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How Did We Get the Races?

By Editorial Staff
Published December 22, 2007

Throughout history, many people have wondered: How did the human races develop? Technically, the term “race” should never have been applied to human beings since there is only one race – the human race. This term came into popular usage with the growing acceptance of evolutionism in the late 1800s.

One should realize that the word “race,” referring to physical characteristics, hardly ever occurs in the Bible.1 Instead, the word “nation” is used over 200 times. Common usage of the word “race” today refers to groups of people with distinguishing physical characteristics such as skin color, shape of eyes, and type of hair.

To appreciate how minor these variations are in humans, consider the large variations in the dog family. Most varieties of domestic dogs were produced during the past 300 years. Dogs may be white, black, red, yellow, tiny huge hairy, almost hairless, cute or not-so-cute. Their temperaments and abilities also vary widely. Since the domestic dog can interbreed with the wolf, the coyote, and the jackal, all are part of the dog kind.

By comparison, human variations are few and minor. We must remember that in every kind of life there are vast numbers of genes that permit these variations which allow successive generations to adapt to environmental changes. Without this design feature, extinctions would be much more common. Besides, wouldn’t life be much less interesting if there were no variations within each kind?

The following three mechanisms have brought about the so-called “racial” characteristics in humans, just as in animals. It is which mechanism played the greatest role in this differentiation of human traits since the Genesis Flood, approximately 5000 years ago.

Natural Selection

This well established phenomenon is not a mechanism for macro-evolution as a century of experimentation has shown, although it is an important mechanism for micro-evolution. Natural selection filters out certain parental genes in successive generations, producing offspring with slightly different characteristics and less genetic variability. For example, a fair skinned person living near the equator is susceptible to several health risks, such as shin cancer.

Consequently, the fair-skinned person has a slightly less chance of living to reproductive age and passing on his or her genes for light skin color to a child. A similar situation exists for dark-skinned people living in the polar latitudes. Their skin screens out sunlight and tends to deprive them of vitamin D3 which forms in skin exposed to sunlight. Absence of vitamin D3 produces rickets. Therefore over many generations, dark-skinned people tend to live near the equator and light-skinned people tend to live at the higher latitudes.

There are several exceptions to this tendency. For example, Eskimos have rather dark skin and yet live in Arctic latitudes. Their diet which includes fish liver oils containing large amounts of vitamin D3, prevents rickets.

Small Isolated Populations

A population of people, or any other form of life, has a large set of genetic characteristics. If a few members of this population move to an isolated region, such as an island, they will have a different and smaller set of genetic characteristics than the entire population. As a result, subsequent generations on that island will have different traits from the original population.

This can be illustrated by a barrel that is filled with marbles – half white and half black. Let’s say that each marble represents a person, and the color of the marble represents that person’s skin color. If pairs of marbles are drawn at random and placed on separate islands about half the islands will end up with marbles of one color.

If each pair of marbles represented a husband and wife, this would be somewhat analogous to the dispersion and isolation that occurred after the Flood and the downfall of Babel. If a husband and wife ended up having the same genes. Each person carries genes for skin color. If a husband and wife end up having the same genes for dark and light skin color, then all their descendants would end up having dark skin or light skin. The color of the marbles could just as well represent any other genetic characteristic.

Actually, the genetics of this process are more complicated than this simple illustration. For example, there are at least 4 genes that determine skin color, not just one. Nevertheless, there are thousands of traits, each of which might cluster in an isolated geographic region if small groups broke off from the larger population. Thus, specific characteristics can easily arise as they did when the eight survivors of the flood and their descendants eventually responded to God’s command to spread pout and repopulate the earth.

From the listing of the descendants of Noah given in Genesis 10-11, we can see how easily the early migration patterns began. Shem’s immediate descendants stayed generally near Ararat (what is now eastern Turkey) or migrated eastward. Ham’s descendants migrated southward, while Japeth’s descendants migrated northward. Undoubtedly, there were were many other occasions where small groups colonized isolated regions and thus allowed their unique genetic characteristics to be expressed in subsequent generations.

What Did Adam and Eve Look Like?

Understanding these three mechanisms, we can now raise some interesting questions. What did Adam and Eve look like? Obviously, their genes coded for all the traits that humans have today – and probably other traits that have disappeared. Many of their genes, of course, were not visible (or expressed) because of the dominance of other genes.

People usually visualize Adam and Eve as looking as they themselves do. Undoubtedly, Adam’s and Eve’s skin color was not “white” or “black” but something in between. The Hebrew word for Adam carries a connotation of ruddy or reddish. An almost identical Hebrew word means “rosy” or “to show blood.” It is quite likely that Adam’s skin coloring was almost like that of the American Indian.

For the past 130 years, evolutionism has painted a very different picture. Man supposedly ascended from an apelike ancestor. Some early humans branched off sooner than others, and therefore, they look differently, and have different physical and mental abilities. This is racism, a highly prejudicial school of thought that tends to dehumanize fellow human beings.

One cannot say that evolutionists today are racists. Racism is unpopular today, and public acknowledgement of it is even more so. However, many evolutionists in the several generations following Darwin, and even Charles Darwin himself, were racists. The theory of evolution provides a very convincing rationale to justify racism.

Evolutionist and Harvard professor Stephen Jay Gould, although not a racist himself, sadly recounts that history of evolutionary racism: “Biological arguments against racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of the theory of evolution.“2

Genesis provides a quite different historical perspective. We are all descended from Adam and Eve and Noah and his wife. Consequently, we are all cousins. Think what the world would be like if all people realized that!

1. The word “race” as applied to groups of people, is never used in the King James version of the Bible and is seldom used in the more modern translations. However, the two or three usages in these modern translations come from Hebrew and Greek words that actually mean “family” or “offspring,” not a variety or subspecies.

2. Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977), p. 127.


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