Athro, Limited Biology Evolution The Elephant Problem |
The Elephant Problem |
Source: Corel |
There is no exception to the rule that every organic being naturally increase at so high a rate that if not destroyed, the earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair .... The Elephant is reckoned to be the slowest breeder of all known animals, and I have taken some pains to estimate its probable minimum rate of natural increase: it will be under the mark to assume that it breeds when thirty years old, and goes on breeding till ninety years old, bringing forth three pairs of young in this interval; if this be so, at the end of the fifth century there would be alive fifteen million elephants, descended from the first pair
Shortly after this, the eminent physicist William Thompson (later Lord Kelvin) pointed out that Darwin got the math wrong. After about 500 years, there should only be about 16 thousand elephants, not 15 million. Indeed, the engineer Fleeming Jenkin referred to another of Darwin's calculations as guessing at the half and multiplying by two (fide Burchfield, 1990 p.74). The basic problem, however, remains, a few elephants can produce lots of elephants. But how many?
Now let us suppose that all elephants grew up to a ripe old age of about 90 years. Given a pair (one male and one female) of elephants, how many elephants would there be after 120 years? 1000 years? 5000 years? Enter a number of years in the form below, and it will calculate how many elephants there are...
You may repeat this calculation with any organism you desire. The results, while they may take a bit longer, are the same. Without some sort of limits to population growth, any organism will rapidly produce far more offspring than there are available resources. All organisms overproduce.