The Problem with Dissection

In high school biology we dissected frogs. I can still remember the formaldehyde smell that wafted up as we cracked open the container holding our little victim, and readied our scalpels. For kids (and adults, let’s be honest), dissection opens a whole world of muscles, bones and organs, all held together in this little creature we call a “frog”.

Often we dissect things to figure out how they work. Frogs, radios, ads, TED talks, any living thing can be pulled apart.

The problem of dissection is that you can’t dissect a living thing while it’s alive. To pull a frog apart, the frog has to be dead. Before you disassemble a radio, you need to unplug it from the wall. So while it can help us understand how the parts are put together, in dissecting you still might not discover what makes that thing that thing when it’s alive.

You haven’t really experienced a frog till you feel it’s slimy body wriggling to get free from your grasp. And you haven’t experienced the magic of a radio until you hear the music coming out of it.

If you want to understand something, be sure to fully experience it while it’s alive, before you pick up the scalpel. Or as my grandpa used to say, measure twice, cut once.