Dr. Stone’s Philosophy of Science

Dr. Stone, a manga currently running in Weekly Shonen Jump, really rocks! It takes place thousands of years in the future, when a worldwide (and mysterious) tragedy in our own day has kicked humanity back into the stone age. (A truly petrifying thought.) There are a handful of survivors from our time (this is a manga, after all), and they decide to take the opportunity to rebuild civilization according to their visions of ideal humanity. Except they don’t all have the same vision, and so conflict is inevitable.

Enter Senku, one such leader who is something of a genius. For seventy-nine chapters, he’s been proclaiming that he will build a civilization of SCIENCE!, and has largely made good on that promise: He’s guided his tribe to (re)develop everything from glass-blowing to radios to automobiles.

Against Senku is set the tribe of Tsukasa and Hyoga. These two both want to preserve only the “best” people—in other words, they’re running a eugenics program. In the most recent chapters (80 & 81), Senku and Tsukasa have a showdown and manage to reach a truce. Hyoga, however, tries to win Senku over to his side (it’s manga, so remember to read right-to-left):

 

I was struck that here it is the scientist who rejects the ‘logical’ argument, which is a purely utilitarian (“usefulness-based”) way of thinking about things. Senku does not see science as replacing greater goods like human life, nor as justifying the rejection of charity towards our neighbor. For as much as he has trumpeted the glory of science up until this point, when the chips are down he values science in the service of human life and dignity.

About a hundred years ago, G.K. Chesterton made the following remark (which I find doubly prescient as I type this on Election Day):

If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by clarity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason. (Chesterton, Orthodoxy)

In other words, logic devoid of conscience becomes a peculiar form of insanity. A reasonable person should not be purely logical, in the same way that air should not be purely oxygen (which would kill you). C.S. Lewis described this phenomenon in The Abolition of Man, in which he wrote that today society produces men whose heads (i.e. logic) seem big only because their chests (i.e., their hearts, their sense of right and wrong) are so small.

So it’s appropriate, then, that the voice of reason in Dr. Stone also has a strong heart. And it’s fortunate for the members of the tribes that Senku has come to be their leader. In the end, the Stone rejected by the (empire) builders has become the cornerstone of the entire social edifice.

Rock on, Dr. Stone!

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