X-Message-Number: 10066
Date: Wed, 15 Jul 1998 09:56:07 -0400
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: reply to Cryonet #10059-#10065

 1: Hi everyone! 2: 3: I generally dislike arguments about definitions. They

don't really 4: advance our thinking, they just take up valuable time. It seems
to me 5: that much of the discussion between Bob and Paul Wakfer is just that,
6: and I hope it does not continue. It looks to this observer that both 7: Bob
Ettinger and Paul Wakfer agree, but do not want to admit their 8: agreement.
9:10: As for changes in English, I certainly agree. I too very much regret11:
the changed meaning of "gay". I remember, in 1969, when I had just12: arrived
in Australia and that changed meaning had not yet reached13: Australia, being
called "gay" (I was, very much so --- I had just14: left the U of Chicago,
where everyone was full of gloom and disaster15: about the Vietnam War, and
found Australians to be far less gloomy16: and depressed). I had to ask what
was meant.17:18: But well, the new meaning came to Australia, too, not long
after. I19: can't say that made me feel unhappy, but it wasn't nice. Perhaps
if20: (with immortality, maybe??) people become less obsessed by sex21: the

older meaning of "gay" will reassert itself.22:23: I will add that a tolerance
for such changes is likely to be important24: if we wish to adjust to the
future after our revival. Sure, they may25: still speak English, but have you
noticed all the changes that even26: 100 years can bring? Will English have
degenerated? Not at all, it27: will only have changed. People use the words of
their language to28: say what they mean, and if the meanings of those words
change it29: says much more about what the people of the society of that time
want30: to say than it gives a sign of degeneration. I doubt that the
French31: feel that their language is a degenerate version of Latin, for
instance.32:33: Nor are the meanings of words such as "science" or

"scientific" immune34: from such changes. That is a point on which philosophers
of science35: and others who are not practitioners may even have some
influence;36: the current ideas are hardly even 100 years old. Remember, first
there37: was "natural science" which conflated lots of things, and the
whole38: idea of a "scientific proof" or "scientific argument" came into
being39: through experiment, observation, and thinking over centuries. And40:
so I would not be surprised to learn, on revival, that the discussions41: of
Paul Wakfer and Bob Ettinger (if anyone remembers them) will be42: seen as
curious, quaint instances of the outmoded thinking of the43: 20t Century. But
will they still be doing SCIENCE, you might ask.44: Well, you'll have to watch
and find out for yourself -- even the45: word might become forgotten or
changed.46:47: But if English persists (it may not) you may be able to use
it48: for hundreds of years, at least for simple communication (you'd have49:
to be careful when the meanings of words have changed). But you wouldn't50: be
dropped among a bunch of people mouthing gibberish at one another.51: You'd
recognize it as English, albeit changed. I knew a classics52: teacher, once,
who found that when he went to Greece (totally without53: studying modern
Greek) he could still speak with the Greeks there, in54: his classical Greek.
Sure, he had to learn lots of new words and55: changes in the meaning of the
old words. But it was still Greek, and56: he could understand and make himself
understood.57:58:                    Best and long long life,59:60:

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