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Cryonics Frequently Asked Question List Section 3: Philosophy/Religion Last Modified Sun Jan 29 15:11:06 1995 (You can fetch cryomsg "n" by sending mail to email@example.com with the subject line "CRYOMSG n", where "n" is a mesage number. There is more about this in the answer to question 8-2. The index to this FAQ list is cryomsg "0018.1". ) Copyright 1993 by Tim Freeman. See the end of Section 1 for restrictions on redistribution. 3-1. Are the frozen people dead? Using the definitions in the glossary, they are legally and clinically dead but they may or may not have reached information-theoretic death, depending on how memory is stored in the brain and how much this is affected by freezing damage. A person who has been cremated is dead in all senses of the word. People who have been buried and allowed to decompose are also dead. People can only legally be frozen after they are legally dead. 3-2. Is cryonics suicide? No. People only get suspended if they are legally dead. Suspending them sooner can lead to charges of homicide. (The Dora Kent case was about a suspension performed immediately after clinical death, which the local coroner suspected may have been done before legal death.) Suicides, murders, fatal accidents, etc. almost always result in autopsy from the local coroner or medical examiner. The resulting brain sectioning and extended room-temperature ischemia (inadequate blood flow) may easily cause true death. 3-3. What about overpopulation? At present, an insignificant fraction of the population is participating in cryonics. Thus, by any measure, cryonics with the popularity it has now will never contribute significantly to overpopulation. Assuming an exponentially increasing population, immortality only changes the population by a constant factor. Thus it doesn't change the nature of the crisis, only the details. Also, before we overpopulate the earth, we will have ready access to outer space, which will, of course, give us much more room for expansion than just our home planet. Also, as countries become wealthier, they tend to have fewer children. The cause of this is unclear; perhaps it is because children are much more likely to survive in wealthy countries, and thus the parents do not need to try as many times to have children that survive to adulthood. Any civilization sufficiently advanced to revive people in cryonic suspension will be sufficiently wealthy and advanced that people will not need or desire as many children as people do in the third world today. If cryonics and other paths to life extension were prevented to keep population under control, then that would be killing one person so another person can have children. CRYOMSG's 398, 582, 583, and 585 through 589 have more on this topic. 3-4. When are two people the same person? Cryonics and, especially, the technologies required to reanimate people from cryonic suspension, open new questions about who we are. People interested in cryonics often disagree about questions of identity that arise in various conceivable circumstances. One way to resolve this is to treat it as a matter of definition. We can define two people to be the same if they remember the same childhood, and if the process by which they came to remember the same childhood also copied most of their other memories and other skills. Of course, there are other possible definitions. Another approach is to use the person-as-software metaphor. Deciding whether two people are the same is a similar problem to deciding whether two pieces of software are the same. The applicability of this simplier problem to the problem of comparing people is debatable, but the exercise is a good one especially in light of current debates on software copyrights. Or one can defer to medicine. The identity questions raised by cryonics are identical to those faced in medicine today when considering partial amnesia, stroke survival, brain diseases, etc. Another alternative is to suppose there is some as-yet-explained physiological feature which acts as the seat of consciousness. In this case, two people are the same person if they share this particular piece of flesh. Preserving this feature becomes important, and replacing it during revival is not an option. Last but not least, some people believe in souls. With this notion, two people are the same person if they have the same soul. Since the laws that souls obey have not been empirically explored, this model doesn't make clear predictions about the consequences of cryonics. 3-5. What if they repair the freezing damage (and install a new body, in the case of neurosuspension), and the resulting being acts and talks as though it were me, but it isn't really me? The answer to this obviously depends on which notion of person-equality you subscribe to. If we use the definitional approach, then someone who behaves identically to you is you. Dealing with the other approaches is left as an exercise for the reader. 3-6. What would happen if people didn't age after reaching adulthood? Ecology: We might be better stewards of this planet if we knew that we would have to live with the results of our actions. Human relations: We will have to learn to treat each other better if we are going to live in the same world together for a very long time. The situation I envision is that people will die of something other than biological accidents like old age. They will die from making mistakes, which seems to me to be a more interesting way to die. We'll get stories like this: Joe died because he didn't bother buying enough redundancy in the life support system of his space ship. Bill died because a machine was developed that could do his job better than him, and before he could retrain for a different job he ran out of money and couldn't afford his anti-aging regimen any more. Jill died because she wanted to. Jane died because she believed in a religion that forbids life extension. I prefer endings like that over having nearly everyone die of symptoms of the same disease (that is, aging) regardless of whether they want to continue, and regardless of how well they were living their life. 3-7. Would it be better to be suspended now or later? In general, one should live as long as possible and be suspended as late as possible. An exception to this is if one has some disease that threatens to destroy the information in the brain, thus decreasing the quality of the suspension. The later one is suspended, the better the suspension will be because of generally advancing technology. This increases the chances that one will come back at all, as well as increasing the chances that one will come back in a world that one can deal with. Of course, one never knows when an accident or disease could happen that leaves one with the choice to be suspended now or not to be suspended at all. So don't postpone your cryonics arrangements if you are going to do them. 3-8. Why would anyone be revived? CRFT gives a detailed answer on pages 46 - 47. This has been discussed extensively on the cryonics mailing list. To get a copy of the discussion, fetch CRYOMSG 0001 and then fetch all messages with "Motivation" in the subject. There are 22 messages as of July 28, 1992. To summarize one of the motivations for revival: Cryonics patients will be revived in the future for the same reason they are frozen today: a cryonics organization will be caring for them. The success of cryonics is not predicated upon the good will of society in general, but rather on the good will and continuity of cryonics organizations. As long as a corps of dedicated individuals continues to care for patients in suspension, those same individuals will be able to revive patients when the technology becomes available to do so. Their motives will be the same as those that drive people involved in cryonics today: the knowledge that their own lives may someday depend on the integrity of their cryonics organization. 3-9. Is there a conflict between cryonics and religious beliefs? If revival is possible, cryonic suspension is in no greater conflict with religion than is any other life-saving medical technology. If a religion does not object to resuscitating someone who has experienced clinical death from a heart attack, it should not object to reviving suspension patients. On the other hand, if revival turns out to be impossible, then the question becomes whether the suspension is consistent with whatever instructions the religion gives for dealing with funerals. Perhaps the most honest approach is to look at the instructions a religion gives for dealing with a missing person who is not known to be either dead or alive. Any model of how "souls" (whatever they may be) interact with freezing must predict that people with normal behavior can be raised from frozen embryos, since this is actually true. 3-10. Is attempting to extend life consistent with Christianity? This answer quoted from the Q&A list in CRFT: All religions teach that life in this world has a purpose and a value. The Christian denominations in particular teach that improving the condition and length of human life in this world are of great importance. Indeed, all of the miraculous acts of Jesus which serve as the vindication of his divinity were aimed at improving the temporal human condition: feeding the hungry masses, healing the sick, and raising the dead. In Matthew 10:8, Jesus commanded his disciples to go forth and do as he had done. In most versions of Christianity, someone who refused medical care for a treatable injury or illness would not be considered either very rational or very conscientious in their religious duties. The point is that life has a purpose here and now and there is nothing wrong with acting to extend and enhance that life if it is lived morally and well.