Caplan on Christianity

I was disappointed to learn today that Bryan Caplan, an economist, scholar, and thinker I regard highly, is member to the statistical generalization that more intelligent folks tend secular.

This article will discuss selected religious commentary by Dr. Caplan, the result of comparative application of the Ideological Turing Test created by Caplan to Christians and atheists, and market arguments in favor of Christianity.

Selected Religious Commentary from Caplan

I’ll be the first to admit that my disappointed state precludes objective analysis. While this article is biased, I think it is also valuable.

I ran into this curiosity having noticed his appeal to Christian morality during a recent and laudable pro-Open Borders presentation. Caplan states that he rejected Christianity as a teen because he “determined that it was, to be blunt, idiotic.”

In particular, he had grown up Roman Catholic. I intend to look into his Letters Against the Christians further, as well as their responses.

He speaks favorably Michael Huemer – type moral objectivism. I have yet to look terribly far into such a view and from what I can see I agree with it very much. It also sounds quite the view many Christian apologists will posit, that morality is objective, before going on to make the moral argument for God, that such objective morality must have an objective source which is God.

It strikes me as strange that anyone positing such a near-Christian idea would describe Christianity as idiotic.

Caplan mentions that people seem to be rationally ignorant of religion. I wonder if he isn’t on to something here, but in a direction other than that which he explores.

There may be a “new Christian trap” where the person has earned eternal salvation on faith alone and therefore the new believer may become rationally ignorant of the advanced truths of Christianity due to the small or relatively small perceived marginal benefit.

In the same article exploring rational ignorance of religion, Caplan, perhaps by accident, seems to demonstrate possession of such characteristic by implying that religious believers are gnostics, saying:

If people sincerely believed that their eternal fates hinged on their knowledge of religion, their ignorance wouldn’t be rational. If you could save your soul with 40 hours of your time, you’d be mad to watch t.v. instead. Unfortunately for religious believers, this leaves them with two unpalatable options…

In particular, saying “…unfortunately for religious believers…” as opposed to “…unfortunately for some religious believers…” has the effect of nullifying the qualifying if statements and conflating Christianity with other religions.

It is invalid, for example, to group Muslims with Christians and separate atheists into another group before concluding that the irreligious are less violent than religious folks, and therefore also less violent than Christians, since Christians are just a sub-type of religious folk.

Christianity is unique in its theology of justification by faith alone, which means you don’t have to work for 40 hours, or at all, for salvation. Salvation is not produced by any sort of work or anything attributable to the individual under such theology, and in contrast to the heresies of Gnosticism, legalism, and the ideas of other religions such as Islam and Buddhism.

A related point: What About Those Who Have Never Heard?

Another related article: A Christian Case for Mourning

Christians take the Ideological Turing Test

Caplan invented something called the Ideological Turing Test which is used to determine whether one party to an argument correctly understands their opposition. This information is useful because a party which understands both sides can make a more credible case.

It’s an interesting case study that Leah Libresco applied this test comparatively to atheists and Christians. Libresco was an atheist at the time but has since converted to Catholicism. Maybe that’s because Christians beat atheists at the test, as shown in these two articles:

  1. Who Won the Atheist Round?
    1. Three Christians were voted as most likely atheists by neutral vote.
    2. Of all candidates voted to be likely atheists, only one was an actual atheist.
    3. Atheists and Christians were equally represented in the match, and the n was large.
  2. Christian Round Winners
    1. There were only two individuals voted as likely to be Christian. The top-voted individual was Christian.
    2. Combined with the other study, this shows Christians are better at voicing both sides of the debate and basically win the Ideological Turing Test.
    3. The second individual voted as likely to be Christian was Leah Libresco, the administrator of the test. She claims atheism at the time, as noted in the article, but she went on shortly to convert to Christianity.

Christians take the Market Test

Markets favor Christianity in two ways: In practice and in theory.

In theory, markets should favor Christianity due to microeconomic rationality of Christian faith as demonstrated in my augmentation of Pascal’s Wager, which you can see here and here.

Markets also favor Christianity in practice. We all know that Christianity is a major world religion, and it is particularly present in the freer places. I have also drawn attention to the pattern of evangelical Christianity growing faster than mainline Christianity or atheism, although atheism is growing faster than mainline Christianity.

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