Watch me discuss the Ideological Turing Test at Chicago Ideas Week!

Watch me discuss the Ideological Turing Test at Chicago Ideas Week! January 28, 2013

In October, I was one of the religion panelists at the Chicago Ideas Week conference. My co-panelists included Eboo Patel (interfaith activist), Lauren Drain (fled the Westboro Baptist Church), Theodore Ross (his family hid their Judaism) and Julia Sweeney (atheist and comic).

Since we were a diverse group of people, my talk was on having better arguments about religious disagreements, instead of just agreeing to disagree.  My talk was based on some of the principles of curious, charitable discussion that I’ve learned by blogging for and fighting with all of you.  (You may remember the poster summarizing our panel that had my contribution summarized by “If the answer is, ‘Up yours!‘  it doesn’t matter what the question was.”)

In the video below, I talk about the Ideological Turing Test, and other ways to have better discussion where each of you learn more and whoever’s wrong can lose faster and more efficiently.


Email me at leahDOTlibrescoATgmailDOTcom if you’d like to have me come talk about curious, charitable fights or have one..


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  • Mike

    Well I hope you won’t mind me say but I think you’re quite pretty. BTW I am happily married so don’t worry I won’t follow this up with anything creepy.

  • The video seems to stop in the middle of your talk. (Or, at least, not at a natural break. I cannot gauge whether it is the middle or not beyond the fact that it doesn’t feel like the end.)

    • Never mind, it seems to have been a problem on my end. (I’m not sure how, but it’s working now.)

  • Jeff

    Wonderful! Absolutely delightful.
    I’d love to know how you think “dialogue” differs from “argument” or whether you think it necessarily does.
    How do they relate? In what way do their purposes differ?

  • deiseach

    Very funny, very informative, and you speak very well in public 🙂

    • Mike

      Oh I don’t know, she looked a bit nervous at times….:) just kidding.

  • Joe

    Cool talk!! Im curious, was the live audience largely atheist? Any interesting discussions backstage?

  • grok87

    nice talk Leah. And a very appropriate topic for the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas.

    This source quotes from Josef Pieper’s “Guide to Thomas Aquinas”:

    “an unsuspecting reader, rather stunned and confused, may read whole pages containing nothing but opposing arguments formulated in a highly convincing manner. There will be nothing at all in the phraseology to indicate that Thomas rejects these arguments—not the trace of a hint at the weakness of the argument, not the slightest nuance of ironical exaggeration. The opponent himself speaks, and an opponent who is obviously in splendid form, calm, objective, moderate. . . . In this procedure there emerges an element profoundly characteristic of St. Thomas’ intellectual style: the spirit of the disputatio, of disciplined opposition; the spirit of genuine discussion which remains a dialogue even while it is a dispute.”


  • Great talk, Leah–informative and fun to watch!

  • Kristin

    Great speech! I like the reference to Brian Caplan! As a dedicated free-marketeer I’ll have to try this with my Keynesian friends.

    Have to ask about the dress – looks cute and comfty. Where did you get it?

    • leahlibresco

      A department store. (Sorry, do not remember more specifically than that).

      If you do try out an ideological turing test, on religion or anything else, you have a standing invitation for a guest post on the experience.

      • Kristin

        I’ll let you know! I can get most of my opponents to an impasse pretty far along the line, but it’s always an impasse, it seems. This method may be perfect for actually reaching some sort of resolution.

  • Mike

    Psst, Leah can you please hurry up and post something new we can argue about? I am at work, bored and about to lose my mind 🙂

    • leahlibresco

      You just got your wish!

  • Mike

    PS LOL #13 might be the funnies thing I’ve ever seen.

  • Bob

    Very interesting. I’m not sure how well some of the examples that you gave for the idealogical Turing Test would actually work as predictors of religious affiliation or lack of it. The one about inspirational books, for example- would Christisans and atheists be expected to have completely different choices for that? I’d expect a lot of overlap- but maybe that’s the point?
    It still sounds like an intriguing concept. Are you planning another test for 2013?

    What was Lauren Drain like?

    • leahlibresco

      Lauren was very nice when we were chatting in the green room.

      There will be another test at some point in 2013. So far they’ve been in the summer, but I also try to time them for periods when I’m travelling and can’t write posts of my own. I have a couple fun ideas.

    • jenesaispas
  • Edward

    “Debates are all about building a more accurate model of the world.”

    I could not agree more. Unfortunately, this is not always the case but it is such a great thing when we live up to that ideal.

  • jenesaispas


  • That was a spectacular talk! I’m going to be recommending it.

    Is it too easy for people who’ve converted to pass for what they’ve converted away from?