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Explaining traditional morality

March 28th, 2012

I’m going to provide some rational background on the traditional morality behind the Santorums and the Limbaughs of the world for those that need it. I’m going to do it without referring to the Bible or really religion at all. I had a Sunday School upbringing, but as I’ve said elsewhere it wasn’t at a particularly conservative church and it was long before the legalistic Bible arguments gained mainstream attention with the Intelligent Design movement. So I’m no Biblical scholar and in any event most of the people I know are atheists (if not antitheists (I may have just coined that term, I dunno)) so Biblical explanations hold no water with them.

My knowledge of traditional morality comes more from my forced association with my redneck family. That’s as good a segue as any to stress that I’m not agreeing with or supporting the continued observation of traditional morality, rather I want to provide some perspective on it in reaction to some of the appallingly shallow moral outrage I’ve seen coming from birth control advocates.

Traditional morality is a combined security and economic regime.

I believe intellectuals call that a thesis statement.

Populations have to balance perpetuating the group with preventing being burdened by defenseless, unproductive units of the group, what we call babies. Without The Pill or other methods of modern, what I will from now on refer to as Effective Birth Control (although I won’t always title case it) the only way to do that is to determine when and how people had sex. Individuals generally want to get it on, so it was best to harness it until it was economically and security-wise safe to make babies.

Voila, pre-marital abstinence. No sex until marriage is the easiest and most effective way to manage the production of infants. And thus traditional morality was born, and it was born across a broad swathe of humanity, not just Levantine desserts. I supppose abstinence isn’t the only way after all, there’s infanticide. So marriage is good for something after all! Was, anyway.

But, you modern minded progressive types argue, those days are gone! We have effective birth control, why does traditional morality continue?

People make a virtue out of necessity.

It’s the simplest form of propaganda.

I believe this is the main reason we’re suffering this traditional morality hangover. Whether intentional (Santorum) or incidental (most grandmothers), pre-marital abstinence is a necessity that was made into a virtue.

The Pill is only about fifty years old.

Because this debate ain’t about rubbers.

The Occam’s Razor approved answer to the continued existence of traditional morality is simple habit, or macro-behavioral inertia if you must be fancy (I may also have invented that term). Fifty years is two generations, that’s a radical shift in behavior in a short time and you simply can’t expect everyone to get on board. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this it’s that fact. The notion that sex without marriage is good is historically radical and the idea that sex without pregnancy is possible is evolutionarily radical. Never mind that both of those notions are awesome, it takes a while for such huge shifts in individual and cultural behavior to sink in. And unfortunately there’s political advantage to advocating for one side or another in such shifts. That’s on both sides

There. Traditional morality isn’t from Leviticus, it’s a combined security & economic regime that’s outlived its usefulness. So when you see/hear/read someone working themselves into a hand-wringing froth about how horrible effective birth control is, restrain your impulse to anger. People who want to turn back the clock look at the modern world with fear in their hearts. Traditional morality is EASY. Your decisions are mostly made for you. Living an independent life is hard. Approach with empathy and dialogue, fighting plays into their strategy anyway.

Wait a minute, why does traditional morality seem to only apply to women?

Right, forgot about that one, sorry. Well, it really doesn’t. It applies to both sexes but I will grant that it affects women more. But women have the uteruses, so how could it not? Not fair you say? What do ferris wheels and elephant ears have to do with it?

Also, as with any regime traditional morality has active and reactive elements. Keeping tabs on who’s fucking would be the rationing (economic rationing, not WW2 food coupons) and defense element. Knocking up other families’ and tribes’ daughters would be the competitive and offensive element of the economic and security regime. Messed up, eh? Welcome to humanity.

  1. Gloom
    March 28th, 2012 at 18:34 | #1

    I love you!

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