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A Perfect example of how "Science" is betraying us

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  • A Perfect example of how "Science" is betraying us

    Recently I made a decision - admittedly because of a little bit of a dude crush on John Noble - to watch the series called "Dark Matters" on netflix.

    One of the episodes contained a segment called "21 grams" - and for those of you who aren't familiar with the concept, I'll explain.

    In the early 1900's a well respected physician named Duncan MacDougall began a series of experiments which attempted to determine whether the "soul" leaving the body could be measured quantatatively.

    He devised a very precise method of measuring the weight of dying Tuberculosis patients, which would record any negative changes seen.

    In his experiments, which included at least 6 patients, he determined that the body did in fact lose some mass upon death. The average weight of that loss was determined to be "21 grams".

    Further research conducted on dogs reportedly did not register a weight loss upon death (controversially, these deaths were not likely natural causes). This was thought to be indicative of the idea that humans have souls, but animals do not.

    Now, understand something here. I am not proclaiming this research as definative, or declarative or anything of the sort.

    But what I do have a problem with is that this sort of science is so enigmatic, that it isn't really treated as science. This despite that fact that Macdougall was a well respected physician and according to the research at the time, the experiments were witnessed by other physicians. Not only that, but in March 1907, accounts of MacDougall's experiments were published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research and the medical journal American Medicine, while the news was spread to the general public by New York Times.

    Why would I say that this is treated as psuedo-science? Well, the simple answer lies in the following statement, which is detailed on Macdougall's wikipedia page.

    "His results have never been attempted to be reproduced, and are generally regarded either as meaningless or considered to have had little if any scientific merit"


    WHAT?!?!?

    What kind of "science" would dismiss these results as meaningless, without offering any explanation, or attempting to reproduce them?

    What kind of arrogance does that take?!?!?

    That kind of science leads to skeptics attempting to dismiss Psi research by refuting published papers that they have never read.

    Or simply ignoring significant evidence within the near death experience realm that leading researchers have spent years compiling.

    That kind of science, in my opinion, is betraying humanity.

    Whether or not the research is valid or true isn't the point. It's whether we are so tied to our current beliefs that we (science) aren't even willing to ask that I'm concerned about.

  • #2
    Originally posted by tempel
    I understand you're having an emotional moment, but you do realize Wikipedia article are written by anyone and everyone, right?

    Anyway, in terms of science betraying us... I'm sure you can think of more ways in which it has done us good than in which you find it disappointing. Am I right?
    To answer the first question, im fully aware of how wikipedia works. But a little further research confirms the point.

    Despite no obvious reasons to discredit the findings, they are basically ignored. If they were seen as credible, we would attempt to refute them or replicate them. Research essentially confirms the wikipedia article.

    And science has done us plenty of good. Which is why its MORE dissappointing when it comes to matters of life and such.

    We need science to give us good answers about this stuff. Not treat it sarcastically.

    And the bottom line is, giving someone flowers and then slapping them doesn't lead you to tell that person "well, they did give you flowers, right?"

    Let me ask you this... what is your take on his research?

    Comment


    • #3
      I remember reading about this in a book, although I can remember neither the author nor the title anymore. If I remember correctly, the physician had a very difficult time with his measurements and the problem of putting a dying person on a scale and then waiting for them to expire. I think that the experiment only properly worked one time, with one person and that was where the 21 grams comes from. It has just captured the imagination is all.

      It's not exactly an experiment that's easy to duplicate and there are ethical considerations when treating a person's last moments on earth as an opportunity to turn them into a lab rat.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by docpoco View Post
        Despite no obvious reasons to discredit the findings, they are basically ignored. If they were seen as credible, we would attempt to refute them or replicate them. Research essentially confirms the wikipedia article.
        While I find his research interesting, it does appear pretty flawed. By MacDougall's own account, only 4 of the 6 tests could be included for various errors in procedure, giving him a small sample size. Of those 4 "successful" tests, the weight changes varied pretty wildly, and for myriad reasons, so he was never able to pin down exactly what weight loss occurred and when (21 grams was an average).

        But I don't know. Personally he lost me at "dogs have no souls".

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by docpoco View Post
          Despite no obvious reasons to discredit the findings, they are basically ignored.
          That's the thing. There were plenty of reasons to discredit the findings. First, the sample consisted of only six subjects. Of these measurements two were discarded, two continued to lose weight after measurement, and one actually fluctuated wildly. It appears that there was a good deal of "interference by people opposed" to his work during the experiment. MacDougall had difficulty ascertaining the time of death of some them. Their measurement devices were relatively crude. In sum, there was plenty of room for error.

          Source with references

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by docpoco View Post
            Whether or not the research is valid or true isn't the point. It's whether we are so tied to our current beliefs that we (science) aren't even willing to ask that I'm concerned about.
            I agree... and this has been happening since forever in science and still happens to this day. I posted about a month ago in regards to Ignaz Semmelweis who back in the 1800's discovered that midwives who washed their hands with chlorinated lime before delivering babies had a mortality rate of less than 1%, compared to Doctors who didn't wash their hands and had mortality rate close to 35%.

            He was outcast and shunned by his peers purely because he could not scientifically explain why his hypothesis was correct. His data showed a significant effect and he had all the evidence in the world that he was right but because it went again "mainstream scientific opinion" of the time it was ignored and he ended up commited to an asylum. Up to 35% of Mothers lost their children because science refused to believe it.

            Only after Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister confirmed the existance of germs 20 years after he had died, was he finally vindicated... but of course it was too late by then for many families that lost children due to the arrogance and ignorance of the science community of the time... and guess who are the "heros" who are known for their work? Pasteur and Lister of course. The "Pseudo Scientist" who should be the real hero is virtually unknown.

            I personally don't see much has changed.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Frankmat View Post
              I personally don't see much has changed.
              It probably won't, since scientists are just people, prone to the same type of egotism and groupthink as everyone else. Could there be a tendency to hold scientists to impeccable standards of critical thinking and open-mindedness, in the same way that people expect religious leaders to be model devotees, and members of the justice system perfect abiders by the law? Of course, the big difference between science and religion, in this regard, is that religion survives on tradition and dogma, while science at least strives to move forward and evolve.
              Last edited by tempel; May 7th, 2013, 09:50 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by tempel View Post
                It probably won't, since scientists are just people, prone to the same type of egotism and groupthink as everyone else.
                I would actually suspect that there is a higher level of egotism in science.

                They consider themselves the lawmakers of life by which us the people abide and hang on every word or finding they discover. We are just the students... science believes they are the teachers and they will find out how the universe works and how to cure disease... and then educate us mere mortals... so that we can all fall over their feet praising them for the great work they have done. The teacher doesn't want to be seen as being wrong.

                You couldn't breed a more ego filled environment if you tried.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Frankmat View Post
                  I would actually suspect that there is a higher level of egotism in science.
                  ...................................

                  You couldn't breed a more ego filled environment if you tried.
                  Yes, I fear there is a lot of truth in that!

                  Whether MacDougall's results were valid (and the non-materialist paradigm would surely suggest that no change of weight would occur at death, and that animals are not distinct from humans) science seems to behave this way all the time.

                  The thing is that every 'fringe' experiment suggests one of two possibilities:

                  1) The experiment is telling us something extremely novel.

                  2) The experiment is somehow flawed.

                  In many cases, it should be worth others trying to repeat the experiment whichever they believe to be the case. For example, Dean Radin uses standard skin conductance measurements and analysis in his experiments, and if he can see a signal that precedes a stimulus, that should be of interest to everyone who uses similar techniques in a more conventional context!

                  Another example might be Jacques Benveniste's famous memory of water experiments. He used a standard biological assay method, and surely if his result (repeated by some other researchers) is wrong, there should be a number of people clamoring to find out why it is wrong, so that they know if it affects their work too!

                  Admittedly weighing people as they die is probably not the best example, because there are lots of reasons why this would be problematic research(!!), but there are many other areas where the science establishment seems to behave more like the fashion industry. "Cold fusion is so last century darling, you should move into climate change!"

                  I start to think that perhaps a lot of scientific procedures and deductions are far more flaky than we are lead to believe, and even those who are convinced that presentiment (say) isn't a real effect, may fear that it sheds light on some error that might apply to their work! Remember, such people have typically invested far less time in their experiments than has Dean Radin!

                  David
                  Last edited by David Bailey; May 8th, 2013, 05:28 AM.

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                  • #10
                    What are the implications if the hypothesis is true? Wouldn't that make the "soul" or consciousness physical? Or does the immaterial have mass too?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      As someone has already written, the experiments of Dr. Duncan MacDougall are weak for several reasons, but here is an article in case anyone is interested:

                      http://www.dapla.org/pdf/whs.pdf

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Frankmat View Post
                        You couldn't breed a more ego filled environment if you tried.
                        How many scientists have you met? A lot? More than half? All of them? It seems to me that your opinion is based on emotion, not fact.

                        More importantly, I want to emphasize that while you have every right to be frustrated, and there should always be room for criticism, these kinds of judgmental statements only serve to divide and antagonize. If the goal is to improve relations and understanding between competing viewpoints and their proponents, than surely this broad condemnation of science (or even just of one's opponents) is counterproductive. And I don't just mean the statements themselves, but one's inner orientation and attitude.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Arouet View Post
                          What are the implications if the hypothesis is true? Wouldn't that make the "soul" or consciousness physical? Or does the immaterial have mass too?
                          That's a great point. If true, the problem of mind-matter interaction (a la psi) is theoretically simplified (by virtue of operating in just one ontological domain), yet the problem of mechanism remains.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Frankmat View Post
                            They consider themselves the lawmakers of life by which us the people abide and hang on every word or finding they discover. We are just the students... science believes they are the teachers and they will find out how the universe works and how to cure disease... and then educate us mere mortals... so that we can all fall over their feet praising them for the great work they have done.
                            What absurd hyperbole!

                            Comment

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