Debates about Cryonics with Skeptics


CONTENTS: LINKS TO SECTIONS

  1. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY BEN BEST
  2. THE DEBATES WITH SKEPTICS
    1. SUBJECTIVE PROBABILITY ESTIMATES
    2. EVIDENCE THAT CRYONICS MAY WORK
    3. MEDICINE, MONEY AND ETHICS

I. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY BEN BEST

The debates below have been condensed from exchanges that occurred in May-June 2006 in the James Randi Educational Forum (JREF). The skeptics in the debate are designated SKEPTIC_1 to SKEPTIC_6, but the main contenders were SKEPTIC_1 and SKEPTIC_5. On the pro-cryonics side of the debate bgwowk was involved almost continuously, I (Ben Best) joined mid-stream and bjhayward joined at the end. I admit that there is an emphasis on my own arguments, but not as much as the beginning might lead you to believe.

For the most part the skeptics did not show a very high level of intellectual ability or integrity. Insults and assertions (denials) without justification were standard responses from the skeptics. Nonetheless, a great many interesting issues came out of this debate, due in no small part to the argumentative skill of bgwowk. I think that I was stimulated to express myself about cryonics in ways that I have not done before. Unlike the others, there were three times when I felt that I could express myself better by writing a brief essay, rather than try to make certain points in the context of debate. Direct links to these three essays are provided in the contents.

There are a number of spelling errors in the arguments of the skeptics, but in the interest of faithfully representing their statements no alterations have been made to their original text. Those wanting to read the entire long, tedious, nasty and repetitive debate in its original form can go to What are your opinions on cryonic preservation?

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II. THE DEBATES WITH SKEPTICS

 


(SKEPTIC_1) You are selling services which don't work and do not have adequate evidence that they ever will.

(Ben Best) I have never claimed that reanimation of cryonics patients is possible today, and I have never heard any cryonicist make this claim. To discuss cryonics in the context of reanimating cryonics patients today is to completely warp, misrepresent or misunderstand both the nature of cryonics and the way cryonics is presented (and understood) by cryonicists. Whether you think there is adequate evidence that cryonics will ever work in the future will depend upon your understanding of current science and you ability to extrapolate that understanding to future technical capabilities.

(Ben Best) As I said, my subjective probability estimate of humans living on Mars within 50 years is 90% and my subjective probability estimate of well-preserved cryonics patients being reanimated within 100 years is 50%. I am not "selling" cryonics on the basis of my subjective probability estimate. However, others who have a similar understanding of current science and future technical possibilities are very welcome to become cryonicists on the basis of their own subjective probability estimates. There are some cryonicists who estimate the chance of cryonics working as 2% or less, and yet they still think that cryonics is worth the money & effort, despite estimates that are less than one 25th what mine are.


(SKEPTIC_1)
(Ben Best) You assert a zero probability of cryonics working and you assert that cryonics is based on an appeal to fear.
It is

(Ben Best) Another thing that you do is continually make assertions without any attempt at justification. I argue to get at the truth and/or to persuade, which requires justification. "Arguments" that consist of "it is", "it isn't", "it is", "it isn't"... are not arguments at all, they are shouting matches. If you have any justifications behind your assertion that cryonics is an appeal to fear, please give them. On this forum there are at least two cryonicists, bgwowk and me. Both of us have stated that fear is not the basis of the appeal that cryonics has for us. I believe that bgwowk is more motivated by a desire to see the future, whereas I am more motivated by my love of life as it is. So before your eyes you have two cryonicists who are not being motivated by fear. If there are two, there are probably many more. I challenge you to name one cryonicist who is primarily motivated by fear, and to justify this interpretation.

(SKEPTIC_1)
(Ben Best) If you want to be convincing, rather than to just score "cheap shots", you should give reasons for your assertions.
I'm not the one selling the services, the burden of proof is on you to show that it will work.

(Ben Best) Your "burden of proof" argument is just another example of your evasion of responsibility for justifying your assertions. Every person who makes an assertion has a "burden of proof" to justify that assertion. I justify my assertions that cryonics patients may someday be reanimated by plausibility arguments based on current science. If you claim that cryonics is fraud then you have a burden of proof to justify that claim. Certainly in law, and accusation of fraud is a serious matter which requires justification.


(SKEPTIC_2) I have to chime in with the others: Selling cryonics is a problem, since it is uncertain that what you are selling now will ever work. The problem is with selling a service that cannot be demonstrated to work. There is a good chance that there service that is being sold now or was sold in the recent past will never work.

(Ben Best) Imagine that you were dying of some dread disease and you were told that there was a 40-60% chance that you could be saved by a new surgical technique that required expensive equipment and would cost $30,000 to perform. Do you call this fraud because it is uncertain that the operation will succeed? Is it any more or less fraud if the operation costs $150,000 and has a 5−10% chance of success?

(Ben Best) Cryonics costs money. It is not possible to store a person in liquid nitrogen for decades without cost. Those of us who seek this means of survival are acutely and painfully aware of this fact. We buy expensive insurance policies and pay membership dues on the basis of informed decision. Most of us realize that there is no certainty of success, but the expected value (payoff times probability of success) is so high that we consider it well worth the cost. We value the possibility of survival far more highly than the money it costs. The more people who join us in this project, the better are our chances of success.

(Ben Best) Those who join us are informed adults, just as we are, who are legally entitled to make our decisions and pay for them. You are treating cryonics as if it were sex with minors. You are treating potential buyers of cryonics service as if they are children. As a person believing that cryonics gives me a chance at future survival, I resent your paternalistic attitude, which would prevent me -- and others who share my views -- from having the possibility of future survival.


(Ben Best) Imagine that you were dying of some dread disease and you were told that there was a 40-60% chance that you could be saved by a new surgical technique that required expensive equipment and would cost $30,000 to perform. Do you call this fraud because it is uncertain that the operation will succeed? Is it any more or less fraud if the operation costs $150,000 and has a 5−10% chance of success?

(SKEPTIC_3) We wouldn't know the success rate of the new surgical technique unless it has been tried and shown to work sometimes. Cryonic suspension of a human being as a longterm method of preserving life has not been shown to work at all yet, let alone with a 40% to 60% success rate. False analogy. Most of us realize that there is no certainty of success

(Ben Best) You are treating cryonics as if it were sex with minors. You are treating potential buyers of cryonics service as if they are children. As a person believing that cryonics gives me a chance at future survival, I resent your paternalistic attitude, which would prevent me -- and others who share my views -- from having the possibility of future survival.

(SKEPTIC_3) People should be able to make their own decisions on this. We want them to be informed decisions. If someone wants cryonic suspension for themselves, I have no problem with that. But I would like them to be able to hear the debate over it and know about the facts, including the best estimates of a success rate.

(Ben Best) I do not share your calculation of the certainties or uncertainties of cryonics working. There is no breach of ethics in my not sharing your estimations of the probabilities. And there is no breach of ethics when those who disagree with your estimations of certainty buy or sell cryonics services.

(SKEPTIC_3) Well, unless your calculations of the success rate are the best or only research in the field, which I doubt since I'm sure there are others working on this, I think you SHOULD share others' calculations with those looking into this. That is, unless you're 100% sure that your estimates are correct and that there is no chance that someone else might know more about it than you.

(SKEPTIC_3) Keep in mind that human cryonic preservation as a life prolonging strategy or a strategy to avoid death still has a 0% success rate. I'll be more optimistic about it when we can bring at least one person back from cryonic preservation.


(SKEPTIC_3) We wouldn't know the success rate of the new surgical technique unless it has been tried and shown to work sometimes. Cryonic suspension of a human being as a longterm method of preserving life has not been shown to work at all yet, let alone with a 40% to 60% success rate. False analogy.

(Ben Best) Every new surgical technique must be performed a first time. My analogy would be justified for a case where an experienced surgeon extrapolated on the basis of his/her knowledge & experience to arrive at a subjective probability estimate, which he/she presented in those terms. On the other hand, there are many surgical procedures which are not new at all, and which have a success rate which can be calculated on the basis of many similar past operations. Although there is definitely a distinction between a subjective probability estimate and a probability based on empirical evidence, from a decision-making point of view the difference is not as great as you imply -- not great enough to justify dismissing my question entirely.

(Ben Best) And I think that my question needs to be answered on its own terms. I did not mention cryonics in my question. I think it is reasonable for me to ask this question to get an understanding of the perception of those with whom I am arguing. If you think it is fraud to perform an expensive operation that is known -- based on thousands of operations -- to have something less than a 100% success rate then you certainly are going to think it is fraud for a surgeon to perform a new untried operation for which the success rate can only be estimated as a subjective probability. And similarly, you will believe cryonics is fraud.

(SKEPTIC_3) That is given that at least part of the funds of everyone that pays for cryonics goes to develop crynonics as a technology. Hopefully they are aware that their money is being used for that instead of simply for their own treatment. I would imagine that's the case.

(Ben Best) Intentionally or unintentionally you have twisted my assertion that teamwork with a large team is more likely to succeed than teamwork with a small team into an assertion that if the team is made larger that necessarily means that some of the team members will be exploited for the benefit of others. This is a misrepresentation of what I said, of what I believe and of what is true.

(SKEPTIC_3)
(Ben Best) You are treating cryonics as if it were sex with minors.
Totally different things. False analogy.

(Ben Best) Not a false analogy if you believe that those who purchase cryonics services are not consenting adults who are responsible for their own subjective probability estimates and are responsible for their own decisions.

(SKEPTIC_3) Keep in mind that human cryonic preservation as a life prolonging strategy or a strategy to avoid death still has a 0% success rate. I'll be more optimistic about it when we can bring at least one person back from cryonic preservation.

(Ben Best) I have said repeatedly that estimates of cryonics patients being reanimated in the future are based entirely on extrapolations from present knowledge. I would greatly prefer if cryonics patients could be reanimated today rather than in the future. But I do not have the luxury of waiting until a reanimation occurs before deciding whether I want to be cryopreserved. Chances are very good that I will die before science has the necessary reanimation capabilities (if it ever does).


(Ben Best) Many of the "skeptics" on this forum remind me of past skeptics who declared that man would never fly or that cloning will never be possible.

(SKEPTIC_1) In other words, "they laughed at Einstein". They laughed at Bozo the Clown as well.

(Ben Best) But people who declare that there is a zero percent chance that any of these things can ever occur have a faith in their own omniscience that would rival than of any New Age psychic.

(SKEPTIC_1) Strawman.

(Ben Best) Cryonics is not a money-making scam. Cryonicists are at worst deluded, but we are sincere.

(SKEPTIC_1) That doesn't make it not a scam. Homeopaths and psychics believe their own crap, too.

(Ben Best) All assets of the Cryonics Institute are owned by the Members. We are building our own lifeboats.

(SKEPTIC_1) Leaky, very-unlikely-to-work lifeboats that you're selling to the desperate.


(SKEPTIC_1) You are selling a service by appealing to people's fears that does not now, nor is likely to, work. Period.

(Ben Best) You assert a zero probability of cryonics working and you assert that cryonics is based on an appeal to fear. If you want to be convincing, rather than to just score "cheap shots", you should give reasons for your assertions.


(Ben Best) On what grounds do you justify you belief that cryonics has a zero percent chance of working?

(SKEPTIC_1) I never said any such thing.

(Ben Best) How did you arrive at your determination that my judgment of a 50% chance of cryonics working is based on "pure speculation", if not by "pure speculation" on your part?

(SKEPTIC_1) They are both based on speculation. The difference is I'm not selling my speculation for $150,000 a person.

(Ben Best) I am quoting your response to my statement: "You might as well say that there will never be a technology that will allow people to live on Mars." The point of my comment was to give an example of how something that does not "work" now (people living on Mars) cannot be used as proof that it can never work.

(SKEPTIC_1) Strawman. I never said it can't ever work. I said there is a good chance it may never work.


(SKEPTIC_1) They are both based on speculation. The difference is I'm not selling my speculation for $150,000 a person.

(Ben Best) The cost of cryonics is not material to arriving at a subjective probability estimate of whether cryonics patients may someday be reanimated. My estimations would be the same whether the costs were $1 or $1 billion. It would be heartbreaking for me to think that cryonics would require $1 billion (completely unaffordable), but that would be irrelevant to calculations based on technical considerations. The cost of cryonics and the technology of cryonics can be considered independently, but you refuse to do so. This is the basis of much of your "strawman" argument warping.


(SKEPTIC_4) Where do you stand on the question of freezing people in the recent past with technologies that we know now (and let's face it, they probably knew then) are highly unlikely to allow them to be recovered, ever? Is it acceptable because they're helping to fund the development of technologies that might make it possible to save other people in the future? 'Cos I think this is where the allegations of "Scam" come from.

(Ben Best) My view of matters is quite different from yours. I put fewer limits on the capacities of future technologies than do cryonicists like bgwowk. I would not say that it is necessarily highly unlikely that a person who has been straight-frozen (ie, cryopreserved without any "anti-freeze" cryoprotectant to prevent ice-crystal formation) can be reanimated. I can argue this matter further if proded, but it is more relevant to answer that I believe that there is a continuum between straight-freezing and suspended animation through cryopreservation corresponding to a continuum of increasing probability that reanimation from cryopreservation is possible. From a technical point of view suspended animation through cryopreservation corresponds to a 100% probability of success. I don't know whether that technology will ever be achieved, but I do see a progressive improvement in cryopreservation technology toward that goal. Eliminating ice formation by the use of vitrifying cryoprotectants was a major step forward, but I see many smaller steps as well. With every cryonics patient that I handle I learn things that help me do a better job in cryopreserving the next patient.

(Ben Best) Oddly, I think that part (although only a small part) of the problem behind the accusation of "scam" is linguistic. I try to stress the distinction between beliefs/efforts that are based on conscious deceit and those that are not. Those based on deceit can be described by words like "hoax", "fraud" and "scam". Those that are not deceptive could be called "pseudoscience" or "delusion". It is possible to be sincere about ill-conceived projects that cost money, but there is no simple word for this, only phrases like "white elephant" or "waste of money". Some might view passing the collection plate at a church in those terms. People prefer one-word epithets. Not that I desire to be considered deluded, but I think that others who believe that cryonics is unworkable should allow that cryonicists are sincere in their attempts to survive/save lives and not necessarily equate those attempts with dishonesty. Insofar as I am a sincere cryonicist this is an attack on my character, on my ethics.


(Ben Best) You can say that there is no feedback for any yet-unachieved technology. What is the feedback that we have that a human can live on Mars? There is lots of indirect evidence and the goal is approached in steps. The same can be said for the idea that science will eventually create kidneys, hearts and livers for humans that are more functional than the ones that nature gave us. Just because the goal has not been achieved does not mean there is no feedback in the steps being taken toward that goal

(SKEPTIC_2) We're not sending people to mars yet to observe where things go wrong and do improvements on the next batch of people that goes to mars.


(SKEPTIC_2) We're not sending people to mars yet to observe where things go wrong and do improvements on the next batch of people that goes to mars.

(bgwowk) No, because travel to Mars is not an urgent medical problem. Buying time to solve medical problems for individuals is.

(SKEPTIC_2) You stress the community effect; I smell a conflict of interest at least: Once you're in, you depend on others to follow you and have a vested interest in getting more peolpe to sign up, like any good MLM scheme.

(bgwowk) Conflict-of-interest implies an interest that is in conflict with someone else's interest. In cryonics there is no money flowing hand-to-hand like an MLM, just a common interest for cryonics to succeed. Yes, cryonics is more likely to succeed with a larger community supporting it. So are most things. For example, devotees of particular software packages or standards will naturally seek others to join them. Except that they will not be compared to MLMers for doing so.


(SKEPTIC_2) We're not sending people to mars yet to observe where things go wrong and do improvements on the next batch of people that goes to mars.

(Ben Best) Cryonics is not cryopreserving legally living people as guinea pigs, as your analogy would imply. Your analogy would be closer to the truth if people remaining on earth faced certain death and risking a trip to Mars was the only hope of survival.

(SKEPTIC_2) Another thing I noted: You stress the community effect; I smell a conflict of interest at least: Once you're in, you depend on others to follow you and have a vested interest in getting more peolpe to sign up, like any good MLM scheme.

(Ben Best) There is no Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) to cryonics, no "pyramid" of income. My point was that a larger team is more likely to succeed than a smaller team. When you are at war, the more combatants on your side, the better your chances of avoiding defeat. We are at war with immanent death. The more scientists who work on a cure for cancer, the better the chances that a cure will be found sooner rather than later. The more scientists who work on the problem of reversible cryopreservation, the sooner suspended animation through cryopreservation will become a reality. The more people who join cryonics organizations, the more that can be done to make those organizations durable.


(SKEPTIC_5) How about putting in your questionnaire "Do you think once technology is available to keep every living person alive indefinitely the people of the future will see it in their best interest to unfreeze and revive and rebuild individuals who had died long ago?"

(Ben Best) In a world where the technology is available to revive, cure and rejuvenate a cryopreserved cryonics patient, the cryonics patient will be comparable to a fetus in a womb. Except that the cryonics patient will be more precious than the fetus because he or she will have a lifetime of accumulated knowledge and experience. Although the cryonics patient may face challenges of re-orientation to a future world, these challenges will be miniscule compared to the challenges facing a newborn baby. Unlike the newborn baby, the cryonics patient will not emerge as being entirely helpless and ignorant. There was a time when newborns were routinely disposed-of, but if the world of the future has vastly more wealth and technology then disposing of a cryonics patient will be as unthinkable as disposing of a newborn baby.

(Ben Best) Your statement contains disparaging implications that because they have "died long ago" that cryonics patients are garbage. But if they have been cryopreserved in a condition from which they can be revived, they cannot properly be said to be dead.


(SKEPTIC_5) "Do you think science will suffer a major setback due to world wars, worldwide disasters, disease epidemics and/or ignorance of the populace at some point in the next 200 years?"

(bgwowk) Do you? And if so, how does the prospect of such setbacks fit into value judgements about what to try and preserve for the future? If people aren't worth preserving, then nothing is worth preserving.


(bgwowk) Do you? And if so, how does the prospect of such setbacks fit into value judgments about what to try and preserve for the future? If people aren't worth preserving, then nothing is worth preserving.

(SKEPTIC_5) Again people who are alive when they develop the technology to perpetuate life will be the ones to decide what is worthwhile. There is more than just the science to resurrect someone. There is practical matters and ethics. You continue to present the strawman about the value of life.


(Ben Best) This cryonics debate is my first exposure to the skeptics forum. One thing that has struck me is how often I see the accusation of "strawman". I did a quick search of the word and found the following well-worded definition:

STRAWMAN FALLACY
 
1 Person A has position X.
2 Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
3 Person B attacks position Y.
4 Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

(Ben Best) I have done a great deal of arguing, but it is almost always with others who are arguing in good faith in an attempt to clarify positions and be convincing. I can understand a strawman situation arising because a misunderstanding leads to unintentional distortion and misrepresentation. This does not appear to be the case with you. I see you warping arguments (distorting statements) for the apparent purpose of either making a cheap-shot insult or for misleading others about the terms of the dispute. This distortion appears to be done with full understanding and intention. Perhaps your skeptics forum audience is entertained by your distortions & insults, but I would be embarrassed by such intellectually dishonest argumentative behavior.


(SKEPTIC_5) There will be hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes, wars and other disasters over the centuries. You imagine all of this won't matter. I don't imagine that. It's all in your mind.

(bgwowk) Then why preserve historical documents that require controlled environments? Why preserve historical buildings that require continuous maintenance? Why preserve tissue from endangered species? Why try to preserve anything at all if it's all doomed to neglect in short order?

(bgwowk) Cryonic storage has been going on without interruption for 30 years now, in one case (James Bedford) for 40 years this coming January. That's a significant fraction of the total distance required.

(SKEPTIC_5) You ignore that they may make it illegal to give imaginary services before centuries pass and the frozen corpse is resurrected.

(bgwowk) There is no doubt in my mind that villagers coming up the hill with torches and pitchforks are the greatest threat to the whole idea. As usual, the greatest obstacles to achievement are not natural, but other people. For people who don't put in the years of difficult effort required to understand and create things, it's always so much easier to derive self-esteem by denigrating and destroying the work of others.


(SKEPTIC_5) Doesn't this sound like all the same arguments that woo woo use? Claim to be scientific without having any science to show that they can do what they say they can do.

(bgwowk) I've shown you the science. Saying no science exists without completed clinical trials is no different than saying no science exists supporting controlled fusion until the first power plant is online, no science exists supporting the feasibility of curing any disease until the disease are cured, no science exists supporting the feasibility of any technological endeavour until it is completed. If that is your position, it indicates a basic misunderstanding of what science is.

(bgwowk) Again, the difference between a protoscience and a pseudoscience ("woo woo") is that pseudosciences are inconsistent with physical law. Cryonics is a protoscience, not a pseudoscience. Even Michael Shermer, who's no fan of cryonics, acknowledges that. The world is full of people with arguments claiming that currently impossible things can be probably be done with further development. What separates "woo woo" from legitimate science is physical law.

(SKEPTIC_5) Compare themselves to people who achieved real goals when they have only their imagination to show us.

(bgwowk) Tooth fairies, again? I suppose you also believe Robert Goddard achieved nothing until July 21, 1969.


(SKEPTIC_5) The earth can only support a certain number of people. Once we approach that number there will be limits on who gets saved resurrected etc.

(Ben Best) This assumes that wealth and technology cannot grow faster than human population. It assumes a "law of diminishing returns" and an "iron law of wages". Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo made such predictions two hundred years ago. They were wrong. If the doom & gloom vision of the future proves to be correct, then cryonics will probably fail. But the future is not necessarily going to be dismal and prognostications concerning the future need not necessarily be a "dismal science". Again, cryonics is based on a chance of success, not on a guarantee of success.


By way of analogy, digitally storing hundreds of songs on a device the size of a chocolate bar would have looked "impossible" a generation ago. But a lot of bright people found it important enough to figure out how to do that and turn it into a successful product.

(SKEPTIC_5) No one was recording music onto some format and selling others the chance to have it digitalized in the future when the technology developed. Develop the science YES promoting the technology before it exists NO (promoting imaginary technology=bad)


(SKEPTIC_5) You beg the point that you cannot do what you claim to be able to do.

(Ben Best) It is amazing that after it has been expressed so clearly so many times that you continue to misstate, misrepresent and perhaps even truly misunderstand what the claim of cryonics is. The claim is not that there are cryonics patients who are in cryopreservation today who can be reanimated today. The claim is not even that there are cryonics patients in cryopreservation today who WILL be reanimated in the future. The claim is that there are cryonics patients in cryopreservation today who MAY be reanimated in the future. And that there are very good reasons, based on scientific understanding, that this will be the case. Just as there are very good reasons for believing that humans may one day live on Mars. The fact that humans do not currently live on Mars cannot be given as proof that humans will never live on Mars.


(SKEPTIC_5) No one was recording music onto some format and selling others the chance to have it digitalized in the future when the technology developed.

(bgwowk) No, they were only selling stock to finance companies to develop non-existent imaginary technologies. Obviously the entire venture capital and IPO process for technology companies is an unethical scam because they are taking money based on the promise of technology that doesn't exist yet, right?

(SKEPTIC_5) Develop the science YES promoting the technology before it exists NO (promoting imaginary technology=bad)

(bgwowk) Once again, we have that word "imaginary", which makes no distinction between 100 Gigabyte USB sticks, thermonuclear fusion, or tooth fairies. Is this what skepticism has come to? An understanding of science so limited that all things that don't demonstrably work, from Tarot card reading, to future energy sources, to future medical technologies, are to be treated as equivalent?

(bgwowk) By the way, how do you feel about preserving tissue samples from endangered species so that if they become exinct they might be restored using future technology?

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II. A. SUBJECTIVE PROBABILITY ESTIMATES

(Ben Best) Reading a number of postings in this debate makes me increasingly aware of a conceptual problem that I think I can best address in essay form rather than in the context of replying to specific comments by others. I will still attempt to reply to individual postings, but only after this brief exposition on subjective probability.

(Ben Best) Life involves many situations in which we must make decisions based on incomplete information, or on information that cannot be objectively quantified. Statisticians are aware of this and acknowledge the existence of "subjective probability".

(Ben Best) The selection of a marriage partner is an example of the application of subjective probability. Unless a person is marrying for money, there are no grounds for objectively quantifying the suitability of a particular potential marriage partner. Yet few people would marry someone if the estimated outcome was more likely to be pain than pleasure. I would guess that few people would marry someone without estimating at least a 90% chance that the marriage will result in more pleasure than pain. The experience of a lifetime gives us a great deal of knowledge about the kinds of people we get along with and the kinds of people who irritate us. The fact that this information is subjective and cannot be objectively quantified does not mean the information is meaningless, groundless or useless. "Speculation" is an appropriate term for estimating subjective probability. Good speculation will be well-grounded in fact.

(Ben Best) Estimates of potential technological achievements in the future which are based on current science and technology is likewise based on subjective probability estimates (speculation). Based on my understanding of current science and technology I estimate that there is at least a 90% chance that humans will live on Mars within the next 50 years and at least a 90% chance that science will devise a means to create artificial organs -- livers, kidneys and hearts at least as good as "natural" ones -- within the next 50 years (possibly using stem cells). I cannot prove my estimates, but I deny that they are groundless or meaningless.

(Ben Best) Similarly, I estimate that the probability of science being able to reanimate a well-preserved cryonics patient within the next 50 years to be at least 50%. I base this estimate on many things, including my knowledge of neurophysiology, the integrity of structure & function of vitrified brain tissue as demonstrated by electron micrographs & potassium/sodium assays, the success in transplanting rabbit kidneys vitrified to −135ºC into rabbits with full functionality, my understanding of the potentialities of nanotechnology & other forms of molecular repair, etc.

(Ben Best) Although I cannot objectively prove any of my subjective probability estimates concerning human life on Mars, suitability of a marriage partner or the chances of cryonics working, those estimates are the best basis I have for making decisions. I can make plausibility arguments based on the thinking that led to my estimates to influence the subjective probability estimates that others will make, but that is the best that can be achieved for "proof". Anyone who rejects my probability estimates of over 90% for humans living on Mars within 50 years or of over 50% for well-preserved cryonics patients being reanimated does so on the basis of their own subjective probability estimates, whether they acknowledge that this is the case or not. Such people will even make accusations of "fraud" to people whose probability estimates differ from their own.

(Ben Best) The fact that there is currently no human living on Mars cannot be taken as proof that such a thing will forever be impossible. The fact that there is currently no human living on Mars cannot be taken as proof that it is a waste of money to attempt to create conditions wherein humans can live on Mars. The space program is based on a commonly shared subjective probability estimate that it is very likely that humans can live on Mars and that it is not a waste of money to attempt to make this happen. Similarly, cryonics is based on a commonly shared (among cryonicists) subjective probability estimate that humans cryopreserved under good conditions today have a chance of future reanimation -- and that it is not a waste of money to cryopreserve humans today. If we wait until reanimation has been demonstrated to arrange our own cryopreservation, we may die in the meantime and miss out on the possibility of future life.


(SKEPTIC_5) If you are trying to sell me some land on Mars I will argue with you some more.

(bgwowk) That's an interesting example. Millions of tax dollars have been and are being spent based on the assumption that some day people will live on Mars, at least for a few months during a Mars mission. And if you want something really far out, the U.S. Air Force used to pay physicist Robert L. Forward to do feasibility studies of antimatter propulsion systems for spacecraft. You think cryonics has a long time horizon? How about the ethics of that?


(SKEPTIC_6) Would it have been ethical for the Wright Brothers to sell pilot's licenses right after Kitty Hawk? Or to sell tickets for Trans-Atlantic flights? Or vouchers for shipping freight across the Pacific?

(bgwowk) Or raise money for a company to develop aircraft and air travel commercially? Bear in mind that investors that paid into such a company would in fact be betting on commercial uses of aircraft, including air travel decades later. While it's often said that business investment has a short time horizon, you need only look at the ridiculous PE ratios of technology companies to see that bets are being made on technologies that are still far from realization.

(SKEPTIC_6) In any case, there's a difference between spending money to research and issue and help to make it possible, and spending money to use the technology.

(bgwowk) You can't pay money to use technology that doesn't exist. But you certainly can pay money in anticipation of using or benefiting from technology that will exist. There are many non-controversial examples of that in the world. Cryonics is just an extreme case. You can criticize cryonics for being extreme, prone to abuse, giving more hope than is justified, etc. etc. But to criticize it as intrinsically unethical, as some here have done, is a double standard.

(SKEPTIC_6) Cryogenics promises the possibility of life-after-death.

(bgwowk) No it doesn't. It questions whether what is called death in medicine today really is death, or whether it is just an excuse to throw people away when nothing more can be done with contemporary technology. The existence of things like "do not resuscitate" orders in medicine strongly supports their case.


(SKEPTIC_5) Lets look at this scenario. A man is dieing from cancer. He is rich and has lots of money and has the best doctors however they say he is still going to die and there is nothing they can do about it. You hear about an unproven treatment. There is information that says in theory it might help him however no studies showing this to be true and it has never worked on any one ever. Is it unethical to encourage him to try this unproven treatment? What if you make no money from it? In my opinion both situations it would be unethical to advise him to try this unproven treatment. For one thing history has shown the necessity for scientific studies and while he may just be wasting his money. Wasting money is harm.

(Ben Best) You seem to equate unproven treatment with a treatment guaranteed to fail. If there have been no scientific studies, why would anyone regard it to be a treatment at all? If scientists think that the treatment may work based on indirect evidence rather than direct experiment, why would it be unethical to try it? If it works it could benefit not only that patient, but many others. Every treatment must be attempted a first time. If the treatment costs $10,000 to perform and has a 5% chance of success, is it unethical to perform it? What about a cost of $20,000 and a 2% chance of success? Where do you draw the line between what is ethical and what is not?


(SKEPTIC_5) ZZZZZ wake me up when you can resurrect someone

(Ben Best) This again assumes that one must ascribe a zero percent probability that cryonics patients can be reanimated in the future until future reanimation occurs. Or ascribe a zero percent probability to the prospect that it is possible for humans to live on Mars until humans have actually lived on Mars. It is possible to apply a great deal of indirect scientific evidence to the plausibility of a technical accomplishment being feasible and to justify the expense and effort of attempting those accomplishments. If everyone used your logic there would be scarcely any technical progress at all.

(Ben Best) From the point of view of personal survival I do not have the luxury of waiting until a cryonics patient has been reanimated before deciding to be cryopreserved. I will probably have died before that time and will have missed my chance by not arranging cryonic preservation for myself.


(SKEPTIC_5) You imagine it will happen in the future.

(bgwowk) I make a case that it can theoretically be done, not that it will happen.

(SKEPTIC_5) You sell people based on your imagination.

(bgwowk) I defend the right of people to use their judgement to determine what may or may not be technologically feasible over long time horizons, and to use their time and resources to speculate on that judgement. I argue that whether such activities are ethical depends entirely on the manner in which they are carried out, not on speculation per se.

(SKEPTIC_5) I guess it is a buyer beware situation...

(bgwowk) On that we fully agree.


(SKEPTIC_6) They're not selling "help us pay for research", they're selling "you have a chance of living again".

(bgwowk) They are doing both, but even if just the latter, where is the intrinsic ethics breach? If a person can ethically pay someone to maintain a personal library in the unlikely event that it may be useful to some future historian, why can't a person ethically pay someone to maintain the contents of their mind in the unlikely event that some future doctor might be able to do something with it?

(SKEPTIC_6) Sorry, but it is being sold as life-after-death. They aren't freezing/vitrifying living persons.

(bgwowk) Perhaps you don't realize that the purpose of "do not resuscitate" orders in medicine is to declare people dead instead of resuscitating them. Think about that. If death is pronounced on purely cardiac criteria per a DNR order, then there is no biological difference between a cryonics patient and other critical patients still under medical care without DNR orders. As one famous critical care doctor recently said, "Cardiac death isn't a diagnosis of death, it is a prognosis of death."

(bgwowk) Until you came along, what has been argued in this thread is that it is unethical to invite people to use ANY technology short of demonstrably efficacious, no matter how good or scientifically defensible, if it costs them money. I think that's an untenable position. It's practically a parody of skepticism.

(bgwowk) I should modify my last statement to say:

(bgwowk) What has been argued in this thread is that it is unethical to invite people to use any technology short of demonstrably efficacious for its end purpose, no matter how good or scientifically defensible, if it costs them money.


(bgwowk) Depends what you mean by "science". If by "science", you mean estimation based on scientific data and mechanistic understanding, then you are right. Therapies not based on a scientific worldview do have a dismal success rate. However, if by "science" you mean clinical trials, then you are wrong. Much of medicine, in fact most of preventative medicine, is based on scientific estimation before definitive clinical data become available.

(SKEPTIC_1) Show me a success rate for predicting the timing of new scientific discoveries.

(bgwowk) Not really. Worst case is that we will know how to fix the damage when technology for general molecular manipulation becomes available because then we will have the general tools to restore tissue to a healthy state no matter what the damage is. In other words, there is a specific anticipated technology base for doing this. It's not a matter of waiting for some unkown magic to appear. We know what it takes, but we have to wait for the actual tools.

(SKEPTIC_1) Blah blah blah. I don't believe it will happen in any predictable time frame. Prove to me that there is some reason to believe it will occur in the next hundred or so years.


(bgwowk) I make a case that it can theoretically be done, not that it will happen.

(SKEPTIC_5) Here is the problem, you hang the gift of life in front of unsuspecting victims. Because you imagine it will occur you advise people to pour money into technology that hasn't been developed. Unlike futures traders they will never know if they have wasted their time.

(bgwowk) I defend the right of people to use their judgement to determine what may or may not be technologically feasible over long time horizons, and to use their time and resources to speculate on that judgement. I argue that whether such activities are ethical depends entirely on the manner in which they are carried out, not on speculation per se.

(SKEPTIC_5) You do more than that you encourage them to pursue this imaginary endeavor


(SKEPTIC_5) If you want to know why skeptics get upset at you it is because you use intellectually dishonest arguments identical to those used by woo woo proponents.

(bgwowk) They may be identical in your mind, but I've made the distinction quite clear. The problem with paranormal advocates is that they don't take the models of reality constructed by science seriously. My problem is that I do take them seriously.

(SKEPTIC_5) So if you don't want to be lumped into that category then tell us where do you come up with these arguments? Were you trained by other how to use these deceptive arguments or did you come up with them on your own?

(bgwowk) What possible difference could training in argumentation make to whether you lump me in with paranormal advocates? Doesn't whether an argument is valid or deceptive depend on the argument, not the source?


(bgwowk) Your central demand has been that since cryonics clients expect resuscitation, resuscitation must be demonstrated. Therefore even if suspended animation were demonstrably reversible, using it to wait for a cure for a disease would be unethical because the cure would not be demonstrable. Right?

(SKEPTIC_1) No. My argument is that you are selling a service based on claims you can't support. Your repeated attempts to equivocate what you are doing into something harmless do not support your claims.

(return to contents)


II. B. EVIDENCE THAT CRYONICS MAY WORK

Subtitle: Evidence that Cryonics Patients who are Cryopreserved with Current Technology May be Revived in less than a Century.

(Ben Best) It is not currently possible to cure all currently known diseased or to rejuvenate people, but there are good reasons to believe that medicine may have these capabilities within a century. Justifying these assertions is not the point of this essay. Anyone seeking evidence that aging is potentially reparable damage to tissues, cells and macromolecules should consult my essay (Mechanisms of Aging). For the purposes of this essay, what is relevant is that anyone currently living who could be transported one hundred years into the future would have the potential to live thousands of years. Cryonics may be this means of transport.

(Ben Best) The anatomical basis of mind most probably resides in the neural networks of the neurons and synapses of the brain:

The Anatomical Basis of Mind

Neural Networks

Artificial Intelligence

(Ben Best) The preservation of these brain structures should be sufficient for the preservation of memory and personal identity. Just as a well-preserved heart can be electrophysiologically restarted, a well-preserved brain can resume consciousness by impulses from the reticular activating system. This has been demonstrated in persons showing no brain electrical activity (flat EEG) due to barbituate poisoning or hypothermic neurosurgery.

(Ben Best) Experiments conducted on vitrification of rat hippocampal slices at the Pathology Department of UCLA were recently published in the April 2006 issue of the peer-reviewed journal CRYOBIOLOGY:

Hippocampal Slice Cryopreservation (Abstract)

Hippocampal Slice Cryopreservation (PDF)

(Ben Best) The hippocampus is the area of the brain believed to be concerned with the consolidation of memory. Hippocampal tissue is notoriously the brain tissue most vulnerable to ischemia and other forms of injury -- and is thus a good model (worst-case scenario) for testing the capabilities of vitrification of brain tissue. (Vitrification is the use of "anti-freeze" cryoprotectants to eliminate ice formation -- see Vitrification)

(Ben Best) In the UCLA experiments the hippocampal slices were saturated with vitrifying cryoprotectants, cooled to solidification at −130ºC and then rewarmed and assessed for viability as well as for structural integrity. Assays based on potassium/sodium ratios (see potassium/sodium ratio assays for background on this assay) indicated viability comparable to control brain tissue (100% viability in many cases) of hippocampal slices that had been cryopreserved. Electron micrographs indicated that the structural integrity of the cryopreserved and rewarmed hippocampal slices was as good as the structural integrity of the control slices.

(Ben Best) Further support for the ability of vitrifying cryoprotectants to preserve living tissue at cryogenic temperatures was provided at the 2005 Society for Cryobiology Conference where it was announced that vitrifying cryoprotectants had allowed rabbit kidneys to be cooled to −135ºC (below solidification temperature), rewarmed and transplanted into living rabbits with full functionality.

(Ben Best) When cryonics patients are perfused with vitrifying cryoprotectants the perfusion process ends when there is evidence (from effluent concentration and samples taken from burr holes in the skull) that the brain has been fully saturated with the vitrifying cryoprotectant. Then the cryonics patient's brain is rapidly cooled to solidification temperature (about −125ºC) and then slowly cooled to liquid nitrogen temperature. Some cracking due to thermal stress occurs between solidification temperature and liquid nitrogen temperature, but most cryonicists do not believe that this compromises the preservation of the anatomical basis of mind. With added technology and expense, it would be possible to store a cryonics patient at intermediate cryogenic temperatures in solid state without thermal stress and cracking, rather than cool down to liquid nitrogen temperature.

(Ben Best) Cessation of heartbeat is the usual criterion for legal death. However, cessation of heartbeat does not mean that the organs, tissues and cells of the person have died, even though the person loses consciousness. Death and disintegration of body cells and tissues is a process that takes days. The six minute limit on the ability of CPR to revive greatly misrepresents the durability of brain tissue. Higher perfusion pressures and more sophisticated techniques can double or triple that time period, but brain tissue itself can actually be maintained for hours. For an unreferenced, simple-language summary of the basis of these statements, see:

Ischemic Damage (Simplified Overview)

and for a summary based on referenced peer-reviewed journal articles, see:

Ischemic Damage in Cryonics

(Ben Best) Under good circumstances, however, a cryonics standby team can provide cardiopulmonary support that is greatly superior to CPR less than one minute after cardiac arrest and pronouncement of death. Not only is circulation and respiration restored, but the cryonics patient is cooled in an ice-bath to quickly slow metabolism, thereby preserving tissues. The cryonics patient is not perfused with vitifying cryoprotectants until body temperature has reached 10ºC or less.

(Ben Best) Although the brain of the vitrified cryonics patient may be well-preserved, the patient has succumbed to a disease (usually including aging) that must be cured before revival is feasible. Other organs are typically not as well vitrified as the brain, but future medicine should be able to generate replacement organs from stem cells or other means in coming decades.

(Ben Best) Miniaturization of technology points to a future science that may be able to build molecular machines comparable to ATPase. Such techniques should converge with biochemistry and molecular biology to allow for repair or replacement of damaged macromolecules, cells, tissues and organs of cryonics patients. What is most relevant, however, is not what particular technology may repair damage in a cryonics patient, but the fact that the anatomical basis of mind has been well-preserved and that it is compatible with physical law for SOME future technology to restore the brain (memory and identity) to function in a repaired or replaced body. Preservation of the anatomical basis of mind, even in damaged (but reparable) form prevents Information theoretical death.

(Ben Best) On the basis of purely technical considerations such as these outlined above, I estimate that a cryonics patient cryopreserved under good conditions with current technology has at least a 50% chance of being reanimated within 50 years. There can be not "proof" of the capabilities of future technology. The future is distinct from the present and is only amenable to proof in principle. As I said in message #197:

(Ben Best) Life involves many situations in which we must make decisions based on incomplete information, or on information that cannot be objectively quantified. Statisticians are aware of this and acknowledge the existence of "subjective probability"...The fact that this information is subjective and cannot be objectively quantified does not mean the information is meaningless, groundless or useless. "Speculation" is an appropriate term for estimating subjective probability. Good speculation will be well-grounded in fact...Estimates of potential technological achievements in the future which are based on current science and technology is likewise based on subjective probability estimates (speculation).

(Ben Best) No one can do anything other than make subjective probability estimates of the probability of future technologies based on current knowledge. To say that there is no evidence or basis for predicting a future technology and to deny any probability of that technology is to make a zero percent probability estimate of realization, whether this is acknowledged or not.


(Ben Best) Is not your last assertion equivalent to saying that cryonics has a zero percent chance of working?

(SKEPTIC_1) No. It is saying that the current cryonic processes which you are selling have not been shown to work.

(Ben Best) Whether the expense is justified depends on the who you ask: their probability estimates of success, their expected value of the benefit and their cost/benefit assessment. I know of one person who thinks cryonics has a 2% chance of working who nonetheless has made cryonics arrangements.

(SKEPTIC_1) That people are willing to buy it does not, in itself, justify selling it.

(Ben Best) You seem to value money a great deal as compared to the value of life. To me the possibility of future life is awesomely great, much more value than the money. And if there is a reasonable chance that cryonics can save lives it is eminently ethical to give others access to it. If there is enough chance that cryonics can work that resources should be devoted to doing so, then the potential for that chance to save lives is no less important.

(SKEPTIC_1) Appeal to emotion. You have not shown that there is any value in the services you sell. Spare me the histrionics on the sanctity of life until you can show what you are selling actually does something.


(SKEPTIC_1) You have not shown that there is any value in the services you sell.

(bgwowk) This is another misleading statement. In ordinary human affairs, a defensible, rational, realistic chance that something COULD work is valuable. Even in medicine (perhaps especially in medicine), "COULD work" is considered valuable. COULD be alive is more valuable than definitely dead.

(bgwowk) If someone says cryonics WILL work, that is not proven. If someone says cryonics WILL prevent information theoretic death, that is not proven. If someone says cryopreservation MAY prevent information theoretic death, there is support for that statement. The first peer-reviewed paper to suggest and defend that possibility was Drexler's 1981 PNAS paper

(bgwowk) You've already been pointed to the peer-reviewed ANYAS paper on cryonics. Just this past October the possibility was further supported in a highly-ranked peer reviewed medical journal:

"Pro/con ethics debate: When is dead really dead?" An excerpt:

The utility of the information-theoretic criterion of death to this case and this discussion is to point out that few if any patients pronounced dead by today's physicians are in fact truly dead by any scientifically rigorous criteria. A further and even more disturbing complication is the rapidly advancing technology of organ cryopreservation [12]. Using ice-free cryopreservation methods (vitrification), reversible long-term function of the mammalian kidney has been achieved after cooling to −135C (Fahy GM: Vitrification as an approach to cryopreservation [abstract]. Presented at the 42nd Meeting of the Society for Cryobiology, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, July 24-27, 2005). Using essentially the same techniques, investigators have been able to achieve indefinite cryopreservation of the mammalian brain with intact ultrastructure and substantial preservation of metabolic and electrophysiological activity [13]. Long-term reversible cryopreservation of the mammalian brain would, in effect, enable most of today's terminally ill or even 'DCD' patients to engage in speculative medical time travel in pursuit of a cure [14], further complicating the issue of when death is.

(SKEPTIC_6) In medicine, you would be in deep, serious trouble if you used treatments that could work. Medicine only uses treatments that do work - sometimes just in a few out of many cases, but they use treatments that have been demonstrated to work. Doctors don't try out stuff because they think it might work and would be better than doing nothing.

(bgwowk) With all due respect, that is naive. By law, use of new non-natural chemicals (drugs) is tightly regulated in the U.S., and such substances do not enter clinical use until going through a long vetting process including empirical validation. That process generally does conform to the rigor you expect. HOWEVER, once a drug is approved, legally all kinds of "off label" uses are allowed and practiced. There are legitimate oncologists that will let dying patients try novel chemotherapy regimens with limited or no clinical validation, only theoretical efficacy. In critical care medicine, all sorts of gambits are tried to rescue dying patients in Intensive Care Units. A recent example in popular media are drug regimens that were used during the SARS epidemic that were educated guesses about what might work, and that were later questioned as possibly causing complications. There's even an Internet mailing list (CCML) where critical care doctors around the world swap ideas with colleagues about what to try on critically-ill unconscious patients that in some cases may or may not be information-theoretically dead. I sometimes see traffic from that list, and it's full of "what if's" "maybe's" and "what do you think I should try's." Medicine is not an exact science where everything done has been emprically validated in past cases. Not by a long shot.

(bgwowk) It's interesting that once again we come back to critical care medicine as an example in this thread. Earlier I cited critical care medicine as the ultimate example of the supremacy of physics in medicine. It is the one area of medicine where there is no "woo"-- virtually none --because there is such immediate feedback about what does and doesn't work. The result has been the creation of a medical culture that is more dedicated to principles of physics, physiology, and physical reality than any other area of medicine. Yet even here there is uncertainty. But the culture, a culture forged in hard physical reality, is such that uncertainty is managed by reference to basic principles and theoretical understanding, not magical thinking. Even when unique cases have no empirical precedent, basic mechanistic understanding of the body (e.g. physiology, pharmacology) remains a guide.

(bgwowk) Science is so much more than just empiricism. Science is a process of building models of how reality works, and those models are the real power of science. If you come away from this thread with any new thoughts at all, please take that one. It is by far the most important idea of all.


(SKEPTIC_7) But the self-proclaimed big names have convinced me. I'm not sure that I would trust anybody in the business to clean my toilets.

(bgwowk) Wow. That's a remarkably powerful form of character assassination. Imply somebody is liar without specifying what they lied about, leaving them utterly defenseless.


(SKEPTIC_1) "It hasn't been shown to be impossbile" does not justify selling cryonic services any more than it justifies homeopathy, psychics, magnetic bracelets, accupuncture, reflexology or any other nonsense. You claim there is hope. Show that. "You can't prove there isn't" doesn't support your claim.

(bgwowk) That is a gross misrepresentation of the argument for cryonics. It's like saying the entire basis for believing cosmological inflation occurred is that "nobody can prove it didn't".

(bgwowk) Furthermore, you can't lump cryonics alongside homeopathy, psychics, etc. on the basis of "it hasn't been shown to be impossible." Those other things HAVE been shown to be impossible according to known physical law. I don't understand why skeptics apparently don't acknowledge the role of mechanistic models of the world in determining what is and isn't "woo". Physics is the most powerful tool in a skeptic's toolbox. Without physics, it would be impossible to distinguish woo from real technology in any practical way because of the impossibility of individually testing every claim ever made about anything.

(SKEPTIC_1) Sure. And this is the whole selling point behind cryonics: "it could work, therefore it's better than doing nothing." Horsecrap. The only reason you say "could" is because there isn't definitive proof that it won't.

(bgwowk) Absolutely not! This ignores that in between "proven impossible" and "proven possible" there is a spectrum of likelihood that can be estimated from existing knowledge. That estimation process is what allows us to distinguish the prospect of practical thermonuclear fusion from zero point energy from even less likely technologies (if there are any). All propositions not proven false are not equal. There's plenty of theory and data supporting, but not proving, the proposition that cryopreservation can prevent information theoretic death.


(bgwowk) I don't understand why skeptics apparently don't acknowledge the role of mechanistic models of the world in determining what is and isn't "woo".

(SKEPTIC_1) There must be an effect to explain before you start digging for mechanisms to explain it. Why homeopaths think homeopathy should cure disease is immaterial in the face of the lack of evidence that it does. Why psychics think they can tell the future is immaterial in the face of the lack of evidence that they can. Why you think cryonics should work is immaterial in the face of the lack of evidence that it does. Why you think it should work is called a hypothesis. That is the first step in the scientific method. What you are missing, and apparently don't think you need, is the part where you see if your hypothesis is correct. Apparently you believe there is something special about cryonics that it doesn't have to look any further than "it might be possible". Homeopaths claim that homeopathy is special and doesn't work in double-blind clinical testing. Psychics claim there is something special about their "gifts" that make them fail when tested. There are plenty of parallels with other nonsense that make the comparison to cryonics valid.

(bgwowk) There's plenty of theory and data supporting, but not proving, the proposition that cryopreservation can prevent information theoretic death.

(SKEPTIC_1) "Can" != "Does". "Can" means research some more and find out. "Does" means you get to sell it. How many times do I have to say this?


(SKEPTIC_1) Why homeopaths think homeopathy should cure disease is immaterial in the face of the lack of evidence that it does. Why psychics think they can tell the future is immaterial in the face of the lack of evidence that they can. Why you think cryonics should work is immaterial in the face of the lack of evidence that it does.

(bgwowk) The justification why something empirically neither proven nor disproven could work IS material to human affairs. Whether a medicine diluted to the point where not a single molecule of the active ingredient remains could theoretically work matters.

(SKEPTIC_1) You are advertising and selling a service that you have no idea will do any good whatsoever.

(bgwowk) You mean that YOU have no idea will do any good whatsoever. There is strong supporting evidence for information theoretic survival during cryopreservation, and it is only your binary "fully proven" or "no better than woo" position that obscures this issue.

(SKEPTIC_1) You've been asked to present it several times and have failed to do so. All I have seen is "it may be possible", not "it does".

(bgwowk) That is not what "supporting evidence" means in science. Proof and supporting evidence are not the same thing. "Fully proven" vs. "no better than nothing" is a false dichotomy.

(SKEPTIC_1) You have insufficient evidence to come to the conclusions you did. What other products have been sold without absolute proof is not germane because your evidence is so lacking. You have a small possibility that it can work and a lot of wishful thinking that it will. I would have the same problem with any other products sold with the scant amount of evidence you have.

(bgwowk) Don't you mean no evidence? How can we even discuss sufficiency of evidence when you have declared any evidence short of complete proof as inadmissible?

(SKEPTIC_1) You'll forgive me if I don't take your word for it seeing as if you were engaged in fraud you'd say exactly the same thing. It proves nothing.

(bgwowk) My word for what? That people in cryonics care about ethics in cryonics? In any other field, a senior official writing an essay that publicly criticized ethics in his field would be considered evidence that he cared about ethics in his field. A snide "it proves nothing" shows once again your commitment to a distorted negative stereotype; an apparent default presumption that cryonics is fraud for personal gain.

(return to contents)


II. C. MEDICINE, MONEY AND ETHICS: Scenarios/examples

(Ben Best) In the hope of clarifying some distinctions, I present a few scenarios/examples.

PROVEN MAY WORK

(Ben Best) Assume a fatal illness XXXX for which there have been extensive clinical trials in which it has been shown that medicine ZZZZ cures the disease in 90% of cases, but that in 10% of cases the patient dies. In other words, clinical trials have shown that medicine ZZZZ may work for disease XXXX, but there is no absolute certainty that it will work. What is absolutely certain, however, is that the patient dies quickly in 100% of cases if medicine ZZZZ is not given. Medicine ZZZZ costs $5,000. Is it unethical to sell this medicine? What if it cured the disease in only 10% of cases, would that make a difference?

MAY WORK BUT NOT PROVEN

(Ben Best) SARS was a new and very often fatal disease for which there was no known therapy and for which there had been no time for clinical trials. Ribavirin was known to be an effective agent against was known to be an effective agent against hepatitis C and viral (RSV) pneumonia. Imagine that ribavirin cost $5,000. Would it be unethical to sell ribavirin to SARS victims given their high probability of death in the absence of treatment?

UNPROVEN BUT PROBABLE BENEFIT

(Ben Best) Stem cells from umbilical cord blood of newborn infants are being cryopreserved at considerable expense. It is unproven that stem cells will be of benefit in the future, but there are strong theoretical grounds for believing that future technologies will be able to use these stem cells to cure disease and save lives. Is it unethical to sell umbilical cord blood stem cells for cryopreservation?

DUBIOUS AND NEGLIGIBLE EVIDENCE

(Originally Posted by SKEPTIC_1) There is currently a product being sold called Tahitian Noni Juice. It sells for about $30 a liter and tastes like crap. While they don't make any specific claims on their website because the FDA won't let them, their distributors are full of stories and testimonials about how well this stuff works for just about any ailment. I've tasted this stuff and I can assure you there is absolutely no market for it other than for its perceived healing properties. It has not been tested in any clinical trials except to establish the non-observable adverse affects limits, essentially how much of this stuff you can drink before it becomes harmful (roughly 30oz per day). There is, however, some preliminary evidence that one of the ingredients in this juice may shrink tumors in mice with cancer. There is no evidence or known scientific reasons that it can't work.

(Ben Best) By your arguments, there is nothing wrong with selling this juice as a "potential" cure for cancer. It hasn't been shown to be impossible and there is evidence that it might work. It might not work, but that's okay because its only claiming to be a potential cure. According to you, that is sufficient to justify selling it.

(Ben Best) Given the availability of more cost-effective therapies from medical professionals, the evidence for the benefit of this therapy seems negligible. As presented, one might imagine that there is a 0.001% chance of Tahitan Noni Juice shrinking tumors and curing cancer. What if it were 1% or 5% or 25% or 75%? This is a slippery slope argument. At what % is it unethical to sell the potential cure and at what % does it become ethical. Must it be 100% guaranteed to work before it becomes ethical?

CRYONICS

(Ben Best) Cryonics may be a way of saving lives. It may give cryopreserved persons the opportunity to live thousands of years. Like ribavirin for SARS, cryonics is an unproven procedure that has justification on theoretical grounds. Like crypreservation of umbilical cord blood stem cells cryonics is dependent upon expected future technologies. Saying that cryonics may work is not the same as saying that it will work. But if cryonics has a 50% chance of working and if cryonics organizations fully disclose that there is no guarantee that cryonics will work (which they do), would it be unethical to offer cryonics services? The probability that cryonics will work cannot be stated, but, like ribavirin for SARS, the probability that it may work has strong theoretical grounds. Isn't it unethical to deprive people of access to a procedure that has a reasonable probability of saving lives? Isn't 100% guaranteed certainty a much too strict requirement?


(SKEPTIC_1) When your advertising sells hope and fear, I couldn't give a rat's ass what your contracts say. Every word of your website oozes your belief that the success of cryonics is inevitable and the disastrous consequences of not choosing cryonics. And nowhere does it mention that the current processes may be completely useless. People are buying it because they don't want to die and believe cryonics will prevent it. And you know it.

(Ben Best) You are projecting your own emotions. I don't want to die, but my attitudes are more based on love of life and hatred of death. But what business is it of yours what my motivations are? Your purported interest as guardian of the naive public gives you carte blanche to meddle in other people's lives, notably those of bgwowk and myself. You roast me for all of the qualifiers I use which clearly disclaim certainty of cryonics working, and then attack us as guaranteeing certainty. You are hypocritically contradicting yourself. What the contracts say in not guaranteeing cryonics working does matter. The emotions that you project onto those contracts are a figment of your imagination. People should be able to contract for services which may or may not be deliverable when there is full disclosure that these are the conditions of the contract.

(SKEPTIC_1) It is reason to believe it may work, not evidence that it does.

(Ben Best) Evidence is reason to believe and reason to believe is evidence. A medical procedure that has a 90% chance of being effective may work, but is not guaranteed to work and is definitely not worthless there are good theoretical grounds for believing that it can save lives.

(SKEPTIC_1) Sure. And this is the whole selling point behind cryonics: "it could work, therefore it's better than doing nothing." Horsecrap. The only reason you say "could" is because there isn't definitive proof that it won't. Not good enough, especially given the amount of hope you're selling with it.

(Ben Best) This again sounds like an assertion of zero or 0.001% chance of cryonics working. Is not your accusation of fraud dependent upon the assumption of a low probability of success for cryonics? At what probability of success does cryonics, or any unproven technology, cease to be fraud? 50%? 90? Or do you require 100% ?

(SKEPTIC_1) It either prevents information theoretic death or it doesn't. There is no middle ground.

(Ben Best) No, but there is a middle ground between a 100% chance that information theoretic death occurs and a 0% chance.


(Ben Best) Assume a fatal illness XXXX for which there have been extensive clinical trials in which it has been shown that medicine ZZZZ cures the disease in 90% of cases, but that in 10% of cases the patient dies. In other words, clinical trials have shown that medicine ZZZZ may work for disease XXXX, but there is no absolute certainty that it will work. What is absolutely certain, however, is that the patient dies quickly in 100% of cases if medicine ZZZZ is not given. Medicine ZZZZ costs $5,000. Is it unethical to sell this medicine? What if it cured the disease in only 10% of cases, would that make a difference?

(SKEPTIC_1) Red Herring. When cryonics has been shown to prevent information theoretical death in a single human being, then you can argue about what success rate is necessary to justify selling it. Until then, wherever you set the bar, cryonics fails to meet it. You are eqivocating success rate with probability of working ever. They aren't the same. A treatment that has a 10% success rate has been shown to work 10% of the time. Cryonics has never been shown to work. It's not even been shown to meet your own minimum requirements for succeeding ever.

(Ben Best) Stem cells from umbilical cord blood of newborn infants are being cryopreserved at considerable expense. It is unproven that stem cells will be of benefit in the future, but there are strong theoretical grounds for believing that future technologies will be able to use these stem cells to cure disease and save lives. Is it unethical to sell umbilical cord blood stem cells for cryopreservation?

(SKEPTIC_1) There is evidence that cryonics preserves the cellular structure. Stem cells don't have a memory to preserve. Humans do. Cryonics has not been shown to preserve memory.


(SKEPTIC_1) Red Herring. When cryonics has been shown to prevent information theoretical death in a single human being, then you can argue about what success rate is necessary to justify selling it. Until then, wherever you set the bar, cryonics fails to meet it. You are eqivocating success rate with probability of working ever. They aren't the same. A treatment that has a 10% success rate has been shown to work 10% of the time. Cryonics has never been shown to work. It's not even been shown to meet your own minimum requirements for succeeding ever.

(Ben Best) This is not a red herring. The question did not mention cryonics and can be answered at face value. Influenza and pneumonia are the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and a person over 65 is about a hundred times more likely to die an influenza-related death as a person in the 5-49 age group. Yet influenza vaccine only has a 50% chance of protecting a person over 65. By your standards it would be immoral to sell influenza vaccine to a person over 65 because your words demand 100% proven efficacy to avoid being fraud. The source of my information is

ARCHIVES OF INTERNAL MEDICINE; Hak,E; 165(3):274-280 (2005)

and

NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE; Nichol,KL; 348(14):1322-1332 (2003)

(Ben Best) Concerning Tahitian Noni Juice, I am not going to take the bait of endorsing the product, but neither will I evade the relevant issue. I do not believe that it is unethical to sell a treatment for cancer or influenza that only has a 50% chance of working when this information is fully disclosed. However, as the percent chance of a treatment working drops well below 5% the ethics of the proposition become increasingly dubious. As a principle I support "let the buyer beware". Where there is full disclosure and no intent to mislead there can be no fraud, even with a chance of success that is less than 1%.

(Ben Best) There are degrees of ethical right or wrong. In principle I believe that people should be able to buy or sell marijuana or tobacco, but I wouldn't want to be the person who does it. My favorite essay title is the one by physician-cryonicist Steve Harris: "Binary Statutes in an Analog World". While I do not think it is murder to remove stem cells from a human embryo that is less than a few weeks old, I cannot tell you the age at which destroying an embryo is murder. There are degrees of ethical right and wrong. Murdering a stranger on the street with a shotgun is more ethically wrong than a child stealing a candy bar from a retailer. If the probability of a product working is less than 1%, I believe it is usually ethically questionable to sell the product, even with full disclosure. But quantifying the degree of ethical "badness" of the sale is not an easy matter.


(SKEPTIC_5) You want me to research cryonics when all along no one can resurrect anyone currently frozen and no one can prepare a body for cryonic preservation without creating damage? And no one can do anything with a brain which is frozen without a body. What's to research? I have enough answers already unless those posting here aren't up to date. The problem is not that people give cryonics 0% success rate, it has 0% success rate as it is. It's not like there is any question about it. The problem is that there is no way to accurate predict what may happen in the future and that doesn't stop anyone from promoting an unproven medical treatment... And don't give me BS about future technology developing that will fix those problems. That future is all in your mind.

(Ben Best) Yes, no one has a crystal ball on the future, but that does not mean that the future is totally unpredictable. Some things are easier to predict than others, and can be estimated with high probability of correctness. What is the probability that standard model personal computers being sold a year from now will be at least 10% faster and have at least 10% more memory? I'd say over 95%. What is the probability that tissues generated from stem cells and quality artificial organs will be available in 20 years? I'd say over 95%. If we preserve the brain well in cryonics, future technology should be able to provide the organs & tissues required for a body. No, this is not guaranteed. Cryonicists are quite clear that we are incapable of reanimating cryopreserved cryonics patients today, but you equate "0% success rate as it is" with 0% success rate forever. Cryonicists estimate (reasonably, I think) a probably success rate of much more than 0% in the future. And I mean success in future reanimation of cryonics patients cryopreserved today.

(Ben Best) As my examples above were intended to show, it is not BS to speak of "future technology developing that will fix these problems". Do you think it is BS to speak of future artificial organs or organs suitable for humans from transgenic animals? Do you think it is BS to speak of human habitation on the moon? The capacity of future technology to repair damage on a smaller and smaller scale is a likely outcome of the trend toward micronization and nanotechnology. Biochemical and molecular biology techniques are improving in parallel. Of course, the better we can preserve, the less dependent we will be on future repair capabilities, and this is our goal. But it is wrong to discount those capabilities. You are like too many skeptics of yore who proclaimed flying, cloning, etc. to be impossible and who believed only in what currently existed.


(SKEPTIC_1) Where is the expermentation that shows cellular preservation is all you need to preserve memory?

(Ben Best) A kidney produces urine and a brain produces memory, identity & consciousness. It has been demonstrated that a rabbit kidney can be vitrified and cooled to −135ºC, rewarmed and transplanted into a rabbit that can use the kidney to produce urine. Leading up to that accomplishment were many experiments on vitrified kidney tissue demonstrating viability using potassium/sodium assays and structural preservation using electron microscopy. Similar experiments have demonstrated that vitrified cryogenic brain tissue retains structure and the capacity for viability.

(Ben Best) However, it is not so easy to teach a mouse to perform tasks, cryogenically vitrify a mouse brain and transplant the rewarmed brain into a mouse that can demonstrate retention of memory. Transplanting a kidney only requires connecting blood vessels, but transplanting a brain requires connecting not only blood vessels, but nerves running to sense organs and muscles.

(Ben Best) If you believe that memory, identity and consciousness resides in brain tissue, then it should be no great leap of the imagination to believe that rewarmed brain tissue that has been vitrified at cryogenic temperature and rewarmed to a condition which is identical in viability and structure to normal brain tissue retains the capacity for memory, identity & consciousness.

(SKEPTIC_1) Providing the information listed is correct, influenza vaccine has a success rate of 50% for protecting people over 65. That is, and if you were the scientist you would have us believe you would know this, it has been shown to work in 50% of the cases. Cryonics has been shown to ork never, even for the very small values of "work" that I am requiring for this argument (preserving memory).

(Ben Best) I am comparing known probabilities based on empirical evidence with unknown, estimated probabilities based on extrapolations of current technology and known science to future technology. On this basis I would estimate no less than a 50% probability that there will be permanent human residence on the moon within 20 years and human habitation of Mars within 40 years. There is a difference between empirically based probabilities and probabilities based on extrapolations, but that does not mean that the latter are meaningless or useless.


(bgwowk) With respect to this issue of it being okay for Ben and I to sell cryonics to each other, but not the general public, how do you think Ben and I learned about cryonics if not from information made available to the general public? If we were not general public when we were sold cryonics, what does "general public" mean? Since you have now stipulated one form in which cryonics can be ethically sold (between Ben and me), how do you express that as a general principle for how to sell cryonics ethically?

(SKEPTIC_1) Because you two have already made up your minds and made it perfectly clear you aren't going to be convinced otherwise. I would make the same statement about anyone trying to convince you that it was a good idea. Unfortunately, it's too late for you. That doesn't mean I have to stand by and let you suck other unsuspecting fools in.

(bgwowk) I assumed your question was rhetorical. People who suffer morbidity or mortality as a result of extreme attempts to save their life don't get back money required for the supplies and labor that make such attempts possible, and I doubt this will change in the future, cryonics or otherwise.

(SKEPTIC_1) How convenient for you. So you not only don't have to show that it does work, but you get to keep the money when it doesn't. It's the perfect scam. Those you've cheated can't even call the police.


(SKEPTIC_5) What confidence can we have in your guess? What is to say your guess is accurate or that your guess isn't due to your vested interest in cryonics?

(kjhayworth) I based my 'guess' on the scientific facts, as I know them today, and straightforward extrapolation of existing technology. I do not expect you to accept my estimate at face value; I was simply hoping that if I laid out my reasoning you (or possibly another skeptic/scientist passing by our JREF discussion) could attack it more easily. However, you apparently refuse to debate my reasoning or evidence, instead you simply demand that I offer up a successful cryopreservation and reanimation. This demand for demonstrated reanimation is ethically flawed because it very likely will produce a vast number of needless deaths.

(kjhayworth) Is it so hard for you to understand that the technology needed to preserve a brain may be developed many years before the technology needed to repair and revive that brain? (Please let me know if you disagree with this as a possibility.) You have already stated that you think both technologies will eventually become a reality:

(SKEPTIC_5) I have said I think eventually they will learn how to freeze people and bring them back to life but that the important process is the freezing or vitrification or whatever you want to call it.

(kjhayworth) If society refuses to apply that preservation technology until the corresponding revival technology proves (by demonstration) it was indeed sufficient, then all the people that become fatally ill during the inventing years will have died needlessly. How can you justify ethically such a position?

(kjhayworth) Perhaps you are saying that there is no way (even in principle) to verify a preservation technique without complete demonstration of success? This sounds like some (equally flawed) arguments I have heard against the nuclear waste disposal site proposed for Yucca Mountain. It seems some anti-nuclear protesters would be satisfied only if a waste-containing cask was tested successfully for 100,000 years; only then it would be ok to use. They refuse to believe any argument based on metallurgy, simulations, accelerated lifetime testing, etc. Or for that mater, it sounds a bit like some creationists I have debated who refuse to accept indirect evidence for evolution: "No one can prove evolution occurred because no one alive today was an eye witness." Indirect evidence is at the heart of science and it can be applied to the evaluation of putative brain preservation technologies.


(SKEPTIC_1) Whether cyronics is looney or not, there is insufficient evidence to justify selling it.

(bgwowk) You've also stated (correct me if I'm wrong) that anything less than proof does not constitute evidence. That is not what evidence means in science, your other Skeptic Forum thread on that issue notwithstanding. It's very easy to say "there's no evidence" supporting something, and the people doing it are "unethical" when you use your own meanings for those words.

(SKEPTIC_1)
(bgwowk) Since you have now stipulated one form in which cryonics can be ethically sold (between Ben and me), how do you express that as a general principle for how to sell cryonics ethically?
Because you two have already made up your minds and made it perfectly clear you aren't going to be convinced otherwise.

(bgwowk) So sale of unproven products between "true believers" is ethical. This must mean that if we were sufficiently convinced when we first bought the product, then an unethical transaction never occurred, and cryonics can be sold to anyone else on that basis. Or is it the convincing process that ultimately leads to a monetary transaction that is unethical? What if membership to all existing cryonics organizations were closed, and they continued to convince people that cryonics was worthwhile, but wouldn't let them join. Would that be ethical? What if the people that couldn't join went on to form their own "true believer" cryonics organization with closed membership? The cycle then repeats. Where is the ethical breach?

(SKEPTIC_1) I'm not selling "I don't beat my wife" on the internet.

(bgwowk) In this thread you've impugned the integrity of people who wrote things ten years before the Web even existed. You casually cast around words like "cheat," "fraud," and "con," knowing that if you do so often enough some of the crap will stick. You question my honesty, and imply that cryonicists generally should be presumed liars. I don't know what to call this, but scrutiny of ideas it is not.


(bgwowk) I'm sure if I looked into it I'd have all kinds of problems with the science, and wouldn't recommend it. The difference between you and me is that I wouldn't turn a disagreement over epistemology into an attack on ethics, with all the attendant implications of dishonesty, insincerity, and profit motive.

(SKEPTIC_1) Whether you believe it or not, if cryonics doesn't work, the person being convinced to buy cryonics is still being charged money for something that doesn't work. That you're intentions are good doesn't make it less harmful. That you don't mean to deceive people doesn't mean it's not happening. The end result is the same.

(bgwowk) You've also stated (correct me if I'm wrong) that anything less than proof does not constitute evidence.

(SKEPTIC_1) I've stated that nothing less than proof that cryonics is preserving memory justifies selling the service. Any other statement is a semantic argument that I am not interested in.

(bgwowk) You question my honesty, and imply that cryonicists generally should be presumed liars. I don't know what to call this, but scrutiny of ideas it is not.

(SKEPTIC_1) What I have suggested is that without proof that cryonics is preserving memory, the sale of cryonic services is indistinguishable from deliberate fraud. You have defended this practice with the purported integrity of those engaged in it. I have pointed out that those who would intentionally defraud would claim the same integrity. I have pointed out that many of the justifications you use for selling the service have also been used by those who are clearly unjustified in selling their particular nonsense. Cryonics is not special. The potential for abuse is enormous. And despite your assurances that it is not being abused, it very well could be. That there isn't proof it is being abused isn't proof that it isn't. There is cause to warrant suspicion and anyone deciding whether or not to buy cryonics should at least be asking themselves if the sellers might not be entirely honest.


(SKEPTIC_5) Your reasoning sounds like so many alternative medicine practitioners I have heard and you haven't got evidence that means much to me.

(kjhayworth) First of all let me make something perfectly clear. I do not sell cryonics nor am I working or affiliated with a company that does. I am a customer. Not only am I a customer, I have the RIGHT TO BE A CUSTOMER. If the restrictions suggested in these posts were actually forced onto cryonics providers (prohibition of advertisements and inability to charge customers even the fees needed to provide the materials, labor, etc. for the procedure) then my right to be a customer would have been taken away.

(kjhayworth) Comparing cryonics to alternative medicine woo is incredibly insulting, and the analogy is just plain wrong! When I purchased a cryonics policy I contracted them to (upon my death) preserve the neural structure of my brain as best they could for as long as they could. NOTHING MORE. I do not expect anymore, AND THEY DO NOT CLAIM TO PROVIDE ANY MORE. Alternative medicine (the kinds that do not work such as psychic surgery, homeopathy, etc.) should be regulated since they can do real harm to people by steering them away from real doctors with a real possibility of curing their ills, or worse can cause illness where there was none before. How can cryonics possibly do this type of harm? The law provides for special restrictions on medical providers because of this special level of harm they can potentially inflict, we do not have such restrictions simply to prevent people from wasting their money on products some others may deem worthless. I want my brain preserved and I am willing to pay for it. I am glad there are companies such as Alcor that are providing such services, and to the extent that they carry through with the preservation procedure as best they can I will be a satisfied customer even if it is the same type of satisfaction a person gets when their funeral home does a good job.


(SKEPTIC_5) Obviously you aren't concerned that people aren't going to be reanimated even by your own estimation. Yet you persist in encouraging them to get frozen. I am not worried about them dying needlessly since even someone who believes in cryonics says there is only a 10% chance which means reality is much lower than that. No one frozen will be revived. Are you worried about that scenario? OBVIOUSLY NOT

(kjhayworth) On the contrary, I am very concerned that the current preservation techniques may be insufficient to preserve a person's memories, etc. I like living and I would hate to miss out on seeing what the far future will bring. Beyond that, I am filled with righteous indignation that modern medicine is still so powerless against the diseases that will eventually rob us all of our vitality, our dignity, our memories and eventually our very lives and the lives of the ones we love. As an atheist, I refuse to be consoled by religious nonsense about an afterlife; and as an optimistic engineer and scientist, who has witnessed amazing technological advances and scientific breakthroughs in my own lifetime, I refuse to give up without a fight!

(kjhayworth) In this respect, I am incredibly grateful for two things: First, I am grateful to be alive in the twenty-first century -the first time in history when our scientific knowledge and technological prowess may actually be up to the task of allowing us to escape from this dilemma. Second, I am incredibly grateful for people like Ben Best, and bgwowk who also refuse to give up without a fight, and have the intelligence and serious attitude necessary to get to work to make it a reality. I am grateful that there is a growing group of serious scientists that have also taken this 'can do' attitude, many of whom have focused on cryonic preservation as the most plausible solution in the near term.


(Ben Best) It appears to me that the difference between SKEPTIC_5 and SKEPTIC_1 is that SKEPTIC_5 will accept nothing less that reversible cryopreservation today to justify the practice of cryonics today. The closest thing to indirect evidence SKEPTIC_5 appears willing to accept is reversible cryopreservation of a large mammal. SKEPTIC_5 seems like the type of skeptic who would not believe in the existence of protons or electrons because these entities can only be deduced from indirect evidence. I do expect that Dog Doctor believes in protons and electrons based on his respect for scientific authorities who use indirect evidence.

(Ben Best) Many of the statements made by SKEPTIC_1 seem to be based on the same concrete-bound thinking shown by SKEPTIC_5, but the statements I have quoted indicate that he can accept the logic of kjhayworth, who said:

(kjhayworth) Is it so hard for you to understand that the technology needed to preserve a brain may be developed many years before the technology needed to repair and revive that brain?

(Ben Best) In other words, it appears that SKEPTIC_1 is NOT demanding immediate revival of cryonics patients or large mammals, but is willing to accept that future technology may be able to accomplish that revival if the brain is well-enough preserved to demonstrably retain memory & identity (well enough preserved to prevent information theoretic death). Given this allowance, I find it hard to believe that he would not accept the indirect evidence of demonstration for another animal, rather than insist on demonstration for a human, as his first statement seems to demand.


(SKEPTIC_1)
(Ben Best) If you believe that memory, identity and consciousness resides in brain tissue, then it should be no great leap of the imagination to believe that rewarmed brain tissue that has been vitrified at cryogenic temperature and rewarmed to a condition which is identical in viability and structure to normal brain tissue retains the capacity for memory, identity & consciousness.
This is reason to believe it could work, not that it does. This is called a hypothesis. The part you and bgwowk don't seem to think you need is the part where you see if it is correct.

(Ben Best) This is like saying that 50 years ago it was a hypothesis that the far side of the moon was composed of rocky craters much like the visible side of the moon -- rather than being made of green cheese. Yes, it would be a hypothesis that the far side of the moon was composed of rocky craters, but a hypothesis that most scientists would have given a probability of being true which is close to 100%. If brain tissue can be preserved with such fidelity as to be indistinguishable in viability and electron microscopic structure from untreated brain tissue, how can you say this is such flimsy and insufficient evidence that memory would be preserved. What do you think brain tissue does?

(Ben Best) If cryogenically vitrified and rewarmed brain tissue is indistinguishable from untreated brain tissue, that should be strong evidence that information theoretic death is being prevented, if you believe that brain tissue is the source of memory and identity. This would not mean that the chance that vitrification prevents information theoretic death is so tiny as to be insufficiently beneficial, it means there is a reasonable (much more than negligible) chance that memory and identity is being preserved.

(Ben Best) If there is a reasonable chance that cryopreservation with vitrification is preventing information theoretic death, and is preserving memory and identity, then making cryonics available can save lives and efforts to prevent the availability of cryonics is tantamount to murder. If your evaluation of the evidence is correct people may lose money. But if cryonics patients can be reanimated in the future because information theoretic death has been prevented by current vitification cryopreservation people who do not practice cryonics will die. The product of a reasonable chance that cryonics can succeed (because of a high probability that information theoretic death has been prevented) times a high value of life results in a high expected value.


(Ben Best) It appears to me that the difference between SKEPTIC_5 and SKEPTIC_1 is that SKEPTIC_5 will accept nothing less that reversible cryopreservation today to justify the practice of cryonics today. The closest thing to indirect evidence SKEPTIC_5 appears willing to accept is reversible cryopreservation of a large mammal. SKEPTIC_5 seems like the type of skeptic who would not believe in the existence of protons or electrons because these entities can only be deduced from indirect evidence. I do expect that Dog Doctor believes in protons and electrons based on his respect for scientific authorities who use indirect evidence.

(SKEPTIC_5) Obviously you use the same rules to prove the usefulness/validity of cryonics to come up with this gem of knowledge about me. More BS and insinuations. No science here. Just attacks on my credibility. Keep your freaking mouth shut about who I am unless you have some proof about what you say. This is so typical of people lacking evidence to prove what they believe in. Class listen in, when you get in a discussion with a person who has beliefs not proven with science, they will try to attack you instead of the argument once they run out of excuses.


(SKEPTIC_1) I've stated that nothing less than proof that cryonics is preserving memory justifies selling the service. Any other statement is a semantic argument that I am not interested in.

(bgwowk) Is this because you regard suggestive evidence as generally insufficient for sales, or because you believe the weight of evidence is currently against the presumption that cryonics can preserve the physical basis of memory?

(SKEPTIC_1) There is cause to warrant suspicion and anyone deciding whether or not to buy cryonics should at least be asking themselves if the sellers might not be entirely honest.

(bgwowk) I have no argument with that. The biggest risk is that the people involved want it to work so badly that some of them might be fooling themselves.


(SKEPTIC_1)
(Ben Best) If brain tissue can be preserved with such fidelity as to be indistinguishable in viability and electron microscopic structure from untreated brain tissue, how can you say this is such flimsy and insufficient evidence that memory would be preserved. What do you think brain tissue does?
You are trying to prove that the people who live across the street must still be home because the house is still structurally sound. That you can't tell the difference between the virtrified and untreated brains doesn't mean there isn't one. When you can show that memory / consciousness is being preserved, then you'll know.

(Ben Best) Not only is the structural integrity of the vitrified and rewarmed brain tissue demonstrably indistinguishable from that of untreated brain tissue, but the viability ("vital signs") is indistinguishable from that of untreated brain tissue, as demonstrated by potassium/sodium assays. Not only is the house structurally sound, it is humming with activity. No, you can't give an IQ test to brain tissue, but if brain tissue is the basis of memory, identity and consciousness the fact that it is fully viable means that it should be fully capable of all the usual functions.

(Ben Best) Your comparison of "people in the house" implies the "dynamic states hypothesis" (I am assuming you aren't referring to a "soul") that states that if the electrical activity of the brain is lost all memory and identity are wiped-out. As has been discussed by kjhayworth, the dynamic states hypothesis has no solid evidence to support it. There is lots of evidence that memory and identity are encoded in synapses and neural networks in the brain. Empirical evidence includes the many cases of people (especially children) who have fallen in ice water or otherwise been subjected to such severe hypothermia that they have lost all vital signs for an hour or more, yet fully recovered. Barbiturate poisonings and hypothermic surgery has also been associated with flat EEG, yet full recovery. The theoretical grounds are far too technical to attempt to discuss here, but anyone interested should look at the links in my message giving evidence that cryonics may work.

(Ben Best) In short, there is lots of evidence that structural integrity and viability of brain tissue corresponds to functional memory and identity. You argue as if the default position is the dynamic states hypothesis and as if brain tissue viability and structural integrity provide negligible evidence for the retention of the basis of memory and identity.

(SKEPTIC_1) Probably right != right. Show that you are right.

(Ben Best) I have shown that there is a great deal of evidence that vitrification prevents information theoretic death. Yes, 90% proven is not the same as 100% proven, but that is no reason to equate 90% proven with 0% proven.


(SKEPTIC_5) More BS. Why don't you show where you come up with the I don't believe in protons etc or refrain from attacking my integrity with these false accusations? This is like a disclaimer saying money back guaranteed to try to weasel out of an unconscionable situation. Let's see, let's attack the integrity of a poster without any evidence and make it ok by posting a disclaimer. RIGHT

(Ben Best) I did not say that you do not believe in protons, I was making an analogy to indirect evidence and specifically disclaimed the particular example. My intention in that message was to clarify the positions of both you and tsg. Rather than take it as an attack on your integrity, why don't you affirm or correct my interpretation of your position? Specifically, is there anything less direct than reanimation of a cryopreserved large mammal today that you would accept as evidence that cryonics patients cryopreserved today may be reanimated in the future?


(SKEPTIC_6) However, the brain is more than just cells, it is also chemical reactions, electricity flowing, etc. So, a possible way to prove that a person could be preserved by freezing them would be to prove that the functionality of the brain will not change if all chemical reaction and electricity ceases to operate.

See, if I shut down my computer, all the visible things will be 100% preserved. All connections will stay the same, nothing is lost, etc. But as soon as the flow of electricity ceases, things do change: Information is lost almost instantly because most of it is not hard-wired into the machine.

Of course, it is a daring comparison, and I certainly don't know enough about the subject. But what do neuro scientists say, how is memory stored when the wiring of the brain isn't changed?

(bgwowk) This is a settled question in neuroscience and clinical medicine. Short term memory in the brain is like RAM, but long term memory is like a hard drive. My favorite quote:

"We know that secondary memory does not depend on continued activity of the nervous system, because the brain can be totally inactivated by cooling, by general anesthesia, by hypoxia, by ischemia, or by any method, and yet secondary memories that have been previously stored are still retained when the brain becomes active once again. Therefore, secondary memory must result from some actual alterations of the synapses, either physical or chemical." - Page 658, Textbook of Medical Physiology by Arthur C. Guyton (W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, 1986)

(bgwowk) By the way, the successfully vitrified and transplanted kidney that is being discussed was damaged by the process. Serum creatine never returned to normal, although the kidney operated well enough to keep the animal alive indefinitely operating as the sole kidney. In that sense it was "fully functional." Ben can't be faulted for missing this detail since this work has so far only been presented as part of a talk and a conference abstract.

(bgwowk) On the other hand, the vitrified brain slices in the other study being discussed suffered practically no damage as I recall. However care must be taken in extrapolating those results to whole brain preservation because the method of cryoprotectant introduction, cryoprotectant composition, exposure time, and cooling times are different. We are still nowhere near demonstrable reversible whole brain cryopreservation. The slice results are still relevant because if slices can survive without any detectable functional damage, what are the odds that exposing whole brains to a similar treatment for a somewhat longer period of time completely obliterates the physical basis of memory, especially when the suspected damage mechanisms are subtle, like protein denaturation? However I will certainly stipulate that much more study of these questions is warranted.


(SKEPTIC_1)
(Ben Best) No, appeal to the value of human life. Life is good and worthwhile -- my own life and the lives of others -- which means that death is bad. To equate my love of life and the love I can feel for others who are alive and the appreciation I feel for their existence with nothing other than fear is a gross misrepresentation.
"But if cryonics patients can be reanimated in the future, ... people who do not practice cryonics will die." That is a very big if. Appeal to fear. Nothing more.

(Ben Best) You might as well say that any concern for human life is an appeal to fear. Medicine as well as efforts to stop the savagery of war and violent crime would all be nothing but appeal to fear by your standards. I believe life is precious. I hope that your life is of great value to you, that you have more to live for than fear of death and that there are others who you value because they contribute greatly to your life.


(bgwowk) If Ben and I are ethically qualified to engage in cryonics contracts with each other, then why are we not also ethically qualified to engage in cryonics contracts with kjhayworth? Can you not see how people Ben, kjhayworth, myself and many others can ethically band together to form cryonics organizations? We all found out about cryonics from information made available to the general public.

(SKEPTIC_1) Yep. No difference at all between people privately deciding to engage in some stupidity and selling a service on a website that encourages others to believe the same stupidity without sufficient evidence to support it. None at all. I don't know how I could have gotten that idea. Thank you so much for straightening me out.


(SKEPTIC_5) I thought someone was saying there was 100% preservation of brain tissue. I guess that was a highly misleading statement since large cracks in most brains does not equal 100% preservation.

(Ben Best) The 100% viability is what has been seen from hippocampal slices rewarmed from being cryogenically vitrified at −130ºC. I discussed the cracking problem in earlier messages:

(Ben Best) How large a problem cracking is depends upon the capacity of future technology to repair the damage. Damage is not necessarily destruction. If the structure of the brain is well-preserved, cracking does not necessarily imply "Information Theoretic Death":

Damage due to cracking is far less disruptive to structure than is intracellular ice formation. On the other hand, there has been much discussion and interest in intermediate temperature storage (around −135ºC) to eliminate cracking. Questions of cost and dependability have not been resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

(Ben Best) The 100% viability of hippocampal slices rewarmed from being cryogenically vitrified at −130ºC (and the complete structural integrity) is strong evidence for the claim that cryogenic vitrification does prevent information theoretic death. At additional cost cryonics patients could be stored in the −130ºC to −140ºC temperature range to avoid thermal stress. I doubt that if cryonics patients were stored at this temperature that you would conclude that there is any chance that information theoretic death has been prevented. But this does not seem relevant in light of your frequent insistance that only demonstrable reanimation from cryopreservation today justifies the process.

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