X-Message-Number: 2533
Date: 11 Jan 94 01:48:05 EST
From: Mike Darwin <>
Subject: CRYONICS Re: More on High Temp.

I hardly know where to begin in replying to Ben Best.  Perhaps the best
course is to start by saying that I think Ben read all kinds of evil
intentions into my response to Skrecky which are not there.

It was not my intention to be arrogant, nasty or ad hominem.  I tried to
confine my criticisms to matters of substance.  I stand by what I said. 
Nor was it my intention  to "humiliate" Steve Bridge.  Far from it, Steve
and I not only discussed the Skrecky matter -- I sent him a pre-post copy
of my response which he was kind enough to critique and send back.  

On a related matter, I think Ben (at least according to Steve's account), 
had some distortion in communication about what Steve's REASONS were for
requesting the Skrecky material be posted.  Rather than get into the
middle of THAT I will leave it for Bridge and Best to deal with.

Now, as to the issue of my scientific arrogance and the terrible trouble
it has caused me in my dealings with Alcor (at least according to Ben!). 
I find this comment ironic in the extreme because actually I have a
reasonably cordial relationship with most of the technical staff at Alcor
and in fact have been actively cooperating with them on several matters.
This cooperation has involved a mutual sharing of information which has
been to both our benefits.  I find this criticism woth commenting upon
not only because it is untrue, but also because it completely misses the
point of what my real and serious differences with Alcor were and are. 
While I hardly wish to reopen THAT can of worms, I think that probably
most of the people on BOTH sides of the conflict would recognize that the
issues were more deeply administrative, interpersonal, and political than
directly technical.  True, technical and scientific issues flow from
these things, but that was not the primary beef.

If Ben considers the criticism Skrecky's posting got to be arrogant and
intolerant, then "Katie bar the door!"  Ben hasn't even begun to realize
what Skrecky, himself, or others, for that matter, are in for when they
put their ideas out for peer review.  You should see some of the
rejection notices or critiques I've received -- and from FRIENDS even!

Science is not about building up people's self esteem like they are
trying to do in some classrooms by banishing F's (and as a corollary A's
as well).  At its best it is a tough world full of tough people.

I have never met Douglas Skrecky and certainly wish him no harm.  On the
other hand, I feel no obligation to treat him any better than I or others
are treated when they use the approach and tone which Mr. Skrecky did
(see Steve Bridge (a real nice guy by Ben's own account) for an
independent appraisal of Skrecky's tone.  I have been hauled over the
coals as Skrecky was a number of times in my life.  The first time was at
the hands of Art Quaife for a nearly identical type of blunder (I was
about 14 at the time).  This was VERY painful for a sensitive 14-year-old
and at the time I thought it was very crude and insensitive for Art to
have criticized my proposals so heartlessly.  However, the passage of
time has convinced me that Art did me a real favor, as did the people who
(like Ben) told me that while I WAS wrong, I still had worth and should
keep trying, albeit using a diffrent approach).   I would not discourage
Mr. Skrecky from pursuing his interest in room temperature preservation:
only from the WAY in which he is both pursuing and presenting it.

As to the issue of a University education:  I don't have one either and
NOTHING that I said was to imply that such is a prerequisite to doing
good science, although I must admit it HELPS (and I wish I had had the
benefit of one).  However, NOT having had a University education AND
suffering as I do from my other woeful impediment (maths incapacity) I
have learned to be as careful as I know how NOT to run off half-cocked
and I have taken special care to surround myself with people who can
assist me in this task.  In fact, before I set fingers to keys I took the
time to speak with Dr. Greg Fahy (who Ben had also asked for comments and
who told me he had "lost or misplaced" his response to Skrecky, and also
indicated he had no intention of writing another), consult a textbook on
glass chemistry, talk with a biochemist and a chemist, and chat with
several people at Alcor (including Hugh Hixon).  In short, I did what
Skrecky DID NOT DO.  And that is the CRUX of my criticisms.  If Ben
missed that, he missed everything.

Not having a University education and spending one's time as a dedicated
library researcher DOES NOT excuse the kind of effort Mr. Skrecky put
forth.  As someone who shares BOTH those attributes with Mr. Skrecky I can
offer the following positive and heartfelt advice:  As opposed to these
things being an exhoneration or mitigating factor in the evaluation  of
your work they will instead stand as a lightning rod for criticism of it. 
Thus, if you are to play with the "certified" big boys you must play the
game VERY carefully and leave your flanks as unexposed as possible: or
you will be torn to ribbons (and in a lot less kindly way than I have). 
In fact, a minor lapse that would go excused or unnoticed by a
"certified" Ph.D. will be used as an opening for the harshest and often
most ad hominem criticism imagineable.  This is not fair.  But then life
is not fair.

And the bottom line is that fair or not, it can be good for you. 
Certainly it has made me a far more careful scientist than I might
otherwise have been.

However, even with such care, there IS NO ESCAPE FROM MOMENTS WHEN YOU
WILL BE MADE TO LOOK THE FOOL.  The worst of it is that you will often
find those moments JUSTIFIED!  The best that can be done here is to
concede and proceed, as well to take comfort (if that's you style) in the
certain knowledge that the big boys have their moments too.  We ALL do! 
And THAT is what SCIENCE is all about!

I took the time to respond to Mr. Skrecky not to insult, hurt or bother
him but rather to fufill an obligation which charges me with being
derelict of: to educate and in particular to SHARE knowledge with those
who do not have "my expertise in cryobiology."  If Ben doesn't like the
way I chose to do that, then we must differ on that point as we differ
over the issue of what constitutes responsible journalism, regardless of
how unpretentious or how few subscribers you have (indeed, little old
CANADIAN CRYONICS NEWS precipitated this entire debate: never
underestimate the power of the written word).

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