If you do not know him already, you might believe the diversions of his opponents. They claim "Riley Sinder" is a supernatural, obstinate, roaming religious ROBOT created for a Graduate School Research Project -- in short, a hoax for the sake of science.
Disguised as a BIBLE SALESMAN, he terrorized the Usenet for four years in relentless, tautological harangues on creationism, evolution, the science of religion, and the religion of science. Tireless investigative reporters recently exposed "REDNBLU" (UNDER LB!) and the purpose of the "Duvensky" research.
Sinder Samples Courtesy Deja News
|From the Nov. 27 issue of the "Frontman," the
student newspaper of the University of Chicago:
If the Usenet newsgroup you frequent seems a little more active lately, you can thank a team of six UofC psychology graduate students researching debating behavior on the Internet. The students have created an Internet character, given him an unpopular cause, and even created a personality for him as they used him to spar with real people all over the world.
"The results have been fascinating," says team member Ehmed Mudjavi. "People have gone to a great deal of trouble to respond to our character, and have even gotten really angry at him on occasion."
The team has dubbed its creation "Riley Sinder," and an account was opened up under that name with Netcom, an Internet service provider (Riley's e-mail address, email@example.com, is based on the UofC lacrosse team's colors).
Since the start of the term, the students have been regularly posting under Riley's name to more than a dozen political, religious and philosophical newsgroups.
All the posts argue a single point: that creationism should be taught in public school science classes.
"We wanted to give him an unpopular viewpoint in order to generate more comments," explains group member Karen DuPres. "But we didn't want to make him outrageous."
Using arguments that typically include obscure legal references and somewhat hard-to-follow logical paths, Riley never wavers from his cause. One recent post authored by the team reads, "The most dangerous element of evolutionism is that its religious content is UNCONSCIOUS. The evolutionists actually BELIEVE their source of evidence to be infallible. Thus, there is no reason to examine their own faith."
The core of the argument the team developed for Riley is that the prohibition against teaching creationism in public schools actually represents an unconstitutional limit on the free speech of the majority of Americans. Riley also questions the infallibility of evidence in the physical world in order to score points against evolution.
"It's a little bit beyond where a completely logical person would stand," admits Karen. "But there is a logical flow there, and some ideas that people can respond to. We didn't want him to just announce that Jesus is coming back at Christmas or something, because that wouldn't generate the right kind of replies. And if we made him completely rational, no one would respond."
The team members take turns writing the posts, which are then checked by other members for consistency of tone, language and personality. Explains Ehmed, "Riley's personality is a little bit pompous, and sort of aloof. He uses big words, and likes to throw out an advanced concept here and there. He never addresses anyone by their name, and often does not reply at all."
Riley's posts have generated hundreds of Usenet replies, 95 percent of them from people who disagree with him, says team member Judy Tockas. Dozens more replies have been sent directly to Riley's e-mail address. Interestingly, the private e-mail tends to be more favorable.
"About half the people who e-mail Riley directly are sympathetic to his cause," Judy says. "Although some criticize his arguments as illogical, a lot of the writers agree that religion should be taught in the public schools."
Riley has even received two invitations to join militia groups bent on the establishment by force of a more religious-based government. "That scared us a little," said Ehmed. "There are a lot of crazy people out there."
In the next few weeks, the graduate team plans to start analyzing the replies to Riley. A focus of the analysis is identifying the degree to which respondents become emotional in their replies to Riley, and how that emotion affects their ability to argue logically.
"It's been a lot of fun," says team member Nova Ciccione. "Creating a new person is sort of like playing god. We've all learned a lot about religion and evolution, too, along with learning about how people argue."
So where does the name "Riley Sinder" come from? "Believe it or not, it's a play on the name Cinderella," says team member Matt Jenkins. "We knew our guy was going to get beat up on, but he really is there for a more noble reason than people may think."
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Note: There is some question as of the time of this posting whether the article is genuine, since folks can't find The Frontman or the grad students involved. Now, word is that it was just a Carpenter.In any event, will the real BOT please stand up, or at least give us some "results" as payment for the suffering.
webmaster Gloria Laskey
© 1996 All rights reserved.