Picking the Turing Test Questions

I’ve gotten too many emails from people interested in participating in the Turing Test to be able to include everyone without making it a slog.  I’ll reply to all the emails I’ve gotten with a definitive yes or no by tonight.  I’m glad to run the whole shebang again in a month or so if this one turns out to be fun and thought-provoking, so, if you get a ‘not now,’ make sure to let me know if you want me to email you later for another round.  I’m really excited about the prospects for this one.

Now, on to the questions.  I’ve picked a couple definites, and I’ll be sending them out in the confirmation email tonight so contestants can get a start on them.  Here they are:

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?

Atheist questions:

  • What’s your best reason for being an atheist?
  • What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to stop believing 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?

I want to add two more questions to each of these lists.  I’m putting the list of all suggested questions below the jump and everyone should feel free to make a pitch for their favorites and/or raise objections or concerns. Before I get to the list, I want to give a quick explanation of two genres of questions I’m not planning to include.

I’ve received a couple kind of pop-quiz suggestions (Name 3 atheist books you’ve liked, etc) and I don’t plan to use any of them.  They might be useful in a real-time test, but since I assume everyone will google their way into reasonable sounding answers, I’m striking them.

The other category of question I’ve nixed are all the ones for Christians that are easily answered by “God exists out of time” (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, etc).  Perhaps it’s my science fiction background, but I find that kind of answer reasonable enough and I have no desire to read 10 or so rewordings of it.

Oh, and to the person who suggested asking how people pronounce ‘shibboleth,’ very cute.  Here are the proposed questions and this is your last chance to add new ones.

Questions for Atheists:

  • Assuming no creator, what predated/caused the Big Bang? What is the origin of matter and spacetime?
  • 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?
  • How do you justify acting morally without believing in God?
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • 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?

Questions for Christians:

  • Can God make a stone so big he cannot lift it? (Omnipotent).
  • 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?
  • Why does evil exist? Why didn’t God create a world in which evil (both human-caused and natural) did not exist?
  • Why does the Universe need a Creator, but God does not? Is this not just an unnecessary antecedant?

Questions for Both:

  • 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.
  • If Scientific American published an article about a new empirical test that establishes the existence (non-existence) of God, would you change you views?
  • Is morality objective? If so, from what is it derived? If not, what is the standard by which morality ought to be determined/judged?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your ideology?
  • What was the moment when you first realized/decided you were a Christian/atheist?
  • What’s the hardest truth your beliefs have led you to?
  • Why should [atheists/Christians] [oppose/support] same-sex marriage?
  • Why should [atheists/Christians] [oppose/support] same-sex marriage?
  • Why should we believe evolution is [true/false]?
  • Why should we believe evolution is [true/false]?

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.blogger.com/profile/02052820986424929706 jack

    Leah,—————————————-I vote for: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? Reason: This is a deep question that is approachable by science, but that has not yet been completely answered by science.Is morality objective? If so, from what is it derived? If not, what is the standard by which morality ought to be determined/judged? Reason: Essentially the same as for the preceding question.——————————-I vote against:As a follow up: Are emotions, thoughts, and feelings entirely self-derived, entirely neurological phenomena, or some combination thereof? Please explain. Reason: The question is vague and subject to multiple interpretations. What does "self-derived" mean? How or why is that necessarily distinct from neurological? I am a neuroscientist by training, and I interpret my subjective sense of self as entirely a product of neural activity. Therefore anything "self-derived" is also a neurological phenomenon. If by "self-derived" you mean "a product of an immaterial soul or mind that exists independently of the brain", then make that clear.If Scientific American published an article about a new empirical test that establishes the existence (non-existence) of God, would you change you views? Reason: It's poorly worded and ambiguous. Is the article about the test, or about evidence obtained by running the test in an empirical experiment? As worded, the article is about a hypothetical test, not about empirical evidence. Also, is the question just asking about the reliability of Scientific American as a source of accurate reporting on scientific discoveries? If not, then you should drop the name and just say something like "a reputable peer-reviewed scientific journal". As written, I can't tell what the question is getting at. Then there's the problem that an empirical test can only disprove a hypothesis, so how can it "establish the existence of God"?What's the hardest truth your beliefs have led you to? Reason: Again, ambiguity. Does "hardest truth" mean "most solidly established by evidence", "most counter-intuitive and therefore most difficult to understand", or "the truth that causes the most emotional discomfort or insecurity, and is therefore hardest to accept"? These are all very different questions. What does the writer of this question really mean and really want to get at?

  • http://www.godlessgirl.com Godless Girl

    Hi there. Very interesting collection of questions so far. A quick clarification:Under the first section of Atheist questions you wrote:"What evidence or experience (if any) would cause you to stop believing in God?"Since atheists already do not believe in gods, is this worded properly?

  • http://sites.google.com/site/bbayles/ Bo

    In addition to the ones I proposed, I would vote for:* How do you justify acting morally without believing in God?* 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?I would vote against:* As a follow up: Are emotions, thoughts, and feelings entirely self-derived, entirely neurological phenomena, or some combination thereof? Please explain

  • Anonymous

    Why'd you use Naruto fan art?

  • Anonymous

    I would nix the fruitfly question. An answer to that is more contingent upon one's knowledge or ignorance of biology/genetics/speciation than anything else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10019240793982424774 Christian H

    I agree with Anon 28 6:51. I would nix most questions that are based mainly on data. After all, it's the reasoning and worldview we're interested in, right?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16496144988509668275 Leah

    I have no idea it was Naruto fan art, I just google imaged something like "person with mask." Now you've revealed my haphazard approach to blog images!


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