But also because zombies, as cultural figures, are inherently anthropologically dualistic. Think about it: you take a human person, give'em a zombie bite, and the person dies but their dead body, who is not the person you used to know, becomes reanimated by an external force of some kind and then tries to eat your brains. This is precisely why, of course, we can kill zombies with impunity and without remorse: they are not human anymore. They are not the person they were; that essential self is gone, and the body that looks like the person you used to know is just a dead vehicle being driven by something else. --You just don't get more dualistic than that!
So it's curious to me that the read of The Walking Dead in the blog post from religiondispatches.org, "Toward a Zombie Theology," is that the working anthropology is materialistic:
"But even with Christian overtones the writers of Walking Dead end up coming down in favor of brain-based consciousness. In death, including the death of the brain, Dr. Jenner says, “Everything you ever were, or will be…[is] gone.”Note: I haven't been watching this show, so the interpretation of the show may well be right on target...which means that the writers of the show should be wrestling with how to reconcile the inherent dualism of zombies with their attempt at materialism. In any case, my point is that zombies, as a symbolic monstrous posthuman figure in our cultural landscape, are much more at home with garden-variety dualism of body/soul than they are with materialism of any sort, reductive or non-reductive.
Whereas cyborgs, on the other hand, are resolutely materialistic. What makes a cyborg? Some sort of bodily merging of biology and technology--flesh and machine. Now, we think of human persons and machines as categorically different, not least because machines don't have "souls"--which we can just define here very loosely as that essential inner thing which animates a creature. Machines are not animated; humans are--basic categorical difference. So, what the cyborg does, conceptually, is render that categorical difference highly questionable. If a single creature is part human and part machine--then what is the difference between human and machine? And if we can create (and we regularly do, let's note) humans that actually are to some degree "part machine" and they are much better off thus--that is to say, able to flourish as humans because of their part-machine-ness--then, part of being human includes the potential of interfacing and merging with technology and making it a functional part of ourselves. Here, then, the definition of human shifts into one with an emphasis on embodiment, and the surprising ways our bodies are configurable. That's moving away from dualism with a vengeance.
So the question posed in response to zombies is actually much better posed in response to cyborgs:
"So does this leave theology out in the cold? The dominant theological understanding for anthropology in Christianity is still dualistic, a synthesis of the physical body and an immaterial spirit or soul, but in recent years those advocating a monistic view of human nature have arisen, articulating a perspective they call “nonreductive physicalism.” This view, advocated by scholars like Fuller Seminary’s Nancey Murphy, recognizes the significance of the cognitive neurosciences that have cast doubt on philosophical and theological concepts of the soul, but argues for human significance and the divine as opposed to materialist interpretations in the field."Do we need a concept of the soul in order to faithfully interpret the biblical canon and the Christian tradition? I would argue, rather, we would probably do better to dump it in order to better understand both our own scripture and Christian tradition and the best available (and constantly evolving) scientific witness on the anthropological question.