David Dietle wrote a wonderful article for Cracked called “7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail (Quickly).” I won’t go to great lengths to quote him, because his article basically speaks for itself, but I do feel pressure to see if I can possibly challenge his claims. Are there any weaknesses in his arguments? Maybe.
He begins by saying that, to “go from one zombie to millions” just “doesn’t make any sense.” I would not go that far. It would kind of make sense, assuming zombies could indeed become a real phenomenon. Dietle neglects how, even now, people are capable of colossal screwups and misdeeds, and that no number of “scientific reasons” can totally annihilate that reality. Add zombies to the mix and you’ll see some potential for chaos.
But what are his specific reasons?
#7 on his list is simple: Zombies would have too many natural predators — particularly maggots that would eat away their eyes and such. He also mentions stray dogs and other assorted animals. Being that I’m no maggot scientist (maggotologist?), I can’t say I’ve tested to what extent maggots could potentially invade the body of something like a zombie. However, do a quick Google search and you’ll find horror stories of maggots invading living human hosts, so there is certainly something to this.
A common argument here is that, perhaps, zombie flesh and meat are actually toxic to bacteria and are in some ways resistant to decomposition. Maybe they are even resistant to maggots, for all we would know. Another maybe: Maybe walkers actually would have slight healing powers, even if zombie movies/TV shows neglect mentioning them (or, more realistically, it’s a big-time plot hole). Such powers would all make sense, as a zombie would basically require such powers to exist for any length of time.
I salute any zombie who can last very long, under the constant threats they’re under.
Of course, we do not know what to actually call these powers, but they make for an interesting theory. The “zombie flesh is resistant to bacteria” theory would help explain why practically no animals prey on zombies. If zombies are naturally repellent to animals, it’s rather self-explanatory how they can roam about relatively freely.
Reasons #6 and #5 tackle the elements of hot and cold. Surely seasons would do a number on zombies, turning them into mummies and, presumably, actually damaging the zombie’s brains over time. It’s noted that hotter weather is certainly conducive to bacteria, so it would therefore be bad for zombies.
But, yet again, we have to assume a zombie requires resistance to such changes in order to function for any length of time. We have to assume they are, somehow, someway, naturally able to stave off the worst aspects of decomposition by resisting bacteria. In cold weather, a zombie’s flesh would presumably become rigid to the point where damage is inevitable. Dietle says “Freezer burned meat isn’t just dead, it’s destroyed.” I too have wondered how zombies could survive things like extreme cold or being set on fire — especially fire, because that can easily fry one’s brain.
However, we again have to wonder if a zombie’s brain would be resistant to extreme temperature increases or decreases, just as it would be resistant to simple bacterial invasion. These topics may not be presented in standard zombie lore, but they again seem to be required for zombies to last. There simply would have to be something different — special — about the body of a zombie for it to keep on keeping on.
Reason #4 is not quite as strong as the previous ones, because it says biting is not a reliable way to spread disease. However, I think it could be reliable, especially in the early stages where no one’s expecting to be bitten by someone who is dead. Dietle also neglects how, at least in the Romero and Walking Dead universes, everyone already has the zombie virus within them.
In other words, it is a lot worse than simply avoiding bites. Also, he gives way too much credit to the CDC for their potential ability to prevent disease. I don’t wish to trash them but, let’s face it, they could only do so much to not only stop bites, but to protect anyone from any other type of disease. Maybe they do a halfway decent job, but they’re not dealing with zombies as of yet. They would be a whole other thing, even if biting was the only way to be infected.
Reason #3 is all about the damage zombies take, and their inability to heal. Certainly in standard depictions, zombies stumble and bumble around, barely doing anything to avoid obstacles. They are totally oblivious to imminent danger and never get their tax forms turned in on time. The premise here is that they destroy themselves in due time just by being mindless. This also goes with reason #2, all the natural and man-made barriers to zombie traffic.
Yes, there are rivers, trees, mountains, etc. that would slow these morons down, but this does not mean they could never get around and never pose a threat to anyone. It’s reasonable to assume they wouldn’t all confine themselves to the Grand Canyon or something, and just become a curiosity for tourists. So that’s it for that one.
Reason #1 is simply that people — and particularly Americans — have lots of weapons. Of course, this assumes people wouldn’t spend a significant amount of time and energy fighting each other. Just look at today’s world and we can throw that assumption in the trash.