The probability that you exist, as you are, today is basically zero
One of my favourite ever literary experiences came reading Alan Moore‘s classic graphic novel “The Watchmen” (1986). Of the many moments worth mentioning, one struck a particular chord. Let me set the scene.
Humanity stands on the brink of nuclear apocalypse. Meanwhile Dr Manhattan, a one-time physicist who was transformed into a radiant blue god is the only one able to stop the bombs. But there’s a problem: he’s lost all human empathy, left earth – a world he can no longer relate to – and teleported himself to absolute isolation on the surface of Mars. Then he zaps his ex-squeeze Laurie to Mars where they hold a conversation over the fate of our world.
In a brilliantly poignant sequence, Laurie desperately tries to persuade him to intervene. But when their relationship ended Dr Manhattan’s last connection to Earth was severed. As things play out, Laurie faces a realisation of her own, and Dr Manhattan changes his mind. The reason? In the grand scheme of things – a scheme so grand it requires a god to perceive it – each human life is an event so unlikely it can be considered a thermo-dynamic miracle:
“Thermodynamic miracles… events with odds against so astronomical they’re effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter… Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold… that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.” – The Watchmen
One thing I’ve always wondered was exactly how much of a miracle. Laurie posits “you could say that about anyone in the world” and with seven billion people alive today, that’s as many thermodynamic miracles right there. So what are the odds? The probability that you exist, as you are, today?
Author Ali Binazir attempted to quantify just that and, as you can see from this Infographic below [courtesy of Visual.ly where it's their most viewed graphic yet] – they are almost zero. So take warmth from the fact that your existence is so unlikely it may as well be impossible. And yet, here you are.