Jesus Camp Footage

March 3rd, 2007 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, religion | 134 Comments »

I find creationism in the UK pretty peripheral and irrelevant, but this film is off the scale. These clips are from the jaw-dropping Jesus Camp, the full feature length film is truly unbelievable. I have never been so wide-eyed in my life. It also stars evangelical preacher Ted Haggard before the, er, gay sex & meth thing.


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134 Responses



  1. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Manigen

    Had a quick look at the Libet thing, which I do remember seeing before. Not sure it adds much – isn’t it more about conscious perception of unconscious reactions to stimuli than consciousness of consciousness.

    Quick example – I never learnt to read music properly – I read the music consciously, learn it bit by bit and then speed up playing from memory. Proper string players talk about ‘muscle memory’, and there is no conscious process between reading the music and reproducing it on the instrument – but they are still playing of their own free will!

    Simon

    Love the conspiracy theory Рtakes me back to demonstrating against Nestl̩ pushing powdered milk on the third world (as we called it then Рit was 1973!)

  2. manigen said,

    March 6, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Ah, not the first bit. There is indeed a discussion of responses to stimuli early on, but it gets even better later. The Libet experiment that I described as fascinating is discussed about midway down, after the fourth red line. With that experiment, Libet attempted to address decision making.

  3. Ginger Yellow said,

    March 6, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    When people talk about free will as an illusion, they don’t mean there is nothing which we can meaningfully and usefully label free will. They mean that the folk psychology idea that there is some seat of reason, a mental first cause, which makes decisions in an indeterminate way, is bunk. They (or at least all but the most hardcored determinists) mean that we (our illusionary selves made up of the interactions of our neurons, the rest of our bodies and the environment) make choices in a very real sense, but that those choices are driven at root by biochemistry. Free will in this sense is the interface between our past experience as stored and mediated by the brain, and the present.

  4. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    re 103

    OK, but the subjects intended to move their hands and then did it – whatever electrical activity Libet was measuring, the subjects acted of their own free will. If I consciously decide to do something, then do it, I am acting of my own free will.

    We may not be aware of our consciousness without a time delay, but why would that be surprising – in a cause and effect world causes precede effects as a necessary, but not sufficient condition, so thinking something would precede thinking that you’d thought it.

    Sorry, the Libet experiments don’t do anything for me.

  5. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    re 104

    “those choices are driven at root by biochemistry”

    Absolutely, and we can tell the difference between free will driven by biochemistry and something like Tourettes Sydrome where the biochemistry has gone wrong and we are not free to stop swearing without conscious effort and learnt responses. I don’t think everyone who has problems with the concept of free will is a mind/body dualist though.

    I also agree that if there is something we can usefully label free will, then it exists and is not an illusion.

  6. manigen said,

    March 6, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    No need to apologise Malcolm, I suggested them as a point of interest, that’s all. If anything, the Libet experiment seems to lend support to Ginger Yellow’s idea.

    Huh, I think I just agreed with you, and you just agreed with Ginger Yellow. Nobody’s disagreeing anymore. Quick, say something contentious!

    …actually, I’d take issue with the notion that Tourettes Syndrome is necessarily biochemistry gone wrong. It’s always struck me as more of an altered state that – depending on its nature and extent – can have advantages as well as disadvantages. Like autism. If you haven’t read it, find Oliver Sack’s An Anthropologist On Mars for examples. It’s a truly stunning book.

  7. apothecary said,

    March 6, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    Re the theme of “why aren’t non-mediaeval Christians fighting this” I’d just point out that on the BBC magazine section on this: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4398345.stm all the comments by self declared Christians were along the lines of 6 day creation/young earth stuff is tosh. With which I’d totally agree.

    The sort of claptrap seen in this video is more newsworthy than Christians saying it’s rubbish. Perhaps it feeds some people’s prejudices, I dunno. Don’t flame me for that – I didn’t say all, most or even many. Surely it’s possible, just like eg some woo alternative practitioners banging on about eg Vioxx as “proof” that all modern medicine, big Pharma, regulatory authorities etc are entirely malaevolent.

  8. Ginger Yellow said,

    March 6, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    ” I don’t think everyone who has problems with the concept of free will is a mind/body dualist though.”

    Maybe not consciously (sorry). Dennett is very good at exploding unconscious dualism in Consciousness Explained – I think he’s less successful in Freedom Evolves, which directly addresses free will, even though I broadly agree with his approach. Searle for example, would never admit to being a dualist, but his thinking on consciousness is riddled with dualistic assumptions.

    ” I also agree that if there is something we can usefully label free will, then it exists and is not an illusion.”

    We’re getting into semantics here. Personally I think it is an illusion, but it’s still a real phenomenon. We don’t have free will in the popular sense or in the manner that we consciously perceive ourselves too (for the most part), but we do make choices. In other words, the nature of free will is illusory, but the fact of it isn’t. Consciousness is much the same in that regard.

    “If I consciously decide to do something, then do it, I am acting of my own free will.”

    The point of the experiment is that the subject performs the action before being conscious of the stimulus. The decision isn’t conscious in the conventional sense.

    “We may not be aware of our consciousness without a time delay, but why would that be surprising – in a cause and effect world causes precede effects as a necessary, but not sufficient condition, so thinking something would precede thinking that you’d thought it. ”

    Again, we reach a semantic blockade here – most people define consciousness (loosely) as that of which we are aware. You’ve overcome the silly pscyhological hurdle most people seem to have, which is the fear that if we are not aware of a mental process as or before it happens it is somehow not ours, but you still want to call that process itself, rather than its introspection, conscious. How would you distinguish between conscious and unconscious process using your definition? Is it merely a question of how long after the process we introspect? Where is the cutoff?

    To bring back the “illusion” debate, the question here isn’t whether we have conscious thoughts. Obviously we do. The question is whether, to take the Libet experiment as an paradigm, we experience a stimulus, mull it over consciously (however briefly) and then react, or whether we experience a stimulus, react (via an enormously complicated process of brain chemistry incorporating more or less of our accumulated knowledge and “muscle memory” depending on the circumstances), and then consciously introspect. I say the latter, and Libet and other experiments strongly imply that view is correct for a lot of our everyday processes (even ones as complex as sentence formation or mathematical reasoning).

  9. apothecary said,

    March 6, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Sorry – cocked up the HTML fomatting there. Should just have been the “some” which was enboldened. Must have been the devil at work :-)

  10. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 6, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    re: why aren’t sane christians fighting this stuff, which keeps coming up (understandably): in the feature length film, which is only a tenner here, they do cover this, with sane christians, which is actually one of the best things about it. the other best things being (a) the sheer weirdness and lack of insight thereof exemplified by the lead fundy characters and (b) the war on terror theme. the full feature film is so worth watching, i cannot stress that highly enough, it really is the best feature length documentary i’ve seen in a long time.

  11. jackpt said,

    March 6, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Apothecary, I agree, although I think there is a question of whether moderate believers enable extreme beliefs by making faith an acceptable option. It’s annoying the hell out of me, because I can’t remember the name of it, but I read a study of cult followers, specifically their backgrounds, and many of them came from moderate (often non-practising, but) religious backgrounds. There was the suggestion that because they felt unfulfilled in the faith of their upbringing, the looked elsewhere, often towards extreme religious practices. While atheists were generally under-represented. because they weren’t seeking a faith.

  12. jackpt said,

    March 6, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Ben, I saw it last night, the disk-jockey was admirable, although I would like to know how many of the parents of those kids came from moderate religious backgrounds.

  13. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    Re 109

    To a linguist ‘semantics’ is not derogatory, it’s the study of meaning, and I’m quite happy to debate what Free Will means. I don’t think you’ve disagreed with the definition of free will being about choice, and it really doesn’t matter if that choice is conscious or unconscious, it is still my choice ie what I would do in the circumstances given my genes and personal history (nature and nurture).

    If I were to behave randomly, I would have no sense of identity, there would be no coherent ‘I’ to have a will. It’s not just semantics, its what the words have to mean to make sense of our discourse, ie for free will to have any meaning at all. If I make a choice, it can still be free ie ‘my’ choice even if I am not concurrently aware of having made that choice.

    On the learning scale of Novice, Advanced Beginner, Competent, Proficient, Expert, the difference between proficiency and expertise is that the expert acts instinctively, even unconsciously, but still of their own free will.

    Even taking your interpretation of the Libet experiment, which may well be correct, I don’t think it makes a difference in terms of free will and personal identity.

  14. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 6, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    ooooh gosh someone just sent me a link to godtube

    www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=17cd627a34a6a0fb4113&page=1&viewtype=&category=mr

    some of this is great

  15. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 6, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    natural selection in action

    www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=893487bd98fa830fa641

  16. jackpt said,

    March 6, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    Aside from fundamentally disagreeing with almost all of it, the Apple vs. Mac parodies on the God Tube favourites page are better than the average YouTube parodies.

  17. DomShields said,

    March 6, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    Brilliant ! and people say Americans don’t do irony, cop “The Atheist’s Nightmare”

    preview.tinyurl.com/ypp5wx

  18. manigen said,

    March 6, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    Re 115

    Yeah, scientists are bad, trying to distract with all their facts.

    Think about it – how do we know the earth goes around the sun? Yeah! Evangelise brothers! And sisters! And people of indeterminant gender!

  19. SWatts said,

    March 6, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Ok – i havnt read every post here – theres quite a few but thought i’d share a bit about where i’m coming from and what i thought of the film.

    I’m a Christian – evangelical, charasmatic, i guess fundamental if you take the proper meaning of the word (i believe in the fundamentals of christianity or watever). I believe in spiritual gifts – like speaking in tongues like that little girl does and all that sort of stuff. I was brought up in a christian home – my dad is a pastor! I do alot of kids work – i’m studying education and uni and do/hav done loooads of work with kids in a christian sense.
    Why am i telling you this?
    Cos despite all that i didnt like this film. In many ways i dont want to judge from a film but seeing stuff like that its hard not to. That is not christianity. Those kids were not filled with the spirit – they were filled with fear and indoctrination! Faking spirituality isn’t hard but anyone who has any spiritual discernment – ie anyone who has a living active relationship with Jesus – and wisdom could see a mile off that actually alot of that is not of God and is definitly pushing the borders of spiritual abuse. I find it heartbreaking that there is spiritual abuse in the Worldwide Church today but i wouldn’t hesitate to confirm that there is – i’ve experienced it myself!
    So basically i just want to defend Christianity – its not about crazy people brainwashing kids and basically just getting people in a frenzy! Its about having a real relationship with Jesus Christ -and having that relationship is just soo amazing and wonderful and lifechanging! It is not about fear and guilt and condemnation but about love and freedom and true life!
    And as a complete aside – i thought the Applev Mac things on the God Tube thing were pretty ace too!!

  20. ToeKnee said,

    March 6, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    So let me get this straight. If I suck up to God for the rest of my life I can look forward to an enternity with numpties like those on GodTube? May the fires of hell await me.

  21. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:27 pm

    well religion has a valuable prosocial role too

    scienceblogs.com/mixingmemory/2007/02/ghosts.php

  22. pv said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    “well religion has a valuable prosocial role too”

    In other words it absolves people from any personal responsibility?

  23. pv said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    “… religion has a valuable prosocial role too”

    In other words it absolves people from any personal responsibility?

  24. jackpt said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    well religion has a valuable prosocial role too

    In which case you’d expect atheists to be selfish.

  25. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    it was just a selfish excuse for posting a link to a study showing ghosts make people behave more honestly.

  26. jackpt said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    It was pretty stupid reply from me anyway, because one doesn’t imply the other.

  27. ToeKnee said,

    March 7, 2007 at 8:43 am

    Anyway I’ve decided to become a diagnostic as I’m not sure if there aren’t two gods.

  28. Ginger Yellow said,

    March 7, 2007 at 10:16 am

    “To a linguist ’semantics’ is not derogatory, it’s the study of meaning, and I’m quite happy to debate what Free Will means. I don’t think you’ve disagreed with the definition of free will being about choice, and it really doesn’t matter if that choice is conscious or unconscious, it is still my choice ie what I would do in the circumstances given my genes and personal history (nature and nurture).”

    I agree with all of that. I certainly don’t think semantics is derogatory. I was just making sure we were on the same page.

  29. Ambrielle said,

    March 7, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    Thanks for all the links Ben.

    ‘Those scientists, with all their facts and stuff’…
    All us scientists are mistaken… we forgot to go back to the ‘original text’!
    I really can’t wait to see what else this guy has to say about the earth not moving, those pesky dinosaurs… and all the other ‘science’ in the bible.

    And I love the ghost experiment! Damn I wish I could do something interesting like that rather than my usual experiments.

  30. manigen said,

    March 7, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    re 115

    I really want to sit that guy down and explain to him in careful, measured tones why he’s wrong.

    I think I’d start by pointing out that, if he wants to, he can regard the sun as moving round the earth and science would not object. Not one little bit. I’d give him a whistle-stop tour of relativity, including all those classic examples like falling lifts and passing trains. I’d explain that if he wants to define a rotating frame of reference in which, to at least a first approximation, the earth is stationary, then he should feel free. He’ll find that the maths works out the same, even if it is trickier to solve.

    Because I am a very calm and rational person, I would not attempt to beat the knowledge into him by battering him about the head with a copy of the Principia. Honestly.

  31. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 7, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    the trouble with the ghost experiment is, post-milgram…

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

    … everybody, including the subjects, who often end up being university students, will suspect that psychology experiments are a put up job.

    if i was a subject and someone mentioned a ghost, i’d definitely know something was up.

  32. kim said,

    March 7, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    Talking about experiments, I thought some of you scientists might be interested in this:

    www.planet-science.com/scicast/

    It’s a competition to make a two minute film of a science experiment. Open to both schoolkids and professional working scientists.

  33. Robert Carnegie said,

    March 9, 2007 at 2:53 am

    Re psychology experiments, it’s seemed to me that the trick is to make the experiment not look like a test of what you’re testing. Maybe not look like a scientific psychology test at all. Channel 4, I think, held a seance. (To get in touch with their credibility as science journalists?) or rather they showed the programme, I think they don’t make many (any?)

    And I recall taking and then self-scoring a reasonably respectable kind of psych test and figuring out the scoring – several questions counted zero and were merely decorative or distracting.

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