NPR logo Are You Totally Improbable Or Totally Inevitable?

Are You Totally Improbable Or Totally Inevitable?

Think about yourself.
You are here because...
Your dad met your mom.
Then your dad and mom conceived you.
So a particular egg in your mom
Joined a particular sperm from your dad
Which could only happen because not one of your direct ancestors, going all the way back to the beginning of life itself, died before passing on his or her genes...
So what are the chances of you happening?
Of you being here?

Author and blogger Dr. Ali Binazir did the calculations last spring and decided that the chances of anyone existing are one in 102,685,000. In other words, as this infographic figures it, you are totally improbable.

Click the image to enlarge it and check their numbers:

by visually via

On The Other Hand...

Of course, there are poets who argue exactly the opposite: that each of us is fated to exist, that there is a plan, and that all of us are expected.

The Nobel Prize winning poet Wislawa Szymborska once wrote about two lovers who liked to think they'd met entirely by chance, but no, she says, there was nothing chancy about it. For years, she imagines, they'd almost met, almost, but not quite, until it was time...

...They'd be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.

Not quite ready yet
To become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.

There were signs and signals,

Even if they couldn't read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday
a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished into childhood's thicket?

There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another
Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream,
grown hazy by morning.

Every beginning
Is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

— from "Love at First Sight", Wislawa Szymborska, The End and The Beginning, 1993.

Were we meant to be, each and every one of us? Or are we glorious accidents, each and every one? Or are we some mysterious combination of impossible and inevitable? Or is it much too early in the week, this being only Monday, for thinking about stuff like this? I was toying with this other idea, about an owl who falls in love with a cat and brings it mice every day. What are the odds of that? Maybe that one would have been better.