Results from the Ideological Turing Test July 22, 2011

Results from the Ideological Turing Test

Remember that Ideological Turing Test I posted about a couple weeks ago? Leah at Unequally Yoked asked a group of 15 people (a mix of Christians and atheists) to answer a number of questions about god and religion. It was up to readers to decide which was which. Could we figure out which answers were genuine and which ones were the Christians “acting as atheists”? Or did the Christians really know what our arguments would be?

The results are up! You can see which responses were written by both sides here. (Click to enlarge)


Turns out the three entries with the highest percentage of “Atheist” or “Lean Atheist” responses were all Christians.

Either we failed or they’re *really* good at acting like us.

Leah ran the same experience the other way around, too, where 15 people were asked to act like Christians and readers had to guess which responses were from Christians and which ones were from atheists posing as them. You can see those results here.

Again, this isn’t scientific, but it’s definitely a fun thought experiment.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ian

    Interesting. So Christians know the atheist position better than atheists know the Christian position.

    I think that’s quite telling. I’ve heard lots of atheists say (I think probably with somewhat truthfully) that they know more *about* religion that the religious. But (in this experiment, plus my general observation) they don’t *understand* the religious very well at all.

  • jqb

    Try to pass as a freemason among freemasons. You will fail, and for the same reason.

  • So…the Christians are better at giving stereotypical “atheist” answers than the atheists are. And?

  • I only got two wrong. The atheist/Christian wildcard (you tell me if I got that right or wrong) and one atheist I thought was *probably* Christian.

    I’m surprised so many atheists couldn’t sniff them out.

  • Zac

    The basic principle is the same, it’s about figuring out whether they are “Real” or not based on their responses to questions.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if the Christians involved in this test are truly representative of average Christians. I think this sample of Christians may be skewed somewhat toward an understanding of atheist viewpoints. I mean, I can’t imagine any of the Christians in my immediate family daring to answer a set of questions “as if” they were atheists, even for the sake of learning something. If average Christians understood us as well, we wouldn’t still be seeing all these polls saying we’re the most hated minority in the country and no one would vote for one of us to even e a dogcatcher.

  • I’m not sure that’s the case. Many (perhaps most) of us used to be religious ourselves. However, I think your point probably holds true for lifelong atheists like myself. I find religious people utterly mystifying. Even though I know a great deal about the Christian position, when it comes to the followers of the faith, I just don’t “get”  the people involved. I can’t relate to them on a very basic, fundamental level. So I probably wouldn’t do very well trying to impersonate one of them.

  • Foo

    Were the people doing the voting only atheists or was the poll open to everyone? It would be interesting to see whether atheist poll takers were any more or less accurate than christian ones.  

  • Greg

    Not really. The problem with this test is that the participants were able to do research and then answer the questions. Also, we as examiners were unable to ask questions in real time to the participants (which is how the Turing Test actually works). This meant the Christians in the list had as much time and as many resources as they wanted when answering the questions. In a way it’s not surprising they gave the ‘best’ answers, because the atheists wouldn’t have seen  the point in making their answers seem as ‘atheistic’ as possible.

    Also, the generality of the questions didn’t help matters, either. It’s the specifics that would have caught them out.

    Anyway, there isn’t actually ‘an atheist position’ that is anything other than ‘we don’t believe in a god’. The only way you can’t get the atheist position is essentially if you don’t understand why an atheist is not a theist. That’s not the same with the different dogmas of theism, so it is easier to catch people making mistakes.

  • Greg

    Amusingly, I pretty much caught the wildcard. If I’d had an available answer to be both of them, I’d have chosen it. The last answer screamed that he/she was religious, but earlier answers suggested atheist. When I submitted my answers I guessed he/she was a Buddhist, because I thought he/she was both atheistic and religious.

    Anyway, I’ve said before that this test is flawed – as long as people are able to do research, it will have no value, and so long as people are unable to ask questions before making up their mind it will have little value. It’s in the asking questions and giving answers that the Turing Test in reality works.

  • Pato

    I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that they’re not particularly representative of average Christians.

  • mouse

    In hindsight I wish I’d kept track of my answers so that I could remember *which* ones I marked as which.  I know I only pegged three christians but I don’t remember who (other than A1 which I thought was rather obvious).

  • Anonymous

    I’m a bit disappointed actually. Most of these Christians were atheists or agnostics or leaning towards that position at some point in their lives or at the very least are pretty liberal Christians.

    I would like to see a die-hard baptist or something give a serious attempt at trying to fool us. It doesn’t really seem like a fair test considering these are Christians who seem to at least understand and respect the atheist position.

    But I guess what other type of Christian would agree to be a part of this test?

  • “It would be interesting to see whether atheist poll takers were any more or less accurate than christian ones.”


    I thought it was a lot easier to pick the fake atheists, but of course now I can’t remember my guesses.

  • miller

    Couldn’t they have thought of a better way to graphically represent the results? At the very least, sort it so that the first seven rows are Christian, the next seven atheist? I can’t get anything useful out of that thing.

  • dauntless

    Considering how unintuitive the test was, did you expect the results to have any kind of clarity?

    And, as Hemant said, this “wasn’t scientific”. Nothing about the entire exercise had any kind of objectivity. That won’t stop the authors, or other psychologists, from holding up the results as often as possible and making inferences as to what it all means (just like many people are doing here in the comments).

  • All this means is that most Christians are faking it. We’re all born atheists. You can’t breed that out. It’s harder to fake being Christian because we’re all born with a blank slate religiously. We have an inate ability to believe in nonsense, but not an inate ability to believe in Christianity specifically.

    This is inspiring. They are easier to convert (or de-convert, actually) than we think.

  • No true Christian?

  • I think it’s important to see that not all Christians have buck teeth and sleep with their cousins. Isn’t it a good thing that there’s sensible Christians?

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