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How unfathomable were your odds of coming into being?

Remember in Watchmen, when Doctor Manhattan waxes all sentimental about the miracle of human existence? If you do, you'll recall that he's not talking about the human race — he's talking about the "unfathomable odds" of any specific, individual person coming into being.

Of course, Doctor Manhattan doesn't give any hard figures to to go along with what ultimately amounts to the most long-winded apology ever. Fortunately, there are people out there who are willing to actually do the math behind this mother of all existential problems.


If you want the numbers for the human race in general, perhaps we should multiply their final number(10^2,640,000) by the odds of spontaneous generation, no more than "One chance in 10^40,000! “ (from the book Life: How did it get here?)

10^2,640,000 x 10^40,000 ???

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Mises was rare in that he

Mises was rare in that he actually understood statistics, he put little stock in them, it's why he stood apart--he put logic and reason above deceptive calculations. There are statistics for large groups of people, and then the statistics are applied to the individual, but this is wrong. There are a particular number of deaths via car accidents every year, say in the United States. This number, whatever it is, might have decent predictive capacity in regards to the number of deaths for the same group in the next year, BUT it says NOTHING about the chances for death by car accident for a particular individual within the group.

Statistics are for people who play card games.

There are no "odds" to being.

There are no "odds" to being. You just are. The arrogance of people who think they can "calculate" something as elusive, as interpretable, as "being", this is the kind of thing that really frustrates me. Ever think that your "being" was not the result of a small chance, but rather the result of something inevitable? Sorry to complain about something so seemingly innocuous, but statistics, because they so easily fool people, statistics can really get under my skin, make me pretty contemptuous. It's all pretend.

The important thing is to rejoice that you are

Here and alive and choose to live the life that you live.

And to accept that no part of the past can be changed, even though it would be lovely to change it so that this world is paradise for liberty. As it is now, choices can only be made for the future, at a moment of time called the present, and that choice can be viewed from the past as a history that we can learn from.

Besides, the odds of the same sperm meeting the same egg in the same womb as the same set of parents in the same time and place can be shifted in an instant by a small change in the past. So you are alive on account of nigh impossible coincidences set by the past. And you're alive now, no matter how wrong the past may be. So the only thing you can do, being alive now, is to choose your way forward with better choices.

I believe in the freedom to be what we choose to be.

Self replication and change and billions of years.

The smallest self-replicating protein consists of 20 amino acids.

The Last objectivism seeks an actor for a given act.

I am grateful to find myself free of nature in some way.

Free includes debt-free!

Depends how...

...we define 'you' and 'coming into being'. If by a person coming into being we trace that back originally to an idea in the mind of the Creator which He intended to develop, then it will happen eventually, regardless of which particular time and space and physical encasing that person will enter into. So the question from that standpoint then is: will all possible persons be made (no end to that) or will only a subset be made and then the rest just left as undeveloped ideas in the mind of the Author?

Actually, the odds were quite good

My mother's egg cells being in the right place is 1 in 28. Since my father's sperm counted in the many thousands, the odds of one of those suckers getting in was probably like 1 in -2000. So, the probability of me being here is better than the probability I would not be here.

"In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot."--Mark Twain

Probably some luck somewhere.

Things cannot be otherwise than they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end.

Ah...the Grand Propaganda Ploy (or GPP)

Yes, that lovely phrase hammered into our little brains at 2 years old - "Everything happens for a reason".

The problem is, that is complete BS. Things happen from causes, not preplanned "reasons" in the brain of some uber-deity. A person may die 'because' cancer invaded their liver and their blood was full of anti-oxygen toxins. A car crash happens 'because' some moron was texting their friend about watching a movie that night and they didn't see the brake lights, unfortunately killing a little kid in the back seat. What could the possible "reasons" be for those things? How sick and evil would this god of yours be to have a "reason" for doing this

It is the most used, and least thought about, phrase in our lexicon. It is basically a cop-out so a person doesn't have to think at all, admit a fault in someone else, or contemplate their own vulnerabilities.

"In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot."--Mark Twain

Death is related to the

Death is related to the creator knowing that those person's are not or never will live to serve "His Will". Or perhaps death exists as an example to show others they have been granted grace through appropriate actions. I have an example of this to draw from. Maybe we all do.

"I know you boys like em sloppy". The Lunch Lady

Well...that is disgusting

So your god violently kills a two-year old because 20 years from now they are not going to "serve" him. A moody slave-owner. Why even let them be born then? If this omnipotent, all-knowing deity of yours creates children that he knows will not "serve" him and cause their death at a later time - then I am morally superior, and he is a sadistic A-hole.

What an evil piece of crap.

"In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot."--Mark Twain

The likelihood of something

The likelihood of something that has already occurred is 100%. It seems very silly to me to look at things in the past in these terms, because you could say that about our scenario no matter what. Literally, no matter what happened in the universe, ANYTHING, the chances of it happening were very, very small. Simply due to the infinitude of possibilities.

Probability is a useful tool for looking at the future, and a useless tool for observing the past.

So if I win the lottery

I am 100% guaranteed to win it again? Or do my odds stay the same with the next lottery?

I know it's not the same but I think it makes the point.


I don't see what you're getting at.

Obviously, you have separate and totally independent odds of winning the lottery the second time you enter. The odds of your previous lottery entry winning, which are 100%, obviously has no connection to your new chances.

Not quite

The probability of something that is known to have occurred is 100%. See the message I wrote about the card game.

Ĵīɣȩ Ɖåđşŏń

"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln

Fair point. Of course, you

Fair point. Of course, you always operate to the best of your knowledge since you can't be 100% assured of really anything at all.

But if you are operating on the assumption that something happened, or even if you don't believe it did, assessing probability in the past has little use that I can think of.

The example I gave...

A card player assesses the probabilities that the dealer (in the recent past) shuffled this or that card into a particular position. No one actually believes Schrodinger-cats live or die only when their boxes are lifted, yet the chances can be calculated.

Ĵīɣȩ Ɖåđşŏń

"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln

You calculate the likelihood

You calculate the likelihood because you do not know what happened. If you knew what happened, it would be pointless. If you do not know something had happened, you operate as if it has not.

The crux of the point I am getting at is that if an incredibly strange and unlikely mold grows on your bread you do not use the unlikelihood of it having happened as proof that someone purposely altered the bread in order for the mold to grow that way.


one might do exactly that. But let's substitute "evidence" for "proof," because people tend to think of proof as absolute conclusion, as in a mathematics, rather than "test" as in pudding.

Google for "Bayes theorem" and "prior probabilities."

Ĵīɣȩ Ɖåđşŏń

"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln

I don't get it.

Probability is used to look at the past all the time.

When they are examining a plane crash, what possible causation do you think they examine first?

When a physician is examining a patient, what tests does he run first?

And on and on we could go.

I don't get what you don't get...

I don't see why you would question the probability of a plane crashing when a plane already crashed, we know it crashed so the probability is 100%.

Unless you don't actually think it crashed, but that's a whole nother can of worms. Even then, what is the use of assessing probability of it having happened? There is no value to it. You look for clues to confirm one way or the other.

Known and unknown

Probability is a method of assigning numbers to the likelihoods of unknown events. It does not matter if the events have already transpired, only that they are undetermined. Put another way, probability is a method of quantifying ignorance.

Three men sit at a table. One shuffles a deck of playing cards and deals two to each of the other men. The game is Texas Hold'em. As it happens, he deals on of them a pair of aces and the other a pair of kings. All the money goes in and the two hands are placed face up. Barring a tie, the man with the aces has approximately an 82% chance of winning. That is true despite the fact that the as-yet unknown outcome was predetermined when the cards were shuffled. The players might settle on that basis, or take out insurance with a third (fourth?) party.

Ĵīɣȩ Ɖåđşŏń

"Fully half the quotations found on the internet are either mis-attributed, or outright fabrications." - Abraham Lincoln

I still don't get it.

If the man with the two aces has observed the 52 cards in the deck, and knows there are 4 aces, he knows both the odds of drawing 2 and that the odds are 100% that he has drawn 2. And he also knows his odds of winning BECAUSE he knows the makeup of the remaining deck, the number of players, etc.

But this is not analogous to the OP's point. It this case, the deck is of unknown makeup. And we are trying to deduce its makeup from the cards that we hold. In this case, the fact that I hold two aces in my hand tells me nothing of the makeup of the deck, aside from the fact that there are at least 2 aces. But it does tell me logically that the deck is more likely to have 52 aces than 4.

Yet here I am

Observing past poker hands through the lens of probability. :-)