Bryan Caplan  

Judge the Religious Turing Test

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You can now vote in Leah Libresco's religious Turing Test.  Anyone care to predict the results?  Propose a bet?

Update: I just voted.  Overall, amazingly credible answers - I suspect Leah is drawing heavily from ultra-sophisticated Ivy League Christians.  The main smoking guns I thought I saw (there isn't a single answer I'd claim >80% certainty on) were:

a. Mentioning obscure atheist authors, which I took as a strong sign of genuine atheism.

b. Dwelling on the Problem of Evil, which I took as a strong sign of fake atheism.  This is the kind of argument that probably weighs heavily on Christians, but I've rarely heard atheists make much of it.


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COMMENTS (13 to date)
Robinson writes:

This is tough.

My guess is that it will be easier to recognize the sham atheists among the Christians. This might just be my own bias as an atheist, as I can imagine Christians coming up with compelling reasons for atheism more easily than I can imagine atheists coming up with compelling arguments for Christianity.

Steve S writes:

I don't want to discuss too much until it's over, but feel somewhat safer in your comment section than hers:

I am hoping I am correct but I have found two things so far.

1) I found that looking how people capitalize or don't capitalize "God" may be a hint. Specifically, in one response I found overwhelmingly to be a Christian imitation for various reasons, I noticed (s)he never capitalized "God" even when referring to the singular, Chirstian "God" and not just the generic concept of "god".

Maybe a Christian's view of an athiest's flippant attitude towards the almighty??

2) Again, for various other reasons, the ones I found to be Christian imitators were also the ones who brought up Darwin (most/all of the time). As an athiest myself, I just don't see myself bringing up Darwin in this kind of discussion. It seems like Christians may think our entire argument is based on a love-affair with Darwin's work, when in reality it's not that important (to me) in the grand scheme of things.

OK...#3 real quick...the guy who said "the moon turning to blood like I think it says in the book of Revelations"? Worst. Cover. Ever. Haha. We know you read the Bible. Huge giveaway right there.

rapscallion writes:

Did Leah take the time to verify that all the purported atheists are, in fact, atheists? Were I a devious Christian,I'd pretend to atheism and then offer craptacular arguments for it so as to skew the results.

Nathan Smith writes:

I agree with Robinson: I think it will be harder for the atheists to simulate Christians. I also suspect that atheists will be better at identifying sham atheists, and Christians at identifying sham Christians.

Alexandra Thorn writes:

@Steve S
Interesting points, but...

"We know you read the Bible."

What does reading the Bible have to do with whether a person is Christian or Atheist?

Noah Yetter writes:

Much more difficult than I expected.

Looking forward to round 2...

Peter H writes:

I am a participant (not saying which number), and I, having considered the questions closely, was only sure about 2 answerers other than myself.

As to your concern rapscallion, we all have to answer both sets of questions, so you have to be faking it (and well) on at least one set.

Ilya Somin writes:

FWIW, I'm a real atheist and I think that the problem of evil is probably the strongest argument against the existence of God. Big-name atheist philosophers such as Michael Martin have also emphasized it. Obviously, a fake atheist in a Turing Test could do the same thing. But I don't think that emphasizing this argument makes a Turing Test participant more likely to be fake.

Mark writes:

I used a simple algorithmic approach: I counted the number of questions to which the answer directly referred to something particular to Christianity (Jesus, Pope, Bible, etc.).

0 - Atheist
1 - Lean Atheist
2 - Lean Christian
3-4 - Christian

In addition, I noticed that there seemed to be a correlation between those who overly referenced Christianity & brevity; it seems that inability to delve deeply into the topic could be a sign of unfamiliarity.

@Steve S: although now atheist, I was raised Southern Baptist, and have read the Bible cover-to-cover.

Simon writes:
OK...#3 real quick...the guy who said "the moon turning to blood like I think it says in the book of Revelations"? Worst. Cover. Ever. Haha. We know you read the Bible. Huge giveaway right there.
That's #2. I hope you got the numbers right when voting.
Blackadder writes:

My guess is that it will be easier to recognize the sham atheists among the Christians. This might just be my own bias as an atheist, as I can imagine Christians coming up with compelling reasons for atheism more easily than I can imagine atheists coming up with compelling arguments for Christianity.

You realize that this would count against atheism, and in favor of Christianity, right?

Usems writes:

After going through and voting, I think I would feel really bad if I were the atheist writing my atheist beliefs and I got the most christian votes (people think you are disingenuous or have bad arguments). Or, conversely, if I were the Christian writing my thoughts on Christian beliefs and I got the most Atheist votes, I would feel pretty dumb. That alone would cause me to rethink my position, or at least engender some humility.

OneEyedMan writes:

I know that with a real Turing test the point is to fake being human. However, what started this effort was a belief that sometimes a side in an argument understood the arguments against their position better than their opponents. Isn't counting words, or looking at the obscurity of the citations not really in the spirit of the experiment? Of have we moved away from the initial argument?

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