Zombies: Ethics of the Undead!

By Kyle Munkittrick | October 29, 2010 10:20 am

Um, sir, you've got, uh, red on you.

Halloween is a-comin’ and this Sunday brings us AMC’s The Walking Dead. In honor of that, we’re discussing The Ethics of the Undead here at Science, Not Fiction. This is part I of IV. (Check out parts II, & III)

Zombies are everywhere! Zombieland, Shawn of the Dead, and 28 Days Later in the movies; World War Z and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on the bookshelf; Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising and Resident Evil in your video games – not to mention the George A. Romero and Sam Rami classics in your DVD collection. And this Sunday Robert Kirkman’s epic The Walking Dead lurches from the pages of comic books onto your television thanks to AMC.

Where ever you turn, zombies are there. We can’t seem to get enough of the re-animated recently departed. But why do we love these ambling carnivorous cadavers so?

Zombies are horrifying. An outbreak would almost certainly lead to global apocalypse. Unrelenting, unthinking, uncaring, undead, they are a nightmare incarnate. They remind us of mortality, of decay, of our own fragility. Perhaps worst, they remind us of how inhuman a human being can become.

Two, four, six, brains. Zombies are familiar. Refrains of “Brains!”, guttural groans, and mindless shambling instantly trigger the idea of a zombie in our mind. We all know, somehow, that decapitation – that is, destruction of the zombie brain – is our only salvation. I bet you’ve dressed as one for Halloween. Every time “Thriller” comes on you probably dance like a zombie. Some mornings I feel like a zombie. Even philosophers talk about zombies. We know zombies. They are hilarious, they are frightening, they are part of us. And that is why we love them.

But have you ever asked yourself: is a zombie still a human? is a zombie dead, really? can it feel pain? does a zombie have dignity? Has the question ever popped up in your quite-live brain: is it ok to kill a zombie? Could a zombie be cured? If you could cure it, would you still want to? In honor of Halloween and our culture’s current love affair with brain-eating corpses, I present The Ethics of the Undead, your universal guide for answering all of your most pressing zombie questions. Stay tuned for posts throughout Halloween weekend!

Images via ThatZombiePhoto.com and lolzombie.com


Comments (7)

Links to this Post

  1. Zombies! Zombies everywhere! - Nerdcore | October 31, 2010
  1. Jason

    Can’t wait for the show, looks like it will be fun.

    As for zombies, I think on some level doesn’t it represent some urge to kill each other but in some justified manner? Rather than having the complex moral question of killing another person, you can kill a zombie that just ‘looks’ like a person… but more animated than a target. Seems strange to me.

  2. dave chamberlin

    There is “The Zombie Survival Guide” a must read for all of us who hope to survive the coming plague of Zombies. Quite honestly it isn’t worth buying the book but a few desciptions in it are worth knowing, just in case.

    1)Rip out the stairs to the second floor of your house and live there. That way the zombies will wander around moaning on the first floor and never get you.

    2)Don’t forget your sword because guns can run out of ammo.

    3) Tie a pooch on a long leach outside. The slow zombies will chase them in vain and the dog barking it’s fool head off will warn you. Shoot ’em in the head (kill the brain and the body dies) and drag them out of reach of the dog or he will get infected too if he is tempted to snack.

    You can thank me later

  3. dave chamberlin

    Personally I don’t think it would lead to a global apocalypse. Maybe a couple weeks of a cowbow style round up and a demo derby squashathon in cars but if those slow moving dimwits get you then maybe you needed to be culled from the herd anyway.

  4. Brian Too

    Anyone ever notice how Zombies say “Brains!” all the time. Yet in attack mode they hardly ever chow on brains? And if they had to, they are sadly lacking in the capability to get brains!

    The skull would stop them. Zombies don’t use technology, everyone knows that. So how exactly would the Zombies get brains?

    Or is the Brains! refrain just shorthand for their relentless need to feed on that tasty, tasty human flesh?

  5. We’re all looking forward to the upcoming Walking Dead series – it’s going to be awesome, so set your DVR’s. The Zombie Apocalypse is coming so get prepared. I have a zombie apocalypse prediction date that is calculated daily and is based on a scientific formula using current events and Internet searches. Halloween and the popularity of zombies is skewing the results right now but hopefully it will settle out after the holiday. Right now the apocalypse will come in the year 2012. Check it out at http://wezombie.com.

    Bill Nelson


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar