IS SCHIZOPHRENIA CAUSED by demons? A Turkish researcher seems to think so, and his article on the topic was just published in the Journal of Religion and Health, a scientific journal owned by Springer, a German-based publishing company.
The first two-thirds of M. Kemal Irmak's paper, "Schizophrenia or Possession?", read normally enough. You learn about the devastating symptoms of schizophrenia, current treatment approaches, and the nature of the delusions and hallucinations that schizophrenics experience. And then you arrive at this little doozy:
"One approach to this hallucination problem is to consider the possibility of a demonic world."
The abrupt transition from established science to outlandish woo is positively comical. And once the quackery starts, it doesn't stop. You're first treated to a background on all things demonic (boldness added to emphasize the absurdity):
In our region, demons are believed to be intelligent and unseen creatures that occupy a parallel world to that of mankind. In many aspects of their world, they are very similar to us. They marry, have children, and die. The life span, however, is far greater than ours (Ashour 1989). Through their powers of flying and invisibility, they are the chief component in occult activities. The ability to possess and take over the minds and bodies of humans is also a power which the demons have utilized greatly over the centuries (Littlewood 2004; Gadit and Callanan 2006; Ally and Laher 2008). Most scholars accept that demons can possess people and can take up physical space within a human’s body (Asch 1985). They possess people for many reasons. Sometimes it is because they have been hurt accidentally, but possession may also occur because of love (Ashour 1989; Philips 1997). When the demon enters the human body, they settle in the control center of the body–brain.
Once the groundwork for demons is laid, Irmak expounds on the link between schizophrenia and possession:
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... The hallucination in schizophrenia may therefore be an illusion—a false interpretation of a real sensory image formed by demons... 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.
Irmak then describes a personal anecdote about a local faith healer in Turkey who employs "good" demons to expel evil ones. Based on this experience, Irmak concludes:
Above considerations have led to the suggestion that it is time for medical professions to consider the possibility of demonic possession in the etiology of schizophrenia, especially in the cases with hallucinations and delusions. Therefore, it would be useful for medical professions to work together with faith healers to define better treatment pathways for schizophrenia.
"The article was published in hopes that it would provoke discussion," he said. "The Journal does not agree that demons are a real entity."
There are currently no plans to retract the paper, but two rebuttals are already slated for a future issue, Curtis added. The journal's publisher, Springer, recently made headlines by withdrawing 16 gibberish papers spotted by an independent computer scientist. The nonsense papers were created with a computer program, SciGen.
RCS gave Irmak a chance to defend his paper.
"There is no scientific evidence to support the existence of demons," he admitted. "This is like the argument of creation or evolution. It is a matter of belief and I think the existence of demons cannot be proved by scientific methods."
Irmak also insisted that readers of his paper watch the Academy Award-winning film A Beautiful Mind, which chronicles the life of genius mathematician John Nash, who suffers from schizophrenia.
"I think the creatures who disturb John Nash are demons," he said.
SCHIZOPHRENIA IS A debilitating brain disorder characterized by hallucinations, confused thinking, and abnormal social behavior. Sufferers often struggle to recognize what is real and what isn't. Its causes are still up for debate, but most experts believe that it's tied to an imbalance in brain chemistry and is -- to a degree -- genetically inherited.
One thing for certain, however, is that schizophrenia is not caused by demonic possession. Any "scientific" journal that posits otherwise lends credibility to every witch doctor or religious fanatic who has attempted to exorcise demons from patients with serious mental illness. The world needs less magic and more evidence-based medicine.