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Why do people care about corpses so much

  1. Feb 4, 2007 #1
    Why do people care about corpses so much?

    In religions people think their corpses should be handled in a certain way, yet i dont think most religious people believe that corpses dont rot, or that peoples spirits are still stuck inside the rotting corpses. But also outside of religion, for instance when someone has been murdered, people consider it especially gruesome if the body has also been chopped to pieces for easy disposal. Even if the person dies in a fantastically peaceful way, it is called a horrific when he/she is subsequently chopped up, fed to the pigs, etc.
     
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  3. Feb 4, 2007 #2

    arildno

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    Honouring the dead&preserving the globe for the coming generations are acts of respect for humans separated from us in a temporal way.

    If we hold that ALL humans have equal worth, it is not unreasonable that there are certain acts of behaving that are not morally defensible towards people separated from us either spatially or temporally.

    It does not follow they should be treated "equally" as those we are in contact with, since that might well be impossible.
     
  4. Feb 4, 2007 #3

    radou

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    The answer is more than simple. It once was a person, and that's something that's hard not to keep in mind.
     
  5. Feb 4, 2007 #4
    So its because they think the person still exists in the past/future or another realm. But if they think so, then why still associate that person with his body in the current time/realm?

    They know that the body is no longer conscious and any respect they want to show to the person is not experienced by the body.
     
  6. Feb 4, 2007 #5

    radou

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    The person exists in the realm of your memories. It's hard to disconnect from that realm, isn't it?
     
  7. Feb 4, 2007 #6

    Evo

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    There are too many myths, superstitions and religious beliefs concerning the dead to go into every single one. Some believe it is necessary to preserve the corpse because the person may need it in the spirit world or they might actually return to it. Others believe it should be destroyed, burning the body for example. Some native American Indian cultures placed the bodies on platforms up in trees so that birds would eat the corpses. Some beliefs can simply be attributed to disposing of the body for health reasons. In Tibet, Buddhist monks carry out what is called a "sky burial". The dead monk is carried to a special location where the body is hacked into small pieces and then fed to vultures. The monks feel that by feeding the vultures that they are saving the lives of animals the vultures would have otherwise eaten. In Africa a tribe was suffering serious ailments which were traced to their custom of digging up the body and removing the decomposing feet and eating them, it was out of respect for the deceased. Cannibalism has a long tradition throughout the world. Some cultures believed that eating your enemy gave you their power.

    Burial rituals are usually carried out for the benefit of those still living, it helps them to deal with the grief, guilt, or feeling of loss they might be experiencing. In some instances the more tribute in goods you payed to the deceased, the more your status in the community rose, so it was for selfish reasons. There is no single or simple answer to your questions.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2007
  8. Feb 4, 2007 #7
    It is said to be quite easy.

    Werent there also elephants that did something like this?
     
  9. Feb 4, 2007 #8

    radou

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    In that case, I'm extremely misinformed. :tongue:
     
  10. Feb 4, 2007 #9

    Evo

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    Elephant burial grounds? Elephants are amazing animals. I need to look the burial grounds up, supposedly a dying elephant would make the trek to a certain area, don't know if it's true.

    edit:It seems that although elephants appear to grieve over the death of a companion and have a fascination with the bones and tusks of other dead elephants (touching and fondling them), they don't actually go anywhere special to die.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2007
  11. Feb 4, 2007 #10

    arildno

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    Insofar elephant graveyards exist, they are most likely the sad remains of large scale poaching.
     
  12. Feb 4, 2007 #11

    Evo

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    Sadly, that's a likely answer. :frown:
     
  13. Feb 4, 2007 #12

    Astronuc

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    There is a belief in Judaism that Mashiach (moshiach) will come and that all deceased will be resurrected, or at least the righteous. That is why bodies (corpses) are buried as soon as possible - and cremation is forbidden.

    I personally would prefer cremation or recycling via vultures.
     
  14. Feb 5, 2007 #13

    Ivan Seeking

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    As an afterthought, there is also the reason for a wake: The chance that the person isn't really dead and might wake up!! This used to happen. In fact part of what started a frenzy in Europe, I think in the 17-1800s sometime, was when a graveyard was exposed in a flood, and scratch marks were found inside of one or more coffins. After this, a number of systems were developed that would allow a buried person to alert the gravekeepers that he or she is still alive. I know that one system consisted of a bell mounted above the grave, and a string run down into the coffin.

    Even today we have rare cases of declarations of death that are in error.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2007
  15. Feb 5, 2007 #14

    radou

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    I believe it's true, but it's still funny! :rofl:
     
  16. Feb 5, 2007 #15
    Do wakes actually have that purpose?

    About evolutionary purpose for survival:

    I once heard some evo-psycho-babble about how caring about the dead allowed the brain to readjust itself, so that it better understood the consequences of losing an important part of environment, a part that was very useful for ones own survival.
     
  17. Feb 5, 2007 #16

    Evo

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    Hey watch how you use the word evo. :grumpy: :biggrin:
     
  18. Feb 5, 2007 #17

    Ivan Seeking

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    As reported on The History Channel; I am pretty sure that it was on History's Mysteries.

    I tried to spot a link and didn't see one but will look again later when I have more time.

    [Edit] Well, before logging out I make a quick wiki check, which led to this:
    "Wakes held today come from ancient customs of keeping watch over the deceased hoping that life would return."
    http://www.wyfda.org/basics_2.html

    But the story that I heard included quite a bit of detail and would be worth... digging up.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2007
  19. Feb 5, 2007 #18

    Evo

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    Being a history buff, you are correct, in Victorian times the fear of being buried alive reached it's peak. And there were quite a few odd devices for coffins.

    The fear of premature burial was so bad that it became common for people to insist on being buried with a bottle of poison and some wrote in their wills that their heads were to be severed from their bodies to make sure they weren't buried alive. It was a phobia.
     
  20. Feb 7, 2007 #19
    Many funeral rituals, have a great deal to do with controlling disease. Limiting who may handle the corpse, and how quickly the decedent is buried, reduced the spread of disease.
    Before embalming practices, odor and fluids were a real problem, so all religion aside, it was best to quickly remove the body from the living area. Several religions used corpse sitters, someone who's job it was to remain with the corpse until it was interred. This kept people from coming in contact with the body, and kept more then a few comatose people from being buried alive.
     
  21. Feb 9, 2007 #20

    Moonbear

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    Of course, wakes no longer serve the same purpose since embalming ensures the person is dead before they are buried.

    And, I think Evo explained it well, that there are numerous rituals and beliefs that lead to quite varied opinions about how a corpse should be treated and what is considered respectful. Keep in mind that some of the respect is not just for the deceased person but for the living relatives of that person and their beliefs.

    There are people who don't feel any strong attachment to a dead body, and are perfectly comfortable with things like donating any and all useable organs for transplants, or donating their entire body to a medical school for the gross anatomy labs. Although, in the latter case, we do require that everyone who has access to the cadaver labs treat them with respect, and at the end of the course, a memorial ceremony is held.
     
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