On The Walking Dead
The Uncaring Science of The Walking Dead
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;–then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.
–John Keats, purportedly written in the midst of his fears of dying from tuberculosis
There is a stubborn and persistent myth about science with a capital “S” that both inflames and relieves our most primal fears: all questions will soon be answered! This was the rallying cry about 150 years ago as society underwent powerful cultural shifts. Darwin told us about evolution in 1859. The world didn’t come about in seven days. It took millions of years for life to take shape. A century before that, Linnaeus had told us that we could scientifically categorize everything that lives. The naming of the species was a function of science, not derived from the Book of Genesis. Then, around 1800, a French physician named Jean Marc Gasper Itard set out to define the human condition itself by observing the “Wild Boy of Aveyron,” a feral child who was apparently raised by wolves. Science, it seemed, was promising answers to the vast unknowns of our world, and ecumenical notions slowly lost influence in popular thinking.
All this change got folks a little worked up. Whereas religion and, more broadly, faith had held sway in the human psyche’s need to wonder …