I think we can agree that, since you are reading this article, you exist. Mathematically speaking, you had 100% probability of being born. Well, that’s how it looks on the surface. However, it is not that simple. Let’s say that, for some reason, you wanted to calculate the chance of you being born 10 generations ago (250 years ago). Mathematically, that probability is 1 divided by 6 x 10 to the 100th power or
1 in 60000000000000000000000000000000000 00000000000000000000000000 000000000000000000000000000000000000. Which means, virtually impossible. In other words, you were meant to be born when you were born. Before, or after, is almost impossible.
Let’s try to understand where this comes from. Briefly, you are the result of
- You father’s and his ancestors’ contributions
- Your mother’s and her ancestor’s contributions
(collectively, this is your genetic make-up) and
- Environmental effects
Obviously, if your father had not been born or if he had died in infancy, you would not be possible. Or if your grandmother had died before having children you would not have been possible either. The complexity begins to unravel because, of course, there are many other factors.
The probability of your father meeting your mother is one in 20,000
Let’s discuss the probability of your parents meeting. If numbers make you dizzy, go to the end of this article and you will find an infographic courtesy of Dr. Ali Binazir which illustrates all the calculations.
If your father met one woman fit for procreation every single day from age 15 to 40, he met about 10,000 women. Given that there were about 200 million women he could have met during that period using the United States as an example (with online dating that pool is now much bigger), the probability of your father meeting your mother was 10,000 divided by 200 million or one in 20,000.
Now, you may argue that your father met fewer than 10,000 eligible women during that period. Probably many less than that. If that is the case, the probability of your father meeting your mother is even more remote than one in 20,000!
The probability of two people will have intercourse is one in 2,000
What is the chance that you meet a person of the other gender and you engage in a sexual relationship? Well, it is difficult to tell. Let’s make some assumptions: the chance that two people of the opposite gender talk to one another is one in 10, the chance of that turning into another meeting is about one in 10, the chance of that turning into a long-term relationship is also one in 10, and the chances of that lasting long enough to result in intercourse is one in two. So, the probability of these man and woman having intercourse is about one in 2,000.
Don’t roll your eyes! We are applying tons of assumptions that are most likely wrong. If you think you have a better estimation, plug in your numbers and do your own calculation. There is no one size that fits all!
The combined probability that your parents were going to have intercourse was one in 40 million
When you combined the one in 20,000 chance to the one in 2,000 chance, the result is one in 40 million. That is the combined probability that exactly your father and mother would meet, have a few dates, and engage in a sexual relationship.
The probability that your parents’ sexual relationship would result in your conception was one in 400 quadrillion
As you know, you are the result of the fusion of one particular egg with one particular sperm. Potentially, there were approximately 100,000 viable eggs and 4 trillion sperm during the times your parents had a sexual relationship that could have resulted in you! So, the probability that one particular sperm conceived with one particular egg is one in 400 quadrillion.
That chance is quite low: one in 400 followed by 15 zeroes!
Your parents exist only because their ancestors existed, met, and reproduced
So far, we discussed the chance of you existing based on your parents meeting and conceiving. However, that is only a very small fraction of the story. Think about it. Your parents existed because their parents met and conceived them. And your four grandparents existed because your great-grandparents existed and conceived, so on and so forth. For each pair of relatives, we have to consider the chance that they would meet and conceive. All the way to the first Homo sapiens? That’s an unbroken lineage of life going back 3 million years! 150,000 generations!
Your probability of being born was one in 10 followed by 2,640,000 zeroes
When you account for those 150,000 generations by raising 400 quadrillion to the 150,000th power, the result is ten followed by 2,640,000 zeroes.
In other words, it was almost impossible for you to be born.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “miracle” as an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.
Clearly, it is a miracle that you are reading this article. And for more than one reason!
(Click image below to expand image.)