Many modern, urbane, sophisticated zombies like to pretend that we don’t eat brains. It’s an understandable kind of pretense. Eating brains is shameful. There are no zombie heroes in our fiction who haven’t overcome the adversity inherent to their identity. It can’t be done, in the public imagination. Cannibalism evokes such an ingrained reaction of disgust and revulsion that no one can consider what an entire species that needs to eat brains could mean, and how to deal with that.
There’s one simple defense of brain eating that hasn’t been attempted; eating brains is best for everyone. The dead aren’t using theirs. If they’re uninterested in resurrection, there’s little to no reason to leave the brain untouched. I’ve brought up this point before when urging folks who wanted one to get a DNR stamp on their license, but here I’m making a more nuanced point: it’s possible that giving the brains of the dead to zombies is the only ethical method of handling them.
Zombies require human brains to survive. This is a well-known fact. As long as acquiring brains is difficult, illegal, or otherwise stymied by society, zombies will inevitably do so in less and less ethical ways. The need for brains is indelible, and so trying to prevent a zombie from eating them only leads to bad incentives. The zombie kept away from brains will not only act in desperate ways to acquire them, but will eventually, if they fail, enter a berserker state, endangering themselves and everyone around them.
Until we can produce synthetic solutions which provide the same benefits to zombies that human brains do, we must be vigilant to prevent new problems from springing up. Any solution to the problem of zombies requires accepting our need for brains first; the rest can come after.
Medicine has long since recognized the right of patients to waive their right to resuscitation. If the patient, for whatever reason, makes a choice about what should be done with them, it’s the doctors’ responsibility to recognize their wishes. Very rarely does a doctor ignore the clearly stated wishes of a patient.
Resurrection is not, currently, a branch of medical science. Resurrections are performed quietly, in dark and damp dungeons by cackling necromancers. There is no ethics or restraint in the public of a necromancer. Nevertheless, many people have begun signing Do Not Resurrect waivers, at the urging of the medical establishment at large.
The same concerns apply here, after all. Resurrection is a reversal of the natural order (i.e. dark magic). Humans never come back from resurrection; zombies do. Yet there are plenty of reasons to suspect the reasoning of doctors who promote this line of thinking. Who lines their pockets?
Some necromancers are trying to take resurrection corporate. The medical establishment wants people to be resurrected, just not this way, at this time. Besides being cravenly greedy, this is a mistake that has been made several times. The memorable case of Andrew Wakefield, who reported falsely about a link between MMR vaccine and autism to promote his own, rival vaccine, comes to mind. His scaremongering tactics created a generation of anti-vaccination proponents because the specter of autism was so terrifying.
Make the decision about resurrection carefully and cautiously, and most of all, talk to your loved ones. Before any corporations or doctors, they’re the ones who’ll move heaven and earth to bring you back.
The spread of reactions to zombies has been extremely broad. Although almost everyone has accepted that zombies will live amongst them indefinitely, there are a few holdouts who insist that zombies are inherently inimical to human life. Others have gone to the other extreme, concluding that zombies should be fully accommodated via regular human sacrifice.
This brings up an important question. Why do some receive special exceptions to the law? One common situation is religion. Some kinds of hunting and fishing which are otherwise outlawed are allowed for religious reasons for the relevant group. A significant amount of law protecting Jewish and Muslim people in Western countries relies on the assumption that these strong motivations are worth conceding because they don’t cause undue harm.
When zombies demand brains, we are more than just strongly motivated, so it seems granting us an exception is medically necessary. Yet if we consume human brains, we are causing harm. There are many researchers looking into alternatives, but as of now, nothing has been discovered.
So what can we do given the current reality? Zombies need human brains to live, but humans who die may prefer to be raised as zombies than go to feeding them. The current solution, five years in the making, is a bill that would allow citizens to designate on their driver’s license that they wish to donate their brain to zombies upon death. This bill is all we can do with today’s technology. Call your congressmen and tell them to vote yes.
How can zombies live sustainably?
Unlike humans, zombies have limited control over their diet. As obligate carnivores (and not just carnivores, our needs are more specific than that), we need to eat brains, even if it makes us unpopular. Sustainable living is one of the largest concerns for zombies. If we can’t find a way to coexist with humans, they won’t let us try.
The humans reading this are already dismissing the idea of sustainability. If zombies need to eat brains, humans need to die. There are options, of course.
A human might consider it cannibalism to consume an already dead human’s brain, but it isn’t murder. By relying only on those who die without intervention, zombie can avoid hurting anyone they eat.
Yet by eating the brains of the dead, zombies prevent their ressurection. If humans were to specify in advance whether they would like to be ressurected or not, the process becomes almost trivial. Declare whether or not you are willing to sustain zombies today.
In Plutarch’s Lives, he compiles biographies of several prominent Greek and Roman figures. One of these figures was Theseus, and in his discussion of the hero, Plutarch describes a philosophical paradox known as the Ship of Theseus. If a ship requires repairs, some of the parts of the ship must be replaced. The essential question is whether a ship which has had every part replaced over time remains the same ship.
Smarter people than me have thought about the general philosophy invoked here. I want to talk about zombies. Zombies are, to some extent, not the people who died. We are the people who came back. Scientists haven’t reached a consensus on which things change after resurrection. There are plenty of confounding variables; turning into a zombie is a dramatic life change, and those tend to have lasting effects.
There are some changes that directly coming from the change: the changes in eyesight, the complete overhaul of the endocrine system, and the as-yet-unexplained changes in telomere length. Other changes within the brain may occur, but more research needs to be done. The question of how much zombies actually differs from the people they once were is still open.
When humans donate their bodies to science, they expect them to be used for research and education. A cadaver is an essential point in the curriculum for medical students, and researchers can always use more human bodies to study. One unexpected possible use, and a very controversial one, is as a food source for zombies.
A brain need not be fresh to satisfy a zombie. The recency of the death is trivial. Yet many find such a suggestion controversial. I can see why, of course. We have lots of intuitions about respect for the dead that are abstract and outdated. The dead should be buried in cemeteries, in coffins, with much fanfare. To desecrate a body for food is the rankest violation.
If desperate zombies had more options, we might hear fewer stories of grave robberies and ambulance attacks. A simple way to ethically provide zombies with bodies would go a long way. They are, after all, hardly doing anything else.
Is zombism grounds for divorce?
Divorce is a fairly simple process in modern America, as long as both partners agree. In more contentious cases, the process is somewhat more complicated, but still, it’s essentially a legal problem.
The most interesting historical artifact when it comes to marrying a zombie is that the revelation of pre-existing zombism as well as ressurection both invalidate a marriage- according to most Christian denominations.
Annulment and divorce have always been at cross-purposes, and no more so than today, on this issue. In some ways, the sufficiently secular religious person can square the two issues, but the more devout among us can struggle with finding a solution.
As for me and my girlfriend, we’re going ahead with the engagement. Wish us luck.