Standards Changed, Trust Betrayed

In the days of King Henry I of England (1100-1135), one yard was taken to be “the distance from the tip of the King’s nose to the end of his outstretched thumb.” How accurate were the yardsticks of King Henry’s subjects? An audience with the monarch was presumably the only way to be sure.

MEASUREMENTS today are more accurately defined in terms of standards. Thus, the meter is defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in one second divided by 299,792,458. To be precise, this light is of a fixed wavelength and is emitted by a special type of laser. If they have the equipment that reproduces the standard, people anywhere can check that their measurement of length is the same as everyone else’s.

Changes in standards of measurement, however slight, can cause uncertainty, and great efforts are put forth to safeguard the standards. For instance, in Britain the standard for measuring mass is a bar of platinum and iridium alloy that weighs one kilogram. This bar is kept at the National Physical Laboratory. Air pollution from traffic and passing aircraft makes the kilogram standard gain weight every day. This metal bar, or cylinder, however, is a copy of the world standard kept under three bell jars in an underground vault at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Sèvres, France. But even the weight of this object fluctuates as a result of microscopic contamination. Thus far, the world’s metrologists have not come up with a more stable standard.

Although minute changes seem inconsequential to the average person, a complete change of standard can be disconcerting. In Britain, the change from the imperial measure of weight (pounds and ounces) to the metric (kilograms and grams) bred considerable mistrust​—and not without reason. Some unscrupulous storekeepers took advantage of the general unfamiliarity with the new system to shortchange their customers.

Family and Moral Standards

What about changes in family and moral standards? The effect of such changes can be far more damaging. Current reports of family breakdown, promiscuous sexual behavior, and widespread child abuse appall many and confirm that we live in an age of falling standards. One-parent families, children brought up by “parents” of the same sex, and the horrific sexual abuse of children under the care of local authorities are all results of people turning their backs on accepted standards. More and more, people are becoming “lovers of themselves, . . . having no natural affection, . . . without love of goodness, . . . lovers of  pleasures rather than lovers of God,” as the Bible foretold some two thousand years ago.​—2 Timothy 3:1-4.

The decline of moral standards goes hand in hand with a callous betrayal of trust. Recently, blatant lapses from the high standards of the medical profession came to light in Hyde, a town in northern England, where residents confided in their “respected and trusted” family doctors. But their trust was sadly betrayed. How? Trial reports revealed that a medical practitioner actually caused the death of at least 15 of his female patients. Indeed, the police had to reexamine more than 130 other deaths involving the doctor. The extent of the betrayal of trust was underlined when the doctor was convicted and sentenced to prison. Two prison officers whose mother might have been murdered by this doctor were given other duties so that they would not have to care for the infamous prisoner. Little wonder that a report of the case in The Daily Telegraph described the guilty general practitioner as the “‘Devil’ doctor.”

In view of the changeable and deteriorating standards in so many areas of life, in whom can you confidently put your trust? Where can you find unchangeable standards, backed by an authority that has the power to uphold them? The following article addresses these questions.