Re: Level Playing Field

Hemant Desai (
Sat, 23 Mar 1996 23:21:08 -0600 (CST)

Lois, I thought your conversation with Bill Chambers was very interesting
and helpful to my understanding of statistical analysis. I am beginning to
comprehend the idea of corresponding regressions, conceptually at least,
although I have been preoccupied with other things such as: Is the school
I have served for three years going to renew needed support for my fourth
and final year? etc. I would like to get back to some points you touched
on in earlier posts about the woven self that u clarified so well for all
of us. Perhaps a brief summary of what was touched on previously would be
nice. So, Lois, Bill and others, thanks for your time and energy. Hemant
> I, too, am enthusiastic about using the Internet medium to facilitate
> knowledgeable discussions of a sort that have never been possible before,
> but I think the format of a debate will not be effective. In a debate, it
> is too easy to dance through complex formulations that lead to
> unsubstantiated conclusions without the logic, or illogic, being apparent.
> People reading along may well be entertained by this, but I think they
> are not likely to follow the nuances of the theoretical disagreement. The
> "winner" might well be the person with either the most charm, or the
> biggest arsenal of clever comebacks and jokes. If we want to understand
> the underlying issues, I think something besides debate is needed, at
> least in the medium of an electronic list such as this one.
> Although the alternatives to a debate are not entirely clear to me, I
> think they would include cultivation of a more reflective environment for
> theoretical discussion than debate format allows.
> In my queries of Bill, I was trying my hand at doing this, but I noted
> certain insufficiencies in my "technique" that I am not sure how to solve.
> My hope was that Bill could present his theory if someone would ask him a
> well designed set of qusetions that would prompt explanation without
> requiring him to create a complex and formal presentation of his ideas. I
> thought this was likely to work best if I omitted my own personal
> reactions to the ideas he presented. Bringing in my own personal
> opinions, I reasoned, would sidetrack things and prevent him from making
> the most coherent presentation possible. If I brought in my own ideas, I
> thought, the discussion could become a competition of theories. I did
> intend to have "mini-challeges" of Bill's in which I presented reasons for
> doubting his points, but I wanted to always accept his replies. Or, if I
> challenged again, I wanted my challenges to stop soon enough and never
> turn into an argument that countered his reasoning in a continuing debate.
> I'm not sure how satisfying Bill or others found this. I certainly did not
> really know, very well, what I was doing. I was just trying to figure out
> what he was saying by, as much as possible, putting my own ego and
> theoretical inclinations aside and helping him get his theory out. Part of
> the limitations in my approach consisted in my own difficulty in finding
> the right questions, of course. It may have been too biased towards my
> own interests and left most people bored. I'm not sure how an interviewer
> of the theoretician could avoid that. But the dialogue did evoke my own
> curiosity, and I would like to continue our dialogue. I'm not sure why
> he stopped responding to my notes. (Bill?)
> Another problem was that Bill seemed to want something more from me. I
> was suspending my disbelief and trying to put myself in good faith into
> his ideas, but he wanted something from me, in addition, that I did not
> give him. I'm not sure what. (Bill? Maybe you could address this.)
> Perhaps he wanted a debate. Still, I think a debate with me would not
> have served his purposes of getting out his theories. I just really did
> not understand his points enough to debate them. Maybe he wanted my
> assent. But I felt that it was premature for me to address his points
> with assent or disagreement, too. His response to me suggests he thought
> so, too, at least after he heard my effort to respond to his request for
> more clarification on my agreement or disagreement with him.
> And, so, I think Bill needed something from me that I did not give him and
> that I did not know how to give without antagonizing him with premature
> conclusions or diverting his project. Does anyone have suggestions here?
> But to return to the original point of this post. I want to take the
> position that a debate, while it may be somewhat entertaining, will not be
> useful in this context for most of us in helping us to understand the
> nuances of the issues. Remember, these are two intelligent thinkers who
> disagree themselves about these topics. The chances are that one of them,
> or both of them, really does not understand the other.
> And so I argue that the issues will require more subtlety in our
> reflection than is likely to occur in a debate format and I hope to
> engage some of you in a discussion of how to create a better medium for
> dialogue here.
> ..Lois Shawver