X-Message-Number: 19521
Date: Tue, 16 Jul 2002 02:46:00 -0400
From: "Kevin Q. Brown" <>
Subject: Cryonics Myths Mini-FAQ

The following information was supplied by some members of Alcor
as a proposed Mini-FAQ to counter cryonics myths being propagated
in the press as it (mis)reports on the Ted Williams case.  The
intention is that dissemination of a short, easily-digestible
summary such as this can help improve the quality of reporting
on cryonics.

Disclaimer: I am not a representative of Alcor and this is not
   an official publication of Alcor.  In fact, I didn't write it,
   but am happy to forward it where it can do some good.

     Kevin Q. Brown


Cryonics Myths

  Accurate information about the practice of cryonics has sometimes been in
short supply during the recent flood of news coverage related to the Ted
Williams family dispute.  Alcor Life Extension Foundation has 30 years of
experience with cryonics and this Mini-Faq was written to set the record
straight about a number of serious confusions and myths:

Myth: Cryonics must raise the dead to work.

  The key question of cryonics is not whether death can be reversed, but
whether cryonics patients are actually dead.  Death cannot be reversed, by
definition. Whether human beings can be revived after many minutes of
cardiac arrest, or after years of cryopreservation, are scientific questions
from which the definition of death follows.  Mere absence of metabolism is
not a sufficient criterion: nobody calls cryopreserved human embryos "dead"!
If injuries in cryonics patients can be corrected in the future, then they
were never really dead.  Whether a patient is dead is determined by what
medicine can do, not the other way around.  Cryonics is a means of deciding
the question with fundamentally better medical technology than exists today.

Myth: Cryonics patients are frozen.

  This was universally true until the year 2001.  In that year the Alcor Life
Extension Foundation became the first cryonics organization to adapt a
technology called VITRIFICATION from conventional organ banking research to
the cryopreservation of some cryonics patients.  Vitrification allows
cryopreservation without ice crystal damage by converting cells to a glassy
state instead of freezing them.

Myth: Ice crystals burst cells.

  In cryonics patients that are frozen instead of vitrified, slow cooling
actually causes ice to form in the spaces between cells.  At the end of
freezing, the space between cells becomes filled with ice, but the somewhat
dehydrated cells between the ice crystals remain unfrozen (vitreous) in
their interior.

Myth: Cryonics has no scientific basis.

  Cryonics is based on technologies adapted from the established discipline
of cryobiology, and foreseeable technologies called molecular nanotechnology
and nanomedicine.  The first paper to seriously discuss the implications of
nanotechnology for cryonics was published in the prestigious journal,
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 1981.  Book-length
treatises on both molecular nanotechnology and nanomedicine have since been

Myth: No reputable scientists or physicians support cryonics.

  Alcor has many physicians and scientists as members.  Numerous medical
doctors and scientists also sit on Alcor's medical and scientific advisory
boards, including a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

Myth: Experts say cryonics cannot work.

  Alcor is not aware of any experts in nanomedicine that categorically state
that cryonics cannot work.  Scientists not familiar with nanomedicine do not
qualify as experts.  Opinion on whether space travel is possible requires
experts on rockets, not airplanes.

Myth: Cryonics preserves heads for future revival.

  Alcor does not preserve heads for transplantation, revival as heads, or any
other macabre purpose.  The medical technology that will be required to
reverse cryopreservation will be able to replace any missing or damaged
tissue-- with the obvious exception of the human brain.  This implies that
we MUST preserve the brain, but do not necessarily need to preserve other
tissues.  Because of this, Alcor offers the neuropreservation option, which
seeks to preserve the brain with the highest possible fidelity.  To best
achieve this goal, the brain is left within the head to both protect it and
avoid the injury that would be caused by removing it.  The same medical
technology that will repair and restore the structures of the brain will
also be used to provide a new, healthy body.

Myth: Cryonics conflicts with religion.

  Cryonics does not seek to reverse death, inappropriately extend life, or
otherwise interfere with divine will.  The intent of cryonics, like all
medical technology, is to save and extend quality life.  This pursuit is
possible because of the disparity between present and future definitions of
death, not because souls are being recalled or other heresies.  If injuries
in cryonics patients can be reversed in the future, the religious issues
will be the same as for patients who awaken from a long coma.  And if
cryonics patients are recoverable, then the sanctity of life demands that
cryonics patients be protected.

Myth: Cryonics sells body parts or DNA.

  Alcor does not engage in such practices, or any other practices that
violate patient privacy or dignity.


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