A Religious Turning Test
This post requires a bit of background explanation, so bear with me.
A few weeks ago, Paul Krugman made the following comment about conservatives and liberals:
[I]f you ask a liberal or a saltwater economist, “What would somebody on the other side of this divide say here? What would their version of it be?” A liberal can do that. A liberal can talk coherently about what the conservative view is because people like me actually do listen. We don’t think it’s right, but we pay enough attention to see what the other person is trying to get at. The reverse is not true. You try to get someone who is fiercely anti-Keynesian to even explain what a Keynesian economic argument is, they can’t do it. They can’t get it remotely right.
Krugman, of course, famously refuses to read conservative bloggers, and his work at the New York Times doesn’t exactly display a deep understanding of conservative ideas (perhaps he is a good example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect in action). In any event, libertarian blogger and economist Bryan Caplan responded to Krugman by proposing the following test:
Put me and five random liberal social science Ph.D.s in a chat room. Let liberal readers ask questions for an hour, then vote on who isn’t really a liberal. Then put Krugman and five random libertarian social science Ph.D.s in a chat room. Let libertarian readers ask questions for an hour, then vote on who isn’t really a libertarian . . . Nail down the logistics, and I’ll happily bet money that I fool more voters than Krugman.
Prof. Caplan called his challenge the “Ideological Turing Test” after a proposal by the mathematician Alan Turing that you could test for Artificial Intelligence in computers by having people in a computer chat room try to guess which of the other participants were really and which were computer simulations.
No word as yet on when Krugman or Caplan will be participating in an Ideological Turing Test. His post, however, did inspire the atheist blogger Leah to set up a Religious Turing Test. Last week fifteen individuals (some atheists, some believers) answered a series of questions as atheists. This week the same group are responding to a series of questions as Christians. Readers can then vote on who they think are really atheists and who are really Christians.
By all accounts the atheist answers were uniformly excellent. Certainly that was my impression. By contrast, the difference between what I think are the real and fake Christian answers seems to me to be more obvious (I won’t point to specifics, as I don’t want to prejudice other people’s evaluations). My only concern is that if most of the people voting are atheists, then this might skew the voting, as atheists readers might share the same limited familiarity with Christian belief, and therefore view the fake Christian answers as more “authentic.” The answer to this problem, of course, is to make sure that a fair number of believers also vote in the poll. Which is the purpose of this post.
So if you get a chance, head over to Leah’s blog, read over the answers, and cast your votes.