What Are The Odds Of You Being You?

I came across this from the epochtimes.com, and it struck me as a load of bullshit.    I will be commenting in red below to point put my disagreements.

To illustrate how precious each human being is, self-help author Mel Robbins said during a 2011 Ted Talk that the likelihood of you being born as you has been calculated at about one in 400 trillion. This is the probability of you being born at the time you were born to your particular parents, with your particular genetic make-up.

You cannot calculate such a probability without making a lot of assumption.  Probability is the measure of how likely an event is to occur out of the number of possible outcomes. Probability=event(s)/number of outcomes.  

 ExampleA jar contains 4 blue marbles, 5 red marbles and 11 white marbles. If a marble is drawn from the jar at random, what is the probability that this marble is red?  5/20=.25 or 25% odds of picking a red one as long as the ratio of red and black stay the same. 

Here the event would be “your being born as you”.  It is in knowing  “number of outcomes” that makes such calculation live only in the ream of fantasy.  Probabilities range from 1 to an infinite <1.  If there is only one outcome then the probability is 1/1=1.   You exist, that is the only probable outcome, so the probability of you being you is 1. The only know outcome is that you were born to your particular parents. This is true no matter how far back in your family’s history you may wish to go. 

Dr. Ali Binazir took it further. He attended the Ted Talk and wrote about it afterward, doing his own calculations on how likely your existence is. Dr. Binazir is an author and personal change specialist who studied at Harvard, received a medical degree from the University of California, and studied philosophy at Cambridge University.

Dr. Ali is a Progressive, how do I know?  He writes a popular column for Huffington Post, and as a Taoist he does not believe that God interacts with His creation.  (Unless I have him mixed up with another Ali Binazir.)

He looked at the odds of your parents meeting, given how many men and women there are on Earth and how many people of the opposite sex your mother and father would have met in their first 25 years of life. Then he looked at the chances of them talking, of meeting again, of forming a long-term relationship, of having kids together, and of the right egg and the right sperm combining to make you. He goes further back to look at the probability of all your ancestors successfully mating, and of all the right sperm meeting all the right eggs to make each one of those ancestors.

Now this part about which sperm will get to fertilize which egg does, on the surface, does seem to lend itself to the point Dr. Ali is trying to make, but if you believe that you are a creature of God of whome He has a special concern you consider Psalm 139:13, “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.”, and know that there was only one probable combination.

The conclusion: “The odds that you exist at all are basically zero.”

He illustrates it this way: “It is the probability of 2 million people getting together each to play a game of dice with trillion-sided dice. They each roll the dice and they all come up with the exact same number—for example, 550,343,279,001.”

So if the odds of one side of a six sided die landing on a particular side is 1/6, then the odds of a trillion-sided die wold be 1/1 trillion for each die case (die is singular for dice).  The analogy of die (dice) to people is where the calculation breaks down.  Die fall as they will, they cannot chooses this or that.  Once a die falls the probability is no longer a probability of chance, it is what it is.  Probability only exists in future state that the die may land regardless of how many side that die may have, be it two like a coin, or the trillions that Dr. Ali postulates.

It is the choices that people make that lead to their outcomes, not the random chance that sort of odds calculation requires.  Each of us in the lives that we live, makes the best choices we can under the circumstanced under which that decision had to be made.   If we were put into the exact same situation with the exact same information we would make the exact same decision regardless of how many time we were put in that situation.

“A miracle is an event so unlikely as to be almost impossible. By that definition, I’ve just shown that you are a miracle,” he wrote. “Now go forth and feel and act like the miracle that you are.”

NO! A miracle is not the occurrence of an highly unlikely event, a miracle is event where God directly intervenes in His creation.  Dr. Ali does not believe is God does such things, so he redefine the word to suite his beliefs.

Buddhists have talked of the preciousness of this incarnation. Binazir recounted this Buddhist analogy: “Imagine there was one life preserver thrown somewhere in some ocean and there is exactly one turtle in all of these oceans, swimming underwater somewhere. The probability that you came about and exist today is the same as that turtle sticking its head out of the water—in the middle of that life preserver. On one try.”

If it happen, it had to happen, or else it could not have happened.  There is no way to calculate the odd.
Binazir decided to test the Buddhist understanding against the modern scientific understanding. He looked at the amount of water in the oceans, compared to the size of a life-preserver. He concluded that the chances of a turtle sticking its head out in the middle of the life preserver was about one in 700 trillion.

“One in 400 trillion vs one in 700 trillion? I gotta say, the two numbers are pretty darn close, for such a far-fetched notion from two completely different sources: old-time Buddhist scholars and present-day scientists.”

One other observation, statistics is not science it is mathematics.  Statistics is a tool which scientists can use to test the reasonableness of something. Remember the adage, “Statistics never lie but liars use statistics.”, and as Mark Twain once remarked, “”There are lies, damned lies, and statistics“.  

I am not saying that Dr. Ali is purposely misleading you here, I am saying that he is trying to use statistics to prove what cannot be proven.

Link to original: 


Matt Briggs, The Statistician to the Stars,  explains the statistics much better than I can.  He pit it this at the end of the post he wrote upon this subject”

You exist, too. Therefore it must be the probability you exist is 1. That you might not have existed is a counterfactual question, which is perfectly comprehensible as long as we supply the premises under which you would not have existed. Say, you imagine your dad got called away on a business trip during the time in which your parents conceived you. Or that your dad never met your mom. Then, given those premises, the probability would not have existed is also 1, because there would have been no causal way of you coming into existence.

Face it. Probability is never as easy as you hope it is.

Matt Briggs, The Statistician to the Stars


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16 CommentsLeave a comment

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  13. Your failure to grasp the concept of probabilities and odds, whilst simultaneously questioning other peoples’ knowledge, is staggering. The original author talks about the odds of your birth occuring and your answer is essentially : it happened, therefore the odds were 1 in1? Pathetic. You’re discussing results, not odds. Similar for the dice analogy where you talk about the probability of a 6-sided dice landing on a certain number being 1:6 (correct) but then talk only of results if the dice were trillion-sided? Embarrassing. The odds are exactly the same (1:1tn per dice), you can’t just choose to look at results.
    Typical god-chat. Don’t like the science, might just make some stuff up instead.

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  16. Your quote about statistics is true, people can manipulate statistics to meet their subjective arguments.

    Nature is part random and part self-ordering. At the quantum level all possibilities are in play.

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