Races: Where Did They Come From?[i]
Genesis teaches that God pronounced the first two created people very good when He created them at the very beginning. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’ God saw all that He had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:26–31 NIV).
Soon after, Adam and Eve openly violated God’s command not to eat of the forbidden fruit. As a result, sin entered the human race. God had to curse all of creation, and on that day Adam and Eve began the process of aging that always ends in death. An originally perfect created mankind began accumulating genetic mutations both in body cells and in germ cells.
Every generation has suffered from these mutations ever since. They degenerate each person’s body, sometimes causing death through cancer and other diseases. Mutations in the germ line over many generations have caused degeneration of the entire human race. This process has continued until today. Geneticists have identified the mutations that cause over five thousand specific diseases in humans. Although a rare few one of these DNA copying errors accidentally brings a benefit in very limited surroundings, 99.99% either cause harm or make virtually undetectable changes. But these small changes accumulate. After hundreds of generations, every person today inherits thousands of mutations that Adam and Eve and their immediate descendants never had.
As in body cells, near-neutral mutations cause miniscule damage. After enough of these accumulate, they cause a genetic meltdown leading to extinction of the species. The text Principles of Medical Biochemistry[ii] under the subtitle “Mutations Are an Important Cause of Poor Health” states:
At least one new mutation can be expected to occur in each round of cell division, even in cells with unimpaired DNA repair and in the absence of external mutagens [mutation-causing agents]. As a result, every child is born with an estimated 100 to 200 new mutations that were not present in the parents. Most of these mutations change only one or a few base pairs … However, an estimated one or two new mutations are ‘mildly detrimental.’ This means they are not bad enough to cause a disease on their own, but they can impair physiological functions to some extent, and they can contribute to multifactorial diseases [when many causes contribute to illness]. Finally, about 1 per 50 infants is born with a diagnosable genetic condition that can be attributed to a single major mutation (p. 153).
The authors concluded that, as a result:
Children are, on average, a little sicker than their parents because they have new mutations on top of those inherited from the parents. This mutational load is kept in check by natural selection. In most traditional societies, almost half of all children used to die before they had a chance to reproduce. Investigators can only guess that those who died had, on average, more “mildly detrimental” mutations than those who survived (p. 153).
If macro-evolution is true, it is going the wrong way! It does not cause the ascent of life by adding new and useful biological coding instructions, but rather the descent of life by eroding what remains of the originally created biological codes. Should we call it “devolution” instead?
What do mutations have to do with “races?” Geneticists have studied DNA sequences in all kinds of different people groups. These studies reveal that each people group—which is most easily identified on a cultural level by sharing a specific language—shares a set of mutations. They must have inherited these “race” mutations from their ancestors after the Tower of Babel, since their ancestors freely interbred for the several hundred years between the Flood and the Tower. Amazingly, however, all these mutations make up less than one percent of all human DNA in the human genome. This means that no matter how different from you someone looks, they are 99.9% genetically identical to you. For this reason, even evolutionary geneticists admit that the term “race” has virtually no biological backing. It comes from cultural and mostly language differences. Bottom line: all people have the same genetic basis to be considered fully human, while expressing interesting cultural and subtle physical variations.
Races: A DNA Bottleneck
According to the chronologies in Genesis 5 and 11, the Genesis Flood occurred about 1,656 years after Creation. From possibly millions of pre-Flood peoples, only three couples survived the Flood and had children afterward. This caused a severe DNA bottleneck. Genetic bottlenecks occur when circumstances suddenly squeeze populations down to small numbers. They concentrate mutations and thus accelerate diseases. This occurs, for example, when people or animals marry or mate with close relations. Children or offspring from these unions have a much higher chance of expressing inherited mutations in their bodies. The genetic bottleneck of the Flood accelerated the decay of the human genome from Adam and Eve’s once perfect genome.
Then, not long after the Tower of Babel, a major dispersion of humans occurred. Diverse ethnicities tied to languages. The Bible records 70–100 families left the Tower. Many of them have gone extinct. Those few original languages have diversified into over 7,000+ languages and dialects today. For example, English descended from the same basic language as German, while Welsh and Mandarin descended from fundamentally different original languages. Details from genetics and linguistics confirm Paul’s statement in Acts 17:26, “He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.”
Charles Darwin grouped these “nations” into “races,” then organized races into those he believed were less human—less evolved—than others. He was completely wrong. Genetically, people in each ethnicity or nation share equal standing with other men. Biblically, they share equal standing before God, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” according to Romans 3:23.
As noted, all the differences between the human races are superficial, such as differences in skin, hair, and eye color. These traits account for less than 0.012% of human genetic differences, or 1 gene out of 12,000.[iii] The two major traits that American society uses to label races are hair and skin color. About 350 years ago, primarily light-skinned people from Northern Europe and dark-skinned people from Africa immigrated to North America. However, when dark-skinned people marry those with light skin, their children usually show medium-tone skin. Adam and Eve must have had medium tone skin because they carried the necessary genetic variety for all humans to follow.
Sometime in history—probably at Babel—those with darker skin took their languages one direction, while those with lighter skin took theirs in another. Babel would have had a similar effect on many other traits. Different-looking peoples intermingled at Babel. But when God dispersed them from there, each family carried its language and traits away from the other families—at first. This way, many Asian groups carried their language and light skin and special eyes (with epicanthic folds). Middle-Easterners didn’t go as far, but kept their languages and medium-tone skin.
Of course, these groups almost never remained in total isolation. Genetic tests reveal that probably everybody contains a mixture of ethnic-identifying genetic markers. Most people in the world have a skin tone between the extremes, having brown skin and brown hair. Others have a mixture of traits.
Subtle genetic differences develop different shaped hair follicles that produce straight, wavy, to curly human hairs. Round hair follicles manufacture tube-like, straight hair. Oval-shaped hair follicles produce flattened hair shafts, which curl. Flatter hairs make tighter curls.
Figure 1. The Shape of the Hair.[iv]
Human hair also shows a range of tones, from white to black, all depending on the amount and type of pigment they have. White hair, usually found in the elderly, almost totally lacks pigment. Brown hair contains a medium level, and black hair has the most pigment. A mutation in a gene that codes for a pigment receptor protein causes red hair. Some Neanderthal men had red hair, since their DNA shows this mutation on chromosome 16. Since the Neanderthal ethnic group went extinct long ago, this mutation must have happened early in human history.
Special cellular machinery manufactures melanin pigments. Many animals make and use it to darken their features, including insects. In humans, more melanin makes skin, hair, and eye irises darker.
Melanin is responsible for much of our eye color. The color coats the iris diaphragm. The small black pupil of the eye is a hole that allows light to enter the inside of the eyeball, so it has no pigment. Variation in eye color from brown to green largely depends on the amount of melanin on the iris, which genetics determine. However, it involves dozens of genes, each with its own inheritance pattern, so it is difficult to pinpoint the exact color of a child’s eyes by the genes alone. More melanin better block the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. Blue eyes filter less ultraviolet light, which commonly damages retinas. Blue eyes actually result from a mutation that prevents adding the pigment necessary for proper eye protection. Persons with light blue, green, or hazel eyes have little protection from the sun, so they experience tissue damage if not protected by sunglasses. What does this have to do with ethnicities? First, mutations have clearly contributed to trait variations that we often associate with ethnicities, including eye color. Second, standard (but complicated) inheritance principles explain most color-based trait variations, including eye color. No wonder a child might seem to have “Aunt Linda’s eyes.” Third, the wide varieties and often stunning beauty in eye colors showcases God’s creativity. Apes’ and other animals’ eyes are often simply dull in comparison.
Like eye color, skin color depends on the level and type of melanin that special cells called melanocytes produce in the skin. In addition to showing variation, melanin protects the cell’s nuclear DNA. It does not shield the entire cell, but it can cover the nucleus like a protective umbrella.
Figure 2. Skin Color tends to be a Major Factor in Determining Race.[v]
Melanin reduces ultraviolet type B (UVB) damage by absorbing or scattering the ultraviolet radiation that otherwise would have been absorbed by the DNA, causing mutations. This protects against skin cancer. The specific wavelengths of light that melanin absorbs match those of DNA, thus protecting DNA from the sun’s damaging radiation. Skin color also depends upon the size, number, shape, and distribution of melanocytes, as well as the chemical nature of their melanin content.
Modern genetics reveals that Adam and Eve could have had within their created genes almost all the pigmentation varieties seen today. If the trait of human skin color follows the “polygenic” inheritance pattern, then Adam and Eve’s children could have appeared either very dark or very light, although most were probably medium brown, like their parents.
Vitamin D Triggered by Sunlight
A melanin balance is necessary to protect the skin’s DNA from UV damage yet allow the light skin to “trigger” its benefits. Skin harvests UVB sunlight and uses it to process vitamin D, which the body requires. Vitamin D helps to promote proper bone density and growth by helping to regulate calcium and phosphorus in the body. Vitamin D deficiency leads to bones that lack the required calcium levels, causing rickets and even contributing to cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental impairment in older adults, and severe asthma in children.
What does all this have to do with the origin of people groups? As people migrated away from Babel in modern-day Iraq to northern latitudes, they had less exposure to sun. Others migrated to the tropics. Each person inherits their skin tone, and different skin tones interact differently with various climates.
Light-skinned people from the frozen north who visit lower latitude sunny locations have less melanin to block the sun’s UVB rays. Without this protection, they may experience sunburn, which dramatically increases the odds of skin cancer. On the other hand, dark-skinned people visiting areas of dim sunlight may not produce enough vitamin D. They may need vitamin D supplements or obtain additional vitamin D from foods. For this reason, foods such as milk and bread are vitamin D fortified.
As global geographical distribution of various peoples shows, skin color variation is not determined by distance from the equator. Nevertheless, the skin tones we inherit can have different fits in different environments, and basic genetics reveal God could easily have programmed all human skin variation into the first created couple.
Another example of superficial racial differences are the so-called almond eyes of many Asian people groups. The Asian eye has a fat layer in the upper eyelid that pushes the lid down, causing the eye to appear to be more closed. No Caucasian or Middle-Eastern ethnicities have this eye design, but two rare African tribes do. These tribes plus Asians must have inherited the trait from their ancestors at Babel. The information that codes for this trait was lost to Caucasians, Arabs, and others who migrated away from those who retained it.
All of these are normal variations and examples of the remarkable variety that exists in all life—even within each created kind. Genetics confirm that only two people, Adam and Eve, contained all the genes required to produce much of the basic variety seen across cultures today. In the end, as these people groups illustrate, race is not a biological but a sociological construct.
Darwin’s Conclusions about Race and Sex
Charles Darwin, the founder of modern evolutionary theory, openly expressed racist and gender sentiments that make Bible believers cringe. As mentioned above, although the title of Darwin’s most important book is often cited as The Origin of Species, the complete title is The Origin of Species of Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The favored races, he argued in a later book titled The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex,[vi] were supposedly Caucasians.
Darwin also taught that the “negro race” would become extinct, making the gap between whites and the lower apes wider. In his words:
At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races … The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state … than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as at present between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.[vii]
Darwin did not begin racism, but his ideas bolstered it big time.[viii] No science supports Darwin’s main ideas, and the Bible treats all people as equally human in God’s sight.
Darwin also taught that women were biologically inferior to men and that human sexual differences were due, in part, to natural selection. As Darwin concluded in his Descent of Man book: “the average mental power in man must be above that of women.” Darwin argued that the intellectual superiority of males is proved by the fact that men attain:
a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can women—whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands. If two lists were made of the most eminent men and women in poetry, painting, sculpture, music composition and performance, history, science, and philosophy, with half-a-dozen names under each subject, the two lists would not bear comparison …We may also infer… that if men are capable of a decided preeminence over women in many subjects, the average of mental power in man must be above that of women.[ix]
Modern society has proved this naïve assumption to be not only wrong but also irresponsible. Darwin used many similar examples to illustrate the evolutionary forces that he concluded produced men to be of superior physical and intellectual strength and yet produce women to be more docile. Thus, due to “…success in the general struggle for life; and as in both cases the struggle will have been during maturity, the characters thus gained will have been transmitted more fully to the male than to the female offspring. Thus, man has ultimately become superior to woman.”[x] All this imaginative drivel ignores God’s Word entirely. Genesis 1 extols the equality of genders by telling us that God created both husband and wife together as a married couple to reflect His image. It takes both to reflect His image. As a divinity student, Darwin surely read this. Did he deliberately ignore it?
[i] Jerry Bergman, Ph.D.
[ii] Gerhard Meisenberg & William Simmons, Principles of Medical Biochemistry (New York: Mosby, 2006).
[iii] Susan Chavez Cameron and Susan Macias Wycoff, “The Destructive Nature of the Term ‘Race’: Growing Beyond a False Paradigm,” Journal of Counseling & Development, Volume 76, no. 3 (Summer 1998): 277–285. The article cites information from L. Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, and Alberto Piazza, The History and Geography of Human Genes (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994): 279.
[iv] Credit: Dreamstime.
[v] Credit: Shutterstock.
[vi] Darwin, Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex.
[vii] Darwin, Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Volume 1, 201.
[viii] Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977): 127.
[ix] Darwin, Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Volume 2, 327.
[x] Darwin, Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Volume 2, 328.