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 Why shouldn't human remains be raffle prizes? 
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Serious question. This blog by a 12 year old bone collector has got me thinking. In it he argues that it is unethical to offer a human skull as a raffle prize but, imo, he hasn't made a convincing argument that it is unethical as opposed to merely insensitive. I wondered what anyone else thought?

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Kathryn


August 9th, 2014, 3:42 pm
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That lad will go far - just not sure in which direction . . .

[Also got to give him points for supporting my own favourite childhood museum (before I discovered the Science Museum that is).]

There have been lots of cases where this has raised its head. Personally I feel that the lump of meat and bone typing this is just the vehicle, tool and support system for whatever it is in my brain that makes me "me". Once "me" has gone then put the rest to any useful purpose - that includes using my skull as a prize in any draw to raise funds for a good purpose.

Hopefully my brain will be sliced into skinny slivers for Alzheimer's research and the rest used for any purpose that improved medical knowledge or practice before being planted in the soil (as meat/bone or ashes) to support the biosphere a little.

But, what about the remains of pothers? I was annoyed when they re-interred some pre-Christian bones with a Christian ceremony, that is not showing respect for the memory of the person any more than using a "satanic" ceremony would have done.

Once for the ethics committee! But that will only be a human decision (if they could ever reach one . . .)

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August 9th, 2014, 4:31 pm
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Dave B wrote:
That lad will go far - just not sure in which direction . . .
Well, he is already - at the age of 12 - a published author...

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August 9th, 2014, 5:30 pm
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Alan H wrote:
Dave B wrote:
That lad will go far - just not sure in which direction . . .
Well, he is already - at the age of 12 - a published author...
If you mean he has written his own blog makes him a "published author" I have reservations about that - at that level every person can be a "published author"!

Perhaps what I mean is that he will go on to be some sort of respected person in some field or other. He writes well but, perhaps more important, he asks the difficult questions and then does his best to find answers and sticks to his opinions.

OK, one man's opinion is another's bucket of crap but . . .

Perhaps he will be a journalist? OH NO, PLEASE, NOT THAT FATE!

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August 9th, 2014, 5:36 pm
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I follow Jake on facebook, was it was Paolo who mentioned him here a long while ago? Jake mentions that Paulo told him to treat human remains with sensitivity.
Dave B wrote:
If you mean he has written his own blog makes him a "published author"

He's written a real book too actually :) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jakes-Bones-Jake-McGowan-Lowe/dp/1783250259/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407604045&sr=8-1&keywords=jake%27s+bones

I agree with Kbell that it's more insensitive than unethical. Like Dave I couldn't care a flying scoobie about what happens to my remains (donated to Scottish Med Schools currently) as what was me will be no longer, just leaving the shell that carried my brain around. But some cultures may feel differently so it's a Good Thing to be sensitive to those still living.

Also, as far as skulls go, they are depicted in many mainstream ways: tattoos, horror movies, Goth culture, even pirates :D As young Jake would clearly have imbued some of the cultural references I understand why he feels it wrong. Doubtless his collection of animal bones will, as he matures, be the grey between his currently perceived stark ethical option.


August 9th, 2014, 6:26 pm
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Dave B wrote:
Alan H wrote:
Dave B wrote:
That lad will go far - just not sure in which direction . . .
Well, he is already - at the age of 12 - a published author...
If you mean he has written his own blog makes him a "published author" I have reservations about that - at that level every person can be a "published author"!
Nah! As Fia points out, he has published a book on bones.

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August 9th, 2014, 6:32 pm
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Fair play to Jake I don't mean any criticism of him and I'm sure that he will come to recognise the fallacious nature of his arguments. Something doesn't have to be 'wrong' in an ethical sense for it to be a bad idea and it's interesting to ponder on what really makes this a bad idea, beyond the fact that museum curators and archaeologists treat human remains differently (appeal to authority?)

I wonder if it's as much to do with the 'yuk' factor than with this nebulous notion of respect.

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August 9th, 2014, 7:39 pm
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kbell wrote:
I wonder if it's as much to do with the 'yuk' factor than with this nebulous notion of respect.
I wonder if two factors can be separated out? The first is our own personal wishes for what happens to our bodies after we die (usually, we, on this forum, probably couldn't care less) and the attitude of society as a whole, who, on the whole, think that human remains should be given some kind of respect (obviously with different meanings depending on religious upbringing)?

We have no idea what the person, whose skull this was, wanted to happen to his/her remains - and I'm sure that's the case for virtually all remains (alas, poor Yorrick knew it well). So, what's a bone collector to do? Surely they have no choice, whatever their personal beliefs, but to treat remains as required by a general societal consensus, perhaps even erring on the side of caution and treating them with reverence.

I do find it bizarre that remains from centuries ago are given a full burial ceremony as if someone's dad had just died - and the religious element is probably obligatory - but, since I don't care what happens to my remains, I can't really care too much what happens to any other's.

I think what I did object to was the attempted 'blackmail' of Jake.

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August 9th, 2014, 8:39 pm
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Alan H wrote:
Well, he is already - at the age of 12 - a published author...
If you mean he has written his own blog makes him a "published author" I have reservations about that - at that level every person can be a "published author"![/quote]
Alan H wrote:
Nah! As Fia points out, he has published a book on bones.
Ooops, missed that. Too late to check now, was that a self-publishing job or did he sell it to a proper publisher? That is my definition of a published author. The next best think is a self-published book that sells enough copies to be noticed by the professional reviewers and commentators - or even experts in the field!

But, I would still want a lad with the kind of skills this one exhibits to keep going.

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August 9th, 2014, 10:21 pm
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Dave B wrote:
Ooops, missed that. Too late to check now, was that a self-publishing job or did he sell it to a proper publisher? That is my definition of a published author. The next best think is a self-published book that sells enough copies to be noticed by the professional reviewers and commentators - or even experts in the field!
Yes, it's a proper publisher. And his book is published in both the UK and US and he's appeared at The Telegraph's Bath Children's Literature Festival.

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August 9th, 2014, 10:51 pm
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Yes, heard of Octopus - seem to remember they do tend to support new writers and books that might have a limited appeal. Sure I have at least one of their books somewhere.

Good for him!

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August 10th, 2014, 9:17 am
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I think his opinions are idiotic. He collects bones, which could be regarded as showing a lack of respect for their owners, so what his objection comes down to is a very extreme speciesism in which specifically human remains must be respected in some way. From what he says, it is because humans know they are going to die (though ISTM that most of humanity seems determined to resist this death by some means, eg by creating religions) - well, so what?

I suppose I am influenced a bit by the fact, which I mentioned once before, that my mother's ashes blew onto my suit while we were trying to spread them around a tree. I could not help laughing inwardly at the absurdity of this incongruity twixt earnest intention and brutal reality: as the elements did not respect her remains, why should anyone else? We humanists should not privilege humanity in any way and should instead try to end these prejudices that we are any way special. Death comes to all of us, and what remains is not human in any very significant way.

In case this sounds a bit hard-edged, I acknowledge that it is natural for us to feel emotional about the dead who were dear to us, but this extends to non-humans, surely: I buried my dead cat some years ago, having been unable to touch her corpse while my wife sensibly folded up the limbs in preparation for the interment. What I object to is this boy's logic, not his sentiment.


August 10th, 2014, 9:41 am
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animist wrote:
I think his opinions are idiotic. He collects bones, which could be regarded as showing a lack of respect for their owners, so what his objection comes down to is a very extreme speciesism in which specifically human remains must be respected in some way.
I agree it is speciesism, but, as I said, I think we need to separate our individual beliefs from the overall beliefs of society. Imagine the uproar if bone collectors had no respect for human remains and treated them the same way as that of a rat. They give human remains special consideration simply because it's what - generally - society wants them to do. I can't see that they could work any other way.

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August 10th, 2014, 10:09 am
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Alan H wrote:
animist wrote:
I think his opinions are idiotic. He collects bones, which could be regarded as showing a lack of respect for their owners, so what his objection comes down to is a very extreme speciesism in which specifically human remains must be respected in some way.
I agree it is speciesism, but, as I said, I think we need to separate our individual beliefs from the overall beliefs of society. Imagine the uproar if bone collectors had no respect for human remains and treated them the same way as that of a rat. They give human remains special consideration simply because it's what - generally - society wants them to do. I can't see that they could work any other way.
I doubt the existence of what you call "overall beliefs of society" as though there were some general will; there are individual beliefs, and some of them dominate others for whatever reasons. In this case it seems that the louder you shout and the more followers you have, the more likely your views are to prevail. So Jake's beliefs have clearly triumphed over those of the "Weird and Wonderful" man, Norman Wright, who has cravenly withdrawn what was a legal enterprise (though the law does seem to be pretty weird and wonderful itself about what you and cannot do with bits of human bodies). The reason is that Jake knows how to use the internet effectively, writing popular blogs on bones and using his resulting influence to get his way, forcing Wright into making the unlikely claim that he "totally respects" dead people AND dead animals!


August 10th, 2014, 12:14 pm
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animist wrote:
Alan H wrote:
animist wrote:
I think his opinions are idiotic. He collects bones, which could be regarded as showing a lack of respect for their owners, so what his objection comes down to is a very extreme speciesism in which specifically human remains must be respected in some way.
I agree it is speciesism, but, as I said, I think we need to separate our individual beliefs from the overall beliefs of society. Imagine the uproar if bone collectors had no respect for human remains and treated them the same way as that of a rat. They give human remains special consideration simply because it's what - generally - society wants them to do. I can't see that they could work any other way.
I doubt the existence of what you call "overall beliefs of society" as though there were some general will; there are individual beliefs, and some of them dominate others for whatever reasons.
What would happen if bone collectors and archaeologists simply treated human remains like those of any other animal? I'm not sure whether it really is a vocal minority who hold sway here: I'm not saying there is a common, agreed position that can be generalised, but the default position of many (even those who have thought about it), I think, would be to attach some special significance to human remains. I suspect that if human remains were given no special treatment, there would be concern at least, if not uproar. Like it or not, I think archaeologists have no choice but to treat human remains differently. maybe socirty will change in the future, but they must operate in the present.

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August 10th, 2014, 12:37 pm
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I have a sort of thought forming in my (?) mind that I can't answer: this is an ethical question - are ethics a form of democratic will?

Do/should we go along with the majority, even when that majority will be formed from those with the strongest opinions (i.e. mostly religious people and humanists - unfortunately there are a few more of them than there are of us!) Or should we use even human bones to gather the most scientific/cultural information that we can?

Programme on radio earlier about Lindholm Man, the body in the peat bog sufficiently well preserved to tell us a great deal about his culture. He was a Celt from about 2000 years ago who, apparently, succumbed to a ritualistic murder/execution. How should he be treated? As a museum curiosity or should he be interred? If the latter with xtian or some sort of (pseudo) druidic ceremony?

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August 10th, 2014, 1:08 pm
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Alan H wrote:
I suspect that if human remains were given no special treatment, there would be concern at least, if not uproar. Like it or not, I think archaeologists have no choice but to treat human remains differently. maybe socirty will change in the future, but they must operate in the present.
actually, in what specific way are human remains treated distinctively by scientists? No doubt OTH they are valued more than animal bits because human society and its past is of more interest than any old rat skeleton, but is this reverence or respect really? I assume that these remains are put through whatever protocols thought necessary - dissection included - to shed light on any interesting question about their origin or nature.


August 10th, 2014, 1:36 pm
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animist wrote:
Alan H wrote:
I suspect that if human remains were given no special treatment, there would be concern at least, if not uproar. Like it or not, I think archaeologists have no choice but to treat human remains differently. maybe socirty will change in the future, but they must operate in the present.
actually, in what specific way are human remains treated distinctively by scientists? No doubt OTH they are valued more than animal bits because human society and its past is of more interest than any old rat skeleton, but is this reverence or respect really? I assume that these remains are put through whatever protocols thought necessary - dissection included - to shed light on any interesting question about their origin or nature.
Quite probably; then many are given a good 'Christian' (re-)burial!

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August 10th, 2014, 1:39 pm
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Alan H wrote:
animist wrote:
Alan H wrote:
I suspect that if human remains were given no special treatment, there would be concern at least, if not uproar. Like it or not, I think archaeologists have no choice but to treat human remains differently. maybe socirty will change in the future, but they must operate in the present.
actually, in what specific way are human remains treated distinctively by scientists? No doubt OTH they are valued more than animal bits because human society and its past is of more interest than any old rat skeleton, but is this reverence or respect really? I assume that these remains are put through whatever protocols thought necessary - dissection included - to shed light on any interesting question about their origin or nature.
Quite probably; then many are given a good 'Christian' (re-)burial!
I don't know, are they? This PDF discusses some of the issues in what seems to be a pretty contentious and complex subject (I had forgotten about the Bodyworks exhibition and would like to have seen it):

https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museu ... berti2.pdf


August 10th, 2014, 5:44 pm
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Dave B wrote:
I have a sort of thought forming in my (?) mind that I can't answer: this is an ethical question - are ethics a form of democratic will?
surely there should be discussion over what people's ethical objections really amount to in a case like this, and most people's opinions are pretty half-baked and confused (as also they are over whether, say, they consider themselves religious). One Jason supporter said something like "Dead people are still people" - well, no, they ain't!

Dave B wrote:
Do/should we go along with the majority, even when that majority will be formed from those with the strongest opinions (i.e. mostly religious people and humanists - unfortunately there are a few more of them than there are of us!) Or should we use even human bones to gather the most scientific/cultural information that we can?
no, we should not simply go along with the majority, whatever than means; and yes, of course we should use human bones to obtain information

Dave B wrote:
Programme on radio earlier about Lindholm Man, the body in the peat bog sufficiently well preserved to tell us a great deal about his culture. He was a Celt from about 2000 years ago who, apparently, succumbed to a ritualistic murder/execution. How should he be treated? As a museum curiosity or should he be interred? If the latter with xtian or some sort of (pseudo) druidic ceremony?
I don't think that Lindholm Man and other similar ancient human remains are mere "curiosities" but important scientific discoveries, and whyever should they be reburied? Let them continue to teach us


August 10th, 2014, 5:54 pm
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