Asimov & The Benedict Option

Sep 30, 2021 by

by Rod Dreher, The American Conservative:

The other night, a friend in Kansas said that I should watch the new Apple TV take on Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series of novels, because it sounds like the Benedict Option. I did, and really liked the first episode. Then yesterday, a friend in Texas texted to tell me that I should read those Asimov books to explain the Ben Op to people. Well, obviously I haven’t had time to read the books, but the first episode of the Apple series tells me a lot. Let’s talk about it for a moment.

This Wikipedia summary is accurate, and covers most of what you learn in the first episode of the Apple TV series:

The premise of the stories is that, in the waning days of a future Galactic Empire, the mathematician Hari Seldon spends his life developing a theory of psychohistory, a new and effective mathematical sociology. Using statistical laws of mass action, it can predict the future of large populations. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a Dark Age lasting 30,000 years before a second empire arises. Although the inertia of the Empire’s fall is too great to stop, Seldon devises a plan by which “the onrushing mass of events must be deflected just a little” to eventually limit this interregnum to just one thousand years. To implement his plan, Seldon creates the Foundations—two groups of scientists and engineers settled at opposite ends of the galaxy—to preserve the spirit of science and civilization, and thus become the cornerstones of the new galactic empire.

The Ben Op tie-in, obviously, is that Hari Seldon (played by Jared Harris in the new series) foresees the Empire falling, and wants to preserve its knowledge in these Foundations settlements — scientific monasteries. In the show, the Emperors (they are a triad) do not want to hear this bad news, because they are correctly afraid that it would demoralize the imperial population. Seldon and his protege barely escape with their lives.

Watching the show, and taking note of the parallels, it struck me that “the inertia of the Empire’s fall is too great to stop” is exactly the way I would put it regarding our own Empire. I believe that we are headed for a very nasty crash, and that it’s probably too late to stop it. If we hope to stop it, we are going to have to live in ways that few people are willing to live. Therefore, we are going to fall. It might not take place in my lifetime, but it is going to happen.

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