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. Ambrielle said,

    March 3, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    This one is even scarier than the last indoctrination video. Way to make little kids cry by making them think they are all sinners going to hell. The USA is going to go to hell in a handbasket (forgive the phrasing) if the Christian fundamentalists have their way, and will likely bring the rest of the world down with them. Why is it that we all accept the Nazi Youth indoctrination camps were evil, but this kind of thing is allowed. I can’t see much difference between them, myself. I think atheists need to get organised to fight this kind of thing.

  2. Matt Black said,

    March 3, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    “I just pray for this equipment. We speak over these PowerPoint presentations”

    Who said the church was out of touch?

  3. dolfinack said,

    March 3, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Disgusting people. No microphone problems in Jesus’ name.

    Smash that cup little girl! Vomit……

    By the way doesen’t the druggie Haggard look like Nick Faldo!?? Weird.

  4. Ambrielle said,

    March 3, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    btw, for more of the same, visit fstdt.com

  5. jackpt said,

    March 3, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    I’m quite febrile with something flu-like just now, so I’m not in the best frame of mind to evaluate this, but it’s scary and applies to all religions. Basically, if you tell your kids there are monsters under the bed, or that if they’re not good people will die, it’s considered psychological abuse. But bring theism into it and somehow it’s OK to tell them far worse. I think it’s a difficult issue because on the one-hand tolerance is good, but on the other hand tolerance of religious practices, from an outsider’s perspective at least, is tantamount to tolerating abuse. Take somewhere like the partially state funded/supported Emmanuel College, here in the UK, or many other state religious schools. I feel that is enabling parents to keep their kids in a bubble, and the idea of tax being spent on such things makes my blood boil. I don’t want any of my money going towards people pushing guilt and irrational belief on children. With independent schools there’s again the dilemma of how much society in general is prepared to tolerate minority views being pressed on children simply by nature of being born to irrational parents.

    There is also the question of whether excluding religion altogether from education would actually have a counter-productive effect as a consequence of more religious children being home schooled or taken out of the mainstream education system. After all, some exposure to the real world is better than none, and at least gives them a chance to hear opposing views. I think in the US things like Jesus camp are partially as a result of excluding religion altogether from the education system (although it makes a great deal of sense).

  6. Lave said,

    March 3, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    It’s terrifying. I honestly think that most people in the UK (of which over 40% don’t believe in life after death according to the British Humanist Association) just don’t believe these people actually believe this.

    We just assume it;s a joke. And so we don’t worry about the new faith schools teaching creationism in the UK. When we really should.

  7. Lave said,

    March 3, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Oh man. We live in a world where people can record themselves, send the messages all over the world in seconds, and project information from anywhere onto a wall. With microphones that can take their voice an amplify it.

    And they pray for demons not to mess it all up.

  8. Ambrielle said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    I wonder if the bible mentions the devil interfering with electrical equipment? Also love the whole cleansing of hands with some bottled Nestle? water.

  9. PO8 said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Ben: if you can laugh at this, you’re not understanding it. I’m a Christian who 35 years later is still overcoming the effects of being on the receiving end of very, very mild versions of this kind of thing when I was a child. As a professor, I work all the time with kids who have been brought up like this, and try to help them figure out how to keep their faith while connecting with real life.

    Watching those poor kids, and their pathetic handlers, just makes me cry. There is a Devil, and you don’t have to look hard to see him in that space. Those of you who are also Christian, pray for these people.

  10. Seany said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Evil, manipulative scum.

  11. Nebbish said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    “Peripheral and irrelevant” things have a way of becoming less so when they have enormous financial resources, check out this guy who funds the Discovery Institute in the US:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Ahmanson%2C_Jr
    Note how he’s ‘moderated’ his views so that he no longer believes in automatic stoning of homosexuals. Nice. He’s already channeling money into the UK through the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, how much of that goes to creationism?

    And never mind schools, it’s being actively propounded in UK Universities:
    bcseweb.org.uk/index.php/Main/StuartBurgess

    Finally, where are the decent, liberal, scientifically-literate Christians willing to stand up and say this is wrong? Will history record that they stayed quiet and left it to atheists to do the right thing?

  12. Ambrielle said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    If more moderate Christians object to this kind of thing, why aren’t they doing more about speaking out against it?

  13. EdBurness said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Ambrielle (post #1) – “I think atheists need to get organised to fight this kind of thing”

    Do you really think that all Christians support this? Atheism is becoming as much a movement that people think they need to preach as any religion. (I have no particular belief in God myself by the way)

  14. Ambrielle said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    I don’t see any real organisation of atheists, certainly not as a ‘movement’, and especially not in the US. I would suspect that any presidential candidate in the US admitting to being an atheist would be at best political suicide, at worst would become a target for assassination by some fundamentalist crazy.

  15. RedSevenOne said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    I suggest the ‘Fundamental’ reality is that Ted fell ‘Victim’ [Of self-infliction] and thus has created victims to the rampant trend that is spreading faster than STD’s in the US [and Canada] and yes, the UK. Taking impressionable young minds and indoctrinating them with any sort of directed agenda brings about 1936 in Germany all over again. Fanaticism is a disease of Human Nature brought on by not enough literacy and too much complacency. Bias Declared

  16. SciencePunk said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    Where do you even begin to fight something like this? It seems intractable.

  17. Lave said,

    March 3, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    As Dawkins says in God Delusion, getting Atheists organized to present their views like a religion does, is akin to herding cats. It doesn’t work.

    The range of views by atheists on Dawkins shows that’s true by itself.

  18. Ambrielle said,

    March 3, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    You cannot argue with these people….
    An example of one quote featured on fstdt.com:
    “I was just stating that there is no evidence that evolutionists or other scientists could give me that would me think that the Bible was not true.”
    It’s just beyond me…. I repeat, why aren’t other Christians condemning this kind of behaviour?

  19. David Colquhoun said,

    March 3, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Well it is certainly better here but I’m not so sure about creationism in the UK being “pretty peripheral and irrelevant”. Not in universities anywhere. More and more we are getting undergraduates who simply won’t accept evolutionary arguments, but still expect to get degrees in biological subjects. For example, see education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,,1714171,00.html

  20. Ambrielle said,

    March 3, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    Wow, David, that’s scary. I really, really don’t want to be treated by a doctor or pharmacist who believes in Creation. Does it also mean they believe I’m sick due to my own sins. Bloody cherry-picking of both Bible text and science drives me mad.

  21. Jools said,

    March 3, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    The wee lad who is in the image starting the video, and who actually has the honesty to at least say he has had difficulties with believing, is a dude.

    Imagine how much easier it would have been for him to parrot everybody else with some inane “I believe.” Instead, he actually thought for himself, to an impressive degree considering his surroundings.

    He has the makings of an impressively critical thinker (or, a bit of a showman).

  22. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 3, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    i think the reason why it doesnt bother me so much – although i think it’s fascinating, and incredibly entertaining in a carcrashtv kind of way – is that it’s clearly labelled woo, just like psychics are. when the deputy political editor writes about GM potatoes causing cancer, people think he’s speaking with a checked-fact-based authority, and take the story at face value, as at least being factually correct. someone like holford presents themselves as a scientific authority, in the language of science, and is taken at that face value. as a sensible intelligent rational person i might still be taken in by those people if i hadn’t done active background research, because i might not think they could be as spectacularly wrong about things as they are, but that’s not going to happen with these evangelical guys. when a christian tells me something about the creation of the world, i know it’s a christian talking bollocks. i don’t believe people are “taken in” by these guys. as withnail said: these aren’t accidents, they’re throwing themselves onto the roads willingly.

  23. jackpt said,

    March 3, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    I don’t see the difference between someone like Holford, creationists and psychics. The woo is relative and they’re all relying on ignorance for authority. Something is only labelled as woo if you’ve got a background that enables you to distinguish it. A lot of people don’t. A psychic taking money from people for something that is highly improbable is no different from someone like Holford. taking money for things that are highly improbable. They’re both possible because of ignorance. So they bother me just as much.

    I can understand why it doesn’t fit the bad science remit, but they’re all exploitative wankers at that level.

  24. acb58 said,

    March 3, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Don’t forget that it is not just the Christian fascists who indoctrinate their children, that they will go to hell because of their “sin’s”; we has also got to worry about the Islamic fascists who indoctrinate their children that the will go to paradise if they kill non-believers. We must not think that it is just the fascist Christian’s of the USA who are the only fascist bad people. It’s the fascist belief in a Super-natural Super-being that is the problem.

  25. Ambrielle said,

    March 3, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    All religion is a crock. Sorry, I’ve just had several glasses of very good red.

  26. pogo said,

    March 3, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Totally horrifying…

    They couldn’t have abused those kids more if they’d just lined them up and f*cked them!

  27. imagineyoung said,

    March 4, 2007 at 6:28 am

    Pogo said:
    “They couldn’t have abused those kids more if they’d just lined them up and f*cked them!”

    Uhm, yes they could have. Let’s keep some sense of proportion here – the above clip does not equate to paedophilia. We might consider it warped and sad, and even a form of emotional abuse. but it ain’t paedophilia.

    When my kids moved to the UK and started going to an elementary school (eldest was 9) they had to attend a Church of England school – no choice as it was deep country. I was horrified (and still am) at the teaching and support of religion at these schools, but nearly all the Brits I spoke to thought it was fine and normal and nothing to be concerned about – the ‘kids can decide for themselves when they are adults’.

    Dunno if this has a point or not.

  28. Moganero said,

    March 4, 2007 at 8:10 am

    I found this seriously scary though hilarious in a few places. I think in years to come there’s going to be plenty of work for de-programmers!

    One of the girls speaking in tongues appeared to be chanting “coño” – presumably the hysteria-inducing organisers didn’t speak Spanish!

    I was brought up main-stream Christian, at school I mostly took not much notice. It did give me a moral foundation which is still with me though now I am atheist/humanist. But it is frightening to think how I might have been affectedcif subjected to the kind of programming shown here.

    For several years I was a follower of Guru Maharaji’s Divine Light Mission, and still occassionally practise the meditation, but that was lightweight benign stuff compared to what’s shown here.

    No wonder someone like Bush can get to be president if the good ole US of A!!

  29. DocX said,

    March 4, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Religion itself isn’t necessarily bad, it can actually be the source of much good. Science itself isn’t all good and can cause much suffering if not ethical principles are not followed. The root of the malice in this context I’d say is the over-identification with a cause and elevating the cause above the possible human consequences, disregarding empathy. The advancement of science can be such a cause but religion appears to avail itself as a cause much more readily. Also, I think it was Hannah Arendt who said that there was a strange interdependence between thoughtlessness and evil, and it is much easier to be thoughtless about religion than it is to be thoughtless about science, as science requires thought and religion requires suspension of disbelief.

  30. Dudley said,

    March 4, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    Sodom & Gomorrah: 101 See more like this on kontraband.com

  31. jackpt said,

    March 4, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    I think in the UK when most people say Church of England they actually mean agnostic. I attended an English boys school (CoE), and the few assemblies/services I did attend consisted of singing a few hymns, listening to a vicar trying to be vaguely down with it, and people getting brought to book by the headmaster for not paying attention. Having parents from mixed religious backgrounds was a serendipity for me because they pretty much told me to make up my own mind. Having rejected practising any kind of religion about age fourteen I resent the idea of religion conveying moral foundation. It seems to me that your morals are largely dependent on the environment in which you grow up (although there are countless exceptions), I still studied RE (the Biblical angle) but I don’t see it as any different than studying Greek mythology (and it’s probably had as much cultural impact). So I’m down with the stories, but in terms of any kind of faith, I’m not down with that at all. It was reading philosophers like Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre (and Camus), and others in my late teens that killed off the idea of morality intertwined with faith for me. As a result or this, and belief in science, I became a full blown atheist (still am). I don’t have a problem with spirituality as physiological state.

    I find Dawkins to be somewhat extreme, but I think he’s probably right that anything deriving authority from faith should be rejected. I also think a belief in an afterlife is counter productive, because in the absence of a heaven or hell life becomes far more precious. I think people will put up with less maltreatment if they don’t think there’s a reward for their suffering. I don’t think hell has ever been a deterrent (a bit like anti-drug laws). All of those people around the world ‘martyred’ (every religion has them) went nowhere, and served to condemn others to the same fate. I don’t think religion should be banned, or hate religious people in the slightest, but I do think it’s all a bit outdated, and think that it should in no way interfere with science (the same could be true of much philosophy). I do hate the ‘religious’ people exploiting their flocks, lining their own pockets, and claiming authority based on faith.

    A priest of any denomination/creed is as interesting as an expert in Greek mythology. Interesting, but not anything worth putting faith in.

  32. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 4, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    imagineyoung:

    “When my kids moved to the UK and started going to an elementary school (eldest was 9) they had to attend a Church of England school – no choice as it was deep country. I was horrified (and still am) at the teaching and support of religion at these schools, but nearly all the Brits I spoke to thought it was fine and normal and nothing to be concerned about – the ‘kids can decide for themselves when they are adults’.”

    Fortunately the CoE is so lacking in evangelical passion that it more or less forces kids to go off and decide for themselves. Because your average vicar or Anglican RE teacher is, let’s be honest, pretty unlikely to actually tell you what to think in so many words. This was my experience anyway.

    Andrew.

  33. Robert Carnegie said,

    March 4, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    I blame the parents. I presume these kids have parents, at least one each, they weren’t rounded up on the street and taken away to the cult compound. And those parents presumably read the brochure for this circus – or else took their pastor’s word for it that it was good for the kids. And the parents also presumably have somewhat similar beliefs. Well, you can swallow anything that your parents tell you without ever questioning it. I personally took my mother’s word for years on the validity of off-peak train tickets between 4 and 6 pm in the Strathclyde Transport zone, and she was -wrong-. Hours of my life I spent hanging around the station… Maybe she just wanted me out of the house for longer?

    On which note – I also was sent to boarding school. And from that, and from compulsory “recreations” such as the school film show (one 13 year old head-butted a dormitory wall after [All Quiet on the Western Front] and was never seen again – it’s a big-time downer, as were [Carousel] and [The Count of Monte Cristo], or is it me?), I can also share that: (1) Being sent away from home by your parents is (or may be) a dreadful trauma. And yet in the America of Charlie Brown cartoons it’s commonplace to be shipped off to summer camp willy-nilly. And, (2) There are things that you might enjoy if you are given a choice about doing them, and very likely not if you aren’t.

    I think that adds up to Jesus Camp being perceived by the inmates as punishment for their sins and a foretaste of the torments of Hell. I actually don’t have bandwidth to view the video but I note that the words “fun” and “enjoy” do not appear in previous comments. Nor “merry”, and “laugh” only in laughing -at- them. Have I overlooked anything?

  34. generaltapioca said,

    March 4, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    @19 & 12

    The idea that Christians aren’t condemning this kind of behaviour is totally wrong. An example very close to home is the writing of Ben’s fellow Guardian columnist Giles Fraser.

    And the mainstream British protestant churches have, for some decades, been in a constant state of conflict between evangelical/fundamentalist groups and liberal ones. Imagine how pissed off you’d be if these lunatics were trying to take over your church.

    Fraser also points out that, in many ways, atheists play into the hands of these forces:

    www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1990324,00.html

  35. latsot said,

    March 4, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    This is deliberate ritualised abuse of children. I can’t think of any other way to describe it.

  36. stever said,

    March 4, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    how is that distinguishable from prosecutable child abuse?

  37. syslinkdown said,

    March 4, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    I suppose that this needs to be put in some perspective, and perhaps I can help.

    I’m an American, born and raised (whatever that means). I was born to christian parents, and raised as a christian – in the southern areas of the bible belt, no less – from birth. I currently live in Texas. I am an atheist.

    I have been exposed to these sort of things my whole life, and I think that everyone here is missing something, though I don’t know how to state it succinctly.

    My parents were christian and raised me as such. However, they ended up falling toward the liberal, tolerant side of the christian spectrum. This made for some awkward situations whenever we would move to a new town and they had to find a sufficiently accommodating church. It was primarily during these “scoping” sessions that I witnessed a lot of scenes that, even at a young age, I simply could not stomach. I also had a lot of truly terrible, hurtful things told to me in the most condescending, maudlin, “I’ll-pray-for-your-poor-little-lost-soul” kind of way (or, on a good half-dozen occasions, screamed at me by someone who held my shoulders so I couldn’t “look away from the truth”)… and I would often cry after such encounters, partly because someone had so offhandedly told me I wasn’t worth sh*t, partly out of confusion, and partly because MY PARENTS NEVER DID ANYTHING.

    What? Nothing? Yes, nothing. The most that ever happened is that they would pretend to have a forgotten appointment and apologetically shepherd us out the door.

    Why? As part of their christian views, they felt that it was the right of others to believe and espouse what they wished, and that WE as (slightly superior but OH SO TOLERANT) christians should “turn the other cheek.” You see, there is this thing about being a christian where you are de facto glad that others spread the word of god – even if it’s a little off or they’re coming across a little strong.

    “Oh,” you say to yourself, “I’m a little better christian than them, but good for them anyway! At least it’s teaching the right thing, even if the methods are a little indiscreet.”

    The most radical christians *do* shock some, but in most christians all they induce is a mild feeling of saintlike, tolerant superiority. At any point in some hypothetical “f*cked-up-ed-ness” scale, the people immediately below feel totally complacent, totally justified in their beliefs and their level of proselytizing because of those just beyond them who are “slightly overdoing it.”

    I guess it boils down to this: once you have bought in to the bible, the christian god and the impending judgment, you’ve taken a big leap away from the center line – you’ve largely grouped yourself in (thrown in your fates) with the rest of christians. This tends to make people a lot more tolerant of obvious loonies, because “at least they’re teaching the right thing.”

    For what it’s worth, I have met some christians who would be absolutely enraged by that sort of video… but it’s still far more who would “turn the other cheek.”

    It’s amazing what people will do to “save” their children.

    *sigh*

  38. imagineyoung said,

    March 4, 2007 at 11:37 pm

    Andrew Clegg:
    “Fortunately the CoE is so lacking in evangelical passion that it more or less forces kids to go off and decide for themselves. Because your average vicar or Anglican RE teacher is, let’s be honest, pretty unlikely to actually tell you what to think in so many words.”

    Ahh, that’s why my 9 year old boy now insists that god exists – vehemently so – because he’s been so informed at school. Coming from a society where religion is not allowed in schools, he now has taken up the cause, and is worried about his behavior because of this.

    So I’d disagree – when religious myths are presented to kids as facts worthy of consideration by their teachers functioning as representatives of the state and as figures of trusted authority, that’s telling the kids what to think.

  39. imagineyoung said,

    March 4, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    Rober Carnegie:
    “On which note – I also was sent to boarding school. ……., I can also share that: (1) Being sent away from home by your parents is (or may be) a dreadful trauma.’

    Of course, these fundamentalists might well look at the socially acceptable (by a major strata of society) Brit practise of sending kids away from their parents at the age of 7/8 for 8 months of the year and ask “Why do they do that? Don’t they love them? Why are they allowed to abuse their kids like that?”

    That doesn’t excuse what is going on in the video, but the practise of sending kids away to be bought up by strangers is very strange, and they don’t even have the excuse of poverty!

  40. imagineyoung said,

    March 5, 2007 at 12:00 am

    latsot:
    ‘This is deliberate ritualised abuse of children. I can’t think of any other way to describe it.’
    Stever:
    ‘how is that distinguishable from prosecutable child abuse?’

    That’s a good question. If it was child abuse, wouldn’t they be prosecuted, at least privately? The legal system in the States makes it very easy to enforce the law personally.

    MIght it be because it’s not abuse – at least by medical (scientific?) standards?

  41. Ed said,

    March 5, 2007 at 12:07 am

    Finally, where are the decent, liberal, scientifically-literate Christians willing to stand up and say this is wrong?

    – The whole problem here is that science and faith are directly opposed to each other. Science is all about evidence and the hypothesis based on evidence. Faith is all about hypothesis based on no evidence. I dont agree that you can rbe a scientist and a christian. On the one hand it would be saying i belive in the sceintific method & then saying but i also belive when I die if im a good person im going to live in heavan with God, Jesus & loads of other chrisitians – which in todays day and age sounds pretty far fetched and unlikely.

    The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan – This was the book that explained things for me. Put this on the curriculum and teach people the scientific method and things might start to sort themselves out!?

    I feel sorry for the kids in this video – but what can you do!

  42. DomShields said,

    March 5, 2007 at 1:06 am

    People say you can’t disprove god, but I think that video pretty much does the trick, would a self-respecting god allow morbidly obese morons to brainwash kids in “his” name? Surely he’d have made the video camera develop a small fault.
    Doh! there I go not understanding theology again – I admit my knowledge of things that don’t exist isn’t as good as other people’s knowledge of things that don’t exist.

  43. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 5, 2007 at 1:28 am

    “Finally, where are the decent, liberal, scientifically-literate Christians willing to stand up and say this is wrong?”

    actually i’ve just watched the whole film this evening, and there’s one in it, all the way through, being worried, as it were.

    it’s also, i should say, the most amazing film i’ve seen in a long while, totally worth a tenner. i was properly shaking with delight and horror.

  44. Robert Carnegie said,

    March 5, 2007 at 1:34 am

    Re the camera not failing, maybe God feels as the football fan who received his discarded season ticket back in the post read in the accompanying letter – if I have to suffer watching this then why should you be let off?

    I think commentators are underestimating the extent to which religious indoctrination of children is effective. Surely the churches wouldn’t spend the time and money on it if it wasn’t. And even if you don’t accept the supernatural terms, you’ll take in the morals, such as they are. Now imagine an office manager who handles people parable-style. One day he’s the Good Samaritan, the next he’s the man with all the Talents (money) and the poor attitude.

  45. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 5, 2007 at 1:36 am

    I think commentators are underestimating the extent to which religious indoctrination of children is effective.

    in the film itself, one of the most striking things is how chuffed the people who preach to children are with themselves for getting their message believed. by eight year olds.

  46. superburger said,

    March 5, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I’m giving our group meeting on Wednesday.

    Having watched that vid,I now know to utter incantations over my laptop so that His Holy Spirit will bless my powerpoint slides.

    Hallelujah!

  47. superburger said,

    March 5, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Also, isnt all the speaking in tongues a bit like papa lazarou in the Lague of Gentlemen?

  48. DomShields said,

    March 5, 2007 at 10:55 am

    You’re god’s wife now Dave

  49. dbhb said,

    March 5, 2007 at 11:04 am

    Laugh? Not really.
    I did shiver, feel nauseous, and nearly weep, however.

  50. Ed said,

    March 5, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    When I was younger I belived in Father Christmas. Not as an idea but literally an actual person who came down the chimeny and delivered gifts. The great thing about being a kid is having such a convincing imagination & unquestioning belife in the things adults tell you.
    Its such a shame to see this being abused, Father Christmas is cool but eternal damnation, being consumed by a giant worm in a pit of fire & agony that is one sick vison to tell a child might be on the cards if he doesnt start following the path of Jesus.

    Father Christmas was a great myth to belive in, so were faries at the bottom of the garden, mermaids and all those sorts of Tolkienesque nature spirits. I remember though as a child the complete sense of incomprension i had to when singing prayers, saying grace & dressing up as an Arab at Christmas & acting out a pretty strange story about The Ultimate Saviour Of Mankind/Gods only child/God being born in a manger etc.
    The cloud of christianity was hanging over my childhood. As a young adult I remeber the amazing satisfaction I got when I realised it wasnt true or real & there wasnt this almighty zeus like bearded bloke watching my every move & thought..
    I guess thats why it is car crash TV – Most of us, as childern were in that car, but luckily we managed to pull ourselves out with the gift of rationlal thought. There is bound to be a small sense of satisfaction when u realise “This” is what you have escaped from. I guess it renforces the belife that we have had a lucky escape!

  51. malcolm said,

    March 5, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    “Finally, where are the decent, liberal, scientifically-literate Christians willing to stand up and say this is wrong?”

    OK, I’ll stand up and be counted – C of E from the ages of 0 to 16 and 32 to now (52), member of a Deanery Synod for the past 15 years, and newly elected to Diocesan Synod. Very liberal – Sea of Faith but culturally Christian.

    This (evangelical indoctrination of children) is very, very wrong, and I agree, tantamount to child abuse.

    On the religion v science front, one comment of Stephen Rose’s once caught my imagination. It was something like ‘perhaps consciousness has not yet evolved to the point where it can comprehend consciousness’

    However, religion isn’t science – you couldn’t possibly devise an experiment to disprove it, so there’s no real argument. Some people find a role for spirituality in their lives, others don’t. The only form of evangelism I and many practise is ‘passive evangelism’ – if you meet me and are interested in the way I live my life, we may get talking about religion, but that’s it.

  52. Ed said,

    March 5, 2007 at 12:38 pm

    “As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, So, bhikshus, should you accept my words — after testing them, and not merely out of respect.” The Buddha.

    Not all religions adopt this get out clause – You couldnt test it, thefore you cant disprove it….therefore there is no argument.

    Compassion, kindness, forgiving you enemies etc these things are good. As a society it would be wrong not to learn the great messages of religion. But when you belive in somthing in the absence of any evidence (faith) you are on a slippery slope. It might seem like a harmless passtime to some but on the other hand you are sending a confusing message to children and society. Its the thin end of the wedge but at its extremes you have fundamentalist, people ready to kill for there faith – witchburnings, suicide cults & other extreme ideologies. Thats is why things that seem like harmless fun, horoscopes, homeopathy and worshiping beings on other dimensions are SO harmful to our society………Isnt that what this blog is about!

  53. malcolm said,

    March 5, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    “As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, So, bhikshus, should you accept my words — after testing them, and not merely out of respect.” The Buddha.

    Different sort of testing in my opinion – the Buddha is asking us to believe his words by applying them to our own personal experience, not just because he says so. I’d say this is what humans do all the time – if behaving as Buddha suggests seems meaningful we may adopt do it as a way of life. Maybe this is how I came back to religion in my thirties.

    The difference with woo science is that woo science can be disproved by proper experimental design, religion can’t. I am happy to believe in God (whatever that may mean) and still immensely enjoy Ben tearing into Gillian McKeith, Patrick whatisname et al, because they don’t just believe something different from me, they are wrong. Bad Science is about exactly that, bad science, although this thread has strayed into bad religion ie indoctrination of children and denial of good science. In my view, good science and religion are perfectly compatible.

  54. Ed said,

    March 5, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    But if you belive in God & are a Chrisitan – Why do you have a problem with the film? – Surley these people are just speading the “Good News” If an unsuspecting child was to ask you about God, you might be tempted to do the same thing!

    However it seems to me that you have diluted your views on chrisianity to such an extent as to go below the radar of critical debate……Its one thing to say you belive in God but then if you dont what/who god is, then who could comment on wether its a vaild belief.

    It all becomes a bit clearer when you back up the assertion of being chrisitan with some christian views such as I belive in Heaven, Hell, The Devil, The blasphemy of soddomites, The immacualte concpetion, The Resurection, Limbo (the plane of existence where dead babies go), Water into Wine, Litarally eating the flesh and blood of jesus christ via the wine & buiscuit…..the list goes on……

    If you dont belive in that then you dont belive in the bible & your view of God sounds sufficiently vauge to ask the question are really a chrisitan or do you just like to belonging to an organisation?

    Malcolm – Sorry if this seems confontational, its just an issue i feel really stongly about. Also the buddhas message is a bit different from the blind faith of christianity as he is suggesting that everything he says can be tested, which is slightly differnt from the “Take my word for it, if you know whats good for you” message from the christian church.

  55. malcolm said,

    March 5, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    Ed

    No need to apologise – although I think we may have to apologise to Ben and the rest of the community if this goes too far off message.

    I’m no expert on Bhuddism, but I thought Bhuddism acknowledged all religions as valid.

    The Sea of Faith point is that all religions are culturally determined, flawed expressions of the inexpressible. As a scientific Christian, I am happy to accept for example that there is no archaeological evidence for the greater Israel described in the Bible, and in terms of literal history, that evidence takes prescedence. Likewise, in the memorable phrase, ‘the resurrection was not a conjuring trick with bones’.

    I believe in God, but not a Man with a white beard. Heaven is not up in the sky, nor Hell down below – these are all metaphors. You mention Limbo – not part of Anglican theology I’m afraid. I give the chalice in my own church, with the words ‘the blood of Christ, shed for you’, based on Christ’s commandment at the last supper, ‘do this in remembrance of me’. ‘Remembrance’, when traced back to the original Greek, is more akin to ‘as a reconstruction of this moment’ – no the wine is not turned onto blood, just as the wine at the last supper was wine, not blood.

    The Archbishop of Canterbury does not believe the earth was literally created in 7 days, so why say I can only be a Christian if I believe the same as the creationist cranks. Perhaps there is a parallel with bad science – woo religion giving good religion a bad name. Medicine is allowed to move on from medieval notions, so why can’t religion? You mention the soddomites – I have a gay daughter of whom I am immensely proud (not because she is gay, but because she is a wonderful person) – all this soddomite stuff is medieval claptrap.

    What the story of Jesus is about is the perfectability of humanity – we can love our neighbours as ourselves, sacrifice ourselves for others. That is the meaning of Christ overcoming the devil – showing us what love really is.

    It’s amazing what you find when you actually study theology seriously – I doubt anyone on the liberal wing of the Anglican Church, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, would disagree fundamentally with any of the above.

    It’s a bit of a straw man argument – if I don’t believe in medieval claptrap I can’t be a Christian – sorry, I don’t believe in medieval claptrap, and I am.

  56. manigen said,

    March 5, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    When I was at university, the Christian Union was a very evangelical, very fundamentalist organisation. I was always struck by how few people they actually thought were christian – they excluded most of the university’s theologians and chaplins/vicars for a start.

  57. Ambrielle said,

    March 5, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Actually, generaltapioca, I did read that article I posted, and I think it, and the responses to it, made my point quite neatly. I have NEVER seen any CoE official openly condemn fundamentalist Christian behaviour, in anything but a “but we don’t think quite like that” kind of way. The columnist points out himself that the head of the Church in England is lacklustre to say the least regarding promoting it’s “moderate” (“cherry-picking”?) position. Maybe I’m not reading enough about it, but if nothing of the sort hasn’t sunk into my conciousness in the past few years, then they can’t be trying THAT hard.

    To be honest, we are all mainly talking about the version of Christian fundamentalism emerging from the USA, and the danger it represents. The journalists position is baffling in that he seems to blame atheists, but doesn’t at the same time call on the ‘moderate’ Christians to take part in the argument. He seems to have suggested that it’s not really their problem and will leave us “extremists” to fight it out, since we seemed to have caused it in the first place. Am I mis-interpreting?

    imagineyoung: I would guess that these people are not prosecuted or sued because they have the full support of the kids’ parents who likely hold similar views. And now another generation of ignorant bigots is created. Meanwhile, the people running these camps and the televangelists are making money hand-over-fist… then spending it on prostitutes and drugs.

    BTW, I did my lab meeting this morning, without a hitch… didn’t pray over my computer either. Maybe the devil looks after his own…?

  58. malcolm said,

    March 5, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Absolutely – the problem with priests and theologians is that they actually study theology, so they know what they’re talking about. Oh well, at this rate I’ll have to start a Bad Religion website – it could be fun.

    I only came into this discussion because someone asked for a liberal Christian to repudiate the evangelical child abusers and I was happy to oblige.

    By the way, I have a relative who is a fundamentalist priest, and he knows I’m going to hell!

  59. Ed said,

    March 5, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    Good reply Malcom!

    A soft answer turnth away wrath! – I know its probably not really fair of me to use stuff written in the Bible as a way to discredit the modern christian faith. You are right to say science has evolved so why cant Christianity. I wouldnt disagree with that, its the rest of the christians you might have more trouble convincing!! Last I heard there were quite a few who actually think the stuff in the Bible is true, places like America, South America, Rome, Africa etc

    As science developed and the rational minds applied themselves to the big questions. The majority of people started to take a rational view of the world as well. Thats why these days most level headed people involved in the church can shrug their sholders and say “chill out! – Its only meant as a metaphor!” The trouble is for about 2000 years its wasnt taught as meataphor and the bible was taken as Gospel!

    Anyway it sounds like you belive in a pretty evolved form of christinaity. In the grand scheme of things there are much worse things to be involved in. Jesus sounds like a pretty great guy & i am sure woud have been a nice guy to hang out with! – Ive never really had a problem with Jesus & turning the other cheek, love thy neighbour stuff. My experince of the chrisitian church though has never had much to do with those things. Which is a shame.

  60. crana said,

    March 5, 2007 at 3:09 pm

    Good for you Malcolm. I don’t believe in a God, but I think if you do, doing it your way is probably the best thing for everyone (if that makes any sense)!

  61. malcolm said,

    March 5, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Ed

    interesting parallel with science re Atom Bombs and Einstein’s comment about wishing he’d stayed a clock repairer – yes, horrible things have been done in the name of religion, but also horrible things have been done with science (and I’d include the Monsanto once only use seeds here). I don’t think you can be apolitical with science any more than you can with religion.

    One for the Old Testament literalists – I took part in the Jubilee 2000 campaign, the forerunner of Make Poverty History – the actual Jubilee principle in the Old Testament is that every fifty years amassed property is shared out equitably among the community, putting an end to the rich get richer, poor get poorer dynamic we see in free markets. Try selling that one to the American Right!

  62. DomShields said,

    March 5, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Malcolm – how is “Studying theology” any different from “Studying the Invisible Pink Unicorn” ? Surely they are both investigations into things that don’t exist. Personally in terms of things that don’t exist I find the Flying Spaghetti Monster by far the tastiest choice.

  63. malcolm said,

    March 5, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    Dom

    Theology is like Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology etc. Whether you like it or not, Religion exists, whereas the flying spaghetti monster probably doesn’t.

    I’m often defending scientists to my wife who rails against their arrogance in saying that because they cannot incorporate something into science then it doesn’t exist. I’m beginning to think she has a point.

    Religion is not scientific, it cannot be disproved through experimental design, even if it is only a theoretically possible experiment, but that doesn’t mean it does not exist as part of human experience.

  64. DomShields said,

    March 5, 2007 at 5:43 pm

    On the Flying Spaghetti Monster website, Bobby Henderson (the chap who started it) posts Hate Mail he receives, quite a lot of it claims that belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster has “ruined people’s lives”.
    That pretty much defines it as religion doesn’t it ?

  65. simongates said,

    March 5, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    #64 “Theology is like Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology etc.”

    No it isn’t. Studying religion is philosophy, sociology, anthropology or something similar.

    Theology grew out of the role of mediaeval universities in training men for service to the (Christian) church, and the curriculum included practice as well as theory. So “theology” is intimately bound up with practical Christianity, certainly historically and (from what know of it) in current usage as well.

  66. pv said,

    March 5, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Malcom, indeed religion is not scientific. It is:

    a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
    b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

    Theology is the study of theism, as in theistic religion. In other words, theology has no basis in anything other than that which exists solely in the human imagination almost certainly as a result of fear and ignorance. Theology researches nothing, reports nothing and contributes nothing to anything, least of all to the welfare and improvement of the human state. It is navel gazing!

  67. jackpt said,

    March 5, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    I don’t have a problem with Christians – or anyone of any faith, I strictly have a problem with attempts to give unfair advantages to theories based on faith. That includes indoctrination. If an informed adult wants to join a religion I’m fine with that and wouldn’t hold it against them. Even though I disagree with the basis of religion (and most strong belief in general, being honest). With regards of theology I regard it much as a subject that deeply analyses literature, except the majority of its proponents believe in some way in what they’re studying. In as much as any introspection and study can produce interesting viewpoints I don’t have a problem with Biblical parables or moral stories based on the study of the Koran or Torah. My problem is when someone, or an organisation, claims definitive answers based on a faith. There’s a distinction.

    I’m not sure whether that makes me an atheist chicken, or an atheist moderate, but i don’t think so, and I don’t care. When I was as school I used to get on well with my RE teacher, and did well in RE, despite not believing the stories were true. I got good advice (which was not related to a god, but I ignored anyway) If I drew moral inspiration from great literature I don’t see how it would be different from drawing inspiration from the Bible (provided I gave neither supernatural powers). So I’m fine with religion provided it limits its sphere of influence, and doesn’t mess with freedom.

    So, to the believers that have commented here, good to have you along and nice to hear your opinion.

  68. Ginger Yellow said,

    March 5, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    “Imagine how pissed off you’d be if these lunatics were trying to take over your church.”

    I’d be more pissed off that somebody had hypnotised me into being a church going Christian without telling me.

    Anyway, a year or so ago, at the height of the Dover controversy, the influx of creationism from America and Africa really worried me, especially given Blair’s accomodationist stance. But since then I’ve been very impressed with the way the British establishment has handled ID in particular, and creationism in general. The media have by and large reported on ID critically and in context, while the government – Blair aside – has made clear that neither ID nor all-out creationism have any place in the science curriculum or examinations. In the US the scientific and educational communities to a degree sleepwalked in to the current crisis, underestimating the determination of creationists and failing to rally support for science. Furthermore the US media, until recently and with a few notable exceptions – The York Daily Record during the Dover trial, for instance – has covered the story appallingly, repeating creationist lies without any attempt at verification, creating a false appearance of scientific controversy and miscommunicating basic concepts of evolution. I don’t see that sort of thing happening here, at least not on anything like the same scale. Most British papers aren’t afraid of calling nutters nutters.

    The rise of evangelical, even fundamentalist Christianity in this country is definitely something to keep an eye on – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it had more active followers than the CofE in 20 years, and that will change the political landscape dramatically. But the response to creationism per se has been much more vigorous, much earlier, and with much less obfuscation by the media and authorities than in the US. This has to be encouraging.

  69. manigen said,

    March 5, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    @pv

    I know a handful of theologians. I wouldn’t say they research nothing any more than I would say a classicist researches nothing. Their field of study is a religion; its philosophy, holy works and effect upon the world. Like it or not, all these things exist, and theologians are engaged in the process of both understanding them and affecting them, continuously.
    I like your definition of religion though.

    @malcolm

    Don’t let a few people getting heated up lead to you loosing an argument with your wife. Stick to your guns! There’s arrogance everywhere, but it’s spread roughly equally into all segments of society.

  70. malcolm said,

    March 5, 2007 at 7:35 pm

    “indeed religion is not scientific. It is:

    a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.”

    Not sure about this – I believe there are plenty of belief systems classified as religions which do not have creator/governor Gods – pantheistic nature religions for example. Not sure this even covers Buddhism.

    Anyway, what do these terms mean?

    I can’t get my head around what existed before anything existed – maybe that’s why I like the Gospel of John – ‘In the beginning was the word etc.’

    Governor – in what sense is a non interventionist deity a governor – another inadequate political term trying to express something not very clearly.

    Creator and governor are words we can apply to people, but to a deity they are pretty meaningless.

    Nope – think that’s a pretty crap definition, wherever it came from.

    It is an observable fact that people have religious experiences, some profound, some trivial. It is very arrogant to deny those experiences. Faith is subjective by definition.

  71. jackpt said,

    March 5, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Hi Malcolm

    I’m an atheist and I have no problems with the characteristics of religious experiences. However, I think they are not supernatural experiences, and can be explained scientifically. That doesn’t detract from the effects they have on people, it just means that they shouldn’t be seen as a validation of a god or religion.

    And I don’t think most atheists dismiss religious experience, it’s just they don’t see them as supernatural.

  72. malcolm said,

    March 5, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    ‘I’m an atheist and I have no problems with the characteristics of religious experiences. However, I think they are not supernatural experiences, and can be explained scientifically. ”

    If, as Professor Rose says, neuroscientists cannot understand consciousness yet , I doubt science can explain religious experience.

    But I see it rather as like how can you explain free will scientifically – you can’t – it’s not that sort of issue (my favoured explanation is Strawson’s Freedom and Resentment by the way). Not everything is science, some things are philosophy, religion etc – supernatural is a woo word – I don’t believe in the supernatural in that sense, but I am religious.

  73. DomShields said,

    March 5, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    Ah, the old “God of the gaps” argument – or as Eddie Izzard put it at the Secret Policemen’s Ball

    “If we can’t explain it now – it must be magic”

    When we explain it scientifically and it ceases to be magic, woo retreats a bit more – can you see the trend ?

  74. jackpt said,

    March 5, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    Malcolm, you’re right that there is no consensus on many subjects in science, but that shouldn’t be seen as meaning that they can’t be explained. It would be bad if science worked on that basis :-).

    There is no scientific consensus, on free will, much as there is no religious consensus on free will. But science has come up with potentially true (or falsifiable – that’s what’s great about science) theories regarding it, not least evolutionary biology and fields such as neuroscience, which give us a bit more understanding year on year.

    Not being able to understand something doesn’t rule out gaining knowledge about it, or having explanations that can’t be proven true or false.

  75. Despard said,

    March 5, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    ‘If, as Professor Rose says, neuroscientists cannot understand consciousness yet , I doubt science can explain religious experience.’

    malcolm: as jakpt (#75) points out, the key word is ‘yet’. Science, *good* science, takes time, money and lots of hard work to find anything out. That’s because it is rigorous and conservative and careful about making pronouncements.

    Explaining consciousness is a tricky task, but as a neuroscientist myself I don’t believe it’s impossible. Every year we get a better description of how the brain works. I’m just starting out my career and this is one field I’m definitely interested in (though I’m comign at it from the perspective of motor control and robotics myself).

    As for free will, it is entirely possible that free will is an illusion. ‘The Meme Machine’ by Susan Blackmore is an intriguing read on this topic (although, it must perhaps be noted, not to be taken as gospel. ;)).

  76. malcolm said,

    March 5, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    “As for free will, it is entirely possible that free will is an illusion. ‘The Meme Machine’ by Susan Blackmore is an intriguing read on this topic (although, it must perhaps be noted, not to be taken as gospel. ).”

    Even if you have a complete scientific description of how the brain works, you don’t solve the problem of free will, because it is a philosophical problem, not a scientific one. You’re looking at concepts like category errors, metalanguage etc – it has nothing to do with science – that’s my basic point – not everything is science. I’ll stick with Strawson – do have a look at Freedom and Resentment – a landmark paper in philosophy.

    PS I like the gospel bits in people’s posts – the original gospel meaning of gospel is of course ‘Good News’, the gospel truth bit came later.

  77. manigen said,

    March 5, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    But how can you have a complete scientific explanation of how the brain works without a theory of free will? In order to regard itself as complete, such an explanation would have to suggest an explanation for why humans experience free will.

    Of course if the answer is that we don’t, and that our will is an illusion we create to connect our current internal state with the influx of information from our senses, that’s always going to be contreversial. Which is a good thing. Because controversy is fun.

  78. Robert Carnegie said,

    March 5, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    For a couple of years I was a Pentecostalist. One thing that struck me was that lots of people were incredibly keen to know if I’d accepted Jesus Christ as my personal saviour, and didn’t seem to want to take “yes” for an answer. Maybe there was a secret code that I was never told?? Maybe they couldn’t believe it. (It only wore off after I quit the little local church because I didn’t agree with a money thing.) But I wonder if they were really, really hungry to claim a convert themselves. Not everyone gets to, ever, and I guess it’s like selling an extended warranty. I didn’t feel a strong urge myself, though. I think I did lose one job interview by somehow falling into talking about my religion.

  79. raygirvan said,

    March 6, 2007 at 12:34 am

    “I just pray for this equipment”

    That one has whiskers on it. A couple of decades back a now-no-longer -friend played me a tape of a public evangelical lecture (mainly a rant about backward masking – the Beatles Turn Me On, Dead Man referrring to Satan, etc). And it involved the same line about Satan trying to stop the talk by screwing up the sound equipment. Microphone goes into feedback, lecturer restores it to normal by burbling in tongues.

  80. jessej said,

    March 6, 2007 at 1:09 am

    This discussion – well at least some of its implications and comments by Ben – reminds me of a lively one initiated by Larry Moran (sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-is-science.html).
    His issue (for those of you who don’t want to go read it) is the case of a PhD in geosciences
    being awarded to a New Earth Creationist on the basis of some palaeontological reseach. The
    new PhD is now teaching creationist earth science at a Christian (capital letter important)
    university.

    To what degree, if any, should awarding intitutions take into account candidates’ personal
    beliefs (religious or otherwise), especially where these beliefs appear to be in direct contradiction
    to the fundamental scientific principles that underlie their area of study? Holding a (real!) PhD is a
    validation of that person’s scientific authority to the rest of the world – should you award one to
    someone who’s agenda is clearly to wield that authority in ways that are antithetical to the work
    they did to qualify for it?

  81. bstirling said,

    March 6, 2007 at 1:10 am

    for those who say scientists can’t be Christian, I’ll make sure to call up the university here and let them know to take back a couple of degrees. I have a few friends who are scientists and are also Christian, including geneticists who also believe in evolution.

    Many milder Christian sorts are horrified by this sort of behaviour. I grew up in the United Church of Canada, which is about as liberal as churches get (we ordain gay and lesbian ministers, solemnize same-sex marriages and call God “she” sometimes). Personally, I only talk about my faith if people ask about it, or if the conversation calls for it (like this one, actually).

    I’m ashamed of the evangelicals. I have to defend my beliefs to my atheist brother (who is also gay) on a regular basis because he doesn’t understand that Christians are not all the same terrible bigots he has to face so much of the time. It’s for me tough to be lumped in with a bunch of crazies like that.

    I often find myself siding with the non-religious community on a lot of issues (religion in schools, that kind of thing), but I find that the sort of anti-religious sentiment coming from many atheists is just as offensive and intolerant as the comments made by the fundamentalists. Neither one promotes coexistence.

    Many milder Christians keep their mouths shut about their beliefs in a lot of circumstances because they feel like they’ll get tarred with the same brush if they speak up. Maybe that’s why you don’t hear them speaking out much.

  82. Len said,

    March 6, 2007 at 6:18 am

    test

  83. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 7:36 am

    Re: 78 – “But how can you have a complete scientific explanation of how the brain works without a theory of free will? In order to regard itself as complete, such an explanation would have to suggest an explanation for why humans experience free will.

    Of course if the answer is that we don’t, and that our will is an illusion we create to connect our current internal state with the influx of information from our senses, that’s always going to be contreversial. Which is a good thing. Because controversy is fun.”

    Manigen

    It is perfectly possible to have a theory of the brain which does not solve the problem of free will and for free will not to be an illusion – all the philosophical arguments about this start from the premiss that we can have a complete scientific understanding of the brain. Scientifically explicable or Illusion is a false dichotomy which underlies my problem with some of the posts under this thread – there are different ways of thinking about the problem, without getting into woo science either. Good science is great, but it doesn’t explain everything. (I was going to put The Meaning of Life but worried that there might be an irony deficit out there in cyberspace!).

  84. ToeKnee said,

    March 6, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Two words; Child Abuse.

  85. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 7:53 am

    Re:76 “‘If, as Professor Rose says, neuroscientists cannot understand consciousness yet , I doubt science can explain religious experience.’

    malcolm: as jakpt (#75) points out, the key word is ‘yet’. Science, *good* science, takes time, money and lots of hard work to find anything out. That’s because it is rigorous and conservative and careful about making pronouncements.”

    jakpt/Despard

    If I’m not totally misinterpreting Rose’s point, I think what Rose said was that our conciousness had not yet evolved to the point where it can understand conciousness, and may never. It’s not that the science has just not yet been done because it takes time, resources etc, it’s because we don’t have the necessary conceptualising skills to understand what conciousness entails (which doesn’t mean we should accept woo explanations either)

  86. John said,

    March 6, 2007 at 9:02 am

    I think we should all be worried video such as the above. Dawkin’s made a very interesting point in an interview when he published “The God Delusion” that many of these US fundamentalists actually would like there to be a nuclear war as this would result in the second coming of Christ. Scary stuff.

    A little bit of light relief and sanity see George Carlin here:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uBAPbOWLxc

  87. manigen said,

    March 6, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Malcolm,

    I agree. I think I may have explained myself poorly in my earlier post. Of course it’s possible to have a theory of the brain, as you refer to it, without explaining consciousness. But then it wouldn’t be a complete theory of the brain. It would only be a partial one. It may be, as you suggest, that we will never arrive at a complete one.

    And I wasn’t trying to imply that consciousness will definitely turn out to be an illusion, I’m hardly qualified to comment in such detail on a field where my reading only extends to a couple of popular science books.

    But… DomShields mentioned the God of the Gaps earlier. And that deity is a crippled, desperate thing. By all means believe in God because of your personal faith or experiences, but don’t simply ascribe the space of human ignorance to a higher power. The fact that we don’t understand consciousness (“yet” – jackpt) is no reason to suppose we have to call in theistic reinforcements.

    The God of the Gaps is a roadblock to progress, one that stops people worrying about big questions. But they should be worrying. They should be aware that these questions exist and that “because God” is not an adequate answer. Otherwise, there’s no hope of ever learning anything new.

  88. Despard said,

    March 6, 2007 at 10:00 am

    Re. 86: ‘If I’m not totally misinterpreting Rose’s point, I think what Rose said was that our conciousness had not yet evolved to the point where it can understand conciousness, and may never. It’s not that the science has just not yet been done because it takes time, resources etc, it’s because we don’t have the necessary conceptualising skills to understand what conciousness entails (which doesn’t mean we should accept woo explanations either)’

    See, I don’t agree with this. There are many theories about what consciousness might or might not entail. Most if not all of the current ones will be wrong of course, but I really don’t think that you can make the claim that consciousness cannot be conceptualised. It’s amazing what *can* be conceptualised if you think about it – relativity, quantum mechanics, weird crazy stuff like that. I don’t see why consciousness is any different.

    It’s possible that we may never be able to fully understand the phenomenon, but then we never really fully understand anything (for a given value of ‘fully’). Science is about building models that fit the data, and the models keep getting better as we have more data. That’s it.

    As for the free will thing, I didn’t mean to make the dichotomy that ‘it must be scientifically explicable or illusion.’ Quite the reverse: my scientific understanding from my study of physics and neuroscience is that free will is an illusion. Not that that makes me *feel* any less like I have free will of course. :-)

  89. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Manigen

    I see The God of the Gaps as another straw man put up by atheists. I don’t believe in God because I can’t explain conciousness – the two are entirely separate. As someone who studied philosophy at University 30 years ago, I can also deal with the problem of free will to my satisfaction without invoking a deity, or having a complete scientific description of the brain.

    It is easy to criticise many medieval religious notions, as it is to scoff at many aspects of medieval medicine. Some people still believe in medieval religious claptrap, just as some people believe in woo science, it is absolutely the same. I don’t criticise good science because of the crap bad science flying around, so I would ask for respect for good religion such as expressed by people like Dom Cupitt in his work on the Sea of Faith, or indeed if you read Rowan William’s theological work. If you can engage with that, fine, but otherwise we are engaged in an exercise in mutual non communication – remember, I’m here because someone asked for a liberal Anglican view, so engage with what liberal Anglicans believe, not some crazy fundamentalists.

  90. DomShields said,

    March 6, 2007 at 10:28 am

    Ah but you have “Straw Manned” my point by playing the “Straw Man” card. I have not as I understand the silly phrase misrepresented someone else’s position only to knock it down (really this straw man thing is the stuff of playground).
    Instead I made the point that there is no mileage at all in taking the position that because humans are not omniscient, there must be a supernatural being to explain the areas we cannot yet (or ever) explain.

  91. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 10:48 am

    re 91

    Dom,

    I was replying to Manigen’s post no.86, not yours – your point is absolutely right, I couldn’t agree more.

  92. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:01 am

    Re 89

    Despard

    I can agree with most of that, except for free will being an illusion – it’s a concept inextricably tied into our notion of personal identity – if free will is an illusion, so is personal identity (in any meaningful use of the word illusion), and it’s not – see Strawson- ‘Individuals’, Bernard Wiliams ‘Problems of the Self’ et al.

  93. manigen said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Malcolm,

    I rather get the impression I’ve gotten off on the wrong foot with you.

    I was trying to respond to what you said earlier:

    “But I see it rather as like how can you explain free will scientifically – you can’t – it’s not that sort of issue (my favoured explanation is Strawson’s Freedom and Resentment by the way). Not everything is science, some things are philosophy, religion etc – supernatural is a woo word – I don’t believe in the supernatural in that sense, but I am religious.”

    My problem was with the phrase “you can’t – it’s not that sort of issue”. I’m afraid I misinterpreted that as indicating that you felt it was a point on which religious explanations were necessary. Now I understand from post 90 (“I can also deal with the problem of free will to my satisfaction without invoking a deity”) that this isn’t the case. Just crossed wires. I still feel it’s too early in the day for you to make a bald statement like you did – nobody knows whether science has anything to say on consciousness yet. Give it some time, it’s a slow process.

    I’m disturbed that you interpreted my post as a personal attack. It wasn’t meant that way. More to the point, your description of “an exercise in mutual non-communication” is wrong. It’s an argument, sure, but I’ve learnt plenty.

  94. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:50 am

    re 94

    Manigen

    Sorry if I sounded a bit tetchy. I agree science can say many useful things about consciousness, but not about free will – I still maintain that’s a category error.

    I’m not really feeling attacked by you – all good robust debate (by the way Ben, any chance you can get an online spellchecker on the typepad?). The bit about non-communication was really just a general point about the need to combine enquiry into someone’s beliefs along with advocacy of your own – nothing personal.

    Love (Agape)

    Malcolm

  95. manigen said,

    March 6, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Malcolm,

    Good. Glad we sorted that out.

    I’m intrigued by your use of the word consciousness. You see, I would regard free will as a well defined phenomenon – its our perception of choice and the reality that that may reflect. But consciousness strikes me as being a very nebulous, ill defined word. When people use it, they often seem to be talking about different things.

    Would you care to have a stab at defining what you mean by consciousness? Also, feel free to challenge my defenition of free will.

    Love (Philia)

    Manigen

  96. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Manigen

    I’d say consciousness was more akin to self-awareness – to think, but also to know you are thinking

    Free will is the idea that we are responsible for our own actions – as you say, the idea that we have choices

    Knowing you are thinking and being able to make choices are fairly separate things in my mind, although they are linked through both relating to personal identity.

  97. Despard said,

    March 6, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Re. 93: ‘I can agree with most of that, except for free will being an illusion – it’s a concept inextricably tied into our notion of personal identity – if free will is an illusion, so is personal identity (in any meaningful use of the word illusion), and it’s not – see Strawson- ‘Individuals’, Bernard Wiliams ‘Problems of the Self’ et al.’

    I’ll have to read your references. Free will stuff is really difficult to debate about because as soon as you try and introduce a personal perspective you’re in trouble! Free will is indeed tied into the notion of personal identity, but the two are not the same. My way of thinking about it is: I don’t believe I have free will, but I *feel* as if I do, so I act like I do. That makes me the person I am.

    Whether ‘personal identity’ is an illusion is another question, and depends on the meaning of ‘illusion’. In a way the whole world is an illusion – we don’t see with our eyes, for example, we see with our brains, and they construct a model of the world for our bodies to navigate.

    Anyway this is rather off topic! Um, Jesus Camp is rubbish. That should do it.

  98. malcolm said,

    March 6, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    “My way of thinking about it is: I don’t believe I have free will, but I *feel* as if I do, so I act like I do. That makes me the person I am.”

    Exactly – I behave the way I do, not randomly, which is what free will means – the ability to be yourself. Do a bit of philosophy of language – speech act theories etc, and you’ve got it cracked, or as the prisoner said “I am not a number, I am a free man.”

    Jesus camp is rubbish and dangerous rubbish. Amen

  99. manigen said,

    March 6, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    On the subject of consciousness, have any of you heard of Libet’s experiment? There’s a discussion of it here:

    www.consciousentities.com/libet.htm

    The design of the experiment is fascinating, and open to objections on a number of points most of which are discussed in the article. But it does suggest a major difference between our perception of our thoughts and the thoughts themselves. We base our ideas of free will and consciousness on these perceptions.

    Malcolm, way back in the mists of this thread you suggested “perhaps consciousness has not yet evolved to the point where it can comprehend consciousness” (quoting from another source). I suspect this might be absolutely right – consciousness may not even have arrived at a point where it can comprehend its own abscence.

    Of course, that’s just a guess on my part.

    Bad Jesus Camp! Bad!

  100. simongates said,

    March 6, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Did you see the name on the bottle of water that she is using to wash the children’s hands at about 3’20” into the clip?? I’m pretty sure it says NESTLE

    Big multinational conspiracy theory anyone?

  101. 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!)

  102. 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.

  103. 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.

  104. 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.

  105. 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.

  106. 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.

  107. 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.

  108. 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).

  109. 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 :-)

  110. 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.

  111. 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.

  112. 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.

  113. 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.

  114. 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

  115. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 6, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    natural selection in action

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

  116. 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.

  117. 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

  118. 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!

  119. 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!!

  120. 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.

  121. 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

  122. 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?

  123. 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?

  124. 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.

  125. 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.

  126. jackpt said,

    March 6, 2007 at 11:56 pm

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

  127. 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.

  128. 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.

  129. 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.

  130. 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.

  131. 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.

  132. 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.

  133. 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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