Book Excerpt

Babel and the World Population

Biblical Demography and Linguistics

by Henry M. Morris

In our study of Biblical anthropology, we have thus far focused particularly on the nature of man himself, showing that human beings are created in the image of God, uniquely distinct from the animal creation. Man's origin is in no way an evolutionary development from ape-like progenitors, but a special creation, destined for eternity.

The same applies to human societies and interrelationships. The families, nations, and so-called races of mankind are not to be analyzed in an evolutionary context, as though they were somehow like hives of bees or colonies of prairie dogs, but in the light of God's distinct purposes. He told the first man and woman, "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Gen. 1:28). Similarly, after the Flood He renewed this primeval command to Noah, saying: "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered" (Gen. 9:1-2).

In the next two chapters, therefore, we wish to deal with the sciences related to human societies, especially their historical development. To some degree, this discussion must touch on the social sciences, which are really outside the intended scope of this book. However, the treatment will be limited to the available facts from the historical sciences (cultural anthropology, ethnology, archaeology, etc.) in relation to their bearing on the Biblical or evolutionary views concerning the development of human societies. First of all, it will be appropriate to consider the growth of the total human population and its fundamental divisions. The latter, as we shall see, are essentially linguistic rather than racial divisions.

Demography of the Bible

The first field we should consider is the field of demographics, the study of populations. As a matter of fact, it was largely the population studies of Thomas Malthus, in the early nineteenth century, that led Charles Darwin to his ideas about natural selection and survival of the fittest in nature. Malthus had argued that human populations tend to increase geometrically, or exponentially (with the population doubling at constant intervals), whereas food supplies and other necessities could only be increased arithmetically (that is, linearly, the increase per unit time being a constant). Thus the population was perpetually increasing more rapidly than available supplies could warrant, with the result that multitudes would have to be in poverty and might be better off if allowed to die. This same attitude is widely prevalent among ecologists and environmentalists today, who believe that the world population is already too great for its resources and that it is still rapidly increasing. Donald Mann says: "There is a growing consensus that further population growth in our already vastly overpopulated world threatens to destroy man's ancient dream of a good life for all, free from material want. . . . More and more, informed individuals believe that the only possible solution lies in halting and then reversing population growth so that population size can eventually be stabilized at some reasonable fraction of today's numbers." (1)

The present world population (as of 1983) is estimated to be about 4.6 billion, although the accuracy of this estimate is open to question. Furthermore, it is a matter of considerable controversy whether the earth's optimum "carrying capacity" is about two billion (as Mann thinks), or far more than even the present population. Many have argued the world could satisfactorily support more than 50 billion.

Our discussion here, however, must center not on future population trends, but on historical growth rates. it does seem difficult to explain why, if man has been on the earth for a million years or so, his populations have proliferated only in modern times. How could it be that the planet only now is experiencing a population crisis--why not several hundred thousand years ago, soon after man first appeared on earth?

As a matter of fact, this is a strong argument in favor of the short Biblical chronology. At first one might suppose that a few thousand years of human history beginning with Adam and Eve (or, better, with Noah and his wife) could not possibly suffice to explain the present world population of almost five billion. The fact is, however, that the difficulty really lies in explaining why the population, after such an interval, is only five billion!

That being the case, think how much more unlikely it is that the hypothetical million-year evolutionary history of the human race would only have resulted in the present population.

Although we have no truly reliable population data to work with until modern times, it is possible to study population growth in terms of some reasonable model, to compare that model's implications with respect to modern trends, and then to extrapolate backwards into the past on that basis. There are several possible models that might be used for this purpose, and these will all indicate the reasonableness of a short chronology. Population statistics can be made to fit an evolutionary chronology only by extreme manipulations of the model, in effect only by using an arbitrary model, designed to fit evolution, rather than by using a rational model that at least fits the population data available. All this can be illustrated by the following mathematical examination of population growth rates. (2)

Rapid World Growth of Population

Assume that the earth had an initial population of 2 people, ready to assume their responsibilities as husband and wife and then as parents. Assume also that the average number of children per family (growing to maturity and marriage) was 2 c, with c boys and c girls. In the first succeeding generation, then, there would have been c families (and 2 c individuals, plus the first 2 still living). The second generation, on the same basis, would contain c times 2 c, or 2 c2, individuals. In the third generation, there would be 2 c3 individuals, and so on. The total number of individuals in the world at the end of n generations, assuming no deaths, could be calculated as:

Sn = 2 + 2 c + 2 c2 + 2 c3 + .. - + 2cn, Eqn. 1.

The sum, Sn, can be calculated directly. Multiply both sides of equation (1) by c:

Sn(c) = 2 c + 2 c2 + 2 c3 + 2 c4 . . . + 2 cn + 2 c(n+1)

Subtracting the first equation from the above:

Sn(c) - Sn = 2 c(n+1) - 2,

or Sn(c - 1) = 2 c(n+1) - 2

Dividing through by (c - 1) yields the sum Sn as:

Sn = 2 c(n+1) - 2 / (c-1)


Sn = 2 [c(n+l) - 1] / (c -1), Eqn. 2.

However, the number of people represented by Sn would have to be reduced by the number who had died since the first generation in order to get the actual population. Now, let the average life-span be represented by x generations. The people who had already died by the time of the nth generation, therefore, would be those who were in the (n-x)th generation, or earlier. This number is:

S(n-x) = 2 [c(n-x+1) - 1] / (c- 1)

The total population at the nth generation, then, combining equations 2 and 3, becomes:

Pn = So - S(n-x) = 2 [c(n+1) - c(n-x+l)] / (c - 1)


Pn = 2 [c(n-x + 1)] [cx - 1) / (c-1), Eqn. 4.

Equation 4, in summary, will give the world population n generations after the first family, for an average life-span of x generation,, and an average number of children growing to maturity and marriage of 2c per family. The equation clearly demonstrates how rapidly populations can grow under favorable conditions.

For example, assume that c = 2 and x = 2, which is equivalent to saying that the average family has 4 children who later have families of their own, and that each set of parents lives to see all their own grandchildren. For these conditions, which are not at all unreasonable Table 8 indicates the population at the end of the indicated number of generations, as calculated by equation 4:

TABLE 8. Extended Population Calculation for 6-member Family


 5  96
 10  3,070
 15  98,300
 20  3,150,000
 30  3,220,000,000

This last number is almost equal to the present world population, so that only 30 generations under these conditions would suffice to produce a population almost equal to that in the world today. The population at 31 generations would be 6.5 billion.

The next obvious question is: How long is a generation? Again, reasonable assumption is that the average marriage occurs at age 2 and that the 4 children have been born by age 35. Then the grand children will have been born by the time the parents have lived the allotted span of 70 years. A generation thus is about 35 years. Ma consider a generation to be only 30 years.

This would mean that practically the entire present world population could have been produced in approximately 30 x 35, or 1,05 years!

The fact that it has actually taken considerably longer than this t bring the world population to its present size indicates that the average family size is less than 4 children, or that the average life-span is less than 2 generations, or both. For comparison, let us assume the that the average family has only 3 children and the life-span is generation (i.e., that c = 1.5 and x = 1). Then, equation 4 yields to figures in Table 9.

TABLE 9. Extended Population Calculation for 5-member Family
 Generations  Population
 10  106
 20  6,680
 30  386,000
 52  4,340,000,000

It would thus take 52 generations under these conditions to cause the present world population. At 35 years per generation, this would still be only 1,820 years. Evidently even 3 children per family is too many to assume for human history as a whole.

However, the average would have to be more than 2 children per family; otherwise, the population would have remained static. It begins to be glaringly evident that the human race cannot be very old! The traditional Biblical chronology is infinitely more realistic than is the million-year history of mankind assumed by the evolutionist. If the above very conservative assumptions were made (x = 1 and c = 1.5) for the over 28,600 generations assumed in a supposed million years of man's life on earth, the world population should now be over 105000 people! This number--which could be written as 1 followed by 5000 zeros--is inconceivably large. Even if we eventually were able to colonize other worlds and to build space cities everywhere in the interstellar spaces, it can be shown that a maximum of no more than 10100 people could be crammed into the entire known universe!

The Ussher chronology, on the other hand, based on a literal acceptance of the Biblical histories, gives the date of the Flood as about 4,300 years ago. (3) The present population of the world has come originally from Noah's three sons (Gen. 9:19). To be ultraconservative, assume that a generation is 43 years and thus that there have been only 100 generations since Noah. To produce a world population of 4.6 billion persons (still assuming x = 1), equation 4 is solved for c as follows:

4,600,000,000 = 2 c100

from which:

c = (2,300,000,000) (.01) = 1.24 (approximately 1-1/4)

Thus, the average family must have had 2.5 children in order to bring the population to its present magnitude in 100 generations. This is eminently reasonable, though conservative, and is strong support for at least the order-of-magnitude accuracy of the Ussher chronology. However, a period of human history much greater than indicated by the post-Deluge chronology of the Bible is evidently rendered improbable in a very high degree by the facts of population. A million even at this rate would produce a population of 102700 people.

Effects of Disease and Wars

But what about the possibility that the great plagues and wars of the past may have served to keep the population from growing at the indicated rates? Could the population have remained static for long ages and only in modern times have started to expand.

We are unable to answer these questions dogmatically, of course, since population data are not available for earlier times. We can only say that all that we know about population growth is based on data from the past two centuries. There are no reliable census figures, of course, except in modern times.

If the earth's population started with 2 people just 4,300 years ago, it would only have to have increased at the rate of 0.5 percent each year in order to reach the present population. This is significantly less than the present known rate of population growth of almost 2.0 percent per year. Thus there is ample provision for long periods when the growth rate may have been less than the average of 0.5 percent.

Furthermore, there is no real evidence that the growth of population has been retarded by wars or disease epidemics. The past century, which has experienced the greatest mushrooming of populations, has also witnessed the most destructive wars in all history, as well as the worst plagues and famines.

It is interesting to note that the best secular estimates of the world population at the time of the birth of Christ yield a probable figure of about 200 million. if we apply our formula, using the very conservative figures of 2.75 children per family, an average life-span of only one 40-year generation, and the beginning of population growth with 2 people in 2340 B.C., the calculations yield a probable population of 210 million at that time.

Or, to take another example, consider the nation Israel, which began with the patriarch Jacob about 3,700 years ago. Despite tremendous persecutions over the centuries, and despite the lack of a national homeland for much of their history, the people of Israel have maintained their national identity and now number probably about 14 million people.

This population could have been produced in 3,700 years if we assume the average family size was only 2.4 children (instead of 2.5, to allow for the losses due to the above-mentioned factors), but still assuming a life-span of one 43-year generation. Using these figures, the formula yields a present world population of 13,900,000 Israelites. (4)

Thus we conclude that all that is actually known about present or past populations can be explained very reasonably and logically on the basis of a beginning only about 4,300 years ago, making ample allowance for the effects of wars and natural catastrophes. However, the evolutionist assumption that man first appeared a million or more years ago is absurd in light of population statistics.

Antediluvian Populations

According to the genealogical records of Genesis 5, there were 1,656 years from Adam to the Flood. However, the population constants were significantly different then from what-they now are. Men lived to great ages and evidently had large families. Excepting Enoch, who was taken into heaven without dying at age 365 (Gen. 5:23-24), the average of the recorded ages of the nine antediluvian patriarchs was 912 years. Recorded ages at the births of their children ranged from 65 years (Mahalaleel, Gen. 5:15; Enoch, Gen. 5:2 1) to 500 years (Noah, Gen. 5:32). Every one of them is said to have had "sons and daughters," so that each family had at least 4 children, and probably many more.

As an ultraconservative assumption, let c = 3, x = 5, and n = 16.56. These constants correspond to an average family of 6 children, an average generation of 100 years and an average life-span of 500 years. On this basis the world population at the time of the Flood would have been 235 million people. This probably represents a gross underestimate of the numbers who actually perished in the Flood.

Multiplication was probably more rapid than assumed in this calculation, especially in the earliest centuries of the antediluvian epoch. For example, if the average family size were 8, instead of 6, and the length of a generation 93 years, instead of 100, the population at the time of Adam's death, 930 years after his creation, would already have been 2,800,000. At these rates, the population at the time of the Deluge would have been 137 billion! Even if we use rates appropriate in the present world (x = I and c = 1.5), over 3 billion people could easily have been on the earth at the time of Noah.

Two obvious conclusions appear from these calculations. First, there is no problem whatever in the reference to Cain, Adam's son, as taking a wife, building a city, or fearing avengers (Gen. 4:14-17).1 Second, the Flood would certainly have to be a global catastrophe if its purpose of destroying all mankind were to be accomplished.

The fact that many hundreds of millions of people may have perished in the Flood does not of course mean that we could now expect to find any of their remains. There is no doubt that, as the Flood waters rose, men would flee to the highest hills and would be the last of all living creatures on the dry land to be overtaken by the waters and drowned. They would thus not be buried in the sediments of the Deluge.

It is possible of course that occasional individuals would be trapped and buried, and their bones thus eventually fossilized, but most even of these would never be discovered later. A few fossils possibly of antediluvian men have been found and others may be unearthed in the future, but these are bound to be very rare.

The absence of antediluvian human fossils is of course not nearly as serious a problem for the creationist as is the absence of human fossils for the evolutionist. If man has actually been living on the earth for a million or more years, there have been uncounted billions upon billions of people who have lived and died. But only a scant handful of the remains of prehistoric men have ever been found! Surely the bones of a fair number of these multitudes must have been preserved somewhere, if they ever really existed

Population Growth from Noah to Abraham

After the Flood, antediluvian conditions of longevity continued to prevail for a while, with life-spans only gradually being reduced. Noah lived 950 years (350 of them after the Flood, Gen. 9:28-29). Noah's 3 sons had a recorded total of 16 sons and, presumably, about the same number of daughters, with each family thus averaging about 10 children. From the Flood to the birth of Abraham a total of 292 years and 8 generations are recorded.

By the time Abraham journeyed into Canaan, about 400 years had elapsed since the Flood. There were then apparently a number of well populated cities and nations in the world, as mentioned in Genesis 12-25 (Egypt, Chaldea, Philistia, etc.). Abraham died at age 175, leaving 8 sons (Gen. 25:1-8).

It seems reasonable to assume, for this 400-year period of history, say, 10 generations and an average family size of 8, with an average life-span of 5 of the 40-year generations, or 200 years. That is, in our population formula, assume c = 4, n = 10, and x = 5. The world population at the time of Abraham (neglecting any possible gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 11) is then calculated as 2,800,000, a figure that more than adequately explains the Biblical and archaeological population inferences f& this period of earth history.

The Tower of Babel seems to have been built about the time of the birth of Peleg (whose name, meaning "division," probably was given by his father Eber in commemoration of that event; Gen. 10:25) 101 years after the Flood. Using the same constants as above, the population at this time would have been only 85 people (using equation 2). It is possible that at least I generation is missing in the genealogy of Peleg as given in Genesis 10:21-25 and 11: 10- 16. In the corresponding record in Luke 3:35-36, the name of Cainan is inserted between those of Arphaxad and Salah.

If we assume that, in the course of transcribing the lists in the Old Testament, a man's name somehow was omitted from the Received Text, but that his name was preserved in the Septuagint version from which Luke obtained his data, this would mean I more generation in the interim from the Flood to Babel. On this basis, the population would be 340.

This is probably still too small, but the assumed family size of 8 may very well be too small for the early centuries after the Flood. Assuming an average family of 10 children gives a population at Babel of over 700. An average of 12 children gives 1,250. Both these figures assume 40-year generations, with, therefore, 3.5 generations from the Flood to Babel.

Since there are 70 nations mentioned in Genesis 10 as resulting from the "division" at Babel, it is reasonable to infer that there were 70 families at Babel, representing probably the generation of Noah's grandsons and great-grandsons. Seventy families containing 800 or 1,000 individuals altogether seem to fit the situation described at Babel very adequately.

We conclude, therefore, that the Biblical chronologies are all eminently reasonable in the light of population statistics, and that any significant departures from these chronologies, as required to meet evolutionary speculations, are highly unreasonable and improbable.

Totals Since the Beginning

Although it is not possible to determine accurate totals, it is of interest to try to estimate how many people have been born into the human family since the beginning of time. Formula 2 is appropriate in this case, provided we can estimate n and c reasonably well. We noted that, if the Ussher chronology is correct, the present world population would have developed from 2 people with n = 100 and c = 1 V4. if these values are inserted in equation 2, the total number of people born in the postdiluvian world turns out to be about 16 billion.

To this should be added the people in the antediluvian world, but we can only make a guess in this case. It might be fairly reasonable to assume n = 11 (length of a generation 150 years) and c = 6 (average family size of 12). Then the sum S is 870 million. We also need to allow for individuals who lived and died but did not have children of their own. Again we have no adequate data, but it would seem reasonable to increase the above figures by about 20 percent for this factor.

The total number of men and women who have ever lived since God created Adam, therefore, is probably on the order of, say, 20 billion people.

We have been assuming, of course, the general accuracy of the Ussher chronology. As we have noted, there may be certain gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11. These cannot be stretched very far, however. The outside limit would be to place the creation at about 10,000 years ago, with most of the "gaps" probably occurring since the Flood. In this case, if we assume the Flood occurred 8,000 years ago and assume 40-year generations, then n = 200. The present population would then have been attained with c only about 1. 11, or an average family of 22/9 children. Placing these values (n = 200 and c = 1.11) in equation 2, the total post-Flood inhabitants would number 30 billion, and we could probably increase this, for reasons noted before, to about 38 billion.

Now, if we go further and consider the possibility that man may have arisen by evolution and reached a truly human status about a million years ago, then again assuming 40-year generations, equation 4 indicates the required value of c to be only 1.001 or less. Thus the average number of children per family would only have had to be 2.002 in order to attain the present world population in a million years. There would be no population growth at all, of course, if the average family had exactly 2 children. On this basis the total number of people living in the past million years would be the fantastically high number of 3,000 billion!

The evolutionist may object and say that the rate has drastically accelerated only in recent centuries. So, let us consider that the "normal" growth was such as to produce only the earth's population as it was at the time of Christ, about 200 million people. This is the oldest date for which anyone has even a reasonable guess as to the population.

The value of c necessary to give 200 million people in 25,000 generations can be calculated as 1.0007 and the corresponding number of people who had lived and died in that period would still be over 300 billion.

Therefore, using the most conservative figures for which we have even the remotest justification, if the theory of human evolution is true, there have been at least 300 billion people who have lived and died on the earth-almost all of them a long time before Christ came into the world and before any other revelation was given to man about God!

A good question to consider is: Where were they buried and what happened to their bones? An even more disturbing question is: What happened to their souls?

It may be claimed that none of these calculations really prove anything, since no one really has any way of knowing exactly what birth and death rates and what population figures existed in prehistoric times. This is quite true, of course, but the known facts of population growth do fit the Biblical chronology very well and they do not fit the assumed evolutionary chronology at all.

Scientists work in terms of "models" and try to evaluate each proposed model of a particular process in terms of the "degree of fit" of the known data into that model. On this basis, we are abundantly justified in concluding that the creationist model with its brief chronology fits the actual known data of population statistics far better than does the million-year evolutionary model. In terms of scientifically-accepted standards of evaluation, this can only mean that, on this issue at least, creationism is much more "scientific" than evolutionism.

Other population models could be used, of course, and no one knows which is best, nor that the assumed rates have been constant. A simpler approach (as used by Malthus and Darwin) would be to assume a simple geometric increase in population, and to assume that only one generation is living at any one time. That is, in equation 4, assume that x = 1. Then, equation 4 becomes simply:

Pn = 2 cn, Eqn. 5.

The Life Sciences

The results obtained from equation 5 are practically the same as from equation 4, when n becomes large.

If one wishes to think in terms of a constant annual percentage increase in population, the population equation can be written as:

Py = 2 (1 + G/100)y, Eqn. 6.

where G is the annual percentage increase in population and Py is the population after y years. From this equation, one can calculate that G would have to be about 0.5 percent per year to produce the present world population in the assumed 4,300 years since the Flood. This is only one-fourth the present growth rate of 2 percent per year.

It is possible, of course, to specify changing growth rates of family sizes on any arbitrary basis one chooses, in order to make the results come out to any predetermined value. This is what evolutionists have to do in order to account for such a small present world population after such a long imagined evolutionary history. Nevertheless, the simplest and most straightforward population models, based upon all the real population statistics that are available, clearly correlate with the Biblical chronology as the true framework of human history.

The total world population, of course, has long since been subdivided into various nations and other groupings, even though the original population was all in one small group. When, and on what basis did these subdivisions take place? The development of different nations is in the domain of ethnology.


1. Donald Mann, "The Population Debate: Growth Means Doom," Science Digest 91 (Apr. 1983): 79-80. Mann is president of Negative Population Growth, Inc.

2. Although nothing more difficult than simple algebra is employed here, any readers that find this section hard to follow can skip the math and only examine the result of the calculations.

3. This assumes there are no gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 11. Since it may be Possible there are such gaps, especially at the time of Peleg, our calculation's are conservative at this point.

4. These assumptions are obviously far too conservative for the first several generations of Israelites at least, for Jacob had twelve sons, and his descendants numbered Probably over two million by the time of the exodus from Egypt (Num. 1:45-47),

5. Either Cain or one of his brothers must have married a sister in the first generation after Adam. There is no other way the command to multiply could have been implemented. Some have sought to avoid this inference by suggesting Cain married a woman of a "pre-Adamite" tribe, only semi-human perhaps, and that this explains the degeneration of Cain's descendants. But then the question would only be shifted to: "Where did Seth get his wife?"


(Henry M. Morris, The Biblical Basis for Modern Science, Part 4, Chapter 15. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984).

Back to Lambert Dolphin's Library