Pharyngula

A very silly calculation

I think I hate this graphic. It purports to calculate the odds of your existence, and concludes that the chance is 1 in 102,685,000: So the odds that you exist at all are: Basically zero. Now go forth and feel and act like the miracle that you are.”

Graphic, and why it’s bullshit, below the fold.

(Also on FtB)

by visually via

It’s a very truthy list of calculations. Sure, you can multiply out the probabilities of all the many events that led directly to you after the fact, but this wasn’t a process that began with the goal of making you. You are a contingent product of many chance events, but so what? So is everything else in the universe. That number doesn’t make you any more special than a grain of sand on a beach, which also arrived at its precise shape, composition, and location by a series of chance events.

It’s simply making the lottery fallacy. The odds of winning the Minnesota state Powerball lottery are 1 in 195,249,054 — why, it must be a miracle that anyone wins!

It also gets remarkably silly early on where it calculates the odds that “every one of your ancestors lived to reproductive age” as 1 in 1045,000. Wait. What? I think the odds of my being here if even one of my ancestors had failed to reach reproductive age is zero…therefore, I must not exist.

If the odds that I exist are basically zero, and those are the same odds for each and every person on the planet, doesn’t that mean that 7*109 (the number of people on the planet) * 1*10-2,685,000 (the probability that each person exists) imply that the population of planet Earth is actually basically zero? Nice to know. The price on real estate should be dropping fast.

So while the odds that the concatenation of chance events that led to me are really low, that’s not the same as saying that the odds of a person, or something, being here are low. You are one of 7 billion people, occupying an insignificant fraction of the volume of the universe, and you aren’t a numerical miracle at all — you’re actually rather negligible. Maybe you should go forth and feel and act like you aren’t any more special than anyone else on Earth.