Joseph Carson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
13 Jul 96 14:00:17 EDT
John Osepchuk is the Chair of the ASA Industrial Commission, the Commission
that represents (as part of its charter) engineering is ASA. He replied to
my message to the Rutherford Institute, but I inadvertently deleted his
response. I do capture most of it in my reply to him and he okayed my
posting it here. Excerpts of John's message are within the brackets ">>>
--- Forwarded Message ---
#: 585869 S0/Outbox File [MAIL]
Sb: ASA SIGs in Professional Societies
To: "John M. Osepchuk" [75754,3663]
I did get your message and thank you for your thoughtful reply.
First of all: The term "Special Interest Group" has
undesirable connotations in today's political climate.
Joe: I agree, but I've seen the acronym SIG a number of times, so lacking a
better term I used it.
(3) I believe we should accept and support today's customs (in my experience)
of informal arrangements of Christians to get together for a service or prayer
during a professional meeting.
Joe: I've been a member of ASME for 20 years and NSPE for about 10 years.
never attended anything other than a local chapter meeting of either
and have little prospects of doing so - I haven't the time, money, energy
etc. I have no idea if there are other ASA'ers in either
organization. At present I have no practical way of finding out. Both
organizations have established Web Pages recently and ASME's includes a
ASME email address for all members. I've asked Don Munro if ASA has or could
devise a lapel pin for ASA'ers. (My intention would be to wear it at
Professional Functions in order to perhaps come upon other ASA'ers or use
it to start conversation about ASA.) Perhaps this is something you could
address in the Industrial Commission.
(5) Is "whistle-blowing" one of the issues to focus on? I don't know. There
are many other issues of concern--e.g. the broader question of ethics, fraud,
etc. As the recent experiences in the federal government shows, this is a very
complicated issue involving subtle matters of law and judgment.
Joe: There are many ways in which our Christian faith acts upon our vocations.
No, I don't think "whistleblowing" per say should be a focus. The intent
would be to ask ourselves more regularly and more collectively how we're
integrating our faith into our vocations - the activity in which most of us
spend the best hours of the best days of our lives preparing for or
(6) I believe it is wrong to ask professional societies to accept ASA SIGs.
They have to remain neutral relative to religion etc. They don't usually
object to informal gatherings of Christians and may even list them if they are
ecumenical or non-denominational.
Joe: I try to "step around" the issue by referring to my "belief in the
metaphysic." We all have metaphysics and engineering societies are based on
metaphysical assumptions that are under increasing attack, at least in
The mission of NSPE is "to promote the ethical, competent, and licensed
practice of engineering and to enhance the professional, social, and
economic well-being of its members." I completely agree that NSPE as other
technical societies have to remain neutral
with respect to religion. Should that mean that they cannot officially
recognize members' desires (where they exist) to integrate their faith into
(7) It is best in these societies to join with all, including non-Christians,
who are interested in a certain issue. It would seem more effective if all
moral people, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Agnostics, etc., join together in a
common cause, if possible. In the IEEE, there is the IEEE Society for Social
Implications of Technology. They have been very active in supporting
whistleblowers. There seems no reason why within other societies similar
groups could not be established. That is a lot of work but if there are enough
dedicated people it can happen. It, of course, may occur with opposition, In
the IEEE, for example, the group which formed SIT-S (then called CSIT), was
bitterly opposed by many IEEE leaders as troublemakers. In the end, however, a
niche was found on the level of a Society--of which there are close to thirty
in the IEEE.
Joe: But what if the (meta-)issue is "how am I integrating my Christian faith
into my profession?"
Because of my experiences in DOE, I have come into contact with Walter
Elden, who was one of the spearcarriers for the group within IEEE that you
mention - small world! ASME has about 37 technical divisions, one of which,
Technology and Society, probably serves a similar function.
What I perceive as a role for an "ASA SIG" in an IEEE or ASME is very
modest. Completely self-funding, a "third-tier" organization, say a
sub-grouping of the SIT-S in IEEE or Society and Technology Division in
ASME. No role in the goverance of larger Society. No official voice. If
it wanted to advertise its existence or functions in Society publications,
it would pay the standard advertising rates. But it could still serve to
allow Christians in those professions an opportunity to better live
out the reality of God's sovereignity over their vocationts.
You know as well as I, the small role that organizations as IEEE and ASME
play in the average's engineer's life. Why? They are largely irrelevant.
I pay my $300 a year to be a member of them, not because of any direct
benefit they give me but out of the premise that "a professional should
support his/her profession." ASME draws 20% of its eligible members. Only
about 25% of engineers in this country bother to get licensed and about 30%
of them join NSPE. Have you read Samuel Florman's recent book THE
INTROSPECTIVE ENGINEER? I think ASA SIGs would be very beneficial to the
Societies and the professions in drawing more people to join the larger
If ASA SIGs existed, pastors, evangelicalists, Christian authors,
para-church organizations at Promise Keepers, etc would have better reason
to openly encourage Christians to get involved, to be "salt and light" in
their professions, to everyone's benefit.
ASA has a vital role to play in the world, right now. You, I, and other
ASA'ers have important parts in helping it serve its proper "salt and
leaven" role. Knoll's book SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL MIND doesn't speak
highly of ASA and his critique stings me. What I've experienced "up close
and personal" in DOE convicts me too. I'd have to give anyone considering
voicing any concern about any reasonable evidence of professional malfeasance
in their workplace the counsel of despair at this point "look the other way,
if you can live with yourself." Dismal. From what Walter Elden has shared
his efforts within IEEE, they have not been crowned with any notable success
to this point either - IEEE has acted to support its "Code of Ethics"
only three times in 20 years, is what he told me.
I think if we talk reasonably, try to anticipate the possible objections of
the professional societies and develop reasonable answers to them, if we
share the modest role we desire, and if we learn what the legal context is,
then we are acting appropriately in evaluating this possible course of
I'd like to share your post and my response with the ASA listserv, but would
like your permission first. Since you copied Don Munro and Ken Olson
message, I'm copying them with this response.
Thank you again for responding - I'm finally beginning to feel like an
active member of ASA!
Your coworker in His vineyard,