Bodies: The Exhibition – science or sideshow?


PlastinatedartieriesPlastinatedartieriesI was invited by a friend and geekdad-to-be to a showing of Bodies: The Exhibition in San Diego, and I have to admit I’m torn about the idea. It’s a display of plastinated cadavers in active poses, supposedly designed to teach about the different systems of the human body. "Celebrate the wonder of the human form," reads the advertising text, a noble objective. There are a lot of ways to get it really wrong, though.

I’m not worried about the subject itself, ethical questions aside. The human body is fascinating and worthy of study. There’s so much to learn at any age, and life-size accurate models are invaluable. If there was just one of these plastinated bodies at the Natural History Museum, we’d be over there investigating it in a heartbeat. (No pun intended.)

But that’s my question: why isn’t this at a museum?  Ours has plenty of space and a history of showing excellent sponsored exhibits. Instead, Bodies has taken up residence at a suburban mall, not exactly the first place I’d think of for scientific learning. The whole thing has the smell of money, hype and crowds, which is what ruined our enjoyment of the Tutankhamun exhibit in LA a few years back.

What do you think?
Have you seen Bodies in another city? Would you give it the Geekdad seal of approval, or should I use the money for an afternoon of backyard science instead?

UPDATE: From the excellent comments, it’s become obvious that Bodies is capitalizing on confusion with the original Body Worlds exhibits actually taking place at science museums. Praise for Body Worlds is buoying interest in Bodies, and ethical issues with Bodies are weighing down Body Worlds. To me, it’s the difference between a zoo and a circus; care and intent matter.

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