X-Message-Number: 6333
From:  (Thomas Donaldson)
Subject: To Mr. Galvagno, Jr.
Date: Sat, 8 Jun 1996 14:56:41 -0700 (PDT)


Thank you for your message. I have some comments on it:

1. At no time did I intend to attack Christianity as such. There ARE sects that
   have decided that life and death lie entirely in God's hands; these sects
   consider themselves Christian, and it is not Christianity but that passivity
   whether Christian or not (Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, whatever...) that I was
   speaking against. You may wish to read my message again on this point.

2. Nor was I "equating" Nanotechnology with Christianity or any sect of 
   Christianity. I was pointing out a SIMILARITY between the ideas of 
   Nanotechnology and some ideas which come from earlier versions of Christian-
   ity, some of which survive in particular sects even today. Scholars of 
   religion (and not just a minority of them) have noticed strong similarities
   between the story of the flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh and the flood in 
   the Old Testament. That does not equate the two religions, it merely shows
   some similarity in ideas. There are many peoples all over the world with
   similarities in their myths; that should be seen as a fact. Many different
   opinions exist and have existed about the implications of that fact.

3. As an atheist (or perhaps to put my attitude better, an irrelevantist: one
   who believes that the existence or nonexistence of God is irrelevant, and
   that we must really deal with ALL of our problems by ourselves, with our 
   own struggle and effort) I find it hard to argue that Christianity and 
   cryonics (not cryogenics, which is something else) are not in conflict.

   I will, however, explain one simple point: cryonicists are arguing NOT that
   suspension patients are dead and will someday be brought back to life by
   future scientific skills, but that they are NOT dead and their state will
   someday be recognized as such ... and will become curable. The mere fact
   that a legal ritual of Declaration of Death has been performed for a 
   person does not and CANNOT imply that they are really dead. It is at best
   a statement of what lawyers of the day, with their scientific understanding
   even more limited than that of doctors of the day (who, given the vastness
   and complexity of the Universe, can hardly be seen as all-knowing ...)
   a statement of what a body of ignorant people have DECIDED to be Death.
   As I just said, we believe otherwise. I see no conflict with Christianity
   at all. I will say, though, that some (and even many) sects of Christianity
   do hold this passive belief... but then that belief is not unique to
   Christianity, either. I sincerely hope that you do not mistake the beliefs
   of one or another Christian sect for Christianity itself.... or for that
   matter, the belief of one large body of people that someone is dead with the
   FACT that this someone is dead. No group of fallible human beings can 
   claim either a complete understanding of Christianity or of any other 
   subject, unless they are hubristic and deluded in their beliefs.  

4. At present, our technology for storing and reviving these "officially dead"
   cryonics patients remains very primitive --- though it has definitely 
   improved a good deal over the last 20 years. I personally have argued and
   will continue to argue that cryonicists should work to improve that 
   technology, both by cooperating more in their present research and donating
   more money to support further research. I wish to be cryonically suspended
   myself not because I feel certain that it will work; I merely feel certain 
   that it has a far better chance of reviving me and curing me than any other
   choice. And as you might guess, I do not intend for the cure of my condition
   to depend on any final millenial event, but as a result of further work by
   cryonicists to learn how to fix the damage of my disease, my aging, and
   my storage.

   If you consider this attitude to be one of uncertainty, then OK, it is one
   of uncertainty. Because we are human beings and not gods, and will never
   be gods, we will NEVER be able to do everything we can imagine. That is 
   simply a hard fact of life.

Finally, with "chiliastic" I was merely using an English word: "chiliad" means
a group of 1000 or a period of 1000 years; "chiliasm" is the doctrine that
Christ will return to Earth to rule for 1000 years. And one relation between
Nanotechnology (the ideology, not the technology) and millenialism is exactly
that they believe that Nanotechnology will come soon: close to the end of 
this millenium. That is not an EQUATION but a SIMILARITY.

I hope that these comments provide some kind of explanation of my previous
			Best wishes and long long life,

				Thomas Donaldson

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