Saturday, February 06, 2010
The Improbable Me
Sometimes I wonder at my existence. My mother carried about 200,000 egg cells in her ovaries. My father created millions of sperm cells. If my existence depends on one particular egg cell and one particular sperm cell joining up to for an embryo, then the probability that that union would produce me and not some other individual must be smaller than one part in 200,000 million, or one part in 200 billion. The same odds must be assigned to each of my parents. And so on back to the very first homo sapiens who ever lived. And farther back through all the other species and so on to the first living cell that appeared on earth. In addition, one must add (or multiply) by the probability that my father would marry Bessie Jackson and not some other girl. The odds against my existence are overwhelming. I must be unbelievably lucky to exist at all.
The conundrum of my existence is more puzzling than the conundrum of my end of existence. When I cease to live, the cells in my brain that contain my memory will die and rot. Those 86 years of memories will simply vanish. Nothing will be preserved that I haven't written and saved somewhere. There is no probability calculation here. When I die, my memory dies with me.