X-Message-Number: 1067
From: Kevin Q. Brown
Subject: Re: The "Life Force" Argument 
Date: 28 Jul 1992

Subject: Re: The "Life Force" Argument

Other people have offered numerous logical answers to your query.
Now I have a few non-logical (although hopefully not illogical)
suggestions.  I offer these suggestions because, once you educate
your audience with the facts and logical arguments about cryonics,
if they still have problems with it then their problems probably
are not logical, but rather psychological or emotional.  (Is there
a sci.psychology.armchair news group?)

Everyone has their own preferred ways of perceiving, understanding, and
interacting with this world.  I suspect that the ways preferred by your
wife and literary agent are complementary to your own, but not the same.
Thus, what convinces you that cryonics may work and is worthwhile
pursuing may not convince them because they need different criteria to
be convinced than do you.  For example, in everyday life the "gut feel"
approach generally works quite well.  (If someone talks a good line but
somehow makes you suspicious, then pay close attention to your "gut feel"!)
What we call "logic" is only one of many methods we use for evaluation.
What cryonics lacks, for your wife and your agent, is *congruence*;
you can give a logical argument for it but have no other *kind* of
evidence in its favor.  And too many other kinds of evidence ("gut feel",
social custom, aesthetics, etc.) are not in its favor.  It's kind of
like encountering something that sounds like a duck and smells like a
duck, but doesn't look like a duck.  What is it?  Your "gut feel"
certainly would be uncomfortable calling it a duck.

So what can give a person a "gut feel" for cryonics?  Perhaps meeting
a lot of other people who are signed up for cryonic suspension.  Yes,
I know this doesn't make logical sense, but it is persuasive to encounter
in person a group of people who, except for their interest in cryonics,
seem quite normal, or, more likely, more intelligent than normal.
(This goes back to the notion of congruence; if someone with N noticeable
characteristics gets high marks in N - 1 categories, but has strange
views in the Nth category, then maybe that Nth category isn't so crazy
after all.)

Another approach is to admit to oneself that the "life force" concept
has its intuitive appeal and that directly opposing it is likely to
just produce resistance to seeing the situation any other way.  With
some creativity, however, one may be able to put a useful, new spin
on the "life force" concept that preserves its intuitive appeal yet also
does not seriously violate the cryonicists' view of how the world works.
My idea is to concede in principle that they may be right about the
"life force" but that they have an impoverished perception of its range
of applicability.

The everyday, "gut feel" perception of "mere matter" and "machines" is
something that is "dead, lifeless".  Thus, rather than violate that
"gut feel" and reduce humans to "dead, lifeless" things by using the
normal, logical, reductionist argument, it is better to improve their
perception of the "life" or "life force" inherent in ordinary matter.
What I propose is not so much a logical argument as an exercise in
visualization and, thus, another mode by which to gain a "gut feel"
for an issue important to cryonics.  Yet, I am afraid that my attempt
below does begin to invoke some "quantum mysticism" that has a high
barf-factor for die-hard empiricist/cryonicists, so I now will put on
my asbestos suit to protect me from any flame-throwing cryonicists. :-)

  Visualization Exercise

  In everyday life most things (and thus "gut feel") are linear; they
  can be sliced and diced and added as much as one wants and there is
  no indivisible unit of existence.  Matter is thus perceived as
  "dead, lifeless" because it is just "inert stuff".
  The world of quantum mechanics is different.  Particles jump from one
  energy level to another and pop in and out of existence.  There is no
  "dead, lifeless" matter because it all scintillates for those who have
  eyes to see it.
  Now imagine these little quantized units of "life force" continually
  jostling around, combining and recombining in ever more complexly
  structured systems.  What we normally call life is a coordinated dance
  among a multitude of these complex systems.  Whenever matter is combined
  into complex systems in this way, the "life force" inherent in all matter
  naturally makes them behave in a manner that we recognize as life.
  What happens when we freeze such living systems?  They slow down.
  Also, due to their physics and biochemistry, the spatial interrelationships
  among their parts change (but hopefully not too much).  When the systems
  are cold enough, macroscopic change effectively stops.  But the quantized
  "life force" has not been destroyed.  The particles still exist and
  they still jostle around, no matter how cold they get, but they do so
  a lot slower now.  That is what cryonic suspension accomplishes.
  Provided the changes incurred during freezing are not too great, we
  someday will be able to restore cryonically suspended systems (including
  people!) back to functioning order.  When the structure is restored,
  and the temperature raised, the matter knows what to do.  Welcome back!

This visualization exercise may leave unanswered whether or not uploading
could conceivably work, but not even cryonicists agree about that.

Another approach, perhaps the most effective approach, is to do nothing.
If the person *wants* cryonic suspension to work then he or she will find
a way to make it sound reasonable.  (Also, conclusions are always more
convincing when discovered for oneself than when handed down from someone
else.)  By the way, since I assume that both your wife and literary agent
do, overall, hold you in high regard, your consistent, determined efforts
for the success of cryonics should, in time, make it more attractive
to them, so that they indeed will be more likely to *want* it to work.
(Remember the "congruence" argument above.)  Persistence pays for those
who intend to persist.

                              Kevin Q. Brown
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