Many religions including Islam have built hope in their followers by the promise of life after death after death considering that people have always feared death and sought immortality. Since the ancient times, human beings have held a belief that the human soul survives death. However, in case there is no consciousness beyond death, then many people have been fooled by their religious and cultural believes.
Despite the question whether it’s possible to revive a dead person or whether there is real life after death, trying to achieve immortality is a timeless venture by human beings (Ettinger 123). The Egyptians are among the communities in the world that showed great obsession with immortality and preparation for death. Islam does not clearly support cryogenic but Christian has been teaching on immortalism for centuries and many Christians believe that they will resurrect again.
Death can be described as a change in the chemistry of life therefore disorganizing the normal functions casing the body to stop functioning.
Many believe that it’s not actually when life stops as people can be turned on and off and survive. However these raises a question as to how much chemical changes can a person survive? Technology level can determine this. In the past, about a century ago cardiac arrest could not be reversed, however today the heart can be started several minutes (4-6 minutes) after it has stopped (Ettinger 128).
Beyond that, it would be very hard to resuscitate the brain. The rationale of this paper is that cryonics is a reversible process and if done immediately enough, then the body would be preserved before it dies. This means in future the person can be resuscitated back to life by use of appropriate technology like molecular repair (Perry 40). Because of sanctity of life, the practice has evoked medical, religious and moral ethical concerns.
The underlying reason for the belief that life can be revived is that cryonists do not recognize legal death as actual death but look at it as reversible (Best 493). Even conventional medical now state that death only occurs when the heart and the brain function cannot be restarted. The Egyptians hence tried to make sure that they preserved a person very close to immortality and this is the reason why they when to greater extent of building the pyramids and doing the mummification.
They believed that as long as the body was well preserved, the soul had a place to stay therefore hope for possible resurrection. In order to shed light on the issue this paper will focus its literature on this thesis “the problem of cryonics, the question of its legalization and the way it corresponds with Islam and other religions in Egypt – Medical, moral, and religious ethics toward cryonics in Egypt”.
Cryonics is a process that is used to preserve a dead human body in extremely low temperatures so that the body is practically frozen with hopes that life could be revived in future (Best 493).
This process is speculative that freezing a body can preserve it in intact condition the reason being that that in case a person died from an incurable disease today, he/she can be resurrected in future when a new cure is discovered, the person can be treated and live again (Henson & Lucas 12). A person in this case in carried past time even for decades or centuries until when it’s appropriate to reserve the process and treat the person to restore health.
Cryonics sounds like a fictitious venture but this has strong foundation in real science. The story is of the science behind cryonics is seldom discussed in research papers and this has left the topic with great amount of misunderstanding (Hughes 4). Currently performing cryonics is illegal before a person is legally declared dead. There are three facts that justify cryonics:
Life can be restarted if the basic structure of life is preserved. Science has shown that human embryos can be habitually preserved for several years under temperatures extremely low (Hughes 4). Even adults have in the past survived temperatures that stopped the heart and even brain. If the cell structure is preserved the chemistry of life will be adequately preserved to live again.
Vitrification process is able to preserve biological structure to be revived later. Addition of chemicals referred to as cryoprotectants to the preserved cells allows the tissue to cool at very temperature without turning into ice (Platt para. 14). Not forming ice at extremely low temperatures below -120°C is referred to as vitirification and this process is currently possible therefore human organs including the brain can be vitrified (Best 494).
Molecular repair is a foreseeable process (Hughes 6). The new nanotechnology is very prospective and it present future hope that new technology will come up. The technology which is probably based on nanomedicine will enable recovering the function of preserved cells including brain and memory (Best 494).
Therefore is the above facts are feasible, then survival the chemical and biological structures means survival for the individual, and if cold temperatures can preserve the structure then this offered the most sufficient fidelity (Hughes 7). Furthermore if there is foreseeable possibility that new technology can be able to repair body tissues destroyed during preservation process then cryonics should work efficiently even though not expressible today (Perry 40). This justification improves with every step of improving technology.
When the society is deprived of believe that immortality is achievable, the people will try to find ways that will satisfy their feeling that immortality can be attained (Ettinger 133). Ancient Egypt is a great example of such efforts in a community. Mummification is a type of cryonic practice by the Egyptians because of their dread of death and desire to be immortal.
Egyptians believed that a person would live again after death and as result they developed process of mummification to preserve the body. The process was very expensive and therefore only the pharaohs could be mummified. It’s believed that for religious reason, other animals like cats, baboons and crocodiles were also mummified and buried together with the pharaohs.
The Egyptians used mummification to try and assure themselves that immortality could be achieved. Even today, the society has not changed as much with regard as to whether immortality could be achieved or not. There is only little difference in that the technology has changes so much (Ettinger 138). Today, cryonics uses extremely low temperatures to preserve the bodies so that it remains intact for possible future resuscitation. .
There is a basis of fear of dying and individual transcendence in cryonics which are facts that are addressed slightly different today because of advanced technology giving hope but all the same the basis of the process is not so unique to humanity (Best 495). This is why Egyptian through that preparing the mind for death and also setting them body to survive after death would make a person survive death and then get closer to their gods.
There is a possibility that religions could have possibly evolved from the fear that human have concerning death so that they can inspire hope to each other. Many religions promise life after death and judgment which often makes people to struggle and try to live normal lives without sin or crime. Even whether the need for religion is trained or innate; human beings are greatly affected by it with regard to their behavior and ventures.
Essentially, cryonics is not religion in itself but it interacts with religion a great deal. Religions like Christianity offers hope to its followers because naturally human beings are fearful of death. Buddhism on the other hand teaches three most popular beliefs one of which teaches attaining salvation through personal survival.
Most people would love to grow and develop beyond what they can achieve in normal life and they term that growth as being spiritual. Christianity teaches immortalism because it claims that death is just separation of body and soul but resurrection revives the person and that it’s possible.
For Islam, the belief is very different because, the doctrine teaches that once a person dies then there is no chance that they can be revived or resurrected. This means that cryonics does not rhyme with Islam hence Muslims do not support cryonics. When a person dies, the soul leaves the body and the individual is in burzak. This is according to Muslim doctrine. The only person able to resurrect a dead person would be Allah (Kasule 4).
Cryonics is a very different process from heart attack or getting trapped in a lake. Basically it’s certainly illegal to do cryonic suspension a person when he/she is still alive. The person has to be legally dead, meaning that the heart must have stopped pumping. The death must be pronounced by authorized medical experts.
Science claims that totally dead is different from legal death (Best 498). For legal death is when it’s difficult to restore heart function and circulation of blood. Real death is when the body cells are totally damaged beyond repair especially after several hours following death.
Medically: Cryonics is based on the presumption that dying process can be halted in a matter of minutes and then the body preserved. If death is considered to be an event taking place at an instance then the moral question is usually to define what entails death (Henson & Lucas 22). Basically death is defined legally and in reality, ‘total death’ is the internationally accepted definition by both religion and science.
Morally: Pro-cryonics purport that death is a social construct if cardiac arrest and failure to resuscitate is anything to go by (Best 499). This view means that legal death is like euthanasia. However, death is a process as philosophy defines it and it cannot be stopped by any means. Life is also sacred and death is part of the process (Mercer 19). The human body has to be respected even in death. Attempts to make it immortal by uncertain experiment are disrespect to sanctity of life.
Religious: Ethical opinion from religious perspective focuses on the issue of cryonics being a process of treatment. If cryonics is interment medicine, then religious concerns about death and life after death come into play (Mercer 19). Basically death means the soul is separated from the body and resuscitation is not possible hence waste of time and other resources.
Trying to resurrect a person is also irreligious as it portrays man trying to imitate God and assumes he can do whatever God can do. However, if cryonics is medicine, then legal death is long-term coma with vague prognosis (Mercer 20).
Legally, cryonics is repugnant to the law because besides wasting valuable resources, the process defies the purpose of law in life. In Islam, death is permitted by Allah on every individual with no exceptions and it’s also inevitable as indicated by shumuliyat al mawt. It’s therefore a sin to try and avoid death by use of means like cryonics (Kasule 5). It’s a show of conceit and foolishness not to accept death.
Egyptians are a good example of human efforts to escape death or preserve life. They seem to have made a great step since anytime one talk about Egypt they have to mention mummies and the pyramids. The intention was to offer their pharaohs souls a place to stay. However in a very fast twist, cryonics also tries to preserve life today by super cooling bodies in cryogeysers so that they could be revived in future.
However, there are some obstacles especially legal considerations because cryonic procedure cannot be started before legal pronouncement of death. The pronouncement is usually done allowing stoppage of heart function. But immediately the heart stops beating, ischemic damages commence because of lack of oxygen supply and the cells and tissues are destroyed. Restarting the heart later can cause even more damage.
Human being must accept that life and death are complex processes and that they are irreversible or at least death is. Despite feasible technologies for restarting life processes cryonics still has a long way to go considering that there are soul and spirit components of a person. It would be very difficult to bring back the soul into the body of the dead person.
Best, Bernard P. “Scientific Justification of Cryonics Practice,” Rejuvenation Research, 2008, 11 (2): 493–503.
Ettinger, Robert C.W., The Prospect of Immortality, Ria University Press; Palo Alto, CA, 2005.
Henson, Keith and Lucas, Arel. “Medical Ethics in Cryonics”. Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Web. 2 Nov. 2010. http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/MedicalEthicsInCryonics.html
Hughes, James J. “The Future of Death: Cryonics and the Telos of Liberal Individualism,” Vol. 6. Jet Press. 2010, Retrieved from on 11th Dec 2010
Kasule, Omar Hasan. “Islamic Medical Ethics with Special Reference to Maqasid al Shari’at”. I-Epistemology. Web. 2 Nov. 2010. http://i-epistemology.net/medicine/813-islamic-medical-ethics-with-special-reference-to-maqasid-al-shariat.html
Mercer, Calvin. “Cryonics and Religion: Friends or Foes?” Cryonics. Jan. 2008. 19-21. Print. http://www.alcor.org/cryonicvvs/cryonics0801.pdf
Perry, Michael. (2000). “Forever for All: Moral Philosophy, Cryonics, and the Scientific Prospects for Immortality,” Universal Publishers; Parkland, Florida, p. 40
Platt, Charles. “The Biology of Cryonics: A Quick Summary for Medical Professionals”. Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Web. 2 Nov. 2010. http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/biology.html