We Are All Related.
Not only are we related to other people, we are also related to all other known life on the planet.
Max Clarke photograph
If you are ever at a party and some bright person says, “I am related to Janis Joplin, hold up your hand and respond cheerfully, “I am too!
You are, you know, and more closely related to her than you might think. Photo: Max Clarke
I read this the other day: Every American president is in some way related to our nation’s preeminent Founding Father George Washington.
Of course this is true. This is one of those statements that masks the fact that we are ALL related to every American president, to George Washington and to each other.
It’s just a matter of numbers.
I have written elsewhere, and it only seems to be common sense, to realize that we are all incredible winners just to be here.
Think about it. You are the result of millions of couplings, all of them successful. Photo: Max Clarke
Your ancestors lived long enough to procreate, and I am talking about all of your ancestors going all the way back to something like 3.5 billion years ago.
You are the happy result of a long, long chain of lucky chances, felicitous opportunities, good weather, excellent timing, timing down to the second, timing down to the split second.
You have two parents.
And each parent has two parents.
So you have four grandparents and eight great grandparents.
You can see that it doesn’t take a long climb up the family tree for you to be connected to a large number of people.
We’re only talking about parents here. Not uncles, aunts, cousins and other collateral relatives.
I have written about Samuel David Andrew, a man who fought in the Civil War, and who lost an arm at the battle of the Wilderness, one of the many Sam Andrews in our family going back for hundreds of years.
Just tracing my lineage back back to Samuel David Andrew means I have to keep track of 250 people, parents, grandparents, great grandparents straight back in a line to him, and he only lived a hundred years ago.
Two hundred and fifty mothers and fathers and their mothers and fathers and their mothers and fathers in only eight generations back to, say, 1840.
If you trace your own lineage back to 1600, which is relatively recent, it’s the modern era, just counting your mother and father and their mothers and fathers and so on, you will find that your family tree is a bit crowded. There are now 16,384 people who are directly responsible for you.
Think of all that love, all that intrigue, all that monkey business, all of those human relations, all that human intercourse. Photo: Max Clarke
Let’s see, half of 16,384 is 8,192. Eight thousand, one hundred and ninety two women met 8,192 men since 1600, and they carried on in such a manner as to result in you.
That’s a lot of kinfolk. And we’re only talking about four hundred years here.
In Elizabethan England, there were, in the entire country, only about three, four million people, the population of the San Francisco Bay Area now. You could be related to all of them. You ARE related to all of them. Photo: Max Clarke
Samuel David Andrew lived eight generations before you.
Twenty generations before you the number of people who were amorous, lecherous or whatever on your behalf reaches 1,048,576.
Photo: Max Clarke
Each of those million plus couplings had to be successful to result in this little boy who turned out to be Jimi Hendrix.
Each of those million plus people had to be not murdered before the magic moment of procreation that resulted in you, not diseased and infertile, not smashed flat by an errant boulder, not killed in a war, each of the million plus people had to live to an age of fertility and procreate successfully. That’s an amazing chain of good luck.
Think about the people we have seen disappear in our own lifetimes, Jimi Hendrix being one of them. Life is fragile. It’s not easy living long enough to make the next generation.
If you look on your family tree back to the time of, say, Julius Caesar, and just count your mother and father, and all of their mothers and fathers, the number of people who have resulted in you becomes one million trillion.
You are intimately related to one million trillion people. That’s more people than have ever lived. By far.
How is that possible?
Lots of incest. Most of it not illegal or immoral, although there was doubtlessly much of that too.
No, when you’re related to that many people, that means that each of those people are related to that many people too, so it won’t be long before you’re engaging meaningfully with a more or less closely related person.
To put it another way, you are most likely related to the person who is your significant other. Indeed, it would be unusual if that were not the case.
To put it still another way, if you walk into, say, Yoshi’s nightclub on Fillmore and Eddy in San Francisco, take a good look around because you are related to everyone in there.
These considerations give the phrase ‘We are all one’ a whole new meaning.
There is a family in Georgia, a big family, and their name is Bembry. Some are African American and some are not. I am related to all of them.
So are you. Probably not as closely as I am, but they’re your kin too.
If we are related to one million trillion people counting back to Caesar’s time, and after all, that is not really a long time in the general scheme of things, we are related to everyone, not only who lives now, but who has ever lived.
Saints, scoundrels, heroes, villains, holy women, hypocrites, Roundheads, Cavaliers, Guelphs, Ghibellines, Visigoths, Suebi, they’re all family.
There was an old song that had a line, ‘Duke’s son, cook’s son, son of a hundred kings.’ Just so.
In the Middle Ages, people sang, “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?
Genetically we are 99.9 % the same.
You have probably read that we are 95% the same as chimpanzees, so, there you go, we are related to them too.
But humans? It is thought that we all come from an original population of about 10,000 individuals.
We are extraordinarily alike. There is more genetic variety in a large troop of baboons than there is in the entire human species.
Mitakuye Oyasin (All Are Related) is phrase in the Lakota language, which reflects the world view of interconnectedness held by the Lakota people.
The phrase translates as “all my relatives, “we are all related, or “all my relations.
Every person on earth’s most recent common ancestor might have died less than 2,000 years ago.
There simply aren’t enough ancestors for each of us NOT to be related.
It’s quite common for people to have the same great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents.
Some geneticists believe we’re all at least 50th cousins to everyone else on this planet.
Is there a single common ancestor that every person on earth shares?
In a discussion such as this there are three different ‘common ancestors’ to consider.
There is the most recent common ancestor, a random individual who happens to be the latest person who connects to everyone.
Photo: Max Clarke
Mitochondrial DNA is a distinct subset of genetic material found not in the cell nucleus but rather in the mitochondria, the power plants of the cell.
Female egg cells completely destroy the mitochondria in the male sperm cell shortly after fertilization, leaving only the female mitochondria behind.
Thus, there is a ‘mitochondrial Eve’ who passed down her mitochondria relatively unchanged to every human alive today.
Every female alive today will continue to pass down her mitochondria indefinitely.
Mitochondrial Eve lived about 200,000 years ago.
We know this from tracking the mutations to the mitochondrial DNA and establishing which human groups are most closely related.
What about Adam?
Only men have a Y-chromosome. Fathers pass it on to their sons, which allows geneticists to trace patrilineal descent in much the same way that mitochondrial DNA allows us to trace matrilineal descent.
Genetic evidence suggests that Y-chromosomal Adam lived about 90,000 to 60,000 years ago, much more recently than mitochondrial Eve.
Whatever language we speak, whatever color of our skin, we share ancestors who were slaves in Egypt, farmers in the Yangtse delta, horsemen on the steppes, farm women in North and South America. Photo: Max Clarke
A substantial proportion of men in the world are direct descendants of Genghis Khan. They carry Y chromosomes which seem to have come down from an individual who lived approximately 1,000 years ago.
Genghis Khan died ~750 years ago, so assuming 25 years per generation, you get about 30 men between the present and that period. In more quantitative terms, ~10% of the men who reside within the borders of the Mongol Empire as it was at the death of Genghis Khan may carry his Y chromosome, and so ~0.5% of men in the world, about 16 million individuals alive today, do so.
By the way, I just read today that four out of ten Americans believe that we descended from Adam and Eve ten thousand years ago.
Please let that be an inaccurate poll.
Our human family is growing rapidly.
In 1800, about one billion people lived in the world. This number had doubled by 1930, tripled by 1960, and officially reached six billion in October 1999. The world population is now over seven billion and rapidly climbing.
Because of this population explosion, everyone alive today shares recent common ancestors.
The average marriage in Europe is between sixth cousins, who share a great, great, great, great, great grandparent. However, this varies a lot from place to place, and people living in isolated communities will be more closely related.
We all share the same ancestors multiple times.
The awareness of our ancestors is limited to a few generations so we have difficulty believing that all of us in the world are connected.
The populating of the planet by our ancestors was accomplished progressively outward from a region situated between the Middle East, North Africa, and East Africa. Thus, all contemporary human beings are descended from immigrants.
It is an illusion that there are races. The diversity of human beings is so great and so complicated that it is impossible to classify seven billion individuals into discrete ‘races.’
The term race refers to a difference of origin which is non-existent for humans.
Ancient peoples stigmatized ‘others’ on the grounds of language, custom, class, and especially religion, but they did not sort people according to physical differences.
The concept of race is a recent invention, only a few hundred years old.
It is worth keeping in mind that, though we are all related, each of us is unique. Eighty billion human beings more or less have lived on Earth over the time since our common origin. With the exception of true identical twins, never have any two among them have had exactly the same genetic heritage.
The number of different possible human individuals is many times greater than the number of atoms in the universe.
And now for some really deep and close relationships.
A light photon in Cleveland will start spinning in one direction and another light photon in Melbourne will instantly begin spinning in another direction.
Photo: Max Clarke
These photons are said to be entangled.
Talk about being closely related.
Photograph: Max Clarke
A Combination of the Two: Entanglement of light photons
Quantum entanglement, whereby two or more objects are linked by an unseen connection can be thought of as a pair of dice that always land on the same number.
It is possible to prepare two particles in a single quantum state such that when one is observed to be spin-up, the other one will always be observed to be spin-down and vice versa.
It is, however, impossible to predict, according to quantum mechanics, which set of measurements will be observed.
Photo: Max Clarke
Measurements performed on one system seem to be instantaneously influencing other systems entangled with it.
Quantum entanglement has applications in the emerging technologies of quantum computing and quantum cryptography, and has been used to realize quantum teleportation experimentally.
One of the most intriguing aspects of entanglement is this quantum teleportation, in which the quantum state of a particle or atom is transferred to its entangled partner, even if they are separated physically.
Such relaying of quantum information could form the backbone of long-distance quantum communication channels.
This network, however, is a long way from being realized.
A group of researchers have made headway in quantum teleportation, and thus communication. The team, led by physics graduate student Steven Olmschenk at the University of Maryland, College Park, succeeded in teleporting quantum information between ytterbium ions (charged atoms) one meter apart.
Quantum teleportation has been demonstrated across macroscopic distances (hundreds of meters) for photons, the fundamental particles of electromagnetic radiation, but ions are better candidates for quantum memory because they can store information for relatively long periods of time.
The fundamental advantage of quantum information systems is that whereas a conventional digital bit can be 0 or 1, a qubit can be in a so-called superposition of 0 and 1 simultaneously.
Normally, you have to collect particles that come from the object to image it, says Anton Zeilinger, a physicist at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. “Now, for the first time, you don’t have to do that. Two photons need not be of the same energy, Zeilinger says, meaning that the light that touches the object can be of a different color than the light that is detected.
Thus, we are all entangled in ways that we have not even imagined. We are all related.
Sam Andrew Your cousin