Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Devil in the Software


Ever striving to stay up with the latest technology, I'm here to inform you about the newest "ChatBot" that can quote scripture. "Chatbots are computer programs that are capable of maintaining a conversation with a user in natural language, understanding their intent, and replying convincingly in the way a human would behave as a conversational partner" (Wikipedia).

A new Christian chatbot that knows the King James version of the Bible -- backwards, forwards, sideways -- was recently test-driven by Sarah Posner who published her experience on Talking Points Memo. She "spoke with" ChatKJV (get it?) about a number of hot-button social issues dear to the generous Christian hearts of conservatives. 

Here's what ChatKJV said about abortion:

“The Bible does not explicitly state that an abortion is wrong, and ultimately, it is up to the woman to weigh the risks and implications of any decision she makes.” 

Gender identity:

Verses from Romans and Galatians “indicate that we should treat all people equally, regardless of their gender identity.”

When I asked ChatKJV if taking away the rights of transgender children honors God, it said, “it is not God’s desire to take away the rights of any person, especially a child. God wants us to come together in love and acceptance so that everyone can feel included and safe.”

Posner engaged in a lengthy exchange with ChastKJV about justice:

Our conversation progressed to this point through a discussion about justice. ChatKJV wants to know how you’re feeling, so I asked it about my concerns and fears about threats to democracy (in which the Bible has been wielded as a weapon, but we didn’t get into that). ChatKJV is not very worried about rising authoritarianism, nor is it worried, presumably, about whether the Department of Justice is working speedily enough to bring those who assaulted our democracy to justice. [ChatKJV is also very firm on homosexuality, that it's a sin, and can't find a text anywhere that condemns slavery.] Only God can ultimately dispense justice, ChatKJV says, and we must trust in God to carry out justice. The bot leaned heavily on Romans 12:19 (“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord”) to assure me God will “always” bring justice “in due time.” When I fretted that perhaps those who had committed wrongdoing would not ultimately be held accountable, the bot reassured me several times with Philippians 4:8 (“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”) That verse, it said, encourages me to think about “the positive” and “let go of bitterness.”

Hardline on some topics, suspiciously soft on others. Clearly, ChatKJV may know the Bible, but it doesn't know the Trumpist preachers.

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