Posted by: N.S. Palmer | June 3, 2015

Conservative About Ideas and Compassionate About People

By N.S. Palmer

Most human characteristics are normally distributed.

Psychological masculinity and femininity are normally distributed.

Former Olympic athlete Bruce / Caitlyn Jenner says that he’s “the new normal.”

With respect and compassion for Mr./Ms. Jenner, I must disagree.

Concepts that have been around since the dawn of humanity serve a purpose or they would not still be around. We reject those concepts at our peril.

The philosopher W.V. Quine noted that it’s logically arbitrary whether we consider a cat to be one thing or, instead, consider it to be three things (a head, a body, and a tail).

The reason we consider a cat to be one thing instead of three is that the former works well and the latter works poorly. Similarly, if we start thinking there’s no such thing as a person’s sex (or any other idea that’s unfashionable and politically incorrect), we embrace an unproductive way of looking at reality and reject ideas that work well.

We are perfectly free to decide that we should be able to step off the edge of a tall building and not fall to our deaths, but we are not free to escape the results of doing it.

Likewise, most feminists believe — correctly — that women “should be able to” walk unaccompanied in perfect safety through a bad part of town while wearing sexy clothes. I agree that they should be able to do it. But they can’t. We must not confuse morality with reality. To do so has tragic consequences for actual, real-life women and for society.

Satoshi Kanazawa at the London School of Economics calls it “the intelligence paradox:” smart people, as some politically-correct zealots are, believe that long-established ideas and practices are illegitimate unless the zealots can see a rational explanation for them.

That belief often leads to “oops, we didn’t think of that” situations that are harmful to individuals and to society. The notion that sex is whatever we want it to be is a probable example of the phenomenon. The 2008 U.S. stock market crash was another example, as “free market” ideology led to the dismantling of regulatory safeguards based on real-life experience.

Genuine psychological transsexuals do exist, but they are rare.

All people have a mix of masculine and feminine characteristics, and the mix is normally distributed:

  • Sixty-eight percent of people are close to the average, which is “normal.”
  • Ninety-five percent are fairly close (within two standard deviations  away from the average).
  • Ninety-nine point seven percent are close enough (within three standard deviations away from the average) to fit within the normal concepts.
  • And 0.3 percent (three-tenths of one percent) are more than three standard deviations from the average.

Half of that 0.3 percent — that is, 0.15 percent — are “pure” males and females who have almost no characteristics of the opposite sex. The males are ultra-macho: a lot of them are in prison because they can’t control their physical aggressiveness. The females are ultra-feminine. Those people are not transsexuals by any stretch of the imagination.

The other 0.15 percent might be considered genuine transsexuals because they have very few psychological characteristics of their own sex and are almost entirely like the opposite sex.

Therefore, it is to benefit 0.15 percent of the population that we are now supposed to reject ideas and practices that work best for the other 99.85 percent of people. That does not seem sensible to me.

By all means, let’s show compassion and understanding for people who are different. Let’s not confuse difference with immorality. But let’s also not pretend that the abnormal is normal. And let’s not turn society, concepts, and language upside down in order to accommodate the abnormal at the expense of the 99.7 percent who are normal.

Copyright 2015 by N.S. Palmer. May be reproduced as long as byline, copyright notice, and URL ( are included.


  1. You almost buried the lede here: it’s your last paragraph. Which I like a lot. Yes, let’s show love and compassion for all. But let’s not change what “normal” means.

    • Moi? Bury the lede?

      If someone I respect says it, I’d better take another look! Thanks!

      I have some abnormally perceptive friends. Just lucky, I guess.

      • Jim, I see your point. The most important part of the blog post is the last paragraph. That said, the first line is what we used to call “the hook.” It’s intended to get the readers’ attention and convince them to read the rest of the article. In this case, the hook is topical. That’s my excuse. 🙂

  2. […] I’ve steered clear of the whole Bruce/Caitlin Jenner discussion (until now). But my friend Scott Palmer uses it to make a great point: let’s show love and compassion for people who are different, but let’s not reorganize all of society to call that different normal. Read Conservative About Ideas and Compassionate About People […]

  3. I dont know what is actually normal, I’ve been around long enough now to have seen a whole lot of strange stuff, however, if Jenner (as an example) thinks he is the new normal he is out of his tree. He or she or whatever went about his life for a number of years, mostly quietly, then had to tell the world about it, then said it was a private matter then couldnt stop yapping about his big change. I would conclude that being a lime light thief is closer to his new normal. I dont really care what he does or how he does it but it seems to me that anyone who truly believes in what they are just live it. I know a great many types of people who simply go about their lives without demanding attention.

    • Thanks for the sensible comment. You make an excellent point about the difference between quietly living one’s life and demanding attention for one’s eccentricities.

      Political correctness is an attack on the very idea of “normal.” It’s moral and intellectual nihilism. If a society has no standards except the belief that standards don’t exist, it cannot survive.

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