Logistics for Turing Test Challenge

In lieu of seven quick takes today, I want to start hammering out logistics for the ideological turing test challege mentioned yesterday.  (Visitors from the Quick Takes blog carnival, click the link to get up to speed and feel free to email me or post a comment if you’d like to be a guestblogger).  In brief, the goal is to test how well you understand the arguments and beliefs of the people you disagree with trying to see if you can sum up their position as they would.  Do understand an atheist so well you could pass for one in an argument?

The Competitors

I originally thought it might be me versus one Christian, but, since a number of people have told me they’re interested, so feel free to email me and sign up.  I won’t tell you how many Christians and how many atheists are in until after the fact, so you can’t use it as a guide when making your guesses.  I’m not capping people entering for now, but if I get too many responses, I’ll try and put individual bloggers in touch with each other to run their own matches.

The Test

Here’s the fun part.  I need your help to design a good test.  Trying to run a live chat is too logistically crazy, so I think the best plan is to have competitors write essays or answer a slate of questions (and I’m leaning toward the latter.  Here’s my current idea: we make a list of 3-5 questions for Christians and 3-5 questions for atheists and all participants in the experiment answer both sets within the appropriate framework. Remember, the goal will be both to argue the side you believe well and to accurately impersonate a person on the other side.

I’ll take suggestions for questions for either side  in the comment section (and this post may be a good place to look for inspiration).  Here are a couple question ideas off the top of my head:

  • Why are you a Christian?/Why are you an atheist?
  • What’s the hardest truth your beliefs have led you to?
  • (For Christians) What do you find uniquely compelling about Christianity, as opposed to other religions?

Looking forward to your suggestions and additions.

The Judges

Origially I thought I might recruit a panel of atheist and Christian bloggers, but I don’t know how feasible that is and, as a statistics geek, I hate small sample sizes.  My current thought is to ask some of the bloggers I know to send their readers over to take a survey on what they thought (while providing a little demographic data on their own beliefs so I can run crosstabs.

I’ll certainly tabulate guesses across everyone who answers, but I’ll also see which atheists were most convincingly Christians to Christians only and which Christians were best at sounding like atheists to atheists.  We’ll see how different those numbers are.

Good plan?  Other suggestions?

The Prizes

I’ll come up with something to give away to the Most Atheist Christian (the writer who manages most convincingly to argue like an atheist) and the Most Christian Atheist, but, for now, they’re TBA.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.daylightatheism.org/ Ebonmuse

    This is a great idea. For one of the challenge questions, how about, "What was the moment when you first realized/decided you were a Christian/atheist?"

  • http://profile.typepad.com/6p00d83451e1cd69e2 Nathanael Smith

    How about "What is the case for Christianity/atheism? Why should we believe that Christianity/atheism is true?"

  • http://moralmindfield.wordpress.com/ Brian Green

    How about "What is the greatest challenge to your faith?" or "What, if anything, would make you change your mind about being a Christian / atheist?" or "What is your greatest source of doubt about your beliefs?"

  • Peter H

    This is a bit of a complex structure, but I think doing a pairwise one-on-one at a time competition would be the best structure.Here's how it would work. Take 1 atheist and one Christian. They both answer the slate of questions, and each slate is shown side by side. So as a voter, I then see 2 sets of answers to the atheism questions, and 2 sets of answers to the Christianity questions. I then award two points, one point to the atheist answers I find most authentic, and one point to the Christian answers I find most authentic. Each voter should see a random atheist paired with a random Christian, so that someone who can argue really well doesn't just end up getting lucky and being always paired with an opponent who doesn't argue well.This is also advantageous in that a voter doesn't need to read through ALL the statements to be able to contribute, which would be a big hurdle to getting a good sample size.Full disclosure: I have volunteered to participate in the test.

  • http://www.amyfortherest.blogspot.com amy

    I'd love to participate in this! I think "what, if anything, could convince you to abandon your belief system and turn to the Christian/atheist faith?"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14402515044482988601 Michael E. Marotta

    1. If Scientific American published an article about a new empirical test that establishes the existence (non-existence) of God, would you change you views?2. If the atheist witnessed pr experienced a miracle, would they become Christian?3. If the Bible is the Revealed Word of God, how do you reconcile all of the different language translations. Which version or edition is the true Bible? Which Books are truly the Word of God?4. Why does the Universe need a Creator, but God does not? Is this not just an unnecessary antecedant?5. Can God make a stone so big he cannot lift it? (Omnipotent).6A. True or False: If God is all-knowing (omniscient), then He knows what He is going to do next, which means that he is constrained to do that, and cannot be all-powerful.6B. True or False: If God is all-powerful (omnipotent), then He cannot know what He is going to do next.7. Is the Bishop of Rome the Vicar of Christ? In other words, how do we know that your version of Christianity is the One True Sect, while all others are false? How do we know?8. We have bombarded fruitflies with every radiaton known. We created monsters and sports – maybe a leg growing out of its head – but we never created a new species of fruitfly. Does this not suggest Special Creation?9. Atheists (Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Che) have killed tens of millions of people, perhaps 100 million. Denish d'Souza estimates this as 100 times the worst possible estimate for the Crusades, witch trials, etc., etc. Doesn't this worst-case body count suggest that we need religion as the basis for morality?10. 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?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14402515044482988601 Michael E. Marotta

    Islam, not Chritianity, is the True Religion. Read the Quran. The children of Abraham descend from Abraham through Isaac and Ismael. God spoke to Moses and gave him the Ten Commandments. Jesus was God. Mary was His mother. Jesus ascended into heaven – though there were no witnesses to that. Mohammed brought the Word of God to the nations and then Mohammed ascended into heaven – and for that there were witnesses and the place is marked. Jews are one-third right; and Christians are two-thirds right; Muslims are right all the way. Muslims know God, the Word of God, the Testaments, the Messiah, and the Prophet.

  • KL

    For "atheists":- Assuming no creator, what predated/caused the Big Bang? What is the origin of matter and spacetime?- Is morality objective? If so, from what is it derived? If not, what is the standard by which morality ought to be determined/judged?- Are there truths or facts about reality that cannot be demonstrated or disproven by purely empirical means?- As a follow up: Are emotions, thoughts, and feelings entirely self-derived, entirely neurological phenomena, or some combination thereof? Please explain.- Is there any evidence (empirical or otherwise) that would cause you to believe or consider belief in God?For Christians:- Assuming the existence of a God, what makes Christianity the most correct understanding of God? – Follow-up: On what basis are we to believe that the Bible is more accurate than the Quran, the teachings of the Buddha, the Book of Mormon, etc.?- Why does evil exist? Why didn't God create a world in which evil (both human-caused and natural) did not exist? – Is there any evidence, empirical or otherwise, that would make you doubt or disbelieve the existence of God and/or the correctness of Christianity?

  • KL

    Both "atheists" and "Christians" were supposed to be in scare quotes. I wasn't trying to imply anything by the discrepancy!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15243178223616240845 Atheist MC

    One neutral qustion."What explanation for the existence of anything, the richness of life on earth and the reason and meaning for your own life makes most sense to you?"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10552077344304954390 Aron

    This is an interesting competition. I have some beefs with some of the proposed questions though: 1) there should be no questions asking what are the best arguments against ones position, since this would be asking an e.g. Christian to simulate an atheist who was simulating a Christian which works back around to the starting position. 2) "hardest truth" is ambiguous. Does this mean, most difficult to beleive, most difficult to like, most difficult to act on?Other than this I like the post and KL's suggested questions…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09239576472889126413 MCPlanck

    I would like to participate in this exercise.Here are my suggested questions: "How do you know?""Which of the following is the most correct?A) The world derives from Truth.B) Truth is derived from the world.""What is 'confirmation bias,' and how do you compensate for it?"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09239576472889126413 MCPlanck

    To be clear – I think that very few Christians will be able to answer those questions in ways that will fool an atheist into believing they are an atheist; and I am pretty sure I can answer them in a way that will fool most Christians into believing I am a Christian.I am also pretty sure that atheists trying to prove they are atheists will be successful.What I am really looking forward to, however, is whether or not the Christians can successfully identify their fellow Christians based on these answers. I predict a high degree of false negatives.

  • http://www.storeitall.co.uk/ pallet storage

    Morality is a big concept in itself. It needs not to be judged.

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