Season 4, Episode 1
Air Date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013, 10/9c on Science Channel
Evolution or creation? This heated debate has raged on for eons and continues to challenge scientists and religious organizations the world round. It’s the age old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? “When Does Life Begin” brings forth compelling arguments from renowned and leading biologists, neo-natal neurosurgeons, psychologists, and even robotic engineers.
“All organisms reproduce, but they have different ways of doing it,” says our enigmatic host and narrator, Academy Award® winner and iconic movie star Morgan Freeman. As Associate Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy of the University of Utah—School of Medicine Maureen Condic believes, life begins as soon as the sperm and egg unite. Aspen trees in Utah “clone themselves” while certain species of worms literally split themselves in half, thus creating another worm. To add to this, Dr. Hilary Gammil, Associate Professor at the University of Washington, and Research Associate at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has a theory—we all have ancestral DNA flowing in our bloodstream, which I’m inclined to believe. We inherit many characteristics and traits, even illnesses, from our parents, grandparents, and so on, so why wouldn’t we inherit their DNA?
As I watched this episode, hypnotized by the rhythmic and soothing baritone of Freeman’s voice, I appreciated his neutral stance. To be a good host, you must be unbiased and Freeman does an excellent job of providing you with the opinions of the world’s leading scientists without injecting his preferences regarding which option he thinks is more probable. And really, couldn’t you listen to Freeman all day? His voice is powerful without being intrusive or overbearing. It’s calming, actually.
If you are not very religious, like me, you will be more inclined to go with the theories regarding evolution; however, as I watched “When Does Life Begin,” I allowed myself to be open to other possibilities. I was surprised at how much my beliefs were thrown into a gray zone by the end of the episode. While I still believe in a form of evolution, I am not easily swayed into thinking what one psychologist suggests — we are not truly conscious of being alive until we make cognitive decisions for ourselves. I found this portion of the episode slightly absurd. Just because a child chooses to wear a pink sticker on their forehead like the others around them doesn’t mean they aren’t conscious of their own life. Most young children tend to conform to those around them, especially their parents.
The debate on when life truly begins has been around for ages and continues to be a battle in the courtroom for those who are pro-life and pro-choice. No matter your stance, this episode explores the varied aspects of humanity; suffice it to say that some of this profound research may lead or may have already led to significant scientific discoveries and medical breakthroughs.
There is an intriguing portion of the episode during which a neo-natal neurosurgeon uses certain scents to test newborns’ sense of smell. Scent is key to many of our memories – when you smell a certain perfume, flower, or even food, it can take you back to a certain time and place in your memory. I’ve always been fascinated by how nostalgic our noses are. I smelled a shampoo I used during my adolescent years in a store recently and it took me straight back to junior high school – high top sneakers, way too much Aqua Net hairspray, and…well, you get the point.
Whatever your current belief, “When Does Life Begin” introduces you to new possibilities and ideas, and even robotics that can learn to walk. With an open mind, this episode will help you formulate a more learned opinion on the subject.
Tune in to the season four premiere of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman Wednesday, June 5 at 10:00 PM (ET/PT) only on Science Channel.
For more on the show, go to http://science.discovery.com/tv-shows/through-the-wormhole.
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Photos: © 2013 Science Channel/Discovery Communications, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
© 2013, Judy Manning. All rights reserved.
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