X-Message-Number: 10495
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 18:21:12 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: CryoNet #10485 death, religion, definitions

 In Message #10485 Thomas Donaldson wrote:

>The issue with cryonics is that most people declared "dead" simply are
>NOT dead. To decide to go along with current popular beliefs and call
>them "dead" has about as much sense as someone 400 years ago deciding
>that even though the Earth orbits the Sun we should say that the Sun
>orbits the Earth because that is the popular view. (It has even less
>sense, actually, because in some countries you'd be imprisoned if
>you claimed that, while no one will imprison us for claiming that 
>cryonics patients are not dead).
I usually agree with everything you say.  I certainly respect your 
opinion.  In this area I think we are looking at the same information from 
different perspectives.

First, the popular meaning of being "dead" is what I am discussing - not 
whether it is scientifically accurate.  If we wish to popularize cryonics we 
need to try and comminicate in ways that most people understand and not 
redefine words, even if we are right about the misuse of those words.  

For example, 400 years ago it was MORE USEFUL for MOST PEOPLE to treat the 
sun as if it did circle the earth!  You could say "The sun rises in the 
East" and people would know which way East was and understand what you were 
talking about.  If you said, the Earth rotates to the West so that the sun 
becomes visible along the East horizon of the Earth" people would probably 
WANT to imprison or punish you.  It is simply MORE USEFUL to describe 
cryonics as a technological gamble to restore dead people to life.  (I 
realize that this has been a point of argument between different cryonics 
members for some time.  I actually do understand both views and see merit in 
both views).

Finally, if you convince someone that you have frozen a person who isn't 
"dead", haven't you admitted to killing them?  Isn't this the essence of the 
argument I hear about freezer damage being so horrendous which is still 
being promoted by scientists who should know better but (seemingly) don't?

>I am not trying to be obscure. Nor do I claim that cryonicists believe
>that NO ONE can die. You die if enough of your brain is destroyed that
>no future technology can ever bring you back

I must point out that this is an assumption.  You may be right about this 
but, then again, things might turn out to be different from what is 
currently expected/projected.

: which happens with victims
>of Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, a large number of more 
>obscure medical conditions, severe strokes, and brain tumors. You also
>die if you are cremated, either deliberately or in an airplane crash.

Probably.  Maybe not.

>You die if you rot away into a skeleton. 

Probably.  Maybe not.

But so long as your brain 
>remains, even if damaged, then the possibility that some future 
>technology may work out how to revive you also remains.
>Nor is it true that we believe that we will someday "revive the dead". 

Correct.  However my entire point regarding this is that we might benefit 
from trying to better understand how the rest of the world may come to 
perceive this.  As the vast majority of humanity is religious, THEY might 
just see it as bringing the dead back to life.

>hope to someday find out how to mend badly damaged people who have been
>kept from further deterioration by cryonic suspension. In the end, some
>of these we'll know how to mend, some we will not (at any given time).
>And yes, we may find that some people have suffered so much destruction
>of their brain that they have died. 

According to the then-current paradigm of that future time.  THEY could be 
wrong, too.

Your most critical words here are "In the end,".  My point is that we do not 
know WHEN that "end" has come in time.  I remember the old slogan, "Freeze, 
Wait, Reanimate."  I feel there should be more emphasis given to the "wait" 
portion.  Just because the next generation's best scientific minds may 
decide a cryonaut is unfixable doesn't mean they are right.  ("Toss that 
corsickle on the fire and make room for a new condo").  Nor the next 
generation, not the next after that, etc.  I am reminded of the quote, 
"Science progresses, funeral by funeral" as well as Professor Ettinger's "It 
is always too soon to despair."

But even then, cryonics patients
>are NOT is some magical in-between state. Their true condition is unknown,
>and we keep them in suspension until it becomes known. 

Yes!  Exactly!  And without assuming we know forever more the final truth if 
it counts against their revival.

This is actually
>something with lots of precedent: accident victims are cared for until
>it's clear that nothing can bring them back, for instance. People are
>put on respirators and given special blood solutions and drugs, because
>they are not yet considered "dead". 
>The major difference is simply that our definition of "dead" differs
>from the popular one. And our definition is clearly better.

I definitely agree in the sense that it is more accurate for our purposes.

 I am old
>enough to remember when someone was declared "dead" if they stopped
>breathing and their heart stopped beating. Then artificial resuscitation
>was rediscovered (there was actually a period in the late 18th and early
>19th Centuries when doctors also tried to resuscitate people). 

So too in China over one thousand years ago.

Then we
>were authoritatively told that no one could be brought back after 5 minutes
>at room temperature --- whereupon scientists have now pushed that limit
>back to more than 10 minutes. It seems to me that "dead" should be 
>an absolute state, so that if someone is declared "dead" we really know
>that nothing can be done for them. Currently that's simply false. 
I would submit that it will always remain false.  You can never prove that 
the next generation of technology will not find today's "lost cause" 

>We should NOT be shy of saying that common opinions are WRONG. If we 
>are so shy, then just what we are doing becomes mysterious and possibly
>blasphemous. That is hardly the best way to explain ourselves to someone
>new. For that matter, it's also a way to shove ourselves into a religious
>mode, so that some people will think that they must not become cryonicists
>because doing so would offend their god(s). 

That is already true of some religious groups who reject even the current 
level of lifesaving medical technology.

We have different beliefs,
>which we will defend, on when and whether patients are "dead" in the 
>first place, and we are acting on those beliefs. It takes a very strange
>god, indeed, who would so frequently change his mind over whether somone
>is "dead", as frequently as we've seen our ability to revive people to

This "god" is one that billions accept as real.  We might benefit from 
considering what that "god's" followers think about raising the dead now, 
rather than be surprised later.  It might be helpful to rethink whether our 
approach to explaining cryonics needs to be tempered with a deeper 
appreciation for what happens if a religious movement claims it as a subset 
of their own, not bothering to ask our permission.  

If this happens, will we embrace these people - or offend them?  I have 
tried to point out why I suspect that the parallels between popular 
religious prophesies believed in worldwide by millions, no, billions of 
people and the projections of what cryonics offers if successful are 
remarkable, to put it mildly.  I had hoped to contribute to the discussion 
and feel it has possible future implications which could make or break 
cryonics in the unknown future.

There seems to be a general consensus that cryonics is "acceptable" to most 
religions.  Is it really?  Is it, in fact, just lucky to be ignored thusfar?  
Or, as I have suggested, is it ripe for the picking by some already 
established relgious movement?

What do you think?

-George Smith  

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