The Undead

From the book:

In 1973, the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker put forth an unusual thesis. In The Denial of Death, his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Becker said that humans are like other animals, with an evolutionary drive to survive. “Live! Live! Live!” our genes are screaming at us. Unlike other animals, however, said Becker, we humans know we cannot ultimately survive, that we will die. This dilemma, he believed, drives us mad. The awareness of our inevitable annihilation combined with our evolutionary program for self-preservation holds the potential for evoking paralyzing terror. Becker stated, “The result was the emergency of man as we know him: a hyperanxious animal who constantly invents reasons for anxiety even where there are none.” Becker wrote that man is terrified of death, and deals with this terror by denying death and keeping it unconscious. He felt that this terror directs “a substantial portion of human behavior.” according to one researcher.

. . . Who were the first humans? One could go back to 700,000 B.C. when the first ancestors of Homo sapiens appeared, or even back millions of years to the first hominids. . . . The world population didn’t pass the billion-person mark until 1800.

The number demographers came up with is 107.3 billion people. Theoretically, that is how many humans have been born on Earth. The number is most likely lowballed. Infant mortality in prehistoric times was estimated at around 50 percent. Scholars admit it might have been much worse and that infanticide might have been epidemic, but let’s ignore that for the moment.

To sum up, today, 7 billion people are alive worldwide. So the bottom line is:

107.3 billion total people born on Earth

-7.0 billion still alive


100.3 billion people dead.

Death has a big lead. More than 93 percent of all persons ever born have died. About 6.5 percent of us are still holding on. Is the fact that 100 billion out of 107 billion people have died proof that today’s 7 billion will also die?

. . . if the previous 100-something billion people have died, the present 7 billion are likely to die also.


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