X-Message-Number: 2566
Date: 19 Jan 94 02:07:26 EST
From: Mike Darwin <>
Subject: CRYONICS Response to Thomas Donaldson

In reading Thomas Donalson's response to my arguments I am reminded of the
story about the optimist and the pessimist who are injured at work.  The
pessimist is loudly bemoaning the threat to life and productivity
represented by the paper cut on his index finger and the optimist is
loudly and cheerfully declaiming how lucky he was he only lost his index
finger in the paper cutting machine ('coulda been worse, you know!).

Like the position of the optimist and the pessimist above, Thomas'
examples of ppersecution of cryonics are both extreme and unreasonable,
and not at all reflective of the kind of problems which concern me, or
which I used by way of example. As such, they are mere caricatures of my
real thoughts and opinions. I have not  envisioned a scenario of total
hatred by the population, witch hunting, or cryonicists being forced to
ride in the back of the bus or use seperate and unequal restrooms.  To
characterize my concerns as such is absurd.

The collision course I describe has little to do with such persecution as
American blacks experienced or with the way "witches" in Salem were
treated.  Rather, it has EVERYTHING to do the way physicians delivering
alternative health care are treated, with the way British Columbia
legislators acted, and with the way in vitro fertilization practitioners
are being treated in Europe right now.  

Within a few weeks implanting embryos in post menopausal women will be
illegal in France and possibly soon thereafter in England as well. 
Surrogate mothers, quite legal here in the US, are illegal in England and
have been for some time.

It is quite possible that access to "megadose" vitamins and nutrients may
become severely restricted or illegal in the US in the next few years. 
This despite the fact that MOST people want no such restrictions!

Please note that such restrictions DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, require
slavering masses with torches and pitchforks.  Indeed, quite often such
repressive laws/regulations DO NOT have the support of the majority of
the population.

Laws regulating or destroying cryonics can quite easily be passed and
their passage DOES NOT require the support of the population, merely their
indifference which is an EASY thing to secure.  Further, it would not be
difficult to sway public opinion against cryonics.  It may be arrogant of
me, but I feel quite capable of doing both of these things myself: both
polarizing public opinion against cryonics and having laws introduced and
passed effectively outlawing cryonics.  While I have no intention or
intererst in doing either, the fact is I feel quite capable of it and that
tells me that it is POSSIBLE (please note I am not noted for my optimism
about anything).

To severely restrict or outlaw cryonics requires only that someone
competent and highly motivated care enough to do it.  And yes, I am aware
that such people will not be acting in a vacuum and that they will meet
opposition (in other words, I am rendering an opinion here about who will
likely WIN in such a contest).  All that is required from the public is

Quite contrary to the ambivalence of the population about immortality
which Thomas describes so well and assumes to be an assest, I see it as
quite possibly a strong negative.  People do not like ambivalence and
uncertainty; which is what cryonics is all about.  Rather they want
instant gratification, closure, certainty, and freedom from guilt. 
Cryonics raises not only the issue of HOPE, but also the issue of GUILT:
My God, what if I've been WRONG all this time....What if this thing might
really work...what about my husband, lover, friend who died last week,
last month, last year....
I have watched this kind of guilt at work in people and it is my opinion
that many people (maybe even a majority by a small amount) will forego
the possibility of "What if it could work" for the certainty of a
solution that removes the uncertain possibility of success and replaces
it with the certainty of failure.

My point in all of this is that cryonics may be attacked in many serious
ways without it becoming a witch hunt or a matter of public hue and cry. 
This kind of thing has happened many times in the past in the US and
elsewhere and such legislative/professional proscriptions have very
serious consequences.  Ponographers, nutrient companies, alternative
health physicians, homosexuals, all these people could tell Thomas a
great deal about the prices of such proscriptions.

The big difference between many of these areas and cryonics is that
cryonics cannot be practiced in private very effectively.  People go to
hospitals for care or are taken there when in cardiac arrest or suffering
from injury.  20-30% of all "dead" people end up in the coroner's hands. 
Physicians and morticians are required to certify death and insurance
companies are needed for funding.  It is easier to buy vitamins, or have
state-prohibited sex in your bedroom than to freeze your husband when he
dies: without a death certificate, disposition permit, mortician,
physician and so on.  Indeed, to engage in such an act puts you at risk
of serious criminal penalties including the accusation of homicide -- a
capital crime.

While there were no torch bearing masses in the Dora Kent case, neither
were there any torch bearing helpers.  The ACLU and other institutions
which were asked for help DECLINED.  The Dora Kent case was a fortutious
one and one which I believe will not be representative of the response of
law or medicine to cryonics as it grows and evolves.  And there perhaps is
the central difference between Donaldson and I.  Thomas see cryonics as it
is now: as a potentially static, small operation which can continue to
exist without growing.  I DO NOT and have not seen cryonics in that way
for a long time.  As cryonicis activity continues it will continue to
disturb the ether.  Sooner or late that distrubance will result in
fufillment of an ancient Chinese Curse:

   "May you live in interesting times and come to the attention of      
    important people."

This reality has nothing to do with my personal perception of persecution
vis a vis Dora Kent.  It has little to do with political revolutions and
the struggle of American minorities.  It has everthing to do with a
fundamental and deep threat to the status quo and to the systems of
belief and values of a great many powerful people.  The bloodshed will
not come from guns (that is not primarily what I was talking about) but
from lost and ruined lives as a result of the quite ruthlessly
indifferent mechanics of the laws and the indifferent masses who care
nothing about changing them.

That is a collision course with a high price.  And sooner or later
medicine and the law and the IRS will notice cryonics.  While not
invincible, these are indeed important and influential people and
institutions.  To quote Lyndon Johnson: they are folks I'd rather have
inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.

Surely about this, even Thomas would agree?

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