Eve Tushnet’s Turing Reflections

There’s more quantitative Turing analysis to come, but, in the meantime, you may want to check out two posts Eve Tushnet has written on her experience reading the entries and writing her own.

Ideological Turing Test Results–Sin makes me stupid!

This is a thing where atheists and Christians attempt to answer questions both from their own POV/beliefs and from the “other side.” The stated objective, per Leah, is to give “a nice way to see how well both sides understand how the other team thinks.” Participating was a fascinating experience… and I really dislike both of my answers, Catholic and atheist, although for different reasons.

Catholic first. I wrote this one first, and the difficulty I had writing it should have been a hint that I understood the whole exercise a lot less than I thought I did. It was really tough to answer questions about subjects so important to me without using the examples and language I would use ordinarily (because I didn’t want to make my real identity obvious)…

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Does this count as preferring the tinsel?

So now I’m revisiting all of the answers in Leah’s Ideological Turing Test in order to see which ones I straight-up liked. Keep in mind that I strongly disliked both of my own answers! So far the only one I’ve really liked and whose author I wanted to know better is this fake atheist.

Well, actually, there were many other entries (both real and fake, and both atheist and Christian) which had points I found intriguing but which didn’t develop those points. In a real conversation I would have asked about some of that stuff, and we would have been able to engage more fully, I hope…

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Other participants are very welcome to share their strategies.  For example, although I didn’t play this year, last time around I wrote my Christian answer as though I were still me, but I believed in God, which turned out to sound pretty plausibly Christian.  I’d love to know other people’s approaches.


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  • I wrote this on my own reflections:

    I saw inconsistency as the most defining factor of fakes. I felt that if a post was inconsistent in its internal ideas, it was more likely to be fraudulent. For the same reason, when I sought out to write my own entries (A13 and C8), I strived for internal consistency. The underlying assumption here is that someone who is an authority/believer of a certain ideology is more likely to do the intellectual legwork to make that position consistent. Whether or not this is true is another story entirely.

  • It’s funny, because I really liked Eve Tushnet’s entries and disagree with all her reflections.

    Her Christian entry felt very much like her and not at all artificial. I can prove that by my private pre-reveal notes, which read, in their entirety: “Similar to ET but not. Likely Christian, Very logical/internally consistent,Very compelling/attractive”. (The abbreviation is from laziness in private note-taking, not familiarity.) Note how I do recognize the message but not the person., exactly according to her goals. On her atheist entry I have “This one would be impressive if real. Likely Atheist, Most ideas were logical/internally consistent, Very compelling/attractive”.That wasn’t on a curve either, I have only one atheist and two Christian entries marked very compelling/attractive.

    And, unlike her, I didn’t like my own atheist entry, but I’ll explain that at my own place and not before the weekend.

  • My strategy of faking the fundamentalism I grew up in backfired big time. As was pointed out in the comments, I no longer think or talk like a fundamentalist (and apparently don’t fake it very well), so I don’t think it really mattered if my theology was accurate to that type of Christian- I got caught way before people got to the actual theology part

    I have no explanation for why my Athiest entry tanked, other than that I’ve been reading a lot of Catholic literature lately and I’ve apparently started to talk like one.

    I need a third category 🙂

    (anyone interested can find my full post-mortem here)

    • deiseach

      You may be interested to know that your atheist answer gave me the most difficulty to decide upon; I wibbled a lot and then picked “Likely Christian” but I wasn’t at all confident in that choice.

      Probably, as you say, the baleful influence of creeping Papistry contaminating your writing style! 🙂

  • Emily

    I loved both of Eve’s entries, but her atheist one resonated so much with me that I thought, “either this has to be a Christian, or I am going to feel like a jerk for making assumptions that people with my general sensibility can’t be atheists.” Honestly, I’m slightly disappointed that my assumption was right in this case!

    Also, I have to say that I found most of the Christian entries much, much harder to guess than the atheist entries this year because a) the questions had so much to do with questions of moral authority, and b) most of the Christian responses – real and fake – were explicitly written from a Catholic perspective. Issues of moral authority are VERY different in different Protestant and evangelical traditions! Several of the entries just made me wonder, “Is this really how Catholics think or is this an atheist parody?” (Most of those actually were atheist parodies, but the fact that I had to wonder speaks to the major divisions within Christianity.)

    • deiseach

      If Leah does this again next year, we’ll have to either have a category “Atheist or Catholic?” or try and drag a lot more non-Catholic Christians in to give an answer 🙂

  • Slow Learner

    Oh, I enjoyed writing this so much. (Guy, wrote A8 and C4).

    The atheist answers I just wrote honestly – I was a little disappointed that 30%+ of atheists thought I was a Christian shamming. I don’t know if I just have an odd approach to atheism, or the whole ‘Culture’ thing was just too weird, but I’d been hoping to hit at least 3/4 there.

    On the Christian round, however, I’m very pleased with my result – I tried to write it as I thought a version of me who had never left the Church of England would write. I don’t know if that threw off Christians at all, as I imagine many of the voters would be Catholics, but even though I’ve had more contact with evangelicals and Catholics recently, there’s really no substitute to pretending I belong to the faith of my childhood.

    Having looked at Eve’s entries, the atheist one felt very odd to me – amongst most atheists I know, AA and 12-step programs can rarely be mentioned without hostility. Many see it as cultish; so an atheist actively taking aspects of a 12-step program? Then again, as I had very little internet access while most entries were being posted, I didn’t actually vote; maybe I should have, to keep me honest about what I thought on all the entries!

  • I’m late to the show, but I’d like to shamelessly promote my posts on my ITT strategy and tactics.

  • Dan

    I found Eve’s reflections to be very interesting. I would seriously like to ask her more about what she said in her blog post, but can’t seem to find a way to contact her. If any one knows of a way that I could get in touch with her, I would very much appreciate it.

  • evetushnet

    eve_tushnet@yahoo.com — sorry, it’s supposed to be a link on my sidebar but now I see it’s not! THANKS.