X-Message-Number: 10038
Date: Sat, 11 Jul 1998 14:13:55 -0400
From: Paul Wakfer <>
Subject: Re: CryoNet #10033 Scientific "Evidence"
References: <>

> Message #10033
> Date:  Fri, 10 Jul 98 16:13:20
> From: Mike Perry <>
> Subject: Scientific "Evidence"
> Paul Wakfer, #10021, wrote,
> > [snip] However, I believe that I dealt
> > with him quite effectively, by simply replying to his statement that I
> > "had shown no evidence that cryonics would work" (which from the
> > traditional - and proper - scientific viewpoint of the meaning of
> > "evidence" is quite correct. No one has yet shown any such evidence!)
> What is this 'traditional - and proper - scientific viewpoint of the
> meaning of "evidence"'? To my thinking there is
> significant, scientific evidence cryonics will work, some evidence
> (also scientific) it won't work, so far no proof (again scientific)
> either way. In a sense, true scientific "proof" is impossible, though
> when the evidence for something is overwhelming enough, for practical
> purposes we say it has been proved. But "evidence" is not the same as
> "proof" or "almost-proof". Its criteria are less stringent and admit
> more in the way of contrary evidence. As a case in point, consider
> the evolutionary hypothesis. Today, perhaps, many scientists would
> consider it "proved" but certainly this was not always so. In 1800
> the objective--I would say scientific--evidence seemed strongly
> to favor the "design" hypothesis, i.e. creationism, though by now,
> with more and better evidence, we reach a different conclusion.

Mike, I think that you are missing the very important point that there
are *two* distinct types of sciences and theories. For the first (what
you are largely describing above), it is impossible to do controlled
experiments to test its theories. Examples of this are cosmology and
evolution. The second *does* allow such controlled experiments, and when
they can be done, they are quite properly *demanded* before any such
theory will be "scientifically" acceptable. I believe that cryonics
clearly fits into the second category. For this type of scientific
theory, especially in any area involving biology, the only currently
acceptable "evidence" is experimental results. Since there have not yet
been *any* experimental results in cryonics (re the basic theory, that
is), it is only reasonable, IMO, that the scientific community cannot
(and, quite properly, *should* not) accept the cryonics idea as a
*scientifically* valid theory at this time.

This is quite different than whether it is (because of the lack of
alternate choices) a valid *practice*. I think that if you ask any
practicing (experimental) scientists who are enrolled for cryonics, they
will agree with me that their decision was *not* based on *acceptable*
scientific evidence. Neither was their decision based on fear,
mysticism, wishful thinking, or other irrational beliefs. It is part of
the nature of cryonics (and one of our major problems) that it does not
*fit* established patterns of scientific thought and practice. It is
something *different* and reasonable on other grounds. That is the point
that I always attempt to make and I believe that I did so effectively at
the presentation I made in Taipei.

You may differ with my analysis above and reply that the theory of
cryonics (that highly damaged patients may still be restorable by future
technology) should be properly treated as a theory for which controlled
experiments *cannot* be done BECAUSE OF THE TIME FACTOR INVOLVED. My
response to that, however, is that, if so, this would be the only case
in the history of the scientific method where such as distinction has
been made. It is possible that this last argument is correct and that
cryonics (as opposed to perfected suspended animation) *should* be
properly treated as a science for which controlled experiments cannot be
done (or are currently being done! - as Ralph Merkle likes to point out,
only half tongue in cheek). However, it is again reasonable that
scientists will *not* accept this change to their basic paradigms of
thought about the scientific method, until you convince them of its
usefulness for producing scientific "truth". 

-- Paul --

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