X-Message-Number: 1061
Date: 26 Jul 92 12:24:10 EDT
From: Charles Platt <>
Subject: Cryonet

To Cryonet/Sci.Cryonics 

         How Do We Tackle the "Life Force" Argument? 

I am married to someone who does not believe that cryonics 
can work. I have a literary agent who feels the same way. 
Recently I showed my wife and my agent a piece that I had 
written to address their skepticism. Briefly, my arguments 
ran like this: 

1. Complete recovery after brief periods of no vital signs 
(e.g. following heart attacks or cold-water immersion) 
suggests that if blood circulates containing oxygen, glucose, 
and other nutrients, and if ischemia has not had time to 
occur, and if body temperature is in a normal range, cellular 
processes will spontaneously restart; and these processes 
will sustain nervous activity which, in turn, enables us to 
think and function. 

2. Therefore, consciousness depends fundamentally on 
chemistry. If the chemical reactions that sustain electrical 
activity in the brain are not supplied with necessary 
nutrients, we lose consciousness. If the flow of nutrients 
does not resume, all brain functions cease and we are "dead." 
If circulation can be restored and/or damage can be repaired, 
we will "return to life." 

I assume most cryonicists would agree with this, broadly 
speaking. However, my wife and my literary agent (both of 
whom are smart people) did not agree. They have a very strong 
gut feeling that life cannot be as mechanistic as this. There 
is a "life force" involved; not necessarily a spirit or a 
soul, but something that cannot be explained so easily. 

From their perspective, a victim of cold-water drowning who 
is restored to life never really lost that "life force" and 
therefore was not really dead. Conversely, it is impossible 
for them to believe that the life force would survive in a 
detached head immersed in liquid nitrogen, especially bearing 
in mind the damage that results from freezing. Therefore, as 
far as they are concerned, cryonics cannot work. 

It is very hard for me to counter this outlook, because it is 
strange to me. I believe that we are electrochemical 
mechanisms, nothing more. I have great respect for the 
subtlety and wonder of life, but I believe that this subtlety 
is merely a function of the amazing complexity of the 
chemistry and the structures supporting it. 

I now realize, however, that my view is a minority view. I 
think my wife and my literary agent speak for the vast 
majority of people in the world, who have a sense of wonder 
about life and feel that the mechanistic approach is a kind 
of insult to it. 

Unfortunately, many cryonicists tend to dismiss that outlook 
too casually. They forget that our mechanistic view is itself 
an article of faith. We cannot *prove* the nonexistence of a 
soul, a spirit, or a life force. We can only say there isn't 
any evidence for it. But "absence of evidence is not evidence 
of absence"! In other words, if we are open minded, we have 
to admit that people with a spiritual outlook *could still be 

I feel uneasy dealing with philosophical questions of this 
kind, because I never studied philosophy. Does anyone have 
experience in this area? I would like to be able to phrase 
arguments which would be more convincing to non-cryonicists; 
but it's difficult to do so, because their view of life is so 
different from mine.

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