X-Message-Number: 2529
Subject: More on High Temp. CRYONICS
From:  (Ben Best)
Date: 	Mon, 10 Jan 1994 03:25:00 -0500


   My purpose in writing this piece is to elevate the consciousness of
readers concerning both technical and nontechnical issues. I intend to
include personality factors because, like it or not, science involves
co-operation -- and sometimes the way scientists treat each other can be
more critical to the progress of science than technical issues.

   When I first became very serious about my interest in anti-mortalism
six years ago, I had little confidence in the ability of cryonics
organizations to survive 100 years. I took great interest in
preservation methods that do not require cryonics organizations -- in
particular permafrost burial and chemical preservatin. I joined Alcor
nearly 4 years ago, and my confidence in the ability of Alcor to survive
reached a peak 2 years ago. Currently, my confidence in the ability of
any organization to survive 100 years has fallen to about 5%. Thus, in
calculating my "expected value" of survival, a biostasis method
requiring a surviving cryonics organization must be TWENTY TIMES better
from a technical point of view in order to give me a utility equivalent
to a biostasis method that does not require ongoing maintenance.

   Biostasis alternatives to cryonics have been an important theme in
my contributions to CANADIAN CRYONICS NEWS during the past 5 years. In
my 3 years as editor of CCN I have had contributions from Douglas
Skrecky in every single issue. Douglas never graduated from university,
but he is a diligent researcher. Spending hours in university libraries
is his idea of a good time. Douglas can be woefully ignorant in some
ways and yet still come up with insights and information. I have often
commented on Douglas' articles in CCN -- sometimes quite critically --
but I don't want to discourage him. To me his piece "High Temperature
Cryonics" was an incremental addition to his on-going theme, and I
don't feel the need to comment on EVERY article Douglas writes. Regular
readers should know some of my general criticisms.

   Just over a year ago I decided to make a more systematized attempt to
study preservation methods, including freezing, chemical preservation
and dehydration. The first step in this process has been to try to
understand WHAT structures in the brain need to be preserved as a
prelude to trying to understand HOW to preserve those structures.
Therefore, in the last year my technical contributions to CCN have
concentrated on my series "The Anatomical Basis of Mind". I am still
reluctant to comment on preservation issues, but Steve Bridge's request
that I post Douglas Skrecky's article on CryoNet (and Mike Darwin's
reply) have forced my hand.

 First of all, I will acknowledge that I think Douglas' idea of
blowing air through the circulatory system sounds ridiculous to me. I
also think that Douglas does not pay adequate attention to issues of
ischemic injury -- despite the fact that he has written an article on
the subject of autolysis. I was doubtful about the feasibility of
perfusing with high sucrose concentrations, but had not looked-up
quantitative viscosity as Mike has done. Also, I had not known that dry
ice costs twice as much (by weight?) as liquid nitrogen.

   But with all these problems, I still think that it is a mistake to
dismiss Douglas Skrecky as a crackpot. Mike Darwin has defended himself
against the Chamberlains in the December CRYONICS magazine by accusing
them of only judging people in black or white -- protesting that he is
fallable, but not therefore totally reprehensible. Yet he will not think
of Douglas in the same terms, saying that "one of the frustrating things
about Mr. Skrecky's writing/thought is that he articulately blends
complex fact with distortion/misunderstanding so seamlessly as to make
the latter seem credible". When Douglas is neither a perfect scientist
nor a perfect crank, Mike becomes frustrated and suspects diabolical

   Both Thomas Donaldson and Mike Darwin slam Douglas unmercifully over
the fact that sucrose does not perfuse into cells. Yet Mike later
acknowledges that GLYCEROL is not perfusing into cells during cryonic
suspensions. Someone could probably make a good case for the idea that
cryonicists are hoaxsters using glycerol as a dehydrant while implying
that it is vitrifying cells. In fact, a major thrust to Douglas' writing
has been the value of sugars to protect cell membranes in desiccation.
Greg Fahy's major criticism of freeze-drying is membrane damage, and I
think it is possible that sugars could contribute to alleviating this
problem. Sugars do, in fact, also have cryoprotectant qualities -- they
are an important component of the physiology of arctic insects. I
believe we have much more to learn about the value of sugars as
cryoprotectants and membrane protectants.

   Mike also faults Douglas for commenting on the protective function
sugars have for proteins without making reference to enzymes. First of
all, I think protecting structure may be more important than protecting
enzymes -- especially if DNA is preserved to regenerate the latter.
Secondly, this objection is ironic in light of the fact that one theory
of cryoprotectant toxicity is that (nonsugar) cryoprotectants may
denature enzymes.

  I do indeed think that Mike's complaints about Douglas' use of the
word "frozen" rather than "vitrified" is very close to a semantic
quibble. Of course, Greg Fahy would never do such a thing when writing
in CRYOBIOLOGY, but I think it is fairly clear from the context that
Douglas meant "vitrified".

  In Douglas Skrecky's writings I find errors, new information and
material about which I am unable to assess the scientific merit. If
CANADIAN CRYONICS NEWS were a prestigious scientific journal I might be
more concerned. But CCN is really an exploratory, unpretentious little
magazine with 50 subscribers, who should know by now that my policy
(similar to CryoNet's) is "caveat emptor" -- let the reader beware. I
will not publish unmitigated crap, but Douglas' writings cannot be
described in those terms.  If Douglas' article were patent clap-trap, I
don't believe Mike would have expended the obvious effort he did on

  I reject accusations of "irresponsibility". I believe my
publication/posting has produced more benefit than harm. Let us not
forget the "responsible" magazine CRYOBIOLOGY which rejects papers
which could favor cryonics -- or the panel of "experts" who
"responsibly" made cryonics illegal in British Columbia. If Mike has a
different perception of the scientific merits of an article, does that
make me "irresponsible" for not agreeing with his point of view?

  The final question I want to address is the condescending and
insulting arrogance of Mike Darwin's scientific posture. Mike is
woefully inept in the area of mathematics, yet he begs indulgence of
others for this failing. Yet while Mike does not understand "the
language of science", he contemptuously refers to those who lack
his command of cryobiology as "scientifically naive". (Michael Faraday
was also mathematically ignorant, yet still able to make great
scientific contributions --  I am only faulting Mike's attitude.)

  Mike, I will tell you point-blank that I believe that the hardest
thing about working with your would be your intolerance of ignorance. I
believe this is also at the root of many of your problems in working
with Alcor people. If you use your knowledge of cryonics as a bludgeon,
you may command respect, but you won't win many friends. There is more
to being a teacher than having knowledge -- you need to have empathy for
those who do not have your knowledge.

  Moreover, the implication that the President of Alcor should be
humiliated for having requested that I post "High Temperature Cryonics"
is utterly reprehensible to me. Steve Bridge is not a pompous bureaucrat
who masks his ignorance. Acknowledging ignorance is the first step in
the acquisition of knowledge, and those who refuse to make such
acknowledgement are severely handicapped. Steve's willingness to seek
the truth commands my highest respect. I very much hope that Steve will
not be so embarressed by this incident as to withdraw from scientific

   I have said some harsh things about Mike Darwin, but I do hope that
this does not lead to mutual recrimination. I respect Mike's knowledge,
his devotion and even his integrity. And I even appreciate what I and
others have learned from his response to "High Temperature Cryonics"
(which makes me glad I published and posted it). I simply believe that
if he can learn more empathy for the ignorance of others, his vast
knowledge will be of more service both to himself and to the cryonics

                  -- Ben Best (ben.best%)

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