Weighing the soul, science and consciousness, angels and physical properties, Duncan MacDougall, logic, Russell, Wittgenstein

Weighing the soul

Does consciousness have physical properties? I don’t mean, are there physical phenomena associated with it. Different mental states and activities create spectacular images of neurological changes.

— The EEG (electroencephalograph) measures brainwaves in different frequencies. As you would expect, these frequencies mark different activities.  For instance, they signify states of cognition, learning abilities and disabilities. The frequencies are, high frequency to low, Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta. The Hz range is from 30+, to 4 or less.

— read choosemuse.com article explaining the different brainwave frequency bands.

— Something called ChroMS (chromatic multiphoton serial microscopy) is fairly new. It images brain activity by translating different energy levels into color images that display micrometer scale “heat” in proteins.

Weighing the soul

But the above is the brain. Is consciousness itself somehow physical? — a thing, if you will. And a possibly related question: is there a soul? A physician named Duncan MacDougall weighed the soul — as he asserted — back in 1907 (Haverhill, Massachusetts). As expected, scholars and scientists read him, but neither accepted nor believed what he said.

On the other hand, religious authorities supported the MacDougall contention because it seemed to affirm that yes, there was a soul. And it was even measurable by advanced science.

Logic vs. wishful thinking

Some decades back, you could get SOME offbeat scientists to discuss this, but not many. MacDougall’s misfortune was that his theorizing coincided with a phase – a kind of a teenager phase — in science and philosophy. Anyone needing to be respected, basically denied the existence of consciousness. Or, they said that discussing it was really nonsense, mystical blather, and a non-starter for rational people.

Note: just to relieve pandemic angst and boredom, we just published a short article mentioning Dr. MacDougall. Also, while you’re at it, you might check out ROAD TRIP, an article by one of our colleagues here at Wharf21.


The town bullies were university professors

Denying consciousness — or quibbling with the concept’s legitimacy — may seem crazy today. Sure, scholars and philosophical / linguistic experts may want to downplay it now. Logical positivism, mathematical logic and related systems, remember them? Aristotle/Wittgenstein/Russell, took over the philosophical discussion.

Predictably, if you were short on mathematics, empirical data or logical discipline, you were hardly a serious scholar. You could be a poet, psychic or entertainer — sure. Or, a modern descendant of a “doctor” selling potions from a horse-drawn wagon, town to town.

Today, weighing the soul doesn’t seem that crazy. Hell, many believe the personality is located in the brain. And that the brain somehow manufactures consciousness.

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