1,073,741,824. One billion plus.
This is the number of ancestors you had, theoretically, approximately 600 years ago, sometime around 1400. How did I arrive at this figure? Simple: you have two parents, each of them has two parents (4), each of them has two parents (8), each of them has two parents (16), and so on for approximately 30 generations (@20yrs).
But there's a problem. According to the best available estimates, at that time there were only about 350,000,000 people alive. Three-hundred-fifty million, slightly more than one-third of the number of your theoretical ancestors. "Go back forty generations, or about a thousand years, and each of us theoretically has more than a trillion direct ancestors—a figure that far exceeds the total number of human beings who have ever lived." Or so says Steve Olson in an article published several years back in The Atlantic Monthly: "The Royal We." What gives?
Intermarriage, intermingling of family trees, etc. Fine. Yet, there is a mathematical issue.
"In a 1999 paper titled "Recent Common Ancestors of All Present-Day Individuals," [Joseph] Chang [a statistician] showed how to reconcile the potentially huge number of our ancestors with the quantities of people who actually lived in the past. His model is a mathematical proof that relies on such abstractions as Poisson distributions and Markov chains, but it can readily be applied to the real world. Under the conditions laid out in his paper, the most recent common ancestor of every European today (except for recent immigrants to the Continent) was someone who lived in Europe in the surprisingly recent past—only about 600 years ago. In other words, all Europeans alive today have among their ancestors the same man or woman who lived around 1400. Before that date, according to Chang's model, the number of ancestors common to all Europeans today increased, until, about a thousand years ago, a peculiar situation prevailed: 20 percent of the adult Europeans alive in 1000 would turn out to be the ancestors of no one living today (that is, they had no children or all their descendants eventually died childless); each of the remaining 80 percent would turn out to be a direct ancestor of every European living today."Everyone today who has any trace of European ancestry is descended from Charlemagne (the Holy Grail, if you will, of genealogical research). And Muhammad: "The line of descent for which records exist is through the daughter of the Emir of Seville, who is reported to have converted from Islam to Catholicism in about 1200. But many other, unrecorded descents must also exist," says Olson.
Further, as a matter of statistical certainty, everyone alive today is descended from Abraham and David and Confuscius and Nefertiti:
"the most recent common ancestor of all six billion people on earth today probably lived just a couple of thousand years ago. And not long before that the majority of the people on the planet were the direct ancestors of everyone alive today. Confucius, Nefertiti, and just about any other ancient historical figure who was even moderately prolific must today be counted among everyone's ancestors."So, how does it feel to have royal, even divine blood? Feels pretty good, doesn't it? It gives you a real sense of self-esteem, n'est pas? A sense of pride and confidence. Even a sense of privilege. And that's the problem. This February 12th marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. His On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859) offended everyone who felt they had a drop of noble blood because at some level nobility is associated with divinity.
Throughout the history of Western civilization, royalty embellished their claims to rule over others by tracing their ancestral roots to the gods. Today's most blatant example is the Pope of the Roman Catholic sect who claims his authority comes from Peter, to whom Jesus the Divine purportedly gave the keys of heaven: "Behold he [Peter] received the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power of binding and loosing is committed to him, the care of the whole Church and its government is given to him [cura ei totius Ecclesiae et principatus committitur (Epist., lib. V, ep. xx, in P.L., LXXVII, 745)].
Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code plays on this myth of divine sanction, articulating the counter-myth that Charlemagne was the direct physical descendant of Jesus through the line of Mary Magdalene—which claim, of course, is a direct challenge to the spiritual authority arrogated to itself by the Roman church. Prior to this, the Roman Emperors, of course, formalized the model, relying heavily on the divine sanction for their authority. The Divine Augustus, the apotheosis of Nero, etc.
Jesus, as far as I can tell, was the first commoner/plebeian/peasant to be claimed to be a direct divine descendant; and, in the eyes of much of the Christian church, this elevated him to royalty. King Jesus. But this is confusing. In the New Testament, the books of Matthew and Luke make some attempt to trace Jesus's genealogy back through Joseph to David and, thus, Abraham and even Adam; but that makes no sense if his "father" was the Holy Spirit of God and not the icky, spermy Joseph. Either Jesus had a divine ancestor, arguably, in Adam, the first man, or Jesus's lineage represented a break in the chain of ancestry as the divine acted directly in the womb of his mother, Mary.
The tradition, of course, is much older, however. The Greek gods were continually meddling in the affairs of mortals and begetting spawn who were destined to rule over the people. There's a long history in the ancient Near East, as well. The so-called 'Divine Right of Kings' was but a modern shadow of the persistence of this myth.
Suffice it to say: Nobility, Royalty, Divinity: they are all inextricably intertwined in Western history. It can be quite confusing to us poor non-elites. 'Divinity' mythologizes the right of one person or one group to hold sway over another group. 'Divinity' authorizes rulership.
Then, along came Darwin. His work smashed this myth, waking humanity from its great slumber of irreality. There are truly no divine origins, no divinely sanctioned royalty, no exclusive nobility. We all have the same origins. We are all, in essence, of the animal kingdom. Human, all too human. It is the great disillusionment.
And 150 years later, the Christers, primarily, are fighting a fierce, rear-guard action defending the primacy of their great delusion. They need to believe that the authority of their priests, ministers, preachers, etc. derives directly from some higher power; that some divinity deigned to appear on earth and interfere in human affairs by impregnating a young Hebrew girl; that the presence of this divinity among us was revealed exclusively to a selective few, bestowing upon them some form of spiritual authority over the rest of us; that this authority has been handed down in an unbroken chain of succession ever since; and that the stories surrounding this revelation are set down in holy writ and, if we read them aright (the way the authorities tell us to), it will be revealed to us in all its glory. Magical thinking, that.
Darwin detached that chain at the source, demolished the feigned origins of authority (divine AND secular) and nobility. That is why they hate us.