On several occasions I've heard the human body looses a number of grams of body weight at death ( apart from bodily fluids, liquid or feces). Of course, it's said this loss of weight proves the existence of the human soul. Has anyone else heard this?
For myself, I refer to my soul as being my core, my inner self that I rarely share with anyone else. I'm interested in what other atheists think.

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OK, I do not believe a spirit transcends into heaven. I guess the best word is "life".  When the spark leaves the eyes, when the body relaxes, when breathing stops, that is what I interpret as spirit.  It's life ends.  There is nothing more.  

Joseph, did you have an unusual or unexpected feeling when you saw the end?  I don't mean when you saw the end coming, but when his life ended and you recognized he was gone.  

Death always arouses something in me, whether it is a human or another form of life.  We were fishing one day, caught a sun fish, cut its heart out and used the rest for bait.  The heart continued to beat for a good 15 minutes, laying there on a stump.  I just sat there and watched it pump, wondering.   

"Well shit. Dad's dead. Now what do we do?"

That was pretty much the extent of the emotional impact.

The thing with the fish heart isn't all that freakish. There's a huge difference between macro death and cellular death. The brain can be dead and disconnected from everything else, but the rest of the bodily tissues will go on living for a while, until they run out of food or pile up too many toxins and die.

In animals with a simpler nervous system, I can see how it would take longer for the other systems to get the message that they're dead. You might not have a sufficient level of system shock to kill off all localized activity.

Joan, You are very sentimental. Sometimes, your sentimentality speaks, reason doesn't!

Madhukar Kulkarni.

Madhukar, I agree, sentimentality is an important part of my thinking process.  It is not instead of, but in addition to reasoning.  For example, growing up in an abusive home, I learned to rationalize domestic violence.  Growing into adulthood and realizing that domestic violence does not solve problems in the grown-up world, that I turned to feelings for wisdom.  Those feeling led me to better outcomes.  

Thank you for noticing!

While in college many years ago, a chemistry major told me how soap works. Bingo, it was no longer a mystery to me.

I tell believers I don't care what they believe but I won't let them require me to believe the same.

Be happy.

Many years before this experiment of weighinga dying persons body just before death and immediately after death. The average weight loss was found to be 21grams! This would costitute a mere 0.05% of an average weight of about 42 kgs of a dying and sick person. If you were weighing a body on a scale having a range of 100kg with an accuracy of 0.01%, the possible error would be 10 gms. So, if you have to be able to detect small variations like 21gms, you would need a weighing scale of better than 0.01% accuracy. Actually, the weighing scales that were used, were of much worse accuracy, as, in those days, weighing scales of better accuracy not made at all! and this difference therefore could have been caused by measurement error only. 

MADHUKAR KULKARNI.

 

May I refer you to http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/283842
-which according to the two most convincing of the respondents is either bad science or evaporation of perspiration. However I have in my brief search not found any links to a proper scientific study of this, only the rather dubious work of Dr MacDougall. Until such study is done, I think it has to be classed as an urban legend propogated by religious rather than scientific interests.

Even if the mass of a body would change after death, this would not be proof for a "soul" anyway. One of the most classic mistakes in human reasoning is the tendency to fill a gap in our understanding or knowledge with something that needs to be explained in stead of doing the actual explanation.

 

We also have a tendency to see casual connections between actions that occur at roughly the same time. Nobody in their right mind would think that if I threw a ball against the wall of my house and at the same time the doorbell of the neighbor's house would ring that the two are causally related.

 

Ergo, this kind of wishful thinking can easily be explained by the human condition.

This old chestnut again?  This is an Urban Legend of the worst sort; it keeps reappearing, but the experiment has been done and, no, just as you might expect, there is no sudden loss of weight.  The body will gradually lose a little weight as saliva and moisture from the lungs and sweat evaporate over a period ranging from a few minutes to a few hours.

 

We already know that the conciousness is part of the brain rather than separate from it.  Damage to the brain from injury or disease causes personality change, the brain IS the mind.  There is no separate "driver" at the controls of your body.  Dualism like that is common in children. 

I thank all of you for all of your comments. It seems to me Joan has the best insight so far. I too have seen death take both human and animal. At the moment of death, all sound and activity stop and the whole room seemed so silent. My compassion stopped and I felt extremely sad to have lost my friend (animal and human). Like birth, death is part of our life and they both share a moment in time after which reality will be forever changed for each of us. I understand very well that there is no heaven or "special" magic god. But I will still refer to my "soul" as being that special part of myself that I don't share with very many people. I make a lot of mistakes but my "soul" is good. Or so I hope it is. Thanks again every one. Connie Kane

Here's a good ready on the subject by Massimo Pigliuchi at Rationally Speaking:

http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2007/03/does-soul-weigh-21-g...

 

Aside from the pseudoscience involved in this claim, it really doesn't even make sense according to the internal logic of the most commonly held religious faiths, where heaven, the afterlife, souls, etc. are nearly always portrayed as explicitly non-physical phenomena.

Just another example of apologists looking to justify their unfounded faith with bunk science which is designed to confirm the answers they desire, rather than taking the genuine scientific approach of starting with questions and letting the evidence determine the answer.

maybe it's something to do with muscles relaxing, or the breath going out of the body?

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