Pssst. Can we talk? I don't usually just scab off someone's blog and use as mine. But in this case I thought it was interesting enough to do just that. I know we don't like thinking about our parents having sex but I came across a fascinating article that puts us being here in perspective. It was written by Peter Vidani who is author of the Scientific Philosophy and Philosophical Science blog. His blog is one of my favorites. Mike
And good thing too, since it wasn’t just any sex—it was the sex that led to you. There was a moment, a fraction of a second, where one single sperm that happened to be the carrier of half your genetic code, beat out, in a photo finish, nearly 300 million competitors. That would be like entering a foot race with the entire population of the United States—and winning. If that tight race had played out even slightly otherwise, if a different sperm had successfully infiltrated that ovum wall, well, you could bet your bottom dollar that it wouldn’t be you sitting here reading these words.Youwouldn’t even be alive. Your entire existence, everything you are, is utterly contingent on the precise moment your father ejaculated. That one sperm, that single, creepy, wriggling little tadpole, united with your mother’s egg and crafted the perfect recipe for a human being later known as you. What serendipitous timing! Whatnecessarytiming!
But hold up, that’s not the whole story. It’s not just that one act of successful intercourse that matters. That same exact scenario occurred—had to occur—between your grandparents, and your great grandparents, and your great great grandparents, and your great great great grandparents… And so on, stretching all the way back—over 3 billion years—to the beginning of life on this here blue marble. Every relevant relative of yours was able to survive just long enough to reproduce (or replicate) and continue on its legacy. You are that legacy. And, it’s important to note, this is on a planet where over 99% of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct (meaning they didn’t share your luck). If ancestry.com could map this out, you would see a lineage consisting of hundreds of millions of your direct ancestors all having successfully reproduced, all at the exact millisecond required to pass on the exact combination of DNA that would lead exactly to you.
So next time you run into some bad luck—perhaps a burnt soufflé or a clogged toilet or another traffic jam or losing lottery ticket—just take a moment to think about your parents having sex. And remember all of the lotteries you’ve already won.