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More Religious Objections To Cryonics

Well, he claims that they're philosophical, but I disagree. "Markdb" (whose full name remains unknown, at least to me, has followed up his previous posting in response to my earlier dissection of it. And I should start off with an apology--I did do a Google on "philosophical anthropology" and there apparently is a field of study by that name. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that it has any relevance to the validity of cryonics...

Let?s see, there?s so much to respond to. First, I want to apologize for assuming that Rand et al. were using the word ?cryonics? in the manner that, well, that it?s commonly used by those of us not in the know. It?s defined in several dictionaries thusly:

n. (used with a sing. verb)
The process of freezing and storing the body of a diseased, recently deceased person to prevent tissue decomposition so that at some future time the person might be brought back to life upon development of new medical cures.

the practice of freezing a dead diseased human in hopes of restoring life at some future time when a cure for the disease has been developed.

Well, I'm indifferent as to how ignorant writers of dictionaries want to define it. Certainly that's how most people would define it, so the question arises--should the definition be based on common usage, or on the definition put forth by the people who actually coined the term?

This is, of course, a problem with dictionary definitions in general, because it tends to be a feedback process by which people misapply a term, and then it gets into the dictionary because so many people are using it wrongly, and those using it wrongly point to a dictionary as justification for their continued erroneous usage.

I ran across similar example in a recent Usenet discussion, in which someone was trying to claim that the US is a terrorist state, because one of the dictionary definitions of "terrorism" was "A system of government that seeks to rule by intimidation." Of course, by this definition, every state is a terrorist state, because there are no systems of government that can rule in any other way. Governments pass laws, and ultimately, in order to get people to obey them, they must be intimidated, either by threat of jail or some other punishment.

I don't know the answer, but just because the word has been hijacked by people who don't quite get the concept doesn't mean that we have to acquiesce in the new meaning. Cryonicists know what cryonics means, I would submit, better than anyone else.

Next, even though he said that he'd come up with something new to say, in fact he hasn't. He simply repeats what he said in his previous post:

Cryonics assumes that after death the ?form? of the body, its organizing principle, remains. But this is not the case. And that?s because the ?form? of a human being is a principle of life, the soul, and when a human being is no longer alive, when the soul no longer ?informs? the human being, the being is no longer human. What made the being human is also what made the human living. You can?t be a human being and not be alive; you can?t be dead and be a human being.

And then defends it:

This is not a bold claim. It?s not original. It?s simply using philosophical principles from the pagan philosophy of Aristotle. My point was not that you must know the precise moment when death occurs for these principles to be valid. My point was not that the ?soul? was a religious idea that science abhors. My point was simply that, given the philosophical principles I outlined in the post, principles derived, let me again stress, from reason, ?You can?t be a human being and not be alive; you can?t be dead and be a human being.? So, if you?re claiming that Ted Williams or anyone else frozen shortly after apparent death is still alive, then my philosophical objections, based on the assumption that the person was dead when placed into the deep freeze, aren?t wrong, they simply don?t apply since the claim is that the human being is still alive. So, it seems on this particular point Rand and I are talking past each other more than disagreeing.

Ignoring the fact that the "pagan philosophy" supposedly attributed to Aristotle is in fact a religion, he's right--we are talking past each other here, and he continues to spout useless tautologies.

I don?t doubt that science will eventually produce technology that could put an alive adult human being into suspended animation. But I have no doubt that a dead human being will never be brought back to life by any technology no matter how far advanced (note that, if you followed the reasoning in my previous post ?dead human being? is a phrase that uses ?human? equivocally since ?human being? implies ?alive being?). I do disagree that death is ?gradual? as Rand has explained and my disagreement is based on principles of nature that, again, I outlined in my previous post. This doesn?t mean I claim to know when death occurs precisely, just that the change from animate being to inanimate being, when it in fact occurs, is instantaneous in the sense that what was a human being is no longer a human being. There is no point were a human being is partly alive and partly dead because that, again if you read my previous post, would imply a contradiction in terms.

And of course, the "principles of nature" that he relies on are Aristotelian (i.e., they're bunkum...) He remains confused about the nature of death, and the definitions of "alive" and "dead," and remains hung up on the concept of a soul, whether pagan or otherwise, and remains confused about the distinction between philosophy and religion, and continues to think that philosophical arguments can be used to somehow "prove" cryonics cannot work, as he continues on in that vein.

And he has no substantive response to my previous challenge: show me the soul, provide me a machine by which I can detect its presence or absence. Until you can do so, and convince me that it is a necessary and sufficient indicator of life, then there's no way to convince me that death is anything less than an arbitrary and gradual state. Or that cryonics can't work.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 29, 2002 12:58 PM
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My main objection to cryonics is that it'll probably give us more movies like Vanilla Sky.

Posted by Christopher "Spoons" Kanis at July 29, 2002 07:34 PM

If that's the biggest problem with it, I can live. It's easy to not go to movies, particularly at current prices.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 29, 2002 08:42 PM

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