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Everyone on Earth Is Your Cousin?
By Heath Shive
I was watching an episode of the TV show 30 Rock. On the episode “The Head and the Hair,” Liz Lemon meets a handsome man…only to find out that they are distant cousins. Lemon promptly breaks up with him.
But here’s something weird someone told me.
Technically, everyone on Earth is your cousin – your 30th cousin at least.
To the logic!
Cousins by Number
Imagine this. Your mom takes you to see your grandmother. While she’s there, your mom meets her sister. Your mother’s sister is your aunt, of course. Your aunt’s children are your 1st cousins. You are “1st” cousins because only 1 generation separates you and your cousins from your common ancestor (your grandmother in this scenario).
This is the cousin system of degree and removal.
Your children and your cousin’s children will be 2nd cousins, because 2 generations will separate them from a common ancestor.
(Incidentally, your 1st cousin’s children would be your 1st cousins-once-removed.)
Cousins to the Nth Power!
Every human on Earth needs 2 biological parents. That means every human has 4 biological grandparents, and 8 great-grandparents, and so on.
Follow the math? 2 times 2 times 2…
If you want to go back 30 generations, then you have to figure out the math of 2 taken to the 30th power.
If 2 is taken to the 30th power, then the number is 1,073,741,824.
That’s over 1 billion people!
But here’s the problem: 1 billion people did not exist 30 generations ago!
It has been estimated that the world human population did not reach 1 billion until around the year 1804.
So that means, sooner or later, everyone on Earth must share at least 1 common ancestor in the last 30 generations!
By this logic, everyone on Earth is at least a 30th cousin!
We Are Family
It hard to believe that you are a cousin to Oprah Winfrey, Jackie Chan, and Emilia Clarke. And you are a cousin to Presidents Barack Obama…and Donald Trump!
But, of course, that doesn’t mean that every marriage is an act of incest. Genetic variation distances our bloodlines pretty quickly!
So, for example, there’s no reason Emilia Clarke and I cannot get married (and I wonder if that’s why she’s not returning my phone calls).
But the human family is more well-connected than we like to think.
And doesn’t this put war in a weird perspective?
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Hello! My name is Heath Shive, content manager at ScholarFox. I'll be the author of most of the blog posts. I'm a former geologist and currently a freelance writer. The world is complex and seemingly crazy. Good! Because when you love to learn, you'll never be bored.