A doctor named Duncan MacDougall conducted a series of strange experiments in 1907 fueled by the idea that the human soul has mass that could be weighed. Dr. MacDougall put together a bed fitted with a sensitive set of beam scales on which terminally ill patients were put during the final moments of their lives.
He recorder the patient’s time of death as well as the total time on the bed, and noted any changes in weight that occurred at the time of death. He took losses of bodily fluids and gasses into consideration, and concluded that the soul weighs 21 grams. This kind of experiment would be ridiculed today, but the idea remains with us still.
A year in the spotlight
The results of the experiment were published in the New York Times in 1907. The article started a debate between Dr. MacDougall and physician Augustus P. Clarke, who was having a problem with the miniscule measurement techniques. Clarke explained that during the time of death, the lungs stop cooling the blood which causes a spike in the temperature and makes the skin sweat, which accounts for the missing 21 grams. Dr. MacDougall fired back in the next issue of the newspaper, and explained that circulation ceases at the time of death, meaning that the skin doesn’t sweat. The debate went back to the end of the year, slowly picking supporters for both theories.
For four years Dr. MacDougall was quiet, until he announced that he’ll photograph the human soul leaving the body in 1911. Although he said that the substance might be too agitated to be photographed, he managed to capture a light in or around the patient’s skulls at the moment of death. Dr. MacDougall passed away in 1920, leaving a small group of supporters behind, and a larger group of physicians who disregarded his claims. The discussion went away later, but not completely.
A legacy of oddity
Dr. MacDougall’s experiment continues to appear in pop culture nowadays, and his idea that the soul weighs 21 grams has been appearing in novels, songs and even movies. Mentioning the idea to parapsychologists will likely be followed by approval, and the topic is a late-night discussion for skeptics.
The result of the experiment is not what matters – it’s the actual idea that has made science go one way and pop culture another. Functional neuroimaging has tied every conceivable function once associated with the soul to specific regions and structures of the brain. Physics has mapped the linkages between subatomic particles so thoroughly that there’s simply no space left for spiritual forces. However, the idea is still present and captivates us even today.
A different kind of eeriness
To understand Dr. MacDougall’s idea, we need to understand the environment he was in at the time. His work was based on Freud and Jung – there’s talk of “psychic functions” and “animating principles” as well as a grasping for precise scientific language to describe consciousness and life.
Today, we’re pretty much ignorant of what’s around us. We’re still a long way from discovering how the brain works, and we keep looking for dark matter that makes up more than 80% of the universe’s mass. In all these dark corners of science, people are still looking for the soul. Some claim they may have found it among quantum particles, while other say that it’s caused by the electromagnetic waves our brains generate. Some scientists reject these claims, but others support them.
MacDougall and his idea remain with us today, and have started a century of debate whether the soul can be measured. However, the universe is proving to be much stranger than we thought and is full of unsolved mysteries. We don’t need to weight the soul – the real universe’s mysteries are eerie enough.
Source ( https://simplecapacity.com )