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ately, I have been talking a lot about possible catastrophes that could occur, each with a more devastating result than the next. As we advance in this fast-paced technological world, we do become more aware of factors that can influence an apocalypse on humanity, but at the same time, we also create more factors that can cause a catastrophe without even noticing it sometimes.

Christianity talks of how our humanity was created thanks to only two humans, Adam and Eve who managed to populate the Earth to what it is today. As always, I do not like to mix religion and science, but in this case, they kind of correlate.

Many studies had looked at the possibility of repopulating Earth in case of an “end of the world scenario” where most of the human population is wiped out. The studies have taken upon the social, psychological, and most importantly genetic perspectives when looking at various hypotheses. Whilst some of them say it is impossible, most of the agreement is that there is a very small probability that only a couple of people or even two are able to sustainably repopulate Earth.

The major problem with this is obviously the hereditary diseases that would not allow for a sustainable repopulation. Although history is very contradictory when it comes to incest, there have been and there still are many isolated communities that can only repopulate through incest, and yet they somehow avoid hereditary diseases. This is also the main reason biologists started studying remote communities within America such as the Hutterites or the Amish.

A study put this theory into practice

The problem is that an actual study was never conducted by those who believe that repopulating the world with only two or a handful of people is possible. However, a study conducted since 1982 and continuing to this day shows a different possibility. Genetic studies in the Hutterites community became really popular around the world as it looks at many different aspects based on how the community that is being studied evolves.

The Hutterites

Hutterites are communities that originate from the first German colonize that came to America. The Hutterites are a communal people, living on hundreds of scattered bruderhöfe or colonies throughout the prairies of northwestern North America. On average, fifteen families live and work on the typical Hutterite colony, where they farm, raise livestock, and produce manufactured goods for sustenance.

Hutterer-Frauen community cleaning the corn harvest (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The communal lifestyle of the Hutterites finds its roots in the biblical teachings of Christ and the Apostles. Emerging as a distinct culture and religious group in the early 16th century, this non-resistant Anabaptist sect endured great persecution and death at the hands of the state and church in medieval Europe. However, the Hand of God remained on the shoulder of these people, and their descendants survived to battle to this very day.

The communities are self-sustainable and they do not really engage with what they call “English people” (people outside of their community). Children are educated within the community based on the religious beliefs of the community.

The Study

The photograph shows a Hutterite girl holding her baby sister (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Various Universities around America started to look at a Hutterites community from South Dakota that were all related to one another. Since the 16th century when the community was started, over 3,657 people were found in the community-made by 64 different founders (number of people that started populating the community) and spanning over 13 different generations.

The observations started in 1982 and around 1,600 people from the community accepted to be subjected to this study. This meant that over a period from then till 2020, experts from various fields but mainly within genetics have looked at how the community evolved on a biological level and tested them to see if any hereditary diseases were created along the way. This is because of the small number of founding genomes which significantly reduced genetic heterogeneity.

Meaning that as long as the community stays together it can easily sustain a biological evolution with a very low risk of hereditary diseases. For some, 3,657 people in about 300 years may not seem like a good job, but actually, from a biological perspective and taking into consideration only 64 founders, that is amazing in such a short period of time.

This study, although it does not specifically look at the possibility of humanity to repopulate in the case of an apocalypse, would be very similar to the start of the Hutterites community when they first came to America. Survivors in the case of an apocalypse would most likely start with a small number of founders within a community and remain as such for many generations to come.

The only probability of a higher chance for hereditary diseases to be created would be having founders of different ethnicities. However, even the Hutterite community that was study wasn’t 100% Germanic, they came from different central European countries such as Austria, Switzerland, and even Russia.

Network analysis representing the different haplotype groups within the Hutterite community. (Source: Nature)

Many other studies that look at this from a sociological perspective say that the repopulation with only a handful of people would not be efficient, but that does not mean it is not possible. Yes, it may take thousands upon thousands of years to get a population of 100,000 people, but it is better than having humanity wiped out.

From a psychological perspective, the population studied is comforting with severe depression due to them being isolated from the rest of the world, setting a perfect precedent for an apocalyptic scenario, as most of the survivors will probably suffer severe depression and mental strains due to the event.

Thus, I believe that whoever would survive if an apocalypse would take place will have quite a good chance of repopulating humanity, but to conclude, this is definitely not something impossible as other theories or hypotheses have pointed out with their calculations.

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