Did you know that you won the lottery?

We have always assumed that ‘we’ will be around forever; not only that but we wonder how long it will be before we can colonise other planets and solar systems. We conveniently ignore the fact that our being here in the first place may be nothing more that the fortutitous result of an incredible set of conincidences.

Do you believe that your existence is preordained?
I’m not sure what the postion of the mainstream religions is on this (or even if they have a position) but think about it;  when your mom and dad had sex nine months before you were born that one single ejaculation from your father (I do hope you’re not reading this over your morning cornflakes) contained probably two million healthy sperm – and only one of them got to combine with your mother’s egg.
(Apparently the total number of spermatozoa in the ejaculate should be at least 40 million, but it is quite surprising how many dead and abnormal sperm can be present in a ‘normal’ sample.)

And this combination lead to you. Now if any of those other two million sperm got there ahead of yours then it wouldn’t be you reading this right now – it would be a brother or sister – and you wouldn’t exist! So if your folks had decided to wait until Eastenders was over instead of rushing upstairs in a mad fit of passion then you would not be you – you would be your brother (or sister)! I’m telling you – this stuff is mad. Why had nobody told you this before?

So next time you rip up your lottery ticket and complain that you never win anything just think about this – you’ve already won the lottery, and it couldn’t have been a bigger prize!

I mention this every time I teach human reproduction and challenge students to find a flaw in the argument and if not they they are no longer allowed whine about how hard they have it. I was reminded of it recently when reading The Frog Blog’s recent post on putting the  wonder back into science education.
I have spoken about the concept of wonder before and mentioned that you don’t find wonder in science textbooks or syllabi and as a result it may not be found at all in the science classroom. For this to change those of us who believe it to important need first of all to develop a voice. Are we in a very small minority and if so should we just shut up, or are there others who believe that Science should be about more than merely learning off trivia, all of which could be found at the end of a smartphone in 30 seconds?  
How do we find out who’s with us?
Is twitter the way to go?
Which is more difficult – changing a political system in the Middle East or changing our system of education here in the West?

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4 comments

  1. Definitely the latter, because there is ‘nothing wrong’ with the education according to my teachers, half of them don’t even care how they teach us, it’s just that they reach the end of the syllabus in time for the exams… *sigh* Reading your blog gives me a hint of hope though!

  2. Noel,

    You can add to this the very chance that your mother and father met in the first place, the same with your grandmother and grandfather and so on back through time. The probability of “me” being here is practically zero. Makes you think.

    1. But once again, the bit that gets me is why have I never heard this from anyone before – particularly in education; one would have thought that it might be an important concept to bring with us through life. Could it be that religious authorities are uncomfortable with it?

  3. I can remember reading some psycologist’s conclusion that life isn’t worth it. He decided that there was absolutely no reason to bring a baby into a horrible world like this as consciousness is a curse more than a gift. Pretty compelling stuff, I mean the bad stuff does definitely outweigh the good stuff. I kind of like the phrase ignorance ∝ bliss but it sounds really pretentious.

    It actually reminds me of the conservation of momentum in particle physics where the bad stuff is the momentum before, the good stuff is the momentum afterwards, and the neutrino is that thing that says, “Hey, living is a good thing. Why? Just is.”

    I’m not suicidal by the way, I just wanted to contradict you : P

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