X-Message-Number: 3784
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 1995 22:07:21 -0500
Subject: SCI. CRYONICS  Harris & Life

Steve Harris always shows good thought, and his apparent familiarity with
physics concepts is remarkable in the absence of any graduate courses.  And
many thanks for his comments as a physician on thyroid questions.

However,  his uploading posting (#3774), although correct as far as it goes,
doesn't quite come to grips with the problem.

The "quantitative" approach--more or less like Clarke's--has often been
acknowledged as a conceptual possibility. In 1962, in the first version of
THE PROSPECT OF IMMORTALITY, I wrote that we might recognize that identity is
man-made and relative, rather than natural and absolute--partly in the eye of
the beholder, partly existent and partly invented; instead of having
identity, we may have DEGREES of identity, measured by suitable criteria.
 Vaguely similar ideas go back to ancient times.

But in 1962 I had not thought about the self circuit, nor much about the
relationship between survival criteria and values. It is clear to me now that
the task of deriving values by rigorous reasoning from the firmest possible
premises may be extremely important--even crucial
to the survival of individuals and societies.

That may seem ridiculously overstated, and indeed it may be premature. But at
some time in the future--and possibly fairly soon, although on the surface
this seems unlikely--significant numbers of important people may take a fresh
look at themselves and the world, and take seriously the implications of
scientific philosophy. After all, religions and ideologies have built and
destroyed lives and civilizations, and a philosophy more deserving of the
name might also. 

In particular, any proof or strong evidence that there is no such thing as an
enduring individual could easily lead to fatalism and reckless behavior. At
the very least, it would lead to a wild proliferation of cults and sects. 

On the other hand, any proof that the self circuit, in Dr. Harris' words, can
<take a lickin' and keep on tickin'> might powerfully promote immortalism and
a sense of social responsibility. 

Perhaps the main point at the moment is that--if we want to pretend to
honesty and self respect--we must push hard for the research that may
illuminate these questions. We must abandon the tendency to toddle along in
our accultured paths or to casually accept whatever intuition seems to

It has been said that a man may devote more time and care to selecting an
automobile than to choosing a wife. Certainly the average person spends
almost all of his/her free time on trivia (although sometimes they may be
high-tech and high-sounding trivia). Almost no one thinks seriously about the
foundations of his life and worldview.....Of course, ignorance could be bliss
and the lazy may be the lucky. But the minimum price to be paid for this kind
of irresponsibility is a weakened self respect.

R.C.W. Ettinger

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=3784