Peter Vibert (
Mon, 10 Jun 1996 13:09:45 -0400

Dear ASA

I want to echo Paul Arveson's comments about learning from the
Morton-Fischer debate. I have 'listened in silence' because I have learned
a great deal from these two men. I think they are owed a huge debt of
thanks from all of us for putting their views and their reputations on the
line in this way. It gave us an almost unique opportunity to hear two VERY
well read people argue at length the strengths and weaknesses of detailed
and well thought out positions. Thanks to both of you! Glenn, if you are
still 'listening', come back soon!

It WAS disturbing, as Paul has implied, to see the tone change towards the
end as new contributors weighed in with judgmental attitudes. It's of
course a familiar pattern in discussions of religion or politics to see
emotional commitments emerge in powerful ways and change the nature of the
'discussion'. But I believe "we in the church" need to learn to suspend
judgement when issues cannot be resolved through lack of data, just as "we
in science" have learned to do. At times this means recognizing that we
what we take to be the 'facts' of the case may not in fact be so.

(A note in passing - I find a willingness to do this rather less common
among engineers than scientists, perhaps because professionally the former
often CANNOT leave an issue unresolved but must make the best design they
can with what they know?).

I don't know how we deal with the issues of specialization, expert
knowledge, and being up to date. How does anyone find time to know as much
as Glenn Morton does? I think his frustration in dealing with arguments
that he thinks are outmoded is very understandable - and I can just
remember a time when I was so much on top of the literature in my field
that I felt the same way about many scientific meetings and journal clubs I
attended. But now I have sunk back into the same level of being years
behind in my reading as most people..! (to be truthful, I haven't had time
to even READ carefully all that Dick Fischer and Glenn Morton wrote in the
past 8 weeks; but my mail file says I have 254 messages on that topic!).

There are of course many more substantive lessons to be learned, as Paul
has indicated, especially about the difficulties faced by even a 'mild

Some of us have learned a lot from this debate. I am delighted that ASA
could feature such a discussion. I hope it will remain accessible in the
archives as something we can refer others to.


Peter J. Vibert
Senior Scientist Interim Pastor
Rosenstiel Basic Medical The Congregational Church
Sciences Research Center in North Chelmsford
Brandeis University 15 Princeton Street
PO Box 9110, Waltham, MA 02254 N. Chelmsford, MA 01863

tel: (617) 736-4947 tel: (508) 251-1261
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