Leah @ Unequally Yoked is recruiting Christians for her Ideological Turing Test and a couple of my blogger friends mentioned it (JC @ EQUUS NOM VERITAS, Julie @ The Corner With A View, and Anthony @ The Impractical Catholic). I took a look and made an effort to participate. I’m sorry though guys, I can’t do it and I’ll explain why.
First, Leah has good intentions with this test and I browsed her blog and she has, in my opinion, laid out the expectations and methodology fairly; she will “bop you on the nose” if you try to use the results of her test to claim your side is “better informed and thus correct.” For anyone not familiar with a Turing test, it is basically a test of how well someone or something can pretend to be someone or something else. It was developed to study artificial intelligence. A computer and a human answer carefully chosen questions and another human studies the answers and evaluates whether a machine or a man formulated them. It’s a test to see if a computer can convincingly pass as a human. Remember the recent Watson vs. man Jeopardy match? That was a Turing test of sorts.
Leah’s idea is to apply the test to Christians and atheists. First a group of Christians and atheists answered four questions as if they were all atheists. Then Leah received votes from others, the goal being to decide if each answer came from an atheist or a Christian. The second part of the test involves switching that around. Christians and atheists answer questions as if they were all Christians and others vote whether each person who answered is a Christian or not. That’s where I came into this test. I was asked to vote to see if I could tell the difference between an atheist shamming as a Christian and a real Christian.
I tried Leah. As I read the responses I found myself unable to make such a judgement. These are people, not computers trying to pass as people, but real people. I know this test was used to study economists and how well economists of opposing ideologies understood the other side; I get that. But this is about something much deeper than economics. It’s about a person’s faith, and faith is a tender thing. As I read the responses I kept wondering, “What if this is a ‘real’ Christian, possibly new in his faith, or struggling in his faith, and I judge him to be an atheist based on his responses?” That could be damaging to a person’s soul.
The truth is, Leah, if I asked someone 1) what his best reason for being a Christian is, 2) what would cause him to stop believing in God or 3) why he believes Christianity is more true than other religions, I’m asking him or her very personal questions that can take a lifetime to answer. The last question is a matter of careful theology over two thousand years old. “How do you read the Bible? Do you study the history of its translations? How do you decide which translations/versions/books are the true Bible? How does it guide you if you have a moral or theological dilemma?” The simple answer to question 1 is Christ, but if someone doesn’t answer the way I think they should, I’m not in any position to judge his or her heart, and far be it from me to do damage to another person’s soul. Nose bops aside, I’d rather plunge my hand into fire than type such words.
I propose that if two people are going to debate a belief, that first each party put the facts down on the table very clearly and debate from that, if and only if, both parties agree that the facts are indeed facts. Otherwise it’s not really debate. It’s more like monkeys flinging poo at the zoo. Trust me, I learned that the hard way.
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