StatisticsOur favored method for compiling

Statistics

Our favored method for compiling social trends is the statistic. This method ensures that we have little direct ability to make comparisons beyond the last 100 years, or in many cases beyond the last 50. This is particularly true of statistics that concern moral issues, particularly sexual morality. Most of the shocking statistics that show a sharp decline in sexual morals have no data before 1958. The same is true for statistics on religious fervor, or in general any aspect of what is today called “social conservatism” or “traditional morality”. If one wants to chart the trend of adherence to traditional morality, they are left with the ability to do little more than show a graph that starts in 1960, or ’65, or ’68, and then show its (most likely) precipitous crash down to 1999, or 2002.

These charts are usually fine in themselves, but they usually cause an unwarranted inference to form in the imaginations of those who hear them. The inference is that before our base year things were approximately the same as they were in the base year. No one reacts to these shocking statistics by saying “wow, traditional morality had an impossibly high acceptance rate in 1960, and now it finally got back to where one would expect it to be.” No one can say this because of the obvious fact that we have very little data before 1960 that can be neatly graphed and dispensed in sound bites. The unspoken assumption of many who are of a traditionalist bent is that the way things were in 1958 was the way we should traditionally expect them to be. This assumption, rarely vocalized (since to speak it is to notice its absurdity), is the cause of much of the fear on the part of traditionalists that our present culture is in a state of unusual decline from the way it has always been, as opposed to being in a state of returning to its usual and predictable state of existing.

The effect of this unwarranted assumption is that those of a traditional bent are inclined to see the present decline in morals as unusually bad and insurmountable. Secular traditionalists are inclined to think that the human race has never encountered problems like this, and that there is no hope to overcome them. Religious traditionalists think the same thing, but they often assume that God is simply going to come again soon, since the world has never been this bad. Perhaps all of these conclusions are true, but statistics- that mode of thinking that is so inseparable from our modern mind- doesn’t decide the issue one way or another.

Statistics are incapable of deciding whether our present state is normal or abnormal. This is not necessarily because of some inherent limitation in the nature of statistics, but rather because of the brute fact that statistics have not existed until relatively recently. If we want to figure out what to expect out of the human race, we need something other than percentages and numbers. We can wish for the statistics that could show us what we really are, but we won’t get them. We cannot discern the state of our modern predicament by that tool that is so fit for sound biting, and that is so clear to us.

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