"I would we were all of one mind, and one mind good." --Cymbeline, V.iv.209-210. An English teacher's log. Slow down: Check it once in a while.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Body Underworlds

My apologies to loyal readers for long silence. When I began this blog I promised myself never, like a deadline-harried journalist, to post unless I had something to say, and various non-cybernetic duties have recently commanded my attention. Look for a longer piece in late March. In the meantime, I am informed that the following letter to the editor will appear in the coming edition of the San Diego Jewish Journal:

It is one thing for more or less paganized Southern California to entertain repeatedly the traveling exhibit of the human dead called "Body Worlds." It is quite another for a so-called Jewish Journal to advertise it.

What pretends to be a museum exhibit of scientific interest is, from the Jewish or indeed any religious viewpoint, a sacrilege—the reduction of the sacred human bodies of actual people to curiosities to be exhibited in the name of reductive scientism or post-modern sensationalism or both.

It makes no difference that the people who once lived in these bodies gave their permission to be polymerized and put on display. Their benightedness does not justify ours. Nor is the exhibit justified by the pretense of advancing anatomical education, the defense indulged in by the ghoulish Dr. Gunther Liebschen von Hagens, who admits that he is “forced in his daily work to reject the taboos and convictions that people have about death and the dead” and is “asking viewers to transcend their fundamental beliefs and convictions about our joint and inescapable fate.” Can you not recognize the familiar cold-blooded tones of atheistic rationalist pride?

Von Hagens thinks of himself as a heroic defender of the scientific freedom to treat the human body as a mere thing in the name of rubbing viewers’ noses in the cold hard facts of physical mortality, a freedom that seems not to be hampered in the least by anyone. But must the Jewish Journal participate in the promotion of this depressingly unresisted giant step toward barbarism?