What if schizophrenics really are possessed by demons, after all?

By Rebecca Roache

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Is there anything wrong with seriously entertaining this possibility? Not according to the author of a research article published this month in Journal of Religion and Health. In ‘Schizophrenia or possession?’,1 M. Kemal Irmak notes that schizophrenia is a devastating chronic mental condition often characterised by auditory hallucinations. Since it is difficult to make sense of these hallucinations, Irmak invites us ‘to consider the possibility of a demonic world’ (p. 775). Demons, he tells us, are ‘intelligent and unseen creatures that occupy a parallel world to that of mankind’ (p. 775). They have an ‘ability to possess and take over the minds and bodies of humans’ (p. 775), in which case ‘[d]emonic possession can manifest with a range of bizarre behaviors which could be interpreted as a number of different psychotic disorders’ (p. 775). The lessons for schizophrenia that Irmak draws from these observations are worth quoting in full:

As seen above, there exist similarities between the clinical symptoms of schizophrenia and demonic possession. Common symptoms in schizophrenia and demonic possession such as hallucinations and delusions may be a result of the fact that demons in the vicinity of the brain may form the symptoms of schizophrenia. Delusions of schizophrenia such as “My feelings and movements are controlled by others in a certain way” and “They put thoughts in my head that are not mine” may be thoughts that stem from the effects of demons on the brain. In schizophrenia, the hallucination may be an auditory input also derived from demons, and the patient may hear these inputs not audible to the observer. The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons. This input seems to be construed by the patient as “bad things,” reflecting the operation of the nervous system on the poorly structured sensory input to form an acceptable percept. On the other hand, auditory hallucinations expressed as voices arguing with one another and talking to the patient in the third person may be a result of the presence of more than one demon in the body. (p. 776)

Irmak concludes that ‘it is time for medical professions to consider the possibility of demonic possession in the etiology of schizophrenia’ and that ‘it would be useful for medical professions to work together with faith healers to define better treatment pathways for schizophrenia’ (p. 776).

This is a dumbfounding argument, and it is shocking to find it published in a post-mediaeval peer-reviewed journal. Lest anyone suspect me of being unfairly prejudiced against the possibility of demons, let me point out that even those who subscribe to a demonic metaphysics should not be persuaded by Irmak’s argument. His observation that ‘there exist similarities between the clinical symptoms of schizophrenia and demonic possession’ is no more surprising than the observation that there exist similarities between financial compensation for childhood tooth loss and visits by the tooth fairy: in each case, the latter is a hypothesis motivated by a desire to explain the former. If the uncanny similarity between schizophrenia and demonic possession is evidence that demonic possession is real, then the uncanny similarity between financial compensation for childhood tooth loss and visits by the tooth fairy is presumably evidence that the tooth fairy is real. Admittedly, there is an important disanalogy between the two cases: science knows how and why children get compensated for their lost teeth, but not exactly how and why schizophrenics experience auditory hallucinations.2 But, even so, in the words of the comedian Dara Ó Briain, ‘just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you’.

What is most concerning about this argument is not that Irmak believes demonic possession to be worthy of serious consideration in explaining schizophrenia. People hold bizarre beliefs all the time, and it may be that Irmak is well-intentioned; indeed, he dedicates his paper ‘to the American mathematician John Forbes Nash and to all schizophrenic patients’. What I find more disturbing is that the editorial board and peer reviewers of a scholarly publication, in 2014, find this view of mental illness worthy of dissemination. Those who have espoused similarly fanciful hypotheses about other sorts of misfortunes have, in recent years, been lambasted: recall Glenn Hoddle’s claim that disability is a punishment for sins committed in past lives, and William Roache’s apparent suggestion that people wouldn’t be sexually abused unless they had misbehaved ‘in previous lives or whatever’. Such views are dehumanising and disrespectful to, respectively, disabled and sexually abused people, and they shift focus away from serious efforts to improve these people’s lives.

Why, then, are schizophrenic patients fair game, at least at the Journal of Religion and Health? The most charitable explanation that I can think of is that the publication of the article was a result of gross editorial oversight. Another explanation—one that is perhaps, unfortunately, more realistic—is that there is still a long way to go before those with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia are universally recognised as suffering from the worst sort of afflication that can befall a person.

 

References

1 Irmak, M.K. 2014: ‘Schizophrenia or possession?’ Journal of Religion and Health 53: 773–77.

2 If anyone disagrees with this, perhaps the Journal of Religion and Health would be interested to hear about it.

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35 Responses to What if schizophrenics really are possessed by demons, after all?

  • John says:

    There is such a thing as an evil spirit.When Lucifer rebelled against God in the pre-earth life he was cast out of heaven or the pre-earth life and took a third of the hosts of heaven with him.These spirits that followed Lucifer are present amongst us today and they want us to be miserable by rebelling against God and becoming subject to him.To find out more please visit-mormon.org

  • Irene says:

    Whilst this paper is clearly nonsense, I do think that science/ medicine, possibly especially in the area of mental health also has a tendency to “fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals”. E.g. in her book “Brain on Fire” a journalist describes her experience where she has a period of psychosis. She is eventually diagnosed with an auto-immune disease (very rare at the time, which has now had many more diagnoses) and cured with steroids but in the meantime, she is quite confidently, and without investigations or tests other than conversations, diagnosed and treated for bipolar depression, alcoholism and (I think) schizophrenia. Most of her doctors weren’t incompetent or reckless, but just following standard procedures.

    I suppose what I am trying to say is, just because an explanation is not so absurd as saying someone is possessed isn’t really a reason to congratulate ourselves. The lack of knowledge we have about mental disorders seems to me to mean that some diagnoses are essentially a secular version of saying just that: there is something wrong with this patient that can’t be explained- they are effectively “possessed” by a certain “disease”, but disease inthis context just means possessed-like symptoms. Perhaps I am wronging the current state of medicine but I would certainly not be confident that if I were to get an auto immune disease that needs treatment by steroids that affected my behaviour and experiences of the world, i wouldn’t wind up being effectively exorcised by a psychiatrist talking me through it, or witch-doctored with psychotropic drugs that just zombify me

    • Rebecca Roache says:

      Thanks Irene. Misdiagnosis is certainly a problem in any area of medicine, and it is perhaps exacerbated in the area of mental health because of the relative lack of understanding of the mind and mental illness, and the fact that psychiatric illnesses are not diagnosed on the basis of tests that give a definitive answer. So, conversations are the key diagnostic tool.

      Some psychoanalytic accounts of illness (mental or otherwise) are not much more sensible than the demon hypothesis, and there is much that is wrong with psychiatry. You draw an interesting parallel between medical treatment and exorcism, and I agree that treatment based on inadequate science can be as misguided and ineffective as treatment based on pure bunkum. But, that science is inadequate is not sufficient reason to give up and resort to bunkum, which is what the author of this article is suggesting. I suspect that nobody would dare to advance an analogous argument about a somatic illness: to claim, for example, that since scientists haven’t yet cured cancer, we should entertain the possibility that it is caused by annoyed telepathic cats. That expresses a concerning view about mental illness.

      • Irene says:

        Thanks Rebecca, and I definitely see your point. I suppose I think that underlying both problems is a need we have as people to explain things, and act on them, often way before we actually know anything about them. As a comparison to somatic illness, it might be how we used to practice blood letting for fevers and so on. Because we are so advanced in other areas now I think this prevents real progress in mental illness. We label some set of symptoms schizophrenia and then to the layperson (like me) it seems equivalent to a disease like cancer where there is a reasonable body of knowledge (though still a work in progress). Whereas in fact some diagnoses (it seems to me) are really just bringing together a set of troubling symptoms and trying to manage them. If this was highlighted more it might a) encourage doctors to first rule out known conditions and b) highlight the urgency of more scientific research into these diseases

        • Rebecca Roache says:

          I agree with all of this, Irene. Understanding the mind is arguably the most difficult task facing philosophers, and we still haven’t managed it in over two thousand years of considering it. The job of psychiatrists is not only to do the job of philosophers by understanding the mind (or, at least, have a working knowledge of certain aspects of it), but also to fix it when it goes wrong. This, clearly, is an ominous task, and schizophrenia is very poorly understood compared to many somatic illnesses. I think that considering why it is poorly understood is an important part of addressing it: i.e. being aware of what problems need to be solved before it can be effectively treated. I am no expert on this, but I fear that insufficient attention to pre-scientific accounts of schizophrenic symptoms (e.g. possession by demons) is not one of these problems! To put it in perspective, though, some scientists are also mistaken about what problems must be solved before schizophrenia (and other mental illnesses) can be managed effectively … for example, some think that all we need is a better understanding of biology.

      • Anonymous says:

        I think your analogy between telepathic cats and cancer, and demons and schizophrenia, is slightly unfair Rebecca. For the following reason: the mental health act and the philosophy of psychiatry more generally seems to recognise an element of ‘possession’ that has taken place when someone is afflicted with schizophrenia. In so far as the MHA recognises that although a mentally ill person may have capacity, they can still be force treated if their decision would cause grave harm to themselves (among other permutations). This is the case if it is felt their decision is ‘the result’ of the mental illness. So unlike a Jehovah’s witness who can make a capacitious decision to cause grave harm to themselves, a person with schizophrenia who makes the same decision with capacity cannot. I think the mental health act recognises the philosophical claim implicit in this which is that we are not ourselves with severe mental illness. Even though we may be able to weigh and retain information for a decision (capacity), the values that underpin the decision (CIA conspiracy/phobias/delusions of grandeur) are not our own – we would not ordinarily hold these beliefs. So I agree with Irene’s suggestions that secular understanding of disease can often make a very similar claim to the ‘demon hypothesis’ – i.e. usurpation or hijacking of someone’s personality by a ‘pathology’. Importantly, whilst I agree with this secular interpretation, it is not scientifically grounded – nor can it be. It is normative. It is founded on the ethical questions of how we should understand someone’s identity and when we should think they are in control of their own values and beliefs, rather than out of control.

        The demon hypothesis – if explicated – would be a load of rubbish I’m sure. We would prefer a theory that found deregulated dopamine neurones or some cellular pathology, rather than mystery creatures. But it is interesting that the latter theory is so quickly dismissed despite – on its face – having strong similarities to the psychiatry of philosophy more generally. Telepathic cats and cancer does not have this connexion.

        • Rebecca Roache says:

          Thanks very much for this. If it is permissible to treat mentally ill people without their consent, then this is plausibly because they lack certain important decision-making capacities. It is not necessary to subscribe to the idea of ‘possession’ in order to explain this: we can, instead, point to the reduced practical reasoning abilities of psychotic patients. (Perhaps you are using ‘possession’ in a metaphorical sort of way, in which case I may have no quarrel with it, but this is not the use of the term that I criticise in the post above.) In any case, Irmak does not use possession to explain why it is that schizophrenic patients lack decision-making capacities whilst psychotic, but rather to explain the nature of hallucinations (if I understand his argument correctly). He apparently sees room for such an explanation because science cannot fully account for the experience of hallucinations in psychosis. Science can’t fully explain why cancers develop, either. My point, in drawing a comparison between using demons to explain hallucinations and using telepathic cats to explain cancer, was that incomplete scientific understanding of an illness does not constitute a free-for-all in which any fanciful hypothesis is as good as any other for filling the gaps left by science. Further, since (I suspect) nobody would seriously contemplate doing this in the case of cancer, it is reasonable to take a dim view of attempts to do it in the case of similarly devastating mental illness, too.

  • We’ll, you should have in depth knowledge about demonic possession before you think of something quite irrelevant. One needs to do supernatural things for you to believe he is possessed. Schizophrenics don’t speak in languages they don’t know yet, say spanish, Arabic or German. They just utter nonsense. They don’t levitate, or do any thing supernatural, they are simply mentally ill. Scientists are not stupid to argue demons just like that. And again, when they are diagnosed they respond to scientific methods not crosses and prayers. We are all or may be most ignorant if the devil and God exist. But, what you are saying is just, come on!

  • We’ll, you should have in depth knowledge about demonic possession before you think of something quite irrelevant. One needs to do supernatural things for you to believe he is possessed. Schizophrenics don’t speak in languages they don’t know yet, say spanish, Arabic or German. They just utter nonsense. They don’t levitate, or do any thing supernatural, they are simply mentally ill. Scientists are not stupid to argue demons don’t exist just like that. And again, when they are diagnosed they respond to scientific methods not crosses and prayers. We are all or may be most ignorant if the devil and God exist. But, what you are saying is just, come on!

  • Materly says:

    This should be met with ridicule. There is no evidence for the supernatural not to talk of characterised demons.

  • Materly says:

    This should be met with ridicule. There is no evidence for the supernatural not to talk of characterised demons.

    Consider the atrocities that mankind has committed on to each other , if there was meddling supernatural entities at play , it would not be illogical, if we accepted this kind of thinking, to say , that somehow the murdered , the tortured and the raped somehow deserved there fate. Stoneage thinking in a modern age.

  • Irish Murdoch says:

    If schizophrenic symptoms are caused by demons “in the vicinity of the brain”, why don’t people standing next to schizophrenics share their symptoms (since if demons are in the vicinity of A’s brain, and B is standing right next to A, then demons are in the vicinity of B’s brain)?

    It’s also rather peculiar that Irmak confidently says that schizophrenic symptoms are similar to the symptoms of possession, as if we have all already agreed that possession exists!! What is more, the similarity must exist in the opposite direction too, as similarity is a symmetrical relation. So why not just say that the symptoms of so-called possession are similar to those of schizophrenia, and run the reduction that way: what appears to be possession is in fact schizophrenia, rather than the other way about?

    • Rebecca Roache says:

      Thanks Irish … I agree that there are one or two holes in Irmak’s argument ;)

  • Douglas Carnall says:

    This ox.ac.uk-hosted site has a nasty little tendency not merely to disagree with other authors, but to suggest that their views are unworthy of dissemination, as above. Certainly a possible consequence of disagreement with a published article is that one’s esteem for the responsible editor also diminishes. Fine. Read something else. Let the article join the great uncited 50-80% of the scholarly literature. Let the journal’s impact factor fall into its boots. Let its publisher go bankrupt.
    But if even the ethicists are preferring censorship and suppression over scholarly debate, we are indeed in living in dark times. With even a minimum of consideration for other perspectives, less dumb certainty is possible. It is surely reasonable to be able to discuss one’s terminological preference for “schizophrenia” or “demonic possession” in transcultural contexts.
    The attraction of the article to the editor might be explained by the following sentence in the abstract: “A local faith healer in our region helps the patients with schizophrenia. His method of treatment seems to be successful because his patients become symptom free after 3 months.”
    As the article’s paywalled there I must leave it. But I’m glad the author exercised their right to publish, and I find in this blog post sad evidence of an ethnological ignorance unworthy of the prestigious domain at which it is hosted.

    • Rebecca Roache says:

      Thanks Douglas. I think there is much more at stake here than a ‘terminological preference’. Whether or not one thinks that schizophrenia is caused by demonic possession has implications for the way in which it is researched and treated, and attitudes towards the mentally ill. If I read you correctly, you also imply that it is important to take into account cultural factors when deciding how to understand and treat mental illness. I agree 100%. But such efforts should complement scientific methods, not replace them.

      I am not calling for censorship of views I dislike, merely for the application of certain academic standards. As I say in the blog post above, the author’s argument does not stand up even if we remain open-minded about whether or not there are such things as demons. And, as I also say in some of the comments above, I suspect that a similar paper would not have been published if it had been about cancer (i.e. an inadequately understood, devastating, somatic illness) rather than schizophrenia.

      Incidentally, the claim you quoted about faith healers is repeated in the paper, but no evidence is offered in support of it. The only evidence offered by the author in support of the claim that faith healers should be used in the treatment of schizophrenia is a paper that reports that ‘faith healers may help patients with psychiatric disorders’ (I’m quoting Irmak here). This is hardly strong enough to support the author’s position about demons, since faith healers may help those with psychiatric disorders merely in the way that talking things over with close friends helps people in distress, or in the way that taking a placebo helps alleviate a variety of afflictions.

    • materly says:

      Douglas , im not sure what your saying . Are you opposed to opposition of the original article? As Carl Sagan said , extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Thinking alone does not correspond to evidence. A whole bunch of people think a whole bunch of things , fair enough , but if someone wants me to believe them , then there assertions should be open for debate. We have the medical model , how does the so called demonic model work , if there are supernatural entities at play how can you even model it. Its like discussing physics , and then saying , gravity behaves in infinitely different ways in infinitely different circumstances.

  • Douglas Carnall says:

    The line that I particularly objected to was this:

    “This is a dumbfounding argument, and it is shocking to find it published in a post-mediaeval peer-reviewed journal.”

    —for its emotional inadequacy—the writer being dumbfounded and shocked when presented with an alien point of view;
    —and its implicit assumption that the peer reviewed literature, has been, since medieval times (!), some sort of homogenous club to which breaches of the rules of entry are a clear cut matter.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m a strict naturalist myself. But it is surely the duty of all philosophers to defend the liberty of expression of all those supernaturalists, metaphysicians and theologians? If people can’t express faulty ideas and theories, how will we know if they are faulty or not?

    And if a shaman and his clientele are satisfied with the good outcomes they perceive using a shared demonological model of mental illness, this is an interesting natural phenomenon, which is as worthy of respectful scholarly effort as any other.

    • Rebecca Roache says:

      Re the paywall: if you’d like to read the article, email me (firstname.surname@philosophy.ox.ac.uk) and I’ll send you a copy.

      It wasn’t the alien point of view that dumbfounded me. Abstracting from the fact that the author was writing about demons and schizophrenia, the article takes the form: ‘Problem P could be addressed more effectively if the people trying to solve it would accept that S exists’. Beyond remarking that some people believe that S exists, the author offers no reason to believe that S exists, nor any reason to believe that if S exists, S causes P. Implicit in all this is the acknowledgement that most people do not believe S exists. What dumbfounded me was not that the belief that S exists is unusual, but that the editorial board and peer reviewers of a journal at one of the biggest academic publishers thought it worth publishing an article that makes a highly controversial claim without providing any argument whatsoever to support that claim. ‘[B]reaches of the rules of entry’ to peer-reviewed literature are not at all a ‘clear cut matter’, but there are cases where it is clear that an article ought not to be allowed entry. Such cases include articles that follow the sort of format I have just described.

      As a further remark, and from a more personal point of view, I find the article objectionable in that it promotes a view of schizophrenic people that those who suffer from, treat, or campaign about schizophrenia are still working hard to escape from; i.e. the view that schizophrenic people are in some sense less than human, or something other than ‘ill’. This is not to say that I think any article that promoted such a view would be unworthy of publication. An article that rigorously argues for an objectionable viewpoint is entitled to a place in academic literature (indeed, most academic publications fall into this category, from somebody’s point of view). But Irmak’s article does not rigorously argue for its controversial claim.

      There are some claims that are perhaps closely related to the Irmak’s claim, which I would view as very worthy of discussion. These include the claim that the fact (if it is one) that some schizophrenic people believe in demonic possession, or belong to communities where this belief is popular, means that it might be important for treatment of schizophrenia in those circumstances to be sensitive to this belief (along with other aspects of the patient’s culture). These also include the claim that if faith healing can be proven to be effective in treating mental illness, then there is a strong case for using it even if it is based on false or unproven beliefs (which would, I guess, be similar to the argument for using placebos as treatments in some cases).

  • Anders Sandberg says:

    I wonder if traditional religious people would actually like the paper to be taken seriously.

    Imagine a proper study of the demon hypothesis. It would likely involve randomized controlled trials of exorcisms on patients: real exorcism corresponding to patient belief system, real exorcism not corresponding to belief, fake exorcism corresponding to belief (i.e. subtly ‘defanged’ ritual), fake exorcism not corresponding to belief, and a control group.

    If there is no effect of exorcism, then it is bad for religious belief (or at least belief in exorcism). If there is a culture-specific effect of exorcism (contrasted with fake exorcism) then this suggests religious relativism. If exorcism using one belief system works even on non-believers but other belief systems doesn’t work it might at first seem we have some evidence for that belief system. Yet most faiths seem very unwilling to do this kind of comparision: perhaps because if one faith happens to be correct, then the majority of people – no matter how sincere – must be wrong about their faith.

    And of course, if we actually do get evidence for demons there will no doubt be a lot of further investigation that might be deeply problematic. After all, it would open what was previously claimed to be metaphysical questions to investigation. What if their properties did not fit with dogma? What if applied demonologists start developing more active exorcisms based not on faith but on empirical results? What about Big Pharma patenting blessed antipsychotic medications? (“Pfizer shares went up today as FDA approved Serenace Litany(tm)”)

    There is something curious going on with many non-naturalistic beliefs: they desperately try to remain non-naturalistic. Real evidence would make the previously supernatural natural (in some expanded sense of natural). But believers typically do not want the Hubble telescope to find God (“Oh, He has right ascension 12h 30m 49.42338s and declination +12° 23′ 28.0439″!”) or Hawking to show that He resides in a particular 72-dimensional manifold. They want meaningful signs that link to their experienced lives, and they typically do not consider meaning to reside in the natural world. So the actual discovery of demons would not just reduce the meaning of demons, it would actually threaten the meaning of other supernatural entities.

    But the reverse is also true: if schizophrenia could be moved away from naturalistic explanations into a non-naturalistic domain, it might be seen as a way of enriching the world of the non-naturalists. I suspect this was motivating the paper. The problem is of course that proper research would not just quietly give up an unsolved problem as supernatural, but actually continue to check for natural explanations and to see if the supernatural hypothesis produces lawful observations.

    • Rebecca Roache says:

      Thanks Anders – you have put your finger on something that I have been struggling to clarify! The Journal of Religion and Health can perhaps find some useful and productive ways to bring together religion and health, but this article is not an example of that. The epistemic standards for holding religious beliefs and beliefs about the nature and treatment of diseases are different, as you note. This article is perhaps an example of trying to get the scientists involved in a certain aspect of health research to adopt epistemic standards that are appropriate to religious belief, but not to science. So, whilst the fact that some communities believe in demons might be a reason to take that belief seriously as a religious belief, it is not a reason for scientists to take it seriously. To get scientists to take it seriously, we’d have to do the sort of thing that you describe, and then it seems to become something other than a religious belief …

      Of course, as I mentioned in a comment above, whilst science has no reason (in the absence of evidence) to take seriously the claim that demons exist, it does have reason to take seriously the fact that some people believe in demons, if this is relevant (for example) to the effective treatment of certain patients.

  • Douglas Carnall says:

    >traditional religious people

    Who they? Can you be a little more specific? Not all religions have demons…

    >would like the paper to be taken seriously

    If they could read it. I haven’t managed to yet, and I’m highly educated, reasonably well-off, and fairly resourceful, but outside the paywall. Not that the review has really drawn me to do so; I contributed here because I expect (perhaps quite unreasonably) the highest standards of scholarly behaviour from oxon ethicists.

    >proper study of the demon hypothesis

    The proper study of religious phenomena in other cultures uses ethnographic techniques. Ethical recruitment to any RCT in a culture in which an RCT is an alien method is highly problematic—what would informed consent look like?—never mind in the domain that my culture taught me to call “mental health.” If you reflect for a moment on the infrastructure necessary to practically conduct an RCT, in many parts of the world this requires a development agenda, which of necessity imports its own ideology and belief system in opposition, or at any rate parallel, with indigenous systems.

    All this is very well studied: the introductory medical anthropology text recommended to undergraduates back in my day was Cecil Helman’s Culture, Health and Illness. It’s now in its fifth edition, so Amazon tells me. Perusal thereof might ward off some demons, what what?

    • Anders Sandberg says:

      > The proper study of religious phenomena in other cultures uses ethnographic techniques.

      Yes, but the proper study of medical phenomena is RCT. And if we were to regard demons as a possible cause of schizophrenia, why apply the methodology of a different field? And why is ethnography applicable to religious phenomena rather than theology? Both RCT and ethnography are alien to the religious view.

      OK, I am slightly facetious here. Ethnography is quite relevant for understanding how patients and others construct mental illnesses, and the role religions play for them. Different fields – maybe even theology – may be able to contribute usefully. But then they will have to open up for the possibility that the problem might stretch across discipline boundaries, and that the findings they help establish may eventually undermine their own ontology (once epidemics was largely seen as a religious problem, but investigation has moved it outside applied theology and into biology and public health; the role of religion these days in epidemic management is mostly in psychological comfort rather than divine prevention). Honest investigation of a problem by any discipline means the discipline also risks discovering that it is not applicable.

      Note that my thought experiment did not assume the experiments were ethical: running fake exorcisms might be worse than giving placebo, since we toy with people’s beliefs. But even an unethical medical experiment may give useful information (leaving us in a quandary about whether to use it).

  • b.akoiry says:

    Very irrational!!! In the past centuries hysteria was considered as demoniac possession and patients were burned!!! Religion should stay far away from science. And who even proved the existence of demons or god???

  • Douglas Carnall says:

    The kind of multidisciplinary effort they’ve assembled at Durham is surely the way forward with this kind of difficult issue: https://www.dur.ac.uk/hearingthevoice/ (HT Iain Bamforth)

  • Musa says:

    You know nothing about the subkject, yet you do your best to discard it. Actually, it is about djinns, not demons, but the ones causing all these are most likely bad djinns. For example a commentator asks “why don’t people standing next to schizophrenics share their symptoms”, if I punch you, would that affect the person next to you? There are many such cases where when a member of a family is affected, others are also affected by time. If you are just so prejudiced. The other commentator says “Very irrational!!! In the past centuries hysteria was considered as demoniac possession and patients were burned!!! Religion should stay far away from science. And who even proved the existence of demons or god???” It was your ancestors who were burning people, not the Turks. People with such symptoms were never held accountable for anything in the Ottoman Empire. We were using music, water, colors, etc. to relax and cure people with mental illnesses, why you were torturing and burning them. If you are going to criticize a point of view, do it after you made an effort to learn one or two things about the subject. You are so prejudiced, as much as your ancestors torturing and burning people.

    • Musa says:

      Musa , if you choose to believe something that is without evidence thats fair enough , a democratic and free society should protect that , but if you wish to influence national and local policy to extend your beliefs and force them on other people then your beliefs should be backed up by evidence. And there is no evidence for the supernatural.

  • Mua says:

    It is not supernatural. It is what you call it in the West. We know more about what you call “supernatural” than scientists know about dimensions, gravitational and magnetic fileds, dark matter and energy, anti-matter, etc. You cannot tell me the reason or cause of gravitation. You only know it effetcs, you still know something causes it out there though, and as I have said, we know more about what you call “supernatural” than scientists know about those subjects.

  • Douglas Carnall says:

    >the proper study of medical phenomena is RCT

    The preferred level of evidence for the effectiveness of any intervention would be from one or more RCTs, it is true. But even the faithful of the church of EBM acknowledge that other kinds of studies may be performed, and offer a system to rank them: http://www.cebm.net/index.aspx?o=1025

    Why might this be?

    And the clinician making daily decisions about patients ideally would not read individual studies, but appropriate syntheses (http://ebm.bmj.com/content/6/2/36.full).

    So it is really not so simple as you paint it my dear Anders: a multitude of study methods of medical phenomena exist for good reason.

    As for knowledge from “unethical studies,” there is no quandary: if you can’t trust the authors to treat the patients ethically, what else can you trust them with? With any research on humans (or indeed animals) first we do ethics, then we do science.

  • Assoc.Prof.Dr.Armagan Samanci says:

    M.Kemal Irmak is not a psychiatrist.He is a retired professor of histology and embryology . It appears he had written such article with his convictions rather than a scientific basis.

  • qraal says:

    Clearly the author imagines that demons are real, but perhaps the ontology is back-to-front – why did ancient people believe demons exist? People hear their voices. Once that ’cause-effect’ relation had been adopted by the local religion, then it became a normative claim that needed only belief, not empirical evidence or direct experience. Now we have an alternative explanation – people hallucinate voices because brains are complex and chaotic – and the enshrined religious explanation has been discarded. Yet the old style ‘treatments’ seem to have *some* effect – maybe there’s something to their methods, even if their ontology is dubious.

    • Materly says:

      What your talking about are paradoxical interventions. They may work for other mental illness related problems , but for most sz sufferers I don’t believe they do. In fact the polar opposite , Reality Testing , etc offers a better outcome imo.

  • qraal says:

    In handling my own mental illness, actually the Reality Testing approach has worked much better than the assumption of demonization probably would. But I was curious about the shaman/exorcist’s method and whether there had been adequate follow-up of the ‘patients’. If so, then the method might have merit – the fact that it took effect over a protracted period rather than being instantaneous made it seem more like a psychological intervention rather than a mere ritual. However the context makes me doubtful of the efficacy claimed. Seems merely anecdotal in the abstract.

  • Kiumars Lalezarzadeh, PhD says:

    By Kiumars Lalezarzadeh PhD
    Most people may have kept a secret about that teenage- growth spurt related- soot like ghost experience- that rips out of the body and may be throws the body around, ‘pins’ to the wall, to the bed, to the floor, etc.; interestingly, the decision made (in retaliation to that “ghost” like experience) may determine the person’s career- the kind of work the person does in life.

    Interestingly, what may underlie this “ghost / demon” like experience may be in the amino acid metabolism (“oxidation of glycine, alanine and leucine” see referenc below) in the body during growth spurts (trauma and/or grief included– oxidative stress); the metabolized / oxidized amino acid turns into soot / carbon; that may form a ghost like ‘image’ in the brain; and then come out of the body- gravitate (be attracted) to carbon based Chrystal objects- such as a Chrystal glass– that then may shatter spontaneously in the cupboard.

    Perhaps the absolving, ‘releasing’, pardoning or exorcism has a close resemblance of developmental spurt- or release of metabolized – oxidized glycine, alanine and leucine (i.e., turned into soot / “ghost”).

    Maria T. O. Govinatzki, Luciana S. Velleda, Vera M. T. Trindade, Fabiano M. Nagel, Denise Bueno, Marcos L. S. Perry (January 1997). Amino Acid Metabolism in Rat Hippocampus During the Period of Brain Growth Spurt. Neurochemical Research, 22(1), 23-26.

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