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(Investigator 34, 1994 January)


How many people have lived on Earth? This question is important to some Christian and pseudo Christian groups who believe that God will resurrect most of those who have died.

Some groups believe that all the resurrected people will actually live on Earth, and others believe that the dead will return to Earth only briefly for judgment before being assigned to Heaven or Hell.

Whether there is going to be enough room for everyone, already troubled some people over a century ago. The following, for example, appeared in a Californian paper probably in the 1870s:



"In the following computation it is assumed that the earth was created 6,000 years ago, and that the average population since the creation has been the same population of the present time, and the average duration of life 33 years.

A person in a standing position occupies l  2/3 square feet of space. A person in a sitting position occupies 3 1/3 square feet of space.

The present population of the earth (1,424,000,000), could stand on an area of 86 square miles; an area about twice that of the city of San Francisco; and that number of persons could be seated on an area of 171 square miles; an area about 2 5/8 that of the District of Columbia.

The area of the United States is 3,603,884 square miles. Within its boundaries there is standing room for 60,282,311,822,360 persons; a number equal to the population of 1,396,991 years, in time nearly 233 times the age of the earth." (Statistician)



Estimates of the total number of people to have lived vary:

One extreme is Radford (1990) who wrote:

"There are, it is sometimes argued, more people alive today than have lived during all previous human history."

The opposite extreme might be represented by Rumble & Carty. (c.l948)  These two Catholic priests were criticising the Russellite belief that almost all the dead will live again on Earth. They argued:

"Even on the basis of 6,000 years of history wrongly held by Russell, this would mean about 250 millions millions of people on this earth simultaneously, covering it so thickly that not all would he able to sitdown together."

Deevey (1960) estimated all humans to have totalled 110 billion. These include 36 billion paleolithic (about 1 million years ago to 25,000 years ago) hunters and gatherers; another 30 billion until the invention of agriculture; and the rest until 1960.

In his book GENETICS OF THE EVOLTIONARY PROCESS (1970) geneticist Theodore Dobzhansky gave total human numbers as:

600,000 B.C. to 6000 B.C.   12,000 million
6000 B.C. to 1650 A.D.        42,000 million
1650 A.D. to 1962 A.D.        23,000 million

"It is estimated that 75,000,000,000 humans have been born and died in the last 600,000 years."


"Using estimates made by the French demographer J.N. Biraben and others, A.R. Thatcher, a former director of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, has calculated that the number of people who died between 40,000 BC and AD 1990 was nearly 60,000 million. This estimate implies that the current world population is about one eleventh of those who have ever lived."

Whatever calculation we make will obviously be greatly influenced by how old we presume humankind to be and by whether we try to include every baby who died at birth or only persons who survived infancy.


One major sect teaches:

"A very liberal estimate of the number of persons that have ever lived on the earth is twenty billion (20,000,000,000). Many students of the subject calculate that not nearly so many have lived." (Aid to Bible Understanding 1971 p. 1400; Insight On The Scriptures 1988 Volume 2 p. 792)

When this seemingly objective statement says "many students of the subject" it probably refers to sect members. This conclusion follows from the fact that the publications of the sect, but very few other sources, have estimates of total human numbers even as low as 20 billion. For example:

The Object and Manner of our Lord's Return 1877 p. 19 120 billion
The Battle of Armageddon 1897 p. 647    50     "
The New Creation 1904 p. 640    50     "
I.S.B.A. Convention Report 1913 p. 309    20     "
The Finished Mystery 1917 p. 312     20     "
The Harp of God 1921 p. 345     21.7  "
The Way to Paradise 1924 p. 209    20     "
The Watchtower 1929 September 1 p. 269    20     "
    "            "               "    October 1 p. 299    20     "
The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth 1945     20+   "
True Peace and Security 1973 p.108      14    "

Page 209 of THE WAY TO PARADISE (1924)
on Staten Island (a small island about six by thirteen miles in New York harbor); and all the people who have ever lived on earth could be placed in Texas alone, and each person have nearly fourteen feet square in which to walk around. Figure it out for yourselves. It is very doubtful if there have ever live as many as 20,000,000,000 people born on the earth. But be very liberal, and count them as 40,000,000,000. Texas is said to have an area of 262,398 square miles which, less the 3,498 square miles of water surface, would leave 258,900 square miles of land surface. Each square mile has 640 acres. Each acre has 43,560 square feet. Texas would therefore have 7,217,717,760,000 square feet. Divide this by 40,000,000,000, and we have 180 square feet, or over l3 feet square. Each person would have room enough for a table all to himself and for waiters to serve him.

Will there be enough to eat? Answer again in Ezekiel 34:27; 36:29, 30, and many others.

But another question will occur to some: If there is no change in the grave,will not all those who died as rascals and bad characters come back the same, and how will Christ be able to control them? Answer again: "When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." (Isaiah 26:9) Sometimes it is well to take an emetic before one can enjoy a meal. So the Lord has provided some such emetics for had canes of wilful indigestion. They will then be in conditioned to eat
It is strange that the estimates of the sect show a downward trend as time passes even though babies are still being born. It's obvious, however, where the present-day leaders of the sect get their number of 20 billion from!


Let's try to calculate approximately the number of people to have lived on this planet since 2,000 BC. I'll start with the 20th century.

In the 1980s about 180 million were born each year.
In the 1970s about 150 million were born every year.
In the 1960s 120 million each year.
1950s –100 million yearly.
1940s – 90 million    "
1930s – 80 million    "
1920s – 70 million    "

And 1900 to 1920 about 50 million were born each year. These figures are all approximate but are accurate enough for our purpose.

Of course the world population did not increase by these amounts, because people were also dying.

By adding up these figures for each decade of the 20th century the total for the 20th century until 1990 is approximately 9,000 million.

19th 18th and 17th CENTURIES

I'm going to simplify the calculation for centuries prior to the 20th century. I'll do this by estimating the mid-century world population and multiplying by the number of generations in that century. In the 19th century we can assume that the average life span was about 33 years. This amounts to 3 generations for the19th century. The mid-19th-century world population was about 1,150 million. The estimate for the entire century therefore comes to 1,150 million x 3 = 3,450 million.

Assuming 4 generations in the18th century – that is average life spans of 25 years – and a mid century world population of 750 million we get a total for the 18th century of 750 million x 4 = 3,000 million.

In the 17th century medical technology was primitive and human life spans averaged perhaps 20 years. This was mainly due to high infant mortality. Therefore I'll assume 5 "generations" per century and a mid century world population of 550 million. The total number of humans for the 17th century is therefore 550 x 5 = 2,750 million.

FROM 1 A.D to 1600 A.D.

I'm going to simplify things further now. The world population when Jesus lived was about 200 million. In 1000 A.D. humans numbered about 270 million and in 1600 A.D. about 500 million.

I'll assume an average of 250 million for the whole 16-century period.

It's been estimated that in the Roman Empire the average life was only 12-15 years long. Again this was because of the high mortality in childhood. This would amount to 7 or 8 "generations" per century. I'll use the number 7.

The total humans for the first 16 centuries after the birth of Christ comes to 250 million x 7 x 16 = 28,000,000 million.

FROM 2000 B.C. to 1 B.C.

The book ATLAS OF WORLD POPULATION (1978) gives world populations of:

2000 B.C.  27 million people worldwide
1000 B.C.  50      "         "         "        "
                      500 B.C. 100     "         "         "        "
                      200 B.C. 150     "         "         "        "

I'll assume an average of 80 million for the entire 20-century period. And I'll assume about 6 "generations" per century, that is average life spans of 100/6 = 17 years.

The total for this 2,000 year period comes to 80 million x 6 x 20 = 9,600 million.


I won't go any further back than 2,000 B.C. The following table summarises the figures I've provided:

2000 B.C. to 1 B.C. 9,600 million
1 A.D. to 1600 A.D 28,000    "
1601 to 1700      " 2,750     "
1701 to 1800      "
3,000     "
1801 to 1900      " 3,450     "
1901 to 1990      "
9,000     "

The total number of humans to have lived since 2000 B.C. comes to 56 billion. This would include all those who died in infancy. This number is not exact because the subtotals it is based on included quite a few approximations and assumptions.


The sectarian figure of 20 billion is absurdly small. Notice that this sectarian estimate remained the same from 1924 to 1988. Apparently the sect is implying that nobody had any babies for 64 years – 1924 to 1988. In fact about 5,500 million babies were born during that period.

My total of 56 billion since 2000 B.C. could easily fit into a comparatively small area. They could all fit into the state of Texas and enjoy 123 square metres of space each. Or they could all fit into Australia's smallest state [Tasmania] with about 12 square metres of space per person.

Religions that believe in the resurrection of almost everyone back to this Earth are therefore not yet refuted if we base our arguments solely on population estimates and land areas.

However, many biologists and other experts believe that the present world population of 5,400 million is already too great for planet Earth to sustain indefinitely. This belief is based on statistics for deforestation, land desertification, soil erosion, environmental pollution, and the rates of exploitation of mineral resources.

Others, however, argue differently. For example:

"There is plenty of room for improvement in present farming practice. More land could be brought under cultivation if a better distribution of water could be arranged. More efficient basic crops can be grown and used less wastefully. Other sources of energy, notably atomic energy, can be fed back into food production to supplement the sun's rays. None of these measures is more than palliative, however; none promises so much as a 10-fold increase in efficiency; worse none is likely to be achieved at a pace equivalent to the present rate of doubling of the world's Population. A 10-fold, even 20-fold, increase can be tolerated, perhaps, but the standard of living seems certain to be lower than today's." (Deevey 1960)

Current discoveries in environmentally safe methods of pest-control and in genetic engineering of plants to make them disease-resistant and/or able to grow in marginal areas might make Deevey's hypothetical 20-fold increase even more optimistic.

Nevertheless, religions that teach that everyone, or almost everyone, will be resurrected and then live permanently on planet Earth are on the borderline of refutation. This follows from comparing estimates of how many people planet Earth can sustain with calculations of how many people have been born.


2000 BC 30 1500 450 1930 2,070
1000 50 1600 500 1940 2,300
500 100 1650 550 1950 2,500
200 150 1700 650 1960 3,000

1750 750 1970 3,650
1 AD 200 1800 900 1980 4,400
500 200 1850 1,150 1990 5,200
1000 270 1900 1,630 2000 6,000
1250 400 1920 1,860 2010 7,000


Deevey, Jr. E S 1960 The Human Populations, Scientific American; September
Dobzhansky, T 1970 Genetics of the Evolutionary Process; Columbia University Press, p. 311
Kirchner, W 1960 Western Civilization to 1500, Barnes & Noble
McEvedy, C and Jones, R. 1978 Atlas of World Population History, Penguin
McFarlan, D (Editor) 1991 The Guinness Book of Records 1992, Guinness Publishing, p. 78
McWhirter, N & R (Editors & compilers) The Guinness Book of Records 1983 Edition, Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 203
Radford, T. 1990 The Crisis of Life on Earth, Thorsons, p. 213
(Fathers) Rumble & Carty 1948(?) The Jehovah's Witnesses, Radio Replies Press Society
Van Amburgh, W E 1924 The Way to Paradise, ISBA.

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