Morgan Freeman is no scientist, as the Oscar-winning megastar is quick to point out. But he knows a thing or two about physics, in part because of his role as executive producer and host of the Science Channel's popular "Through The Wormhole" TV series.
The show's new season began last month and runs through July 31, with episodes named for the big questions they explore, such as "How Do Aliens Think?" and "Did God Create Evolution?" The latter episode spotlights not only Darwinian evolution but also "intelligent design," a form of creationism that is rejected by mainstream scientists.
What about Freeman himself? Does he believe aliens exist? Does he accept Darwinian evolution--or does he favor creationism? Recently, HuffPost Science got the chance to pose these and other big questions of our own to Freeman. Here, edited for clarity, are the questions and his answers:
A recent HuffPost Science poll found that about half of all Americans believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life. Do you believe it exists? I am fairly certain that it does. If you look out into the universe, there are just billions of galaxies, and each galaxy contains billions and billions of stars. So it's ludicrous to imagine that there aren't other populated worlds.
Are you talking about intelligent life? I think life itself is intelligent. All life has intelligence. Otherwise it doesn't exist.
Some have argued that intelligent alien beings might be carnivorous--and want to eat us if they came to Earth. Do you worry about that? Noooo. Suppose they are carnivorous. Does that mean they eat us?
Have you ever had a "close encounter?" No, I have not. I cannot believe that we have been secretly visited by another life form that didn't leave more of a record of its having been here. If they came, why leave? It had to be an enormous journey.
Do you believe in "intelligent design?" No. Let me clarify that answer. Because intelligent design is exactly what we see. But does that come from some being? I think life itself is intelligent. I don't think necessarily that a creator had to be involved.
Was there a particular purpose in including "intelligent design" in the episode? You can't go on any show and say, "I can say what I believe but I can't say what is." I don't know what is. We want to present both sides of any--because it is all predicated on faith. It is what you believe. And on this show we want to accept all ideas and be inclusive.
So you don't believe that a "creator" is responsible for life? Now, you are talking to Morgan Freeman, actor. You are not talking to Morgan Freeman, scientist, or Morgan Freeman, theologian, or any of that, OK? Well, I really don't think there is an entity involved in the creation of the universe.
Do you believe that science and religion are compatible? Yes, that's been proven time and again.
If you were offered a one-way trip to Mars, would you take it? No, I don't want to take a one-way trip anywhere--not if it's off this planet.
Do you want to go into space? No, I am perfectly happy here. But I want to see us get there. I really do.
In your 1998 movie "Deep Impact," the Earth was hit by a huge killer asteroid. Is that something you worry about in real life? No, I don't worry about it. It seems likely to happen some time in the future. But no, my blood pressure is high enough.
How did you get interested in science? When I was a senior in high school in Nashville, Tennessee, I had a physics class, and that was the beginning of my interest. Now, let's be clear: I am not science-minded. I'm an actor. To get interested in something like physics is peripheral. As time went on, my interest in things having to do with space and cosmology and astronomy grew. Just because.
Do you have a favorite scientific discipline? That would be physics. I don't have questions having to do with biology or any of the other disciplines. All of my questions really have to do with physics. This is where all the questions are being asked by the big minds. Particularly with the theoreticians, they are delving into wide realms of imagination. And that's fascinating because there is also a lot of fodder in there for what I do--make movies.