This looks to be a long post, and I'm feeling kinda preachy. Preachy atheists aren't that much fun, (are you listening, Richard Dawkins?), but this has been on my mind.
This American Life is a fun NPR program. The host and his reporters interview a large variety of people, often introducing a slice of life that I would otherwise be unaware of. Sometimes it's intensely interesting, occasionally I feel like I've just wasted an hour of my lfe. But its great for passing the time in the car, and you can download them onto your ipod for listening at your convenience.
On our trip last weekend, we listened to an episode called "Mistakes were made." The main story was about cryogenics. I very vaguely recall hearing something about this on the news, years ago. Turns out a bunch of laypeople in (where else) southern California became very interested in cryogenics. They really, really wanted to believe that you could freeze a person who had died, and eventually science will figure things out enough in order to thaw them and cure them of their illness so that life could continue.
But really really wishing for something doesn't make it so. Trust me.
They had some scientific advisors on the board of their official organization, who said the science wasn't there yet, but research was active and ongoing.
Until someone died. Someone on the organization, who really wanted to be frozen. So they froze her.
The advisory scientists fled, as well they should have.
The story snowballs from there, culminating in multiple bodies being frozen in faulty containers (piled up as they were only intended for one person), thawing completely from time to time. The protagonist of the story is at worst a criminal with poorly disguised malintent, at best a buffoon with good intentions.
Which isn't good enough for me. Why, oh why, do people who know nothing about science think that just because something sounds right to them, and at heart they have good intentions, they are remotely qualified to advise other people on what to do? In my daily universe this is the Suzanne Summers of the world. Naturopathic doctors. Some chiropractors. A whole host of well-meaning idiots, who do harm preaching how they wish the world work, as if it actually worked that way.
Sidebar, but a great outdoorsman has more respect for a gun than a punky kid. A great boat captain absolutely respects the dangers of the water, and the machinery he drives. And a good doctor or scientist understands and respects the limitations of their craft as well. (As promised....preachy.)
But my big issue with the story was the more obvious one. Do people...smart, functional, assuming somewhat educated....truly believe that we can figure out how to outsmart death? Really? If you consider that everything, everybody, who has ever ever lived for the last kajillion years is now dead, can you really see this as something avoidable? And who in their right mind would even want to be frozen, to be woken up in 50, 100, 500 years? Who would they know? Their friends, family will all be gone. Not to even touch on the issue of finite resources, letting someone else have a turn on the merry-go-round.
I don't really understand why that story got under my skin so much, but it did. We so need to come to grips with death. It is part of life, part of us.