Where in the human body is the soul located?

Wednesday 22nd July 2009
Submitted by Len Fisher
Sue Hiett, Leighton Buzzard

For those who believe in the soul, the question of its location has a perennial interest. The ancient Egyptians thought that it was found in the heart, and tomb pictures from around 2000BCE (before the common era) show the god Anubis weighing the soul-laden heart against the Feather of Truth. In 1515 Leonardo da Vinci was denounced as a sorcerer for attempting to find the soul by dissecting the brain, following the belief of the time that it existed in the centre of the head. Some believers claim that the soul is an insubstantial entity (derisively labelled by Cambridge philosopher Gilbert Ryle as 'the ghost in the machine'), but this begs the classic philosophical question how an insubstantial entity can ever affect a material body. American doctor Duncan MacDougall concluded from this that the soul, if it exists, must have weight, and in 1907 reported experiments where he measured the change in weight of dying tuberculosis patients. His answer, encapsulated in a later film title, was that the soul weighed 21g. Make of that what you will.

How much salt is in a human body?
previous qanda Article
Why do mosquito bites itch so much?
next qanda Article
Q&A Tabs

Lobsters and other shellfish have harmful bacteria naturally present in their flesh. Once the lobster is dead, these bacteria can rapidly multiply and release toxins that may not be destroyed by...

Phlegm is the mucous secretion of the respiratory passages. The cilia cells that line these passages are continually driving the phlegm upward to the throat, where it triggers the swallow reflex...

It’s not just humans that enjoy a smooch; lots of animals have courtship behaviours involving the mouth. Pigeons touch beaks, cats and dogs nuzzle each other, male fruit flies lick the...

Beard hair is quite different to head hair; it is coarser, curlier and doesn't fall out as we get older. Comparatively little work has been done on the genetics of human hair colour, but it is...

Questions regarding the mental state of animals inevitably run onto a philosophical sandbank because we cannot be sure how self-aware animals are. We assume that other people think more or less...

All female mammals have a clitoris, the sole purpose of which is to react to sexual stimulation, and presumably this stimulation has evolved to be pleasurable for most species. But establishing...

To create a sound, we have to set matter - whether it's a gas like air, a liquid or even a solid material - in regular motion, creating a wave of specific frequencies, which we hear as a sound of...

Mirrors don’t reverse left and right either – that’s just our interpretation of what happens. Your reflection in the mirror is actually reversed front to back – if you have...

Discovered by an American student named Gary Flandro in the mid-1960s, the slingshot manoeuvre usually involves spacecraft briefly 'coat-tailing' a planet orbiting the Sun, extracting some of the...

The ice disappears because the wind blows away water molecules that have evaporated or 'sublimed' from the ice, so the ice slowly shrinks in size. The molecules that escape are those with the...