Monday, September 12, 2016

Recognizing Insects in Science and as Pests - Japan style

As you know, in this class we collect insects and sacrifice them in the name of first-hand discovery, study, and deeper understanding.  Countless animals have (and will) die for the purpose of scientific biological study, and in my view the very least you can do is honor and acknowledge that taking of a life. We had a small shrine in the insect lab where I did my PhD study, a place where innumerable moths, butterflies, ants, and others where reared and researched A small gesture, but I think necessary to remind us of the essential contradictions wrapped up in close study of life and all of its wondrous complexity.

Recall I mentioned the variability in cultural attitudes towards insects, including the Japanese tendency to to acknowledge, and sometimes revere, the form, function, and role of insects.

Kaneiji Temple in Tokyo is a Zen Buddhist temple part of which is devoted to the souls of insects that died for scientific research (that second pictogram on the rock refers to "insects")

A whole other step further is perhaps the monument to souls of termites at the Koya-san Buddhist cemetery sponsored and paid for by who.....?  A pest control company!  A very different attitude towards insects life indeed. The epitaph reads "Termites - Rest peacefully!"

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