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Evangelism
The wars between the "OTHER PRIMATES OPEN THEM FROM THE SMALL END" faction versus the "BUT THE LITTLE BIT OF BANANA AT THE SMALL END IS GROSS" faction consumed Europe for generations.
Title text: The wars between the "OTHER PRIMATES OPEN THEM FROM THE SMALL END" faction versus the "BUT THE LITTLE BIT OF BANANA AT THE SMALL END IS GROSS" faction consumed Europe for generations.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Need a citation for primates opening bananas from the “other end”. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.

Evangelism, in Christianity, is the commitment to or act of publicly preaching of the Gospel with the intention of spreading the message and teachings of Jesus Christ. It is famously done door-to-door by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for whom this practice, called “field ministry”, is paramount.

“Evangelism” is also defined as any zealous advocacy for a cause, religious or not. In this comic, Randall presents a line plot where causes are listed, in increasing order, by the intensity of the evangelism of their advocates. The first punchline is that religious proselytizers, unexpectedly[citation needed] are much less intense than advocates for such things as opening bananas from the other end—which is also the subject of the title text. The reason for this, for the comic’s release date, is likely to be its assignment as the official “Banana Day” in the US (despite not (yet?) being on this list of food days in the US).

As the graph moves from left to right, the issues at stake have less and less impact on the life of someone who “converts”, but the intensity and fervor of those spreading the cause increases. This is counterintuitive, which is the joke.

Below, each of the points on the chart, as well as the title text, is discussed.

Religious proselytizers

Religious proselytizers are the best known evangelists, and the term “evangelism” originally applied only to them. Christian evangelism has become less common and less accepted in the public sphere in recent decades, and often only practiced in specific venues. Randall contrasts them in this strip with four other groups which he finds to be more intense in their “evangelism”.

People who want the US to switch to metric

Unlike most of the world, the US uses US customary units instead of metric units. Some people wish for this to change.

Randall has made a conversion chart for helping US people with the confusing metric units: 526: Converting to Metric.

People who want the US to switch to metric but keep Fahrenheit

Pro-metric people who wish to keep the Fahrenheit scale rather than change to Celsius are ranked as slightly more evangelic. A common argument for keeping the Fahrenheit scale is due to 0°F equating to “really cold” and 100°F to “really hot” when talking about weather. Fahrenheit also has smaller degrees than Celsius, so temperatures can be cited more precisely without the need to include fractional degrees. This also gives Fahrenheit the advantage that “decades” of temperatures are more useful as in saying the weather is in the 40s or the 70s, for instance. Because the Celsius degree is larger, the range of temperatures within any decade is wider and saying the temperature is in the 10s may not be as useful as it is a wider range of temperatures, compared to Fahrenheit.

To many people, making the shift only partially may immediately seem very silly—and yet the people arguing for this are even more ardent than those that wish to shift entirely, perhaps precisely because of this immediate strangeness. Also, if someone is being an SI purist, supporting a full shift to SI units, one could argue they should be advocating a switch to Kelvin as the unit of thermodynamic temperature, even though Celsius has the status of an SI derived unit.

Fahrenheit versus Celsius has been the topic of 1643: Degrees and 1923: Felsius.

People who threw away their socks and bought all one kind

The reason to do such a thing would be that any two socks in your drawer will match, reducing the likelihood of ending up with an unmatched sock—or a whole stack of them—in your drawer. This is a problem that scientists have researched.

To most people, it immediately seems quite aesthetically boring to always wear the same color of socks or other clothing. Despite this, those that do so recommend it quite ardently to all their friends, according to the comic—even more so than the pro-metric advocates.

Randall previously referenced this idea in the xkcd survey (see 1572: xkcd Survey) from September 2015. It included this question:

Have you ever thrown out all your different pairs of socks/underwear, bought a bunch of replacements that were all one kind, and then told all your friends how great it was and how they should do it too?
People who open bananas from the other end

The most evangelic people Randall can think of is the people who open bananas from the “other” end! Some people prefer to open bananas from the bottom (small end) instead of the top (stem end). This thought is continued in the title text.

Title text

The title text is a fictional argument that apparently somehow tore apart Europe between the two factions Other primates open them from the small end and But the little bit of banana at the small end end is gross. It continues the most evangelic point in the chart about how bananas are supposed to be opened from the “right” end. It seems absurd that this could have actually happened, over such a trivial issue. However, major schisms in religion, such as that between Catholicism and Protestantism (which did split Europe) seem similarly trivial to the non-religious. The supposed argument stems[Pun Intended] from a disagreement between those that find it easier to open a banana from the bottom and those that find the small bit at the base of a banana unappetizing.

In the wild, primates have been observed to open bananas[citation needed] from the bottom end away from the stem, as one of the two factions refers to. Less force is required to open a banana at the bottom than at the stem, causing less bruising of the fruit and generally making it easier to open. However, if not done carefully, this can result in the fruit getting squished and making a mess on the person’s fingers. Opening bananas from the stem end appears to be the predominant habit of most banana-eating humans (in Randall’s sample). One explanation is that using the stem as a lever makes for greater ease of opening and thus less damage in practice. (Bananas grow with the stem at the bottom).

The entire “correct banana end” discussion could be a reference to the wars between the Blefuscudians, who opened their eggs at the big end, and the Lilliputians, who broke their eggs at the small end, as told in Jonathan Swift’s epic novel Gulliver’s Travels. This in turn is the origin of the terms "Little Endian" and "Big Endian" which were much debated in circa 1980's computer architectures - which may also have been on Randall's mind.

Randall’s thoughts on the problems with opening bananas could also explain why this fruit, which many find very easy to peel and consume, is listed in the middle of the easy/difficult scale in the 388: Fuck Grapefruit chart.

Transcript

[A chart is shown with a line drawn from left to right with five markers on it. Each marker has a line going to it from a labeled below the main line. Above this there is a title and right below that a label above an arrow pointing to the right.]
People by intensity of evangelism
More intense
Religious proselytizers
People who want the US to switch to metric
People who want the US to switch to metric but keep Fahrenheit
People who threw away their socks and bought all one kind
People who open bananas from the other end


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