This thread reminded me of a book I read by Bill Bryson "A short history of everything" - he was discussing the miracle of our very existence in
terms of ancestory, I managed to find a small snippet from the chapter I was thinking about...
Excerpt taken from
(the rest of the article is worth reading)
Bryson was launching into an explanation of the relative miracle of his reader's lineage, by going backwards in time to examine the reader's
ancestral tree. Pushing beyond everyone's comfort zone of parents, grand-parents, great-grand-parents back to the 19th century, Bryson (2003)
estimates the number of ancestors the reader's life depended upon:
"Go back just eight generations to about the time Darwin and Lincoln were born, and already there are over 250 people on whose timely couplings your
Darwin and Lincoln were both born on the same day - 12th February, 1809. At the time of Shakespeare (1564 - 1616) and the Mayflower(1620), Bryson
calculates his reader required 16,384 ancestors to be "earnestly exchanging genetic material"
. Going even further back in time, Bryson
calculates the following milestones:
* 20 generations ago - 1,048,576 ancestors
* 25 generations ago - 33,554,432 ancestors
* 30 generations ago - 1,073,741,824 ancestors
Finally, around the time of the Romans:
* 64 generations ago - approximately 1 million trillion ancestors.
This is, as Bryson (2003) puts it (my emphasis):
"...several thousand times the total number of people who have ever lived.
Clearly something has gone wrong with our maths here. The answer, it may interest you to learn, is that your line is not pure.
You wouldn't be
here without a little incest - actually quite a lot of incest - albeit at a genetically discrete remove."
In other words we all come from the same pot somewhere down the line, those members typing their enraged responses whilst wearing boxing gloves or
with the 6 digits on each hand that they mama told them were magic hands might be a more recent arrival from this pot.
So for me the argument is an attempt at justification. I pray that a peaceful solution can be found one day..