By Frazier Moore
AP Television Writer
NEW YORK – Morgan Freeman calls his mind-expanding series “Through the Wormhole,” but he doesn’t recommend you take the title literally.
“Here’s the thing about going into a wormhole: Where are you going to come out?” He chuckles. “And if you go in, you can’t be worrying about getting back. So I don’t know about that.”
What Freeman does know is, he likes taking mind trips. He likes asking big questions and seeing where his mental odyssey will take him.
He’s at it again for a second season of “Through the Wormhole,” which premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. EDT on cable’s Science channel. And these questions loom bigger than any single answer.
Episodes will deal with such puzzlers as: Are there more than three dimensions? What do aliens look like? Is there an edge to the universe? Can we live forever?
This week, Freeman starts things off with a bang by inquiring: Is there life after death?
“Is the soul a myth, or one of the fundamental elements of the universe?” he poses on the episode. “Where does consciousness come from? And where does it go when we die?”
“Ultimately, every one of us will discover the truth,” Freeman tells his audience consolingly. “But will we ever enter our final hour knowing our fate?”
Freeman seems the perfect guy to lead this kind of quest. An Oscar-winning actor who, by the way, has played God in not one but two films (“Bruce Almighty” and “Evan Almighty”), he has a reassuring, even soulful manner that makes the cosmological feel not quite so overwhelming.
“We’re just asking questions,” he gently sums up during a recent interview. “You can ask ANY question, can’t you?
“I’m not really scientific. I’m just an itinerant actor. I’m just curious. So how do I get to be hosting this science show? I enjoy this stuff! It fascinates me.”
For Freeman, who turned 74 on June 1, such questions have fascinated him since high school.
“I wasn’t interested in science or math-oriented,” he says. “I’m not left-brain at all. But when I was a senior, one of my classes was physics. I was an A student. Not because I knew anything. I just asked questions. The instructor would be talking and I’d raise my hand, and get the discussion going in a new direction.”
As a producer as well as narrator-host of “Through the Wormhole,” he gets to help pick the questions. For him, they are questions that, however far-reaching, sometimes hit close to home.
On this week’s episode, he recalls how he began wondering if there is life after death: “One morning when I was 6 years old, my grandmother didn’t wake up – then or ever again. It was my first experience with death.”
He also gets to help decide which experts are tapped to take a stab at each big question.
On the premiere, we meet a Harvard University neurosurgeon who miraculously emerged, back to normal, from deep-coma state. Though a scientist to his core, he speaks earnestly of having been a speck on the wing of a butterfly which was soaring over a beautiful meadow, then left this universe for a realm beyond whose major constituent, he says, was love.
Evidence of an afterlife?
Another scientist voices his theory that a person’s consciousness is entangled through the whole brain and, moreover, can migrate outside the brain. Upon death, the quantum information housed in that person’s brain is absorbed into the universe as that person’s enduring soul.
But another scientist – a so-called “materialist” – argues that the “soul” is the result of neurons firing on a massive scale within the brain. When the brain ceases to function, the “soul” is kaput.
And yet another specialist proposes that a person’s “soul” is actually a feedback loop of that person’s accumulating experience. As such, it’s a self-aware network of brain connections that has evolved over millions of years, informed by everything and everyone that went before – a sort of collective soul.
“Through the Wormhole” is chock-full of such varying, often clashing explanations for the biggest riddles life has to offer.
For someone who delves deep into these mysteries, is the absence of clear-cut solutions frustrating?
Not for Freeman.
“Any question that dogs me I’ve answered,” he declares. “Is there a God? Well, I’ve answered that. I know, absolutely. My answer is, yes.” He chuckles. “Now WHO that is, is where I get into trouble. But I’ve got enough operating certainty to ease my mind. I don’t have to be too concerned.”
For Freeman, heady questions without answers can be simply good fun.