In the contemporary world, the new scientific discoveries and innovations often look promising and can lead to serious benefits in future. However, in is not rare that such innovations face the strong resistance of the public due to the ambiguity of their possible social outcomes, as well as their ethical side. Cryonics is one of such innovations.
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Significance of the topic
The social problems of cryonics is an ardently debated topic. Not only does it earn the disapproval of religious organizations and individuals concerned with morality, but it also causes problematic questions regarding the status of people, who may undergo cryonic procedures, and the attitude of the society to such practices. It is clear that the problem of the study is especially significant for both science and the society. It is also clear that cryonics can be a topic of interest for social sciences no less than for biology. For this reason, the problem of cryonics is worth a careful scientific examination.
The researcher has established the ethical side of cryonics as a research question. Since the research question is quite general, the researcher has worked out the following sub-questions in order to facilitate and clarify the research tasks:
- Why is humanity in general and scientific institutions in particular interested in cryonics?
- What are the ethical dilemmas that cryonics cause?
- What opinions exist in the society on the topic of cryonics?
- What are the main objections to cryonics on ethical grounds?
- What theories can social sciences propose to explain the phenomena of the opposition to cryonic practices?
- What social and ethical problems would the individuals, who are in the frozen state at the moment, face once (or if) they are back to normal life?
Prior to starting the work on the research, the investigator has already worked out two research hypotheses that are to be tested and either supported or refuted during the research process. The first hypothesis is rather global: the humanity looks up to cryonics because of its inherent fear of death and willing to live, as well as the desire to conquer as much of nature as it can. It is more about philosophy than social science, so it would be hard to test this hypothesis. In this case, the ideas, desires, and fears of the humanity will be the independent variable while cryonics will be the dependent one. The other hypothesis states that the sources of the objection to cryonics primarily originate from the fact that the moral beliefs of humans to don keep pace with scientific innovations. In this case, the objection to cryonics will be the dependent variable, and the beliefs of humans will be the independent one.
As a theory of social movement, the author has selected the theory of collective behavior. According to the author’s view, this theory describes accurately the reasons, for which many people are opposed to cryonics: the explanation is collective fear and the presence of collectively shared beliefs and prejudices. The opposition to cryonics can be described as an emotional reaction of people to the situation that is out of their control. The psychological weight of emotions is well-known, and emotions are recognized as a significant factor for social events. For the mentioned reasons, the author considers the selection of this theory consistent with the tasks of the research.
To perform the research tasks, the author has selected relevant literature related to the topics of cryonics, its specificities, particular cases of humans undergoing cryonic procedures, the ethics of cryonics, and other questions that may seem relatable.
The article of Michael Hendricks refers to cryonics as “the false science” (Hendricks par. 1). In the article, the author, neuroscientist and assistant professor of biology, poses sharp questions to those believing in the benefits of cryonics. To prove his point, Hendricks presents the results of his examination of a roundworm’s brain and explains that cryonics is not a solution.
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The article on Alcor presents a detailed overview of cryonics as an innovation. It explains what cryonics is, why its use is justified, how high are its chances to become a tool of death prevention, and cites particular cases of cryopreservation (“What is Cryonics?” par. 1-10). Alcor is a non-profit organization that has established the preservation of lives its mission.
The book of Dr. Michael Perry, an Alcor employee, presents a comprehensive guide to the ethics and philosophy of cryonics. Perry examines the beliefs and attitudes towards life, death, and immortality, and explains the ways, in which these views influence the perception of cryonics in society (Perry 7-570).
The article written by philosopher Charles Tandy was written at the request of American Cryonics Society and describes the key principles of bioethics as they can be applicable to cryonics. This article is, in fact, a polemic piece of writing, composed, however, with accuracy, knowledge of bioethics and its principles, and in an academic way (Tandy par. 1-10).
The article of Brian Wowk, originally published in “Cryonics” magazine, cites the “non-deal” ethical cases of cryonics (Wowk par. 1). Wowk compares the ideal, default image of cryonics to its real image. The author also provides the rationale for undertaking cryonic experiments with the consideration of non-ideal cases.
Ben Best’s work provides a substantial overview of all things cryonics. Best presents the definition of cryonics, explains its purpose, gives the details of cryonic procedures, involves philosophical, ethical, and legal issues, the psychological side of cryonics, mentions and describes the existing cryonic organizations, cites the examples of legal problems, etc. (Best par. 1-17).
A group of German scientists has prepared a complicated study, the purpose of which was to define the general attitude of the German society towards cryonics. The article presents a great example of comprehensive ethical analysis of cryonics to the author of the present research (Kaiser et al. 98-104)
The research work of Rebekah Cron is devoted to the ethical side of cryonics. Cron analyzes the problem of cryonics in the light of various ethical concepts such as justice, autonomy, and beneficence. She examines the definition of death and reflects on the issue of using human bodies for research (Cron 1-29).
Due to the largely philosophic nature of the research question, studying the opinions of people would be the only way to fulfill research tasks. The author of the present research has selected literature analysis as a research method. To secure the accuracy of the sample, the works of both supporters and opponents of cryonics will be included in the sample. The search of relevant literature will be conducted with the use of the following keywords and/or expressions: “cryonics,” “ethics of cryonics,” “benefits of cryonics,” “objection to cryonics,” “legal issues of cryonics,” “social side of cryonics,” “psychological side of cryonics,” “cryonics cases,” “cryonics organizations,” “cryonics problems,” etc.
Overall, the author has selected a vital and significant topic for the research. The selected research method, social movement theory, and literature is consistent with the research question. The hypotheses are valid and worth testing.
Best, Ben. Cryonics: The Issues (An Overview). n.d. Web.
Cron, Rebekah 2014, Is Cryonics an Ethical Means of Life Extension? PDF file. 2016..
Hendrick, Michael. “The False Science of Cryonics.” MIT Technology Review 2015. MIT Technology Review. Web.
Kaiser, Stephanie, Dominik Gross, Jens Lohmeier, Michael Rosentreter and Jurgen Raschke. “Attitudes and Acceptance Towards the Technology of Cryonics in Germany,” International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care, 30.1 (2014): 98-104. Print.
Perry, Michael. Forever for All: Moral Philosophy, Cryonics, and the Scientific Prospects for Immortality. Boca Raton, Florida: Universal Publishers, 2000. Print.
Tandy, Charles. Standard Biomedical Ethics and Cryonics. 1995. Web.
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What is Cryonics? n.d. Web.
Wowk, Brian. “Ethics of Non-ideal Cryonics Cases.” Cryonics 27.4 (2006). Web.