Universal Standards of Conduct, Beauty, and Truth: A Modern Perspective
by Ted Tschopp
Exploring the Existence of External Standards and Human Value
Some people are just idiots, other people are rude, and finally some people are just downright ugly. This means that there are some people who are brilliant, there are others who are considerate, and there is such a thing as beauty. I’m not trying to say that I am brilliant, or considerate, or beautiful. To the contrary, most of the time I am not any of these things.
I’m not saying that I think there are standards of intelligence, wisdom, beauty, or manners. I’m saying something much more subtle. I’m saying that there are standards of intelligence, wisdom, beauty, and manners.
There are several traps that must be avoided here at this point. The first is the one I’ve already pointed out. Standards are not something that are internalised. If you believe that a standard is something is one thing for one person and another thing for another person, you have missed my point. What I’m saying is that standards of conduct, beauty, and truth can be measured by an external standard.
It’s like the metric system.
The meter was originally defined as 1/40,000,000th of the polar circumference of the Earth, then as the length of a particular bar of platinum-iridium alloy; then in terms of the wavelength of light emitted by a specified atomic transition; and now is defined as the distance traveled by light in an absolute vacuum during 1/299,792,458 of a second. — Wikipedia entry
On a side note, the reason for the change was that each time the standard was moved to something less and less variable. The size of the earth changes over time, the length of a bar erodes over time. The wavelength of light emitted differs based on the composition of the atmosphere. Finally they settled on the speed of light in a vacuum (which is a constant). In science the reason for all this is that when you have a disagreement on the measure of something, you can always go back and find the standard and re-calibrate your calculations.
Now that we have a universal external standard, there is another trap we need to avoid. The value of person is not based on their measure by this universal external standard. The value of everything else is. What does this mean? A person can be wrong, idiotic, rude, ugly, and valuable. Such a person should be empathized with, helped, and instructed instead of ignored, shunned, and finally repressed. A person can never be valueless.
I can hear it now. So who cares?
If you want to ignore, shun, or repress someone, then all you need to do is eliminate the idea of universal standards. Tell yourself that there is one standard for you and another for the person you are trying to repress. Make certain that you can keep your standard and make certain that the group of people you want to repress can’t keep the standard they set for themselves. Now here is a trick, if the people you want to repress come back to you saying that there is a universal standard and what you are doing is not fair, agree with them. Then all you need to do is ensure that everyone’s value is based on their ability to keep this universal standard. Once value is a function of this universal standard, you can mistreat, repress, and shun anyone who doesn’t live up to that standard.
Now lets look at the next step. If you find a group of people who doesn’t have the idea of universal standards then you have a group that is ripe to be manipulated and repressed. All you need to do is use power. Use power to save them from one problem or another. Heck, you can even use power to save them from “yourself”.
History is littered with examples. Look at Hitler. Look at Caesar. Look at the Medieval Popes. The list can go on and on. The first two are examples of how universal standards were not held too and a tyrant took control. The third example is how universal standards were used to take control of the known world.
The reason I bring this up is the strange bed fellows that religion and politics are making today. Outside the church our society doesn’t believe in a universal standard. Inside the church people are divided. Most will hold to the idea of universal standards, but they don’t put it into practice. Most people in the church believe that a person’s value is a function of his ability to keep this universal standard. The reason that church people believe that a person’s value is a function of keeping this universal standard is that they have a rather high view of their own ability to keep the universal standard. Therefore, in their own eyes, they believe themselves to be superior.
Again, why do I bring this all up? We are ripe for the picking. Look at Y2K and how we reacted to that. Look at 9–11 and how we reacted. Look at Katrina and how we reacted. Each time we begged and pleaded as a society for someone to step in and take control. Each time we pleaded louder and louder. Finally with Katrina we asked the military to intervene, but they were busy elsewhere.
Asking the question of “What is next, and how soon?” is a bit pointless. As the answer is always the same. “It gets worse, and it will be soon.” The better question to ask is “What can I do?”
The answer to this question is two fold. One, accept, understand, internalize, and live the idea that there are universal standards for conduct, beauty, and truth. Two, accept, understand, internalize, and live the idea that a person’s value is not a function of their ability to keep the universal standard. Sadly few people will take this route. Non-Christians will have a hard time with the idea of universal standards. Christians will have a hard time with the idea of value being based on something other than conformity to the universal standard.
True Christianity holds that there are universal standards and value is based on the fact that all humans look like the creator of the universe. It’s a value that humans as well as the creator recognize as valuable. The answer to the question of “What do you get the person who has everything?” is “A miniature version of themselves.” Sin, according to true Christianity, is the measure of how well we keep the universal standard. Our value as humans is not based on how much we sin or how little we sin. It’s based on the fact that under all the grime of sin that covers us, we still look like the creator. The true message of Christianity is that the Creator of the universe entered the universe to clean all the grime off of us and to give us his clothing so that we could be a miniature version of Him. This is why the bible uses the term “sons of God” to refer to those who end up in heaven.
So to go all the way back to the beginning. Some people are just idiots, other people are rude, and finally some people are just downright ugly. Or to state it in a better way, sometimes, I am just an a rude, ugly, idiot. I have hope in the fact that some day I will stand before the creator wearing His cloths and I will be free of all this idiocy, ugliness, and rude manners.