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Scientists' Open Letter on Cryonics - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Dec. 27th, 2005

08:45 pm - Scientists' Open Letter on Cryonics

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At the Life Extension Extension Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on Nov. 5, the Immortality Institute unveiled an Open Letter signed by 56 scientists, physicians, and ethicists endorsing the scientific basis of cryonics. The letter is online at:


Anyone with a PhD, especially in biology, or MD degree with a background in research, who would like to support this letter is asked to contact support@cryoletter.org.



[User Picture]
Date:December 28th, 2005 01:56 am (UTC)
Interesting list of signatories.

Interesting because of its almost total lack of people qualified to comment on the claims it makes.

I mean, come on, what *else* are the people who work for places like Alcor and CCR going to say? And once you take them out of the list, you're left with a bunch of electrical engineers, astrophysicists, aeronautical engineers, and computer scientists. Competent individuals, but not competent to speak to this issue.
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[User Picture]
Date:December 28th, 2005 03:13 am (UTC)
Yes, it would be nice if more cryobiologists were willing to publicly support for cryonics. Unfortunately, public support for cryonics is grounds for expulsion for the Society for Cryobiology.

Upon a two-thirds vote of the Governors in office, the Board of Governors may refuse membership to applicants, or suspend or expel members (including both individual and institutional members), whose conduct is deemed detrimental to the Society, including applicants or members engaged in or who promote any practice or application which the Board of Governors deems incompatible with the ethical and scientific standards of the Society or as misrepresenting the science of cryobiology, including any practice or application of freezing deceased persons in anticipation of their reanimation.

I myself was told by Harold Meryman (who did groundbreaking work on blood cryopreservation) that I would be ruining my career if I went to work for a cryonics company.

Ultimately, public acceptance of cryonics will depend on successfully demonstrating that it works. That, in turn, requires devoting substantial research dollars to doing the research. To do that research in an academic setting requires successfully winning grants from the NIH, the Red Cross, the Navy (all previous supporters of organ cryopreservation research) or some other grant body. To win grants requires appeasing grant review boards, who are typically manned by old-guard cryobiologists, who often have a religious hostility to cryonics.

How many cryobiologists are going to risk losing their grant support to come out in favor of cryonics? Especially if they are cryonicists themselves, who recognize that successful cryonics will depend on the research getting done?

As a result, most of the scientists who publicly support cryonics are in other fields (where no one cares about your quirky interest in cryonics), or are emeritus professors (whose careers are over, and don't care what people think).

Will patients who have been cryopreserved with current techniques ever be successfully revived? The answer to that question depends on the answers to other sub-queries:

1. What determines your identity (your memories, your personality, the way you laugh, etc.)?
2. Are current cryopreservation techniques preserving enough data to reconstitute your identity?
3. Will we ever have the technology to repair the damage caused by aging, disease, and the cryopreservation process itself?
4. Will cryonics companies be able to keep cryonics patients cryopreserved long enough to apply those technologies, should they ever come to exist?

Of those four questions, cryobiologists have the most domain knowledge regarding question (2). But even there, very few cryobiologists have significant training in neurobiology. With respect to the other questions, I submit that their opinions are no more (or less) valid than the opinions of other scientists.

You may wish to read "The Society for the Recovery
of Persons Apparently Dead" by Steve Harris. It details the history of the development of CPR, defibrillation, and other resuscitative technologies. I think you'll find it interesting:

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
Date:December 28th, 2005 04:54 am (UTC)
Very cool, thanks for posting!

It is a good start.

What would be funny is for any scientist so inclined to publicly state they are “not against this research.” (since they run a risk stating they are for it).

We have a guy who runs our country that is against science in general, let alone science that might actually make our diminutive life spans a choice, but alternately believes a children’s fairy tale about some guy that walked on water.

Wake me up please.
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[User Picture]
Date:December 28th, 2005 05:05 am (UTC)
What would be funny is for any scientist so inclined to publicly state they are “not against this research.” (since they run a risk stating they are for it)

Thanks! An interesting idea. I suspect a lot of scientists feel that way -- not for it, but not against it either.

If only we could somehow make religious folk believe that supporting cryonics research is God's will. Then we could get their irrationality working in our favor.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
Date:December 28th, 2005 08:27 pm (UTC)


Dear phanatic,

What I find remarkable about your post is the lack of reference to the problem that practically ALL scientists are incompentent to speak to this issue. Even among cryobiologists (of which I am one), almost no cryobiologists understand the field of organ vitrification. Regularly you will find cryobiologists saying to the media that only small tissue pieces can be vitrified, when this has not been true for 20 years. Even more seriously, the average cryobiologist cannot even name the cryoprotectants used in cryonics or how they are administered. And what of molecular nanotechnology, and its relevance to cryonics? Forget it.

The signatories on the Scientists' Open Letter are educated scientifically-literate people who have at least taken the time to cursorily examine the case for cryonics. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the field, and the obscure data it depends on (how many brain vitrification experts are there in the world?), that makes them as well qualified as anyone can be without actually working in cryonics.

This is the perpetual problem of cryonics wherein the people most qualified to comment on cryonics are working in cryonics, which disqualifies them from being objective in your worldview. Therefore, in your worldview, there can never be an objective expert opinion on cryonics by definition. That makes for great rhetoric, but does little to answer the question of whether cryonics has a real scientific basis.


A cryobiologist signatory whose identity you can probably guess.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
Date:December 28th, 2005 08:35 pm (UTC)


Serves me right for writing an arrogant post about competence.


The Illiterate Cryobiologist
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