Dr. Crippen on Mr. Darwin*

By introduction, I am Dave Crippen, MD, Professor of Critical Care Medicine and Neurological Surgery at the UPMC Medical Center in Pittsburgh. Some of you may know me. I’m the moderator for 18 years duration of CCM-L, the International Critical Care Internet Group (~1000 members).  If you ask almost anyone in the in critical care medicine global village, they probably know me, or know of me.


I have followed the saga of Mike Darwin beginning back in the day of Usenet where Mike maintained a cryonics list. I came upon this list while “surfing the ‘net” and found his editorials interesting. I wrote him an idle question and he wrote back, initiating a sixteen-year roller coaster friendship.

Now in 2012, I hope to make some observations from one who knows him intimately (not too intimately).

18 or so years ago, none of us could have predicted where the miracle of the Internet would take us.  Would any of you have believed ago that many global health care providers would have embraced a hard-core cryonicist as an authoritative voice in medicine?  By “embraced”, I mean they all hang on his every word.  Back in about 2000 they all took up a collection to purchase him a new computer to keep him on-line. Small denomination money came in from all over the world.

Because of that miracle, Mike has most assuredly entered the arena of “legitimate” medicine more than any of you can imagine.  Certainly more than anyone in the self-limiting field of cryonics.  His writings enjoy wide readership among working physicians and health care providers. He has contributed to several articles in a world-class clinical journal “Critical Care” with a journal “impact rating” (lots of clinicians read it) near the top three Critical Care journals in the world.

But it wasn’t an easy task.  As most of you know, Mike is a very unusual person on almost every level. I’ve known him for a very long time and I’ve seen the patterns emerge and descend in his life and I think I know him better than most, if for no other reason than he doesn’t keep friends long.  Like many of the rest of us, Mike has very potent talents combined with demons that keep those talents from wide expression.

Mike’s passion is what most physicians consider the pseudoscience of Cryonics, and he lives for little else. It is his passion and his obsession. At some point years ago, he reached a point in his life where his demons fully expressed themselves and he burned many bridges to those doing administrative and research Cryonics. To this day, those factions exclude him from those activities.

So for a few years around the turn of the century, he didn’t have lot to do with his time. Mike decided that he liked conversing with the members of CCM-L because it allowed him to pontificate about science and other things in life, and all always enjoyed his missives. As time progressed, he got more involved in Cryonics again, and slowly withdrew from CCM-L.

As a practical matter, his baseline default is to be culturally and socially isolated and he seems to be at home there. He works hard to maintain that isolation. He has an extensive history of effectively burning bridges over issues that could probably be resolved with even rudimentary diplomacy; an alien concept to him.

Over the years I have tried to understand why former friends and colleagues so relentlessly exclude him.  Conversations with some of them wondering why his strengths cannot be mined as his (perceived) shortcomings managed. The universal answer is that his (perceived) shortcomings have the capability of being so malignant that they are either afraid of him or any potential benefit isn’t worth the effort.

But Mike is an authentic Genius in Aspic (my term).  He chose to pursue a course of science that: 1. Limited his colleagues to a relatively small culturally isolated group, and 2.  Almost completely excludes him from many of the goals in life he would like to have in a perfect world. He is a genius trapped in Aspic and the “Richest Man in Bogota” ( H.G Wells).  His formidable talents are trapped.  Had he chosen to pursue righteous scientific disciplines, he would be mentioned in the same breath as Feynman.

My role in all this was to try to keep him visible to (for want of a better term) “traditional” science by keeping doors open for him as a writer in the literature of and speaker at meetings attended by scientists of the real world that righteously excludes Cryonics. To some degree, I have been successful in that endeavor, but it hasn’t been easy. Mike’s boundless energy, enthusiasm and confidence is pretty much limited to Cryonics, for which he writes extensive blogs and argues endlessly with critics thereof. His interest in mainstream science has dwindled, and that includes the mainstream scientists of CCM-L, for which he hasn’t much time or energy or interest in being a part of.

I’ve seen this coming for a while which is Why I chose to compile a history of his contributions to CCM-L for posterity. His response was that this volume was a waste of time and of no value to anyone, which is completely in character. I find it curious that this volume is the only book ever written about him that is complimentary.  He rejected all this and quickly evolved attempts to divert or stop altogether any involvement in these projects.

OK, he can be hard to get along with and he can be abrasive and irritating and emotional. We deal with these types with surgeons all the time, but if their benefit exceeds their detriment, we simply manage them more effectively.  Darwin is an authentic genius with a passionate and encyclopedic knowledge of medicine and science. There isn’t enough gold in Ft. Knox to buy that. It’s a gift from God.

I will tell you that I continue to use my influence to get him further inducted into the global medical community because I sincerely believe he is a valuable resource. He’s honest to a fault, beyond intelligent, has impeccable scientific integrity, works hard and has uncanny ability to communicate complex concepts to an eclectic audience. For those reasons, he has the potential to get the ear of clinical medicine.  He has great potential as a writer for medical subjects, and speaker at international meeting. Mike sitting in a 2 X 4 shack in Arizona spending his days grooming the surrounding desert is a waste when his knowledge base and communication abilities have such potential benefit to science.

There is a window of opportunity here to re-think former misadventures in terms of the current needs of science and medicine. The world evolves and we all need to evolve with it, or we’ll become extinct. Mike needs to evolve to something other than lethal or self-limiting iterations.  Who knows, he may be the ticket infiltrating the legitimacy of Cryonics in the global medical community. Weirder things have happened. We, in clinical medicine, learned long ago that the mission transcends personal problems. We learn to manage them better to facilitate a greater good.

*If you are British, yes, he is related to that Crippen, and no, I’m not related to that Darwin.



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4 Responses to Dr. Crippen on Mr. Darwin*

  1. Kurt says:

    I think this is a fair and reasonable description of Mike Darwin.

  2. I want to back this up with my own experience. Mike Darwin is all that Dave writes and more. I think we need a project to help him – a project with clear goals, support of key people, and “lay” cryonicists and a realistic plan – how to get Mike Darwin back on track, provide funding for his work, select opportunities for using his talents and manage the relations issue to everyone’s benefit. I wanted to do that for some time, but sadly I didn’t make much progress.

  3. admin says:

    Thanks for expressing it so eloquently, FL. I concur in all points.

    As one who is approaching cryonics from a rigorous angle and who has known Mike for 15+ years I’m also very unhappy that the cryonics community continues to ignore him as a unique resource nevermind as a human being. This is not only unfair, but also quite self-defeating for the field of human cryopreservation as a whole.

    – Eugen Leitl

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