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Thu Jun 26, 2014, 08:38 AM

Is it true that there are more people alive today than have died in all of human history?

Last edited Fri Jun 27, 2014, 04:32 PM - Edit history (1)

I had heard this stated any number of times - I recall some years ago it being scientifically refuted. I was just curious what the accepted scientific opinion about this matter was.

Fact or Fiction?: Living People Outnumber the Dead

Booming population growth among the living, according to one rumor, outpaces the dead

The human population has swelled so much that people alive today outnumber all those who have ever lived, says a factoid whose roots stretch back to the 1970s. Some versions of this widely circulating rumor claim that 75 percent of all people ever born are currently alive. Yet, despite a quadrupling of the population in the past century, the number of people alive today is still dwarfed by the number of people who have ever lived.

In 2002 Carl Haub, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau, a nongovernmental organization in Washington, D.C., updated his earlier estimate of the number of people that have ever existed. To calculate this, he studied the available population data to determine the human population growth rates during different historical periods, and used them to determine the number of people who have ever been born.

To calculate how many people have ever lived, Haub followed a minimalist approach, beginning with two people in 50000 B.C.—his Adam and Eve. Then, using his historical growth rates and population benchmarks, he estimated that slightly over 106 billion people had ever been born. Of those, people alive today comprise only 6 percent, nowhere near 75 percent. "[It is] almost surely true people alive today are some small fraction of [all] people," says Joel Cohen, a professor of populations at the Rockefeller and Columbia Universities in New York City.

For this myth ever to be valid there would have to be more than 100 billion people living on Earth. "How cozy," Cohen says. "It just doesn't seem plausible," he adds.

Today there are more than 6.5 billion people walking on Earth, according to United Nations estimates.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-living-outnumber-dead/

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Response to Douglas Carpenter (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:05 AM

1. It is my understanding that the number of the deceased exceeds 70 billion.

That estimate stands out in my memory from about eight years ago when I read about this subject.

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Response to John1956PA (Reply #1)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 03:57 PM

2. I wouldn't want to be the person who had to count all of them

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Response to yurbud (Reply #2)

Fri Jun 27, 2014, 04:33 PM

4. that would take quite a long time, wouldn't it?

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Response to Douglas Carpenter (Reply #4)

Fri Jun 27, 2014, 07:25 PM

6. I doubt it was a 1...2...3...4 type of counting.

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Response to John1956PA (Reply #1)

Fri Jun 27, 2014, 04:13 AM

3. I heard a lecture about thirty years ago refuting the idea that there are more people alive today

than have lived in all of human history - but for some reason this idea has remained a popular factoid myth. I'm not sure why anyone would want this to be the case.

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Response to Douglas Carpenter (Original post)

Fri Jun 27, 2014, 05:55 PM

5. It's a strawman. No matter how many there were before, there are far, far too many of us now

for the planet to support.

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Response to The Stranger (Reply #5)

Sat Jun 28, 2014, 04:48 AM

9. I don't think that is the point of this research. This research does not suggest that current over

Last edited Thu Jul 3, 2014, 08:32 AM - Edit history (1)

population is not a problem.

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Response to Douglas Carpenter (Reply #9)

Tue Jul 1, 2014, 12:46 PM

10. Then what is the point of this research?

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Response to The Stranger (Reply #10)

Tue Jul 1, 2014, 09:23 PM

11. pure science

There is and has been for some time a commonly held myth that there are more people alive today than have lived in all of human history. That is clearly not the case. If there are too many people alive today at this moment to be sustainable that is a separate issue. A scientific fact neither supports nor negates that point.

For that matter Those who would argue against the religious belief in reincarnation have at times made the claim that there are more people alive today than have existed in all of human history thus making reincarnation completely implausible. But the fact that several times more people have lived in the past than are alive today neither supports nor negates reincarnation. It is simply a fact. A religious or spiritual belief system has nothing to do with it one way or another.

Science when researched properly does not or at least should not have any political or religious agenda or any agenda. But science does give us some guidance about what are rational arguments and what are not. It is not good to argue even the most valid point or the most important agenda with myths that are not true.

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Response to Douglas Carpenter (Reply #11)

Wed Jul 2, 2014, 12:58 PM

12. Well, that is certainly not true.

Scientific research provides (or should provide) the basis for supporting and arguing against various policies.

I'm not sure what the problem with this is, or why you spend three paragraphs trying to argue against it.

In this case, it would appear that the planet -- at one time -- is (or was thought to be) supporting more people than existed in all of its/their history, and that fact would support the proposition that the ratio of people:planet resources has increased to an extraordinary degree.

Whether it is true or not, leave it to science.

(The reincarnation discussion is either mind-numbingly irrelevant or just really, really, really bad writing.)

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Response to The Stranger (Reply #12)

Thu Jul 3, 2014, 08:27 AM

13. the point is that the accumulation of raw data is the basis for intelligent discussions -

The accumulation of data should not be agenda driven. I really can't understand what is so hard to understand about that.

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Response to Douglas Carpenter (Original post)

Fri Jun 27, 2014, 10:53 PM

7. And that's just counting the Duggars..

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Response to Douglas Carpenter (Original post)

Fri Jun 27, 2014, 11:10 PM

8. I've also read that there are more people buried on islands off NYC

 

than there are living people in the city today. Just saying...

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