Lesson 46- Summary of the Normal Curve
For the last two programs I have been discussing the nature of norms and laws and how they are related to the Normal Curve. I hope that my listeners are still with me because I am trying to describe something that is very visual and I am not sure that words are adequate in describing it to those who might never have seen how the Normal Curve looks and what happens when there is a shift. The best that I can do is to ask you to visualize a bell with long sloping sides in which a line descending from its center represents the norm and other lines moving to the left or right of the center line represents deviations from the norm. The further these lines are from the center line, the more extreme is the deviation and the more extreme the deviation, the fewer are the number of cases until finally, at either extreme, there are hardly any cases at all. What the norm is depends upon what you are measuring. It could be how far human beings spit or how fast they can run a hundred yards, or how tall they are. No matter what you are measuring, the curve will show that there is a norm midpoint between two opposite extremes which represents what most people will do. For example, some people will spit extremely short or extremely far; others will run extremely slow or extremely fast; and some people will be extremely short while others might be extremely tall. However, most of us will fall somewhere in the center between these two extremes and that is why we are called normal.
This, it appears, can be applied to many things, including laws and moral rules and, since according to Heisenberg, famous physicists, it applies to atoms, which are the basic building blocks of all matter, it qualifies as a Natural Law which, according to the Church and Albert Einstein, is an expression of the mind of God.
Before putting the finishing touches on my analysis of the Normal Curve and how it relates to sex and marriage let me review for my listeners some of the major points that I have already made.
For those who might have missed the previous programs, let me just say that we were investigating the moral law pertaining to marriage which, in my generation was best expressed by the song Love and marriage love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. In more recent time, this norm has been replaced by a new norm, which is best expressed by Tina Turners song, Whats love got to do with it?
This shift in the norm began mainly in the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s when secularistic forces, connected to a movement that began in the French Revolution of 1789 to overthrow our Judeo/Christian culture, began to put forward the idea of Recreational Sex completely divorced from Reproductive Sex. Slogans like make love not war or if it feels good, just do it and if you do it, be sure to protect yourself became part of our verbal culture and word like abstinence or chastity were replaced with safe sex.
The Church tried to warn us that there were unforeseen moral consequences in the Contraceptive Mentality being proposed by these forces but it was written off as an archaic institution left over from the center Ages that was out of step with the times. Thus, forces, both within and outside of the Church, began to buy into the new norm and we are now reaping the consequences of their decision.
The original norm of sex and marriage was based on the assumption that, according to the laws of statistical probability, it would produce the greatest number of stable families which were the best environment for the care and rearing of children. The flip side of this was that any behavior that deviated from this norm increased proportionately, according to the number and extent of the deviation, the risk of creating unstable families and therefore threatened the care and rearing of children.
As the norm shifted, casual or recreational sex that once was abnormal became normal, while chastity and virginity became abnormal. And, since all norms exert social pressure, those children growing up under the new norm were pulled into sexual relationships with greater frequency and at an earlier age.
Once while discussing with my high school students the Board of Educations policy having the schools distribute condoms to students, I said that I thought that the policy was doomed to failure because those who proposed it were operating on a faulty premise. They thought that teenagers were rational beings but I knew that they were impulsive beings and that they could have a pocket full of condoms and they still wouldnt use them because they are gamblers who are convinced that they can beat the odds. The heads of the students in my classroom nodded in agreement.
Then I proposed another question. Suppose that they werent gamblers and that condoms really could eliminate unwanted pregnancies among students, at what grade would the Board have to begin distributing condoms to prevent pregnancies? I was ready to hear eighth or ninth grade and was shocked when the consensus was fifth grade and one girl insisted that it should be third.
We are now witnessing the consequences of the shift in our norm and we are not yet at the end of the tunnel. Just to mention a few of the consequences:
a. The number of children born out of wedlock has increased by over 400%
b. The divorce rate has shifted from 1 out of every 6 marriages before 1960 to 1 out of every 2 as young people schooled in the impermanent relationships of living together seem unable to work through the difficulties involved in Long-term relationships.
c. The number of abortions, which is being treated as a contraceptive device to eliminate unexpected and unwanted children conceived in uncommitted relations, has soared to over 43 million since 1973 just in the United States
d. Venereal diseases, many of them difficult or impossible to cure, have reached epidemic proportions, especially among the young as the practice of multiple partners spread the infections at an astronomical rate.
e. We have so many children living in broken families that we have been forced to normalize them by renaming them single parent families which, according to modern gurus, is just one of many types of acceptable family structures.
f. The norm of recreational sex has legitimatised other forms of sex which were previous considered abnormal. Thus, homosexuality, which is sex between members of the same sex, has moved from a deviant form to one that is not only acceptable but, according to my students, is becoming preferable. All of the fun and none of the consequences. As my students have told me, Being gay is cool!
Because the guiding principle of the new norm is have fun so long as you dont get pregnant, the newest form of birth control is mutual masturbation and oral sex. The students will tell you that, according to President Clinton, it isnt sex. Thus, the virgins of the future will be girls who, although their hymens are still intact, have been sexually active with other girls in a lesbian relationship and/or with boys through various forms of non-intercourse sex.
1. Shacking up has become an acceptable norm which may or may not lead to marriage. This has placed many of our young adults in a dilemma because the norm exerts a pressure on them which makes it difficult to resist. What in the past would have been casual dating is now pressured into becoming a semi-permanent live-in relationship. I know of one very decent Catholic young lady who had tried to find some compromise between her traditional values and the pull of the present norm. Although she lived in an intimate relationship with her boyfriend, she insisted that they sleep in separate bedrooms thereby giving some token allegiance to the older norm. Although she eventually got married, by her open violation of the older norm, she contributed to the increasing pull of the new norm and the weakening or destruction of the older norm. According to the Church, she is guilty of the sin of scandal which hardly anybody today ever heard of. It means to contribute to the sins of others either through bad example or by supporting or encouraging them in their actions. Unfortunately, there are other consequences flowing from her behavior which she never considered. For example, the Bible says that the sins of the parents will be passed on to the children to the fifth generation. What this means is that each generation creates and passes on to their children the norms which will affect their lives. And thus, her children will be pulled into the same type of relationship that she helped to normalize and, in their case, the outcome may not be so positive. Her situation also reminds me of Jesus statement, If salt should lose its flavor with what will you salt it. In other words, when the young people, like her, who were raised with the proper values fail to follow or support them, where will you go to find support for the values. If we, as Christians are suppose to be the salt of the earth which in ancient times was used as a preservative to prevent meat from spoiling dont preserve what is good, then who will preserve society from the corruption of sin.
2. The laws of statistical probability predict that the more people who become involved in these relationships, the fewer will lead to marriage. In the inner city, where this has been the norm for quite some time, it is typical to find women in their forties, fifties, and sixties who are still dating boyfriends because their lives have been a series of uncommitted and impermanent relationships.
3. The law of statistical probability also predicts that even when marriage takes place, the frequency of divorce will increase because those schooled in live-in relationships have developed the habit of ending it at the first sign of disagreement or trouble. Programs like Judge Judy or the Peoples Court involve a stream of people who are suing each other following a live-in relationship that went bad. And, according to one recent report, they carry this over into marriage.
4. The new norm, which was supposed to have a freeing effect on women, has instead placed them in a less desirable position. Norms may change but the human heart remains the same and many men, if giving the option, will often choose to take the candy without paying the price. I recently overhead two ladies, both of whom were on their second marriage, discussing the fact that the problem with men is that they dont want to grow up. Even after marriage they want to continue their partying ways and cant seem to understand that marriage is a commitment which requires both parties to sacrifice their own pleasure for the sake of their children. It has taken the human race a long time to bring the roaming ways of the male under control by placing rules and regulations on his sexual drives, thereby protecting the interests of the female and her children. Without these rules, he is free to pursue a Roman Holiday and leave all the consequences to the female to deal with. Men, at least in the short term, have never had it so good and females, in the long term, have never had it so bad.
There are other consequences from the shift in our sexual norm which are yet to come. Some are faintly visible on the horizon and others are completely out of sight. For example, there are pedophile activists, such as the National Organization of Boy Love, who are pushing to eliminate all age of consent laws to allow sex between adults and consenting children. Their argument, based on the premise of Recreational Sex, is that if both they and the child experience pleasure, whats the problem?
Where this path eventually leads is yet to be seen. In a previous program, I quoted from a document written by Eusebius, a Christian living at the time of the persecution of the Church by the Roman emperors. According to him, the ancient people were involved not only in homosexuality but also with brothers marrying sisters, and mothers marrying their sons. And the underlying cause for all of this, he said, was their worship of Pleasure. What do you think is the basic premise of Recreational Sex? So if your response is, It can never happen! my response is It already has!
Now, that I have reviewed the nature of the Normal Curve and some of the consequences that occur when the norm shifts, let me put some finishing touches on my discussion of the Normal Curve by summarizing some of the major points which our analysis of it has taught 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. It is quite possible to follow the norm and get negative results or to violate the norm and get positive results. What really matters is not what is possible in an individual case but, rather, what is probable when applied to the group.
Second: Thus, the validity and effectiveness of laws and norms 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. The more extreme or numerous the deviations, the greater is the possibility that the negative consequences predicted by the violation of the law will occur.
Fourth, every society, assuming their laws and norms are rationally based, can afford to have a small group deviate from them, but, no society can afford to allow these abnormal deviation to become normal. Thus, every society can afford to have a few drunks, a few drug addicts, a few criminals, a few fornicators, adulterers, and homosexuals, and a few nuns and priests, but no society can afford to allow any of these deviations to become a norm without receiving the negative consequences. These deviations are like benign growths, like warts and other irregular growths of cells on biological bodies, which are no threat so long as they dont become malignant and start to grow. Thus, most, if not all of us, have some form of cancer wherever we have an irregular growth of cells. But our bodies can tolerate it so long as these cells are not reproducing. However, the moment they begin to grow and begin to take the space or the nourishment intended for healthy organs, they then become a threat to the life of the body. By the same token, social bodies can tolerate small groups within the society which, by violating its norms, create small areas of irregular behavior. So long as they are not growing, they are no threat to the life of the society. However, if they begin to grow, they become a form of malignant social cancer which, if left unchecked, begin to threaten the societys existence as more and more dysfunctional persons take energy and resources from the society without making those positive contributions which are necessary for the societys survival. The moment that this happens, the social body, like the biological body, is faced with a life-threatening situation.
Fifth, there will always be deviations because no law or norm can, or should be, enforced with absolute strictness. For example, strictly speaking, 35.1 miles per hour is speeding in a 35 miles per hour speed zone. None of us would tolerate a police force that was issuing tickets based on that norm and thus, we all expect that there is a reasonable area of tolerance for bending the law.
The left lobe of the brain, because of its linear logical approach tends towards a scrupulous enforcement of the letter-of-the-law because it fears that any deviation threatens the norm. Thus, in left lobe institutions, like the military, there is less tolerance for deviation. Once, while driving through a military base in New Jersey, I was stopped by a military policeman in a jeep with a radar gun for doing 38 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour speed zone. I didnt think he was serious but he was. With a serious, dispassionate face he mechanically informed me that I was speeding and he issued me a warning citation.
However, in the general society, the less legalistic right lobe, is inclined to bend laws and norms because it hates the restrictions that they impose on it. Its motto in a more moderate phrase is Loosen up! and in its more extreme phrase it is Let it all hang out!
There is an eternal conflict going on between conservative forces which, like the left lobe, call for tightening up the laws and strict enforcement and liberal forces which call for loosening the law or eliminating them completely. And, as always, the correct answer is somewhere in the center as the philosopher Hegel once observed, any good idea, taken too far, becomes a bad idea. In other words, there are radical conservative and radical liberals and what the world really needs are moderates who are able to find the midpoint between two opposing extremes.
Sixth: in all laws, norms, and structures there has to be two types of strengths. For example, when architects and engineers are building tall skyscrapers, they have to put in one type of strength that is related to stiffness and another type which is related to sway or flexibility. If they dont put in enough strength related to stiffness, the building will fall over; if they dont put in enough strength related to sway or flexibility, the building will crack when a strong wind hits its. Thus, all skyscrapers sway imperceptibly.
The same is true for laws and norms. Law and norms that are too stiff will eventually crack and laws which are too flexible will collapse. Therefore, there has to be a range of tolerance which allows some sway or deviations. For example, those deviations 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 cannot tolerate sex simply as a recreational activity with no formal commitment.
I want to emphasize that tolerance does not mean acceptance or approval because every deviation threatens to weaken or destroy the norm. Tolerance means merely to put up with because the deviation does not contain a significant enough threat. Today, the word tolerance is used in almost absolute positive sense and intolerance is used in an absolute negative sense. As my analysis suggests, people need to have both in order to maintain the proper balance between the two types of strengths required in all structures. We need to know when to say, Thats too much. Youve gone too far. Perhaps, you might remember the public outroar following Janet Jacksons performance at the Super bowl. The society was saying that she had gone too far. Unfortunately, we have become too tolerate in other areas which are just as guilty as she was in offending our moral norms. Those parents who were outraged by her performance were simply viewing the type of fare that MTV presents to our young people every day of the week.
Perhaps, some of you have been wondering what the right half of the Normal Curve represents since all of the deviations which I have mentioned have been to the left. Thus, the first deviation to the left of the norm for marriage was sex the night before the wedding. The second deviation was sex one year before the wedding, following a formal engagement and preparations for the wedding. This was followed by sex with no formal engagement and a vague reference to a future wedding. And eventually the deviation became even more extreme involving sex with people who had no commitment or any hope of a commitment to each other.
So what happens when the norm of sex after marriage is met and there are deviations to the right of the center point. Well, you must remember that this norm is all about creating stable families in which children can grow and thrive. Thus, any deviation from it, involves a potential threat to the stability of the institution of marriage. Therefore, any deviation after marriage which undermines the faithfulness of one of the partners to the other is a threat to the relationship. The first deviation might be an occasional toying with the memory of a previous boyfriend or girlfriend. The second deviation might be, a constant dwelling with the memory of a previous boyfriend or girlfriend. The third might be a minor flirtation with a person outside the family. The fourth might be an amorous episode at an office party in which one of the spouses danced with or kissed someone to whom they were attracted. The fifth might be a one time adulterous affair. The sixth might be an ongoing adulterous affair. To this list we might also add a minor interest in Girlie Magazine which moves to a minor toying with pornography which might blossom into an obsession with pornography and then to an acting out of pornography with prostitutes.
However, just as with the deviations to the left of the curve which took place before marriage, the further we deviate to the right after marriage the greater is the statistical probability that the stability of the family will be threatened.
Most married men have cast an admiring glance at good-looking member of the opposite sex and, I assume, that women are equally capable of this. And, so long as the glance is limited to admiration, no one gets bent out of shape. Although it is not recommended, it is a minor deviation and falls within the range of tolerance. It isnt until the interest in the opposite sex moves to the more extreme range of deviation that it becomes problematic for the relationship.
In conclusion, I would like to tie my analysis of the Normal Curve into a previous statement that I made which said, Hard, or extreme cases make bad laws. The Normal Curve, because its results are based on statistical probability, states that it is quite possible for people to deviate in an extreme way from the norm and get good results while someone who follows the norm gets bad results. That is because the law is based on probability rather than possibility. Therefore, when people want to attack the norm, they present an extreme case in which some one deviated from the norm and got good results. For example, Drugs arent wrong. I know somebody who was a drug addict all his life who never missed works, was a wonderful husband and father, and an upstanding member of his church and community. And this might be true. However, what the person is inferring is that laws and norms are absolutes and therefore any exception disproves them. And if laws and norms were absolute, he would be right. However, because they are not absolutes, the laws of probability say that it is quite possible for this to occur in an individual case but when we apply this norm to the group, we will see that drugs destroy lives. Therefore, this person represent an unusual case and thus we should not build our laws or norms around him. Hard cases or extreme cases make bad laws.
This is one of the favorite techniques used today by those who wish to change the norms. They will pick an unusual case which is either extremely revolting or extremely appealing in order to get us to reject or accept something that violates the norm. For example, those who set out to change our laws on abortion will use an extreme case to convince the rest of us. The argument might go like this: Would you oppose abortion if your thirteen year old daughter was impregnated by her insane, syphilitic grandfather. Most of us would have a double take on that because the very thought of it is so revolting. However, this type of case rarely, if ever, happens and once we change our view to accommodate it, it will be used as a precedence to build a case to allow abortions in all other cases.
Well I see that my time is up. Heres Dom.