Lesson 44- The Normal Curve
We begin a new topic today entitled, The Normal Curve and Statistical Probability in which we will explore the nature of norms and laws.,
One of the reasons that the Church has survived for 2000 years is because it has been able to integrate new knowledge and new theories into the Gospel. Without the teaching magisterium of the Pope and the bishops to guide us through the maze of conflicting theories, we would be lost and confused over time when new information seemingly contradicted or challenged our basic beliefs. Someone once said that the Church thinks in centuries which means that it doesnt impulsively jump on every new theory or fad that comes along. It takes its time to digest and weigh the new information or theory and when the smoke has cleared, it is able to discern what is true and what is false. This is the way it is suppose to be because Jesus had said to His disciples that there were many more things that He had to tell them but they were not ready to receive them. Consequently, He promised to send the Spirit of Truth who would teach us all things. Therefore, history is the unfolding of Truth, both religious and secular, and all of it comes from God. 1 min
Through experience, which is one of the ways that the Bible says that Wisdom teaches us, the Church has learned to reserve its final judgment until all the facts are in. Whenever it didnt, it proved to be an embarrassment, such as with Galileo and his theory that the earth circle the sun instead of visa versa. 15 sec. 1:15
As Christians, we should not be afraid of Truth if we sincerely believe Jesus when He says, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. And we shouldnt be afraid to update or deepen our understanding of Gods creation whenever human knowledge expands. Often things that first look threatening to our belief system later prove to enhance and support it. 20 sec. 1:35
This seems to be true in terms of some of the more recent discoveries in science, especially those that undermine the concept of absolute laws. Like St. Thomas Aquinas, when faced with the influx of Greek thought through the writings of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, we should listen and reflect on these new insights to see how they might deepen our own understanding of the mind of God. Science, despite the popular perception, is not intrinsically opposed to religion or to the belief in God. Albert Einstein once said, All I ever wanted to do was to understand the mind of God. And all truth, no matter who discovers it, is simply a reflection of the Divine Wisdom, Jesus Christ. As I mentioned in a previous talk, a relativistic universe should not frighten us so long as there is one Absolute, God, to which everything else is related. 45 sec. 2:20
Up until 1927, science believed that the laws of the universe were absolutes and then along came a physicist named Werner Heisenberg who developed Heisenbergs Principle of Indeterminancy which claimed that the laws of the universe were based on statistical probability. Basically, what he said was that these laws could be demonstrated and validated only when they were applied to groups not to individual items. Thus, physics can measure and tell what a group of atoms will do but they cant measure or tell us what one individual atom will do. Thus, the only conclusions that you can draw about the behavior of the atom is based on statistical probability. According to a long time science reporter, Peter Zollinger, in his book the Political Animal, what Heisenbergs Law suggested was that physical beings, like atoms, and social beings, like people, follow the same type of laws. In other words, it has long been known that the rules governing the prediction of human behavior are based on statistical probability. Thus, we can predict how center class Catholics will vote in the next election, but we cant tell how any individual Catholic, within that group, will vote. There is always the possibility that some of them will deviate from the norm. Now, it appears that the same is true about atoms. In both cases, we can predict only what groups will do but not what individuals within the group will do. There is always the possibility that they might deviate from the groups behavior or norm.
Let me use another example that I used with my seniors in high school. I would say to the class, James, I want to know how far human beings spit- You always pick something disgusting or gross if you want students to remember it. Next, I would say, Suppose James goes out in front of the school and meets an 86-year-old lady with loose false teeth and emphysema. He asks her to spit and she spits one foot. He reports back to me his findings and I say that this cant be right, its too short.. So I send him out again. This time he meets a big, barrel-chested truck driver who spits 20 feet. Again, I tell him that this cant be right, its too long. 35 sec. 4:15
The truth is that he has reported to me two extremes: the extremely short and the extremely long. The only way that we can answer the question of how far do human beings spit is to test a whole lot of them and, when we do, we will discover that a statistical curve will be formed in the shape of a bell., This is called the Bell Curve or Normal Curve. Let me warn you that I need your full attention and imagination to describe what follows next because it is very visual and I am attempting to do this through the medium of radio. If this were TV, I could draw the curve for you. It might help you to draw it yourself. 35 sec. 4:50
Imagine a bell with long sloping sides extending out from the top center of the bell. The top center of bell represents the center point between two extremes. Lets draw a line down from that point to the base and let it represent the average or norm. The left base of the bell is the extreme in one direction and the right base of the bell represents the extreme in the other direction. Thus, using our spitting example, the little old lady who spat one foot represents the extreme to the left and the truck driver, who spat 20 feet represents the extreme to the right of the norm. The center point, which probably represents about 10 feet, is the normal distance for the average human being. Notice also that, because the bell slopes as it moves away from the center point, that the number of cases decrease the further you move away from the center. Thus, the further you move from the norm of 20 feet the fewer are the number of people who spat either shorter or farther than the norm. And the closer you move towards the midpoint or norm, the greater are the number of cases. So, how far human beings spit is not an absolute number, it is a statistical probability. Hoping that you are still with me, let me proceed. 1min 10 sec 6:00
Now lets apply this to a moral law, keeping in mind that morality is just another name for rational behavior designed t Mo reach rational ends. 10 sec. 6:10
Society, if it hopes to survive, has to replicate itself into the future. It does this through the mechanism of sexual reproduction. However, reproduction is not enough. The off-springs not only have to be born, they have to be protected, nourished, and trained until they are able to assume an adult role in their society. This is especially true for our own species since our children are not born with a lot of preset instincts like other animals. We are born as undeveloped and helpless creatures who need years of care and training. Brain scientists say that animals are born with hard-wired brains, which means that most of the neural connections are already hooked up at birth. Human children, on the other hand, are born with soft-wired brains in which a significant number of neural connections are hooked up after birth by the caretakers of the baby. Thus, every cultures can writes its code for survival into the childs mind by hooking up these neural connections according to the demands of the culture. In fact, we could take a newly born Eskimo baby and place it in a Watusi tribe in Africa and the African mother would wire the childs brain to be a Watusi. 1 min 7:10
Experience (Wisdom) has taught us that, although the females of some species, whose young come prewired, can raise the young by themselves, human females need help during the long developmental period of their infants. Thus, the Divine Light of Intelligence within us, tells us that human sexuality has to be regulated by a social institution called marriage in order to assure that most children will be raised in a stable family, because, experience has also taught us that most children thrive better in a stable family. However, this fact is a statistical probability because it is possible that some children will not thrive in a stable family. Thus, sometimes wonderful families produce very mixed up children and, other times, some great children develop from chaotic conditions. However, in both instances, the chances are possible not probable. Therefore, in order to assure the greatest number of stable families, society, and Divine Wisdom, sets marriage as the norm for sexual interaction. So let us draw a line down from the center of our bell and write on it marriage to indicate that it is the norm which will best assure the greatest number of stable families. 1 min 10 sec 8:20
If we lived in a universe of absolute laws, then anytime this norm was followed we would have a warm, nurturing, stable family which produced wonderful acculturated children, and anytime we violated the norm, we would produce an unstable chaotic situation which would produce terribly maladaptive children. However, in a universe based on statistical probabilities, it is possible but not probable that you could get the opposite results. Let me illustrate. 25 sec. 8:45
Lets deviate to the left from this marriage norm by having an engaged couples have sex the night before the wedding. Technically, they have violated the norm and society might be a little upset but its basic concern is what are the chances that the bride-to-be gets pregnant and the groom-to-be backs out of the wedding? The obvious answer is Its possible but highly improbable. Therefore, society doesnt approve but it also doesnt get bent totally out of shape. In some cultures, including the Jewish culture at the time of Jesus, sex could take place during the engagement period because it was almost as binding as the wedding. In other words, this moral law has a rational end and that is why deviating from it is considered to be a sin, or missing the mark. Now lets deviate a little further down the curve. 45 sec 9:30
Now we have a formally engaged couple who have already reserved the church, hired the photographer, hall, and caterer and have a down payment on their house, and they decide to have sex one year before their wedding date. Once again, societys question is , What are the chances that she gets pregnant and he backs out of the marriage? The answer this time is not as emphatic. It is still possible but seem more improbable. This time, society is bent a little more out of shape because of the shifting odds. Lets deviate again. 30 sec. 10:00
This time the couple is living together; there is no formal engagement and no plan or preparations for the wedding. He tells her that he is not ready to settle down but that at some unspecified time in the distant future, he intends to marry her. Foolish girl! Now the answer to the question is, not only is it possible that she will get pregnant and he will fail to fulfill his husbandly and fatherly commitment, it is quite probable that he wont. Let deviate further from the norm of marriage. 30 sec. 10:30
Now we have a teenage boy of seventeen and a girl of fourteen who are madly in love with each other and decide to express it sexually. They are hunting out of season because the relationship has nowhere to go. Neither is employed or capable of setting up any type of home or family. What are the chances that she gets pregnant and neither he nor she is able to provide the stable, loving family that the child needs. It is not only possible, it is statistically highly probable.
Now we could continue to deviate from the rational norm of marriage. For example, here is a young girl who knows only one way to say Thank you! Every time a boy treats her to anything, she feel obligated to pay off in sex. Or here is another young girl who is attracted to guys with fancy and expensive cars. She gets into them and become intimate with the drivers. What are the statistical chances that either of these girls will become pregnant without any commitments from the fathers to help them raise the child. If youre a betting person, bet on the fact that they will. The laws of statistical probability are with you. 35 sec. 11:30
Notice that the further we deviate from the norm, the greater is the probability that the negative consequences will occur. Notice also that it is not impossible for the girl who deviates the greatest to end up with a perfect marriage, or for the one who doesnt deviate from the norm to end up with a rotten marriage. However, it is highly improbable. Notice once again, that the deviation from the norm is just another word for sin , assuming that the norm is based on rational grounds. 25 sec. 11:55
So what this seems to indicate is that, in this universe, it is possible to sin and sometimes get away with it- that is to not receive the predicted negative consequences. However, the more often you do it or the more people who are involved in doing it, the more certain it is that the laws of probability will catch up with them. Thus, someone will say to you, Dont go through STOP signs or youll have an accident. You respond, I went through one this morning and I didnt have an accident. The proper counter response is that if you keep on doing this, youll eventually have the predicted accident or if enough people start to do the same thing, the chances for you all having the accident will increase according to the laws of probability. 40 sec. 12::35
This is not an argument or justification for breaking the norm simply because you can sometimes beat the odds, because every time people violate the norm or law, they weaken it, especially if they violate it publicly and without shame. These norms are created to provide for the common good and only a fool would undermine the common good because he will have to live with the consequences. Thus to sin is to break the norm or law but to sin blatantly and publicly is to weaken or destroy it. This is what the Church calls the sin of scandal. 30 sec. 13:25
Every norm creates a social pressure which pulls people in the direction of the norm. Sociologist call this peer pressure and it is one of the most effective and subtle way of controlling behavior. Advertisers use it all the time when they try to create a bandwagon effect by trying to convince the consumer that everybody who is anybody wants to use their product, and the constant creation of fads and new styles seem to prove the successfulness of this technique. . Although we like to tout ourselves as rational beings who think for ourselves, the evidence seems to indicate that much of our behavior is based on monkey see, monkey do. The younger and more immature we are, the truer this seems to be. Just watch how children and teenagers try to mimic the dress and behavior of the latest rage in the entertainment industry. So we are only fooling ourselves when we claim that we are unaffected by the pull of the crowd or social norms. 50 sec. 14:15
I like to refer to this as the fish effect because years ago I saw a documentary in which scientist were trying to determine how fish that traveled in large school seemed to all change direction at the same time. Was there a leader fish in the center of the school who shouted out orders like a drill sergeant, To the left flank, march! To the right flank, march! To the rear, march! To investigate this phenomena, they used slow motion pictures and to their surprise they discovered that not all the fish were swimming in the same direction. Those on the outer edge of the school were deviating all the time. Each fish seemed to be drawn in the direction of the other fish that he was watching. If one of the fish on the edge of school took his eyes off of those in the school, he might start to wander in a different direction. If, however, as he moved away from the school, he suddenly saw that he was separated from it, he darted back to the safety of the group. But if, as he strayed away from the school, others in the school saw him, they would begin to follow him. The larger the group that followed him became, the greater was its pull on the rest of the fish in the school. What was really happening was a mathematical equation in which the larger the number moving in one direction, the greater was its pull. Interestingly, it almost sounds like how gravity works. Physicists say that the greater the mass of a body, the greater is its gravitational pull. 1 min 20 sec 15:35
If you think that this only happens to fish in school and that we are free of this type of pull consider the times that you have been in a group in which the speaker asked those present to raise their hands to indicate whether they were in favor or opposed to a particular position on an issue., Unless those present had a very definite position on the issue, you would see that most people look around them to see who else is raising their hand. Suddenly, one hand goes up, which seems to create a pull on those sitting closest to that person, suddenly another and another and another hand goes up. It is very difficult to keep you own hand down, especially if you have a weak opinion about the issue, when everybody elses hand is up. Many of us who think that we always think for ourselves may be fooling ourselves. Try, as a liberal, defending a conservative position in a liberal group or, as a conservative, defending a liberal position in a conservative group. The pressure of the group will be applied to you and only the strong minded can resist the pressure. 55 sec 16:30
There was another aspect to this fish experiment that was very interesting for our understanding of our own behavior. The scientists decided to remove from one of the fish, the area of the brain where the fear was located that caused it to return to the group when it discovered that it was swimming by itself. To their amazement, the fish became a dictator which led the school wherever it wanted to go. Without a fear, doubt, or uncertainty, it became very assertive as to where it wanted to swim and the other fish, full of fear, doubt, and uncertainty, became attracted to it like a magnet. Strong willed people often have the same effect upon us. 30 sec. 17:00
One of the magnetic draws of Hitler was the fact that he always seemed so sure and certain of what he was doing. Thus, his assertive personality drew other people to his cause because it overcame their fear, doubt, and uncertainty. In the last days of World War II, when Russian and Allied forces were already overrunning the streets of Berlin, one of his top aides, who was in the bunker with him, said that Hitler had convinced them that they could still win the war. This aide said that his personality had the power of energizing them to accomplish whatever he willed. It wasnt until Hitler committed suicide that they optimism drained. 35 sec. 17:35
One of the psychological techniques that he used and recommended to others was the Big Lie. In the face of truth, he said, tell the most outrageous lie even though all the evidence and reality contradicted it. The more outrageous it was, the more other more rational people would say, He must be telling the truth because no one would say such an outrageous thing if it wasnt somehow true. He also said that the people, meaning most of us, dont want the freedom to choose because we are too weak and confused to make a choice. Rather, he said, they are like a woman who prefers a strong man who dominates her to a weak man who always gives in. Another aide said that he had the power of imposing his vision of reality on you. Maybe Hitler knew some of the darker areas of the human heart which we even hide from ourselves. When was the last time that any of us convinced ten million people to follow us to the death? 50 sec. 18:25
We can see the same dynamics working today as those with the most assertive personalities destroy and weaken our norms and belief systems because they blatantly violate or attack them, and the rest of us, sheep that we are, stand idly by and end up following them rather than the Truth. These are the false shepherds among us. They have convinced or neutralized us into accepting that abortion is not is not the willful killing of a human being or murder, that the purpose of sex is pleasure, that there is no significant difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality, that men can marry men and women can marry women, that the universe is accidental and absurd even though it produced creatures who act towards rational ends and even one with a rational mind, that there is no objective truth or right and wrong etc... And this is not the end of their agenda. Given the time and the lack of any significant opposition they intend to convince the rest of us of some of the following values: 55 sec. 19:25
According to Miller S. Everett, professor of philosophy at Oklahoma A&M suggests that When public opinion is ready for it no child should be allowed to live who would be certain to suffer social handicap.
Or Dr. Francis Crick, co-discover of the DNA molecule and a Noble Laureate, said, No newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding its genetic endowment and that if it fails these tests, it forfeits the right to live.
Or, his partner, Dr. James Watson, the other co-discover of the DNA molecule and another Noble Laureate said, If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth, then all parents could be allowed the choice that only a few are give under the present system. The doctor could allow the child to die if the parents chose and save a lot of money and suffering.
Can you imagine the audacity of these lies? No child is human or alive unless we declare it to be! Whatever happened to objective reality? Hitler would be proud of their techniques as they look reality in the face and deny, unashamedly, that it even exists. And, as Professor Everett says, all this will happen when public opinion is ready. Obviously, he has a plan and strategy for his agenda. He knows the truth that Yeats expressed in another of his poems.
Vice (or evil) is a monster of so frightful a mein (appearance)
That to be hated, needs but to be seen.
But seen too often, familiar with her face.
We first endure, then pity, and then embrace.
In other words, if we see evil often enough, we become desensitized in our opposition to it. If you doubt that look at the nations relatively mild concern and opposition to partial birth abortion. We were so unconcerned, that we reelected a morally flawed President who promised to veto any attempt to stop it. And before we blame that on others, remember that the Catholic bishops warned him that he would pay for his veto politically. So much for the credibility and political clout of the Council of Bishops. Im sure that no politician is going to pay much attention to their pronouncements in the future. Catholics voted en mass for the Democratic Party. I wonder what issue was more important on their agenda than the murdering of innocent children through partial birth abortion. Id like to see them explain that decision to Jesus, the Author of Life, who said in reference to those who harmed children that it would have been better for him that a millstone be tied around his neck and thrown into the sea. 55 sec. 21:45
Obviously, the people I quoted have an agenda and a plan for implementing it. Do we? Do we even have an agenda, much less a plan for implementing it? They have convinced many of our own intellectuals that we should be worried about the Far Right. Whos worrying about the Far Left? Judge Bork said in his book that the President of Notre Dame, a priest, is more concerned with offending his fellow intellectual, the President of Harvard, then he is with offending the Pope. God forbid that this is true because, according to Judge Bork, a professor himself, the administrative leaders of our major colleges and universities are a bunch of spineless jellyfish who capitulate to every demand of the radicals on campus. That decrepit old man, John Paul II, and that little old nun, Mother Theresa, puts them all to shame when it comes to declaring the truth in the face of organized opposition. 50 sec. 22:35
My friend, Dom Latterri, has a program called Wake Up America and sometime I wonder whether we will wake up in time. Brothers and sisters, we are involved in a cultural war and half of us are asleep or disinterested and some of us are even sleeping with the enemy. 15 sec. 22:50
Recall the word of Yeats:
Things fall apart, the center can not hold.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the earth.
The best lack all conviction- in other words they are full of fear,
doubt, and uncertainty
And the worst are full of passionate intensity.- they have no fear,
doubt, or uncertainty.
Based on my previous analysis guess which fish are going to lead the school now.
Now let me return to the Bell or Normal Curve. Because marriage was the norm for sexual behavior when I was growing up, it created such a pressure and a pull on us that many of us made it to the norm. My wife and most of her girlfriends were virgins when they married. And, even when some of us deviated from the norm, we did so in the upper range nearer to the norm. (e.g. during the formal engagement or just before the wedding.) Even those who violated the norm supported it and were ashamed to publicize or admit their deviation. And that is the way that norms are suppose to work. No norm ever has a one hundred percent compliance. There will always be deviations and, thus , their success is based on statistical probability rather than absolute compliance. This norm helped to protect most of us from impulsive and unwise involvement. There were young people who thought that they really loved each other who did not go all the way because they feared what their parents and peers would say if they found out. So, even if we sinned or deviated, we always knew and accepted that it was a sin or deviation, and we did not recommend it as a pattern for society in general. However, things have changed drastically in recent times. 1 min 10 sec 24:20
Todays generation is committing the only unforgivable sin: the Sin Against the Holy Spirit. Its the only sin that an all-forgiving God cant forgive because, the preconditions for forgiveness are: first, you must repent, and second, you must reform. A Sin Against the Holy Spirit sees no reason to repent or reform because it has accepted the abnormal as normal. This is what Eric Fromm, the Secular Humanist, would call a Socially Patterned Defect and what modern psychologist would call Denial. Nothing can be done to change it until the persons involved see that something is wrong, admit that it is wrong, and then takes steps to correct it. But they cant do this so long as they keep thinking that the abnormal is normal. How and when did this shift take place? 45 sec. 25:05
During the 1960s, the revolutionaries started to say, Who are you kidding? Everybody plays around sexually. Its just a normal impulse and so long as you dont get pregnant, why not? As the idea caught on, the normal curve shifted so that the new midpoint moved to the left and came to rest on a new norm, called recreational sex. Now those who used sex recreationally were normal and those who saved sex for marriage became abnormal. The new norm, like the old one, created a new peer pressure so that those who werent sexually active were embarrassed and considered nerdy. The virgin was attacked as someone who was out of touch and needed to get a life. Girls, who before had been restrained by the old norm from entering a sexual relationship with guys that they really loved, now found themselves entering into sexual relationship with guys they hardly knew or even cared about. Sex became a pelvic handshake. and coin of the realm for favors done. And, as predicted by the previous norm, the number of Unstable Families increased while Stable Families decreased. 1 min 5 sec 26:10
The young people were told that sex was alright so long as they protected themselves and the Age of Contraception was upon us. We forgot to tell them that they werent dogs and that, as humans, they put much more into the sexual act than their bodies. It is an act of intimacy, and trust, and love, and personal commitment with humans beings and, although we are able to give them a pill to prevent them from getting pregnant, we dont have a pill to prevent them from feeling used when they discovered that there was no true love or trust, or intimacy, or commitment on the part of their partner. I remember seeing a documentary in which a young Jewish girl, who had grown up in this liberalized atmosphere, was being interviewed. She spoke freely of her many sexual partners and then, half way through the program, broke down and cried. When asked why she was crying, she said, Sometimes, when a boy is lying next to me in bed, I wish that he really meant it when he said that he loved me. You cant offend human dignity and get away with it., 55 sec 27:05
We have placed our children in a sexual free-for-all in which all of the old rules that were meant to protect them have been wiped away. As a high school teacher who taught for 36 years in the inner city, I assure you that sexual freedom has not brought happiness to either the boys or girls. If anything, it has destroyed the trust that ought to exist between them and has replaced it with mistrust or, even worse, a callousness which protects them from being hurt by casual sex. And who were the perpetrators of this madness. Some of the people that I quoted before. If you arent angered by this, then something vital inside of you has died. Maybe this next story will rekindle it.
I was surfing on my TV one afternoon, when I spied Margaret Sanger, a famous anthropologist whose books had been assigned to me in college. I stopped to listen. The interviewer was saying, Well, Margaret how does it feel to be the Patron Saint of the Sexual Revolution through the books that you wrote. Books like Male and Female and Growing Up in Samoa which taught the rest of us that sexual behavior and sexual roles were culturally determined and therefore there were no right or wrong ways of doing it. Margaret smiled and said, Well, the Sexual Revolution didnt quite turn out the way we expected. We thought that if we taught them to use birth control methods that we could allow them to be sexually free but now the illegitimacy rate has increase by 400%. Well, said the interviewer, whats the answer? Margarets face became somber, It appears that the next step is to sterilize every child at birth and to reverse the procedure when they finally decide to settle down and reproduce. 55 sec. 28:35
I almost killed two of my males high school senior when, after I told the class this story to shock them into considering some of the dangers attached to this so-called Sexual Revolution, these two boys high-fived each other in approval of her plan.
Well, what does our analysis of the Normal Curve and the Law of Probability have to teach us.
First, laws and norms, which are meant to protect us from negative consequences, are not absolute in their effect. They are based on statistical probability.
Second, the validity and effectiveness of laws are measured in their applications to groups rather than to an individual. The individual can get away with breaking the norm but the group cant.
Third, there will always be deviations from laws and norms. However, these deviations will not destroy the law or norm unless they are extreme and numerous.
Fourth, every society, assuming their laws and norms are rationally based, can afford to have a small group that deviate from their laws or norms, but, no society can afford to allow an abnormality become normal. Thus, every society can afford to have a few drunks, drug addicts, criminals, fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals, nuns and priest, but no society can afford to allow any of these deviations to become a norm without receiving the negative consequences. These deviations are like a benign growth on the social body which is non-threatening so long as they dont become malignant and start to reproduce.
Fifth, some deviations, those which are close to the norm, are in the range of tolerance while others, those farthest away from the norm , are in the range of intolerance. Thus, society can tolerate sex during a formal engagement and just before the wedding but it can not tolerate sex simply as a recreational activity with no formal commitment.
Well, I see that my time is up. Please stay tuned for Dom.