X-Message-Number: 21972
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2003 23:56:24 -0400
Subject: Mysteries

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Usually I find scrapping with Charles Platt to be a real delight.  He's
generally in the wrong, but his errors have a subtle and intricate
quality, like well-done fettucini.  Popes must get a similar pleasure
coming across really fun heretics.

Unfortunately, this pleasure was short-circuited in Charles' last post,
since he got a number of items just plain wrong.  I don't mean arguably
wrong.  I mean, just plain, flat-out, factually incorrect.

For example, Charles writes:

>> Tim Freeman was invited to visit a couple of Alcor cases, but in the
most recent CI cases, so far as I know, no invitation was forthcoming.
Since I have reason to believe that one of these cases was in LA, where
we have our premiere volunteer standby team, I believe we could have had
someone at the site before CI was able to do so, and we might have been
able to help, rather than merely observe. However, no one on our side was
notified... "

No one notified Charles about the CI case in LA, because there *was* no
CI case in LA.  Period.  Don't know where Charles got the idea there was.
Either his agents in Michigan outside the wall of CI facilities need a
better ear trumpet, or the Ouija Board needs polishing, but we haven't
had any cases from LA recently at all.

(In passing -- do I take it, from the above statement, that Alcor's COO
is publicly stating that Alcor volunteer standby teams are ready and
willing to assist us without charge and without any contract or
paperwork?  Cool!)

Charles also mentions Tim Freeman yet again, which sort of puzzles me.  I
don't necessarily mean to push Tim Freeman into stating his
organizational affiliations if he doesn't feel like it, but as far as I
know, he's not a member of CI at all.  I thought he was an Alcor member. 
Of course, I think a lot of Tim, and I'd regard any report written by him
as accurate and honest.  Still, inviting an Alcor member to oversee an
Alcor suspension is not really what most folks would regard as 'an
exchange of observers'.  I think Charles may be making a factually wrong
assumption here too.

Mind you, the usual Platt style of error does re-assert itself among the
new-style factual mistakes.  Regarding the non-existent LA case, he
writes:  "...no one on our side was notified, and in the public summary
of what I believe was this case, Ettinger didn't even name the state
where it occurred--perhaps because he knew we would immediately ask why
we weren't invited?"  

Crafty Ettinger!  Scheming to cover up state names in states where we
didn't suspend anyone!  With a mind that comprehensive, no wonder he
could conceive cryonics!

Charles mis-reads me, too.  "David Pascal is indeed correct, the
"Cryosummit" at CI was a feelgood event -- ."  I am indeed correct (every
other leap year or so) but I never said the Cryosummit was a "feelgood"
event, and in fact reported on the contrary in The Immortalist  that
several substantive agreements were concluded.  (See the article at
www.cryonics.org/cryosummit.html.)  Granted, implementing them has been
tougher than it seemed at the time, but that doesn't make the summit a
matter of "feelgood" irrelevancy.  It was a substantive, and necessary,
first step.  (And the credit for conceiving goes rightly goes to Jerry
Lemler, as I've said.)

Charles did prove helpful in one respect.  He found an outdated passage
on our web site which described CI as taking a week to cool patients to
dry ice temperature.  It's two days now, not seven, and has been for a
while, and the passage has been corrected.  One of the goals of the CI
site is to provide as much information about cryonics to the public as is
possible, and as a result it is a very very large site, with some
redundancy.  So the occasional outdated passage does slip by. 
Fortunately Charles' duties as Alcor COO are light enough to allow him
time to browse CI's web site in close detail and help us with web matters
like updating.  Thank you, Charles.  It's cooperation from members of the
lay public like you that's making us Number One.

Sadly, not all of Charles' assistance is equally -- well, coherent.  For
instance, he dumps on CI a bit for announcing on the CI web site that it
receives a new patient whenever it receives a new patient.  I take it
that it's not the announcement that bugs him so much as the fact that
it's not accompanied by a full and detailed report.  Yet at the same time
he writes:

>>Alcor has been remiss in not publishing detailed accounts of its own
most recent half-dozen cases... <<

I sympathize with Alcor.  There's a ton of stuff to do, there's not as
much money or time or as many people available to do everything you'd
like to do, so you have to prioritize.  Alcor (rightly) feels other
things have a higher priority.  So does CI.  The funny thing is, Alcor's
integrity isn't questioned, whereas CI is compared to the Soviet Union
and the Kremlin, and "Uncle Bob" Ettinger to "Uncle Joe" Stalin.  Well, I
don't mind if the pot wants to call the kettle black sometimes, but are
we pitch, ebony, sable, and onyx too?  Says Charles:

>> mistakes are made, from which we may hope to learn--but only if we
admit them. (See the most recent issue of Alcor News in www.alcornews.org
archives for a discussion of some mistakes which we may have made in a
recent case. <<

Admirable gesture!  Yet when I went to www.alcornews.org and re-read the
latest archived issue, I regret to say that I didn't find much that was
helpful.  Not that I condemn Charles for putting up some half a dozen
paragraphs about the problems in the case.  But the mistakes that 'may
have been made' were an opened clamp, that was subsequently closed, and
difficulty getting a physician to sign a death certificate.  Problems, to
be sure, but from the build-up I'd rather expected more elaborate

Not to be put off, though, I took myself to Charles' recent (and
excellent) article in the latest issue of Cryonics, to see if I could
find more extensive examples of openness and information-sharing.  I
noted that he wrote:  "The vitrification solution that Alcor uses
successfully on neuropatients has been tested only once on a whole body
-- that of a small dog.  During the perfusion, undesirable side effects
were observed."

Now that was interesting.  What side effects were these?  Quivering nose
hairs?  Exploding lungs? Sadly the reader is not told.  As Charles says
of CI, "Is this opaque or what?"  

I noted too that the "vitrification solution that Alcor uses successfully
on neuropatients" (as Charles puts it above) is followed by a box section
in his article which adds that "tissue samples from several cryopatients"
were taken.  In one shown in a photograph, "the darker area was shown to
be a caramel color and showed strong evidence of vitrification, while the
thin white surface layer appeared to have frozen." 

Frozen?  Ah!  But *successfully* frozen!  

I should have like rather more elaboration on that point.  Alas, further
in-depth discussion on this point was 'opaque' too, ie, there wasn't any.

Mind you -- I am not wailing and groaning that Alcor, or Charles, should
put everything on the back burner and elaborate.  Discussing mistakes is
a very worthwhile thing to do indeed, but correcting them is a better
thing to do.  My feeling about Alcor is that the people there, like the
ones at CI, are trying to do as good a job as they can when it comes to
taking care of their members, and I can understand that they might feel
that public breast-beating isn't necessarily the way to do that.  Jerry
Lemler, in an article before Charles', mentions an April 2002 Advisory
Committee report written by Charles Platt and others assessing Alcor's
technical services.  I would venture to guess that such a report would be
interesting reading.  Why hasn't it been made public?  I guess, because
Alcor feels correcting problems is more important than publicizing them. 

This reticence when it comes to public breast-beating, however, only
applies to Alcor.  When it comes to beating CI's breast, Charles is a
veritable Hulk Hogan.  All manner of dark inferences are to be stoked and

Well, rubbish. 

The bottom line is this:  CI has invited Alcor to send observers on those
occasions when we have suspensions.  If Alcor can't line any up, that's
too bad, but it certainly doesn't reflect badly on CI.  CI's trying to be
open, and it is being open.  Hell, when it comes to procedures, if
anything, we're more open.  There *were* Alcor people in attendance
during the Toronto case, and the case was written up, at length, publicly
published, and the report put online, with nothing censored or
suppressed.  And it's not only there where CI's being open.  What *is* in
Alcor's cryoprotectant?  It's secret in Alcor's case, but not in ours. 
What about evaluation of results?  We've published ours.  Where's
Alcor's?  Fred Chamberlain wrote "Vitrification Has Arrived!" years ago,
but what we do we see?  Pictures of frozen tissue, and asides about
"undesirable side effects..." with nothing further mentioned.

I'm not accusing Alcor of keeping information secret for dark or petty or
sinister reasons, or asking them to drop everything to write me a
sixty-page report.  They're in the same boat CI is:  lots to do, and not
enough time, money, and people to do everything all at once.  Too, there
are licensing issues, clients who insist on confidentiality, a number of
things that make instant or full disclosure hard.  

But what makes it not just hard, but unnecessarily tedious, is using this
regrettable but unavoidable state of affairs to mess up mutual
advancement and cooperation by tossing around cranky rhetoric about
Kremlin-like secrecy and dark goings-on.  That's just silly.  Personally,
I would very much like to see better and more extensive disclosures and
analyses of cases and procedures, from both companies.  But that's not
likely to happen in a negative atmosphere.  So why add to it, and make
things worse, when we ought to be follow Jerry Lemler's lead and make an
effort to damp such nonsense down?

Charles writes:  "... mystery is antithetical to scientific progress. If
we do not communicate, we do not learn."  
It isn't only mystery that's antithetical.  An unwillingness to check
one's facts, a readiness to leap to wrong conclusions, distorted
interpretations, over-heated rhetoric -- these retard progress too. 
Pointlessly.  Better to skip them all.  And concentrate on the job. 

David Pascal

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