X-Message-Number: 1066
Date: Tue, 28 Jul 1992 10:57 MST
Subject: Re: cryonics: #1061

Dear Charles:    I too have run into versions of the "Life Force" argument,
and I've never been able to successfully counter it--success being defined as
getting the other party to even consider the validity of my (our) "mechanistic"
view of living things. Yet "vitaliists" often treat machines as living things!
For instance "That damn computer (or car, or vcr, etc,) just doesn't *want* to
behave (operate) properly! Arrgh!" And note that your wife and agent are giving
a mechanistic argument against cryonics working--they say that the level of
damage sustained by a person (a little for a resuscitated drowning victim, a
lot for a neurosuspension patient) determines whether the person's "spirit"
continues to function/exist/hang around. Is the difference of opinion merely
semantic? If a living thing is a "spirit" inhabiting a body, what determines
when the "spirit" leaves or enters the body? Maybe you could genuinly ask them
for details on this, and so get your wife and agent to think more about their
ideas of life and consciousness. Why do they think that damage sustained in a
cryonic suspension will cause the "soul" to quit, but other forms of damage
won't? If their attitude boils down to "because cryonics has never been shown
to work", then the only way to convince them is to conduct the experiment--
which is precisely what the suspendees are doing! So challenge them to answer
the question themselves, by trying it. You might also point out that,
historically, the vitalist view of the world has been losing ground almost
continuously (with some backsliding now and then) for centuries; ancient
animist philosophies considered all natural events to be controlled and
activated by spirits or demons or angels, even such obviously (to modern eyes)
mechanical phenomena as the motion of the planets and the flow of water.
You might also ask them why being a machine is so bad--maybe they think all
machines have to be clunky things with gears and levers. Well, this is a lot of
advice from someone who started this letter my admitting that he's never
successfully gotten an animist to consider the mechanistic viewpoint--
good luck!       Mark Voelker

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