|for personal reference
||[Oct. 21st, 2004|03:35 pm]
At the last Socrates Cafe, one of the debaters brought up the assertion that the human body loses weight upon death, which gives credence to the theory of the soul existing as a physical entity. Snopes has a fairly good debunking of the true incident where a physician made this observation.|
2004-10-21 01:38 pm (UTC)
Re: what makes me wonder
probably because it's a moot argument. The physicality of souls is generally undisputed: if souls exist, they are incorporeal.
well, ghosts are often thought to be incorpreal, yet they have, on occasion, physical leavings, or, in the case of certain "hauntings" the ability to interact with solid matter. while i agree wholeheartedly that this is a generally undisputed issue, i would still love to see some modern quantitative analysis (using hi-tech gadgetry) to debunk the myth.
The concerns with such an experiment are as valid today as they were in the discussion of the repercussions of the 1900's experiments. The need for scientific information is outweighed by the ethical issues with providing maximum comfort to the terminally ill. There is no way that you can provide the latter without disrupting the need for minimum variable change required by the former.
There are also issues of falsifiability and control experiments. How can I be assured that the soul leaves the body at the exact time of death? Perhaps it happens before or even significantly after. There is no positive conjecture as to the nature of the soul, nor any hypothesis which defines why a soul should have mass or what the mass of a soul should be.
In other words, until there is a conjecture as to what the mass of a soul should be, there is no way to prove whether experimental data corroborates this conjecture. For instance, there could be other masses (guardian angels, chains of sins, etc) which might also have mass, and which leave the body, leaving the soul behind. Arguing the nature of a theory after the experiment is complete is not considered good science.
Since electrical activity, etc, may convert into a different form after death, one would have to have a good understanding of the non-soul-related variances which might create possible interference in such an experiment, as well. For instance, in the Snopes article there is mentioned a significant increase in body temperature immediately after death resulting from a lack of cooling due to air motion. Control variables would be difficult to construct.
Additionally, the good doctor did not consider what an engineer would: the force that the body itself is exerting on the table/scale. Part of the reason some people feel that a dead body becomes heavier - hence dead weight - is because the live body is still exerting a lot of effort lifting itself. A dead body obviously doesn't do this. A body dying on a scale will constantly fluctuate in weight depending on whether or not the body is struggling to survive or dying calmy. Consider that it is possible to stand "heavily" on a scale or seems heavier on a scale if your are shifting your weight.
Anyway, I really can't believe I'm arguing this since the "time of death" argument hasn't ever been answered. What about those people who have been "dead" for minutes and are revived - did their souls return? or did their souls never quite leave? And how did they know?
the controls are defintiely too wide and varied to keep track of without a large margin of error. simply in terms of debunking the myth started by this doctor's "study" of death though, it could be replicated, i imagine, fairly easily, without causing too much inconvienence or discomfort to someone who is about to die. between euthanasia volunteers, and heartbeat cadavers, i imagine you could get enoughdata to purely debunk the 21 grams thing.
you bring up some interesting points though, about the residence and departure times of souls, as well as the acting of other agents on the physical form. i have a post somewher ein my jorunal describing my view on souls - but i can't find it. i'll have to explain it to you one of these days.