Is religion the biggest threat to society?

September 28, 2005

These guys reckon it is. It turns out that the US, where religion plays a big role in daily life, suffers from much greater social problems than more secular developed countries such as the UK, Sweden, and France.

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

I haven’t read the actual journal article (I will, if/when I get my hands on it), but it appears that the author made the classic correlation vs causality mistake. Just because the more social ills a country suffers from, the more religious its citizens are, does not mean that religion is the cause of these social ills. Correlation does not equal causality. To use a similar example – Christmas only occurs in the months when people start sending cards to each other. In the months when people don’t send cards, there’s no Christmas. So Therefore, Christmas is caused by people sending cards to each other. This is nonsense of course, but the authors seemed to have used a similar line of logic. There are plenty of other possible explanations for why Americans are more likely to kill each other than people in other developed countries. Poverty cycles, lenient gun laws, lack of decent welfare programs, education etc. etc. But that’s another debate altogether. While responsible for a lot of bad stuff, I don’t think religion is to blame here. Plus, you could argue the reverse – that because of the higher number of social problems in the US, more people turn to God for hope, guidance, an excuse, or whatever. UPDATE: For anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to the original journal article. Academic wanking, really.


They’re REAL!

September 22, 2005

With all the shit going on in the world today, isn’t it great that the big question plaguing mankind has finally been answered?

Tyra Banks’ hooters are real!


Barry Hall

September 22, 2005

I’ve pretty much stopped following the AFL since that um local team (Lions was it?) became shithouse. Which I guess means I was never a real fan, rather one of those who hopped onto the bandwagon only to hop off again when the wheels started coming off. Hey, I admit it. I’ve never really liked that game you southerners play until we got good at it. But the whole Barry Hall thing did catch my attention. What the fuck was up with that? There is no question the Sydney player decided to give one to the stomach of St Kilda’s Matt Maguire. But Barry Hall escaped suspension because the incident occurred ‘in play’. I don’t know the rules exactly, but is punching a bloke in the stomach legal, so long as it’s ‘in play’? If so, then perhaps more teams should take advantage of this, and then we’d have a contest! If the incident happened during a game of soccer or basketball, the offender probably would’ve been suspended for at least half a season along with a hefty fine, not to mention being sent off. Sure, some say that Aussie Rules is a real man’s game, unlike pansy sports like soccer. But surely you must draw the line between being tough and manly, and being stupid, cowardly, and a bad sport, which was exactly opitimised by Barry Hall. Speaking of soccer, I’ll be heading out to the Queensland Roar vs Dwight Yo… I mean, Sydney FC game tomorrow night. Should be good fun. Now that’s a great bandwagon to be on.


Separated at birth?

September 15, 2005

I’ve been inclined to agree with most of the things Mark Latham has said about the ALP since retiring. Though it does make you wonder what type of Prime Minister he would’ve been… Update: Latham interview with Andrew Denton didn’t go to air tonight because of a ‘legal injunction’, according to the ABC voiceover. I guess Beazley’s not a happy camper. Update 2: Damn. Turns out the injunction was filed by News Limited. Nothing to do with defamation. Party-poopers.


Stick it up their arse day

September 12, 2005

I’m sure most of you have seen/heard of this email that’s doing the rounds these days. I myself have received it no less than six times and counting.

IT HAS BEEN CALCULATED THAT IF EVERYONE IN AUSTRALIA DID NOT PURCHASE A DROP OF PETROL FOR ONE DAY AND ALL AT THE SAME TIME, THE OIL COMPANIES WOULD CHOKE ON THEIR STOCKPILES. AT THE SAME TIME IT WOULD HIT THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY WITH A NET LOSS OVER 4.6 BILLION DOLLARS WHICH AFFECTS THE BOTTOM LINES OF THE OIL COMPANIES. THEREFORE THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 22nd HAS BEEN FORMALLY DECLARED “STICK IT UP THEIR ASS” DAY AND THE PEOPLE OF THIS NATION SHOULD NOT BUY A SINGLE DROP OF PETROL THAT DAY. THE ONLY WAY THIS CAN BE DONE IS IF YOU FORWARD THIS E-MAIL TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN AND AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN TO GET THE WORD OUT. WAITING ON THE GOVERNMENT TO STEP IN AND CONTROL THE PRICES IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. WHAT HAPPENED TO THE REDUCTION AND CONTROL IN PRICES THAT THE ARAB NATIONS PROMISED TWO WEEKS AGO? REMEMBER ONE THING, NOT ONLY IS THE PRICE OF PETROL GOING UP BUT AT THE SAME TIME AIRLINES ARE FORCED TO RAISE THEIR PRICES, TRUCKING COMPANIES ARE FORCED TO RAISE THEIR PRICES WHICH EFFECTS PRICES ON EVERYTHING THAT IS SHIPPED. THINGS LIKE FOOD, CLOTHING, BUILDING SUPPLIES MEDICAL SUPPLIES ETC. WHO PAYS IN THE END? WE DO! WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. IF THEY DON’T GET THE MESSAGE AFTER ONE DAY, WE WILL DO IT AGAIN AND AGAIN. SO DO YOUR PART AND SPREAD THE WORD. FORWARD THIS EMAIL TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW. MARK YOUR CALENDARS AND MAKE SEPTEMBER 22nd A DAY THAT THE CITIZENS OF AUSTRALIA DECLARE “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”

I remember getting a forward just like this one last year (I think?) when petrol prices in Brisbane first cracked the $1/litre mark. One of the first things that bewildered me about this email was that a day-long boycott would ‘HIT THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY WITH A NET LOSS OVER 4.6 BILLION DOLLARS’. I would be very interested to see where the email’s original author pulled this figure from. I’m guessing his arse. A $4.6 billion loss to oil companies because Australians did not purchase fuel for one day would mean that on average, every man woman and child in Australia spends over $200 on fuel each day, adding up to more than two times Australia’s annual GPD. So there goes any credibility the email may have once had. While obviously good intentioned, a day-long nationwide boycott of petrol is not going to decrease prices any time soon. As I mentioned two posts ago, with the possible exception of Katrina, the overall rise in oil prices have been a result of huge surges in demand, particularly from China. Believe me, if Australians all of a sudden stopped buying oil, the companies will have no trouble finding other willing customers. One also has to look at the broader picture. The high price of oil may ironically be just the catalyst for rapid advances in the development of more environmentally friendly fuel sources. People are already ditching their four-wheel-drives in favour of smaller more efficient cars. I’ve stopped driving to uni altogether. On a side note – I noticed at work yesterday that our delivery drivers got a pay increase of around $3-5/hour depending on the number of deliveries. While I’ve stopped delivering months ago in favour of more in-store work, there isn’t much doubt what most of this so called ‘pay rise’ will be spent on.


Bleak future for Labor too?

September 9, 2005

The results of Australian Electoral Survey, a survey of political attitudes and voting patterns at last year’s federal election, were released yesterday. It turns out that young Australians, especially men, are voting conservative more than ever. In last year’s election, 49 per cent of men under 25 voted for the Liberals, compared with 28 per cent Labor. It’s even more evident in the 25 to 30 age groups, where 62 per cent voted Liberal and 27 per cent Labor. The figures are a bit more evenly spread among women, with 36 per cent of under 25s voting Labor and 34 per cent Liberal. QUT Professor Clive Bean has a possible explanation for the different voting patterns between men and women:

“Women tend to have a more peace-oriented line and the hard line that the Government took on both refugees and asylum seekers and also on terrorism may well have appealed to young men, but perhaps pushed young women away a little bit,”

Perhaps, but with the exception of Iraq, there is very little difference between Liberal and Labor policies on asylum seekers and terrorism. Mandatory detention after all was introduced by a Labor Government and continued under John Howard. The waves of new anti-terrorism laws which came about after September 11 were passed through the Senate with the support of Labor. Labor also took the hard line on asylum seekers, and supported the Government’s post-Tampa legislations making it harder for illegal immigrants to enter the country. The ones who were genuinely concerned about the Government’s hardline stance on these issues voted for the minor parties, with the Greens picking up 20 per cent of the under 25s vote. The obvious conclusion you can draw from these figures is that Labor no longer the party for young people. It used to be that the older you get, the more you’re likely to vote conservative, but now the young are also voting conservative more than ever before. My only guess for an explanation is that people don’t know what kind of party Labor are anymore. The Labor Party of the 80s and 90s introduced a wide range of free-market oriented reforms which Australia’s current economic prosperity is built upon. To John Howard’s credit, as opposition leader, he let these reforms through the Senate without much fuss. In opposition however, Labor has been opportunistic, reactionist, populist, and downright silly on occasions. Kim Beazley’s reaction to the perceived lack of action by the Government in the wake of Katrina and the back flip on VSU typifies this. Labor tries to please the peaceniks and lefties with rhetoric on Iraq and Kyoto, yet they also want to look tough on security by supporting the Government in increasing the powers of ASIO. They try to please typical Liberal voters by offering tax cuts for the rich, but won’t support small businesses in getting rid of unfair dismissal laws. And let’s not forget Mark Latham. Of course, for a party which has had five leadership changes since losing power, and where the factions hate each other more than the real enemy, it perhaps isn’t very surprising that traditional Labor voters are turning away from them in droves.


Katrina

September 8, 2005

We’ve all seen the devastation of New Orleans on television over the past week, but seeing these updated images on Google Maps is the first time I’ve even come close to comprehending the sheer size of the disaster. Before: After: