X-Message-Number: 10497
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 09:50:36 -0400
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: CryoNet #10491 - #10496

Hi everyone!

In response to George Smith and Kellie Smith: I will state unequivocally
that if the only thing we have of you is your skeleton, you are DEAD.
I will say the same of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients, though
they fade away rather than disappear immediately. And the same of
someone whose cerebral cortex has been destroyed by a brain tumor.

Yes, these are extreme cases, but I doubt very much that any future
technology will be able to bring you back if the only remains of you
it has to work on is your skeleton. The fundamental point of cryonics
is not philosophy alone: if you want to do philosophy you can postulate
all kinds of things which would allow us to revive your skeleton and 
have it be YOU. The fundamental point of cryonics comes from a 
conclusion that in virtually all cases, we do NOT have just a skeleton
or the remains of someone whose cerebral cortex has been destroyed.
This continues to be true even if our preservation methods also cause

I am well aware that many people think we are planning to revive the
dead. I doubt very much that the best thing to do is to agree with
them, especially since anyone we someday revive will not have been
thought to be dead after we've revived them. That's exactly what 
happened when CPR became common: rather than deciding that those using
CPR were reviving the "dead", people decided that those for whom CPR
worked were never dead in the first place.

And those convenient changes in the definition of "dead" themselves
reinforce my point. Last time I heard, "death" was supposed to be
some kind of absolute --- but even now we see new technology moving
it about. That is a fundamental defect in the common notion of "death"
itself. The best way to deal with it is to say that people are 
"dead" if no future technology can revive them, even millions of years
into the future. Putting it another way, given cryonic suspension,
you become more and more likely to be dead the more millenia pass
while you remain in suspension. And no, if the only thing remaining
of me was my skeleton, then I would say that I had died. And I would say
the same of those with advanced Alzheimer's or Parkinson's Diseases,
though my basis for saying so comes from knowledge about such conditions
which is hardly as common as knowledge about the health of skeletons.

There is a positive point here, too. If we accept that definition
then it also means that we should NOT allow deterioration and damage
whenever we know how to prevent it. That, of course, is just what
happens with the standard notion of "dead": once someone has been
ritually declared "dead", no further efforts are made to keep them
from deteriorating still more. As cryonicists it's incumbent on us
to preserve someone as well as we know how to do at the time...
AND to find better ways to do so, too. Most especially, we DO NOT just
decide that it is never time to give up and leave it at that. We should
be much more active than that. If we are not, we fail to support not only
ourselves but all future cryonics patients.

If I am asked to explain astronomy to people who believe the Sun
moves around the Earth, I would do much better to disabuse them of
their false belief than to accept it, even for the sake of argument.
If I do not do that, I swiftly become entangled in all kinds of quite
unnecessary complexities. So too with explaining cryonics. 

			Best and long long life for all,

				Thomas Donaldson

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=10497