Jach's personal blog

(Largely containing a mind-dump to myselves: past, present, and future)
Current favorite quote: "Supposedly smart people are weirdly ignorant of Bayes' Rule." William B Vogt, 2010

Cryonics as strong evidence against souls?

There's an interesting story here that has mixed reviews; I like it. It's about the author discovering a testable hypothesis that could destroy a belief in God.

I had some free time this evening, so I decided to chat with a friend of a friend about her theism, and see if I could change her mind in any form. But just getting some thoughts out there for these people to consider, planting some seeds, is a worthy goal. And so I think I've made headway on that part, but at the very end I too discovered a testable hypothesis that should destroy her belief. Since this occurred on an IM protocol, I have the benefit of logs, which I shall share. (Edited slightly for paragraph flow.)

I said, "People get sick. We don't just let them stay sick and die."

She said, "Sure we do. People get uncurable diseases. We try to help them, but when we know it's something we can't fix, we give them painkillers and send them on their way."

I said, " Not if we had a higher sanity waterline. We'd put them in cryonics for their >5% chance of surviving in the end. But my point here is that just because stuff happens doesn't mean we shrug our shoulders and move on, or that we should shrug our shoulders and move on."

She said, "You mean freezing someone, right? That doesn't work."

"Not freezing because there are no ice crystals. But you do lower them to the freezing temperature of nitrogen. What about it doesn't work? We can quite easily 'freeze' people without damage to the cells."

"Have you ever watched a ball become 'frozen' by nitrogen? It shatters. Cryogenics don't work."

"What about it doesn't work? I can gather more detailed sources for the freezing process and why it does indeed preserve cell structure."

"I watched where they got a human brain that had been frozen by nitrogen, and when it thawed? It was mush."

"They can't thaw them right now, but that's not the current goal. The frozen brain is in pristine state. The challenge for the future is either thawing it while preserving that state or scanning it for mind uploading onto a computer. The future goals have a low probability of success, but it's greater than 5%, and it seems like that's worth it considering cryonics is relatively inexpensive."

I continued, "And considering the alternative is death. If you're going to die anyway, a few years won't matter (and if your soul is immortal, a few years really doesn't matter for your eternity ahead of you), and with >5% chance, you might as well take it."

She said, "But a soul won't come back to a body that's stopped."

"Why would the soul ever leave?"

"Because the heart stopped, the organs stopped, brain function stopped. The person is dead."

"For certain definitions of dead. They aren't information-theoretic dead, and that's the important part."

"But they are still dead."

"For some definitions of dead. Not the one that counts."

"But in any case, if it works.. What is a person who acts just like they did before when they had a soul, but now doesn't have a soul? You're talking about philosophical zombies now, which are very simple to disprove." (At this point it occurred to me I had an experimental test.)

She said, "Look. You. Can NOT. Change my opinion over this. The body is dead. The soul is gone. I feel that way."

"Okay, so what if it worked anyway?"

"It won't work."

"What if it did?"

"But it won't, so why should I think about it?"

"Would you change your beliefs if it did?"


"Why not?"

"Because, I don't believe in it."

"You can disbelieve in gravity all you like, it's not going to help you when you fall off a cliff. In the face of direct unquestionable evidence to the contrary you would refuse to change your mind. This is a bet of supremely high negative payoff."

"But I wouldn't ever freeze my body, so what's the point? I know that I have to die. Every one has to die."

"If the iron coming at my face is hot, I desire to believe it is hot. If it is cold, I desire to believe it is cold."

"Good bye."

"Suppose by the time you're 70 the average lifespan has increased to 200. Suppose by the time you're 200 the average lifespan has increased to 500.
Suppose by the time you're 400 they figure out how to thaw humans. And it works. Then what?"

"Sayanora. Auf Wedersehn."

Unfortunately this is the end. In her defense, it's a school night, but this is what a real challenge looks like. When people are faced with huge dilemmas, they're either going to become very defensive or start backpedaling like mad. It's a shame this ended the way it did, but as I said at the top planting the ideas is useful enough.

Posted on 2010-08-27 by Jach

Tags: atheism, debate, religion


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