I was alerted to a fascinating article by Ali Binazir who sets forth mathematically the odds of you or I existing, just as we are genetically. It turns out that, when taking into consideration the astonishing number of possibilities of parents meeting, grandparents before them and on and on going back the generations, and adding also the vast numbers of sperm and ova in possible combination over a the lifetime of the marital acts, of all those generations, it would seem that the odds of me existing just as I do, are 1 in 102,685,000. That’s a number so huge it hurts to think about it.
To say that we are contingent beings, is a vast understatement. To say that some one or something is contingent is to say that the existence of same is not inevitable, but can only come about based on any number of previous things being true in a chain of being or causality. Hence I would not exist if my parents had not existed and met. Further, they would not exist if the parents had not existed and met, the chain going back many generations. Thus, my existence depends on a vast number of “meetings” going just right, or I am not here.
Consider some of the contingencies and requirements for your existence as set forth by Mr Binazir. Some of the numbers are based on hunches, but generally those numbers are on the conservative side. I am only publishing a small amount of his musings here. You can read his full article here: What are the Chances of You Being Born? and see how he comes up with these numbers.
So here are listed some of the probabilities of required events for you to be born:
- Probability of boy meeting girl: 1 in 20,000.
- Now let’s say the chances of them actually talking to one another is one in 10.
- And the chances of that turning into another meeting is about one in 10 also.
- And the chances of that turning into a long-term relationship is also one in 10.
- And the chances of that lasting long enough to result in offspring is one in 2.
- So the probability of your parents’ chance meeting resulting in marriage and kids is about 1 in 2000
- So the combined probability is already around 1 in 40 million
- Now things start getting interesting. Why? Because we’re about to deal with eggs and sperm, which come in large numbers. Each sperm and each egg is genetically unique because of the process of meiosis; you are the result of the fusion of one particular egg with one particular sperm. A fertile woman has 100,000 viable eggs on average. A man will produce about 12 trillion sperm over the course of his reproductive lifetime.
- Let’s say a third of those (4 trillion) are relevant to our calculation, since the sperm created after your mom hits menopause don’t count. So the probability of that one sperm with half your name on it hitting that one egg with the other half of your name on it is 1/(100,000)(4 trillion)= 1/(105)(4×1012)= 1 in 4 x 1017, or one in 400 quadrillion.
- But because the existence of you here now on planet earth presupposes another supremely unlikely and utterly undeniable chain of events. Namely, that every one of your ancestors lived to reproductive age we must also go further presuming 150,000 generations going back to man’s origin.
- Well then, that would be one in 2150,000 , which is about 1 in 1045,000– a number so staggeringly large that my head hurts just writing it down.
- But let’s think about this some more. Remember the sperm-meeting-egg argument for the creation of you, since each gamete is unique?
- Well, the right sperm also had to meet the right egg to create your grandparents. Otherwise they’d be different people, and so would their children, who would then have had children who were similar to you but not quite you.
- This is also true of your grandparents’ parents, and their grandparents, and so on till the beginning of human time. If even once the wrong sperm met the wrong egg, you would not be sitting here noodling online reading fascinating articles like this one. It would be your cousin Jethro, and you never really liked him anyway.
- That means in every step of your lineage, the probability of the right sperm meeting the right egg such that the exact right ancestor would be created that would end up creating you is one in 1200 trillion, which we’ll round down to 1000 trillion, or one quadrillion.
- So now we must account for that for 150,000 generations by raising 400 quadrillion to the 150,000th power: That’s a ten followed by 2,640,000 zeroes, which would fill 11 volumes of a 250 page book with zeroes.
- For the sake of completeness: (102,640,000)(1045,000)(2000)(20,000) = 4x 102,685,007 ≈ 102,685,000
- Probability of your existing at all: 1 in 102,685,000
Now, there are some assumptions you may quibble with. I would certainly add in (sadly) some probabilities related to being aborted, or miscarried. But even a simpler analysis yields astonishing numbers. One of my brothers made his own calculation regarding one of Binazir’s numbers:
My numbers are more simplistic. But assuming 100,000 eggs/woman & 12T sperm/man, that creates 1.2 x 10^18 combinations for every man/woman pairing (i.e., signficantly more combos than 400T or 4 x 10^14 mentioned in the article). If you assume 3B women on earth & 3B man, that means 3 x 10^14 eggs and 3.6 x 10^22 sperm currently on the planet, for a total combination of 1.1 x 10^37 pairings. If you assume current population is 1% of the history of humanity, total combos go to 1.1 x 10^39.
Not only are you and I contingent, we are very improbable! Yet here we are! Mirabile visu! (wondrous to behold).
Theologically of course we are no accident or happenstance. God has always known us, intended us, loved us and planned for us. Scripture says,
- Before I formed you in the womb I knew you (Jer 1:5).
- Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, in the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Matt 25:34)
- For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)
Yes, you’re here alright, and math can barely account for your existence, so tiny are the odds. But God has overseen every detail and knew you long before you were born. In fact he has been preparing a place for us in the kingdom, from before the creation of the world. Not only has he always known us, but he has known everything we would do, for every one of our days have been written in his book before one of them ever came to be.
The great mystery of our existence stretches back in time into the very heart and mind of God who has always known and loved us, has prepared for us and made a way for us. You are wonderfully and fearfully made and God has done a marvelous thing. You’re not just one in a million, you’re one in a 102,685,000
Photo Credit: Portland Glass
This video makes a moving point, but attributes our existence to luck. But you are not here by luck, you are here by the grace and will of God.