Reason • Reality • Philosophy • Science • Psychology • Spirituality
I figured that I would start a thread for questions to The Scionics Institute.
It would be interesting to see how the outher members would answer compaired to the answers The Institute gives.
I would like to know the answer to this…
What is it that science has measured as a drop in weight when the body dies?
Whenever one encounters a claim regarding something extraordinary it is best to apply the “Sagan Standard,” i.e., “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The claim that “science” has measured a drop in a person’s weight at the moment of death is, itself, an extraordinary claim, which would have all sorts of implications regarding the possibilities of souls, a possible afterlife, and so on. When faced with such a claim, it is therefore important to examine the evidence which is put forth to support it. In the age of the internet, this is relatively easy.
A quick Google search, “weight loss at death,” will reveal the source of this claim, the so-called “21 Grams Experiment,” performed by Duncan MacDougall in 1901, but not published until 1907. Here is a relevant excerpt from the Wikipedia article:
In 1901, Duncan MacDougall, a physician from Haverhill, Massachusetts, who wished to scientifically determine if a soul had weight, identified six patients in nursing homes whose death was imminent. Four were suffering from tuberculosis, one from diabetes, and one from unspecified causes. MacDougall specifically chose people who were suffering from conditions that caused physical exhaustion, as he needed the patients to remain still when they died to measure them accurately. When the patients looked like they were close to death, their entire bed was placed on an industrial sized scale that was sensitive within two tenths of an ounce (5.6 grams). On the belief that humans have souls and that animals do not, MacDougall later measured the changes in weight from fifteen dogs after death. MacDougall said he wished to use dogs that were sick or dying for his experiment, though was unable to find any. It is therefore presumed he poisoned healthy dogs.
One of the patients lost weight but then put the weight back on, and two of the other patients registered a loss of weight at death but a few minutes later lost even more weight. One of the patients lost “three-fourths of an ounce” (21.3 grams) in weight, coinciding with the time of death. MacDougall disregarded the results of another patient on the grounds the scales were “not finely adjusted”, and discounted the results of another as the patient died while the equipment was still being calibrated. MacDougall reported that none of the dogs lost any weight after death.
While MacDougall believed that the results from his experiment showed the human soul might have weight, his report, which was not published until 1907, stated the experiment would have to be repeated many times before any conclusion could be obtained.
Before MacDougall was able to publish the results of his experiments, The New York Times broke the story in an article titled “Soul has Weight, Physician Thinks”. MacDougall’s results were published in April of the same year in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, and the medical journal American Medicine.
Following the publication of the experiment in American Medicine, physician Augustus P. Clarke criticized the experiment’s validity. Clarke noted that at the time of death there is a sudden rise in body temperature as the lungs are no longer cooling blood, causing a subsequent rise in sweating which could easily account for MacDougall’s missing 21 grams. Clarke also pointed out that, as dogs do not have sweat glands, they would not lose weight in this manner after death. Clarke’s criticism was published in the May issue of American Medicine. Arguments between MacDougall and Clarke debating the validity of the experiment continued to be published in the journal until at least December that year.
MacDougall’s experiment has been the subject of considerable skepticism, and he has been accused of both flawed methods and outright fraud in obtaining his results. Noting that only one of the six patients measured supported the hypothesis, Karl Kruszelnicki has stated the experiment is a case of selective reporting, as MacDougall ignored the majority of the results. Kruszelnicki also criticized the small sample size, and questioned how MacDougall was able to determine the exact moment when a person had died considering the technology available at the time. Physicist Robert L. Park has written that MacDougall’s experiments “are not regarded today as having any scientific merit”, and psychologist Bruce Hood wrote that “because the weight loss was not reliable or replicable, his findings were unscientific”. Professor Richard Wiseman said that within the scientific community, the experiment is confined to a “large pile of scientific curiosities labelled ‘almost certainly not true'”.
An article by Snopes in 2013 said the experiment was flawed because the methods used were suspect, the sample size was much too small, and the capability to measure weight changes too imprecise, concluding: “credence should not be given to the idea his experiments proved something, let alone that they measured the weight of the soul as 21 grams.” The fact that MacDougall likely poisoned and killed fifteen healthy dogs in an attempt to support his research has also been a source of criticism.
As is readily apparent, this is not “extraordinary evidence.” There is NO scientific evidence at all for the idea the body loses weight at death. The claims of the “21 Gram Experiment” thus do not meet the Sagan Standard. Furthermore, when all the various claims regarding the existence of souls or an afterlife are examined, such claims also universally fail to meet the Sagan Standard.
Regarding the nature of consciousness, the Scionics Institute has a hypothesis which is founded upon a very wide-scope analysis integrating the phenomenon of consciousness itself, along with facts regarding neuroscience and quantum mechanics. This hypothesis is described in SCION: Einstein’s God, and is rather complex. (This document is still very much in a state of development, so much of the terminology therein is likely to change, although the ideas are already fairly well-developed.) That said, here is a simplified version:
We can make a distinction between “consciousness” and “mind.” Mind is a form of organized consciousness. Consciousness, on the other hand, is the “stuff” of raw awareness, which also reacts to whatever it is aware of based upon the hedonic principle. (For consciousness, to be aware is to react. These are one in the same.)
Mathematics is the very foundation of reality – the infinite, eternal, and omnipresent foundation. The mathematical nature of consciousness is such that raw consciousness spontaneously arises wherever (and whenever) mathematical truth exists…which is all places and times, infinitely and eternally.
Raw consciousness spontaneously divides itself into units which we call “scions,” which are the smallest particles of existence itself. Each scion is simultaneously a tiny speck of consciousness and a tiny speck of spacetime. Depending upon the state of a scion, it may represent empty space, or particles of matter/energy. This should not be construed to mean that spacetime or existence is “God,” because the concept of “God” (as typically understood) entails a mind which plans, loves, and so on. A mind, however, requires a type of organization which is simply not found in empty spacetime, or even in non-biological matter. The process of biological evolution (natural selection) does, however, give rise to minds of various degrees of complexity and ability, including those of human beings. Human (and other animal) minds are thus composed of ever-shifting patterns of complexly interconnected and ever changing scions.
The reason that science has not discovered some sort of “soul” or “conscious substance” separate from seemingly non-animate, non-conscious matter/energy, is that ALL matter/energy/space/time IS MADE OF CONSCIOUSNESS ITSELF, in the form of scions. Matter/energy/space/time act the way they do, according to scientific physical laws, because this is how the consciousness from which they are made hedonically reacts under various circumstances.
Stated as simply as possible: Everything (physical and mental) is ultimately made of consciousness, and consciousness is ultimately founded upon mathematics, and acts according to its mathematical and hedonic nature. There is no point in looking for some “other-dimensional existence” for consciousness, because consciousness exists everywhere, here and now, in this reality.