Do you remember how suspended animation was a staple of so many science-fiction plots? It was the idea that you could keep someone alive indefinitely if you just froze them.
Whether it was Captain America frozen in ice; Charlton Heston crashing landing on the planet of the apes; Captain Kirk discovering a ship of frozen superhumans led by Khan; Austin Powers volunteering to put himself in cryostasis to fight the reappearance of Doctor Evil; Sylvester Stallone waking up from his frosty prison to face Wesley Snipes; or pizza boy Fry accidentally being frozen and revived in the year 2999 in Futurama. It appears over and over again.
Behind that plot device lay a real quasi-scientific initiative.
In the late 1960s, small body-freezing businesses began appearing, promising the hope of immortality. The idea was that if you had an incurable disease, you could pay to have yourself frozen, so that when doctors found a cure, you could be revived and treated sometime in the future. Some futurists hope that they could be revived at a time when consciousness could be transferred to an artificial body potentially allowing you to live forever.
Apparently, many people paid for that service. Whatever happened to them?
Tom Hartsfield tells the grim story in “Horror Stories of Cryonics: The Gruesome Fates of Futurists Hoping for Immortality.”
In short, all the early attempts failed. Frozen corpses cracked, or bodies accidentally thawed and rotted away. As Hartsfield says:
The worst fates of all occurred at a similar underground vault that stored bodies at a cemetery in Butler, New Jersey. The storage Dewar was poorly designed, with uninsulated pipes. This led to a series of incidents, at least one of which was failure of the vacuum jacket insulating the inside. The bodies in the container partially thawed, moved, and then froze again — stuck to the capsule like a child’s tongue to a cold lamp post. Eventually the bodies had to be entirely thawed to unstick, then re-frozen and put back in. A year later, the Dewar failed again, and the bodies decomposed into “a plug of fluids” in the bottom of the capsule.
Gruesome, I know.
Here’s the theological significance of this. Cryopreservation is evidence that people want to live forever. They fear death and have a hunger for immortality. They’re looking for a savior to rescue them from disease and death.
It is a deeply religious phenomenon. And cryopreservation is just another false gospel.
Where are you placing your hope in the face of aging, disease, and death?
“Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again. In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up in him for eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
Instead of taking a bath in liquid nitrogen, take a drink of the living water.
Send your questions or comments to Shawn.