Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Bodyworlds and Meat Bags

Yesterday was my birthday, so Danielle and I went to Bodyworlds & The Cycle of Life, which is showing in Taipei this summer. I've always wanted to go to Bodyworlds, so this was my chance!

It was pretty darn good, I must say, although sometimes you forget you're looking at actual people, and not just models. There was a bust of a man with all his skin and everything still intact, and that was pretty real. He was bisected down his center line so you could examine his brain, mouth and nasal cavity. Also, I'm not sure the exhibit did as good a job as it could have, at really presenting the concept of "Cycle of Life". Sure, we saw plastinated fetuses, and diseased body parts (if the 'healthy' and 'smoker' lung comparisons don't get you to quit smoking, nothing will), but I didn't get a strong sense of continuity, as much as an anatomy lesson.

Particularly, I would have liked more details on the specifics of the specimens (or plastinates, as they're called) like age, gender, and cause of death or other pathology. I'm not interested in "personal tragedies", but the specific pathology of the individual specimen. One plastinate, in particular, was extremely interesting. From what I could tell, this person had an artificial hip, knee joint, shoulder, a grafted jaw, and two steel reinforced bones. I would have really like to have known more details. Was this blunt trauma (a car accident) or part of a degenerative process?  Another platinate was claimed to have arthritis, but I had difficulty seeing the specifics.

Regardless, these are small complaints. Overall, the exhibit is excellent, and I would suggest it to anyone interested in the human body, biology, etc.

However, the exhibit really got me thinking about our physical body, and the nature of a spirit, or consciousness. I find it pretty hard to believe that these 'chunks of stuff' are all there is to being human. I just can't believe in the reductionist model that says everything a person ever is, can be fully encompassed and explained by the meat bags (as Bender puts it) I saw yesterday.

It also got me thinking a bit more about abortion. When you see actual fetuses (a.k.a. human beings) in various stages of development, you have to wonder about the ethics of deciding to terminate that life. Congressman Ron Paul is against abortion. He's also an OBGYN who has delivered over 4000 babies. When he speaks of watching a doctor pull a fetus out of a woman, and put it in a bucket to be disposed of...well, that speaks volumes to me.

NEways, as Osho so wonderfully points out, there's a difference between knowledge (i.e. having a moral stance based on imperative or some intellectual idea) and knowing (i.e. experiencing something in the reality of it). In this case, Ron Paul knows something which I suspect I'll never know, and I defer to him.

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