Hair and Fingernail Growth After Death

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http://www.snopes.com/science/nailgrow.asp

For this blog I will be evaluating a pseudoscience claim that hair and fingernails continue to grow after their death. I found this article on snopes.com and it is easy to evaluate without even having to use any of the principles of scientific thinking that it is false. However, if someone couldn't tell this just by reading the article they could use the principle of "Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence". This principle states that whenever we evaluate a psychological claim, we should ask ourselves whether this claim runs counter to many things we know already, and if it does, whether the evidence is as extraordinary as the claim. Obviously this claim is very extraordinary, considering that when a person dies so does everything in their body and they begin to decompose. However the article does claim that the body does appear to do strange things after death, but all of them are because of the decomposition process rather than extraordinary or supernatural forces (such as continuing growth of fingernails). It is actually an optical illusion that our hair and nails continue to grow after death because our flesh dries out, and pulls away from the nails and hair making it look like the nail or hair is longer than before, when actually it is just the skin around it that is shrinking. It is just a misconception in the way that we perceive it, like many pseudoscience claims. Although this claim wasn't to hard to decipher untrue, it is always helpful to know the scientific principles when faced with a skeptical claim.

1 Comment

I couldnt believe this myself when I first heard this fact some years ago. Its something like the chickens, that continue to move(even run) after you cut off their heads. Man

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This page contains a single entry by pete8740 published on December 13, 2011 10:28 PM.

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