You often hear that no two snowflakes are the same. I’ve even heard it claimed that no two snowflakes have ever been the same. The problem I have with statements like that is simply that it is too grand. It can not be definitive. Just because some guy looked at thousands of them under a microscope and declared them all different is not enough. There have been billions upon billions of snowflakes and it is simply impossible to guarantee that no two have been the same. I believe this to be true of other “unique” things too, such as fingerprints and retina patterns. Now the probability of any of us sharing identical fingerprints is extremely low, but it is not zero; it cannot be ruled out. I am more than happy to concede it is unlikely that two snowflakes have ever been the same, just don’t close the door on improbabilities. If something is not conclusively impossible it means that however improbable it may be it remains possible. You could win the lottery three times in a row. I don’t fancy your chances of that but I am not able to state categorically that it could not happen. All I’m saying here is that sometimes we need to take things with a pinch of salt. Facts are statements that can be proven. If they cannot be proven then no matter how amazing, interesting or indeed likely they are, they cannot be taken as fact. I know it all sounds a little pedantic but passing off conjecture as fact could get you into trouble one of these days…
So what about people? Are we all unique or is there the slightest possibility that two of us could be identical? Well, a human being is a bit more complex than a snowflake, to say the least. The chances of two being physically identical are astronomical. There are two possible exceptions of course: identical twins and cloning. For the time being we can leave cloning to the realms of science fiction. Twins is a trickier one. Maybe they could be identical at birth but from the moment they take their first breath they start to become unique individuals. The reason for this is their brains. The very first experience their brains may process could be being held by a midwife. Imagine the first twin is held in exactly the right manner to make it feel safe and comforted. Then imagine with the second twin that a thumb pressing in a slightly different position happens to touch a tender spot that causes the baby discomfort and makes it cry. One very subtle difference during the first few seconds of life has set two brains on different paths of development. And this process continues throughout their lives. Even if they go everywhere together they will experience the world in slightly different ways. If they are standing a few feet apart, one of them may see something that the other does not – a fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher for example – that will make a distinct impression on one twin but not the other. No matter how physically alike they are, their experiences of the world will be different. One may love seafood whereas the other may get a bad oyster and be put off it for life. They may have many similarities but they will definitely be unique. Perception and experience is why I don’t believe two humans can ever be the same.