Friday, November 9, 2007

Let me throw this one at you...

The following question and hypothetical scenario that I'm about pose is not typically the type of cogitation that is relegated to mainstream Catholic discussion. Unless, of coarse, you are interested in the dialogue between religion and science, and seek answers to deep theological questions through the Book of Nature.

Have you ever heard of cryonics? Basically, cryonics refers to the low temperature preservation in liquid nitrogen of a deceased human being (or animal) for possible resuscitation in the future. If today a brain tumor kills you, your body, or at least your head, can be preserved in very low temperature conditions until the science necessary to cure your ailment and resuscitate you become available. This process of resuscitating is complex and, some leading scientists assert, impossible due to tissue damage, lack of blood, and the inherent difficulties with reviving the patient.

We are going to side-step every clinical and scientific landmine that could prevent a resuscitation of this type from ever happening and, for the sake of advancing this example, we will assume that an energizing (resuscitation) of this sort is possible.

John Doe has been dead for twenty-five years. He died in 1982 of incurable lung cancer at the age if 32, but had his body maintained utilizing cryogenic preservation. Voilà! It's the year 2007 and medicine has produced not just a cure for cancer, but the capacity to resuscitate someone who has been in a cryogenic preservation. John Doe is administered to by a team of doctors who apply the cure to his cancer, and bring him back to complete alertness. Able to speak, analyze and process information, the patient is asked, "John, what was it like to be dead? What did you see? What did it feel like?" John responds, "I felt and saw absolutely nothing."

So, here we have someone who has been dead - COMPLETELY DEAD - for 25 years and is now resuscitated, interacting with other human beings with his mental faculties energized and intact, telling those who never died that in death he felt and saw absolutely nothing. What does this say of the human soul? Does it exist? Is there life after death? Does God exist? Are we destined to eternity as a non-entity? Let me know what you think.


Faithful Catholic said...

Oh Tom,

Here's what I think: When he died, his soul left his body. That soul ended up in one of three places.

When his body was "resurrected" by the scientists, he wouldn't know or remember anything because his brain was dead. Because his soul has already been lost to his body, not ever to be reunited on this earth, he can't "know" anything of what happened after he died. His soul, on the other hand, is possibly living it up, literally and figuratively up, in heaven with our Lord and all the angels and saints. Who'd want to live without his soul? Life wouldn't really be life. Our soul is what makes us us.

Tom in Vegas said...


Thank you for your input. It is my understanding that as long as you are alive, the soul remains in your body. If you are living, in spite of the unusual circumstances surrounding my example, your soul doesn't depart to the life after (or stay there, I presume) when the host-body remains alive.


Faithful Catholic said...

Oh Tom,

I must have misunderstood. I thought that the body had actually died. So, is it true that if you are "frozen" cryogenically, your body would technically still be alive? Yikes, who would decide when to start the freezing process?

It seems to me that long ago I read a book that was then made into a movie about this subject. Of course, I've since seen t.v. shows, not scientific in nature, that addressed this topic. I'd prefer not to be frozen regardless of the degree of certainty that existed regarding my being thawed out and cured successfully.

Did I answer the question you left on my other blog? I can't remember. No. I haven't taken down my other blog. I've just got it in hiding temporarily. I'll be back to it soon, hopefully. I'm still rethinking my objectives there. It just doesn't seem like I have the right motive.

Have you written anything on geocentrism? If not, what is your opinion? I am not at all scientifically inclined. I'm having a difficult time with the issue.

Tom in Vegas said...

Hi FC-

In cryonics you are as dead as dead goes. The aim of that procedure is to resuscitate people who have either died from natural causes or from some kind of an infirmity that present medical applications cannot cure. This low temperature preservation prevents decay and decomposition. But if I follow you rationale, in the future if and when this type of resuscitation becomes successful, we would have a number of soulless individuals walking the Earth. I don't think that type of condition is theologically possible.

As far as geocentrcism, that went out when Galileo presented the Copernican heliocentric theory. Today, we know that the universe has NO CENTER, and is increasingly expanding at a faster and faster rate. It is now bigger and expanding even faster than before you began reading this comment! Lets not even get into string theory of multi-verse cosmology.

Let me know when your other blog is up. You had some very interesting things to say there.


Anonymous said...

the church herself neither knows nor states when actual death occurs. When the soul is separated from the body, yes, that is death....but when is that?

she doesn't know. And if she doesn't, no one would.

The soul is that which gives form to and animates the body. Not to sound like star wars or some crazy new age hippie (at all!) but it is, in a real sense, your life force.
Without it there is death.

clinical death?
maybe that's not really it.

maybe one can be clinically dead but not truly dead. We don't know how long it takes for the soul to separate or even if it is the same in all circumstances.

how many have been 'clinically' dead for extended periods of time and yet have returned to life through herculean efforts of doctors? or spontaneously came back while in the morgue. These are irrefutably backed up by medical investigations. And has happened over and over.

This cannot be explained except to say that death is a mystery. When one deals with the soul of man, which is spirit (as opposed to the physical souls of animal and plant life) one is dealing with supernatural things of which we do not, and perhaps cannot, fully know in this realm.

some can recall what happened and others do not.

so what?

if this supposed man came back to life twenty some years later and recalled nothing....what of it? how does this shake my faith on the afterlife? It simply doesn't. Was he truly dead? Or was he just in suspended animation? who is to say?

is cryogenics, in that sense, true death?

*shrugs shoulders*

hard to say, isn't it?

what of those frozen embryos, waiting for implantation is some fertility clinic. Frozen for extended periods of time. Are they dead??? or just in suspended animation.

all of this is something to ponder over. And perhaps give us pause before we submit more of our fellow men to such procedures (no matter how old or young) as we do not know what we are doing to them.

to bottom line the whole thing....

it's not that as long as you are living your soul remains in your's that as long as your soul remains you are not truly dead. Even if your heart and brain waves all flat-line.

anyhow - I do not foresee cryogenics ever being a viable route anyways. Long term freezing irrevocably damages the complex tissues that it seeks to preserve... which would make any resuscitation impossible.

it's a good thing to dwell on though regardless of the unlikelihood of our ever finding the answer.

PS - I think string theory is a farce. hahaha.....But that is just my humble, educated opinion. ;)

Tom in Vegas said...


Thank you for your input:)

I'm waiting on a response from a follow up question on this subject matter. It may take a while before I receive it but when I do I'll make sure and post it.