On the Nature of Evil (Also, Zombie Sex)

So I'm riding through the post-apocalyptic American northwest when it suddenly hits me — stamps. No one is putting stamps on their mail. I'm missing a gold mine of opportunity here. Seriously, I charge everybody a quarter per letter, and I could retire in like five years. The only question is what do I put on the stamps? My head says skinny Elvis, but my heart says Fat Elvis. I'd love to hear your suggestions for the first stamps of the post-apocalypse — as well as your questions — at postman@io9.com. Now, on with your letters!

The Frakking Dead

Matt G.:
Would having sex with a zombie be necrophilia? Most people accept "necrophilia" to be "sex with the dead" while zombies themselves are "undead" ...or would it be the definition of "sexual attraction to corpses" which (in that case) might fit well with zombies. Interesting...


Interesting… and super gross. I suppose it's really all a matter of semantics; since zombies are often called the living dead, the walking dead or even just "the dead," I'd say most people would call sex with a zombie necrophilia, and in terms of word use, that's really all that matters.

Now, say if the zombie apocalypse happened and people were shtupping zombies left and right and it started a national debate on whether this horrible, disgusting practice should be called necrophilia, well, then we'd probably have to think of something different. Since we get most of our "-philias" from Latin, and the Latin verb for "to live" is vivere, as seen in words like "vivisection," I think we could probably go with "vivinecrophilia" for a specific attraction to the living dead.

This Is IT

Eric O.:
I was reminiscing about the golden age of computers with some co-workers the other day, thinking fondly of the days we would have to manually program our mainframe (in order to boot it) by flipping toggle switches on the front panel and pressing a separate "enter" button in order to enter the boot sequence instructions. This was a long and laborious task, even after the invention of a paper tape reader.

It suddenly struck me that if there had been a computer help-desk hotline in those days and we had problems with our computer, how would we have reacted to the all-too-common "Have you tried rebooting your computer?"

How would the world of computers be different now if the worst stereotype of help-desk hotlines had existed in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s?


Wow. First of all, bonus points for this wonderfully weird question. And yes, by default the IT crowds of yore would have to work harder just to achieve the miracle balm known as "turning it off and on again," because as you've described, turning those ancient computers off and on again was no simple task.


However, the only people who owned computers in the ‘60s were universities and major corporations, who would have had experts on staff. They wouldn't need a help line, because they could handle it themselves. By the end of the ‘70s, how many people had personal computers? Maybe 500,000 or so? You could probably hire five guys with actual patience to staff that tech support line.

Memory of Light

Hello Good Sir:

Just finished reading your article on bringing back the Greek gods. I'm a doctoral candidate majoring in Philosophy (who also teaches Comparative Religion), and this sort of thing is almost exactly my cup of tea.

My question is, why, exactly, don't traditional arguments for the existence of evil convince you? I'm quite fond of St. Augustine's, as I remember writing an essay on it during my first semester as an undergrad (my first "A"!). I actually quite like it; broken legs hurt, and so do broken worlds.

I'm rather disappointed that you dismissed this point so casually.


I honestly thought about going into a giant diatribe in the Greek gods rant — I had it half written out — but then I realized it was hijacking the article, so I deleted it. I didn't mean to dismiss the subject casually, but I also wanted to stay on my (admittedly goofy) point.

If memory serves, St. Augustine's theory of evil is that it was simply a byproduct of our metaphysical distance from God. I.e., think of a light bulb, the bulb being God and the light being goodness. The farther away you get from the light bulb, the less the light is able to reach, and the more darkness creeps in, the darkness obviously being evil.


My problem with this is that God, being omnipotent — which Augustine very much believed — is still the dude who set these rules. He's the one who decided his goodness has a maximum radius, which means he's still allowing evil into the world, which, as a loving god — which Augustine also very much believed — he shouldn't want to do.

If things that are not God are inevitably corruptible by virtue of not being God, the God is either 1) not omnipotent, because he's loving and would want to remove all evil but can't, 2) omnipotent but not entirely loving, because he's allowing evil on purpose. And it's one thing to say evil equals bad guys and murderers and people who don't replace the toilet paper rolls when they use one up, because that's free will, and that's people choosing to be evil. Maybe that doesn't count.


But then when you get to cruelty of the world — the plight of third world countries, the innocents who suffer during wars, illness, traffic accidents, the poor bastards who had the misfortune to be born before Jesus wiped away original sin… that's the kind of stuff I'd thing a loving, omnipotent god would take care of, light bulb of goodness or not.

Basically, I don't think Augustine truly solves the contradiction. But like all discussions of religion, I expect my argument to change absolutely no one's mind, and I doubt the rebuttals that will show up in the comments will change my mind. I definitely hope this won't get weird or volatile. But I hope you can see why I didn't put this smack dab in the middle of my Greek gods rant.


Going Down

Bruce C.:
Like falling in an elevator car, can one avoid injury by jumping up before impact?


One couldn't avoid injury, because since you're inside the plummeting elevator, jumping would barely change your velocity. If you jumped at exactly the right second — which would be tough since you wouldn't actually be able to see the ground and when you'd hit — you're still falling nearly as fast as the elevator, and thus are going to crash almost as hard. It'd be smarter (and easier) to bend your knees and try to use them as shocks for the impact. Oh, they'll probably still shatter, but better your legs than your skull.

Heads Above Water

Justin B.:
Your question about whether zombies can drink or not reminded me of a question that I've debated with friends: Can zombies swim? I'm thinking no — that they wouldn't have the coordination for it. Walk under water maybe, but only at the risk of being carried away by currents / waves. Water seems to me to be the most under-utilized barrier of the zombie apocalypse genre. Wouldn't an island be a good place to hold up? Better yet, Alcatraz — a prison (like Walking Dead) but with substantial natural barriers to prevent 'walkers' from ever reaching the island and San Francisco / the Bay Area an easy boat ride away if you need to make a run for supplies. Zombie apocalypse solved ... I think.


I feel safe in declaring zombies can't swim. It requires a minimum of coordination that zombies can't perform. And I think you're right, that any zombie who enters the ocean would be very susceptible to underwater currents, and get dragged god knows where.


Meaning an island would be a great idea, especially those further away from the mainland. Even if they managed to not to get swept away by the currents, the water pressure would probably crush most if not all zombies into an undead pulp. And if you're on a floating island — as many islands are — I don't know how a zombie could possibly reach you, unless the currents actually washed it on shore. Which is possible, I guess, but not particularly likely.

FYI, Alcatraz is connected to the mainland, so I thought zombies might be able to just walk across from San Francisco. It turns out the deepest part of the San Francisco Bay is only 372 feet; however, how water pressure at that level would affect a dead body is beyond this humble Postman. Human divers can go below 100 feet unaided, but Navy Seals with training and equipment have managed to dive 1000 feet. I have no idea at what depth water pressure would crush a dead body, but I welcome any help in the comments.


Pet Sounds

Joshua N.
After the world ends, I have a feeling it will be more difficult to have conventional pets. Sure, we'll still have dogs, but none of these sissy ankle biters. What do you think is the ideal pet for the post apocalypse?


Although I'm a cat person — it's not as needy or slobbery as a dog, and it can poop in a specific box without my assistance — I imagine a dog would be the most useful pet after the apocalypse, purely for its ability to sense strangers/potential threats before you do. Any dog that would start barking when it smells someone approaching would be as useful as a gun, really.

Of course, I've known many dogs who, upon sensing strangers, will silently run toward them and beg for head scratches, which would be no good if those strangers happen to be a cannibalistic biker gang or something. This is what my cat would do, assuming my cat wouldn't just fuck off the minute I took it outside. Of course, I also knew a dog that was so dumb it ran across the house into a closed front door, and hit it so hard it unlocked the deadbolt. So… yeah, my answer is "a dog that isn't an idiot."


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