A man produces about 400 billion sperm cells in his lifetime. A woman will produce about 300 ova in her reproductive years. Assuming about 2 billion persons per generation, a billion men and a billion women, the total lifetime sperm pool of those billion men would be 400 billion sperm cells per male per lifetime, times a billion males, or a total of 400 quintillion sperm cells in one generation. That's 400 plus 18 zeros. (This about equals the number of milliseconds since the Big Bang!) Similarly, the female ovum pool for this generation is 300,000,000,000 total ova. But, remember, a different person is created depending upon which ovum a single sperm cell fertilizes. A different person is also created depending upon which sperm cell fertilizes a single ovum. Each combination of sperm cell and ovum results in a completely different human being. Thus, the total number of possible human beings is the product of the total contents of each pool, or 120 followed by 30 zeros! These 2 billion men and women, however, actually gave birth to about 2 billion children. Thus we can estimate our chances of having been born to be about 2 billion divided by 120 plus 30 zeros, or one chance in 6 + 22 zeros! How fortunate we all are to have made it.
But there's more to it than that! Our 1 chance in 6 + 22 zeros of being born assumed our parents already existed. Each of our parents had to run that same gauntlet we did. Since we can only be the child of our parents, it was important for us that they succeeded in being born, too. Each parent also had about a chance in 6 + 22 zeros of being born. The chances of BOTH parents being born would thus be about one in 36 + 44 zeros. Multiply this number by their chances of finding each other and bearing you (one in 6 + 22 zeros) and we have one in 216 + 66 zeros. And we haven't even considered our FOUR grandparents yet. Were we to carry on back through the 100,000 generations of mankind, down through the millions of generations of apes and reptiles, and the billions of generations of lower lifeforms, both bisexual and monosexual, to the very first chance creation of life 5 billion years ago, we'd find our chance of having existed to be roughly one chance in 10exp(10exp33), or 1 followed by 10-to-the-33rd zeros. That's 10- to-the-decillionth zeros! Make it a decillion and 1, and the whole number changes by a factor of 10! (An American decillion = a British 1000- quintillion.)
But human life can be proliferated using the genetic code in any of its 40 quadrillion cells, not just ovum or sperm cells. The increase in the number of paths, just from this consideration alone, would add an inconceivable number of zeros after the one, making the actual number, itself, of paths, completely unimaginable. But from the first instant of the Big Bang, 10 billion years BEFORE life appeared, the number of paths down which the universe and life could have developed and traveled through time and space are countless and would add many many more zeros to that 1-plus-a-decillion-zeros number.
The direction mankind will take - and in fact the nature and form of ALL future events - will change with the outcome of EVERY chance event of the most microscopic particle, and, therefore, with every trivial decision ever made by any thinking lifeform. Whether or not you choose to turn at the next intersection will, within hours, minutes, or even seconds, change traffic patterns around the world. A completely different set of persons will be killed and injured in auto accidents from now on. The world would soon take on a different face, with quite different people, different events, different wars, etc. In fact, whether or not mankind survives into the 21st and 22nd centuries could well depend on your decision at that next intersection! CONVERSELY, in order for us to be here, alive, now, it will have been absolutely necessary for EVERY event in the past to have taken place at EXACTLY the time and place that it did. If any atom or photon, since time began, had a different position, velocity, or orientation than it actually did have, NONE of us would be here today, or ever!
Possibly the only way to figure our chances of existing would be to take all particles existing at the moment of the Big Bang and figure the chance of resulting in our exact present situation. A rough calculation gives us just one chance in 10exp(10exp115) possible paths. This is a one followed by 10-to-the-115th zeros! It's tempting to besmirch such an incomprehensible number of paths as meaningless. However I feel it'll ultimately be necessary to invoke such large numbers in order to explain in detail how the miracle of the mind and body of man on earth could have emerged from the chaos of the Big Bang. Mutation, selection, and survival of the fittest aren't the total picture: Large numbers help our understanding by allowing us the luxury of introducing enormous numbers of failures, blind alleys, unproductive paths, trials gone awry, inefficiencies, waste - ad infinitum - decillions of failures for each of the billions of successes necessary for the miracle of man on earth.
From the beginning of time, the universe has chosen to wend its way down just ONE erratic path. Any other path would NOT have included us! Had one leaf flopped, instead of flipped, a billion years ago, none of us would be here now. It's no wonder many people consider all this a miracle and that we're here by the grace of a God that always was and always will be.
Belief in a God does solve one problem: By "knowing" there's an Afterlife, the fear of our inevitable death is eliminated. For those of us who can't fit a God and an Afterlife into our picture of the universe, this nagging fear of death is very real. Perhaps the knowledge that we're so extremely fortunate to have experienced life may help to allay that fear somewhat. On the other hand, after being so miraculously lucky to be here at all, it's very disappointing to discover that we'll be RETURNING to blackness and nothingness after just an instant on earth. The blackness up to our birth was finite. But after our death the blackness is eternal and terrifying. We can only try to console ourselves by marveling at the miracle of this instant, extracting from it what pleasure we can.
We've bucked unbelievable odds in order to experience this moment of life. This life, therefore, is something precious, something that should be savored to the limit. But anyone not respecting the precious lives of others should pay with his own. We shouldn't have to put up with the likes of those who murder, maim, rape, steal, or defraud. Their lives should be ended in order to make room for some of the many fine, deserving persons who never would have known life at all!
If you have a closed mind or a weak stomach, you may not be ready for this last thought: There are many "pseudo-persons" that have bucked all those unbelievable odds, but weren't quite able to complete that last gauntlet. These are the mental or physical vegetables that will never contribute to our society, and in fact will require constant attention, draining our resources to no useful purpose. Our fetish with preserving any form of life at any cost must be re-examined. Murder is often justified, whether it be for killing invading soldiers, killing fish or livestock for food, killing by pesticides, abortion, vivisection, executing criminals, unplugging life support systems, and the "mercy" killing of human vegetables and the hopelessly insane, to make room for desirable, contributing persons. We've learned much about life and death, here so far, now let's put these ideas to work!
© 1987 Oscar Falconi, Saratoga CA 95070
Links to "Life, Death, and Large Numbers" at www.nutri.com/death/ are permitted and encouraged.
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