Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Normal is an Island

The problem with humans is that they are limited by the presence of a relatively small corpus callosum between the hemispheres of their brains. This makes them prone to reification, or at the very least, oversimplification. That's why they like universal laws, universal beliefs, universal rights; and if not, at least the appearance of such things through the application of normative fiat or normal distributions.

If a fundamental assertion of human thinking is that a less complicated answer is always better if it explains exactly the same things as well as a more complicated ones, then what if the things are not always exactly the same? This is true with comparisons between island-states, city-states, nation-states, federated states, overlarge conglomerated states, and so on.

I mean, why on Earth would citizens of one of the 50 (plus change) United States want to compare themselves with the last major (but very tiny) city-state in the world? Or with the ancient Confederatio Helvetica? Or anywhere else? And the reverse applies. What is world-class, but the idea that the entire world rates you in the same way, which is silly in a world of differences.

But surely there are absolute morals in a human world? Absolute rights, absolute ethics? No, I'm afraid not. There cannot be such in any biological population, since you can always engineer the environment or the circumstances to allow for any deviation from the defined norm. Worse, 'normal' in this context, and its supposed antonym 'deviant', don't mean what you think they mean. They are statistical ideas — the perpendicular to the turning point of a distribution is the 'normal', the spread of difference from that norm is 'deviation'.

I am certain there are absolutes. I just don't think that they can be derived from statistics, which by their nature are relativist.

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