The Compass

Arjen's right wrist with compass on watch bandI frequently get questions about the compass residing on the wrist band of my watch.

The real answer is that I use it when bushwalking – I also have a “proper” one for things that need more accuracy, but this works and is always handy. More recently, I figured I might as well have some fun with it. So now my answer (to adults) is “I’m an atheist, so this is my moral compass.”

People also wonder why I wear my watch on my right wrist, even though I’m right-handed (for writing). I actually throw left-handed and tend to catch with my right hand – but that’s a sideline. Here’s the truth: the origin of the choice-of-wrist is decades old, and was part of an experiment that stuck. You’ve probably seen or read detective stories, where the brilliant deduction is made that because a victim or suspect wears the watch on the right wrist, and “therefore they must’ve been left handed”? Being young and already inquisitive, I thought I’d just test that and of course it’s complete nonsense. But I kinda got used to wearing the watch on the right wrist, and it’s a neat reminder that while Occam’s Razor is a good guide, drawing far reaching conclusions on seemingly obvious little things can easily (and thus quite often) yield invalid results!

The Gruen Transfer – The Pitch: Banning All Religion

The Gruen Transfer is an excellent ABC TV program exploring the murky world of advertising. It’s insightful as well as funny.

One of the regular items is “The Pitch” where two ad agencies are commissioned to create a TV ad to “sell the unsellable”. Note that this is satire… past examples included briefs for invading New Zealand, reintroducing child labour, and a parenting licence.

Last week, the two companies had to sell the idea of “banning all religion”. Interestingly, that was also for the first time in four years that several ad agencies declined to participate. They were ok with previous topics like those mentioned above, but not this. Hmm…

Both ads are good, but reckon the second one is a particularly awesome.

As presenter Adam notes: “You and your god may have other views” ;-)

Religious misdirection on bumpersticker

I don’t expect bumperstickers to be of the highest journalistic caliber. That said, I found one spotted yesterday a bit irky. I was driving at the time so I couldn’t take a pic… from memory, it went something like this:

“Dear God, why is there so much violence in our schools? Signed, a concerned student.”
“Dear concerned student, I’m not allowed in schools. Signed, God.”

I reckon that’s misrepresenting the issues more than a little bit, as well as not having a foundation in fact. Australia has plenty of religious schools, in particular Catholic colleges and the like. Are there stats proving that there’s less violence in those schools compared to say State Schools? One diff is of course that private schools can have an admissions policy, which is only possible because public schools are obliged to accept at least anyone in their catchment area. Are religious environments less violent than others? I doubt it.

On a larger scale, most wars have religious “cause”, so there religion is actually triggering violence. There has been research on whether secular societies have a higher crime rate, and the answer is no (in fact the opposite, in some cases). Thus, any claim that non-religious people or societies would somehow lack morals to do what is right is utter nonsense. Morals have nothing to do with religion and everything with general practicalities in any society – the fact that religions also happen to have opinions on morals is of no consequence to that. This assertion can be proven by the fact that some societies -including religious ones- do engage (as a group) in various questionable behaviours which are regarded as ok within the group.

Social Psychology has a concept called “Social Proof”, if you see multiple others do something, it must be the right thing. We tend to look around us for “guidance” when we don’t know what to do in a specific situation. This system usually works well, but it can go wrong as well as be abused. Digressing a bit there… in any case I don’t think the sticker is making any point.