AMC's The Walking Dead

I finished season one of AMC’s The Walking Dead this week. I enjoy this show because of the philosophical implications of the meta-narrative. For those who are unfamiliar with the show it is about a post-apocalyptic world where most of humanity has been either killed or turned into zombies. Thus far there has not been an explanation by the storytellers as to how the whole planet seems to have been devastated, so you have to start at the place that it is simply the case.

There are many things to ponder when watching the show:

First, could a zombie apocalypse happen? We’ve seen it in nature already. There are “zombie ants” controlled by fungi and honeybees controlled by parasites (see the National Geographic article ” ‘Zombie’ Ants Found with New Mind-Control Fungi” or the Discovery News article “Fly Parasite Turns Honeybees into ‘Zombies’ “). So the concept of humans becoming zombies is not as far fetched as some may suggest.

Second, how would a zombie apocalypse happen? We’ve seen humanity panic 0ver HIV/AIDS, bird flue, swine flu, and other diseases which provided us with possible dooms-day scenarios. How would such a thing wipe out humanity of a large portion of humanity? Does it have to be air-born (which runs contrary to common zombie narratives)? Would it be an overreaction against a disease where the vaccine created actually contributes to the spread of the disease?

Third, in what sense are zombies human? This is the most interesting question: What makes a human really human? If the heart stops does someone cease to be human? If the frontal cortex ceases to function is someone no longer human? Does a human exist without their body? Does the body define a human?

Fourth, if humanity is at risk what are the precautions against the cessation of our species? While humans may seek to support and protect each other in such a scenario what happens if a person is scratched or bit by a zombie, yet there has been no obvious evidence of infection? Is it best to kill that person for the sake of the group (a sort of apocalyptic utilitarianism) or does their current preservation of their humanity demand that we try to save them until it is obvious that they are infected?

Fifth, if you are bit by a zombie is suicide permissible? In many zombie scenarios a bullet through the head prevents zombies from functioning. If you are bit and you know you may become the walking dead is it OK to kill yourself as a measure of prevention both against future suffering and the use of your body to do evil?

What are your thoughts on these matters? Have you watched the show? Do other philosophical scenarios come to mind?