The Age Of Man As Indicated By The Natural Increase Of Population -- By: C. M. Mead

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 055:218 (Apr 1898)
Article: The Age Of Man As Indicated By The Natural Increase Of Population
Author: C. M. Mead

The Age Of Man As Indicated By The Natural Increase Of Population

C. M. Mead

All methods of estimating the length of time during which the human race has been on the earth are more or less uncertain. Authentic history does not extend back to the beginning; and if the biblical narrative be taken as such a history, there are very serious doubts as to how far it furnishes us with a full and reliable chronology. Geologic investigations seem to present more positive results; but geologists differ among themselves as to the rapidity of geologic processes; and the alleged discoveries of human remains in early geologic formations need to be carefully tested. The estimates that are made vary largely, and are at the best only more or less probable conjectures.

There is a method of calculation not so often made use of as these others, but still well worthy of consideration, viz., an estimate based on the average rate of increase of the human race. That is, assuming the present population of the globe to be, say, 1,500,000,000, and assuming a certain rate of increase as having ruled on the average from the earliest time to the present, it is a simple question of arithmetic to determine when the human race started with one pair. But of course many elements of uncertainty come into the calculation. We have no statistics of population reaching back to prehistoric times; there are no trustworthy statistics even of the greater part of historic time. We have to assume that what holds true of the present time holds true also of previous centuries. But we must make allowance for many disturbing factors. In primitive periods there may have been unknown influences at work to increase or diminish what we might regard as the natural or normal rate of increase. Wars, pestilences, and famines have all along served to retard the increase of population. In the earlier times the ravages of wild beasts may have had a considerable effect in the same direction. The diminution of destructive wars in modern times, and the improvements made in regard to the preservation of health, together with increased facilities for the transportation of provisions in cases of famine—these and other things have undoubtedly tended to heighten the rate of increase.

But, on the other hand, there is reason for supposing that in the prehistoric times there were causes tending to promote a more rapid increase

of population than the present. The advance of culture and the increase of wealth tend to diminish the size of families. At present it is a general fact that the poorer and ruder classes and nations procreate children most largely. It may, therefore, be presumed that in the early and more uncultivated periods there would have been t...

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