A couple of disclaimers about this post. First, the following estimations are just extra-fancy back-of-the-envelope calculations. They have not been subject to peer review and should not be taken as a rigorous analysis. I can tell you now the analysis is as full of mistakes as my text is spelling errors and I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to find them both. The post is meant more along the lines of “Wow: Here is something to think about.” Also, I published this for 8 hours in August and several people pointed out that this had all been done before by the Committee on Celestial Demographics in Dialogue. My numbers, methods, and sources are a little different than theirs. Why am I publishing this now? Peer pressure.
I was reading on BCC about a questionnaire given at the FAIR conference that said that the number one worry of church members is celestial polygamy. Now there are lots of things to worry about (like Global Warming) but let me, as an evolutionary biologist, ease your mind about one aspect of it. Will there be polygamy in heaven? The answer depends, I suppose in part at least, on if there are more woman folk up there than men folk. I read some blogs that pointed out the difference in mortality rates between males and females that might bear on this question and thought–can’t we estimate this? So I took a stab at it. Are there going to be more females than males in the highest kingdom?
Well, maybe not. There may be some things about male mortality that might throw a wrench in conventional wisdom (notice wiggle words: maybe, may, might).
First, let’s crunch the numbers and and take a stab at estimating how many people have died before the age of eight and the sex ratio of those people. How can we do that? Do I have the gift of prophecy? No! I do what I’ve always done—make a few assumptions and then use real math to make wild predictions! People throw money at me in the form of grants to do this all the time. I think about half of the of my readers will find great comfort in this analysis. The other half of you will be disturbed and accuse me all kinds of uncharitable things. Heck, I’m disturbed. My wife seems a little too jubilant.
So our assumptions:
(1) Children who die before the age of accountability go to heaven.
(2) We can reconstruct, to some extent, historical human population demographics.
So here are the facts I’ll work with:
There have been about 73 billion people who have lived on the earth since about 6000 BC. Between a fourth and a half died before the age of 8 during most of human history. So conservatively 18.25 billion died before the age of eight. To figure out how many members possibly made it otherwise, I was conservative and assumed everyone makes it that tries. I need a better estimate of how many members have ever been baptized. So let’s just stipulate (wildly) that church in the past (remembering the church has been on the earth for most of human history with some notable disappearances in the Apostasy(ies)) has the same proportion of members as it does now (I know, I know, its a bad assumption but I want to err on the side of caution). So currently there are about 12 million members out of 6 billion people, meaning about 0.2% of the world’s population are members. If we assume the same rate historically, that gives us about 146 Million who make it to the top. So here is a chart of the first fascinating finding: the proportion of people in the Celestial Kingdom who are there because they died as a child compared to those who come there otherwise.
Here’s a pie chart:
This shows me there is a lot of work to do in the Spirit world to make up the difference, so one more reason to get busy on your genealogy.
Next, the racial make up–based on pre-accountability mortality. Will it look like my Utah Valley Ward? No. It will actually match pretty closely to my ward back in Hawaii (Everyone said it was paradise!) or my ward here in Vienna.
(Pay no attention to the USSR part—this is not a communist conspiracy. I think it was Livi-Bacci way of breaking out that area of Eurasia).
And now for the thing that I think surprised me the most. Shocked maybe a better word. It starts with this curve from Massimo’s book:
What I do next is extrapolate the total population curve, then sample it every 25 years from 400 BC and estimate the population of that generation, cut it in half to estimate the number of females, estimate the proportion who lived to bear children, apply the average number of children born per female, then estimate the average mortality rate of males vs. females. Ok? Crystal clear? This gives me an average of the number of pre-accountability deaths for each generation. (You may wonder why I just didn’t’ get it from total populations above, but there was too much embedded in those estimates that I couldn’t extract). Now, here’s the rub. Males just happen to die young way more often than females.—From 10 to 20% more. This is a strange fact about our biology. There are lots of reasons. This is true both prenatally and after birth. Biologically men just are the weaker sex.
So let’s just look at the numbers. For the purposes of this analysis I’m going to just look at the populations from about 400BC to 1950 where we have some data. So these estimates will provide a conservatively low estimate (lots of people lived before 400 BC). I do this just because I don’t have data before this time and the human population wasn’t that large so it won’t be that bad of an assumption, I suspect if we had the data, it wouldn’t take back any of the shocking news.
There have been about 38 Billion who have lived during that time period.
Here is the money shot: There are going to be a minimum of about between 2 to 4 billion more males than females in the Celestial Kingdom based on infant mortality differences between the sexes.
Current practices in some large populations may make this inequality worse because currently in the world there are an estimated 100 million females missing demographically from a combination of abortion, infanticide, and childbirth death. This sexual imbalance is projected to get much worse in the coming decades in some regions of the world where male children are more valued than female children. Since abortion is replacing infanticide in China and India, and because females are terminated much more frequently in these developing nations, it means that more males will be born and because of the high male infant death rate, it is going to produce an even greater number males ending up dying before the age of accountability than females (BYU professor Valerie Hudson is studying this). So while my numbers really are derived from pre 20th Century, things are only getting more unequal as is the ratio of males to females dying before age eight.
So what are the implications of this infant death rate imbalance? That I can’t say. I have a lot faith that things are going to get straightened out in the end and these estimates are going to be proven silly or wrong (as a scientist I thrive on being shown to be wrong, so it’s a good thing I’m a scientist because it happens a lot) and that everybody who wants a spouse will get one (who can say what millennium sex ratios will be for example and likely all these males are doing missionary work and fixing these imbalances–you have to keep in mind that this life is but a tiny portion of the real life of Earth’s population) But the bottom line really is that males under the age of eight have been dying at a much higher rate than females of the same age for a very long time in some big populations. Any thinking like: ‘because woman are more righteous than men (which I don’t buy, by the way), there are going to be more women than men in the highest kingdom’ should be considered in this light.
Brethren give your DWs a big hug tonight, take her out to a candle-light dinner, and promise her–hand on heart–that there will be no polygamy in heaven on your part (but if you want her for yourself plead for a promise there will be no polyandry either).
** Data taken from:
Dalkhat Ediev and Richard Gisser. 2007. Reconstruction of historical series of life tables and of age-sex structures for the Austrian population in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century Vienna Yearbook of Population Research 2007, pp. 327-355 (DATA & TRENDS)
Livi-Bacci, Massimo. 2007. A Concise History of World Population 4th ed. Blackwll Publishing. Malden, MA
Greg L. Drevenstedt*, Eileen M. Crimmins*,†, Sarinnapha Vasunilashorn*, and Caleb E. Finch. 2008. The rise and fall of excess male infant mortality. PNAS April 1, 2008 vol. 105 no. 13 5016-5021