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The weight of the soul world. The dark side of early twentieth century science with deception in the background

The weight of the soul world.  The dark side of early twentieth century science with deception in the background

21 grams – you may have already come across such a term, for example on the occasion of a movie with this title. 21 grams is the weight of a soul according to research by Duncan MacDougall, MD, a Haverhill physician. He developed the bold hypothesis that the human soul has the greatest physical weight, and then tried to prove it. how? The weight of the dying person.

Does the soul exist?

Why weigh your soul at all? Humanity is religious in nature. In fact, all civilizations at the dawn of history developed their own beliefs regarding supernatural beings and – in most cases – also the afterlife. Many religions share the concept of the soul as an immortal being enclosed in our bodies.

Photo: sezer66 / Shutterstock

It is the soul that will carry our personality and that after the death of the body will undergo some form of transition “to the other side”, or – according to some beliefs – will be reborn, or will visit the places with which it is connected on earth.

There is no scientific evidence for the existence of such a thing as a soul. But this is a topic of great interest, especially among believers. Proving the existence of the soul means confirming the legitimacy of belief in life after death. However, if the soul cannot be seen, heard, felt, or measured, then perhaps it can … be weighed.

To prove that after the death of a human being, when the virtual soul leaves his body, the weight drops immediately and it would obviously be reason to believe that the soul exists and has some physical properties. Such evidence would turn the world of science and religion upside down.

death weight

The topic of death was of great interest to Duncan MacDougall, an Irish immigrant born in 1866. McDougall, at the age of twenty, went to the American city of Haverhill, Massachusetts, and from there went to study medicine in Boston.

The topic of death, spirit, stalking, and other paranormal phenomena was popular in the United States at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. McDougall also frequently encountered death in medical studies, which influenced his further considerations.

Boston University School of Medicine

Photo: ThePhotosite / Shutterstock

Boston University School of Medicine

The physician postulated that the soul – which carries consciousness – must have some physical characteristic, and must occupy space. According to him, this amounts to the need for the soul to have a weight that can be determined in some way.

In 1901, Duncan MacDougall established the research methodology. On an industrial scale, he set up beds for the terminally ill who spend their last hours in them. The doctor would constantly check the weight during this time and record any fluctuations that might occur after the patient had stopped breathing and his heart had stopped beating.

19th Century Hospital

Photo: chippix / Shutterstock

19th Century Hospital

McDougall selected six patients with end-stage disease that were very stressful. Most of the time it was tuberculosis. The doctor decided that it would be better, because patients who did not have the strength to move on their own would not sway. The industrial scale itself was accurate to one-tenth of an ounce, or roughly 5.7 g.

On April 10, 1901, the experiment began with the first patient. He was brought to bed in a carriage and then carefully laid out. From that moment until the death of the patient 3 hours passed. And 40 minutes. In the meantime, McDougall is keeping a close eye on the Libra readings.

Luigi Schiavonetti, "The soul leaves the body" (1808 p.)

Photo: Luigi Schiavonetti / Domina Publiczna

Luigi Schiavonetti, “The Soul Leaving the Body” (1808)

The experiment was repeated five more times with the participation of humans, and then several times with the participation of dogs.

21.3 grams

What were the results of the experiment? MacDougall published this only in 1907, six years after he began testing his hypothesis. The document states that the patient’s body lost three-quarters of an ounce, or about 21.3 grams, at the exact moment of death.

Snapshot "The New York Times" From 1907, reporting the results of the MacDougall experiments

Photo: The New York Times

Excerpt from the 1907 New York Times, reporting the results of the MacDougall experiments

At the same time, McDougall reported that none of the dogs lost weight at the time of death, which confirms the Catholic Church’s belief that only humans have a soul and that animals are deprived of it.

critique the experience

The famous “21 grams” (three quarters of an ounce) made its way around the world and became a very popular “proof” of the existence of the soul. Many people believed the research results simply because they fit their worldview and beliefs. However, it quickly turned out that the entire MacDougall study did not prejudge anything, since its results are unreliable, and the conclusions of the Irishman were chosen for his own thesis. Everything else was ignored.

In the conclusions published in 1907, the researcher completely omitted the measurements of the remaining five cases, even disproving their validity himself. They all had one thing in common – they did not confirm the hypothesis regarding the weight of the soul. In the case of one of the patients, the weight decreased several times. In another case, the weight decreased after death, but then increased. The following items have been discarded due to alleged measurement errors or ongoing calibration.

Simply put, out of six cases, McDougall chose the one that fit his theory and ignored or questioned the rest.

Augustus B Clark

Photo: National Library of Medicine / Domena Publiczna

Augustus B Clark

But even for this “successful” case, doctors today have found an explanation. The American physician Augustus P. Clarke noted that at the time of death there is a sudden rise in body temperature as the lungs stop cooling the blood. This supposedly causes a temporary increase in body sweating, which may explain a little “evaporation” of body weight from the body. Clark also added a note that because dogs have no sweat glands, they do not “lose weight” in this way after death.

The MacDougall experiment has been widely rejected by the scientific community. Both the research methodology and the fraudulent publication of the results have been criticized.

What is next for this spirit?

In 1911, Duncan McDougall raised his voice again when The New York Times reported that he wanted to conduct another experiment. This time the doctor wanted to photograph souls fleeing from people. However, there is no evidence that such an experiment was actually conducted. McDougall himself died in 1920, no longer entering the history of science.

Photo: Denis Simonov/Shutterstock

In December 2001, physicist Louis E. Hollander Jr. He published an article in the Journal of Scientific Exploration presenting the results of a similar experiment, but this time involving a number of animals. He explained that after death, these animals did not lose weight, but rather gained weight to return to their original state over time. His results showed an increase in weight from 18 to 780 g, however, the possible cause of these changes was not investigated.

In turn, another physician, Gerard Nahum, suggested in 2005 an experiment using a series of electromagnetic detectors to capture any kind of escaping energy at the time of death. He wanted to sell his idea to the largest universities and even the Catholic Church itself, but no one accepted the offer.

See also  Science is not in a vacuum | University newspaper of the University of Silesia
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