Don Batten – Where Are All the People?

Six billion people live on planet Earth. That sounds like a lot of people. Well, I would not want to invite them all to a barbecue at my house! However, they could all fit into an area the size of England, with more than 20 square metres each. Many of us live in cities, so we have the impression that the world is bursting with people. However, much of the world is sparsely populated.

Nevertheless, many wonder at how the population could have grown to six billion from Noah’s family who survived the Flood that wiped out everyone else about 4,500 years ago. When you do the figures, it confirms the biblical truth that everyone on Earth today is a descendant of Noah’s sons and daughters-in-law. Not only that, but if people have been here for much longer, and there was no global Flood of Noah’s day, there should be a lot more people than there are—or there should be a lot more human remains!

Many people have problems understanding growth rates of things. When the population doubles from 16 to 32, it does not seem like much, but when it doubles from three billion to six billion it seems like a lot more. But, it is exactly the same rate of growth. Given enough generations, the number of people being added with each generation becomes astronomical. It’s like compound interest on an investment—eventually the amount being added each year becomes very great.

To illustrate this, think of the story of the inventor of chess. His king offered him a reward, but instead of gold he asked for one grain of rice doubled for each successive square on a chessboard. The number of grains would have been 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32 etc. The 10th square would have 512; the 20th, 524 thousand; the 30th, 537 million. The amount of rice on the last square1 would have been a number so great—vastly in excess of the total world rice harvest at present—that it would have represented wealth far exceeding that of the king. Such is the power of compounding. And population growth is compound growth—that’s why so many people are now being added each year. It’s not necessarily that people are having more children than they once did, or that fewer people are dying.

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