13 September 2010

We are not that different

There is more variation within groups than between groups.
This is a concept I learned in Psychology courses in college; I find it applies well to life in general.

For a simple example, let's look at gender and height.  The average man in the US is 5 ft 9.5 in, for women the average in the US is 5 ft 4 in. So men are on average 5.5 inches taller then women. That is the variation between the groups, and it may seem significant until you examine the variation within those groups.
Currently the world's tallest man is about 8 ft 11 in. The shortest is about 2 ft 3 in. That is a variation within the group of about 6 ft 8in.  I won't bother you with tall and short women; hopefully the concept is clear.
(I got these numbers from trusty wikipedia.)

So, why am I writing about this today?
Because it applies to much of what makes the news these days.

First example- Religion. There are some Christian saints that live exceptionally virtuous lives. The vast majority of Christians are fairly middle of the road (they make the hump of the bell curve). Unfortunately there are also Christians that fall on the extreme opposite of the saints- doing things that are unthinkable to the majority. There is an enormous range, but most people fall in the middle.
The exact same thing applies to people of all religions, all over the world- including Muslims. The news and the history books may focus on the extremists, but the vast majority of Muslims aren't that different from the vast majority of Christians. They want a safe home, food on the table, education and opportunities for their children and good health for their families. While Muslims don't have the same concept of saints as Christians, there are certainly Muslims that live in a way that would be an example to all of us.

Another example that is literally close to home is US citizens and immigrants (specifically those immigrants crossing our southern border). My great-great- etc. grandparents came to the US for a better life. They were willing to work hard and sacrifice for what they saw as the land of opportunity. Are the folks coming to the US today any different? I certainly don't think so.
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When I started this blog I really intended to stay away from politics and similar issues. I thought that the calm, reasoned, balanced perspective had to win out. I didn't think that I could add anything. Now, I feel that the extremists in our country are winning, only because they are screaming the loudest.
It tears me up to think that people just like me believe all Americans are hateful, because a few of them are getting all the attention. 
Please excuse my time on the soapbox, but I just couldn't keep quiet any longer.