The entire human population perished 4500 years ago–except for eight people. Noah’s Flood wiped out everybody except Noah and his wife and Noah’s three sons and their wives.
Records of the Great Flood appear in the historical lore of civilizations worldwide. Accounts from Africa, Australia, Babylon, British Columbia, Burma, China, Europe, Greece, India, Indonesia, New Guinea, North America, South America, and many more report the Flood. (See Flood Legends: Global Clues of a Common Event by Charles Martin.)
The previous post How Many Died in Noah’s Flood? calculated an estimate based on population growth formulas and Biblical data. This estimate was 10 trillion people died in Noah’s Flood.
Is 10 Trillion a Reasonable Estimate for the Population at Noah’s Flood?
This estimated pre-Flood population is well over 1,000 times today’s world population of 7.1 billion people. How could this be possible?
To what annual growth rate did this population correspond? An annual growth rate of 1.78% or equivalently a doubling time of about 39.3 years would reach a population of 10 trillion from 2 people in 1656 years. This rate of growth is high, but it is less than Israel’s annual growth rate of 2.56% during 430 years in Egypt — mostly under cruel oppression and deliberate suppression! It is also less than the modern global annual growth rate which peaked at 2.2% in 1963. So it’s certainly a feasible growth rate.
Antediluvian people were much closer to the original creation of mankind, so they had less genetic degradation and greater vigor. If Israel could reproduce at a 2.56% annual growth rate in Egypt 700 years after the Flood, and if modern man could achieve a 2.2% annual growth rate in 1963, then the flourishing antediluvian people could surely reproduce at a 1.78% annual growth rate.
The earth can support a far greater population than it currently does as evidenced by the vast tracts of unused land. Post-flood, only 29% of the earth’s surface area is land. The land area comprises 57,268,900 square miles or 36,652,096,000 acres. This is over 5 acres for every person on earth today. Even assuming 40% of the land is currently unsuitable for habitation due to deserts, mountains, glaciers, etc., there is still 3 acres per person — plenty of room for more people.
For comparison, the average of the population densities of the world’s 10 most densely populated countries/regions with population over 1 million is less than an acre per person — it’s 1937 people per square kilometer, or 748 people per square mile, or almost 1.2 people per acre.
(See Most densely populated countries. Figures as of May 23, 2014.)
People can live on much less land space as indicated by city densities. The average of the population densities in the world’s 10 most densely populated cities is 82,147 people per square mile, or 31,717 people per square kilometer, or 128 people per acre.
(See Most densely populated cities. Figures as of May 10, 2014.)
Click the graphic at right to see how much space the 2011 world population of 6.9 billion would require if it were as densely concentrated as various well-known cities.
Now certainly to support a population more land is required than simply living space. Land for needs like growing food, waste disposal, industry, and recreation increases a population’s “footprint.” But the current 3 acres of usable land per person is certainly much more than is needed.
The earth is not filled today. In 1974 experts estimated Earth could support 50 billion people — seven times today’s population. This corresponds to almost 2.3 people per acre for the 60% of land area suitable for habitation. Subsequent and future technological advances will undoubtedly increase this estimate. (See Margaret Mead; “World Population: World Responsibility,” Science, Vol. 185, September 27, 1974, p. 1113.)
But the report in Genesis 6:11, 13 that “the earth was filled with violence” suggests that men had filled the earth prior to the Flood, since the wickedness and violence that was the cause of the Flood is attributed to men. This suggests a far larger population than today, because the earth is not filled today.
Moreover prior to the Flood, there was much more land area to inhabit. Most of the Flood waters are now present in the oceans and major lakes of the world. Prior to the Flood they were within the earth and above the firmament or expanse (Genesis 1:6-10; 2 Peter 3:5-6), so the oceans were much smaller leaving more land for man’s use. The fountains of the great deep bursting open and the 40 days of torrential rain released this water to cover the globe (Genesis 7:11-12). Then it drained away into the ocean basins as “the mountains rose and the valleys sank down” (Psalm 104:5-9).
Earth was far more fertile before the Flood, and therefore could support a larger population. This is indicated by the vast worldwide coal and oil deposits which came from abundant, dense, and productive pre-Flood vegetation.
Much of what is now uninhabitable land was habitable before the Flood. For example, much of today’s desert land was covered with lush vegetation before the Flood, as indicated by the bountiful oil deposits beneath the sands. Submarine oil deposits indicate the oceans once covered far less land. Today’s mountains were not as high before the Flood, for they rose up after the Flood (Psalm 104:5-9). Much of what is now impossible terrain on which to live was likely habitable before the Flood.
The ocean could have been an enormous reservoir of food for the pre-Flood population. This National Geographic aquaculture article on fish farms in the sea shows how people today are again beginning to take advantage of this resource.
Thus, 10 trillion is a fair and reasonable estimate for the earth’s population at the Flood. The annual growth rate of 1.78% is feasible, and the greater pre-Flood land area, vigor, and fertility could support many more people than today.
Population Growth Formulas
For those interested in checking the math, here are the relevant Population Growth formulas:
The population doubling time (length of time it takes a population to double) in years is
= T/d where T is the population’s elapsed time in years and d is the # of doublings.
= (log 2) / log(1+r) where r is the annual growth rate.
Starting with population P, the new population is
= P x 2d after d doublings.
= P x (1+r)n after n years at an annual growth rate r.
= P x (cg+1 – cg-k+1) / (c-1) after g generations, where 2c is the average number of children per family who marry and have children (c boys, c girls), and k is the number of generations in a lifespan. (See 4. Population Growth – How Many Died in Noah’s Flood? for derivation of this formula.)
Questions to Ponder
- Why do people ignore Biblical information about what the earth was like before the Flood?
- Why is there such resistance to the idea of the earth’s population dying in a global flood?
- Why are people so antsy about overpopulation today when there’s plenty of room for more people? Should Christians have large families to obey God’s command to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)
Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This concludes the series on Population Growth. Read the prequels:
1. Population Growth – Could Noah Fill the Earth?
2. Population Growth – Israel in Egypt
3. Population Growth – Challenge to Evolution
4. Population Growth – How Many Died in Noah’s Flood?
See these related articles I’ve written on Noah, the Ark, and the Flood:
Noah’s Flood—Key to the Past
Noah’s Flood—A Global Event
Noah’s Ark Replicas
Noah’s Ark Found?
Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, & Noah’s Flood
Rebuilding Noah’s Ark
Ark Encounter Park
Noah’s Ark Model in Holland
Noah’s Ark Found? (with video)
1. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Intro
2. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Kentucky Governor (with YouTube videos)
3. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – How Big?
4. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Ark Encounter video
5. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Ark Encounter Park
6. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Location (with maps)
7. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Funding
8. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Facing Opposition
9. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Ham Debates Lynn (with video)
10. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – What Would Noah Think?
11. Rebuilding Noah’s Ark – Tour the Dutch Ark (with video)
Dinosaurs on the Ark?
Tsunami Videos and Noah’s Flood
Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanoes, & Noah’s Flood
USA TODAY features Noah’s Ark
Marilyn Monroe and the Age of the Earth
Wallenda, Niagara, & Noah’s Flood (with video)
Mystery of Noah’s Flood (with videos)
Leftover from Noah’s Flood?
Noah, the Movie (with videos)
The Truth about Noah
Meet the Real Noah (with video)
Could Noah Fill the Earth?
How Many Died in Noah’s Flood?
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:4)
Wednesday June 25, 2014 A.D.
In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened. And the rain fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and Shem and Ham and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark, they and every beast after its kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, all sorts of birds. So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the LORD closed it behind him. Then the flood came upon the earth for forty days; and the water increased and lifted up the ark, so that it rose above the earth. And the water prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the surface of the water. And the water prevailed more and more upon the earth, so that all the high mountains everywhere under the heavens were covered. The water prevailed fifteen cubits higher, and the mountains were covered. And all flesh that moved on the earth perished, birds and cattle and beasts and every swarming thing that swarms upon the earth, and all mankind; of all that was on the dry land, all in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, died. Thus He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky, and they were blotted out from the earth; and only Noah was left, together with those that were with him in the ark. And the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days. (Genesis 7:11-24)