X-Message-Number: 9496
From: Ettinger <>
Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1998 10:03:02 EDT
Subject: Pietrzak 2


John Pietrzak (Cryonet # 9493) has not, I fear, looked carefully enough at
"Cryonics: The Probability of Rescue." (See CI web page.)

As a preliminary, in passing, let me note his alleged counterexample to my
statement that, as far as I know, in the modern era, not a single goal of
science has been shown to be impossible. He points to the Michelson-Morley
experiment, which failed to prove the existence of the ether. Actually, the
"goal" of any experiment designed as a tool of theory is just to prove,
disprove, or modify the theory; so M-M did not fail. 

But saying goal of "science" was dumb; I should have said goal of
"technology." That is, we are talking about practical goals, based on known
fundamental science. In the cryonics case, that means repairing patients by
manipulation of matter, if necessary, at the molecular level. Nothing known
argues against that, as Feynman pointed out. (And our bodies do it all the
time, in countless cases.)

Now the main misunderstanding. I don't mean to impugn John's or anyone's
intelligence; these concepts are simple but nevertheless not easy. As I
pointed out in my essay, some of the greatest minds in mathematics have been
confused on some of these points. Nor am I saying I am smarter--just correct.
Smart and right are two different things. Even a blind hen can sometimes find
an acorn.

John repeats that there are no samples on which to base cryonics
probabilities, and that my focus was on situations where there are few
samples. Both statements are wrong.

Looking first at the second part, my approach to probability applies to ANY
situation, few samples or many. Naturally, many is better.

Now PLEASE focus hard. Whether we can find samples--prior experience--depends
on how we define the "event" and the sequence of experiments. For example,
what is the probability that the plane will crash on your planned flight
across country? You COULD say there is no background of experience, no prior
samples, because every flight is different. Flights with the precise
characteristics of yours have never occurred before. Would you therefore say
that probability theory is inapplicable? Of course not. You would just look at
the statistics on flight safety and be satisfied with that--in spite of the
fact that the "probability" is only an estimate based on experience which is
not perfectly linked to your case. (We could get into second order
probabilities here, but that would take us too far afield.) In spite of the
slightly loose links, that experience is highly relevant and much better than

So it is with cryonics and the history of goals of technology. Overwhelming
experience--the sweep of history--tells us that goals of technology are highly
likely to be met. Therefore, unless there is reason to believe that this
particular goal has unusual and important strikes against it, this experience
tells us that repair technology is likely to materialize…..Once more: even
though this estimate is very imprecise, it is nevertheless highly relevant and
thoroughly scientific.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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