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Existence by Chance: The Making of the Planet, Life, and You

Evening Program

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, November 30, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1A0130
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Illustration by Natalya Balnova


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.

Fact: If it had hit 30 minutes earlier or later, the meteor that killed the dinosaurs would have landed in the ocean and we wouldn’t be here today. Fact: Your genetic code is just one of 70 trillion possible combinations your parents could have made when that one specific sperm fertilized that one specific egg.

Why is the world the way it is? How did we get here? Does everything happen for a reason or are some things left to chance? Philosophers and theologians have pondered these questions for millennia, but startling scientific discoveries over the past half century are revealing that we live in a world driven by chance. Sean B. Carroll, an evolutionary developmental biologist and educator, discusses the astonishing power of chance and how it is the surprising source of the beauty and diversity in the living world.

Like every other species, we humans are here by accident. But it’s shocking just how many things—any of which might never have occurred—had to happen in certain ways for any of us to exist. From an extremely improbable asteroid impact, to the wild gyrations of the Ice Age, to invisible accidents in our parents’ gonads, Carroll examines how we are all here through an astonishing series of fortunate events. And he reveals how chance continues to reign every day over the razor-thin line between our life and death.

Information on how to purchase Carroll’s book, A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You (Princeton University Press) is available during the program.

Book Sale Information

Patron Information

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Inside Science