New study on biofields has scientists soul-searching

LOS ANGELES, CA — A breakout team of scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles has published the latest in a controversial series of papers on the mammalian biofield. Citing dozens of new case studies and laboratory experiments, the researchers presented a convincing case that the mammalian biofield may persist for some time after death, and even with the host body in absentia.

The discovery comes on the heels of a previous study in which Rebecca Gletshman et al. demonstrated that the human biofield is at least as unique as the fingerprint, which attracted interest from security agencies worldwide. Since then, a flush of money from DARPA, funding giant for the US military, has led to more sophisticated and daring experiments.

For decades, conventional wisdom had linked the biofield with life itself, and pioneering experiments had averred the connection. But in the group's latest paper published in Nature, Gletshman's results indicate that the preliminary research was in error, and that rather than vanish entirely, the biofield simply separates from the human body.

Advances in the sensitivity made the difference. The latest data come from the development of a new device dubbed SPIRIT — the Specialized Infrared Investigative Tool. Composed of conjugate polymer piezoelectrics, SPIRIT captures remarkably low-valence electrical activity at a distance. Gletshman's team was able to watch and even record the separation of the biofield as it occurred.

"We have yet to make the data public," said Gletshman, "but to describe it — the biofield basically peels away from the host body, similar to how a warm label comes off of a jam jar. After that, it just kind of floats around, sometimes out of the lab. We have no idea where it goes, but of course there are theories."

The UCLA biophysics lab has even attracted money from the purse of the Pope himself. Upon hearing of the press release from the university, the Vatican issued a statement unveiling a $110M plan to fund further development of the SPIRIT device.

"The Vatican has never been the enemy of science, as science can only reveal what already exists under Christ's domain," said Pope Francis in one interview, "And no expense is too great to behold and to protect the creations of the Lord."

Some speculate that the Vatican may have its own interests in developing the technology. An anonymous source from inside the church wrote that SPIRIT could be used as a test for "spiritual verification" — although the source was light on details.

But not all religious groups have been as rapturous watching the research take shape. Several have openly opposed it. In mid-October, the World Buddhist Council published an open letter belittling the research as "typical scientific arrogance," and "contradicting the [Buddha's teachings]. There is no soul, no self."

In Egypt muslims were filmed gathering in Tahrir Square. Present was Samir Al-Hassem, staff scientist at Cairo National Laboratory who, from behind a microphone, called the research "the devil's work" and said that "the infinite human soul must not be imprisoned by test tubes, nor traded like cards by hostile nations." The latter refers to a debunked internet rumor that the biofields were being be trapped and held hostage by the US and Israel.

Gletshman and her team dowplayed any religious or political implications. "First of all, there's a lot that we just don't know," said Gletshman, "We don't know where they go, what they do, or anything like that. I think people who refer to these fields as 'souls' are absolutely jumping the gun. And we have no evidence yet of any group or nation who has actually tried to contain these biofields in some other device. If that were happening that would certainly be worrisome."

"Even if we could consider these fields 'souls' or 'soul-like', if we can call them that," added Gletshman, "the fact that this 'soul' is material would actually resolve a number of philosophical questions. Like, how does a non-material 'soul' interact with a material body? It seems paradoxical. The answer might be that the soul was in fact material and that there was never any paradox."

But secular groups have too expressed concern over the research, as fears escalate that the technology might someday be abused. Various messaging boards were to blame for sparking a rumor which blazed through social media last month. Discussion centered around civil rights. Some worried that, combined with the biofield fingerprinting technology, US citizens could be potentially be "tracked beyond a single lifetime" or "imprisoned forever."

In an attempt to quell the rumors the US Department of Justice issued a public statement on its website last week saying that "the United States has no intention to use the technology imminently" and would "neither confirm nor deny whether [it had] its own SPIRIT devices in operation." The DOJ did comment that the research "raises new and challenging questions in the question of effecting justice."

The ACLU has already filed a lawsuit against the US government for failing to provide public documents related to the project. ACLU lawyer Tom Kennedy urged caution when speaking with the Times, saying , "If these biofields have any kind of human consciousness, awareness, volition, or experience, they deserve to have protection under the US constitution. We're basically working around the clock to ensure that. And hopefully we'll do it before any great damage is done."

Gletshman said that, rather than holding her back, the buzz around the research has motivated the group to work longer hours than ever. "We have certain experiments going on around the clock now," she said, "we're working to basically nail down the properties of these biofields, to the extent that we can, hoping to get a clearer picture and quell some of the misinformation."

"Plus," Gletshman continued, "I think most people will be surprised to find out that these biofields are weirder than we appreciated at the outset."

Gletshman is referring to a study-in-progress, one she claims may be the most controversial yet. She says that the lab has preliminary data showing the biofields can migrate not only out of human tissues, but into them as well — at least under certain lab conditions. The implications, she says, transcend even the imaginations of the ancient sages.

"If one did interpret these biofields as 'souls', well, then no religion that I know of describes a 'soul' with the complex behavior that we see in the lab," Gletshman says.

She continues, "Whether people want to believe the science or not, as scientists, we work hard to not to let our biases get in the way of the facts. We welcome all minds as part of the scientific process, but all parties involved have to be willing to part with their cherished beliefs. That's the price of admission, the price of seeing the truth."

UCLA has applied for a patent for the SPIRIT device and plans to license it for use after regulatory approval.

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