Biblical Paleoarcheology

How Fast did Population Grow?

Article #26
We don’t have population statistics for the time before the Romans. All we can do is guess. McEvedy and Jones(1) estimate that the world population was 4 million in 10,000 BC, distributed across all continents. At that time, the world was supposed to have reached its carrying capacity of one person per ten square kilometers of land. The world was full and could not handle any more people. If a family increased in size, someone would need to die from lack of food. That’s the theory. We don’t find sufficient facts to support this theory, i.e., skeletal remains, but that’s another story.

Diametrically opposed to this theory is the Biblical narrative that 8 people stepped off the Ark into an empty world. The land was far from its carrying capacity, so there was no ecological limitation to population growth. Moreover, God told Noah and his sons, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1) God literally commanded them to have a maximum population growth rate and spread out to the full extent of the continents. Let us be careful not to project our Malthusian fears upon these people. The most godly thing they could have done would have been to raise many children.

According to Biblical genealogy, Babel probably happened 101 years after the Flood, so let’s consider possible growth rates to see what the world population could have been at the time of Babel.

The current world population growth rate is 1.05% per year. Using a population formula,

, we can calculate the expected population. Po, the starting population was 8. r, the rate, is 1.05% or 0.0105. t, the time in years is 101. That makes the population 23. This should be considered our unrealistic minimum, because today we are striving for zero growth and they were doing the exact opposite.

The world population could have been over 400,000 at the time of Babel

Carter and Hardy studied Biblical population growth using eight parameters in their custom population modeling software. Results can vary widely. They found that with a minimum child bearing age of 17 or less and a minimum child spacing of one year the population at Babel would be more than 10,000. When the minimum child bearing age fell to 14, the population would be over 40,000. Neither of these scenarios is considered likely by the authors, but we should also consider the unlikely as possible.

  • Perhaps special conditions do justify considering the most optimistic parameters, especially compared to the highly pessimistic growth rate of so-called “primitive” people.
  • The DNA of the pre-Flood family had fewer flaws from genetic mutations.
  • They are said to have lived longer, which means they were healthier.
  • They had not yet lost genetic information from isolation (heterozygosity).
  • They had superior education because they lived longer.
  • They had better social support because of peaceful cooperation.
  • They were motivated by a great vision to prosper for the common good.
  • They were closer to God because of having seen his handiwork in their own lifetimes.
  • They had escaped pre-Flood violence, so promoted respect for the law and trade.

If we believe that extremely good conditions existed for population growth, what would the best parameters be?

  • Women began having children at 14.
  • They had a child every year.
  • They had 20 children per family and stopped at age 34.

These are extreme conditions but not supernatural, even though God’s “blessing” (Genesis 9:1) may imply a miraculous component. After all, we have the historical record of God’s blessing population growth in Egypt. Even the deliberate efforts of Pharaoh to persecute Israel and kill off the babies could not thwart God’s blessing on population growth.

Forty per cent of women in sub-Saharan Africa marry when they are under 18, in spite of human rights efforts to end child marriage. Social pressure discourages early marriage, but it continues unabated. If social pressure encouraged early marriage in post-Flood days, then it could have easily been the norm.

Many farming families in our recent ancestry had ten or more children. Ninety-nine women are said to have had twenty or more children. Those who are certain had up to 33 children. Ten mothers that cannot be confirmed had between 35 and 69 children, by having twins and triplets.(3) Conditions in the past and willingness to prioritize motherhood may well have produced large families that have no equal in our present day societies. The following table gives the population that results from the parameters that we selected above (4).

These will be the population figures that I will use in the future, when reconstructing history between Noah and Babel. After Babel, population growth slowed to maybe 1.7% because unity was replaced by language differences and tribal divisions that led to migrations, isolation, violence, and more unhealthy times.

The table above compares the standard narrative for human evolution and population to a Biblical timetable for population.

References

(1) Atlas of World Population History by Colin McEvedy and Richard Jones, Penguin Books 1978, pg. 344.
(2) Modelling biblical human population growth by Robert Carter and Chris Hardy
(3) List of people with the most children – Wikipedia
(4) The Excel spreadsheet with calculations is available upon request.

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