Friday, February 16, 2007

The last two weeks I had to go up to Phoenix for work and drive by the Science Museum there. The museum is hosting one of the numerous BodyWorlds exhibits and there is an enormous poster of a body posed on a skateboard draped on the exterior wall. You can't miss it.

A German scientist has developed a method of injecting plastic into once-living tissue to preserve it- muscles, organs, blood vessels, etc. He is now making a fortune by opening laboratories in China where human beings and various animals are processed. Mr. Von Hagen currently has three exhibits ongoing in the United States. You can order t-shirts with disected human body parts through his website. My favorite is "The Heart was made to be broken" with someone's dissected heart printing in color.

Revolting. Disgusting. Ask me how I feel about this. Wretched. Pathetic.

How many people want their bodies or the bodies of their friends and family members injected with plastic and put on view performing some ridiculous activity (skateboarding, ballerina pose, running with one's muscles flaying off). My guess, not many. That is, of course, why Von Hagen has his body factories in China where the bodies of homeless people or poor people, desperate for cash, sell Mama to be turned into a very lucrative example of gross anatomy.

I'm not religious, I don't believe in an afterlife. But I do think human beings should be treated with respect and dignity, even in death. As an archaeologist I routinely have to excavate and remove human burials. They are always treated carefully and returned to their descendants for reburial. The idea that someone is making a lot of money off of Third World corpses amazes me. I wonder whether anyone seeing these "exhibits" actually learns any science, or is just going for the lurid, sensational aspect.

My buddy Brady went to see the exhibit in Phoenix. He says you can smell the bodies.

And isn't it ironic that I went to see Casino Royale last night and the movie included scenes at a BodyWorld exhibit. Tell me it is respectful to the dead bodies to have them appear in a scene in which James Bond sticks a knife in the guts of a bad guy.

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