X-Message-Number: 9405
Subject: Re: Cryonics: Business or Religion?
Date: Fri, 03 Apr 1998 15:12:04 -0600
From: Will Dye <>

In CryoNet #9391, Charles Platt writes: 

> Well, guess what!  Cryonics IS like a religion! 

Many of the people presently involved in cryonics are quite 
memetically allergic to religion.  Even the mention of religion 
triggers a mental image of every bone-headed maneuver ever done 
by someone who used the name of God in defense of it.  Implicitly, 
this means that if one avoids religion, then one helps avoid the 
bone-headed maneuvers.  I call this the "minefield" model of 
belief systems: a lot of explosions occur in a particular area, so 
if you avoid the area, you'll reduce the odds of getting your foot 
blown off.  I want to make it clear that I do not adhere to this 
model, but it appears to be a very popular one in certain circles, 
including cryonics.  Comparing cryonics to religion is going to 
entail a lot of time trying to convince people that this particular 
minefield is different from the others.  If we *have* to pick that 
fight, then so be it.  But if we can avoid it, we save ourselves 
(largely donated) time.  

Another drawback to linking cryonics and religion is that it can 
complicate matters for folks who don't want to threaten the 
religion they already have.  I few years back I told my wife that 
I wanted to sign up, and she basically hit the roof.  It took 
quite a while for me to figure out why.  In part, what happened 
is that I said: "I want to sign up for cryonics", but what she 
heard was: "By the way, dear, even though we attend an Evangelical 
church and send our kids to a Christian school I really don't 
believe in God anymore and so I'm switching to a *new* religion 
that's trying to achieve immortality by transforming me into a 
bizzare technological Frankenstein even though it will impose a 
financial and horrific emotional cost upon you & the kids.  And how 
was *your* day?".  Like the sherrif says, what we have here is a 
problem with communication.  I've made signifigant progress since 
then, but it has been glacially slow - far slower than I thought 
it would be.  Most of those in cryonics do not see a problem with 
having religious folk (even "fundies" like myself) sign up for 
suspension.  But for others, the idea that cryonics is an up-and-
coming *replacement* for existing religions can be very difficult 
to extract once it has been deeply-seated.  The fact that many 
cryonics folk actually see it that way does not help my efforts.  
Saying that cryonics is "like a religion" won't help, either.  

More importantly, I fear that any debate over "cryonics/religion" 
will distract from the excellent point that Charles was making: 
cryonics is not profitable, nor will it become so anytime soon, 
even if there is a burst of growth.  A pure business model would've 
led to bankruptcy, yet it appears to be the mental model in use by 
many of our "customers", who pay a "fee" in exchange for a 
"service".  What can, or should, we do about this?

If a debate emerges about wether or not cryonics is a religion, 
I believe that it will boil down to two lists:  the list of ways 
in which X *is* like Y, and the list of ways in which X is *not* 
like Y.  Examples include X=fetus, Y=person; X=simulated neurons, 
Y=brain; X=ageria, Y=immortality; et cetera.  Such debates can 
become difficult, on several levels.  In many cases it may be best 
to just come up with a new "working category" for X, with the 
understanding that the new category covers some, but not 
*necessarily* all, elements of Y.  Work can continue on, using 
the working category, and the debate over X =? Y becomes a side 
issue.  A potentially important side issue that should not 
necessarily be dropped, mind you, but no longer something that 
greatly impedes the difficult work of getting things to function.  
Yes, I believe that we should drop the word "immortal" and 
subsitute something like "ageria", but I'm digressing too much 

If someone argues that using some of the techniques used by 
religions may lead to the problems which that have been associated 
with those religions, then I think that we should listen politely 
to their arguments, but the burden of proof should be decisively on 
the alleged causal relationship.  In other words, if you think that 
adapting a financial model used by the Catholic Church will lead 
to things like banning heliocentric books, then we're willing to 
listen, it's up to you to prove it.  

In short: cryonics does indeed has some of the elements of a 
religion -- in this case, we are not able to support ourselves 
without donated time and money.  But that does not, by itself, 
justify the statement that cryonics *is* a religion, even though 
some people may use it as one.  More to the point, it is simply 
not worth the resulting headaches to say, as Charles did, that 
"cryonics IS like a religion".  But Charles is completely correct 
on his larger point: that we would do well to investigate some of 
the models and techniques that have been successfully used for 
thousands of years by various religious institutions.  


     William L. Dye                Accountability, thy name is
                "low-cost digital storage".

P.S.  Much of this post was to disagree with Charles, and sometimes 
e-mail exchanges can become unnecessarily contentious, so I want to 
make it very clear that I have been, and remain, very supportive of 
Charles and all the excellent work that he's done.  

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