Final Turing Question List

Thanks for all your input, and here’s the final list of questions (the final additions are in italics):

Christian questions:

  • What’s your best reason for being a Christian?
  • What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to stop believing in God?
  • Why do you believe Christianity has a stronger claim to truth than other religions/On what basis do you reject the truth claims of other traditions and denominations but accept your own?
  • How do you read the Bible? Do you study the history of its translations?  How do you decide which translations/versions/books are the true Bible?  How does it guide you if you have a moral or theological dilemma?  [This question has come up before, if you remember this plea for guest posts]

Atheist questions:

  • What’s your best reason for being an atheist?
  • What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to believe in God? If you believed in some kind of god, what kind of evidence would be necessary to convince you to join a particular religion?
  • When you have ethical and moral disputes with other people, what do you appeal to? What metric do you use to examine your moral intuitions/cultural sensibilities/etc?
  • Why is religion so persistent? We have had political revolutions, artistic revolutions, an industrial revolution, and also religious reformations of several kinds, but religion endures. Does this not suggest its basic truth?

Starting Monday, I’ll be posting the contestants answers to the list of questions for atheists, and at the end of the week, I’ll post a google form to let you vote for which post you think were written by true atheists and which were done by Christians.  The next week, I’ll post everyone’s responses to the list of Christian questions and run a second poll.

The third week: STATISTICS!  <– hurrah.

I’m quite looking forward to this.

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  • Ferny R

    I think the test is largely biased towards predominantly middle class, white and educated concepts of Christianity or even atheism.I'm sure none of the people are going to represent a popular Catholicism or one that is fused with some interesting spiritualisms being invoked. It's all going to be fairly standard, fairly intellectualized and is going to be fairly recognizable. Let's get some people who loves the Virgin Mary as much as they love Jesus and who believe it's kosher to hang out with some voodoo card-readers.

  • Anonymous

    I think we've got you covered, bro.

  • Hmm. I wonder what would happen if I answered both sets of questions. I wonder if anyone could accurately guess which one I am.

  • Anonymous

    I'm a Christian who's at least somewhat interested in participating by arguing as a Christian. How can I let you know how to contact me?

  • Anonymous

    The real test is if people know their Bible well enough to know what a true Christian is. But that is a whole another debate.

  • Anonymous

    Leah…This is a dual Chinese room test, not a Turing test. Read the Wikipedia pages if you don't understand the difference. It really should be important to you.Otherwise, your prompts are atheism-biased (which means, BTW, that your test fails before it even begins). They're questions atheists would ask of other atheists, not questions Christians would ask of other Christians. That puts Christians at a disadvantage; since they'd never ask such questions of each other, they wouldn't know how other Christians might respond; not true of atheists asking of other atheists.E.g., Christians don't need "best reasons" for being Christians.If you insist on doing this, find a Christian who can write one set of prompts for you; doesn't matter which: Christian-authored prompts for Christians, or Christian-authored prompts for atheists. But the same atheist-authored prompts for both is obvious bias.Have you studied enough computer science or artificial intelligence to even be doing this?I'm not getting that you have. And frankly, as a computer scientist, I could care less about your atheism, what I don't appreciate is you abusing theoretical computer science to try to prove how smart you think you are. If you can't write your own web survey instrument, I think that says something about this little effort of yours.

  • Anonymous

    If you can't write your own web survey instrument, I think that says something about this little effort of yours. I think making this non-argument says something about this little post of yours.

  • I think the anonymous July 9th comment adds the most to the conversation, even if they got a little bitter in the end. Get rid of the questions with obvious atheistic bias, or better, just mix in questions written by Christians to both sets. The questions themselves seem too laborious to answer, btw. Have a contest to write the best, simplest questions, or something.

  • Anonymous

    "Have you studied enough computer science or artificial intelligence to even be doing this?"What do the skillsets of those fields of study contribute to this task?

  • Interesting idea, but I think the diversity within Christianity would throw off the results. If I were to answer "as a Christian," my answers would be very different if I was playing the role of a fundamentalist Evangelical, a liberal (like Fred Clark or James McGrath), or a mystically-oriented Christian (say, an Eastern Orthodox monk, or someone in the tradition of St. Teresa of Avila).Atheists would answer their questions in fairly similar ways regardless of whether the atheist was a laissez-faire Capitalist (e.g. Ayn Rand), a Communist, a Singularitarian (Ray Kurzweil), or whatever.Since each major division of Christians tends to be suspicious of the "true" Christianity of the others, an Evangelical might assume that a (genuine) Christian mystic was an atheist since no 'real' Christian would talk about the best evidence for Christianity being a mystical communion with Christ rather than Henry Morris' "proof" of Noah's Flood. The mystical or liberal Christian might guess that the Evangelical's answers are atheist caricatures of Christianity (Poe's Law).So I think in order for the test to work you would have to be fairly specific about which sect of Christianity you're talking about.

  • Anonymous

    Kevin,What are you talking about? There can only be one sect of Christianity. A follower of Christ. A/Christ is the son of God and the redeemer of the world.B/ Christ fully sharing in Divinity with his father must be who he says he is or he is a heretic which would render Christianity null and void. C/ if we are to believe that Christ is divine then we must also conclude that his words are true and that the canon is true, thus illiminating any other sect of religion claiming to be Christianity that does not completely follow what the canonical bible teaches. This is not the Mormon bible, or the catholic bible for that matter, since these books are not credited as Inspired or God breathed. This illuminates every sect or cult claiming to be Christian but not really following what the bible teaches. For example Muslim faith believe that Jesus was a prophet but not the son of God. jehovas witness believe in that Jesus is the arch angel Michael. Mormons allow homo sexual members to be ministers in their churches. None of these religions are following what the bible(which is the only book that talks about Christ) teaches. Therefore they can not claim to be Christians. They are something else all together.

  • Anonymous, which version of which Bible are we to use? How do we know which scriptures are divinely inspired, and so true*, and which are not? Do you know how the books which incorporate the Bible were selected from many?You make some bold claims: even if Jesus is the son of God, and he is divine, how do we know He always speaks the truth? Many religions have stories of their God(s) lying to them – even the Bible has many untruths in the Old Testament, some attributed directly to God.* For a given value of true.

  • Changing it a bit:What's your best reason for being a Hindu?It gives me an adequate framework to approach all of life.What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to stop believing in God?Belief in God is not central to my being Hindu. More important is the idea of an ultimate unity behind all the diversity of phenomena.Why do you believe Hinduism has a stronger claim to truth than other religions/On what basis do you reject the truth claims of other traditions and denominations but accept your own?My tradition says that like all rivers find their way to the sea, all paths lead to the same destination. The main truth claim that I reject of other traditions is their claim of exclusivity.How do you read the Hindu books? Do you study the history of its translations? How do you decide which translations/versions/books are the true versions? How does it guide you if you have a moral or theological dilemma? [This question has come up before, if you remember this plea for guest posts]a. I don't have theological dilemmas.b. Moral issues are determined by reason, tradition, the practices of wise people around me, and guidance from the books.c. Just as there is no one true exposition of Newton's Laws of Motion; that Newton's Principia is the source but not necessarily the best place to learn of Newton's laws – a modern book may be better – the same holds with whatever is useful from what the Hindu books have to convey.

  • Anonymous

    but religion endures. Does this not suggest its basic truth? — ??????????Ask a Hindu about Buddhism, or a Jew about a Mormon. What is your definition of endures?

  • Anonymous

    Answers to Questions:1) How do we define Christian?The Church answered that question in about 325 at the first council of Nicea, and clarified it in about 381. The fundamental definition of the Christian faith (and therefore, the definition of what it means to be Christian) is found in the Nicene Creed.The Nicene creed is also know as "The Profession of the Christian Faith."2) What version of the Bible?The Canon of the Bible (those books that make up the Old and New Testament) was first established at the Council of Carthage, with follow-ons at the Councils of Florence and Trent.While not asked, the commenter should have included this question: How do we know what meaning to bring to the words of the Bible?Answer: "Sacred Scripture must be read and interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit and under the guidance of the Magisterium of the Church according to three criteria: 1) it must be read with attention to the content and unity of the whole of Scripture; 2) it must be read within the living Tradition of the Church; 3) it must be read with attention to the analogy of faith, that is, the inner harmony which exists among the truths of the faith themselves."In this context, the phrase "Sacred Scripture" is a synonym for "The Bible."

  • mboerner

    Sounds to me that Anonymous is an ultramontane Roman Catholic. No Protestant would give such answers.

  • Religious Beliefs are a matter of faith. If you have it, you believe; if you don't, you don't. People who depend exclusively on religion for moral and ethical guidance are lazy and probably wrong most of the time. The Bible is full of contradictions and obscurity. Read the Book of Job. The horrors that God inflicted are excused because he gave him new wealth, a new wife and new sons. What a horrible god; knock off your wife and kids, that's okey, you can get new ones. As a nonbeliever, I study and choose my own moral path. Knocking off my family is not moral. Do I listen to Christians? Yes. Do we have things in common? Yes. A Christian's choice and my choice are not a matter of discussion. It is private. Can I fake being a Christian? Yes. I know the lingo. Apparently better than Christians know about Atheists…Pax

  • Anonymous of July 11, 2011 6:09 AM … since when do Jehovah's Witnesses not believe Jesus is the son of God? Your argument may be correct, but it doesn't sound convincing when the message is conveyed with so much carelessness.

  • Douglas

    I enjoy your blog, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Let me play the game and answer your four(+) questions. (I am a Christian.)

    1) Because it is true.
    2) God would have to directly tell me He doesn’t exist.
    3) By the impossibility of the contrary. Only Christianity corresponds to reality and is internally consistent. When compared with any other world view only Christianity is consistent.
    4.a) I use the grammatical-historical method for hermeneutics.
    4.b) I prefer translations that use formal equivalence; such as the NASB or ESV.
    4.c) The biblical canon is determined by what is apostolic. The church didn’t create the canon, but bears witness to the canon.
    4.d) The Bible is the written Word of God and is authoritative in all manners, especially with regards to theology and morality.

  • Frediano

    If longevity is the gauge, than smegma has religion beat by thousands of years.