Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman (television series on the Science Channel)

Through the Wormhole (narrated by Morgan Freeman, who is also one of the series’ executive producers) is a television series currently playing in its second season on the Science Channel that I believe deserves mention on this blog. As I noted before, I do see the purview of my blog to be primarily movies.  Movies lend themselves much more easily for review than television series because movies tend to be over in 2-3 hours while television series go on through multiple episodes or even for many years.  As such, one can’t give a definitive verdict on a television series until it’s over.  Still, as noted in my review of the television series on the Borgias which played recently on the Showtime cable channel network, I do see value in reviewing the occasional television series on account of its theme, quality and/or notoriety.

Perhaps taking some inspiration from a number of fairly successful, religiously themed series that have played on the History Channel (series of varying quality, I would add), Through the Wormhole is a remarkably brave series which seeks to discuss questions that touch on both science and religion and does so in a remarkably intelligent way.  

Since it’s first season last year, I have recommended this show to teenagers and their parents and to my joy I’ve found college students from my parish who are fans.

Each episode of the show deals with a rather fundamental topic.  The first seasons’s series topics were: “Is there a Creator?” “The riddle of Black Holes” “Is Time Travel Possible?” “What happened before the Beginning?” “How did we get here? ” “Are we Alone?” “What are we really made of?”  The second season’s topics were: “Is there Life after Death?”, “Is there an Edge to the Universe?”, “Does Time Really Exist?”, “Are There More Than Three Dimensions?”, “Is There a Sixth Sense?”, “How Does the Universe Work?”, “Faster than Light”, “Can We Live Forever?”

Each topic is introduced by Morgan Freeman by means of a short episode/parable from his childhood, reminding us that these are often questions that we ask even as kids. Then the show presents various remarkable contemporary/cutting edge approaches to these questions which encourage viewers (and hopefully, the young) to expand their horizons to not be content with accepting past pat answers.

The series is audacious but it's also _not stupid_.  Quantum mechanics is a field that has long promised to turn upside down our previous understandings of reality.  Already in 1947, C.S. Lewis argued that the indeterminism of quantum mechanics (see the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle) could offer a fundamental basis for the existence of Free Will.  Such was the state of the argument that as I remembered it when I was in college, grad school and the seminary in the 1980s-90s.  It's a generation later and it's a joy to see a popular television series so joyfully swimming the seas of quantum theory and applying it in ways that a generation ago, very few would dare. The same quantum mechanical phenomenon called entanglement that could make time travel possible could also allow a record of our memories (our "soul"?) to exist outside of our bodies basically anywhere in the larger cosmos (wow! ;-).

As such, I honestly love this series.  I do believe that it’s good for everybody to be challenged, and I think it is incredibly important for especially the young to dream and to wonder and _to see value in doing that_.   

Indeed, we live in a time when science itself through black holes and quantum mechanics is telling us that the universe is more wonderful than we ever imagined.  And every generation ought to have the right to bask in that wonder and then see if it could touch the face of God.  

“Look up at the sky, and see who made the stars” - Isaiah 40:26

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