Ideological Turing Test, Mark 2!

Ideological Turing Test, Mark 2! May 1, 2012

I really enjoyed the first iteration of the Ideological Turing Test for religion, which ran on this blog last summer, and I always meant to return to it at some point.  At the end of May/early June, I’m going on vacation for two weeks, which strikes me as the perfect time to have a lot of interesting prewritten posts ready for you all to parse.  I’ll open sign-ups soon, but today is only for discussing parameters of this year’s contest.

For those of you who have joined this blog since last summer, an Ideological Turing Test (phrase coined by Bryan Caplan) is a challenge to be able to imitate your ideological enemy well enough to pass for one of them.  (This is different than Poe’s Law, in which your opponent sucks so much that their true beliefs are indistinguishable from your parody of them).

So last year, there were four questions for atheists to answer and four questions for Christians and a mixed slate answered both sets of prompts.  People answered their own set truthfully and the other according to how they thought a Christian or an atheist would reply.  The responses were all mixed up, and readers voted on which answers were sincere and which were imitations.

Reading or participating in an Ideological Turing Test is a chance to check that you’ve actually got an accurate idea of how your interlocutors think, and it can catch you out on bad assumptions.  (My then-boyfriend coasted to an high pass in the Atheism round because a number of atheists didn’t believe Christians could enjoy SMBC).

Before I start soliciting participants, I’d like to get your feedback on revisions/alterations over the next few days.   If you can, be specific about what you’d like to format to change to not just what you want it to change from.  I’ve highlighted a few things I’d like to tweak below (divided into categories).



Too Much to Read – Fifteen essays (each answering four questions) was a lot to get through in a week, and, since voting happened at the end of the week, people read them all in one gulp and got a little fatigued.  I could switch to voting links at the end of each post, or every couple of days, but then I lose the opportunity to do any broader analysis of accuracy of voters across the whole slate of entries.  I think this is probably a worthwhile tradeoff, though.

Boo! Google Forms – I assume the frustration of using Google Forms would be diminished if you were voting on fewer entries at a time, but if people want to suggest free or cheap survey sites, I’m all ears.  I just want to be able to get the raw data into a spreadsheet in the end.

What Demographics to Track? – Besides just asking whether you think a given essay was written by an atheist or a Christian, I ask a couple things about you (which side you’re on, whether you’ve crossed over in either direction, etc).  Any other question you all think are particularly relevant or might lead to interesting analysis?



More Than One Set of Questions – If I’m doing this for two weeks, it might be fun to have contestants pick and choose from a group of questions, so the answers are more varied.  To avoid having the choice give the game away, I might let people pick what they answer for their ‘sincere’ side and make their ‘imitation’ round questions match the prompts chosen by someone on the other side.

Better Questions for Atheists – The atheist answers tended to be way more boring and uniform than the ones in the Christian round.  I think the questions need improvement.  Since atheism qua atheism is pretty dull, maybe these need to go a lot farther afield?

Denomination Specific Questions? – Being at Patheos means it’s easier to reach out to people in specific traditions.  Would you guys like a ‘Mormon Day’ or a ‘Non-Secular Jew Day?’


That’s what’s on my mind, but anything germane is welcome.

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