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How To Address Spiritual Experiences


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Although I've put virtually everything "bible based" in my 'Hell No' Box of Beliefs, I still have trouble reconciling my own supernatural experiences as a Christian. At this stage, I do believe in God (in general, but not the Christian god) and I do believe in a spiritual realm of some sort, primarily because of what I've personally witnessed.

 

As a Christian, I had "the gift of healing" - which sounds absurd now - but I could "lay hands" on people and see them improve. The most dramatic occurrence was a little girl who, deaf from birth, suddenly begin to hear. During my deconversion, I tried rationalizing these experiences away, but I simply cannot. They are too vastly dramatic.

 

I also have had encounters with ghosts/beings that are impossible to ignore. At the time, my Christian leaders deemed them "demons". But even then, I didn't believe them to be evil. One, in fact, was my recently-passed grandmother. It sounds insane to some, I realize, but I can't NOT include these experiences in my spiritual equation.

 

Have any of you had to reconcile genuine spiritual experiences in your deconversion process?

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Although I've put virtually everything "bible based" in my 'Hell No' Box of Beliefs, I still have trouble reconciling my own supernatural experiences as a Christian. At this stage, I do believe in God (in general, but not the Christian god) and I do believe in a spiritual realm of some sort, primarily because of what I've personally witnessed.

 

As a Christian, I had "the gift of healing" - which sounds absurd now - but I could "lay hands" on people and see them improve. The most dramatic occurrence was a little girl who, deaf from birth, suddenly begin to hear. During my deconversion, I tried rationalizing these experiences away, but I simply cannot. They are too vastly dramatic.

 

I also have had encounters with ghosts/beings that are impossible to ignore. At the time, my Christian leaders deemed them "demons". But even then, I didn't believe them to be evil. One, in fact, was my recently-passed grandmother. It sounds insane to some, I realize, but I can't NOT include these experiences in my spiritual equation.

 

Have any of you had to reconcile genuine spiritual experiences in your deconversion process?

 

I've had some unexplained experiences as a Christian but they don't make me wonder if Christianity is true or not. I think we have almost no understanding of what we call the 'spiritual' because of just that...we don't understand it so we call it spiritual. I believe that we'll slowly begin to understand these phenomenons 'scientifically', meaning there will be more openness to it in the scientific community as so they'll begin to seriously study it. We're already seeing the beginnings of that openness today, which is exciting and I think the result will be very positive for us. My reconciliation simply comes from the fact that I don't understand it, and I'm ok with that.

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I don't think deconversion necessarily means dropping all vestiges of a belief in other dimensions, the spirit world or whatever you want to call it. It simply means dropping the Christian explanation for these things.

 

I personally don't have any problems with spirits or other types of beings as existing. I don't think about it a lot, because I really don't know what they are. I have had some experiences, but they were not linked with Christianity in any way that I consciously know of. Some were while I was still a Christian and some afterward.

 

One experience came about simply because I was thinking about death and what it would be like to be dead. In that moment I wasn't accepting the Christian explanation - I just deeply thought about it and something happened. I can't really describe it, but it was a sort of separation of parts of my personality or consciousness or something like that. It was unlike anything I have experienced before or since and it took place over 30 years ago and I still remember it.

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You believe there is a God, yes?

 

You believe it is not the Christian God?

 

If there is actually an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient being out there. He would be a pretty nice guy, eh? Not anything like the hellfire god in the christian bible, that christians will have you believe is the only form of god.

 

"WHY DOES GOD SEND PEOPLE TO HELL"

 

"CAUSE THATS THE WAY IT IS BITCH"

 

There is no good reason for it. There is no good reason for an omniscient omnipotent being to create life and then torture it for eternity. And if there is a god out there, we've obviously figured it out wrong. And if there is a god out there, do you think he would give a shit what religion we practiced? Would an omnipotent and omniscient God give a shit about whether you're a christian, or muslim, or hindu, or buddhist? No, I don't think he would.

 

And if he is feeling nice, and you're calling out to God, do you think he would help someone? Possibly.

 

Also, there are scientific explanations for a lot of these, the power of the brain is an extraordinary thing. A lot of times maladies from birth (such as deafness), is caused by a "block" in the brain. And sometimes you can just overcome that block. it doesn't happen a lot, but its been known to happen.

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Also, there are scientific explanations for a lot of these, the power of the brain is an extraordinary thing. A lot of times maladies from birth (such as deafness), is caused by a "block" in the brain. And sometimes you can just overcome that block. it doesn't happen a lot, but its been known to happen.

I think there's a scientific explanation for everything, but science obviously doesn't understand everything currently. I imagine any intelligent and honest scientist would say that even though we know a lot more than we used to, we still know very little.

 

There's no reason for me to think that millions of people who have spiritual experiences are defective, anymore than the billions that follow religions all do it because they're weaker than the non-religious. I would never follow the crowd of skeptics who dismiss everything 'non-scientific' because it's just a group mentality, much like fundamentalist Christianity which is not reasonable or honest. Many times new scientific discoveries are laughed and rejected at first by the scientific community, so always agreeing with that group mindset isn't actually that intelligent.

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Also, there are scientific explanations for a lot of these, the power of the brain is an extraordinary thing. A lot of times maladies from birth (such as deafness), is caused by a "block" in the brain. And sometimes you can just overcome that block. it doesn't happen a lot, but its been known to happen.

I think there's a scientific explanation for everything, but science obviously doesn't understand everything currently. I imagine any intelligent and honest scientist would say that even know we know a lot more than we used to, we still know very little.

 

There's no reason for me to tihnk that millions of people who have spiritual experiences are defective, anymore than the billions that follow religions all do it because they're weaker than the non-religious. I would never follow the crowd of skeptics who dismiss everything 'non-scientific' because it's just a group mentality, much like fundamentalist Christianity which is not reasonable or honest. Many times new scientific discoverys are laughed and rejected at first by the scientific community, so always agreeing with that group mindset isn't not that intelligent.

 

 

I ascribe to a view of god that fits within science, or rather, that science fits within god.

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The human brain is not yet fully understood, but I think Christianity is. I understand the religion, its explanations, and reject them on logic and evidence.

 

The fact that there are as yet phenomena and perceptions that haven't been explained doesn't mean we must default to "magic" as the answer until we know better. That has been our history and I would hope we take a lesson from finding out that a solar eclipse is not the result of an angry wolf god biting the sun.

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Science has identified a small, tip of the little finger sized part of the forebrain that's sole job is to discern reality from dreams, thoughts, mental images, etc. A few misguided electrons or a few extra molecules of the wrong protein and voila, spooks, spirits, and a plethora of "otherworldly" activity, originating right in your own head.

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Many people on this forum had what they thought were profound spiritual experiences, including me, prior to leaving Christianity. Many people here experienced speaking in tongues, being slain in the spirit, communicating directly with what they thought was god, alleged healings in church, alleged indwelling of the holy spirit, exorcisms, and the list goes on and on. What people have done, including me, is to think about these experiences to determine if there is a rational, non-supernatural, explanation. And that is what you need to start doing. Take your experience with faith healing which you described, as an example.

 

As a Christian, I had "the gift of healing" - which sounds absurd now - but I could "lay hands" on people and see them improve. The most dramatic occurrence was a little girl who, deaf from birth, suddenly begin to hear. During my deconversion, I tried rationalizing these experiences away, but I simply cannot. They are too vastly dramatic.

 

Have you ever heard of the placebo effect? Did you know that before a pharmaceutical manufacturer can market a new drug, in addition to several other things which they must prove, they must prove efficacy of their new drug. Efficacy simply means that the drug actually does what it is alleged to be able to do. Do you know how such tests are carried out? They are carried out in what is called double-blind studies in which the new drug is compared with placebo, and placebo is a pill that looks exactly like the drug with active ingredients but has inert materials (often called a sugar pill, though they are not necessarily sugar). It is double-blind because neither the patients nor the physician who administers the pills know which of the subjects is taking placebo and which is taking the active drug. Always, in virtually every study, a certain number of those patients administered placebo have a reaction. For example, if the new drug being tested is alleged to be able to lower blooe pressure, some number of those on placebo have their blood pressure lowered. Efficacy of the actual drug is measured against the effect of placebo. So, if placebo lowers blood pressure in a certain number of individuals, then the drug must do a better job than did placebo.

 

In addition to people having positive outcomes to placebo, there are often a certain number of people who, after being administered placebo, have something negative happen to them. For example, maybe they get sick or they have a certain pain, or even die. But the point is that these effects are not caused by placebo in a physical sense. Science does not fully understand the placebo effect, but there is a strong case to be made that it is for one or more of several reasons. It may be purely coincidental (like death) or it may be in the mind of the person who receives placebo. There is no doubt that the human mind (or brain, actually) can cause reactions even though the inert materials in placebo had nothing at all to do with it.

 

So my question to you is if someone can take a pill with inert materials and have their blood pressure lowered, would you say there is a cause and effect in the physical sense? Your laying on of hands could simply have been the the equivalent to the placebo effect with no actual relationship between your laying of hands on that girl and her hearing again.

 

But you must go further than even that if you are seeking the truth. For example, what was her precise medical diagnosis? Did she have any sense of hearing before you laid hands on her? Had she been treated by her physicians in some way prior to your having laid hands on her? Is it a documented fact, through auditory testing, that she had an improvement in her hearing after you laid hands on her? How is her hearing today? How did the doctors explain the improvement in her hearing? Had she experienced any improvements in her hearing prior to your having laid hands on her?

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Call me cynical rather than skeptical if you wish, but in most instances, probably this one, "we don't know everything yet" doesn't apply. Better, is selective memory and alternative explanations that can't be determined based on hearsay and one person's perspective. I don't intend this as a harsh response, so sorry if it comes across that way.

 

Someone here once posted a really excellent video that examined this issue from a rational perspective. It involved a ghost and a lampshade (rising heat caused the shade to move). Anyone recall? I tried to google it, but am not sure of the title.

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Someone here once posted a really excellent video that examined this issue from a rational perspective. It involved a ghost and a lampshade (rising heat caused the shade to move). Anyone recall? I tried to google it, but am not sure of the title.

 

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Have any of you had to reconcile genuine spiritual experiences in your deconversion process?

 

 

When I was a fundy I used to feel what they called the holy spirit moving through me during prayer and choir practice. It subsided after a while and was unreproduceable after a while into my xtian career. It was just a feeling of peace that would last 5 minutes or so and was most likely a chemical response like endorphins. I've also felt something similar when I put my body to sleep in self hypnosis, but remained mentally alert. It was an expansive state of consciousness. It has also happened spontaneously a couple times for no apparent reason. And, well a much 'better' experience happened when I smoked pot. :)

 

 

I've also had some experiences like astral projection and lucid dreams but on a very limited basis. These were before , during and after my xianity.

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I also have had encounters with ghosts/beings that are impossible to ignore. At the time, my Christian leaders deemed them "demons". But even then, I didn't believe them to be evil. One, in fact, was my recently-passed grandmother. It sounds insane to some, I realize, but I can't NOT include these experiences in my spiritual equation.

 

One thing that helped me is seeing that people in other faiths have similar experiences. Before I thought the experiences proved Christianity was true, but I think many things are universal and don't seem to have any religious preference. I know what it's like to see things that can't be explained, that go beyond the normal charismatic Christian feel-good or placebo type of experiences. I think there's some power that we don't understand, maybe it our higher selves who knows, but in some cases when it's real, I think it's just that power helping us out wherever we're at in that moment. I honestly don't even think about it hardly at all, it's just something that happened and that's about it.

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As a Christian, I had "the gift of healing" - which sounds absurd now - but I could "lay hands" on people and see them improve. The most dramatic occurrence was a little girl who, deaf from birth, suddenly begin to hear. During my deconversion, I tried rationalizing these experiences away, but I simply cannot. They are too vastly dramatic.

 

You realize if you or anyone for that matter could actually reproduce this there'd be a cool million bucks in it for you, right? It is for that fact I do not believe in any faith healing or supernatural whatsoever. If it were real it would be on YouTube by now, rather than all the frauds out there being exposed for what they are.

 

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html

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Someone here once posted a really excellent video that examined this issue from a rational perspective. It involved a ghost and a lampshade (rising heat caused the shade to move). Anyone recall? I tried to google it, but am not sure of the title.

 

 

Thanks!

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I worked with a consultant technician who purportedly stuttered terribly (when I had long been a functional atheistish-agnostic, nonmagic person). I only knew about his impediment because the other office folk had so much trouble speaking with him and understanding him. Granted, he seemed a tad shy during our first minute of talking, but then he opened right up and we had a productive two days troubleshooting network issues with very clear communication. No sign of a glaring impediment.

 

Am I a healer? Is it magic? It certainly made an impression on my co-workers listening to us chatter away about the various issues we were working on.

 

The director of the business is the one who made me aware of this man's severe speech impediment. She was impressed at my "healing powers", but not surprised, because she has known me for a long time. She said, "Phanta, when someone has an obvious behavior tick or physical issue, you don't react to it as something wrong or weird, so people lose their self-consciousness and can just relax and be their most confident selves." She reckoned that he didn't stutter with me because I did not react to his few first moments of nervousness in any way that indicated anything was wrong or strange about him.

 

People who are accepted as-is and encouraged in their strengths can tap more resources than when they feel stressed and pressured and bad about themselves.

 

Likewise, I have a deaf cousin. He has zero hearing from a technical standpoint. Many years ago (but still when I was a functional atheistish-agnostic nonmagic person), we were at my Grandparent's 50th anniversary. This was, perhaps, the 3rd time I had seen this man, who is 10-15 years my senior. We have always had a special connection ever since he visited when I was a very small child and taught me to sign my name. Anyway, here we are at the anniversary and he is kind of sitting back, looking kind of alienated. I'm the only family member (including his mother) who ever made a concentrated effort to learn sign language, so we had been chatting a bit at the family pre-gatherings and, again, had that instance friendly connection.

 

Well, I was told firmly by all family that he was not a dancer. I'm not, either, but I was a little drunk and, as the favored Granddaughter of the guests of honor, didn't mind making a spectacle of myself. I ended up being the life of the party, and danced with old and young, male and female, all night long. It was great! Well, at some point, I asked my self-conscious, totally deaf cousin to dance, and he accepted! I asked if he was ok with it, and how it would work. He told me to lead, and that he could feel the beat from the music. We had a great time dancing! Since he was relaxed, he could connect with the music despite his deafness using non-hearing resources.

 

There is a great story in Ina May Gaskin's book, Spiritual Midwifery, about a home birth experience where a laboring woman could not push her baby out, even though she was in the final stages of labor. Her husband was sitting behind her, holding her as she labored. They had a great emotional connection and both were doing everything "right". This went on for hours. Finally, unable to bear the discomfort any more, he got up to urinate. He hated to leave her during this very difficult stage of labor, but his bladder pain was too much to take. Upon his return, he resumed his position of support she pushed the baby through within a very short period of time. The difference was in the tension in his body that his laboring partner had been feeling before he visited the bathroom. That tension was contributing to her inability to release her child. Once her support partner released his tension, he could support her holistically in release.

 

Helping someone into a psychological and/or physical state where they can relax enough to tap into little-accessed, weaker resources and capacities they already have is a great skill. It is not magic. It is psychology, interpersonal relations, physical tension (or relaxation) and biochemistry.

 

I would consider your situation might be magic only if that child, in a total non-pressure, low stress environment, had her hearing tested at 0%, and then, after your healing, she was tested in such a way that there was no way she was using other resources (smell, sight, touch) to seem like she was hearing, and her hearing was >0%.

 

Phanta

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As a Christian, I had "the gift of healing" - which sounds absurd now - but I could "lay hands" on people and see them improve. The most dramatic occurrence was a little girl who, deaf from birth, suddenly begin to hear. During my deconversion, I tried rationalizing these experiences away, but I simply cannot. They are too vastly dramatic.

 

You might also consider that sugar pills have a strong effect on the health of people who believe they are real medicine. Are placebo pills spiritual? Or is healing part psychological orientation?

 

This article might be of interest: Placebo Alters Brain Function

 

Phanta

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Have you ever heard of the placebo effect?

 

Oh, I see OF already covered placebo effect. Very well, too. I learned more about it than I already knew. Great post!

 

P

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means that the drug actually does what it is alleged to be able to do. Do you know how such tests are carried out? They are carried out in what is called double-blind studies in which the new drug is compared with placebo, and placebo is a pill that looks exactly like the drug with active ingredients but has inert materials (often called a sugar pill, though they are not necessarily sugar). It is double-blind because neither the patients nor the physician who administers the pills know which of the subjects is taking placebo and which is taking the active drug.

 

Wait. So they give fake pills to people who are sick? What if they die or get worse because they aren't getting the medicine they need... I know this is standard practice, but... I must be missing something here. Because this seems like a fucking awful idea.

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means that the drug actually does what it is alleged to be able to do. Do you know how such tests are carried out? They are carried out in what is called double-blind studies in which the new drug is compared with placebo, and placebo is a pill that looks exactly like the drug with active ingredients but has inert materials (often called a sugar pill, though they are not necessarily sugar). It is double-blind because neither the patients nor the physician who administers the pills know which of the subjects is taking placebo and which is taking the active drug.

 

Wait. So they give fake pills to people who are sick? What if they die or get worse because they aren't getting the medicine they need... I know this is standard practice, but... I must be missing something here. Because this seems like a fucking awful idea.

 

But there's no guarantee that the real pills won't make someone sicker or have no effect either (they probably won't die from the trial because there's animal tox screens first, but it can happen). Also, they're not taking real pills away from anyone. Sometimes the first clinical trials in humans are on terminal patients who don't have any treatment options yet. Other times, the placebo isn't "no treatment" but "the current standard treatment".

 

Edit/PS: Here's a med-chem blogger talking about clinical trials in humans:

 

By the time of this study, he was in bad shape and running out of options. Those, frankly, are the patients who are appropriate to enroll in a trial like this one - you want to treat cancer with what we know can treat it before going to something that might well not work at all (or might even make things worse).

from http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/08/12/a_startlingly_good_leukemia_trial.php

 

And then a quote about what can go wrong in clinical trials:

But now the NIH trial has been stopped, a full 18 months early. Not only did the addition of niacin show no benefit at all, but that treatment group actually had a slightly higher rate of ischemic stroke. This despite the combination working as planned, from a blood-marker standpoint.

from http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/05/27/niacins_unexpected_flop.php

 

And another way clinical trials can go wrong, and why getting just the placebo may not be such a bad thing:

So, as had been suspected, the reason that Merck's thrombin antagonist vorapaxar ran into clinical trouble was excessive bleeding. This is always the first thing to suspect when an anticoagulant has difficulty in human trials.

 

It's really a delicate balance, the human clotting cascade, and it's all too easy to end up on the wrong side of it.

from http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2011/01/20/mercks_vorapaxar_bleeding_indeed.php

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means that the drug actually does what it is alleged to be able to do. Do you know how such tests are carried out? They are carried out in what is called double-blind studies in which the new drug is compared with placebo, and placebo is a pill that looks exactly like the drug with active ingredients but has inert materials (often called a sugar pill, though they are not necessarily sugar). It is double-blind because neither the patients nor the physician who administers the pills know which of the subjects is taking placebo and which is taking the active drug.

 

Wait. So they give fake pills to people who are sick? What if they die or get worse because they aren't getting the medicine they need... I know this is standard practice, but... I must be missing something here. Because this seems like a fucking awful idea.

 

They do this in trials only, not to the general public. But those who agree to participate in the trials know that they may be receiving placebo. No one hides anything from them except for the fact of whether they get placebo or the actual drug. But the people participating in the study are fully informed that they may receive placebo and they accept that with their eyes wide open.

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Wait. So they give fake pills to people who are sick? What if they die or get worse because they aren't getting the medicine they need... I know this is standard practice, but... I must be missing something here. Because this seems like a fucking awful idea.

It can be an ethical quandary. As VacuumFlux points out, it's unethical not to test the efficacy / toxicity of "real" drugs, too. But there are times when double-blind studies can be questionable, ethically.

 

My late wife was on several exotic / experimental meds toward the end. One of them, Isoprinisine, is an immune modulating drug of considerable utility in certain illnesses. If your immune system is downregulated, it will boost it; if your immune system is upregulated, it will calm it down. It's great stuff if your immune system is fucked up. It's available in 70+ countries, and it's even over the counter in many of them, but it's NOT available in the US. Why? It's an interesting story.

 

As it was told to me, the drug was originally developed in the 1970's to treat a rare and nearly always fatal immune system disorder in children. In early tests, death rates dropped from 90-ish percent to less than 20 percent. And it was reproducible. So it was definitely known that if you give this drug to kids with this disease, you were going to save a significant number of them.

 

In order to obtain FDA approval in the US, however, it was required to run double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. The CEO of the small drug company responsible for Isoprinisine said, "Hell, no, it would be wrong". You do NOT say things like that to the FD fucking-A. The drug was never approved in the US as a result. So the upshot was that people like my wife would smuggle the drug in through the mails from places like Ireland or Italy.

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I'm confused as to why it would be wrong to subject the drug to a double blind study. What am I missing?

 

People would get placebos and have a 90% chance to die because of it. Of course, they CHOOSE that, but still. Their death would kinda be on their hands. I wouldn't want to be the guy who picks who gets the placebo and who doesn't.

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I'm confused as to why it would be wrong to subject the drug to a double blind study. What am I missing?

 

People would get placebos and have a 90% chance to die because of it. Of course, they CHOOSE that, but still. Their death would kinda be on their hands. I wouldn't want to be the guy who picks who gets the placebo and who doesn't.

 

If the people on the placebos have a 90% chance of death, that doesn't mean the people getting the real drugs have any smaller chance of death. The point is that we have no clue what someone's chances are on the drug. And a lot of times, human trials are not on terminal illnesses; when they do minor injuries studies, for example, they get a nice clean knife an give a bunch of people a little cut on the finger, then see which group heals faster. So the people getting the placebo get nothing worse than a paper cut, and the people getting the treatment may or may not heal faster and may be stuck with some bad side effects. We just don't know until we try.

 

Most of the trials I hear about are "hey, we created this entirely new molecule in a lab, it seems to be promising on some vastly-oversimplified tissue samples, and it didn't kill the rats, so let's give it to humans and see what happens". It's a little more careful than that, but in most cases, you're dealing with an entirely new compound of unknown effectiveness and unknown side effects. Even if it works to treat the illness, the side effects may be bad enough to not make it a reasonable treatment. That's why, for things like cancer, they prefer to test on terminal patients. If they get the placebo, then they already knew they were going to die. If the drug works, that's great. If the drug doesn't work, nothing is lost. If the drug has horrible, horrible side effects, well, they patient was already dying so they won't have to live with it for long. The case of something that has worked outside the US and now needs human trials for FDA approval is... less common to rare, I think.

 

Have you ever read the scary warning labels on pill bottles? The ones that end with "...and sometimes death"? That means that someone, possibility in one of the trials, maybe after the trials looked good and the FDA approved the drug, died because they were taking that med. The FDA would rather gamble with a small set of willing, informed volunteers than the general public. And sometimes drugs that looked good, passed the human trials and made it to market, still get their FDA approval withdrawn because it turns out that the long-term side effects are worse than the original illness. Drugs can hurt people, sometimes badly. The point of human trials is to figure out if the good things a drug does is worth the side effects it causes.

 

Also, the point of a double-blind study is that the doctors giving the treatment have no idea which pills their patient is getting. Having a person, even if they never interact with the patients, choose who gets the placebo and who doesn't would defeat the point of it being a double blind test. I think they usually have a computer and a random number generator assign people to groups.

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