Angry Doctor

Saturday, July 05, 2008

It still isn't an exorcism, stupid

More on the "exorcism" trial.

(emphasis mine)


Lawyer questions priest’s logic
Plaintiff’s lawyer accuses priest in Novena trial of evading question
Ansley Ng

IF A political party held a rally without a police permit and were quizzed about it, would the party be right to argue no rally had taken place because no permit was issued?

That was the analogy lawyer R S Bajwa made to explain that a “prayer session” two Catholic priests had carried out for his client Amutha Valli Krishnan four years ago was a violent exorcism rite that lacked authorisation from the archbishop and the church.

Calling the hypothetical reasoning “stupid”, the lawyer added: “I said you did all these acts; you said no. I asked why; you said you did not get permission from the bishop.”

Father Jacob Ong, the priest in the witness box on Friday, reiterated what another priest, Father Simon Tan, had said earlier — that no exorcism was carried out on Madam Amutha Valli. “The whole package must be followed. It cannot be set as an exorcism,” Father Ong said.

For an exorcism to be performed, the archbishop — the faith’s head in Singapore — has to give permission and appoint a priest to carry out the rites. An investigation also has to be carried out before the ritual.

Father Ong is among nine parties being sued by Mdm Amutha Valli over an alleged botched exorcism attempt at the Novena hurch in 2004. She claims the incident left her traumatised and unable to work.

“It doesn’t help you,” Mr Bajwa said in reply to Father Ong. “The substance is what we are interested in, not the form.”

As Mdm Amutha Valli — who at times spoke in a voice that sounded like a low male voice — struggled harder during the alleged exorcism, the group prayed harder, the lawyer said. At one “momentous” point in time, Father Tan “engaged” the spirit by talking to it, said Mr Bajwa.

Using the same line of questioning he served on Father Tan, the lawyer asserted that Father Ong and his co-defendants had pinned Mdm Amutha Valli onto the floor in a room at the church and strangled her, thinking she had been possessed.

Father Ong disagreed, saying the group merely held a “gentle” prayer session to “protect” her even as the 52-year-old woman was screaming and writhing on the floor.

Mr Bajwa also asked the priest if he had seen people who had been possessed. The priest said he had seen instances where people displayed signs of possession and cited four examples, including people who spoke in voices that don’t sound like their own while trembling.

“Would you agree that the signs displayed by the plaintiff were more severe than these examples?” asked Mr Bajwa.

The priest replied he could not tell, prompting the lawyer to accuse him of avoiding the question.

The hearing continues on Monday


At least now someone has stated the obvious: it doesn't matter whether it was an exorcism or a "prayer of deliverance" - what matters is what happened and whether what happened caused the plaintiff to become ill. (Then again, maybe even that will not matter if the defendants can prove that the plaintiff is not actually ill.)

angry doc wonders if the persons involved in the trial would have spent so much time over terminology if one of the parties involved was not a religious organisation with an organised belief system on the existence of spirits and demons, possession by such entities, and on how to cast them out. Had the trial involved alleged alien mind-control and an attempt to break the control, the judge would perhaps not have been so indulgent.

The priests seem to be caught in a no-win situaion. To prove that they did nothing wrong, they need to show that what they did for the plaintiff was appropriate, and that means proving possession by spirit or demon, something which they cannot do. On the other hand, their argument is that the plaintiff is actually faking her illness, which if they manage to prove, will mean admission that their assessment of her condition on that day was wrong, and that the subsequent intervention (be it an exorcism or a "prayer of deliverance") was also wrong.

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58 Comments:

  • nothing wrong with that angrydoc.

    it's called the placebo effect.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 07, 2008 9:14 am  

  • Now considering that people pray for each other all the time, and sometimes do pray in groups as well, by your (and the plaintiff's lawyer's) understanding that mean mass exorcisms are being held all the time!

    Actually it seems like the plaintiff is now in a no-win situation

    If she did set out to cheat (and evidence seems to suggest that), the judge can throw her case out any time.

    Even if the plaintiff's lawyer claims that substance is more important than form, he would be ridiculed since "in substance" by his definition exorcisms are so common place that it cannot be a cause of distress (can you sue the air force just because its plane flew by with its normal loud sounds and you dropped your cup of coffee and scalded yourself?).

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 07, 2008 12:42 pm  

  • You can't sue the RSAF and hope to win because it is the government lah.

    If I flew my small private plane and the same thing happened you can sue me.

    Now want to sue the Catholic Church.....

    If this whole thing happened in a friend's house (not a church) and the person who did the "exorcism" was just a friend praying over her....can sue with more conviction.

    But of course the payout may not be so huge lah. So then end up no point suing lah (lawyer will say no money to earn sue what sh!t)?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 07, 2008 1:40 pm  

  • "nothing wrong with that angrydoc.

    it's called the placebo effect."

    It's not a placebo effect, anon, because the plaintiff alleges that harm resulted from the prayer. If anything, it is the nocebo effect.

    And there *is* something wrong with it. What we have here is a system of superstition that makes grown men mistake mental illness or an attempt at fraud as possession by invisible entities.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 07, 2008 2:15 pm  

  • zhanzhao,

    "Now considering that people pray for each other all the time, and sometimes do pray in groups as well, by your (and the plaintiff's lawyer's) understanding that mean mass exorcisms are being held all the time!"

    Wrong. First of all people praying for each other do not routinely restrain the person being prayed for or prayed over.

    Secondly, the assumption on the part of the priests in this case is that the cause of the abnormal behaviour was possession. 'Normal' prayer is not always over possession.

    You are however right in a way: to me there is no difference between the mindset behind the rites of exorcism and prayer for possession - they both assume something which is not proven and the efficacy of both have never been proven either.

    If we ignore for a moment whether it was an exorcism or a prayer session, what we are left with is an account of a woman being restrained against her will when either:

    1. she was having a mental illness.
    2. she was feigning possession.

    Whichever the case, the priests assumed she was possessed, when they could not reasonably have known that she was. In fact, since there is no evidence at all that she was possessed, it is almost certain that the priests were mistaken.

    That was the substance.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 07, 2008 2:26 pm  

  • "Whichever the case, the priests assumed she was possessed, when they could not reasonably have known that she was"

    Which the family said she was, and the "friend" supposedly ordering her around demonstrated it.

    "In fact, since there is no evidence at all that she was possessed"

    As above, the plaintiff themselves claimed that she was.

    Now of course one could say that's the defence team's story. But considering what has been shown so far (she claimed to have no prior case history to her psychiatrist), video evidence and past history of similar trauma (wait didnt she say there was nothing wrong with her before that?); the daughter's statements which was already proven to be filled with loopholes.

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 07, 2008 3:08 pm  

  • "Which the family said she was, and the "friend" supposedly ordering her around demonstrated it."

    I see. So you are saying that the priests took their word for it?

    Is there any *evidence* that she was possessed?

    Certainly the plaintiff's story looks suspicious, but that doesn't change the fact that the priests did think that she was possessed and acted accordingly, does it?

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 07, 2008 3:53 pm  

  • It does not change the fact about whether they took action or not. There was no question at all that something did happen that day. BUT the important question is, WHAT happened? And here's where one has to decide who's statements have been more reliable so far.

    So far, the defense has been punching holes into the various witnesses's stories, while the best the plaintiff's lawyer could muster was the closing statement "you have made a lot of lies" and left it at that.... without any points to back that up.

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 07, 2008 4:01 pm  

  • Actually for the priests to prove they did nothing wrong, they just need to prove that a) there is already something wrong with her i.e. her condition was not caused by what happened, or b) she's faking her condition, or a combination of both. Which their lawyers seem to be doing a decent job of proving so far...

    By Blogger DoubleZ, At July 07, 2008 4:30 pm  

  • No doubt, zhanzhao.

    My interest in this case is not so much in who's right and who's wrong, but the fact that something like exorcism is brought into a court of law but no one actually questions the whole belief behind it.

    Like I said, had the phenomenon been one of alleged alien mind-control, the treatment would have been entirely different.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 07, 2008 4:56 pm  

  • "Actually for the priests to prove they did nothing wrong, they just need to prove that a) there is already something wrong with her i.e. her condition was not caused by what happened, or b) she's faking her condition, or a combination of both."

    Actually, the priests can win the case if they can prove either a) or b).

    Unfortunately, if they succeed in doing so, they will also prove that they were wrong in their assessment and subsquent actions, although they would not be liable for any damage.

    They would win the case, but they would still be wrong. Or to put in another way, they can be wrong and still win the case.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 07, 2008 5:00 pm  

  • There isn't a need to question the issue of belief behind the case because the case is all about alleged cause and effect. Whether an exorcism was performed or not is just a moniker. Note that its the plaintiff's lawyer who keeps forcing the issue, by 1st claiming that an exorcism was carreid out, then failing that, claiming that even if it was not an regular exorcism, it was still an exorcism in substance. And its understandable that he tries to establish this since a prayer seems so casual compared to an "exorcism", and he'd be laughed out of court if he dared to suggest that the plaintiff's condition was caused by a simple prayer or blessing.

    As the priests being wrong in either case, for something as casual as a simple prayer, they need only need to know that the plaintiff was disturbed or in need to urge them to pray for her. She was definitely acting abnormally, and even if it was an act, that shows she was morally/ethically unsettled. It depends on who you believe. Of course if you think plaintiff really fooled the priests into attempting a full-blown exorcism, thats a different issue.

    A prayer is akeen to someone offering you a consoling pat on the shoulder when you tell him/her someone close to you just died. It does not matter if you lied or not, because that only reflects negatively on the lier, not the person offering the condolence. But if you suddenly fall to the ground and claimed that guy just floored you with punch instead of that pat.... well there's no one stopping that person from making a fool of themselves.

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 07, 2008 5:35 pm  

  • "There isn't a need to question the issue of belief behind the case because the case is all about alleged cause and effect."

    I agree. It is just interesting to see the way everyone tip-toes around the issue in court, that's all.

    "A prayer is akeen to someone offering you a consoling pat on the shoulder when you tell him/her someone close to you just died."

    Wrong. A prayer presupposes a deity to whom the prayer is addressed. In this specific case, it shows that the priests:

    1. Believe in the existence of God (well, duh).
    2. Believed that there was possession by a spirit/spirits.
    3. Believed that prayer is helpful in driving out the spirit/s.

    I don't think one can say that prayer is "casual", since it requires and reinforces beliefs in things that are not proven.

    Quite obviously in this case prayer has not done anyone any good. It has not cured the plaintiff (or made her a better person if you think she is out to scam the church), and it has not done any good for the priests, who are now involved in a long lawsuit when they probably would prefer to be doing something else. And that's all because they believed in the existence of spirits and possession, and/or the power of prayer, when something more mundane like mental illness or a possible scam should have been seen as more likely.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 07, 2008 5:53 pm  

  • Your taking my quotes out of context, which could explain your misunderstanding. When I said a prayer is like a pat, its as a comparison with an exorcism (hence the pat vs punch in the analogy). The question of the validity of the belief is not the issue.

    After all, if it were, as an unbiased comparison you have missed out what the plaintiff ALSO believes in, which seems more likely to the reason for any alleged trauma and weird behaviour. And if you did miss out on all those, to keep it brief lets just say it includes trances, drinking that other cultist, Adrian Lim's blood, and snake-like behaviour on the ground.

    From that perspective, I would say her diety is offended that she seeked help from someone other that He/Her/Itself and is now tormenting her for it.... which seems more logical if not feasible.

    As for tiptoeing around the question, please remember that this is a court of LAW, not a religous court. Anything else merely serves to confuse the issue at hand.

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 07, 2008 6:27 pm  

  • "When I said a prayer is like a pat, its as a comparison with an exorcism (hence the pat vs punch in the analogy)."

    OK, I can see how a pat can be like a prayer because it is meant to make you feel better, but how is an exorcism like a punch?

    "From that perspective, I would say her diety is offended that she seeked help from someone other that He/Her/Itself and is now tormenting her for it.... which seems more logical if not feasible."

    Er... OK. Can't see any fault in that logic there.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 07, 2008 9:16 pm  

  • "OK, I can see how a pat can be like a prayer because it is meant to make you feel better, but how is an exorcism like a punch?"

    Apparently thats what the plaintiff thinks.... (in terms of comparative potency)

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 07, 2008 11:27 pm  

  • Personally, I would be highly offended if someone restrained me and prayed over me. Heck, I might even sue.

    That is just on the basis of their actions are a violation of my beliefs and I am being held against my will.

    I'm rather ashamed to watch this case being played out actually, to think our courts are actually listening to people drivel on about their fantasies and delusions.

    This case proves a long standing point: If demons/spirits exist, why are they all so afraid of antipsychotic drugs?

    By Anonymous Edgar, At July 08, 2008 12:24 am  

  • In which case the plaintiff should seriously consider suing her family since they initiated this whole serious of events by bringing her to the church, requesting help on her behalf and leading to her current situation, assuming it is indeed genuine (though the videos show other wise).

    Scratch that, bad idea, cos they don't have any money for her to sue for :/

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 08, 2008 4:00 am  

  • "In which case the plaintiff should seriously consider suing her family since they initiated this whole serious of events by bringing her to the church, requesting help on her behalf and leading to her current situation..."

    By that logic if a patient is brought to a hospital by her relatives and subsequently suffers adverse outcome from the treatment there, she should sue her family too.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 08, 2008 9:15 am  

  • aiyah got problem just stay at home and sort it out yourself lah.

    People try to help you out of a good heart. You think the priest trying to PURPOSELY harm you meh?

    You think doctor in hospital purposely try to hurt you meh?

    If so then STAY AT HOME AND SORT OUT YOUR OWN PROBLEMS OR DIE LAH!

    Dun waste people's time and sabo them!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 08, 2008 12:01 pm  

  • You may be surprised, it has happened before.

    When that a person is in no condition to make a decision, yet is forced to live with it for the rest of his/her life, there's always the "why did you make that decision for me" attitude, especially if they feel really hopeless, depressed and fear being abandoned by family because they think they are being perceived as a "burden".....

    i.e. a parent who had a bad leg wound and unconscious, and the children/in-laws have to make the call as to amputate to save his life....what he/she finds out later the doctor actually gave him/her a 5% chance of not needing to amputate.... Now his/she has to live with only one leg, paranoid that he/she will be thrown to an old-folks home so the children need not take care of them.....

    Add in factors like relationship not exactly in the best of shape, the party being sued is VERY well off, "behind-walls" urging of people who stand to benefit (maybe a relative or lawyer who can pocket a nice sum after the case).....

    Family ties aren't as strong as you think, especially when there's money involved. Don't forget, this is Singapore, where parents sue children for not providing financial support.

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 08, 2008 1:03 pm  

  • "People try to help you out of a good heart. You think the priest trying to PURPOSELY harm you meh?"

    I believe the difference here is that the doctor is able to recognise the symptoms of the disease and refer the patient for appropriate care. Here, the priest assumed prayer done in the manner described was suitable when it was obviously not. Thus he has to bear the brunt of his decision to undetake "treatment" of a condition he is not able to provide evidence of efficacy for.

    By Anonymous Edgar, At July 08, 2008 10:59 pm  

  • Indeed.

    As I mentioned in the other post 'good intentions' alone is not enough; one must also exercise "due care".

    Can the decision to use prayer in this case be considered one that is taken with "due care"? Or is this a case of "to a hammer, every problem is a nail"?

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 8:59 am  

  • But the family brought the woman to the Catholic Priest for "help" what.

    What is the Catholic Priest supposed to be? A Doctor? Can make diagnosis of psychiatric conditions?

    Be fair man.

    As it is, they have to prove that the prayers were the CAUSE of this ladies problems and state she is in now.

    Pray a bit so jia lat ar? If really so dangerous then must educate public don't go for prayer by Catholic priests liao.

    I think you guys are blowing this way out of proportion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 09, 2008 11:14 am  

  • "Here, the priest assumed prayer done in the manner described was suitable when it was obviously not. Thus he has to bear the brunt of his decision to undetake "treatment" of a condition he is not able to provide evidence of efficacy for"

    The brunt of the decision being the plaintiff wayanging to get some easy money? At the rate she is going she could have walked into the church and pretended to have a stroke, then sued it for being built there in the first place. And in case you didn't realize it yet, they were the ones who stepped into the church of their own volition, and allowed her to be prayed over. Its like approving your leg to be amputated, then suing the hospital for doing what they did based on your orders. (Before you say they didn't know she'd react that badly? Well, now THATS debatable seeing the recent video evidence and her psychiatrists admitting he might have made a bad diagnosis)

    As for exercising due care, same analogy applies. If she wants to wayang, the priests could have said a simple "God Bless You" and the defendent could pretend to have a stroke and claim that the blessing traumatized her.

    A) Plaintif first claimed that this was all remeditated.... until it was revealed that exorcisms must be approved elsewhere BEFOREHAND and the assistants were all impromptu helpers who were asked to help just because they were unfirtunate enough to be hanging around after service. (Did they really thing there is an "exorcism squad" on standby 24/7?)

    B) Now plaintiff says that even if it wasn't an official exorcism, that prayer session caused the alleged "damage".

    Thats just running the top of my head, sure those who followed the case closer can give even more elaborate lists.

    See the trend?

    Its impossible to exercise due care when the other party will claim some harm was done irregardless of what action or precaution took place.

    PS: Plaintiff also seems to be traumatized by hospitals, considering her odd behaviours only manifests during hospital visits. How about suing them as well o_O

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 11:33 am  

  • "What is the Catholic Priest supposed to be? A Doctor? Can make diagnosis of psychiatric conditions?"

    A priest may not be able to make a psychiatric diagnosis, but a common man would have suspected a psychiatric condition or plain acting. Instead, the priest made a 'diagnosis' of possession.

    "I think you guys are blowing this way out of proportion."

    And I think you are underestimating the extent of the problem.

    The priests 'diagnosed' possession. How can anyone reasonably do that?

    I believe the priests are victims of a system of superstition that made them mistake a case of psychiatric illness or fraud as possession by spirits (whether it was an exorcism or a prayer session, they thought the problem was possession).

    It may be a simple case of fraud in this case, but with such beliefs, they could also mistake genuine psychiatric illnesses as possession.

    I think that is a problem.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 11:46 am  

  • zhanzhao,

    First off let me say that I agree that the plaintiff's case is dubious. But having said that, I still think the beliefs and conduct of the priests (not their intentions) need to be examined and criticised.

    "Its like approving your leg to be amputated, then suing the hospital for doing what they did based on your orders."

    If I amputated a patient's leg based on her orders alone, I deserved to be brought before the medical council.

    As a doctor I am supposed to base my recommendation on treatment on a patient's disease, not her orders or wishes. If I took a patient's word that she had cancer of the limb and it needed to be amputated and did so without verifying, I deserve to be struck off.

    Whether the plaintiff was genuinely sick or trying to scam the church, the priests believed her to be possessed. How can grown men be so gullible? The answer is that they subscribe to a system of beliefs that is not based on evidence, and they acted aaccording to that system of beliefs.

    "If she wants to wayang, the priests could have said a simple "God Bless You" and the defendent could pretend to have a stroke and claim that the blessing traumatized her."

    Except the case would have been thrown out of the court by any reasonable judge to begin with. Being greeted with a blessing is an common everyday event which no one will reasonably expect to cause harm. Physically restraining a person, however, is another matter.

    You and I are looking at different aspects of the case: you are looking at the validity of the legal arguments in the case, while I am looking at the system of beliefs held by the priests which allowed this damage or fraud to occur. The priests may win the case, but that does not change the fact that their belief system is partly responsible for getting them into the case to begin with.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 12:02 pm  

  • Here's what I think :

    1) The family brought the lady to the priests. Why did they do so? One has to consider this. If I had a relative who was behaving strangely, I too will have to make an opinion of it. Is she crazy and hence needs a doctor's help? Or is she spiritually troubled and hence needs religious spiritual help? In this case the family brought her to a Catholic Church. So there is some clue to what they were thinking.

    2) Imagine yourself as a Catholic Priest, sitting in a Catholic Church, and you get a person who comes in with signs suggestive of "possession". The family asks you to pray for her. I mean what are Priests for right? They help people spiritually. So what does the priest do? He "diagnoses" in his capacity as a priest what the possible spiritual problem might be with the lady brought in by relatives seeking his help.

    3) The priest did not solicit business. The priest was approached in the house of his religion. Would we and should we expect priests to turn away such requests in future and go instead to a doctor to "clear" for psychiatric illnesses before seeing him for prayers? It seems this is what the people discussing here and proposing. I have no objection to that, but clearly this process was not the norm before this case was highlighted.

    So please udnerstand the deficiencies.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 09, 2008 12:02 pm  

  • "2) Imagine yourself as a Catholic Priest, sitting in a Catholic Church, and you get a person who comes in with signs suggestive of "possession". The family asks you to pray for her. I mean what are Priests for right? They help people spiritually. So what does the priest do? He "diagnoses" in his capacity as a priest what the possible spiritual problem might be with the lady brought in by relatives seeking his help."

    And that is the problem, isn't it? To a hammer, every problem is a nail.

    I don't think that to a priest, the solution to every problem is prayer. Well, it is, but I assume they are also able to tell if the supplicant is facing 'problems of living' and be able to counsel accordingly or refer her to an agency (either within or outside the church) for help. If a man is poor and troubled, I expect the priest to pray for him and refer him to a CDC or whatever charitable organisation to seek help.

    In case of a medical or psychiatric problem, I expect the priest to at least consider that the supplicant needs to seek professional help, even though he would still pray for her. If a patient told the priest he had cancer and wished to be cured by prayer alone, I expect the priest to pray for him and advise him to continue seeing his oncologist.

    The fact remains that in this case the priests assume possession and acted accordingly, to the point that they physically restrained her. Why did they jump to that conclusion?

    I understand the deficiency here, and the deficiency is in a system that leads grown men to jump to a conclusion of possession by spirits on being faced with 'abnormal behaviour' and based on words of laymen, such that they would act upon that belief, even to the point of physically restraining a person when they have no reasonable cause to believe in possession.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 12:20 pm  

  • With regards to the amputation case, the doctor made a diagnosis, gave the recomendations and followed through it upon permission give. That the patient was post desonance after the act does not change the fact that she (in this case her family/friends) gave permission, then changed her mind and blamed the doctor for it. Maybe they should have signed a non-liability agreement hah hah. Then again she could always sue that it was signed under duress so no point.

    "The priests may win the case, but that does not change the fact that their belief system is partly responsible for getting them into the case to begin with."

    Well that depends on whom you believe. If the plaintiff is faking it, she's the one who initiated the whole thing. She could have bumped into any random joe and claim that person traumatized her, could she not? Religion is not an issue, since she squeezed Singtel(Telecom) for $30k as well. Its not the belief system that is to blame, its the fact that they (Church adn Singtel) are convenient targets.

    "The fact remains that in this case the priests assume possession and acted accordingly, to the point that they physically restrained her. Why did they jump to that conclusion?"

    for the simple fact that they had to prevent her from hurting herself or others.

    1) she was slithering around, imagine her falling off the bed and hurting herself?

    2) she could turn violent anytime. Why risk her hurting others?

    When's the last time you heard you heard of interns in mental institutes being sued for restraining patients? They haven't because they're there to prevent patients from hurting themselves/others.

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 1:13 pm  

  • "With regards to the amputation case..."

    As a matter of fact except in emergency cases, a consent form is signed for surgery. Patients can and do change their minds and sue, but because there is a system of science behind it, as long as the doctors can show that the treatment was indicated, the risks and benefits have been explained, and the plaintiff cannot prove deceit or duress, then it is unlikely they can make their case.

    If however the basis of your intervention is possession by invisible entities, then you may have a harder time trying to justify your actions.

    "She could have bumped into any random joe and claim that person traumatized her, could she not?"

    She could, but like I said no reasonable judge will entertain such a suit.

    "Religion is not an issue, since she squeezed Singtel(Telecom) for $30k as well."

    I don't know about the Singtel case, since there are no details.

    Religion is not the issue, belief in things without evidence is.

    "for the simple fact that they had to prevent her from hurting herself or others."

    And of course the reasonable thing to do when there is such a risk is to restrain her AND continue praying?

    As you said, religion is not the issue here, so let's take a similar scenario minus the religion.

    Say the plaintiff was brought to a Ufology centre by her relatives claiming alien-mind control, and the ufologists tried a "de-control procedure" on her, with the subsequent chanting, writhing, restraint, and resultant lawsuit etc. Will your views still be as sympathetic to the ufologists?

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 2:27 pm  

  • Hmmm, it all seems to drill down to this, doesn't it? Who's story do you believe?

    Do you believe the plaintiff's version "Where she was previously a healthy active person (her own lawyer's words, saying she was a national runner and such) brought to a back room and held for hours an not allowed to leave, and her current condition was because of what had happened in the Church" which an exorcism was conducted on her.....

    Or you take the defendents, where all they did was brought her into a room to pray for her after she fainted.... and her current condition is due to circumstances not within her control i.e. her already unsteady state of mind, past history and the possibility of it all being an act.

    "Religion is not the issue, belief in things without evidence is."

    OK, lets look at things without evidence. An exorcism was claim to be held (when proven that no permission was granted, the claim gets downgraded to an exorcism attempt and prayer). Family claims that she became difficult to live with after the event (neighbours testimonies say its always been lifke that). The daughter's loopholed testimony (including a statue which she definitely said was there...but wasn't).

    Now lets consider things that have evidence. Her medical history (which she conveniently forgot to tell her doctor, hence skewering her diagnosis). Her claim of being perfectly before the event (slithering across the floor must be a normal pasting I guess). Her claim that she cannot function normally after the event (videos shown and frequent overseas trips taken after the event, some by herself).

    Its already day 22 into the case and the plaintiff does not look like they're gonna be pulling a rabbit out of their hat anytime soon.
    So what do you believe in, the things with evidence, or the things without? Based on what's been revealed about the case so far, what do YOU believe happened? It will make further discussions easier so future posters understand what type of evidence or comments actually count...xpguf

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 3:15 pm  

  • Like I wrote earlier we are looking at different things here.

    The court will probably rule that one party is 'right' and the other party is 'wrong', but I am ready to accept that both parties may be 'wrong'.

    As for which party's testimony I am more likely to believe, I would say that I believe the priests, because:

    1. They are consistent.
    2. No one would incriminate themselves the way they did.

    The priests went into a court of law and admitted that they thought the plaintiff was possessed by a spirit and that they prayed over her, believing that it would make her better. If pressed for evidence to justify their belief in possession and efficacy of prayer, they will not be able to produce any. That is why I think they are being honest.

    The burden of proof in this case is rightly on the plaintiff, and so far I can't say her lawyers have built a solid case.

    The church will likely win the case, but that doesn't change the fact that the belief in things without evidence was what made the priests do the things that made it possible for this case to come this far. Despite this, from what Father Tan said, it doesn't look like they will be looking at their beliefs critically.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 3:42 pm  

  • To clarify even further:

    1. I believe the priests are largely truthful in their accounts.

    2. I do not believe the priests had any valid reason to believe that the plaintiff was possessed, or that prayer would have helped her.

    3. I do not believe that the plaintiff's psychiatric problems are the direct or sole results of the events that occurred that day.

    4. I am unable to comment on how much if any effect the events of that day had on the plaintiff's subsequent psychiatric illness.

    My chief interest in this case and my posts concern point 2.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 3:51 pm  

  • "the belief in things without evidence was what made the priests do the things that made it possible for this case to come this far."

    In a sense you are right, but only because its from the view that they took the plaintiff's word that she was "unwell" and acted on it without evidence, even though the act was as simple as just praying for her and making sure she did not get hurt or hurt someone else. Yes, in this case, they did what they did without making sure. But can you seriously imagine that prior to all prayers, a fulltime investigation and history checking was made before one prayed? Its like seeing person collaped on the floor, do you run a background check on him before offering help? Or do you just go ahead?

    Actually, the plaintiff's willingness to push their case with wobbly evidence was what made it possible to make this case come this far. Even the psychiatrist didn't get her "evidence" right, just taking the plaintiff's word that she had no past medical history for fact.

    As for the priests believing in things without evidence, thats a whole cartload of theology that will blow all our heads a way (there's already loads of discussion on the net as to what they believe is real or not) and both sides make some valid comments, but it is ultimately unprovable because there literally no higher authority to confirm whether what they believe is true or not.

    To say they are wrong merely means you have a set of beliefs different from them, and whatever evidence they give you will be viewed with skepticism (exactly why scientists in olden days believed for so long that the earch could not possibly be round and was not the center of the universe).

    Just look at evolutionists who believe in the THEORY of evolution. There's no concrete evidence (except for findings that could be of totally difference species for all we know), no one has seen it happened, and I only need to ask them one question and they will be stumped (I've directed this exact same question for years to evolutionists whenever they get out of line, and none of them could answer it... go figure). Yet they believe this theory 100%. Some things literally have to be taking in faith, pun intended.

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 4:16 pm  

  • "2. I do not believe the priests had any valid reason to believe that the plaintiff was possessed, or that prayer would have helped her."

    As I said, it depends on who you believe. the common thread in both stories is that: the plaintiff approached them for help to pray over her, the defendents saw her abnormal behaviour (which shows she was definitely disturbed, mentally if not spiritually) and they did try to help (since the plaintiff requested).

    What is there not to validly believe?

    That the plaintiff could be lying/faking? Both parties never met prior so there's no reason for them to doubt)

    That she was not troubled? She definitely acted weird that day.

    That a prayer could not help? A prayer, in addition to deliverance, also supposedly makes those who hear it feel better, if for nothing less that because having someone wish you well always makes one feel better. It normally would not hurt, so they thought its a no-lose situation.

    But if somoene wants to make trouble, they will irregardless.

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 4:25 pm  

  • Good. Now we are on the same page.

    "Its like seeing person collaped on the floor, do you run a background check on him before offering help? Or do you just go ahead?"

    If you see a man collapsed on the floor, do you straight away perform CPR on him?

    No. You check for breathing and pulse first, and if they are absent, you make a diagnosis of cardiac arrest, and then you perform CPR. You know why CPR is required when there is cardiac arrest because of science, and you know CPR is the correct thing to do for cardiac arrests because of statistics.

    How does anyone diagnose possession?

    How does anyone know prayer works for possession?

    They can't, because there is no evidence for spirits and demons, there is no evidence that spirits and demons can possess a human, and there is no evidence that prayer can help possessed persons.

    "As for the priests believing in things without evidence, thats a whole cartload of theology that will blow all our heads a way..."

    Yes, a whole cartload of theology, but no evidence.

    "...but it is ultimately unprovable because there literally no higher authority to confirm whether what they believe is true or not."

    We shouldn't look at authority, but evidence, zhanzhao.

    Look at our case again: woman alleges priests caused psychological trauma, court requires woman to prove damage and what priests did resulted in damage. Most people will agree it is fair to put the burden of proof on the person making the claim. So why should you not demand the same of people claiming that invisible spirits and demons exist, and that they can possess you, and that their prayers and rites of exorcism can drive out the spirits and demons? (Not in this case, but in general.)

    "To say they are wrong merely means you have a set of beliefs different from them, and whatever evidence they give you will be viewed with skepticism"

    Wrong. I say that they are wrong because they are unable to produce valid evidence for their beliefs. I view whatever evidence anyone making an important claim with skepticism, whether or not I agree with them. Where is the evidence that spirits and demons exist and can possess a person?

    "...(exactly why scientists in olden days believed for so long that the earch could not possibly be round and was not the center of the universe)."

    Wrong again. Scientists did not believe the earth was flat or that it was the centre of the universe - religious people who based their beliefs on authority and not observation and evidence did; scientists proved them wrong.

    "Yet they believe this theory 100%."

    I can't speak for scientists, but good scientists are always ready to look at good evidence and review their 'beliefs'. If you can provide good evidence that evolution is wrong, the scientific community will review their 'beliefs'

    "Some things literally have to be taking in faith..."

    No, that's just what people want you to believe when they can't produce evidence for what they want you to believe in.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 5:15 pm  

  • "If you see a man collapsed on the floor, do you straight away perform CPR on him?"

    Thats assuming you believe a CPR (the analog for the exorcism) was performed. Which was why the priest said there were many checks in place before one is approved. And since one was not approved, we don't know what those checks were or how effective it is (You cannot say something does not work if you don't even know what it entails).

    "Yes, a whole cartload of theology, but no evidence."

    So you say, but more likely its unacceptable to you. Look up intelligent design. Or how even though we have threories of how life sparked, it has never been re-produced in an actual lab synthesis (i.e. living from the non-living). Evidence that life cannot have started without some outside influence, that is beyond our meagre powers to understand and replicate.

    "We shouldn't look at authority, but evidence, zhanzhao."

    There is no concrete evidence that evolution happened either, only "screenshots" of fossils pierced to gether to form a THEORY (as compared to the LAW of GRAVITY... notice the use of LAW vs Theory. Its by design, not just a naming convention).

    "Scientists did not believe the earth was flat or that it was the centre of the universe - religious people who based their beliefs on authority and not observation and evidence did; scientists proved them wrong."

    Aristotle and Plato who were scientists and mathematicians in addition to being philosophers, believed in geocentrism. Many scientists in Darwin's day also made fun of his theory. I.e. Sir Richard Owen, biologist/geologist. In the past, it was perfectly acceptible scientific cure in Europe for doctors to use leaches to drain "bad elements" from the human body. Study history. What people "believed" as science has changed over time. What you believe to be good science now may not be in the future.

    Interestingly, athiests can be just as stubborn as theists. Btw, did you know Einstein and Stephen Hawkings believed in a God (though not necessarily in a strict bible sense)? Glad to know there's more open-minded and smarter people around ;)

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 6:06 pm  

  • "So you say, but more likely its unacceptable to you."

    Of course - it's not the evidence, it's me.

    "Look up intelligent design."

    No thanks, I prefer the Sumerian version of creation.

    "Evidence that life cannot have started without some outside influence, that is beyond our meagre powers to understand and replicate."

    Wrong. Just because we haven't found out how life started doesn't mean that there is proof that "some outside influence" did it, or that it will forever be "beyond our meagre powers to understand and replicate.". We continue to explore and try to seek out, instead of just assuming "some outside influence" did it and stop enquiring. More importantly, we do not build up a whole belief system around this "some outside influence" which is similarly not based on evidence.

    "There is no concrete evidence that evolution happened either, only "screenshots" of fossils pierced to gether to form a THEORY"

    There is more to evolution than fossils. Evolution is a scientific theory based on observed facts. The theory of evolution explains observed phenomena, but it cannot predict outcomes with certainty. Evolution will never become a law, so your comparison with the law of gravity is flawed.

    "What you believe to be good science now may not be in the future."

    True. But what is most important is not whether we are always right, but whether we have a system to ensure that we continue to look at new evidence and review our current concept of science. If you have a system of beliefs that is not based on evidence and will not change despite contrary evidence, then you have a problem there.

    "Btw, did you know Einstein and Stephen Hawkings believed in a God (though not necessarily in a strict bible sense)?"

    It is not important whether Einstein and Hawkings believe in God (they do not in the biblical sense, as you mentioned), but whether they, or anyone else you may care to mention, have evidence to support a belief in the existence of God.

    Or spirits. Or possession. Or that prayer can 'cure' possession.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 7:13 pm  

  • Wow, since you even dedicated a whole new post on this, lets hear it from the author of the evolution theory himself.

    "Evolution is a scientific theory based on observed facts. The theory of evolution explains observed phenomena, but it cannot predict outcomes with certainty. Evolution will never become a law, so your comparison with the law of gravity is flawed."

    There ARE "laws" to evolution, as suggested by Darwin himself. The scientific community just did not recognize them as such (for whatever reason).

    It would have helped your cause if you had actually did a search on google for "law of evolution" before you made such an encompassing statement.

    "It is not important whether Einstein and Hawkings believe in God (they do not in the biblical sense, as you mentioned), but whether they, or anyone else you may care to mention, have evidence to support a belief in the existence of God."

    They remain open minded enough to accept the possibility of it, because there is no irrifutable evidence to suggest whether one or the other is the absolute truth. And thats commendable, don't you think? ;)

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 8:32 pm  

  • The lady did see a psychiatrist after the prayers were over didn't she?

    In fact she went to several different doctors from what I've read.

    In the hospital, when faced with a violent patient, the patient is also restrained by the doctor and nursing staff for the patient's own protection as well as the protection of the people surrounding.

    So what is the priest supposed to do when the lady turns violent? Not restrain and just tell her to go to the hospital?

    You're not consistent with your arguments.

    Clearly overly biased. I've worked in the wards before and dealt with violent patients as well. I don't see how different it is in the hospitals versus what the reports said the family and the priests did. Maybe no haloperidol so makes the problem more prolonged. Nevertheless we don't take consent from the patient when he jab the IM halo.

    U guys smack of elitism. Doctors are great. Priests are crap. Sigh.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 09, 2008 8:50 pm  

  • I will leave my many many comments on zhanzhao's opinion on evolution to a discussion in another post, provided that Leng Hiong does not beat me to it.

    "Clearly overly biased. I've worked in the wards before and dealt with violent patients as well. I don't see how different it is in the hospitals versus what the reports said the family and the priests did. Maybe no haloperidol so makes the problem more prolonged. Nevertheless we don't take consent from the patient when he jab the IM halo.

    U guys smack of elitism. Doctors are great. Priests are crap. Sigh."


    Firstly, in the case of a patient in a mental facility, a diagnosis has been made with regards to the mental state of the patient and appropriate care following evidence based clinical protocols have been set to deal with situations such as expressed violence. Such might include sedative or other medication should such an occasion arise.

    In the case of the priest, not only does he not recognise that the patient may be potentially ill and out of his realm of specialty (assuming one), he did not take appropriate care to seek medical help for this person. Restraints in hospitals and healthcare facilities are used selectively and carefully with consent of either family members (when the patient is assessed to be mentally incapacitated) or by implied consent of a self-admitted patient. This is carefully managed with protocols in place to prevent or minimise trauma, both psychological and physical. I hope this answers your question about consent.

    The priest and members of the church acted without consideration of these factors and simply did what they thought was appropriate upon making the "diagnosis" of a possession. What they thought was appropriate care is evidently not the standard of care expected for a mentally disturbed patient. This cannot be misconstrued as elitism. We all have our own spheres of knowledge and proficiencies and the priest is most definitely not the person someone should go to for treatment when they suffer from a disease, mental or physical.

    By Anonymous Edgar, At July 09, 2008 9:10 pm  

  • "There is no concrete evidence that evolution happened either, only "screenshots" of fossils pierced to gether to form a THEORY (as compared to the LAW of GRAVITY... notice the use of LAW vs Theory."

    "There ARE "laws" to evolution, as suggested by Darwin himself. The scientific community just did not recognize them as such (for whatever reason)."

    So evolution is not a law when you don't want it to be, but there are laws of evolution (which the scientific community "just did not recognize") when I say evolution isn't a law? Or is this about my apparent inability to google?

    My understanding of why evolution is a theory and not a law is as I stated. My understanding may be wrong, and the scientific community may indeed 'recognise' evolution as a law, but I fail to see how that supports your stand that there is no concrete evidence for evolution.

    "They remain open minded enough to accept the possibility of it, because there is no irrifutable evidence to suggest whether one or the other is the absolute truth. And thats commendable, don't you think? ;)"

    Not really.

    There probably cannot be irrefutable evidence that god does not exist, because you cannot prove a negative.

    I cannot prove that unicorns do not exist. I remain open to the possiblility that unicorns exist, and I am willing to acknowledge that unicorns exist if there is sufficient evidence to show that they do. But until then, I think it is wrong for people to claim that invisible bad unicorns exist, and that they can possess you, and that prayer to the invisible good unicorn can help drive out the bad unicorn.

    Too often the call to be open-minded is an excuse used by those with no evidence to support a claim to not have to supply evidence. They call for others to suspend judgement while there is no evidence, but at the same time they do not themselves susepnd their promotion of their beliefs.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 9:14 pm  

  • "So what is the priest supposed to do when the lady turns violent? Not restrain and just tell her to go to the hospital?"

    That would be a reasonable option, don't you think?

    I would have called an ambulance. Wouldn't you?

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 9:17 pm  

  • "So evolution is not a law when you don't want it to be, but there are laws of evolution (which the scientific community "just did not recognize") when I say evolution isn't a law? Or is this about my apparent inability to google?"

    Darwin called it a law, the scientific community did not. 2 different perspectives. Simple enough to understand?

    "Too often the call to be open-minded is an excuse used by those with no evidence to support a claim to not have to supply evidence. They call for others to suspend judgement while there is no evidence, but at the same time they do not themselves susepnd their promotion of their beliefs."

    And here you are calling others to believe that there is no God/god/goddess etc. Without being able to supply evidence to that effect (youich you already agreed. Wow.

    As for her turning violent, she wasn't violent when they started, and whether she turned violent or not depends on whose story you believe. And in case you did not realise, the defense already raised the point to the plaintiff why THEY did not call the ambulance/police since they were the ones making the claims.

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 9:29 pm  

  • And here you are calling others to believe that there is no God/god/goddess etc. Without being able to supply evidence to that effect (youich you already agreed. Wow.

    Nobody needs to prove their disbelief the same way that I don't expect you to prove that you don't believe that there can be money falling from the sky, there is a monster under your bed or that unicorns exist. It is however important that if someone believes that bigfoot, unicorns, fairies and God exists, they prove it. I wouldn't believe that a 5 legged human exists until someone shows me yet I do not need to prove that I don't believe that a 5/6/7... legged human is possible.

    By Anonymous Edgar, At July 09, 2008 9:35 pm  

  • "2 different perspectives. Simple enough to understand?"

    Yes. And you just used one when it suited your purpose, and then the other when the situation evolved. I understand - you were just being open-minded.

    "And here you are calling others to believe that there is no God/god/goddess etc. Without being able to supply evidence to that effect"

    Wow. Preposterous, isn't it? Me telling people to not believe in things without evidence when I can't produce evidence for the absence of evidence. Yes, I shouldn't tell people not to believe in unicorns until I can't find a unicorn. Wait. Or should that be until I find a unicorn? I am confused...

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 9:43 pm  

  • Sidetrack first:

    "I wouldn't believe that a 5 legged human exists until someone shows me yet I do not need to prove that I don't believe that a 5/6/7... legged human is possible."

    http://82muchf00d.wordpress.com/2008/03/05/six-legged-octopus-and-eight-limbed-girl/

    "It is however important that if someone believes that bigfoot, unicorns, fairies and God exists, they prove it."

    And why is that so? If I recall from the whole thread, the only one making absolute statements is the one who claimed the negative. Now since he made that claim, shouldn't he be the one backing up his statements?

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 9:47 pm  

  • "And you just used one when it suited your purpose, and then the other when the situation evolved. I understand - you were just being open-minded."

    No, I'm merely stating that the general scientific community does not accept it as law, but Darwin stated it was. Nothing changed at all, since its STILL 2 groups believing 2 different things. How hard can this be to understand? (erm wait, scratch that).

    "Me telling people to not believe in things without evidence when I can't produce evidence for the absence of evidence. Yes, I shouldn't tell people not to believe in unicorns until I can't find a unicorn. Wait. Or should that be until I find a unicorn? I am confused..."

    You're the one making the absolute statements, not me ;)

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 09, 2008 9:53 pm  

  • This has been an interesting discussion, zhanzhao, but if we are going to play "you-can't-prove-I'm-wrong-because-you-can't-prove-that-I can't-prove-that-I-am-right", then I would rather not continue.

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 09, 2008 10:06 pm  

  • Who cares whether there was an exorcism?

    The only thing the court should care about is whether the plaintiff was treated in a manner that caused her to be traumatised.
    Nobody should have the right to abuse anyone else.

    On the other hand, it looks like the plaintiff invited some abuse so that she could then sue them for money.

    The priests were dumb - there was no need for this fracas if they had kept their heads and referred her to a hospital first.

    Remember, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not unicorns.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 10, 2008 8:27 am  

  • anonymous wrote in part:

    Remember, when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not unicorns.

    You clearly are a closed minded cynic. Learn to be more open minded. Besides, the hoof-beats could be bovine in nature, not necessarily equine.

    You can't prove unicorns don't exist. Ergo, they might exist. Just have faith.

    Meanwhile, let me pray to the Great Unicorn in the sky for guidance through these trying times.

    Faithfully,
    UniCONlogist/Woo-Woo Believer
    PZ

    By Blogger PZ, At July 10, 2008 12:11 pm  

  • Welcome back, PZ. Let me get you a cup of tea from my celestial teapot...

    By Blogger angry doc, At July 10, 2008 12:16 pm  

  • Angry Doc wrote:

    Welcome back, PZ. Let me get you a cup of tea from my celestial teapot...

    I have never been away. I much prefer coffee than tea. :-)

    I have little patience with religious dumbnuts who use deliberate equivocation, deception and cognitive gymnastics to argue their case.

    I find your patience most admirable and commendable.

    PZ

    By Blogger PZ, At July 10, 2008 12:50 pm  

  • Buddhism presupposes that the ultimate state of Nirvana is nothingness.... so how would you prove that? How do you prove nothingness since there's nothing left for one to show? Its there even a need to?

    Something to wrap your head around ;)

    By Blogger zhanzhao, At July 11, 2008 12:27 pm  

  • My turn:

    Buddhism presupposes that the ultimate state of Nirvana is nothingness.... so how would you prove that? How do you prove nothingness since there's nothing left for one to show? Its there even a need to?

    You are taking the chinese saying about Nirvana too literally and I suggest you go find out more about Buddhism before quoting supposed Buddhist philosophies.

    About your comment about not needing to prove nothing as nothing is nothing, then you wouldn't have the burden of proving god exists if he is nothing (aka non-existant). You are the one saying that god exists so the burden of proof lies with you but for the rest of us, we don't have to prove anything as we don't believe she/he exists.

    You indeed sound confused, zhanzhao.

    By Anonymous Edgar, At July 13, 2008 12:29 am  

  • Edgar said...

    You indeed sound confused, zhanzhao.

    I believe ZZ has admitted to being more than just confused.....

    "Argumentative moron" was last bandied about...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 15, 2008 12:50 pm  

  • i have seen such prayer sessions before, called deliverance, during which there is howling, screaming, shouting, shaking and sometimes people do writhe on the floor.

    but it is in full view of everyone present, and not so cult-like as is suggested.

    sometimes these people who are prayed for have their arms and legs pinned down as in some cases they do get violent, but never in a way that is harmful to their wellbeing. (e.g strangling)

    as someone mentioned in a forum topic i read, priests and church members won't pray for you without your permission or rather your requesting for it.

    it is suspicious that she is also using "inability to work after the trauma" as a basis for the suit.
    (isn't that a hint to the judge that she NEEDS a lot of money to tide her over?)

    however, there is also a possibility that she is posessed and thus incoherent, leaving whatever she says to interpretation by her doctors, lawyer and daughter.

    how trustworthy is that?

    i'm sure novena church has several members of whom would testify to these harmless prayer sessions.

    and by the way, i think it's ridiculous that this case is also being used to stir up racism on the net. not in your website, i think, but in many other places.

    i'm so disappointed with Man sometimes, what with all this lying. i consider this as bad as the NKF and Ren Ci cases. how can we believe in anything with all these things going on?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At August 03, 2008 6:32 pm  

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