Truth tickets and stupid offsets

Perhaps you’ve heard of carbon offsets: the idea that if you’re going to do something that will release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, you also buy or support something that will sequester an equivalent amount of carbon. It’s a rational way to compensate for necessary activities and keep your damage to the environment neutral.

Well, how about stupid offsets? Let’s say you’re going to do something that will increase the net amount of stupidity in the universe, like, say, paying to watch some inane creationist propaganda film because you’re curious about just how bad it can be. You can, without feeling guilty, if for every dollar you spend on the dumb movie you also invest an equivalent amount in something that increases intelligence, like donating to the NCSE. It’s an excellent idea: if you absolutely must pitch a few dollars into the pockets of lying frauds, make sure you counterbalance the problem and buy Truth Tickets, too.

And even if you don’t want to see the stupid movie, you can still buy Truth Tickets to compensate for all the idiots who will.


  1. says

    Just like carbon offsets, I think it’s fair to say that they should not be an excuse to foul our pleasant earth with excessive CO2 or any creationism. Subsidizing stupidity may be far more damaging than subsidizing intelligence is helpful.

    So sure, some no doubt should pay for tickets in order to be able to fisk it. They’d do well to at least partly offset their perhaps unavoidable (without breaking the law, at least at the first–I’ll watch it on TV or bit-torrent) support for helping to brain-damage children.

    But these offsets are no excuse for supporting lies if one has no good cause to do so.

    Glen D

  2. Raynfala says

    The important term here is “equivalent amount”. The exchange rate between Teh Stoopid and Smart is rather steep. Idiocy seems to get way more bang for its buck than “smarts” does, at least in the short term, because stupid is easy — smart is hard.

    So be sure to buy the expensive Truth Tickets!

  3. Alex says

    It’s funny. The word “truth” has been hijacked so well by the religionists that the label of “Truth Ticket” actually sounds dishonest and shifty to me.

  4. Slightly says

    I hate the idea of carbon offsets. I used to defend Al Gore vehemently until his “carbon offset” fiasco made it almost impossible. Let’s say I murder someone, then impregnate a woman immediately after.

    “It’s okay! Murder offset!”

  5. Chris says

    I however think to offset the money spent for the stupids, you must pay twice that amount for the truth tickets.

  6. True Bob says

    I must second what Raynfala said. Exchange rate is really really steep.

    And Slightly, that sounds very Old Testament of you.

  7. Alex says


    You hate the idea, or you hate the practical implementation? The idea seems pretty sound.

    Also, I’m not so sure that murder/impregnation is equivalent to regulating carbon-flow. IMO that was quite a leap of logic.

  8. says

    I think i’ll pay up some lifetime stupid offset by donating my economic stimulus package to stem cell research, in the name of George W. Bush, of course.

  9. chancelikely says

    Could we use a different term than “Stupid Offsets”? The first reading for (I suspect) most people would be that the offsets themselves are stupid. How about “Stupidity Offsets” instead?

    Yeah, yeah, framing, blah blah. But clarity of thinking should be a hallmark of science all the time.

  10. Richard Harris says

    True Bob, the New Testament ends on a viciously nasty note. That Holy Bile book is a vile document.

  11. Slightly says

    I was engaging in a bit of hyperbole; Expelled tries to draw a link between Hitler and atheism, I was only illustrating by use of an analogy.

    I don’t like the idea of carbon offsets; I’m sure the extremely-liberal lean of most of the commenters here means that I’ll catch some flak for that, but oh well. I’ll at least attempt to explain why I don’t like them.

    Carbon offsets are a good idea, in theory. But in practice, the voluntary type leads people to think they can just buy offsets and forget about doing anything to reduce their carbon footprint. It’s the “let someone else worry about it” mentality that, in my personal opinion, has put is in the environmental (not to mention economic) situation in which we find ourselves. I see it as robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    But, since I don’t currently purchase them and have no intention of dissuading others from doing so, it’s a personal problem, at most.

  12. says

    I disagree with #5, but…

    I don’t think he was equating carbon offsets with murder. Seems more like an analogy; don’t let Ben Stein go to your head. You can use a word like “murder” in a sentence with “carbon offsets” without equating the two.

  13. Mooser says

    And when I get the right number of tickets, will I get a Dore’ Bible, like Tom Sawyer?

  14. Travis T. says

    Is destroying the earth really that far off from murder?

    The life of one person versus the future of millions. Tough dilemma.

  15. Holbach says

    Since there is plenty of stupidity and insanity in the world, in the guise of all religious cretins, I propose a
    nice carbon offset by eliminating these oxygen consuming
    morons and combining their carbon dioxide residue to plant
    trees which would produce copious amounts of oxygen that we
    so sorely need to replenish that lost to deforestation and
    needlessly consumed by religious idiots who tend to breathe
    it without recourse to their gods. Their carcasses will
    release plenty of carbon and oxygen not only to rekindle
    a more healthier planet in the form of oxygen producing
    plants, but also to establish fantastic gardens of fruits,
    vegetables, and all sorts of variety of plants for every
    sane human need. Once they are gone, all their freaking churches should be razed and allowed to revert to the natural world. Sort of what the book “The World Without Us”
    describes, but only as applied to the religious vermin. All
    those freaking tax dodging houses of insane worship, if not
    razed, perhaps can be converted to needed housing, libraries, and centers of scientific inquiry. Now that will
    be an incredible carbon offset!

  16. says

    I prefer to believe that I’m USING UP the available stupid. It’s quite possible I’m owed a large amount of money for my hard work, especially during my teenage years.

  17. chaos_engineer says

    Jasper Fforde has a lengthy discussion of this in his latest book, “First Among Sequels”. (It’s well worth reading…Fforde is a British writer of comic sci-fi, comparable to Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.)

    In one of the subplots, a political crisis is developing in Europe: People have started voting for sensible candidates. This is bad because the governments have been making too many sensible decisions, leading to a massive stupidity deficit. Some people want to solve the problem with stupidity offsets (by paying third world countries to be dumping grounds for the excess stupidity). But other people think that’s a bad solution that doesn’t address the root problem, and that everyone ought to be responsible for minimizing their personal stupidity footprint.

    France tries to deal with the problem by getting all their citizens to walk into lampposts simultaneously. This is of course a sensible way to deal with the crisis so it makes the deficit even worse.

  18. says

    As other folks have pointed out, I think you can buy a lot more stupid for a dollar than you can buy of stupid offsets.

    I think we need someone to figure out a conversion. For example, it might not be too much to suggest that $10 of stupid = $50 for stupid offsets…

  19. windy says

    It’s funny. The word “truth” has been hijacked so well by the religionists that the label of “Truth Ticket” actually sounds dishonest and shifty to me.

    Yes, it has a certain “Freedom Fries” ring to it.

  20. Brian Tani says


    Others have contributed, but maybe this would help identify the problem in the analogy.

    The problem with killing a person and making up for it with another child in the world is because to us they are different things. The loss of the other, would not be amended by the birth of another. That person is dead.

    As for greenhouse gases we don’t care about the fate of a particular molecule, as long as in the overall picture they are more sequestered than emitted. But maybe we’re being to insensitive towards our greenhouse gases molecules. :P

    However, there’s something to be said about reducing the pollution per se. That’s important too, it’s not enough to compensate, but it’s “better” than nothing.

  21. Robert Thille says

    No No No…a wrong and a right isn’t better than just a right.

    If you must go see the stupid movie, pay for a different movie! And donate to NCSE or RDF or something.

  22. SteveM says

    A much better analogy to carbon offsets is the CAFE standards for automobile manufacturers. Their fleet of models are required to average to higher than a certain mpg. If they want to sell a car with an mpg less than that, they need to sell a car with better mpg to offset.

    So, what if one car company had a fleet average much higher than the requirement, you could allow them to sell their “excess” to another company that had a fleet average less than the standard. This does not preclude the standard being gradually increased every year.

  23. Slightly says

    @ #25:

    n. pl. -gies
    1. a. Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar.
    b. A comparison based on such similarity.

    I believe “otherwise dissimilar” circumvents your analysis of my analogy. Other than the idea that the second act somehow “makes up” for the first, the two notions (carbon emissions and murder) are entirely dissimilar.

    I did not mean:
    3. A form of logical inference or an instance of it, based on the assumption that if two things are known to be alike in some respects, then they must be alike in other respects.

  24. Alex says


    And others like:

    – Pro Life: No they are not.
    – Moral Majority: Neither moral, nor the majority.
    – Unbelievers: Are good people, not bad people.
    – Theory: Not a trivial thing.
    – Science: Is our friend, not enemy.
    – Faith: Is foolish, not admirable.
    – Blasphemy: Is a non-action.
    – Holy: Is an empty word.
    – Righteous: Happens by deed, not what one believes.
    – Atheist: Should not be a word any more than atoothfairyist.
    – and on…

    Since all of their fundamental claims are baseless, using language tricks is all they got.

  25. AtheistAcolyte says

    #21 (DaveX)

    Unfortunately, the cardinality of the set of Stupid Things (let’s call it aleph-duh) is much greater than the cardinality of the continuum. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to prove this. ;-)

    #14 (Slightly)

    The point of carbon offsets is to limit unbalanced CO2 emissions in a grassroots manner. Think of it this way: Suppose you have a regular income. You do not want to spend outside of these means (i.e. you don’t want to spend more than you take), but your budget already speaks for your entire income. So every additional expenditure you make must be accompanied by a cost-saving measure on your regular budget.

    As long as your carbon output is balanced with carbon uptake, how much you output makes no difference. CO2 here is indistinguishable from CO2 there, as far as the climate system is concerned. The grassroots nature of offsets tends to make it more likely to succeed, since legislation takes a long time and is usually watered down heavily to minimize election year risk, and the bulk of emissions likely lie in the long tail.

  26. AtheistAcolyte says

    Robert Thille-

    I was trying to figure out how to see this movie without paying for it and without bittorrent. Genius!

  27. Troublesome Frog says

    Carbon offsets are a good idea, in theory. But in practice, the voluntary type leads people to think they can just buy offsets and forget about doing anything to reduce their carbon footprint.

    On a global scale, though, “their” carbon footprint doesn’t matter. The whole world’s carbon footprint matters. If the net effect is that when you’re done, the world’s carbon footprint hasn’t increased, then it’s a win. In fact, over the long run, it should be *more* effective than simply cutting one’s on emissions.

    It’s the “let someone else worry about it” mentality that, in my personal opinion, has put is in the environmental (not to mention economic) situation in which we find ourselves. I see it as robbing Peter to pay Paul.

    I see it as Peter voluntarily paying Paul to do something worthwhile. Most people seem to have a problem with the fact that carbon offsets are “easier” than actually reducing one’s carbon footprint. That may be the case with the current caps, but if such a program is properly administered, the prices will eventually change that. Frankly, it makes sense to me that we would be reducing emissions of any sort where it’s most economically viable to do so, and an offset market does a great job of that.

    FWIW, the problem with the original murder analogy isn’t that it’s over the top. The problem is that murder is not a limited resource. If, by committing a murder, you were preventing somebody somewhere else from being murdered, it might work better. Some legitimate ethical questions might come out of that, especially if it’s a way of putting general downward pressure on future murder rates.

  28. Angus Beefheart says

    My issue with carbon offsetting isn’t the principle behind it, but rather how it turns out in practice.

    Some of the ways in which carbon is offset are fairly flawed. Cases in point: funding hydroelectric power – damming rivers is trading one environmental issue for another of equal or lesser value

    Tree planting programs – sure sequestering carbon-dioxide in trees works in the short term, but there’s no guarantee that 10 years from now your offset co. of choice is going to still be around or whether someone else buys out their land shares and uses the lumber, thus negating any benefit to the offset.

    paying people not to produce kinda sounds like their extorting us – “you pay me dollar signs or I make CO2.

    Though there’s plenty of offsetting co.’s that invest in wind power, funding for energy efficient farming practices, and education.

    I guess my take home message is fuck buying offsets and donate directly to businesses you thing are doing good for the environment. Paying for offsets is paying for someone else to invest in what they value, not what you do.

  29. says

    As Robert Thille and others have suggested, today’s multiplex theater is the perfect way to see Expelled (if only to cheer loudly when Dawkins and PZ are on the screen) without lining the pockets of the mendacious people who created it. Buy a ticket for a movie whose box office take you’d like to juice a little and then go see Expelled instead. Some of the other movies debuting on April 18 are 88 Minutes, Flashbacks of a Fool (careful! this one could be confused with Expelled!), Forbidden Kingdom, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Kiss the Bride, Life Before Her Eyes, Pathology (which could be the title of The Making of Expelled, but isn’t), and — Expelled‘s most powerful rival for the box office — Zombie Strippers!

    To say nothing of the holdover movies that will still be playing on the screens.

  30. Slightly says

    Gaping holes in my analogy aside, I can best sum up my position (after reflection) as such:

    Carbon offsets encourage people to sit on their ass and do nothing about our use of fossil fuels. It might do some good in the next 10 years, but what happens in 25 years? or 50? At some point, people need to stop being able to pawn off their trouble on someone else, and take responsibility… or nothing will ever get done.

  31. Angus Beefheart says


    the discovery of Zombie Strippers will now stand as the most important thing I’ve learned on ScienceBlogs…

  32. Frederik Rosenkjær says

    #21: I’m afraid you’ve bought into a native 20th century myth about the limits to the supply of stupid. It’s exactly like the oil – 20 years ago they said it would last 30 more, but they just keep on finding new pockets. Same with stupid, it seems. And think about the horrible biproducts of consuming all that stupid. And it burns.

  33. Frederik Rosenkjær says

    #21: I’m afraid you’ve bought into a native 20th century myth about the limits to the supply of stupid. It’s exactly like the oil – 20 years ago they said it would last 30 more, but they just keep on finding new pockets. Same with stupid, it seems. And think about the horrible biproducts of consuming all that stupid. And it burns.

  34. AtheistAcolyte says

    #37 (Slightly) –

    Point taken. But you’re assuming that people who do buy carbon offsets are less motivated to act in other ways than people who do not buy carbon offsets. Pretty steep assumption, in my opinion.

  35. Copernic says

    Not only donate but if you have corporate matching, get “The Man” or “Big Business” to contribute to the nation’s scientific literacy as well.

  36. Chris P says

    #39: Could you please explain how you can go on extracting oil to infinity at the same level of production?

    You offer no numbers to back up your claim – even BP gives a number.

    Chris P

  37. le_sacre says

    can someone explain what exactly the NCSE does? i mean, that requires funding through donations?

  38. says

    Maintaining the website, publishing their resources…other than that, um…paying their staff? But then, they have an online store for all that… Not being especially familiar with the organization, I don’t really know. But its a good question. lol

  39. le_sacre says

    yeah, i’d be thrilled to support them (in my meager way) if i knew it would make a difference. PZ’s endorsement definitely has them on my radar, but their website isn’t particularly thrilling so far.

  40. Charlie Foxtrot says

    Why not borrow another solution as well, and create “Stupidity Sinks”?
    Just bundle up all Teh Stoopid and seal them up deep underground in disused coal mines?

    Just a suggestion…

  41. Jonathan says

    I love the idea of setting up a table outside theaters where they’re showing the movie and selling actual, tangible Truth Tickets to people seeing the movie. Proceeds to go be donated to the NCSE or one of the other worthwhile scientific organizations, of course.

  42. says

    Funny to see NCSE contributions mentioned. Earlier this week I posted a “I’ll match your donation to NCSE” on my blog (up to a max of $500, all donations combined). At first, I was a little nervous about it, having pledged an amount of money that is actually a bit of a stretch for me financially. Now, I’m a little disillusioned that nobody has taken me up on it. Given that my blog is not exactly Grand Central Station with respect to traffic, I thought I’d try soliciting over here, if that’s okay. Think about it. You’ll be supporting science education AND helping me accrue “stupid offsets” to make up for having spent some years as a Christian. Win-win.

    The link, if interested.

  43. mothra says

    Here is another problem with carbon offsets. Corperation A buys 50,000 acres of Brazilian rainforest which is then clear cut and planted in soybeans. The company pledges an equal amount of money to preserve a tract of land in Southeast Asia. Losses: carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, oxygen not produced, thin soil layer and the land goes out of production as barren laterite clay for a generation, environmental contamination from pesticides, any unique species with important biomedical or genetic or any (thing about which we are still ignorant-lots) beneficial property. And now the loss is incalculable and offset is by a fixed ‘monetary’ value. Also, that patch of SE Asia was at the time of purchase still valuable, Corperation B may have owned and preserved it as investment while searching for ‘same’ unknown valuable commodity as was lost in Brazil. Corperation B gets a good money deal and bails out on investment, Corperation A benefits, earth has a zero-sum-gain in SE Asia and a disaster in Brazil.

    Carbon credits were laid downn in the Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, and Permian periods- we’ve been spending them like water.

  44. Ichthyic says

    And now the loss is incalculable and offset is by a fixed ‘monetary’ value.

    this system has already been in place for years in various states; that is: compensation for lands claimed for other “uses”.

    It’s what allowed all the wetlands in Southern California to have condos built on them, with the “compensation” (the correct word is escaping me at the moment) taking the form of a natural history centers built in various places.

    to say that they have taken liberties with the idea would be a rather gross understatement.

    I do fear you are correct that the idea of carbon offsets will end up being just a much larger version of this.

  45. DanioPhD says

    can someone explain what exactly the NCSE does? i mean, that requires funding through donations?

    I’d guess that educational resources and outreach efforts, as well as travel costs and speaking engagements at places who can’t afford the speaker fees would probably benefit from our donations. Yes, the NCSE has an online store, but they also have a team of extremely committed people keeping tabs on the legal, scientific, philosophical, and constitutional ramifications of teaching creationism in American classrooms. I imagine that the collective cost of these endeavors far outstrips any proceeds derived from t-shirt and bumper sticker sales.

    Think about the donations that Ken Ham’s Creation Museum has been raking in over the last few years, or how full the Disco Institute’s coffers are, or how flush with cash most megachurches and ministries are. I’ll gladly kick in some extra coin to the NCSE if my donation can help the voice of reason to shout a little louder above the din of well-heeled lunatics.

  46. negentropyeater says


    you give a valid example, but here is the question, what else could we do ? If we, the international community, through some yet unknown mechanism,forbid company A to buy 50,000 acres of Brazilian rainforest which is then clear cut and planted in soybeans, the Brazilian government should be entitled to claim compensation for its economic development growth, and how do you value that ?
    If Carbon offsets is not an optimal solution, what else should we do ?

  47. negentropyeater says

    In valuing the exchange rate of a truth ticket (how many dollars to compensate for an Expelled ticket), we should also include the negative effects that the creationists will brag about how many people paid to see the movie.

    They for sure won’t say the truth (because they are compulsive liars) ie from our paid viewers, X% actually disagrees entirely with the premise. For them, the higher the sale the higher they’ll brag about it, as if, naturally, all people who paid to see the movie, agree with its premise.

  48. says

    can someone explain what exactly the NCSE does?

    If you saw the PBS documentary, Judgment Day, you saw the NCSE in action. They’re the guys who were working behind the scenes, doing the research that made the discovery of various documents that pinned creationism to ID’s back; Nick Matzke, who was rather prominent in that, was working for the NCSE. Then of course, there’s Eugenie Scott, who flies around the country talking to people about this stuff.

    They aren’t an organization that dabbles in politics; as you might guess from the name, they’re an educational organization.

  49. clarence says

    I’ve got to say that I like the idea of offsets but agree with those who find fault with the implementation.

    On my commute this very morning, we were at a red light behind a lone woman, drinking out of a disposable cup, who had a TerraPass sticker slapped on the back of her big-ass SUV. What if she had made some simple changes to her lifestyle AND donated to or invested in carbon-reducing technologies?

    From what I’ve seen, carbon offsets, in practice, are currently little more than a currency used to purchase smugness. And even though stupidity offsets are a joke, the effect is kind of the same. Get your stupid for free on the internet, and donate because you believe in something, not because you’re trying to assuage a guilty conscience by buying Indulgences.

  50. mothra says

    @57 If I had that answer, I probably wouldn’t be working as an insect museum curator at a small mid-western university.

    My best guess goes like this. The idea of ‘carbon credits’ is not for John/ Jane average Earthling or even John/ Jane western world average Earthling, the idea is solely for corporations. Average world citizen is, I think, steadily already going greener. At the Corporate level, I am for sticks rather than carrots. It may not work but, international tax levies, set so very high and with first calls on the assets of CEO’s and directors boards. At every level make it directly ‘painful’ to not be green, set the level that the tax offset any profits that could be passed on to shareholders as increase in stock value or dividends. The tax goes into organizations such as World Wildlife Fund, TNC, and is also given out as incentive starter grants for green organizations. A bit ‘wild eyed’ and I have not given a mechanism for assessment or collection, but there is no ideal solution.

  51. mothra says

    For John/ Jane average earthling, purchasing local whenever possible might be the single best carbon offset, especially with food items. Some other items are more efficiently mass produced.

  52. bartkid says

    I don’t have the mad math skillz, but somehow this sounds like trying to divide n by infinity.

    Goood luck with that.

  53. says

    It’s funny. The word “truth” has been hijacked so well by the religionists that the label of “Truth Ticket” actually sounds dishonest and shifty to me.

    Many cults refer to their belief as “The Truth.” A cult member is “In The Truth.” Whenever I hear someone talking about The Truth (and you can hear the capital letters when they say it) I put my hand on my wallet and back away slowly.

    I don’t want the truth. I want The Facts. Give me the facts and I can figure out the truth for myself.