In 1907, A Doctor tried to prove The Existence of The Soul by weighing it

In 1907 Duncan MacDougall attempted to prove the existence of the soul by measuring the weights of six patients before and after their death. He also relied on several dogs. Back to the famous “21 gram theory”.

Volunteers ?

Dr. MacDougall then decides that the best way to prove his theory would be to weigh a person shortly before passing the weapon to the left, and then immediately after. A possibly measured weight loss could then correspond to the physical mass of said core.

With this in mind, he then seeks volunteers. For the good performance of his experiment, it was preferable that these people remain motionless, so as not to shake his balance. He then turns to terminally ill patients dying of tuberculosis or similar illnesses. In short, people on the brink of death, far too exhausted to move. Meanwhile, the doctor places a bed fitted with a set of beam scales in his office.

During these experiments, carried out on six patients in total, MacDougall then records a lot of data: the exact time of death of each patient, but also their total time spent in bed, as well as any changes in weight that have occurred. before, during and after the death of each person. He also takes into account the loss of bodily fluids (sweat, urine), and gases (oxygen, nitrogen) in his calculations.

But, at the time of the weigh-in, things did not go as planned. Some scales do not fit very well, while some people, strongly opposed to his work, keep interfering during the experiments. One of the patients also died when his bed was not yet ready.

However, one of the patients, who “left” as planned, appeared to lose weight at the exact moment of his death: the infamous 21.3 grams. From there was born the theory.

About fifteen sacrificed dogs

Naturally, the doctor then realized that he would need to conduct a control experiment. He then recruited about fifteen dogs which, “for the sake of science”, therefore needed to die. It is not known how the doctor handled it (probably poisoning). Why dogs? Because MacDougall was convinced that animals have no soul. Also, according to his theory, these dogs should not lose any weight at the time of their death. As a result, they didn't actually lose a single gram.

MacDougall then published his results in an edition of the New York Times (March 1907), but they were not very well received. The famous "21 gram theory" is either ignored or scorned by many scientists denouncing the lack of rigor of these experiments (weakness of the sample, imprecision of measurements, approximations of reasoning, etc.).

Despised by some, thanked by others

In particular, the article sparked a debate between MacDougall and physician Augustus P. Clarke, who took care to verify his colleague's measurement techniques. Clarke points out that upon death, the lungs stop cooling the blood, causing the body temperature to rise slightly, which makes the skin sweat. According to him, this would explain the missing 21.3 grams of Dr. MacDougall. The latter then retaliates, pointing out that the blood circulation ceases at the time of death, so that the skin would not be heated by the increase in temperature.

MacDougall's work certainly did not prove the existence of soul, but neither did they suggest otherwise. So the question could very well remain open. After all, we are still profoundly ignorant today, as any honest scientist will tell you. Certain phenomena, in particular related to quantum physics, still confuse the most brilliant minds. So who knows?

Source : sciencepost

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