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Chaos or fate?

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Postby Cheekybeek » Thu, 25 May 2006 10:58 pm

Just read this in Sydney Morning Herald...

My mother was born with about 800,000 immature eggs in her ovaries. Alas, 799,996 of my half brothers and sisters did not have their eggs mature, become fertilised or survive. But mine and my sisters' were. So I started off life by winning a 1 in 800,000 lottery.

My father was a healthy fellow who was sexually mature for about 60 years. During his life he probably produced about 200 million sperm every day, for a total of about 4,000,000,000,000. And only one of them was mine - all the others were half brothers and sisters. The chance of my egg being fertilised by my sperm is something like 1 in 3,200,000,000,000,000,000.

So already I'm feeling lucky.

And that is only the start. My father and mother each faced the same improbable odds of being born. They then had to choose each other over all other possible mates.

This same improbability extends and multiplies back generation by generation to the very first cell division.

Consequently, the probability of being born is virtually zero. One would be more likely to randomly collect the same grain of sand that had been discarded 50 years earlier on any one of Earth's beaches. But I was born against these odds, and so was every human who has ever lived. Every dog, fish, plant and microbe has arrived against similar odds.

It is a sobering thought that the slightest change in the circumstances of my ancestral history would have almost certainly resulted in me missing out on the privilege of living. Lucky for me that the sabre-toothed tiger chasing my young forebear could not quite reach him/her on the branch of the tree all those years ago.

Of course, there are those who say you make your own luck. Equally, there are others who prefer to think luck is something in the lap of the gods. Pray helps all.

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