DNJ article highlights

DNJ article highlights

Joined: August 31st, 2007, 2:14 pm

February 19th, 2011, 3:11 pm #1

The (weekly) Detroit Jewish News issue of Feb. 17 has a feature article on cryonics and the Cryonics Institute, and I now have a paper copy.

The writer is Shelli Liebman Dorfman, who makes an effort to be fair, although she doesn't offer a good account of the evidence in support of cryonics and barely refers to the CI web site, without naming it. The main negative bits were in the obligatory quotes by "authorities" in science or religion, as well as some lay opinions.

The rabbis quoted said the practice is against the Jewish religion, which requires quick burial. In ancient times, of course, a corpse left out in the heat of a day in Israel would quickly bloat and stink, so common sense at that time demanded quick burial. Similarly, ancient practicalities underlie the dietary laws. How many modern Jews will pay attention to the ancient custom is conjecture, but I suspect this, if it ostensibly occurs, will in most cases be only an excuse for a deeper aversion. We'll see if there is any noticeable response from readers in the form of queries to CI or new memberships.

At any rate, here are some of the writer's comments, paraphrased:

Joe Kowalsky, raised in an orthodox Jewish home, is a member of the Board of Directors of CI, and explains why he thinks it is not against his religion.

David Ettinger, CI's main attorney, gave his first public interview on cryonics at age 12. His wife Constance, also an attorney, is a member of its Board of Directors.

Cryonics is not illegal anywhere in North America.

Minimum cost of $28,000 at CI is correctly stated.

Of three local Jewish funeral home spokesmen, two said they had received questions about cryonics but not requests for such service.

The CI system does not depend on electric power, although there is an emergency generator.

CI patient population is given as 102 (since up one to 103).

Cryonics does not offer eternal life or any guarantees, but hope for extended life without senescence.

Answers are given to population control questions and questions of readjustment of revived patients.

One rabbi said that a person is either dead or alive, with no middle ground.

--So, perhaps enough here to arouse interest in some readers. We'll see.
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Joined: September 16th, 2010, 2:14 pm

February 22nd, 2011, 4:59 pm #2

Thank you for sharing these highlights. I saw your post about the article on cryonet last week and was unable to find the article online.

> The writer ... barely refers to the CI web site, without naming it

In other fields I've found that to be common for some print media. Some people are just such dinosaurs they don't understand websites or the internet; some have the idea that mentioning a website is unpaid promotion and won't do it because they feel like they should be paid or feel like it is unethical; some have the idea that mentioning or linking to a website is something you need to get permission for and might be illegal.

I shake my head at all that, but it is common.

> The rabbis quoted said the practice is against the Jewish religion, which requires quick burial.

Yeah, for DEAD people! I've already seen a response on cryonet that wondered whether the rabbi would require a quick burial for somebody in a coma. :)

> One rabbi said that a person is either dead or alive, with no middle ground.

Okay, supposing we accept that as an axiom for the sake of argument, I would go on to reason that none of us are the Divine, all of us lack omniscience, and any of us could be mistaken about a particular case and whether a particular individual is dead or alive at a particular moment. We can already see that when hearts stop a person is not necessarily dead, since some can be revived. Likewise for some other indicators of death.

We are left with a class of patients whose status is uncertain to us. This does not mean (in the context of this argument, with our axiom in place) that they are necessarily in a middle ground; it simply means that we are not God and do not know their fate.

In such a case it is reasonable to suggest that we might want to attempt to save a life that may not yet be lost. And I'm not sure but I suppose some might know whether or not the Jewish religion requires it.

The Jewish religion might stipulate a standard of death (heart or breathing stopping, or something similar). I don't know. I'm pretty sure the Tanach (Hebrew Bible / Old Testament) does not, but other Jewish religious texts or traditions might. In that case it would be interesting to know if people have already been revived from scenarios that the Jewish religion deems "dead," and if so, how Jewish religious scholars have responded.
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Joined: September 16th, 2010, 2:14 pm

February 22nd, 2011, 5:04 pm #3

The (weekly) Detroit Jewish News issue of Feb. 17 has a feature article on cryonics and the Cryonics Institute, and I now have a paper copy.

The writer is Shelli Liebman Dorfman, who makes an effort to be fair, although she doesn't offer a good account of the evidence in support of cryonics and barely refers to the CI web site, without naming it. The main negative bits were in the obligatory quotes by "authorities" in science or religion, as well as some lay opinions.

The rabbis quoted said the practice is against the Jewish religion, which requires quick burial. In ancient times, of course, a corpse left out in the heat of a day in Israel would quickly bloat and stink, so common sense at that time demanded quick burial. Similarly, ancient practicalities underlie the dietary laws. How many modern Jews will pay attention to the ancient custom is conjecture, but I suspect this, if it ostensibly occurs, will in most cases be only an excuse for a deeper aversion. We'll see if there is any noticeable response from readers in the form of queries to CI or new memberships.

At any rate, here are some of the writer's comments, paraphrased:

Joe Kowalsky, raised in an orthodox Jewish home, is a member of the Board of Directors of CI, and explains why he thinks it is not against his religion.

David Ettinger, CI's main attorney, gave his first public interview on cryonics at age 12. His wife Constance, also an attorney, is a member of its Board of Directors.

Cryonics is not illegal anywhere in North America.

Minimum cost of $28,000 at CI is correctly stated.

Of three local Jewish funeral home spokesmen, two said they had received questions about cryonics but not requests for such service.

The CI system does not depend on electric power, although there is an emergency generator.

CI patient population is given as 102 (since up one to 103).

Cryonics does not offer eternal life or any guarantees, but hope for extended life without senescence.

Answers are given to population control questions and questions of readjustment of revived patients.

One rabbi said that a person is either dead or alive, with no middle ground.

--So, perhaps enough here to arouse interest in some readers. We'll see.
> The rabbis quoted said the practice is against the Jewish religion, which requires quick burial.

I actually kind of like the Jewish burial practice, assuming a case where cryonics preservation is not possible. Burial in a pine box with no embalming, allowing nature to reclaim the body at nature's rate, is far more aesthetically pleasing to me than what I've read happens in embalming, cremation, etc.

But that's when somebody is dead, which is always a tragedy, and there's nothing left to do but honor the person by respecting their last wishes. At that point it's not like anything else matters.
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