Give, But Give Thoughtfully

Charity is a virtue, but choosing a charity to give to is important. Photo by fhwrdh, via flickr.

Charity is a virtue, but choosing a charity to give to is important. Photo by fhwrdh, via flickr.

We, the contributors to the Skeptoid Blog, recently received a reader-listener request to talk about tapping, an acupressure routine touted to have amazing therapeutic benefits. The request came with a link to the website, which is used for promoting The Tapping Solution Foundation. The foundation is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, and a sibling to the for-profit Tapping Solution, which sells self-help materials about “tapping.” The practice of tapping is simply a kind of acupressure woo, wherein the practitioner taps certain points on the body repeatedly with a soft gesture. It uses the typical nonsense jargon about energy and negativity, includes ancient Chinese wisdom, and exciting new research conducted by a guy with advanced degrees from New Age diploma mills. It’s essentially the same kind of quackery that has been covered in a lot of places on Skeptoid, including entries on acupuncture, chiropractic, guides to rhetorical fallacies, and so on. It’s filled with pretty boilerplate fallacies and empty claims—no big whoop.

However, there is a problem: The Tapping Solution Foundation is soliciting donations for charity relief work in Oaxaca, Rwanda, and Newtown, CT, among other places. They’re doing programs with veterans and cancer patients. That’s great. I prefer it to them charging money for the DVDs that they peddle, and intimate human contact in a safe setting has been shown repeatedly to have beneficial psychological effects. That benefit has nothing to do with energy fields or tapping emotions in the brain or epigenetics, as companies like The Tapping Solution like to claim, and it has everything to do with just being in a room with another friendly person. Giving money to such an organization basically guarantees that it’s going to be wasted. You’d be paying someone’s expenses so that they can go tap on people who have experienced traumas, and probably in turn sell some DVDs, seminars, books, and other woo paraphernalia.

On top of that, look: I’m not religious, but I do, like many people, tend to do much of my charitable giving during the holiday season. I give for myself, and I make donations to charities on behalf of the people I love. A lot of charitable giving happens around this time of the year. Now, The Tapping Solution Foundation may be very nice people, but there are nonprofit groups that desperately need funding and can do an enormous amount of good for very little money. They treat very pressing needs: epidemic illness, starvation, human rights abuses, basic education, climate change, and so on. Médecins sans frontières/Doctors Without Borders has been one of the most significant, on-the-ground relief groups treating the Ebola crisis in West Africa. They need donations far more urgently, and can do far, far more with them, than the tapping people.

As well, there are essential charitable organizations that work nearby you: food banks, homeless shelters, even just Goodwill. And there’s also this very blog, Skeptoid, which does not pay contributors, but instead uses funds to pay costs related to the production and dissemination of the program and the blog. Listener and reader donations make Skeptoid possible and help to educate people on scientific skepticism, to think through problems and supposed mysteries or phenomena that they encounter everyday.

If you want to help people, please, do make a contribution to your charity of choice. Be skeptical of the charities that you contribute to; does the world need more forehead tapping, or more actual vital assistance? I think you already know the answer.

If you like Skeptoid and the information it offers, help make it a two-way street. PayPal micro-payments are an easy, painless way to keep weekly Skeptoid going to your inbox and your mobile device for years to come. You will have our gratitude and the satisfaction of promoting science education.

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4 Responses to Give, But Give Thoughtfully

  1. Margaret Nyand says:

    Thanks for a good article. And honestly I am going to find out how to support via paypal. Honestly. New Years resolve. Skeptoid is a brilliant companion to a mind no longer stimulated by the classroom (retired lecturer). It keeps me thinking, keeps me provided with topics to debate, keeps me interested enough to do follow up research. Thanks very much.

    • Noah Dillon says:

      Wow! Thanks so much for your kind words, Margaret. They’re very much appreciated. And thank you for your service as a teacher. I’m sure you touched a lot of people. That’s a true service. On behalf of myself and the other Skeptoid bloggers, we’re thankful for your compliments and support. Please share Skeptoid as you’re able. We’d love to have more readers like you.

  2. Mike says:

    Whenever you consider giving to a charity you always check Charity Navigator or CharityWatch first. I stopped giving to one charity when I found out that 1.8m of the 2m it raised went to the salary of the one administrator.

    • Noah Dillon says:

      I just heard a really interesting critique of some of those websites on Slate’s weekly Slate Money podcast. They did a couple of shows about charity and philanthropy a few weeks before Xmas and said that some of the criteria that charity-rating websites use might be biased against certain charities that use money in a way differently than they might need to be used in most cases. That’s not a very clear explanation, but you should check it out:

      Needless to say, though, using 90% of the money available to pay a charity’s executive is absolutely hideous. So, pretty much, despite my above comment, your advice is totally reliable the vast majority of the time.

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