In “Alternative Explanations, Part III: Telekinetic Characters,” we considered ways by which skeptics seek to debunk claims that some people make concerning their ability to move or affect objects simply by the use of mental powers, an act known as telekinesis. In the final part of this series, we’ll consider how your horror story’s skeptical character might challenge the belief that vampires, werewolves, and zombies actually exist.
Vampires are corpses that demons possess and animate, causing them to terrorize the living, upon whose blood they feed, sucking it from their victims’ jugular veins after piercing them with their vampire fangs. Anyone whom the vampire bites also becomes a vampire, an incident that has permitted a mathematician to deliver devastating proof that vampires do not and cannot exist.
According to “Math proves that the Buffy universe harbors no more than 512 vampires,” Costa Efthimiou and Sohang Gandi, authors of Ghosts, Vampires, and Goblins: Cinema Fiction vs. Physics Reality, vampires do not and cannot exist because, if they did, they would soon “depopulate the earth.” According to the authors, were a vampire to appear on the earth in the year 1600, when the world’s population numbered 536,870,911 people, and this vampire fed upon only one person per month, thereby transforming him or her into a vampire, each of which newly created vampire also fed upon one human per month, transforming him or her into another vampire, the whole human population of the planet would have been transformed into bloodsucking fiends in only thirty months, despite any offset that would be gained by the human birth rate. Therefore, Efthimiou and Gandi conclude:
. . . that vampires cannot exist, since their existence contradicts the existence of human beings. Incidentally, theological proof that we just presented is of a type known as reductio ad absurdum, that is, reduction to the absurd. Another philosophical principal related to our argument is the truism given the elaborate title, the anthropic principle. This states that if something is necessary for human existence, then it must be true since we do exist. In the present case, the nonexistence of vampires is necessary for human existence. Apparently, whomever devised the vampire legend had failed his college algebra and philosophy courses.
Sorry, Buffy Summers, but your career as a “vampire slayer” and the difficult sacrifices it entailed as you sought to defend the world against bloodsucking fiends were totally unnecessary and ridiculous, and you could have had the normal life that you so often claimed to crave. Apparently, you really were nothing more than the paranoid schizophrenic that you were diagnosed to be in one of your television series’ episodes.
Wait a minute! Buffy also fought other paranormal and supernatural threats, including demons, ghosts, werewolves, and zombies. If one or more of these monsters actually exist, maybe she wasn’t completely crazy, after all, and maybe she didn’t waste the best years of her life.
We’ve already dealt with demons, ghosts, and vampires. But what about werewolves and zombies? Might they exist? Somewhere? Somehow?
A werewolf is a animal (or a human) that can switch back and forth from being a human (or an animal) to being an animal (or a human) and is believed to devour humans. (It’s all rather complicated.) Unfortunately, as our spoilsport extraordinaire, The Skeptic’s Dictionary, points out, “there are no documented cases of any human turning into a wolf and back.” The best we can come up with is lycanthropy, a delusion in which its victim believes he’s a wolf, just as a person may believe that he is possessed by demons. Perhaps especially hirsute men have experienced this delusion, adding to the belief that men and wolves are--or, at times, can be--pretty much the same thing. Extreme hairiness does occur, in both men and women (ever heard of the “bearded lady”?), usually as a result of the genetic disorder known as hypertrichosis or such disorders as adrenal virilism, basophilic adenoma of the pituitary, masculinizing ovarian tumors, or Stein-Leventhal syndrome. At least, that’s what your horror story’s skeptical character can suggest to explain the misguided beliefs of others that werewolves are afoot. The Skeptic’s Dictionary article on “werewolves” links to photographs of people who are afflicted with these conditions.
We’re going to conclude our review of paranormal and supernatural phenomena and the explanations that a skeptical character may offer as alternatives to those that claim that these phenomena result from the existence and exercise of mysterious, occult powers by considering the zombie.
According to the drill, zombies are soulless bodies created by voodoo sorcerers. Scientists believe that zombies are actual people who are drugged, kidnapped, buried alive, disinterred, and kept as slave laborers:
The black magic of voodoo sorcerers allegedly consists of chemicals, various poisons (perhaps that of the puffer fish) which immobilize a person for days, as well as hallucinogens administered upon revival. The result is a complacent, paralyzed, or brain damaged creature used by the sorcerers as slaves, viz., the zombies.
The other kind of zombie--the corpse that is revived but without benefit of the soul it once had, seems unlikely (okay, downright impossible) to anyone beyond the age of nine or ten, so if it’s this kind that’s supposed to be running loose through your story’s setting, the skeptical character has every right to cast aspersions upon the view that the antagonists are really and truly revenants. Indeed, his or her failure to do so would be cause to transform this undoubting doubter into a zombie him- or herself.
Sources Cited in the “Alternative Explanations” series.
The Skeptic’s Dictionary
Federation of American Scientists
Ghosts, Vampires, and Goblins: Cinema Fiction vs. Physics Reality