Zombies get philosophical

You may not think of our flesh-eating diseased brethren as being the thoughtful types. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.
As Sci mentioned, I’m gonna be holed up in the Costco for a while so I got time to think about it. They’re the slow-moving-undead zombies, not those ultra-quick “infected” (I hate those creepy bastards). I rolled down those big steel doors, barricaded them with anything heavy I could find here, gathered up all the lighting supplies for when the power goes out, bandaged up that bite on my arm, and I’ve taken to making jerky out of all this meat I’ve got laying around the store. I even got chainsaws in case they break in. Not my weapon of choice by a long shot since all it does is attract more zombies, but they’ll do. I should be able to last a while. Other survivors are knocking on the door. I can’t let them in, I might put myself at risk. Maybe I’ll toss them some supplies from the roof later. If they make it.
So while I slice up all this beef and prep it for low heat cookin’, I’m thinking about these buggers. Are they just driven by a bunch of chemical reactions in their diseased brains?They got a rudimentary consciousness in there someplace, right? Or do they? People normally think of consciousness as the ability to self-evaluate, to reflect on one’s own mental state. Consciousness is frequently referred to as an emergent phenomenon, or one that can’t readily be predicted by knowing all the properties of its constituents. For example, we can’t really predict “wetness” from knowing the properties of a water molecule.
Some philosophers suggest that mental processes supervene on physical processes. That is, you can’t reductively just break down all the physical processes of the brain and get a true understanding of mentation. That being said, though, you can’t have the mental process without the physical. At least that we know about or can explain.
Hmm I’m getting hungry and these granola bars aren’t cutting it. Guess I don’t have to wait for the meat to cook, I can just start eating it as I slice it. Hey, it ain’t that gross! Whole cultures make a dining habit of eating raw beef. Ever heard of carpaccio, huh? Steak tartare? Kitfo? Mmm. Funny thing is, the more raw meat I eat the less that bite on my arm itches.
Some philosophers would say that it is possible to imagine a universe just like ours in every way, with all the same physical laws, except that this property of supervenience doesn’t apply to mental phenomena. That is to say, there’s another universe out there with an identical “you”, down to every last molecule, doing exactly what you are doing right now. Like making jerky. Mmmm jerky.
God I wish those survivors would stop banging on the door. I can’t think with all that racket!
The difference between You and 2nd you (called Ewe) is that Ewe doesn’t have the ability to self-evaluate. Ewe is not aware, Ewe is just playing out the fucktillions of molecular interactions going on in Ewe’s body. And since all the same physical laws apply to You and Ewe, You and Ewe will continue to live out the exact same life. The only difference is, Ewe isn’t aware of any of it. Kind of like those ravenous, flesh-eating fuckers out there right now, hunting down the last of humanity and tearing us to pieces with their jagged little teeth.
I don’t really buy into this as an explanation for how consciousness works, because in this case consciousness really can’t impact thought processes at all. It is a passive, useless thing. Personally I prefer to think that evolution shaped our mental processes by shaping our physical processes, meaning that self-evaluation serves a useful role in our survival. If I get out of this mess, I’m gonna head to the library and read up some more……
Dammit, stop banging on the damn door!!!!!!! RRRRRRRRRRR.
So anyway… self-evaluation. Yeah. What was I saying? Shit. Can’t think. Hungry. Arm itches.
Tried raw beef, pork, chicken, turkey. I’m craving some long pig, and Costco doesn’t carry that. Really craving it.
Time to go let those other survivors in.

Zombies and Cannibalism: the spread of an epidemic

Let’s all pause and contemplate how awesome I look as a zombie. I DO love brains. Very much. OM NOM NOM.
So Sci was thinking about what to post for Zombie Day. She thought about wondering if dogs could sniff early stage zombie infection and thus help with quarantine. She thought about whether or not grocery stores would be a good place to hide, but Evil assured her that Costco is better (everything is better when you buy IN BULK!). She then thought about maybe finding a disease or mental problem that made people crave human flesh.
And then she went, holy crap that is AWESOME.
And then I abandoned that one paper I was going to write about wasps, which is ALSO awesome, but will have to happen another time.
Because we usually think of a zombie epidemic as being something that would occur via a viral or bacterial infection, which would then cause the victim to become undead and then go about seeking human flesh (or brains, but apparently the fixation on brains alone is a relatively new phenomenon in the zombie mythos).
But what about the cannibalism itself, the whole seeking after human flesh bit? What if a lust for human flesh could arise from…eating human flesh? As, say, in a scenario where starvation was forcing people to cannibalism, and thus the massive social taboos against cannibalism are relaxed? And then…all you’d need is a disease that spread VIA cannibalism. Like kuru, only this would involve MOAR BRAINZ.
So this post has two aspects to it, the prospect for spread, and the prospect of a way to eliminate the zombie menace.
ResearchBlogging.org Rudolf and Antonovics. “Disease transmission by cannibalism: rare event or common occurrence?” Proceedings of Biological Science, 2007.
I would also like to note that killing people and eating them apparently sounds a lot more scientific as “interspecific necrophagy”.

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All we SciBlings want to do is eat your brains Sci loves Jonathan Coulton WAY too much.
So you might ask, where did this come from?
Well, the other day, Sci was talking to Pal. And we were talking about how many depressing things were going on in the world at large and didn’t that suck. And then Pal said “yeah, I just want to think about Zombies”. And Sci thought “that’s so cool because zombies are AWESOME!” And then I recalled how I still go back and read SouthernFriedScientist’s post on Vampires and zombies when I’m blue. And then we had an idea…
There is so much depressing stuff going on every day. And we can’t ignore that stuff, we need to address it. But wouldn’t it be awesome if everyone took a day and talked about zombies?!
And so we did.
So watch out, everyone! Today, Sciblings are out to eat yer brainz! Check out the mainpage for handy links to all things zombie, and Sci will be tweeting the hilarious stuff as it comes out.
(Don’t I look AWESOME?! Thanks to Joseph of Ataraxia Theatre for the pics! Also, he’s doing an RPG with robots. Cause he can. And robots are cool.)