Passage in this section is followed by a group of question which is to be answered on the basis of what is stated or implied in the passage. For some questions, more than one of the choices could conceivably answer the question. However, you are to choose the best answer, that is, the response that most accurately and completely answers the question and blacken the corresponding space.
One of the most prolific authors of all time, Isaac Asimov was influential both in science fiction and in the popularization of science during the twentieth century, but he is also justly famous for the scope of his interests. Although the common claim that Asimov is the only author to have written a book in every category of the Dewey decimal system is untrue, its spirit provides an accurate picture of the man: a dedicated humanist who lauded the far-reaching power of reason. His most famous work, the Foundation trilogy, can be read as an illustration of Asimov’s belief in reason and science, but even while he expressed that belief, science itself was calling it into question.
Foundation describes a time in which a vast Empire spanning the galaxy is on the verge of collapse. Its inevitable doom is a consequence not of its size, but of the shortsightedness of its leaders. In this environment, a scientist named Hari Seldon devises an all encompassing plan to help human civilization recover from the trauma of the Empire’s coming collapse. Using mathematics, Seldon is able to predict the future course of history for thousands of years, and he takes steps that are geared toward guiding that future in a beneficial direction. The trope of the benevolent and paternalistic scientist shaping existence from behind the scenes, present in much of Asimov’s fiction, is never more explicit than in the Foundation series, which describes with an epic sweep the course and progress of the Seldon Plan.
As naive and, perhaps, self-serving as the conceit of Foundation may seem to contemporary readers, it retains to some degree its ability of comfort by offering an antidote to the complex and unpredictable nature of experience. Science in Asimov’s time was, in popular conceptions, engaged in just this pursuit: discerning immutable laws that operate beneath a surface appearance of contingency, inexplicability, and change. But even while Asimov wrote, science itself was changing. In Physics, the study of matter at the subatomic level showed that indeterminacy was not a transitory difficulty to be overcome, but an essential physical principle. In Biology, the sense of evolution as steady progress toward better-adapted forms was being disturbed by proof of a past large-scale evolution taking place in brief explosions, of frantic change. At the time of Asimov’s death, even Mathematics was gaining popular notice for its interest in chaos and inexplicability. Usually summarized in terms of the so-called ‘butterfly effect’, chaos theory showed that perfect prediction could take place only on the basis of perfect information, which was by nature impossible to obtain. Science had dispensed with the very assumptions that motivated Asimov’s idealization of it in the Seldon Plan. Indeed, it was possible to see chaos at work in Foundation itself: as sequels multiplied and began to be tied into narrative threads from Asimov’s other novels, the urge to weave one grand narrative spawned myriad internal inconsistencies that were never resolved.
Which one of the following most accurately expresses the main point of the passage?
Isaac Asimov’s greatest work, the Foundation trilogy, is an expression of the common trope of the benevolent and paternalistic scientist
Popularizations of science are always to some degree dependent idealizations and simplifications of that science, as Isaac Asimov’s work demonstrates
The impossibility of the conceit on which Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy is based demonstrates that Asimov’s fiction was based on imperfect understandings of science.
Isaac Asimov’s idealization of science as revealed in his Foundation series was called into question by the science of his time, which was increasingly focused on Chaos and indeterminacy
Isaac Asimov’s idealization of science as revealed in his Foundation series was called into question by the science of his time, which was increasingly focused on Chaos and indeterminacy.
The last sentence of the first paragraph sets the tone and the central theme of the passage that is analyzed in subsequent paragraphs that Asimov's belief was in question as scientific temper grew. Finally, his belief as expressed in the Foundation proved to be great chaos. Therefore the option 'Isaac Asimov’s idealization of science as revealed in his Foundation series was called into question by the science of his time, which was increasingly focused on Chaos and indeterminacy' most accurately expresses the main point of the passage.