X-Message-Number: 12054
Date: Sat, 3 Jul 1999 15:31:36 EDT
Subject: Shooting Oneself In The Foot

Apparently, in some post or other, Mr Robert Ettinger referred to 
"cryobiologist Yuri Pichugin, who is held in sufficiently high esteem by 21CM 
that he was imported from the Ukraine to work with them in their current 

"I cannot allow such a distortion to go unchallenged," responded Mr Paul 
Wakfer, re-subscribing to Cryonet specifically to rebuke Mr Ettinger on this 
point.  Describing himself as "the person who 'put-together' the project on 
which Yuri Pichugin is working (and who best understands all the 
connections)",  Mr Wakfer went on to clarify the situation (sort of) by 
explaining that Yuri Pichugin is the experimentalist for the Hippocampal 
Slice Cryopreservation Project, a joint project of The Institute for Neural 
Cryobiology (INC) and Institute for Reseach and Education associated with 
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (HUREI).  The co-principal investigators for that 
project are Dr Robert Morin, Head of Pathology at Harbor-UCLA and Greg Fahy, 
PhD, Head of the Cryobiology Division of 21CM.  21CM has exclusive rights to 
market and use any results of the HCSP research, at the same time sharing any 
profits with INC. Yuri Pichugin is an employee of HUREI working directly for 
Dr.Morin and is not related in any way to 21CM or to work which is being done 
at 21CM.

Any clearer?  No?  Let's try again:  Greg Fahy of 21CM is doing a project 
jointly with the Harbor-UCLA med center, and 21CM gets to market and use and 
split the profits from the project.  Dr Piguchin works for the med center but 
Mr Wakfer, who 'put together' the project, presumably picked Dr Piguchin to 
work on it.  Although Mr Wakfer says of Dr Piguchin, "We brought him over," 
and although Dr Piguchin is working on a project co-run by 21CM regular Greg 
Fahy in which 21CM gets to use, market, and profit from the results, for some 
semantic reason difficult to fathom, Mr Ettinger's statement that 21CM 
brought Dr Piguchin over to do research for 21CM is felt by Mr Wakfer to be a 
serious distortion. 

Well OK.  If Mr Wakfer means that Dr Piguchin is getting his paycheck from 
the Harbor-UCLA med center, not 21CM, the natural reaction of the Cryonet 
reader is - fine; so what?  Since Mr Ettinger didn't say Dr Piguchin was in 
the employ of 21CM, what of it?  And there it might have lain.

However, Mr Wakfer didn't let this trivial but inoffensive clarification lie, 
but went on to make some truly strange statements.  "I had no backing 
whatsoever from 21CM while trying to get him [Dr Piguchin] to work on the 
HSCP It is my understanding that several people at 21CM still question the 
credibility of some of the work which Yuri did for CI while in the Ukraine, 
and I personally am undecided We brought him over, because we could find no 
one else, because of his dedication and desire, and in order to 'give him a 
chance' and 'see for ourselves'. "

Tell me, reader.  Don't you find it strange that the project director of INC 
would bring a cryobiologist in from the Ukraine because he -- quote -- "could 
find no one else "  What, *no* one?  Not *one* cryobiologist *anywhere* in 
North America, nay, in all of Western Civilization?  Moreover, that Dr 
Piguchin's selection was not based on such irrelevant matters as Yuri 
Piguchin's doctorate or his published research or his involvement with 
cryobiology since the 1970's, but rather because of his "dedication and 
desire', and in order to 'give him a chance' and 'see for ourselves'."   Do 
you know of any medical research facility where 'desire' is the criteria for 
selecting specialist medical researchers?  Where the 'credibility' of the 
researcher's work is questioned - publicly! -- by the very man who selected 

At this point Mr Wakfer went on in a manner that - well, speaks for itself:  
"Frankly, the HSCP has had a slow and rocky beginning (not entirely or even 
mostly due to any fault of Yuri)" - implying at least partial (completely 
unspecified) malfeasance on the part of Dr Piguchin - " and he is still 'on 
trial' to a certain extent and will remain so for some time, I expect. It is 
my hope (but certainly not expectation yet) that if he works out well and 
obtains solid and important experimental results, he may yet find a home at 
21CM, because I would hate to see anyone sent back to the Ukraine."

-- !

 "Thus, to say the he "is held in sufficiently high esteem by 21CM" shows 
once again that Mr. Ettinger has little understanding of the true situation 
of anything related to 21CM."

This, surely, is true.  The situation at 21CM, if Mr Wakfer's commentary is 
any indication, is - well, unique.  Rarely have I seen any qualified PhD 
treated with as much public rudeness, condescension, and contempt as this.  
The credibility of his work is questioned; his qualifications are utterly 
ignored; malfeasance is implied; a vote of 'no expectation' that he will get 
any results is stated; and with a Stalinist flourish, he is declared to be 
"on trial", with deportation to the Ukraine as looming punishment should he 
not produce.  And this, to a full PhD in the employ not of 21CM but the 
Harbor-UCLA med center!  And to think that Mr Wakfer was kind enough to bring 
Dr Piguchin over for this.  After a lifetime beneath the Soviet Central 
Committee, Mr Wakfer has undoubtedly succeeded in making Yuri feel right at 

Having trashed Dr Piguchin with breath-taking sensitivity, Mr Wakfer went on 
gore Robert Ettinger:  "as Charles Platt has pointed out several times," 
observed Mr Wakfer, "he [Mr Ettinger] has never been to 21CM or to their 
presentations, preferring instead to believe the distortions of reality which 
come from the many biases in his mind."

Such are the'distoritions of reality and many biases' in Mr Ettinger's mind 
on this point that CI's publication The Immortalist  has not only featured 
Charles Platt's latest article on 21CM but - in their bias and ignorance -- 
placed a prominent link to it on their site, for the people visiting 
(near-17,000 hits) to see.  Mr Wakfer went on to say that Mr Ettinger has 
'repudiated scientific detachment, realism, and conservatism" -- how?  by 
once hiring a cryobiologist to do some research whom Mr Wakfer himself picked 
to do some research? -- and then, proceeding from individuals to entire 
organizations, Mr Wakfer applied the lash to CI itself. Regarding CI's 
spectacular recent growth in membership, Mr Wakfer wrote: 

<<In the field of 'supplement pushers', the fastest growing companies
appear to be those which present the least complete, truthful, or
solidly scientific information (many of them also organized as MLM).
Those companies, too, are extremely optimistic (each new product will
make you healtheir, have better sex. and live longer than any other).
I am sure this is one of the factors in CI's case as well.>>

And not only is he sure, but sure without the need to investigate too.  Had 
he done so, he would have learned that CI's web page contains links to all 
the major sources of cryonics information online, critical and scientific, 
including Mr Wakfer's own statements in the Cryonet Archives.  I believe it 
supplies paths to more scientific data on the subject than any other site 
online. As for MLM (Multi-Level Marketing), however, CI does not throw 
Tupperware parties.  I also find it curious that the director of a project 
involving 21CM, which has been greatly supported by what I take to be a fast 
growing company in the 'supplement pusher' trend, namely Mr Saul Kent's, 
would go out of his way to suggest that successful companies, like the one 
funding him, are unscientific liars.  Is he suggesting that Mr Kent's company 
is unethical?  Or merely that it is virtuous and nearing collapse? 

Of ACS, which has nothing to do with this issue at all, Mr Wakfer wrote:  
"The last that I heard, ACS has even less idea of what its *real* membership 
might be than did CI."

As Mr Wakfer's notion of research seems to consist of not researching, I can 
only point out to him that, as a Cryonet post stated just last week, CI has a 
very exact idea of its membership - 226 at last count - which it maintains by 
requiring yearly insurance verification and by staying in contact through 
mailings, holiday greetings, etc.

Comparing vitamins to cryonics (?) Mr Wakfer pointed out to all of us that 
"there *is* good scientific evidence for many of the benefits of supplements 
(even if not yet fully accepted by the science/medicine establishment), 
whereas for cryonics proceedures there is none whatsoever!", and to back up 
his point, shouted, "there IS NO EVIDENCE in any currently accepted 
bio-scientific meaning of that word."

What he's saying there is:  vitamins are good, because some scientists think 
so though some scientists don't; whereas cryonics is bad, because some 
scientists think so whereas some scientists don't.  Forgive me, but I don't 
quite grasp the distinction here.  Is Mr Wakfer saying that there 'IS NO 
EVIDENCE' whatsoever that cryopreservation will ever work?  This must be news 
to the insects, eels, human sperm, planaria, water fleas, etc, who have 
indeed been frozen to liquid nitrogen temperature and revived - not to 
mention to the living human beings frozen as embryos who are now sitting 
around eating Big Macs and watching The Simpsons.  But this is obvious;  
there are any number of theories, frameworks, and actual case studies, to 
show that cryopreservation is in some circumstances possible and that 
knowledge and technological capabilities regarding cryopreservation is 
growing.  What is puzzling is why the project director of an organization 
explicitly dedicated to goals such as organ cryopreservation would claim -- 
publicly -- that what he's trying to do is flatly impossible. 

He concluded with a summary:

<<In the past, I too was a devout believer in the cryonics gospel of faith
in nanotechnology,>

A 'gospel of faith' shared to the tune of eighty billion research dollars 
from such trembling Papists as IBM, Xerox, Kodak, the Air Force Office of 
Scientific Research, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), 
the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, NASA, the National 
Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Standards and 
Technology (NIST), the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the National Science 
Foundation (NSF), the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the U.S. Army Research 
Laboratory (ARL), Ames Laboratories, Laurence Livermore laboratories, Arizona 
State University, Baylor College of Medicine, CalTech, The City University of 
New York (CUNY), Clemson University, Cornell University, Duke University, 
Iowa State University, Kyushu University, Massachusetts Institute of 
Technology, Michigan State University, Middle Tennessee State University, New 
Jersey Institute Of Technology, New York University, North Carolina State 
University, Northwestern University, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton 
University, Purdue University, Rice University, Rutgers University, Stanford 
University, St. Petersburg Federal Institute of Fine Mechanics and Optics 
(Technical University), Technical University of Gdansk, Technische 
Universitat Berlin, Temple University, Tufts University, University of 
Arizona, University of Chicago, University of Colorado at Boulder, University 
of Connecticut, University of Delaware, University of Glasgow, University of 
Hamburg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Lausanne, 
University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University of Nebraska, University of 
Newcastle, University of Paris 13 - CNRS, University of Southern California, 
University of Tennessee at, Knoxville, University of Texas at Austin, 
University of Tokyo, University of Toronto, University of Wisconsin at 
Madison, Virginia Poloytechnic Institute and State University, Washington 
State University, and Yale University.

-- What?  No hallelujahs? 

<<our friends of the future,>>

It is of course a scientific certainty that every human being in the future 
will hate us.

<<the milk of human kindness,>>

INC having demonstrated in laboratory testing that no human being is, was, or 
ever shall be kind.

<< the inevitable progress of technology,>>

You thought we went from fire and the wheel, to cloning and Deep Blue, and 
not the other way around?  Just an illusion.

<<the stability of civilization,>>

That thing that's lasted from Periclean Athens to today.  Also an illusion.

<<the distributed nature of mind in the brain,>>

Another popular mistake, according Institute of Neural Cryobiology spokesman 
Paul Wakfer.  'Mind' exists in just one special teeny-weeny spot.  Only he 
won't tell anyone what it is.

<<and the possibility (even if very small) of restoring sufficient 
information from a chaotic mess,>>

As someone who's having his burnt-out hard-disk data-recovered, I can assure 
him that recovering information from chaotic messes are entirely possible.  
Damned expensive, but possible.

<< but that faith wore thin when I saw very few people actually willing to 
*do* anything to give that 'promise' a better chance to come to pass.>>

Such as publicly humiliating the very personnel working on just such 
projects?  Insulting people in adjacent fields, like cryonics, and entirely 
separate ones, like nanotechnology?  Questioning the ethics of organizations 
- including the one supporting your own research?   Action like this will 
help cryonics 'pass', all right -- out of existence.

Now I have nothing against Mr Wakfer.  I am a member of CI and (like CI) I 
say:  three cheers for cryobiology.  I like cryobiology.  I like 
cryobiological research.  I favor suppporting it in general and supporting 
21CM in particular.  If you, reader, happen to have any spare change, sending 
some along to 21CM is a very good way indeed to make use of it.  I hope Mr 
Wakfer and his project thrives.  I daresay I hope it no less intensely than 
Mr Wakfer does.

But I say to him - and I say this not as an opponent or a critic, but a 
friend -- how in hell is it going to thrive if you insist on shooting 
yourself in the *foot* like this?  If I were a potential investor or 
contributor to an organization, and one of its members came out publicly and 
not only trashed other organizations, and people in adjacent fields, but 
actually cast doubts about the credibility and qualifications of the very 
people he himself put on that project; if he publicly shouted that there is 
'NO EVIDENCE' that what he was aiming at would ever be achieved; if he cast 
doubts about the very organization supporting and funding him - well, suffice 
it to say, in the real world, Dr Piguchin would be receiving a well-deserved, 
contrite, public apology from Mr Wakfer in short order.  And we would not be 
hearing from Mr Wakfer for a long while - assuming he survived at INC at all.

Ah, but this is not the real world, but the world of cryonics.  Tell me, 
Readers:  I'm relatively new to this field.  Maybe I'm missing something.  Is 
there some particular reason that people in this field are supposed to trash 
and insult and misrepresent each other?  I have no argument with questioning 
or clarifying one another's statements; I don't even think ridicule is out of 
place, provided it's directed towards ideas, which are often ridiculous, and 
not people, who never are.  But why go public to bash your own people?  To 
dump on the very ones who support you?  In reading Cryonet I continually see 
names like Eric Drexler and Merkle and Minsky and now Yuri Piguchin dragged 
over a bed of nails.  Why?  It isn't some anti-CI thing -- Drexler and Merkle 
and even Dr. Piguchin aren't CI members, so far as I know.  It isn't 
profitable -- I mean, is there some study demonstrating a one-to-one 
correspondence between insulting Robert Ettinger and getting more funding?   
It doesn't contribute to the public's knowledge.  Is publicly demeaning the 
people you select for a project the key to some new cryobiological 

Mr. Wakfer:  I mean you no disrespect, sir, but I am telling you as a 
professional:  if you want your company and your career to prosper, you need 
to reassure your public and your team and your backers that the goal you are 
aiming at is worthy and profitable, and the way you are going about achieving 
it is reasonable and controlled and competent.  You don't go out and publicly 
belittle your own people to the ridiculous lehgth of threatening them with 
expulsion to the Ukraine, nor do you cast doubt on the feasibility of the 
very thing you're trying to do, nor do you personally insult other 
organizations and individuals - particularly if they're supporting you.  All 
these things may be fun to do, but they are counterproductive.  They hurt 
your organization, and they hurt you.  Now I've heard some very nice things 
about 21CM; but I confess, if I were an investor reading your post, I would 
think twice about putting a single cent into 21CM.  An organization that 
publicly abuses and threatens the very people it selects is an organization 
that is asking for trouble.  And I don't want it to be in trouble.  I want 
21CM -- and INC, and Alcor, and CryoCare, and ACS, and CI -- to succeed.  I 
want to see a good heavy dose of peace and love waft over us all.  Because 
it's in everyone's best interest.  Cryonics is good, and cryobiology is good, 
and nanotechnology is good; really, they are;  and they'll all do even better 
if they refrain from cutting themselves up like this.  Don't do it for Robert 
Ettinger:  after all, what do any of us owe him, eh?  Do it for yourself.
<<As religions often say, very practically, "God helps those who help 
themselves!"  If there were a God, cryonicists would clearly not rate being 
helped. >>

Ah.  We couldn't leave without offending and alienating potential Christian 
and Jewish businessman investors too, could we?   *Sigh*.  Twenty-first 
century marketing, showing the way 

David Pascal

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