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February 27, 2013

You may or may not be a miracle

You are a unique miracle. Consider: The universe is 13.77 billion years old, give or take a few weeks. The Milky Way is 13.2 billion years old. The earth is 4.6 billion years old. And life on earth goes back 3.6 billion years, which is when the first, most primitive cells emerged — what scientists now call “senators.”

No, wait. Those cells are more accurately called “prokaryotes.” But I think we can all agree that, while very much alive, prokaryotes were primitive, they contained no nuclei, and they had no business telling women what to do with their bodies.

Anyway, it took from 3.6 billion years ago — that’s “billion” with a “b” (and also an “illion”) — until 5 million years ago for some of the more ambitious cells to evolve into chimps. That adds up to what California mathematicians call “a hella long time.”

From there it took another 5 million years for our common ancestor with chimps to evolve into Fatso Funderburgh, a boy who lived on my block when I was growing up and someone nobody could doubt was evolved from an ancestor of chimpanzees (most likely chimps who mated with aliens, based on a photo in my high school yearbook).

But the point is modern humans emerged with highly developed brains, bipedal gaits and opposable thumbs about 200,000 years ago. Scientists call those earliest humans homo erectus, in order to give middle school boys more in life to giggle at.

Then, about 125,000 years ago, homo sapiens emerged. Homo sapiens is the name of the genus and species we all are, with the possible exception of Fatso Funderburgh (and also maybe Phil Collins).

So let’s do some math. Let’s say one generation is 20 years. If my math is correct (and there’s a good chance it isn’t because I never got better than a C- in math), there are 6,250 generations of homo sapiens separating you from the first homo sapiens who climbed down from the trees and turned on “SportsCenter.” That’s 6,250 sexual reproductions, or, to use the scientific term, “schtups” that had to happen perfectly and that had to result in your homo sapiens ancestors reaching sexual maturity in order to eventually schtup your beautiful self into existence.

Think about that. In the Middle Paleolithic period, our ancestors originated in southern Africa, and 125,000 years and 6,250 generations later, here you are, lounging around in Louisville, reading LEO Weekly and sipping on a nonfat soy double-shot latte and/or bourbon barrel stout. So basically, you are a fuckin’ miracle.

But then again, maybe you’re not really a unique miracle. There are currently 7 billion homo sapiens, give or take 100 million. And that’s just on this planet. According to NASA, there are currently 3,649 known exoplanets. The Milky Way alone has about 300 billion stars, give or take 100 billion. And the known universe has more than 100 billion galaxies, which contain more than 10 sextillion stars. That’s “sextillion” with a “sext” (and also an “illion”) or what Shelbyville mathematicians call a “shit-ton.” And it seems likely that a lot of those 10 sextillion suns have planets that are inhabited by someone sort of similar to homo sapiens, or at least someone homo sapiens would want to shoot.

(On a related note, according to some guy I heard on NPR who sounded like he knew what he was talking about, the number of stars in the universe is far more than the number of grains of sand on all the beaches on earth, but still less than the number of molecules in 10 drops of water!)

So in all those possible billions of homo sapiens on Earth and all those possible worlds out there, it seems sort of likely that someone like you would come along. It seems a bit like those monkeys typing Shakespeare: Infinite life forms would certainly create someone with your sweet smile and excellent dancing ability and the sexy way you move your hips when you mash potatoes and also that fetching way your eyes twinkle when you’re engrossed in a particularly hilarious monologue by Sheldon on “Big Bang Theory.”

I mean, if the universe and life have survived this long, somebody had to be here. Why not you? Hell, there could be millions of you. Really, it would be sort of a miracle if you didn’t exist.

But either way, I’m glad you do.