The Atheism/Religion Turing Test

By Sean Carroll | July 10, 2011 10:52 am

[Update: the "Christian" answers are now available, and voting is open.]

A few weeks ago, Paul Krugman set off a debate by claiming that liberal economists could do a very good job at explaining what conservative economists think, but the conservatives just don’t understand the liberals. Regardless of the empirical truth of that statement, the idea is an important one: when there is a respectable disagreement (as opposed to one where the other side are just obvious crackpots), and important skill is to be able to put yourself in the mind of those with whom you disagree. Conservative economist Bryan Caplan formalized the notion by invoking the idea of a Turing Test: could a liberal/conservative do such a good job at stating conservative/liberal beliefs that an outsider couldn’t tell they were the real thing? Ilya Somin, a libertarian, actually took up the challenge, and made a good-faith effort to simulate a liberal defending their core beliefs. I actually thought he did okay, but as he himself admitted, his “liberal” sometimes seemed to be more concerned with disputing libertarianism than making a positive case. Playing someone else is hard!

Obviously it would be fun to do this for religious belief, and Leah Libresco has taken up the challenge. She came up with a list of questions for atheists and Christians to explain their beliefs. She then recruited some actual atheists and Christians (they’re not hard to find) and had them answer both sets of questions. You can find the (purported) atheist answers here — I think the purported Christian answers are still forthcoming.

Now, of course, the fun begins: vote! Go here to take a short survey to judge whether you think each answer is written by a true atheist, or a Christian just fudging it. At a brief glance, it looks like there are a few answers where the respondent is clearly faking it — but it’s not always so easy. I’ll be curious to see the final results.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Politics, Religion
  • keith

    I bet the Christians will fake it better. True believers have nothing to prove; they can adopt other positions without cost to their ego.

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    I know several conservatives who can state liberal or at least moderate positions fairly. Thing is, though, these same people are currently in the process of jumping ship. The true believers I meet usually tell me I believe in nationalizing the toilet paper factories or introducing Sharia law, etc.

  • keith

    Ah, now needing your opponents to be strawmen isn’t a sign of one comfortable with their beliefs. It’s worth noting that Christians have been following false idols since the Disciples – Jesus himself noticed that. But as far as I can tell atheists aren’t arguing against God so much as the Christian story. Looks like a 0-0 draw, points missed all round.

  • http://atheistreadsbible.blogspot.com/ Jude

    No atheist would be stupid enough to read through all those questions and take her poorly designed test. Life is too short.

  • Charon

    @keith: “But as far as I can tell atheists aren’t arguing against God so much as the Christian story.”

    I’m confused – are you trying to be funny by introducing a strawman immediately after criticizing such thing? If not, then… clearly you haven’t read anything that, e.g., Sean has written about religion. Or Dawkins, or Dennett, or Taner Edis, or…

  • keith

    I simply meant that as far as I know Atheists only have a problem with the ‘God’ character from religious stories, while remaining agnostic on bigger issues. If the aim of the test is to uncover delusions, it appears that the opposing sides are at least fighting over the same patch of arid land. (I capitalised ‘Atheists’ to avoid redefining the word.)

  • downtown dave

    I find it hard to believe that she could find “actual” atheists. http://atheistlegitimacy.blogspot.com/

  • keith

    Actual atheism is stupid. You might as well devote conscious effort to believing in the non-existence of my friend Chris.

  • JC
  • http://eclecticbreakfast.blogspot.com/ mcb

    I agree with Keith #1, Christians will have an easier time time faking it. Even a poor Christian apologist is better at his craft than an skilled proponent of the atheist position. The Christians have had nearly two millennia to sort out their arguments so they are quite used to creating and setting light to atheist straw men.

  • http://twitter.com/cjd11 CJD11

    @keith I don’t think most atheists are arguing against Christian beliefs as much as they are arguing that there is not enough evidence to reject the null hypothesis.

  • keith

    I reject the null hypothesis from personal experience. It’s probably in Christian texts that personal experience is the only way you’ll know, as their stories are at least *based on* something real. So are atheists arguing because the means of knowing is contrary to the scientific method? That’s like arguing with people who claim to have met Chris that there isn’t enough evidence in favour of Chris. I’m not sure what to make of that. Sounds like informational dictatorship.

  • http://twitter.com/cjd11 CJD11

    Early philosophical texts had conjectures about the solar system being a series of crystalline spheres that rotated around the Earth, and that was based on “real” personal experience and observation. Subsequent experiments proved that it was not the case. It’s possible that *now* we don’t have instruments or an experimental design to detect god’s influence and we will in the future, just like the ancients did not have the tools that we have at our disposal now. However to say that knowing god is contrary to science and god can never be detected is to make an untestable hypothesis. If someone was arguing that Chris does not exist, then it would be fairly easy to set up an experiment to observe him.

    People who believe in a god that actively intervenes in this world are making an extraordinary claim that this undetectable being exists, created the universe, and sits in a place of judgment. If you choose to believe it, that’s fine, but there is no evidence to reject the default hypothesis that this creature does not exist.

    Atheists should also have no problem adopting a position without “cost to their ego” because science says follow the evidence. If there was empirical evidence in favor of the existence of god, and atheists did not change their views, then they would become the group making the extraordinary claim that is irrational.

  • Craig

    I would find faking Christianity really hard at least for those of us that weren’t actually raised in the faith. I know roughly what Christians believe, but expressing it in a way that sounded sincere would be very hard.

  • keith

    Creutzfeldt, you’re mixing gods. When talking of a god who strokes his beard in judgement it’s Atheists versus Christians, and I’m sure there are book deals in it but it’s not intrinsically interesting. Actual atheists can be introduced to God, like Chris, one at a time or en masse, but if the introduction is necessarily personal then when you write it up the next guy reading it doesn’t meet God, he just sees a story – heck, it never gets past peer review! That isn’t the fault of the people who know God.

  • MinorityMandate

    ‘Atheist’ is a catch word for all non-believers. Anyone, including an atheist, who argues for or against god will also tell you that your dog knows why you laugh at Seinfeld.

    An agnostic is a person who holds that since no one can know anything about the supernatural, we should just go about our business until god tells everyone, everywhere, what he expects.

    Oh, and if he just talks to you alone, you are probably in trouble.

  • Not intrinsically interested

    Actual atheists can be introduced to God, like Chris, one at a time or en masse, but if the introduction is necessarily personal then when you write it up the next guy reading it doesn’t meet God, he just sees a story – heck, it never gets past peer review! That isn’t the fault of the people who know God.
    —————————————–
    No, in that case, it would be the fault of god who decided to grant people the gift of critical thinking and then demand that they suspend it, but only for him.

  • keith

    What you’ve done there is outed yourself as an Atheist, because that was incoherent and mis-aimed. What I wrote made perfect sense to anyone thinking rationally. Use ‘Chris’ if it helps you understand why atheism is stupid (or weirdly dictatorial) and why Atheism is a false idol working with Religion to milk the weakminded.

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    I think Keith’s approach makes a lot of sense. It amounts to a strategy of “I won’t play this game,” which is sensible since this particular game of figuring things out cogently cannot be won by his side and, in any case, it isn’t the game that Keith cares about.. I think that atheists should make the corresponding move. Arguing about the existence of God is rather pointless since what the opponents are up to is not something amenable to arguments. If you come up with an intellectualized version of religious ideas, i.e. a theology, that treats religions like Christianity as a theory about the universe, so that you have something that can be argued about, the proposed “theory of everything” doesn’t make the cut of hypotheses worth considering.

    It is especially obtuse to act as if were objectionable that believers will not identify the object of their belief even in the most general way (animal, vegetable, mineral, Being, a particular being, etc.). It’s no wonder that nobody does dimensional analysis on the Trinity since, to use an old and somewhat philistine locution of the pragmatists, the cash value of belief in god is loyalty to one’s in group and loyalty is not a thing. Which is the same reason atheism upsets people so much. It is perceived as treason, albeit the believers use mythology to represent the disloyalty as an affront to a god. And when Keith claims that he finds God in his heart, one can hardly be surprised since we know how God got there. The Easter egg the kid finds is not the cosmic egg. Mommy and Daddy hid it there for him to find.

  • randommuser

    I think these kind of tests are good ideas. I am an atheist and after taking the test I’m a bit more confident that we can win (or at least, both sides will do badly), but of course I don’t even know how I did. If we lose there really are no excuses. As long as the writers are serious, this is about whether each side really understand the other side’s position, and how are we going to judge whether the other side’s position is valid when we don’t even understand what they are?

    In addition to the competitive aspect, I hope this exercise will also help everyone dig deeper and find the best arguments on the opposing side. Too often on internet debates (and even debates offline) we hide behind straw-man views of the opposing side, which is hardly conducive to a polite and instructive exchange of ideas.

  • keith

    Jim, if you need ‘something to be argued about’ maybe it’s a hint you’re on the wrong track intellectualising God.

  • Not intrinsically interested

    Your ‘Chris’ analogy does not work unless your friend Chris is invisible, leaves no heat signature, eats nothing, goes nowhere, has no job, consumes nothing, takes up no space, is undetectable to science and only talks to you. If your friend Chris is someone who people have just not met, then it is easy enough to design an experiment to demonstrate that he exists. If you’re trying to do the “I’m going to argue like a religious person” routine, it’s not very coherent or successful. Unless that is your point, in which case congratulations, you’ve suckered a person on the internet into taking you seriously for a brief period of time.

    If you are going to make the argument that god created people and granted them free will (i.e. the freedom to gain knowledge and to think critically) but the existence of god must be taken by relying on authority (which is the opposite of thinking critically), then that is a hollow stance to take. If you are going to say that there is a nondenominational god-force out there that started the Big Bang and then walked away without interacting with anything, then it seems a lot easier to believe that the Big Bang happened without the giant cosmic finger on the “On” button. If you’re going to argue that god is a voice that speaks only to you, in your head and that people can only discover it as part of a deeply personal experience- then what evidence is there that what they are feeling comes from an external source (i.e., an actual god) instead of inside their own mind? There is none.

    Either something exists or it doesn’t, either it can be tested or it can’t. There is no ‘industry’ or profit motive to atheism, it is just saying, “I’ve weighed the evidence, and I don’t buy it.” It’s not stupid to require proof of a sensational claim. If you want to believe that whales still exist because Captain Kirk and Scotty traveled back in time to save them and that Star Trek 4 is a documentary, that’s great- but until I see evidence that you can time-travel by doing a slingshot around the sun, I’ll just assume that was fiction too.

  • CJD11

    I think that atheists should make the corresponding move. Arguing about the existence of God is rather pointless since what the opponents are up to is not something amenable to arguments.
    ——————–
    To some extent I agree. It’s inconsistent for an atheist to complain about people pushing beliefs on them and then turn around and try to change someone else’s beliefs. I don’t care what Keith believes in, so long as it isn’t hurting anyone else. My mother is religious and it is probably a good thing for her. So long as it is not harmful to others and the government does not make decisions based off of religion, atheists should leave religious people alone. In fact, there is a pretty good chance that attacking the beliefs of religious people will just force them to double down.

  • randommuser

    @keith:

    I’m just curious what position are you trying to argue for in this sequence of posts? From post #1 and #12 it appears that you are a Christian and you are trying to defend this belief, whereas from post #3, #6, and #15 it appears that you are not interested in defending Christianity (including the “Christian story”). In post #18 you went ahead to lump atheism and religion together.

    If you are defending agnosticism, here’s my favorite quote on this: agnosticism is atheism writ genteel, atheism is agnosticism writ aggressive :)

  • http://contemplationist.wordpress.com Contemplationist

    Bryan Caplan is no conservative. He’s also a libertarian.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    The Christians have had nearly two millennia to sort out their arguments

    Organized atheism goes back at least 3000 years. See “Carvaka.”

    I wonder where they found those pseudo-atheists. It appears to me they are probably all college-educated and have taken at least basic course work in philosophy. I don’t see any of the mega-stupid stereotypes which I routinely observe on Teh Interwebs, such as, “I am an atheist so I can commit immoral acts and not be punished by God.” Don’t tell me I’m exaggerating, you’ve all seen them too.

    I wonder, if they check back in 10 years, how many of those Christians will still be Christian.

  • keith

    Post#1 was trolling; I have no doubt that Christians are as deluded as Atheists. I’m not arguing any position, just pointing out that genuinely religious people have gained knowledge in a way that can’t be transmitted in words, simply by experiencing something for themselves, and as soon as you concoct a theology and make them a target you’re back racing in the Special Olympics. I love this blog for the accessible particle physics, the atheism crap is an embarrassment.

  • http://richleebruce.com Richard Bruce

    There are mountains of evidence for the existence of God, the Christian faith, and the Catholic Church.

    I have offered several new ones on my website. I invite all to click on my name and go to my web site to find several essays giving this evidence. Please viciously attack my arguments in the guest book, or elsewhere. If you chose to attack them somewhere else, please leave a not in the guestbook informing where.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I’m not arguing any position, just pointing out that genuinely religious people have gained knowledge in a way that can’t be transmitted in words

    How convenient for you that it cannot be transmitted in words, so that you don’t have to rationally defend it. But how do you know it’s “knowledge”?

  • Slideguy

    These arguments assume that Christians all believe the same thing and have the same concept of God. There are huge variances in Christian thought, which is why there was an explosion of sects after Martin Luther’s original rebellion. Not all Christians believe in an anthropomorphic deity. In fact not all Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus.

    The definition of atheist isn’t fixed, either. I call myself one because I don’t believe in the God of the Bible, but I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a unity to existence, and humans are not equipped to experience it.

    Generalizing by saying Christians think this and atheist think that is to miss the huge variations in human religious thought.

  • Kevin

    keith: Yes, some people have experiences that convince them of the existence of God, correctness of a religion, etc. Personal experience isn’t strong evidence, though; people often have experiences which lead them to believe things that are not correct. The existence of God is an objective claim like any other, and legitimate belief in that claim requires real evidence. Personal experiences alone do not require postulating a new entity (God) to explain them. Brain malfunction (which can be induced with similar effects by pharmaceuticals, magnetic stimulation, or even simple sensory deprivation) explains the phenomenon much better, since there is no evidence in other areas lending independent support to God as a hypothesis, and many of these experiences are contradictory when taken together.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #25 is right. bryan is a libertarian judging by the fact that he tries to argue his social conservative friends out of their social conservatism (he is also against barriers to movement against borders, etc.).

  • ganesh

    Kudos to Jim Harrison and Slideguy. The inablity of cosmologists to explain creation neither includes, excludes, nor precludes the notion that “God” exists. Occam’s Razor could lend credence to either side of the debate but the idea of divine personal revelation is contrary to scientific thinking. This is an argument that has persisted for several thousand years and will doubtless continue for a while.

    What I find interesting is how many more responses this blog entry has generated than the one about the E. coli outbreak in Europe (or other more definitively scientific discussions of late).

    Shall we move on to more concrete matters?

  • Aleksandar Mikovic

    The “atheism/religion” attribute in the blog entry title is a misnomer, since atheism is also a religion. Atheism is a religion based on the assumption that everything that exists is a consequence of the laws of motion of material constituents and the forces that act between them. However, if the laws of motion are separate entities from the matter and the space, then the natural laws must be a part of the platonic realm of ideas (i.e. the realm of mathematical ideas). Otherwise, one has to believe that the laws of motion are random periodic patterns, which implies that everything that we see is a consequence of a random fluctuation. That is why many of the scientists are platonists, although they may not be aware of this. In this case,
    the idea of God exists by definition, and the question of atheism vs theism reduces to the belief
    whether God is involved or not with our universe.

  • keith

    To claim that information received into the auditory or visual areas of the brain and then rationalised is somehow more valid that information received in other areas of the brain and then rationalised is just informational fascism. It *isn’t* convenient that knowledge of God cannot be transmitted in words. It is, however, true. Why do you need something to fight?

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Interesting idea, will follow results with interest.

    @ keith:

    I’m not arguing any position,

    That you would hitchhike the test was obvious, No intelligence on the Turing scale for you! =D

    as far as I know Atheists only have a problem with the ‘God’ character from religious stories, while remaining agnostic on bigger issues.

    Well, clearly you haven’t read Carroll here, who is an empirical atheist (physicalist).

    Another fail.

    To claim that information received into the auditory or visual areas of the brain and then rationalised is somehow more valid that information received in other areas of the brain and then rationalised is just informational fascism.

    It is an empirical result. And the test of empiricism is that it works. What have you got? A clumsy attempt at solipsism, clumsy because that doesn’t support theism.

    Adding another Turing fail. I didn’t know it was possible to score negative on that test, but obviously anything is possible for magical thinking! =D

  • http://www.atmos.uw.edu/~achen89 Alex K Chen (Simfish InquilineKea)

    Yes – I agree with contemplationist and Razib Khan – Bryan Caplan is no conservative.

    The major difference between liberals and conservatives that probably explains this – is that liberals have higher openness (see results at http://www.yourmorals.org). Libertarians, however, also have very high openness. Bryan Caplan, in particular, has views so outside the mainstream (he’s even *very* unusual for a libertarian) that he has to be an extremely independent thinker who doesn’t have the echo chamber that many people have when they split into liberal/conservative factions

  • keith

    Torb, argue with theism all you like. They have a skydaddy who wants to smack you down with his giant hammer and lightning bolts. I’m sure the fight will be epic. Good luck, brave soldier!

  • http://arunsmusings.blogspot.com Arun

    Regardless of the empirical truth of that statement, the idea is an important one: when there is a respectable disagreement (as opposed to one where the other side are just obvious crackpots), and important skill is to be able to put yourself in the mind of those with whom you disagree. Conservative economist Bryan Caplan formalized the notion by invoking the idea of a Turing Test: could a liberal/conservative do such a good job at stating conservative/liberal beliefs that an outsider couldn’t tell they were the real thing?

    The ancient technique that in India was called “purva paksha”. E.g., R.Malhotra (“We have an ancient Indian tradition of engaging the ‘other’ using a technique called purva-paksha. This means you must first study the other’s viewpoint very seriously and become an expert in it. Only then can you debate against it. “).

  • Low Math, Meekly Interacting

    Where one conducts such a survey may make a huge difference. In the USA, Christian religiosity, if not belief, is the overwhelming norm, and having been raised in that environment, most of us are steeped in the culture. I went to CCD, I did the church-every-Sunday thing for years. I don’t believe a word of it, but unless I was sleeping through the first 15 years of my life, how could I NOT be able to explain a mainstream Christian point-of-view fairly competently? Hell, I could sound like a priest if you want me to. What would it demonstrate? That I have special higher cognitive powers, or that I’m a typically good mimic?

    I know very few professed atheists who lack extensive exposure to religious worship; and since many have honed their rhetorical skills considerably to debate with the religious (something an atheist often finds him or herself having to do the moment they out themselves), the requisite training and exposure for convincing mimicry seems to come with the territory, at least on this side of the pond.

    Take a person in post-Christian Europe, however, or in a Communist country. How would they fare in this variant of the Turing test? I think that would be a necessary control to validate the methodology. If you can’t eliminate the powerful cultural influences on thought and rhetoric, you’re going to do a piss-poor job of saying something definitive about religious or atheistic cognitive dimorphisms. Really, it would probably be impossible to say anything useful at all.

  • FreeThinker

    You know what’s hilarious? I have almost an equal amount of Liberal and Conservative friends and they both claim, with equal fervor, that the other side can’t engage in a logical debate.

    I see both sides as overpopulated with hypocritical idiots. Liberals want to socially engineer the perfect world (whatever that is) but they could give a damn if the rest of us don’t want to participate. Conservatives cling to the notion that the US Constitution guarantees each citizen’s individual freedoms… as long as you’re a Christian.

    In reality, we should all have a healthy distrust of any group of people who believe so deeply that they have all the answers. Liberals/Conservatives are all brain dead morons who buy into the “group thought” and do and believe whatever they are told by the hive mind.

    How about we put our trust in “free thinkers” for a while?

  • Jimbo

    Links provided are Dead, survey is useless.

  • Pingback: Christian Book Barn » The Atheism/Religion Turing Test

  • Mr. G

    I’m a small-a atheist. I don’t have much time to devote to the the capital-A version.

    If a god wants me to be a capital-A, it’d damn well have to materialize before me and give me a real reason.

  • Pingback: Confessions of a God Believing Man | Why I Hate The Joneses

  • Mr. G
  • Pingback: The Atheism/Religion Turing Test | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine « Feeds « Church Leadership

  • Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Although I find that every religion is filled with misconceptions, half-truths, lies, and errors, I believe in God…….My personal definition of God is everything eternally evolving…..It meets the qualifications that man cannot know God. We only know that which is within our limited perceptions…….But this evolving energy, matter, and stuff of stars, has evolved into us…..so we too are extensions of God with limited quantum powers of God because we are such a tiny part of everything. Our powers are limited to showing love, and helping each other, etc. Free will leads to errors and evil. I don’t pretend to understand how that is resolved. That which led to me is my Creator.

  • Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Think of the number of things which had to happen for me to be here now. Then think of the additional number of things which had to happen for all of you to be here now. The odds of us all existing are very unlikely. And yet we are all here. Who’d a thunk an explosion would make me happen? I’d like to know how David Copperfield accomplished this?

  • Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    I waited 16 billion years to get here and they put me in the wrong body….I was supposed to be Bill Gates.

  • Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Evolution is change. If God didn’t evolve, man would not exist. There would only be God.

  • Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Give thanks to God, or thank your lucky stars………..

  • Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    Frankly my dear, God may not give a damn.

  • Charles J. Slavis, Jr.

    And so when you worship the volcano….that is God. When you worship your idles …..they are God……When you worship the sun…. that is God……..You just might all be right……..even about Jesus being God…….Your guess is as good as mine……

  • Mr. G

    I’ve almost always wondered why scientifically smart people spend so much time trying to rhetorically disprove an untestable hypothesis.

    Hell, I’ve almost always wondered why ‘scientifically smart people’ might be an untestable hypothesis.

    ===>IGNORE BUTTON<==== <—– Push there

  • Mr. G

    Heavy metal groups and associated genres do the very same thing.

    “We exist because the non-existent might possibly, but shouldn’t, can’t, never could, impossibly exist; it’d better not, or we’re screwed.

    Must. Not. Exist. If. We. Are. To. Exist. Free. of. Those. Who. Say. It. Does. Or. Something.

  • Mr. G

    Since when is it the mission of Science, or of even a minor science-related web site and associated blog, to disprove religious beliefs?

    Opinion is not science.

    Opinion mud wrestling is not science.

    Supposedly really smart people here express pretty adolescent behaviors.

    ===>IGNORE BUTTON<==== <—– Push there

  • Mr. G

    Charles J. Slavis, Jr

    I have no problem with you believing what you want. I have no problem with a society who believes that what you think is the same as your right to own personal property.

    I’ve a problem with certain of my fellows who think they have a right to decide in what you should have a personal ownership interest.

    In that way, they are no different then earlier generations of folks who believe like you.

    I don’t hold that history against you. You weren’t extant at those times.

    I don’t believe what you do, but I believe in your right to believe it.

    Hell, smart folks around here still struggle with wanting to see the both of us in stocks and pillories to fit their own prejudices.

    “String up the theist and the atheist. They both suck!”

  • Mr. G

    You see, Charles?

    It really isn’t about either one of us.

    They have serious deniable issues.

  • a different keith

    @keith:
    “I’m not arguing any position, just pointing out that genuinely religious people have gained knowledge in a way that can’t be transmitted in words, simply by experiencing something for themselves.”… “I love this blog for the accessible particle physics, the atheism crap is an embarrassment.”

    Since you want to learn about particle physics, I’ll show you a brand new way: learn it by experiencing something for yourself, in a way that can’t be transmitted into words. That’s how I learnt it! What do I care if it has no correspondence with the version of reality that those stupid physicists come up with? I know from personal discovery that I have seen the truth. As you might have guessed, I can’t tell you about it myself; I can only hint at how you can get it too.

    That way, the weirdos on this blog wont think of you as a troll wasting their time, and you won’t have to read all this embarrassing atheism crap.

  • Marcus

    A propos this topic, I just became aware of a crusading theologian named William Lane Craig who has made the KALAM ARGUMENT one of his main themes. He has debated Dawkins and others on a Mexico TV program called City of Ideas (Ciudad de Ideas).

    I found the debate on YouTube. It was actually kind of splendid. Craig is a strong debater—agile, quick-thinking, personable. Everybody including the official Judge (Michio Kaku) had some showmanship flair.

    I also encountered a new 40 minute YouTube that is packed with statements by actual cosmologists (Alan Guth, Vilenkin, Roger Penrose, Hawking) played off against clips of theologians. It includes Muslim theologians and is quite interesting in a nunber of ways. The Kalam argument originally arose within Islam.

    I will go get the link. I’d like to share it and hear other peoople’s reactions. The director/editor/narrator team goes by the handle Skydivephil. The narrator is a woman, she’s very good I think. Probably you could get it just by googling “Skydivephil Kalam” or searching with those two words on YouTube. But I’ll fish up the link and be back in a moment.

    Oh, as I recall Sean Carroll is in it (along with Guth, Vilenkin…). There are clips of a number of cosmologists interspersed with clips of theological oration by Craig and and dynamic young Islamic speakers making the Kalam argument for the existence of God.

    Yes. I tried “debunk kalam” on YoutTube search and got this one as the first hit! I also tried
    “skydivephil kalam” and it was the first hit except for one promoted video.

  • Marcus

    I was too slow editing. I checked and it is just 28 minutes (not 40). And the link, to save trouble doing the search, is
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZUCc5m8sE

    I think the main premise of Kalam cosmological argument for God is that an infinite regress of human explanations is impossible. They sometimes use the word “causes” but it seems to have a more general meaning of “explanations” because the causal framework within which causes operate is of course part of the explanation—and all explanations are human constructs.

    Here’s a Wikipedia giving historical background on it:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalam_cosmological_argument

    William Lane Craig has modernized the argument and made it appear compatible with modern cosmology (his interpretation) and with science more generally. He quotes noted cosmologists cogently but selectively. So the makers of that 28 minute YouTube can have fun with contradictory clips.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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