X-Message-Number: 6135
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 7:13:59 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: SCI.CRYONICS  The nature of identity, etc.

Although traditional religious views on the afterlife leave me unconvinced (and
not a little repulsed), I wouldn't necessarily exclude the possibility of 
something comparable to a soul.  If such a thing exists (which I loosely 
define as a conscious entity that retains the perceptual matrix of its 
biological host), then I imagine it can eventually be manipulated like any 
other aspect of the physical universe.  The fact that scientists haven't 
detected disembodied "souls" drifting around opens the possibility that 
consciousness may operate within an aspect of spacetime we are unfamiliar with,
or within another universe entirely.  This is plausible if the brain is an
organic quantum machine, as some theorize.

All of this is, of course, crazed speculation (and probably belongs elsewhere).
Some esoteric research suggests that there may be an electromagnetic basis for
the human "soul."  If so, I'd be extremely interested in learning what happens
to deceased persons who have experienced brain damage.  Perhaps there is more
to personal identity than the neural hardware we are all familiar with.  Until
the first cryonaut is revived to tell of his/her experiences (or lack of
experience), I think it is scientifically sound to entertain such thoughts as
speculation, rather than shunning them altogether in favor of purely
materialistic views.

Judging from what little is known for sure about memory and cell-preservation, 
cryonics is, I think, a step in the right direction.  It's ironic that the
religiously inclined aren't more enthusiastic about the prospect; cryostasis 

would offer a chance to potentially test their theories.  (Of course, religious
vantages are taken on "faith"--another concept alien to me--so they can't 
really be classified as "theories" at all.)

While all of this sounds like so much metaphysical overpondering now, theories
like this may play a large role within the next few hundred years, when and if
nanotechnology reaches the maturity necessary to reanimate cryonics patients. 
It was weirdly refreshing to see the theological angle brought up in
yesterday's post.

Mac Tonnies
509 Phillips Hall
Northwest Missouri State U.
Maryville, MO 64468

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