We Are Lucky To Have Been Born

Long before Richard Dawkins became a prominent atheist, he was one of the world’s great evolutionary biologists. I hope that people remember him for the great scientist he was, as well as for his bold statements against ignorance and superstition. I find this one of the most moving videos I’ve seen. Reminds me so much of another eloquent scientist, Carl Sagan. Here is the transcript:

Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara … Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

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2 thoughts on “We Are Lucky To Have Been Born

  1. I gather there are two separate points in your entry.

    In the first, you expressed your wish for Richard Dawkins to be remembered as “… the great scientist he was, as well as for his bold statements against ignorance and superstition.” If by this you want to express your feeling that he has dedicated more than he should have of his time, energy and creativity to aggressive atheism, then I do agree with you, because now, whenever his name is mentioned in conversations or media communications it is mentioned, more often than not, in relation to his intension to wipe out all religions from the world. While, by contrast, his great elucidation of the concept, nay, the law of Natural Selection and its far-reaching impact on our understanding of our complex existence to the general public is rarely mentioned. Such an elucidation had impacted my worldview very deeply after I had read “The Selfish Gene” when an undergraduate in physics more than 40 years ago, even though I had believed in Darwin’s theory of evolution many years before that.

    In the second, the main point of your entry, there is the Dawkin’s idea of ‘we should consider ourselves lucky to have been born when billion alternatives other than us could have been in our place’. I just find this idea rather difficult for me to wrap my mind around. In the first place, one considers himself lucky when something good happenes to him rather than something bad or nothing in particular happening, in which case he/she would feel deprived of that good thing. But to feel lucky one needs to be able to experience the bad luck or the deprivation even if they didn’t happen. So, how can we feel lucky to have been born when there is no way to experience not being born?!

    But there is a feeling about me emerging out of such a vast possibility of not emerging which is ineffable. What is this feeling? Is it perhaps my false thoughts of ‘me’ as an existing separate entity looking at the world rather than just pure consciousness (which is the same for everyone) that is later dressed up by experience and learning as a ‘me’ with all its history that is making me think I could have been still lingering in limbo (feeling unlucky) and not being born? If so, then we shouldn’t really feel lucky or unlucky. We should just be joyfully mindful of the universe as it unfolds before us which reminds me of the wonderful Chinese story about a farmer and his horse which, despite the fact that ‘lucky’ and ‘unlucky’ could still have meaning in the story in a conventional sense, teaches us a wise lesson. This story has been told and retold in many versions, but here is one of the nice versions at http://www.drmarlo.com/?page_id=181

  2. really like the story about being lucky or unlucky – only time will tell. This reminds me of Aristotle saying that we don’t know if a life is a good or bad one till it is over. thanks for the comments. JGM

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