[extropy-chat] Thanks Damien (was Bioethics Essay- Revised)

John K Clark jonkc at att.net
Tue May 24 15:51:28 UTC 2005

I want to thank Damien Broderick for saving me some time. I had intended to
read this Bioethics Essay that everybody is talking about, but then I read
the following extract that Damien quoted:

>one way we might determine if a blastula has a
>soul or not is to scientifically measure it somehow.
>Interestingly enough somebody has already
>scientifically weighed the soul. He was a medical
>doctor named Duncan MacDougall and in the April 1907
>issue of the journal American Medicine he reported the
>results of experiments in which he determined the mass
>of terminally ill patients before and after they died.
>He observed that the patients he studied lost an
>average of 21 grams of mass when they died.
>Interestingly enough his results were never confirmed
>or repudiated by any other scientists despite the fact
>that they were published in a peer reviewed journal.
>If MacDougall’s results are accurate then one
>must conclude that a blastula can in no way
>accommodate a 21 gram soul as it weighs only about 34
>micrograms which is 600,000 times too little. In fact
>a developing embryo would not reach 21 grams until
>about the eighth week of development. If similar
>experiments were performed, perhaps we could obtain a
>more accurate weight for the soul. However the
>experimental evidence as it stands, would argue that a
>blastula does not contain a soul.    [nostrils, etc]

I figure that any essay that seriously proposes that the above might be
worthy of further investigation could not possibly contain anything of
interest to me; it confirms my long held suspicion that anything a ethicist
has to say, especially a biotechnology ethicist, is either blindingly
obvious or wrong.

By the way, I have two soles, one on each foot.

    John K Clark

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