Nearly thirty years after his death, Isaac Asimov’s acclaimed Foundation series—long deemed unfilmable—has been adapted for the screen. Co-created by David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman for Apple TV+, season one of Foundation recently concluded with its tenth episode, and seven more seasons have been proposed (season two is already confirmed). The production itself is an impressive feat; Asimov’s mythology is remarkably expansive, encompassing an entire galaxy over the course of a millennium and including a host of characters and locations. Another challenge for the writers is that while Asimov was a brilliant science fiction world-builder, his plotlines—though at times riveting—do not achieve the humane depth required for inspiring significant admiration, empathy, or repulsion towards any of the characters. Ultimately, what Goyer, Friedman, and their team have produced is not a faithful adaptation of the source material; the broad strokes of the story remain, but it has essentially been reinvented with engaging human complexities, intriguing subplots and backstories, and diversification of the characters. Throughout the premiere season of this thorough revamping (dare I say, enhancement?) of the Foundation saga, several interesting philosophical themes are explored. These include intergenerational justice (specifically, our moral obligation to people of the very distant future), the existence and nature of the soul, and our longing for a grand narrative that gives life significance and makes sense of the human condition. Like all good science fiction, Foundation goes far deeper than exciting, futuristic story settings and flashy starship battles; it offers thoughtful viewers plenty of big ideas to ponder. The few discussed here—intergenerational justice, the nature of the soul, the human need for a grand narrative of existence, and the power of myth—fit beautifully within the worldview of Christian theism, but they’re deeply problematic for a materialist paradigm.

This Postmodern Realities episode is a conversation with Journal author Melissa Cain Travis about her spoiler filled online-exclusive article, “Religious Robots and Other Curiosities: Exploring Philosophical Themes in Apple TV’s Foundation Series.

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