Monday, October 15, 2007

Bodies: The Exploitation

Carnegie Science Center Enters World of 21st Century Circus Sideshows

“It’s art!” “It’s science!” “It’s wonderful!”


Let’s take a quick pop quiz. Which of the following qualifies as art and/or science?

A. The nearly complete skin of a human being, sliced open and laid flat on a table with the face attached. Much like a Blow-up Judy Doll that has been deflated.

B. A skeleton and a fully de-boned person left with only his muscles, both holding hands, leaning backwards frozen in a kind of do-si-do square dance pose.

C. A “Plastinated Petting Zoo” of sorts. Various plastinated organs on display for visitors to handle and touch.

D. A skinned, flayed dead person, posed sitting a la “The Thinker”, skull cracked open and brain popping out. (No doubt the result of all that hard thinking.)

If you’ve answered “Art”, congratulations! You are in the company of that esteemed artist and mass-murderer, Jeffrey Dahmer who temporarily housed skulls, genitalia and other fine objects d’art in his freezer.

If you’ve answered “Science”, you have a keen mind like Josef Mengele and other famed Nazi anatomists.

If you’ve answered “Neither”, then you agree with Ms. Pist who believes cadaver experimentation by medical students and researchers is genuine and valuable science. Throngs of morbidly curious freak-show patrons paying plenty to gawk at dead bodies posed doing things no respectable dead person would be caught dead doing ….. that is not science.

Art? Auguste Rodin’s “Le Penseur” (The Thinker) is an unquestionably superb, world-renown piece of bronze and marble sculpture. Propping up a dead guy in a similar pose with a cracked skull and exposed brain …… that is not art. It’s either desecration of the dead or, at a minimum, some violation of intellectual copyright laws.

Much has been made of the questionable sources of these “Bodies” including this blog. But on the subject of honor and respect for the humanity of the dead and what it says about a civilization when this civilized principle is abandoned ……. No more poignant words have been written on the abomination called “Bodies” than those of Rabbi Daniel Schiff.

Rabbi Daniel Schiff of Temple B’nai Isreal in White Oak is also the community scholar at the Agency for Jewish Learning in Squirrel Hill and a member of the City of Pittsburgh’s Ethics Board.


Anonymous said...

Cadaver's are an extremely valuable portion of medical education. There's no other way to teach basic surgical techniques without harming a patients. Dissection is important. I wouldn't want a surgeon who hadn't done a dissection in med school operating on me. Surgeons continue to use cadavers throughout their careers to experiment with new surgical techniques, which often save thousands--if not millions--of lives...

Char said...

Agreed. But surgeons and medical students dont' hone their craft by paying money to the Carnegie Science Center to gawk at dead humans who have been posed to maximize their sensationalistic take at the door.

The poor guy frozen in time in a gruesome horror-flick parody of "The Thinker" is not going to save any lives. He's just going to make sure the Science Center gets the voyeur buck instead of Rippley's Believe It Or Not.