July 28, 2008 at 3:15 pm | Posted in Science, Theology | 4 Comments

I know that I am almost alone in this opinion and that it makes me most unpopular, but this is my blog and I can write whatever I want.

The “scientific art exhibit” known as Bodyworlds 2 is currently on open to the paying public at the Maryland Science Center.  For those not in the know, the Bodyworlds exhibit displays real corpses that have been plastinized, cut open, and arranged into various poses.  People then attend and get an anatomical education by gawking at the flayed, eviscerated, and mutilated human remains.

I’m sorry, but when I was young, a collection of dead bodies open to the public wasn’t called art or science — it was called a graveyard.

Maybe I’m getting sentimental in my old age.  I can’t help but think that each of these “exhibits” represents the life of a living, breathing human being who walked the earth just as you and I do, who lived and loved and had dreams and aspirations just like any of us.  Regardless of whether they donated their bodies or not, somehow I must believe that a more fitting tribute to the dignity of their lives must be found.  The human body, even in death, was not intended for this.

To be honest, I must be reminded of the Orthodox practice of the public display and veneration of relics.  They are not made of rubber, but they are preserved for viewing nonetheless.  So, what is the difference?

Well, there are a couple.  First of all, relics are not anonymous, but stand as a celebration of the fullness of the saint’s life.  In death, the saint is not reduced to his or her component parts, rather each component part carries within it the totality of a sanctified life.  Furthermore, in each piece lies the promise of not just the redemption of the soul but of the body and indeed the whole world.  The relic does not serve to tell us as much about who we are but rather who we can be.

But most importantly, I think, at the Bodyworlds exhibit it is clear that it is the human body that is to be worshipped.  The specimens, the accompanying text, literary quotations on the wall — all serve to glorify the human, and thus each viewer.  It is a raw display of self-idolatry.

On the other hand, when relics are properly venerated, it is not the human who is worshipped but the God within.  When a person so cooperates with the will of God to be filled with His energies, then his or her body becomes a true temple of the Lord, and the presence of the Lord dwells within the very bones and members such that they become sacred.  To venerate the relic is to acknowledge the God who made them, sanctified them, and continues His redeeming presence within them.

Just thinking about relics fills me with a sense of awe at the Lord’s presence and a sense of humility at the unfitness of my own being.  Thinking about Bodyworlds just makes me ill.  I hope I’m not the only one.



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  1. Well you have found someone to agree with you. I had a very similar response to this when I first heard about this. There is a certain morbidity mixed with exhibitionism that is going on here. It does make me ill as well. It has a cheapening effect. I will never forget when my 6th grade chemistry teacher went off about the worth of a human body. According to his calculations it is worth about $2.56 (you know, mostly water add some iron a bit of calcium and voila!). Thanks teach.

  2. I had heard about this recently, but didn’t know there were photos of it online. How creepy! I definitely agree with your comments about it. And, thanks for the link about relics. Very interesting and informative.

  3. Thanks for your reply. I’m glad I’m not the only one. Here in Baltimore, there are even large billboards on the interstate advertising the exibit. I feel really unsettled with a dead face grinning at me as I drive down the road.

  4. Ugh.

    I, too, agree with you.

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