Population Growth and Percentages

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A simple mathematical fact. Take 70. Divide by the percentage growth, and you get the doubling period.

So, 70 divided by 5% annual growth gives you a doubling period of 14 years.

Now, what’s also interesting is that the increase during a single doubling period is always greater than all the growth that’s occurred before. So if it takes 10 years to double (7% annual growth), then the growth you see in one decade is always more than all the total growth from history.

This scares a lot of people who can’t think exponentially. After all, if we keep doubling the world population every 50 years, we’re going to run out of room and resources rather quickly!

This indeed has been a problem in times past. Populations across the world would grow and decline as they ran out of resources. If only there was a way to expand resources faster than the population growth. Then we would have more than the previous generation.

In other words, if the population grows at 2%, all we need is 2% growth in resources to keep everyone happy. Any increase beyond this is frosting on the cake.

The question now becomes: Are humans infinitely smart? That is, faced with challenges we cannot imagine, can they come up with solutions even more unimaginable?

For instance, let’s say we do reach the point in human population growth where there is one person for every square yard of dry land. Our puny minds have a hard time understanding what this looks like. After all, the population would be 180,000,000,000,000 (1.8 x 10^14), 27,000 times what it is today. This would take about 650 years to reach given today’s growth rate of 1.2%.

However, consider that we’d have the brain capacity of that many humans working on solving the world’s most pressing problems. Do you think there will be any difficulty covering the earth in high rises measured in miles, and subterranean apartments stretching down until the rock is too hot to handle, or ocean colonies, above, below, and in between? Wouldn’t we have satellite colonies, colonies on the moon, maybe even colonies on Mars and other planets by then? After all, we could have billions of people devote their entire lives to solving these problems and that wouldn’t represent 1% of the human population.

Would food be a problem? After all, they’d use farming techniques we could not imagine today. Who could’ve imagined modern farming a hundred years ago? Fertilizer was, at best, manure and raw sewage. The idea of irrigation was a novel and questionable one. (Farming in deserts? Those mormons must be mad!) The ideas that allow us to create hybrids and new species of edible plants barely existed back then. Genetic engineering of our crops is happening today, and despite the flaws, will likely continue. Maybe a few cubic yards of space inside a living unit will be enough to feed a family of four continuously.

We can approach exponentials with fear, or with faith. We can scare each other with numbers so big we cannot imagine them, or we can say, “All I need to worry about is today, myself, and the people in my immediate vicinity.”

As for me, I don’t see any limits to human progress, provided we temper our knowledge with wisdom. That wisdom includes the ideas that keep us humble, compassionate, and faithful to basic laws of civil society, such as managing our lusts and desires, and tempering our emotions with forgiveness and patience.

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8 Responses to “Population Growth and Percentages”

  1. demo kid Says:

    Yes! The technological advancements of the Maya, the Anasazi, Babylonians, ancient Mesopotamians, Angor Wat, Rapa Nui, etc. were more than enough to support exponentially growing populations, to the point where their rich cultures exist today!

    Oh, wait.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      You really should read before commenting.

      As for me, I don’t see any limits to human progress, provided we temper our knowledge with wisdom. That wisdom includes the ideas that keep us humble, compassionate, and faithful to basic laws of civil society, such as managing our lusts and desires, and tempering our emotions with forgiveness and patience.

      Which of the above cultures had that value system? Do you see why I can say, “Believe in Christ or perish?” It doesn’t take faith to understand why that statement is true. All you need is an historical perspective.

  2. tensor Says:

    Do you think there will be any difficulty covering the earth in high rises measured in miles…?

    Yes. Their weight would make foundations impracticable, even if no wind placed transverse loads upon the structure. But the major load on a skyscraper is wind, as the building acts like a giant sail. Such a structure would, one way or the other, overload the capacity of even bedrock to hold it upright and in place. (This is assuming we create materials capable of supporting such loads.)

    “Believe in Christ or perish?”

    Under your scenario, there would be no need to choose. Your fanciful dreams of unlimited prosperity rely upon unlimited freedom of intellectual inquiry, and Christianity has for centuries opposed just that. Burning the Library of Alexandria, arresting Galileo, fighting stem-cell research tooth and nail — if it involves free inquiry, you’ll find Christians to oppose it, every time.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      So, you somehow have a magic ball that is able to see what materials science is going to look like 500 years from now?

      Your slander against Christians is horrendous. I know of no Christian who believes that there is anything in ignorance.

      The Library of Alexander was destroyed by Christians? What fanciful thinking.

      Galileo was a Christian.

      Christians do not fight stem-cell research. They, generally, are opposed to using embryos for research, or more importantly, creating life to destroy it, since it violates the ethical principle of valuing life above all else. All that was done was that the government refused to spend taxpayer dollars on controversial research, but the laws of the land allowed researchers to so continue because it wasn’t clear that any laws of morality were really being broken. It has since been discovered that stem cells aren’t even necessary. Adult cells can be manipulated into any other form.

      I don’t know what parallel universe you live in, but Christianity has done more for science than any other religion. In fact, modern science is Christianity, since it is formulated on Christian thought. Where do you think the idea of reason and logic and universal consistency come from? Why did these come from Western Europe and not from China or the Arabian peninsula? The Christ and God I worship holds all knowledge. Their power comes from their knowledge. The glory of my God is intelligence. My God speaks only truth, and cannot lie nor deceive.

      I understand how hard it is to live life the way you have chosen. You surround yourself with falsehoods and deception, and wonder why nothing ever turns out the way you expect it. You pretend to live by logic and reason, but in reality, there is no logic or reason to anything you do or say. Blasting Christians, or rather, your invented misperception of Christians and Christianity, is hardly consolation for your current state of despair.

  3. tensor Says:

    Please take your own advice, and read before responding:

    So, you somehow have a magic ball that is able to see what materials science is going to look like 500 years from now?

    I had already admitted that materials may be developed with great strength:

    This is assuming we create materials capable of supporting such loads.

    I was describing the properties of the air and the rocks, which have remained unchanged throughout all of recorded history. A sufficiently tall building could be wrenched from its foundations by the action of the wind along the building’s surfaces; once the shear strength of bedrock has been exceeded, nothing could hold the building to the earth.

    Meanwhile, you might want to read the latter sections of Jared Diamond’s Collapse, which covers the topic of resources vs. population. (I believe demo kid was alluding to this book, in his comment.)

    Your slander against Christians is horrendous.

    “Slander” requires falsehood. Please indicate which false statement(s) I made.

    I know of no Christian who believes that there is anything in ignorance.

    So, when do we get our next post on global warming denial?

    The Library of Alexander was destroyed by Christians? What fanciful thinking.

    The Library of Alexandria was the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world; it was a major research library. As the Encyclopedia Britannica relates, the final part of it was destroyed by the Christians in CE 391. This was an official order of the organized religion; the Library’s pagan history made it a particular target.

    Galileo was a Christian.

    As were the people who arrested him, confined him, threatened him with death, and burned his books. Christians even attack other Christians to stop scientific research.

    Christians do not fight stem-cell research.

    President W. stifled an entire line of research for you, and you’re not even gracious enough to give him credit.

    … Christianity has done more for science than any other religion.

    So? That’s like saying another serial killer murdered fewer women than did Gary L. Ridgway.

    Where do you think the idea of reason and logic and universal consistency come from?

    Ancient Greece, whose example inspired the equally-pagan Library of Alexandria.

    Why did these come from Western Europe and not from China or the Arabian peninsula?

    Because Greece is in Europe.

    I understand how hard it is to live life the way you have chosen. You surround yourself with falsehoods and deception, and wonder why nothing ever turns out the way you expect it.

    Do tell us again about a very large mirror, and focusing the rays of the sun. Could one make the focus hotter than the sun itself?

    You pretend to live by logic and reason, but in reality, there is no logic or reason to anything you do or say.

    Now, flowing lava does not contain what you’d call heat, right?

    Blasting Christians, or rather, your invented misperception of Christians and Christianity…

    I admit it, I personally invented The Spanish Inquisition. (Nobody expected that!)

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      Please indicate which false statement(s) I made.

      I’m trying to find any statement you’ve made which is true.

      I know of no Christian who believes that there is anything in ignorance.

      So, when do we get our next post on global warming denial?

      This is a perfect example of perceived ignorance versus real ignorance. Those who cling to the theory of anthropogenic catastrophic global warming (in other words, man-made global warming that’s going to kill us all, or what we call “climate change” today) have been exposed as being lying, deceitful, manipulative political hacks. In other words, it is all proven to be a fraud. Even a second-year physics student can show that there is no such thing as a greenhouse gas and there is no substance behind the greenhouse effect. The 33 degrees warming caused by the atmosphere is due to gravity, not the chemical properties of the gasses. Even those who advocate ACGW admit that CO2 is a very tiny contributing factor to their supposed greenhouse effect, water being the major factor to the degree that CO2 can be considered insignificant. The computer models they rely on to show that we’re all going to die are incapable of even predicting weather patterns and climate changes observed in times past.

      I understand how sad it is for you that yet again communism will not triumph over science and liberty, but really, using ACGW as an example of a Christian’s ignorance is shameful. Maybe not in your mind, but in the vast majority of the American’s people’s mind. What you call ignorance is really our refusal to be duped.

      The Library of Alexander was destroyed by Christians? What fanciful thinking.

      The Library of Alexandria was the largest repository of knowledge in the ancient world; it was a major research library. As the Encyclopedia Britannica relates, the final part of it was destroyed by the Christians in CE 391. This was an official order of the organized religion; the Library’s pagan history made it a particular target.

      Fascinating. See, when I review the texts of the time describing that event, it appears to me that the Pagan temples were cleared out and destroyed. The books, however, remained unmolested. Only one of the temples so cleansed was once a branch of the library, but was not at the time of the cleansing. I guess I can see how that is the destruction of the library, if you consider pagan altars and pagan gods to be books in the library, and disregard the actual books of the library.

      What’s really amazing is that somehow, the Muslims were able to claim credit for finally destroying the library in 642 AD, after the Christians had already supposedly destroyed it, according to you.

      And what’s even more fascinating is that you’re able to believe in ancient texts, as long as the text isn’t the Bible. Somehow you draw a distinction between one author and another from historical times, and yet consider yourself to be a student of truth.

      President W. stifled an entire line of research for you, and you’re not even gracious enough to give him credit.

      I am sick and tired of these lies. You know, for a fact, that what President George W. Bush did was stop federal funding of new lines of embryonic stem cells. That’s all. He didn’t forbid embryonic stem cell research, and indeed, he didn’t even stop funding embryonic stem cell research. All he said was, “We’re not going to spend federal money on new lines of stem cells, for fear that we’ll be using federal money to create life that we then destroy.” Again, how can you be a student of truth and tell such bald-faced lies and exaggerations?

      Where do you think the idea of reason and logic and universal consistency come from?

      Ancient Greece, whose example inspired the equally-pagan Library of Alexandria.

      Ahh, so you DO admit that logic and reason are founded in religion. You have read, of course, the writings of these ancient Greek philosophers and identified from whence their ideas came?

      Now, quick question, why didn’t the Greek religion and philosophy take over the world? Why aren’t we all speaking Greek and why isn’t the center of the world in Athens?

      Why did it take more than a thousand years before Christians rediscovered their philosophy, adapted it to Christian thought and religion, and then created the greatest society ever known on the earth, surpassing even what we suppose the Atlanteans may have been?

      Now, flowing lava does not contain what you’d call heat, right?

      Heat is not contained by anything. Substances have temperature, and they also have other properties as well that reflect the heat transferred, such as the obvious properties pressure and volume.

      Here is a perfect example of your ignorance. Instead of learning what heat is, and understand what its properties are, you refuse to leave behind childish notions and nomenclature in order to embrace the way the world really works. You can, if you so desire, reproduce the experiments that have lead the modern physicist’s understanding of temperature, heat and such, but instead, you’d rather mock those who don’t agree with you.

      Not all Christians have been accepting of science, logic, and reason. However, the basic tenets of Christian thought, such as compassion, caring, tolerance, and even love for those who disagree with you or have hostile intentions towards you have made modern science what it is today. My point stands, and yours falls, because you have demonstrated that you have a very weak understanding of logic and reason, and instead cling to falsehoods in your dogmatic attempt to rid the world of Christianity, or at least their social standing.

  4. tensor Says:

    I’m trying to find any statement you’ve made which is true.

    I stated that Galileo was attacked, by the most powerful Christians of his time and place, for publication of the results of his scientific research — results which flatly contradicted Christian dogma of his day. Are you claiming this statement was not true?

    … using ACGW as an example of a Christian’s ignorance is shameful.

    The primary driver of climate is the radiative heat transfer from the sun to the earth, and from the earth to space. This is the main factor in the temperature of the earth’s surface. Demo kid asked you a question, specifically designed to determine if you understood the relationship between radiative heat transfer and temperature. You gave exactly the wrong answer, showing you do not understand the main factor in the earth’s climate, and therefor of climate change.

    See, when I review the texts of the time describing that event, it appears to me that the Pagan temples were cleared out and destroyed. The books, however, remained unmolested.

    Whereas the Encyclopedia Britannica states flatly the Christians burned all of the books, deliberately and intentionally. Until and unless you name the “texts of the time” you have consulted, we cannot evaluate their veracity.

    What’s really amazing is that somehow, the Muslims were able to claim credit for finally destroying the library in 642 AD, after the Christians had already supposedly destroyed it, according to you.

    So, when Christians destroy a library, they do so with such barbaric force that it cannot be even partially restored, centuries later? Thank you for clarifying the incredible destructive power of Christian behavior.

    And what’s even more fascinating is that you’re able to believe in ancient texts, as long as the text isn’t the Bible.

    How so? I believe the Bible exists, and I believe that, say, Euclid’s Elements exists. Geometry is always correct and relevant; the old tales in the Bible are rarely, if ever, so.

    There were plenty of texts, much older than any in the Bible, destroyed by the Christians at Alexandria. The Christians of that day clearly did not believe in the positive values of those works.

    You know, for a fact, that what President George W. Bush did was stop federal funding of new lines of embryonic stem cells.

    Yes, that’s what I wrote. Thanks for the confirmation.

    …for fear that we’ll be using federal money to create life that we then destroy.

    And everyone in Iraq can tell you of the great importance W. placed upon not using federal money to destroy life. Well, at least 100,000 persons there cannot tell you that anymore. Or tell you anything else, for that matter. Another triumph of W.’s “pro-life” presidency!

    Ahh, so you DO admit that logic and reason are founded in religion.

    No, I was refuting your false claim, that they depend upon Christianity.

    You have read, of course, the writings of these ancient Greek philosophers and identified from whence their ideas came?

    Those ideas did owe anything to Christianity, as you had claimed.

    Now, quick question, why didn’t the Greek religion and philosophy take over the world? Why aren’t we all speaking Greek and why isn’t the center of the world in Athens?

    They did take over the ancient world. Romans worshipped Greek deities, under Roman names. Hellenistic Greek was the common language of the Roman world. Apostle Paul specifically went to Athens to preach his Christian dogma: the wise and learned philosophers there laughed at his simplistic and wrong claims; even your Bible records this.

    Why did it take more than a thousand years before Christians rediscovered their philosophy…

    Because earlier Christians had done such a great job of destroying centers of ancient learning, like at Alexandria.

    Heat is not contained by anything.

    Please put that statement at the top of every post you write on climate.

    You can, if you so desire, reproduce the experiments that have lead the modern physicist’s understanding of temperature, heat and such,

    Please give the derivation of a calorie. Not the equivalent in other units; recount how it was defined. It’s tied to how much heat water can absorb and store.

    … you’d rather mock those who don’t agree with you.

    At least I have not slandered a worldwide community of scientists because I can’t understand what they’ve done.

    Not all Christians have been accepting of science, logic, and reason

    Burning astronomers alive for their “heresy” of a moving earth made that point nicely, yes.

    Christian thought, such as compassion, caring, tolerance, and even love for those who disagree with you or have hostile intentions towards you have made modern science what it is today.

    Science existed before Christianity, it has survived Christianity, and it will continue, long after Christianity goes the way of every faith which came before it. (I would never, of course, demand the “cleansing” of Christian holy sites, nor violence against Christians. I’m not a barbarian.)

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      Galileo was a Christian, Galileo was a Christian, Galileo was a Christian. Yes, the people who persecuted him were also Christians, but this does not erase the fact that science has been progressed by Christians.

      The Encyclopedia Britannica is wrong, because I know of no record of the books in the Library of Alexandria being burned by Christians. Please prove me wrong if you can, citing the historical record, not an interpretation of it. Please do not blame Christianity or even Christians for things they did not do. Also, how can the Muslims destroy the Library at Alexandria hundreds of years later if it was already burned to the ground by the Christians? This simple fact proves that the Christians did not do it.

      They did take over the ancient world. Romans worshipped Greek deities, under Roman names. Hellenistic Greek was the common language of the Roman world. Apostle Paul specifically went to Athens to preach his Christian dogma: the wise and learned philosophers there laughed at his simplistic and wrong claims; even your Bible records this.

      So the Greeks built airplanes and space shuttles, and skyscrapers and internets? They created so much wealth that they could feed the entire world and build factories everywhere and superhighway systems to span continents many times over? They figured out how to solve the problems of population growth so that the world could handle 6, 7 billion people at a time?

      I’m sorry, the Greeks had a few good ideas, but ultimately, their religion doomed them.

      I’m sad to hear that Paul failed in converting all the Greeks. Had they listened, humanity could’ve experienced this modern revolution in science thousands of years earlier. Ultimately, Paul and the other preachers were correct. They were stopped in their progress until they began to adopt the ideas of Christianity.

      Let’s try this thought experiment.

      Consider this. Let’s suppose Christianity never existed. Then Galileo would never exist, though he would never be persecuted for his scientific discoveries. The world continues as it always had, where logic is a curious little game, but everyone knows brute force and emotional persuasion are the only meaningful things.

      Consider the alternative. Christianity did exist, Galileo did believe in it, and did test its premises and discovered the motion of the planets and stars, but was persecuted for it by other believers of the same religion. Yet what is it we see? Other believers of the same adopt Galileo’s ideas (after all, why would God try to deceive our eyes? It must be man–and man’s church–that is wrong) and begin their own experiments and measurements. Soon we have Newton pondering the motion of the planets and discovering Calculus and Newtonian Mechanics. At the same time, we have other Christians participating in other experiments to test the laws of nature, in a quest to understand God’s nature, because nature is God’s handiwork, according to their beliefs. Eventually, we arrive at a state of civilization where the vast majority of people understand the scientific process to one degree or another, the value of logic (rather than sophistry—See Ancient Greece) as a foundation of action and belief, and they believe that questioning people’s perception of what is reality only to discover what is really reality is really fun. And thankfully, people are humble enough to know that their own ideas are not any more important than someone else’s, and that beyond their own ideas their lies the ultimate reality, a reality that is far, far more important than any idea they will ever have, and a reality to which their will must bend, or they will break.

      Gee, that sounds an awful lot like Christianity. We don’t get to pick and choose our gods, and we can’t imagine that we are superior to reality or have any influence on what reality is. We only have a choice: comply with reality or be destroyed. If we choose to comply, then our quest becomes one of understanding reality (and thus God), and then harmonizing ourselves with it. These concepts are foreign to the ancient Greeks and Romans. You don’t need to take my word for it. Read what Cicero had to write, and understand that he was a great philosopher of his time because he taught the Romans these curious concepts, which were new and ultimately abandoned by them.

      What does the definition of calorie have to do with whether heat is an intrinsic property of matter? A calorie is the amount of energy required to increase an amount of water a certain temperature.

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