The "Body Worlds" exhibit- are corpses 'sacred'?

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Aaron Blumer's picture


"Sacred"... not sure I'd say that. And it would be hard to make a case that we can't "study" the human body! But when does an exhibit cross over from study into something like organized morbid curiosity... and crass entertainment?
On the surface, Amos 2.1 seems to condemn Moab for mistreating the corpse of the king of Edom.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Susan R's picture


I think crass and morbid is in the eye of the beholder. Some may view an exhibit like this with a twisted sense of curiosity and fascination, but others find it awe-inspiring. I'm sure that fans of horror movies like the Saw series would be thoroughly titillated by it. But does the fact that some people are perverted make the exhibit perverted? I imagine that medical students and folks who study human biology would have a completely different attitude about it.

However, I do find the idea that human corpses are 'sacred' very interesting. Since God allows the human body to decompose and be eaten by critters after death, I'm not so sure that we need to think of a cadaver as 'sacred'. We should be respectful... but we are talking about bodies donated to science- unless the rumors that some of these bodies were 'stolen' are true. I have to say that I'm not all that supportive of the "guilty until proven innocent" school of thought.

It's interesting that the author of this article felt it important that the doctor who invented the plastination process was an atheist. As if that explains everything.

Mike Durning's picture

I saw this exhibit or one exactly like it with the kids (not sure which ones...foster care days) years ago. At the time, I thought it was a great way to teach the intricacy of the human body, and I used it to talk about the brilliance of God's creative design. Whether live or dead, whole or sliced, the infinite creative genius of our Lord screams for attention.

The fact that the doctor who created this exhibit is blind to the significance of it doesn't mean the viewers will be.

Ann B.'s picture

I saw an exhibit in Atlanta titled Bodies. Yes, the bodies were dissected out carefully and preserved with plasticine or whatever. And it was a fascinating educational experience, like none I've ever seen. It was not disrespectful at all. But then they also didn't show things like a cadaver riding a horse cadaver. It was intended to teach, not to shock. The BodyWorlds exhibit strikes me as using the human body for gratuitous purposes, and that is entirely different.

Susan R's picture


It's interesting that the Body Worlds exhibits are posed in real life situations. The skateboarder, for instance, doing a trick on with a board, shows not just the position of arms and legs, but the interior of the body. This is IMO amazing and fascinating.

I think that science geeks automatically love stuff like this.

BTW, the ethical review summary can be found here- It appears that Body Worlds has been thoroughly investigated and that the rumors are just that- rumors.

Quote: Mission of the Exhibitions

The primary goal of BODY WORLDS is health education. On the one hand, individual specimens are used to compare healthy and diseased organs, i.e., a healthy lung with that of a smoker, to emphasize the importance of a healthy life-style. On the other hand, life-like posed whole-body plastinates illustrate where in our bodies these organs are positioned and what we are: naturally fragile in a mechanized world.

Thus, the exhibitions are targeted mainly at a lay audience to open up the opportunity to better understand the human body and its functions. The exhibits help the visitors to once again become aware of the naturalness of their bodies and to recognize the individuality and anatomical beauty inside of them...

That's a good 'nuff explanation for me.

I'm still stuck on the idea that dead bodies are somehow 'sacred', and that because they are going to be resurrected should be treated... almost as if the person is still living? I don't get it.

The same discussion happens whenever we talk about the ]Body Farm .