The internet has once again failed me. I entered what I felt was a very reasonable search query, “ethics of zombie creation,” and got nothing. I did try variations on the theme—“ethics of corpse reanimation” and “ethics of necromancy”—but the results were similarly disappointing.
This came about during a tricky passage in which my heroine was defending the morality of bringing a corpse back to life. Hypothetically, mind. Lucy has never personally tried to resurrect a cadaver. Because ew.
I was all set to list the arguments against creating zombies. I figured it would be easy. In the taboo hall of fame, necromancy is up there with incest and patricide.
But to my surprise, the issue isn’t black and white. It is gray. It is rotting-flesh gray.
Liches are obviously unethical, I’ll give you that, and so are revenants and draugrs and any other creature that retains its memories. Once the spirit has passed on, it’s wrong to drag it back just so you can have a nightmarish mythological monster to guard your valuables.
An animated body with no spirit or soul or thought, however, would not necessarily violate the laws of God and man.* It would be like having a not-very-durable robot.
*The laws of physics, on the other hand…
Honestly, I was only able to come up with one strong reason not to create zombies: ambulatory decaying bodies could spread disease. No one wants that.
But I wanted to hear other reasons, so I posed the question to Facebook. I got quite a few responses—no surprise, really, since the abuse of necromantic power affects us all:
- Intent: Zombies are ethical if the necromancer plans to use them for benign purposes, for instance, as personal backup singers. Zombies are not ethical if they are to be used as soldiers in an army of the dead.
- Survivors: Seeing a loved one’s corpse shambling about may be unpleasant for surviving friends and family.
- Unnatural acts: Violating the boundaries of death makes people uncomfortable
- Pain: One does not need to be sentient to experience pain. Zombies have nerve endings and, perhaps, neurological impulses—but if they do feel pain, they are unable to communicate their distress. Unless that’s what the moaning is all about.
- Consent: As with organ donation, it is unethical to use human remains for experimentation or reanimation without express consent. This is why it is important to maintain an unliving will.