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Cryogenics - A Frozen Death That Echoes Ancient Fears And Modern Faiths

23/11/2016 12:04

Put aside the pathos of 14 year old girl who had her life cut short, and also ignore for a moment the unproven nature of cryogenics, and look at what is really happening in this and other such cases.

The girl had decided to be frozen after death in the hope that a cure for her form of cancer might be found one day, at which point she could be defrosted, resuscitated, given the cure and resume normal life.

This has been wrongly hailed as a new step, whereas in fact it reflects a centuries old desire of humans to beat death and live longer. It has been preached by most faiths, except that they call it the World To Come.

Cryogenics is merely a 21st century form of religious belief in the Afterlife. Moreover, they share two important features.

The first is that both are unproven. No one has been re-animated via cryogenics. Normally a medical procedure is tested thoroughly before being administered - at first in labs on animals and then on humans in supervised control groups. Cryogenics is based on assumptions and predictions that have no scientific validity.

The same is true with the Afterlife. Millions believe in it, but, to put it bluntly, no one has ever sent a postcard back. The World To Come may exist, but we have no way of knowing.

Second, cryogenics and the Afterlife both offer hope. This is not to be dismissed, for there is nothing more powerful, be it for the person dying or for relatives. It is instinctive to the human condition to resist death and to hold on to loved ones, and any option however unlikely or risky, is seen as worthwhile by those who want to postpone their final moment.

It is difficult for faith groups to oppose cryogenics on religious grounds, as their own promises of the hereafter could be described as speculative and unscientific.

However, there are major practical concerns with cryogenics. One is the fact that it is unregulated and unmonitored. There may be companies that are interested in helping those desperate to live on, but others may be less scrupulous and more mercenary. If they go bankrupt and the power supply is turned off, then what happens?

Curiously, there would be even more problems if cryogenics works. In the case of older people who die of cancer in their 70s and 80s and are resuscitated, they may be cured of that particular illness, but die of other ailments a few years on.

What if ten of thousands of people opt for cryogenics, what impact would that have on an already over-populated world?

What sort of world would those who emerged from the deep freeze face? How would they adapt to a totally new society that had made enormous leaps in technology and social norms? Would life be as attractive as before if they found their relatives and friends had all died, and they had no social circle left?

Might it not be better to admit that life is fragile and limited, that the date of our death is as much out of our control as was the date of our birth, that we should make the most of the time we have and accept that it may well come to an end before we wish?

In Jewish thinking, there is a vague belief in the Afterlife, but nothing spelt out. Judaism prefers to say that the only definite reality is the here and now, and this world is what we should concentrate on.

If we wish to live on, it is better to leave a legacy by which others will remember us, be it through our kindness, ability to make others laugh, efforts to help those less well off, or attempts to improve society at large. What is more, no one can accidently switch of the electricity supply and defrost those echoes of us.

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