'PlayPumps' of cause prioritisation?

There was good reason back then to believe that overpopulation was a real problem whose time would come relatively soon. If it wasn't for technological breakthroughs with dwarf wheat and IR8 rice variants, spearheaded by Norman Borlaug and others, our population would have seriously passed our ability to grow food by this point -- the so-called Malthusian trap.

Using overpopulation as an example here would be akin to using something like global climate change as an example in the present, if it turns out that a technological breakthrough in the next 5-10 years completely obviates the need for us to be careful about greenhouse gas release in the future.

Because of this, I don't think overpopulation as a cause area would make for the best example that you're trying to make here.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

I am concerned that although I explained that the views I put forward here are my own, they are being taken as though it is some official response from ACE. This is not the case. To eliminate any potential further misunderstanding on this, I will not be engaging further on this thread.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Clarifying [the specifics of the CARE conference decision] would be helpful.

Regarding the CARE conference decision, I want to give a disclaimer that I was not closely involved in this decision, so I’m not clear on what the exact reasoning was. I’ve shared my opinions above on the situation, but as this conference took place eight months ago and isn’t related to the core of ACE’s work, I don’t expect ACE to make any further official statements on the matter.

In my response to Wei Dai, I explain that it’s just not possible for me nor for ACE to share confidential details of this type. I’ve tried to strike the best balance I can of relieving some of the fears that you and others have about ACE’s reasoning in this case, while simultaneously respecting ACE’s policies around how we treat private communication with other charities. I suspect that I have been unsuccessful at this. I’m sorry that I can’t share more on this topic.

Does this mean…? …Or am I misunderstanding something about ACE's charity review process?

It is difficult for me to go into detail here without breaking confidentiality. I’ve tried several times to draft something that I could say generally here, without reference to anything specific. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be possible. All I can do in this case is to refer you to ACE’s Charity Evaluation Criteria, which goes into more detail about Criterion 5: Leadership and Culture.

 [The ACE Movement Grants DEI policy] still seems like harmful policy to me. Even if the overall goal of the grants is to make the movement stronger (including by becoming more inclusive), it's plausible that there could be some really promising projects from people/groups who don't fully align with ACE on DEI.

I agree that projects can be promising, regardless of the ideals of the people running them. But I disagree that ACE Movement Grants should fund such projects. The most important thing that ACE Movement Grants is trying to do is to help direct the shape of the larger movement. This is important because, unlike GiveWell with global poverty (for example), ACE and other EA funders direct at least 25% of the available funding for farmed animal advocacy. Whereas GiveWell can afford to solely advocate for top and standout charities, ACE is in the unique position of being responsible for a significant percentage of the money moved in some of these cause areas.

I’m not averse to all kinds of people doing promising projects. If they succeed, hopefully they can one day be recognized by ACE in its top or standout charity lists, as former AMG grantees Wild Animal Initiative, Vegetarianos Hoy, and Essere Animali are now. But while they are still in the ‘promising’ stage, I don’t think it is needed nor even appropriate for ACE Movement Grants to fund them if their values actively turn away BIPGM.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

A lot goes into ACE’s evaluation decisions. ACE’s charity evaluation process is extremely transparent; I welcome you to read ACE’s official description of that process if you want more detail generally on this kind of thing.

Regarding specifics, I’m unfortunately not at liberty to discuss any confidential details of this case beyond what is already explained in our 2020 evaluation of Anima International.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

In general, organizations should respect confidentiality of communications with other groups. This is especially important for ACE, as they rely on animal advocacy organizations feeling comfortable enough to share their internal data with them. While transparency is one of its primary goals, and ACE is already extremely transparent about its charity evaluation process and the reasoning that led to the selection of each of the recommended charities in its reviews, I hope you can understand why ACE also values the importance of retaining a collaborative relationship with other organizations. As such, ACE retains a strong policy against publicly sharing private communications between ACE and the charities they evaluate.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Although I am on the board of Animal Charity Evaluators, everything I say on this thread is my own words only and represents solely my personal opinion of what may have been going on. Any mistakes here are my own and this should not be interpreted as an official statement from ACE.

I believe that the misunderstanding going on here might be a false dilemma. Hypatia is acting as though the two choices are to be part of the social justice movement or to be in favor of free open expression. Hypatia then gives evidence that shows that ACE is doing things like the former, and thus concludes that this is dangerous because the latter is better for EA.

But this is a false dichotomy. ACE is deliberately taking a nuanced position that straddles both sides. ACE is not in danger of becoming an org that just goes around canceling free thought thinkers. But nor is ACE is danger of ignoring the importance of providing safe spaces for black, indigenous, and people of the global majority (BIPGM) in the EAA community. ACE is doing both, and I think rightly so.

Many who read this likely don't know me, so let me start out by saying that I wholeheartedly endorse the spirit of the quoted comment from Anna Salamon at the end of Hypatia's post. I strongly believe that the ideals of the enlightenment (open discussion of ideas, free speech, believing ideas based on argumentation and evidence)  are necessary in order to do and achieve better. I have been known, in the past, of arguing even for more open discussion of infohazardous ideas, given appropriate spaces.

But, at the same time, I simultaneously believe that the playing field in which we all live and work together is fundamentally biased against BIPGM. In order to ensure that BIPGM are able to also work in the EAA space, they can't just be ignored; we have to take a positive effort in order to ensure that they are fairly included. As Howard Zinn once noted, you can't stay neutral on a moving train.

(I really don't want EA to fall into the trap that Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony did when they threw Frederick Douglass under the bus. We can simultaneously fight for EAA while also providing a space for BIPGM in the EAA community.) 

Hypatia made several points in the original post. I'll reorganize them here, in their own words:

  • Blog Post on BLM
    • Making (in my view) poorly reasoned statements about anti-racism; and
    • encouraging supporters to support or donate to anti-racist causes and organizations of dubious effectiveness.
  • Withdrawal from 2020 CARE Conference
    • Attempting to cancel an animal rights conference speaker because of his (fairly liberal) views on Black Lives Matter;
    • withdrawing from that conference because the speaker's presence allegedly made ACE staff feel unsafe; and
    • issuing a public statement supporting its staff and criticizing the conference organizers.
  • Penalizing Charities Based on Staff Statements
    • Penalizing charities in reviews for having leadership and/or staff who are deemed to be insufficiently progressive on racial equity; and
    • stating ACE will deny funding to projects from those who disagree with its views on diversity, equity and inclusion.

I'd like to respond to some of these points, as I think they are incorrect and/or misleading. I will not be responding to the Blog Post on BLM bullet because I believe that ACE would be better able to clarify that issue.

Withdrawal from 2020 CARE Conference

"Attempting to cancel an animal rights conference speaker because of his (fairly liberal) views on Black Lives Matter, withdrawing from that conference because the speaker's presence allegedly made ACE staff feel unsafe"

My understanding is that ACE, as an organization, did not intend in any way to cancel this speaker in the sense that you mean here.

What happened is much more nuanced than you make it out to be. In another comment on this thread, anonymous00 writes up much more of the context behind what was going on. In short, ACE had staff that were going to present at the CARE conference. After they learned that the facebook commenter in question would be on a panel talking about BLM, they indicated to ACE leadership that they felt unsafe going to the conference, and they pulled out. There was no capacity to replace them with other speakers. ACE informed CARE that they were withdrawing.

At no point here did ACE as an organization deliberately decide to cancel anyone, even if some people affiliated with ACE did express dissatisfaction with him speaking on this topic at the conference. At no point do I think that ACE had any choice but to withdraw from the conference, given the feelings of ACE's staff that pulled out. You might object that these staff members shouldn't have felt unsafe. I can understand that point of view, because if I were in their position, I wouldn't have felt unsafe, even though I am also a BIPGM. (I'm mixed indigenous, hispanic, and white, with the plurality being indigenous ancestry.) But you and I do not get to choose when others feel unsafe.

Hopefully, anonymous00's writeup may give more context into why they felt unsafe. If not, I could try to explain further, perhaps with an analogy to make it more clear. But I believe this is beside the point. Organizations cannot tell their employees when they have to feel safe. It's up to people to make such determinations, and then organizations have to work around those facts.

"issuing a public statement supporting its staff and criticizing the conference organizers."

I agree that the way that ACE handled the communication surrounding these events was ultimately quite poor. While I believe that ACE took appropriate actions here, I don't think that its communications about those actions were appropriate nor ultimately good.

In particular, ACE's statement erred on the side of taking responsibility as an organization for the actions of its employees. I think this is generally good practice. But it gave an impression that ACE was trying to deplatform someone, when that is not what was going on at all. I think that the communications aspect of this situation could have been much better handled.

Penalizing Charities Based on Staff Statements

"Penalizing charities in reviews for having leadership and/or staff who are deemed to be insufficiently progressive on racial equity"

While your words here are technically correct, putting it like this is very misleading. Without breaking confidentiality, let me state unequivocally that if an organization had employees who had really bad views on DEI, that would be, in itself, insufficient for ACE to downgrade them from top to standout charity status. This doesn't mean it isn't a factor; it is. But the actions discussed in this EA forum thread would be insufficient on their own to cause ACE to make such a downgrade.

"stating ACE will deny funding to projects from those who disagree with its views on diversity, equity and inclusion."

While this is true as stated, it is not as inappropriate as it sounds here. The text you pulled is from ACE Movement Grants, which is completely separate from the evaluations used for top and standout charities. This is relevant because the entire point of ACE Movement Grants is to foster the movement to become bigger and better through increased resiliency, and this includes being inclusive. It is entirely appropriate for ACE Movement Grants to have a clause like this, given what they are trying to do. There are further reasons why ACE has something like ACE Movement Grants in place, and that context might further explain why including a clause like this would be appropriate; but in the interest of brevity, I won't include those reasons here.

Potentially Harmful to the EA Movement

"those who disagree with decisions to support that work shouldn't be branded as racist or ignorant"

I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment, and I believe ACE does as well. Please remember that ACE is unusually lenient about others who hold ideals contrary to what ACE does. Unlike global poverty work, there are actual real companies whose business depends entirely on killing and effectively torturing animals. Yet ACE is continually willing to promote organizations who do corporate outreach with these companies. If anything, ACE is extremely strong on allowing cooperation and promotion with individuals and groups who have views that are completely contrary to what ACE believes in.


Ultimately, I think the misunderstanding here is a false dilemma. ACE is deliberately taking a nuanced view on the supposed (false dichotomy) axis of free open discussion and the encouragement of safe spaces. At times, ACE might err on one side or the other; hopefully you can understand that organizations like ACE can and will sometimes fail to live up to their own ideals. But the intended position that ACE is taking is one where we try to foster free open discussion while also trying to make the EAA community a place where BIPGM can more fairly live and work.

Complex cluelessness as credal fragility

The issue is that the html is missing both the id attributes that show where the links should take you. What you want is something like:

In-page anchor links: <a id="ref1" href="#fn1">&sup1;</a>

Linked footnote: <p id="fn1">&sup1; <small>Footnote text.</small></p></code>

Footnote link back to article text: <a href="#ref1">↩</a></code>

But what you currently have is <a href="#fn-E9Mru3HsHeKH8GsTZ-1"><sup>[1]</sup></a> for the in-page link and <a href="#fnref-E9Mru3HsHeKH8GsTZ-1">↩︎</a> for the footnote link back to the text. There's no id="fn-E9Mru3HsHeKH8GsTZ-1" nor id="fnref-E9Mru3HsHeKH8GsTZ-1" in the html to indicate where these links should go.

A quick fix might be to just enter in the appropriate id attributes in the anchor links to footnotes and in the p tag for each footnote, but I suspect that the long alphanumeric part here means that you're using some program that has messed this up, so it may be a better use of time to figure out what went wrong with the program.

EDIT: After searching how to properly format code in comments on the EA Forum, I happened to come across this advice to just use this Google Docs add-on to make including footnotes much easier. It's likely more worthwhile for you to ignore the advice I made above and instead just use the add-on. (I still don't know how to make text appear in code blocks, though.)

Things I recommend you buy and use.

While I think the practice of sharing purchasing recommendations can be good (I love the concept of crowdsourcing research into great purchases!), I am concerned about some of the items that you've recommended here.

The diet books and health supplements you've listed are not items that I would personally endorse, and I don't believe that the EA community as a whole would uncritically endorse them either. While I'm comfortable with EA forum posts that argue for their effectiveness, I am not comfortable with EA posts that give the impression that these are not controversial recommendations.

Without intending to start a discussion into why these are controversial recommendations, I just wanted to flag that they are, since this post is presented as though the EA community should be already agreed upon their effectiveness.

However, the non-supplement recommendations you've listed here are pretty great! I'd like to especially shout out the saving money section as having several services that I use regularly.

Seeking part-time contractor for Facebook group support

I would strongly argue against this, primarily because it is against Reddit's rules. Although subreddits do get to choose many of the policies in their own space, vote manipulation is a rule that is enforced site-wide.

Retrospective on Teaching Rationality Workshops

I anticipate these lesson plans being very useful! Thank you for sharing.

My siblings (aged 13, 17, & 25) and I have a twice-yearly event where I will pick a topic and teach them about it in depth. I plan to use one of these lesson plans in my next meeting with them this summer.

Load More