From: Mike Darwin <email@example.com>
Subject: Neuro vs. whole body
Date: 25 Jan 1996
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Date: 23 Jan 96 19:12:43 EST
From: Mike Darwin <email@example.com>
Subject: SCI.CRYONICS Neuro vs. whole body
God! I tried, I really tried not to be drug into this..... :)
I have a few comments to make:
Kitty Riele writes:
>Surprising as it may sound, the mind exists in and for an integrated
>organism; our minds would not be the way they are if it were not for the
>interplay of body and brain during evolution, during individual
>development, and at the current moment. The mind had t obe first about the
>body, or it could not have been. On the basis of the ground reference that
>the body continuously provides, the mind can then be about many other
>things, real and imaginary."
I've read the book, and I think it raises some interesting points. (As an
aside you might also like reading VOLTAIRE'S BASTARDS: The Dictatorship of
Reason in the West, by John Raulston Saul).
I think you do lose information when you go neuro. And, with the passing
of years I've gotten more respectful of the whole body position. Certainly
my dogmatism is gone. People are not just brains. But this leads some of
us to ask "just WHAT are they, and how do "we" decide when they are not who
they were, or should be, or wanted to be, or would want to be anymore....
Peter Merel writes:
> The gut's brain, known as the enteric nervous system, is located in
> sheaths of tissue lining the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and
> colon. Considered a single entity, it is packed with neurons,
> neurotransmitters and proteins that zap messages between neurons,
> support cells like those found in the brain proper and a complex
> circuitry that enables it to act independently, learn, remember and,
> as the saying goes, produce gut feelings.
> The brain in the gut plays a major role in human happiness and misery.
> But few people know it exists, said Dr. Michael Gershon, a professor
> of anatomy and cell biology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in
> New York. For years, people who had ulcers, problems swallowing or
> chronic abdominal pain were told that their problems were imaginary,
> emotional, simply all in their heads, Gershon said. They were shuttled
> to psychiatrists for treatment.
> Details of how the enteric nervous system mirrors the central nervous
> system have been emerging in recent years, said Gershon, who is
> considered one of the founders of a new field of medicine called
>Perhaps this is a good reason not to go neuro? Or should neuro cases
>preserve their enteric nervous systems as well as spinal cords and brains?
I think these statements contain some truth. But they raise a point raised
by Garret Smyth and others and not addressed by Dr. Gershon. I have know
people with no guts. And here I speak literally, not figuratively. I've
had a couple of patients during my dialysis days who had no gut from the
esophagus down and no functional kidney tissue left either. I can't say
they were thrilled with their condition; total parenteral nutrition via a
central venous catheter and hemodialysis don't make for happy campers.
But, on the other hand, they didn't go into some vegetative state or start
calling themselves by some new name, or switch from heterosexuality to
homosexuality, or wander about asking "Who am I?", or otherwise suddenly
*obviously* lose their identities in the commonplace sense of the
definition of identity.
I think it very fair to say their level of well being was lower, much
lower. But then this is very likely the case with someone with colitis or
the flu. The cytokines produced by cancer, AIDS or the flu are enough not
only to make you FEEL TERRIBLE, but to make you unable to think clearly or
work. Are you still you?
Further, I would go so far as to say that a lot of your "gut" neural
network and "learned" responses will be thrown away when you go neuro. And
it will not be likely easy or even possible to reconstruct as it was.
Again, you have to ask yourself "Is this important to me, and how much am I
willing to pay for it?" Maybe if you Chef Prudholm you''ll want to go whole
body (Wow, roll out the bigfoot!). For me, forget it.
Alternatively, you can believe in a "self-circuit" or a soul or some basic,
defining structure of self (even your whole body as a unit: Jerry Leaf's
position) which is *you*. I think this approach is flawed for the reasons
given above as in people with no "guts" and people with severed spinal
Personally, I've no doubt that details of walking, fine motion,
propioception (important for dancers and musicians), and so on are unique,
not encoded genetically, and are lost in neuros. I am also quite confident
that that the normal degradation to these systems associated with
biological aging is staggering, independant of whether the person is a
healthy 90 or an ill 90 when s/he is cryopreserved. Again, each person has
to ask "what is important to me?" and maybe more to the point "what am I?"
These are not easy questions.
Transplanted monkey heads in Robert White's lab still eat and still bite at
you. Severed dog heads in my experience (connected to a perfuser animal)
and appropriately palliated for pain at the stump, will still lick your
hand and track you with their eyes and appear to recognize you. Is
"identity" conserved in such preparations? In such people? Even the heart
is endocrinologically active and secretes peptides that can effect
behavior. Ditto the kidneys; patients without kidneys are uniformly (in my
experience) impotent even with tostosterone and other hormone
supplementation. Transplant them and potency returns. Tell the avasge guy
on this list you're going to make him impotent (note not important,
IMPOTENT) and he'll start complaining about damage to his idendity!
Indeed, we describe major injury or loss of body function (such as
impotence and gut failure) as insults to self image or body image or
identity in the context of contemporary medicine.
By the same token people who become IMPORTANT (as opposed to impotent) also
often undergo transformations that cause people to say things like: "Oh,
Michal Jackson's not even the same person he used to be, now that he's
famous." (IMHO quite true!)
Alcohlics who get new livers have a rate of recidivism (i.e., occurrence of
alcoholism) only a little high than that for the general population. This
has led to speculation that the liver, interacting with the brain, may be a
major causative factor in alcoholism. So are alcoholics with new livers
still the same people? Is Larry Hagman still Larry Hagman? Is Jim
Neighbors still Jim Neighbors; he's got a new liver and a new and
successful signing tour?
I have grown suspicious of "dogmatists" like Ettinger, Templeton, Smyth,
Leaf and Jones. DNA, spinal cord, brain, gut whole-body, self-circuit?
All of the above? If so, what about loss or replacement of these
structures in disease and aging. BTW; the entire gut, liver and pancreas
have been sucessfully transplanted as a unit in a few patients. What of
I think the Buddah was on the right track. I think what Zen has to say
about identity is not as simple as Mr. Jones and his DNA survival sthick
would have us believe (and in any event, homozygous twins don't have all
the same DNA turned on, or even all the same DNA; shit happens!). Further,
their brain wiring, finger prints and so on are NOT the same; nor often is
their deeply determined behavior; I've known homozygous twins where one was
heterosexual and the other homosexual with remarkably different
personalities to boot).
I think Steve Harris has written wisely on this "problem" as has Mike
Perry. We are like rivers and we as individuals are not some static thing.
And we are, like the Buddah teaches, things of the moment like shifting
sand. But the Buddah does not advise suicide, but rather personal inquiry
into these realizations.
The world is a very strange place. Time's arrow, gravity, QED, all of
these raise many paradoxes and spawn many models. Meanwhile we are here
and we use what we have.
Models are useful, but they are just that, *models.* Where "reality" lies,
weeellll that's a whole 'nother ballgame.
Finally, as to the issue of 400 year old cocks. Well, mine's 40 and I
wasn't really that happy with it when I was 14. Edgar's humorous aside
raises deeper issues though. When today's patient's waken, issues such as
sex or even issues such as symbolic communication as the primary means of
interface between people make be nonissues. I think the future, if cryonics
works out, will be a very different place than most gung-ho cryonicists
imagine. A very alien place. Dolphins probably send each other sonar
pictures of their insides and are probably pretty good ultrasound
diagnosticians. When they want to communicate a picture of a school of
fish, they probably just send a picture. Humans use symbolic language.
The latter has its problems (as I'm sure so does the former!) and many a
slap, a kiss, or a war has been launched over just such problems with
dropping the bandwidth in symbolic communication. What exactly does "I
love you!" mean to BOTH parties voicing those words? To quote Dorothy
By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is,
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
Neuro or whole body? Well, I guess what I'm saying is it is a highly
complex and personal decision. And, exactly what does "personal" mean?
Ahhh, there's the rub.
In the meantime. More tolerance and more thoughtfullness all around would
For me, I'm neuro for now. When/if cryopreservation techniques greatly
improve and/or approach reversibility I may well switch to WB. But for me,
for better or for worse my brain seems mostly where I am. Judging from all
the diet pills, wigs, liposuction, cosmetics and so on being sold, I think
accessorization on the peripherals is already well on its way to being the
standard. What I think few cryonicists have REALLY bargained for is
acceorization and heavy-duty modification of the operating framework. ALL
One final point to Brad Templeton: During my tenure at Alcor everyone told
me not to talk about neuro. In fact, the first preparations for neuro were
done in strict secrecy with the "revelation" being carried out to me as
almost ritual by Fred Chamberlain.
I note that I paid absolutely no attention to this PR advice about neuro.
I felt it was dishonest and that it would cost lives to hide it. I also
felt that people who didn't or couldn't understand what neuro was about,
regardless of their own choice, were probably badly misinformed about the
actual state of cryonics.
Alcor became the largest cryonics organization with this policy in place,
bar none. Neuro attracted ghoulish attention, but it brought many
staunchly whole body patients into the ranks too. People who can discard
vitalism, understand little machines repairing damaged neurons, and
understand "neuroarchaeology" (thanks TKD) are not going to be put off by
neuro. And if they are, so much the better for the time being. The seas
are too rough now for wimps such as those.
Harsh words? True. Harsh reality? Truer still.