More Turing Strategies and Reflections

Jacob of The Thoughtful Atheist and Matt of Soul Sprawl have both written up their thoughts on playing in the Ideological Turing Test.

Jacob (entries A12 and C1) – Ideological Turing Test Complete! … you failed

First, a brief description of my strategy: for my Athiest entry, I tried to describe reality as I see it if Atheism is true. I can’t really be upset that most people found it not very compelling- I don’t find it very compelling myself. But I do find it the most internally consistent.

What did surprise me- though I suppose it shouldn’t- is how many people thought I was a Catholic. Certainly I’ve done a fair bit of religious reading over the last several months, so some of the Catholic verbiage has probably entered my vocabulary through Osmosis (references to “Authority” and Chesterton’s “truth-telling thing” ostensibly gave me away as a Catholic sympathizer). But I think my real problem is that I didn’t present Atheism as a compelling framework that anybody would ever want to believe in- and that’s because I legitimately don’t think it is.

Read more…

Matt (entries A2 and C2) – Ideological Turing Test 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, 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.

Read more…

What I find really interesting is the way Matt and Jacob are talking about internal consistency.  (I haven’t run the numbers on how consistent and/or compelling people found the entries yet).  I agree that, if people really believe something, they usually have at least a few plausible explanations for any seeming inconsistencies in their worldview, but not always.  After all, I’ve been dinged repeatedly, on this blog and at debates offline for the admitted gap between my virtue ethics and associated teleology and the materialism implied by most forms of atheism.

I thought it was interesting that Jacob split the question of consistency and compellingness.  When we find ourselves drawn to a different philosophy, that is data.  Then we have to do the work of checking whether we’re drawn just because of wish fulfillment (I’m pretty drawn to Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, but that hasn’t made it true.  Yet.), or if the other philosophy is paying rent on some of our assumptions about the world (e.g. morality isn’t just a cultural construct).

If there’s some kind of data that’s leading you to that metaphysical assumption, then the failure of your current belief to account for it is an inconsistency.  It may not be a big enough one to drive you to abandon either your philosophy or your data yet, but you should probably expect to jettison at least one of them (or step up a level and jettison the meta-understanding of both that led you to see them in conflict).

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. 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."

  • Ferny

    Isn’t the biggest issue with all of this that we’re just playing around? I mean, simply put, as Jacob said, most fundamentalist responses wouldn’t have seemed particularly legitimate but, well, there are LOADS of these people.

    If the Turing Test is designed to be able to duplicate the playbook of the Christian opponent that reads this blog, sure, I guess we can judge it by those means. If it’s about being able to copy the playbook of the side that actually plays most of the games about religion in this country, this test is a bit too high brow for that.

    • leahlibresco

      It’s more about duplicating the best arguments, since those are the ones that might actually threaten your current position. And it goes both ways, I try to pick smart atheists, too, who are interested in philosophy, not people who only work on pro-science policy (very useful!) but haven’t thought a lot about the grounding for their beliefs.

    • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

      … copy the playbook of the side that actually plays most of the games about religion in this country …

      If it’s a matter of statistics, then your characterization comes down to what you mean by “playing games” and how loosely you define Protestantism as a group and your grounds for limiting this to merely our country. (Americentrism!)

      But also what Leah said.

  • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

    When we find ourselves drawn to a different philosophy, that is data. Then we have to do the work of checking whether we’re drawn just because of wish fulfillment (I’m pretty drawn to Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, but that hasn’t made it true. Yet.), or if the other philosophy is paying rent on some of our assumptions about the world (e.g. morality isn’t just a cultural construct).

    For the record, I’m totally on board with this sentiment. But it seems like I find “the admitted gap between my virtue ethics and associated teleology and the materialism implied by most forms of atheism” to be a much bigger deal than you? I can’t come up with a coherent world view that allows for both of those things to coexist, so I feel like I have to reject one of them- and it seems like I ought to side with the one I think is true, rather than the one I want to be true.

    If I go the other route (“morality isn’t just a cultural construct”), then I think I am necessarily rejecting materialism. And I just can’t square that with FMRI brain scans, wildly departing moralities between different cultures, the lack of a compelling (likely-to-be-true) religious world view, evolution, known psychological biases, and a myriad other things that seem to be empirically, objectively true. My subjective experience of the moral law counts as evidence, but I have a hard time counting is as more reliable evidence than all that other stuff.

    • deiseach

      “And I just can’t square that with FMRI brain scans”

      For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t hang a dog on the alleged ‘evidence’ from FMRI brain scans. If they’re being used to aid medical diagnosis, I have no problem; it’s when we get to the “Aha! We have found the area that governs why Jaffa cakes are so irresistable!” element that makes me go “Sorry, not buying it.”

      That’s as much use (presently) as phrenology; back in the day, when people went in to have their bumps felt to see what it revealed about their character, the same underlying principle was at work – material rather than spiritual explanations and the brain was the mind, so the shape and development of the brain (as evinced by the greater or lesser development of areas of the skull) could be related to morality, aptitudes, etc.

      So far, I think FMRI scans are just too crude. We don’t really know what we’re looking at or what is happening, only that sometimes there is more blood flow to, or electrical activity in, a certain part of the brain than at other times. Extrapolating from that and from “Well, when people have tumours or injuries in that part of the brain, this element of their behaviour is affected” to “Therefore, we can say that the reason your cousin Jane believes in ghosts is because this is the ghost-believing area of the brain and it’s unusually active in her” is, as I said, to me a step way too far.

    • http://thoughtfulatheist.blogspot.com/ Jake

      But it seems like I find “the admitted gap between my virtue ethics and associated teleology and the materialism implied by most forms of atheism” to be a much bigger deal than you?

      …I now grasp the monumental irony of this comment :)

  • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

    But I think my real problem is that I didn’t present Atheism as a compelling framework that anybody would ever want to believe in- and that’s because I legitimately don’t think it is.

    In this way, he certainly won the Atheist entry as best he could. He was honest, and he was supposed to be. Among atheists his was supposed to be the dead last in convincingness.


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