THE ORIGIN OF "RACES"
by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.
Humans come in a rainbow of colors: sandy yellows, reddish-tans,
creamy whites, pale pinks. And who among us is not curious about the
skin colors, hair textures, bodily structures and facial features
associated with racial background. Why do many Africans have deep black
skin, while that of most Europeans is pale pink? Why do the eyes of
most "white" people and "black" people look pretty much alike but
differ so much from the eyes of Orientals? Why do some races have kinky
hair, while others have straight hair? Why do some races grow to over 7
feet tall (e.g., African Watusis), while others are less than 5 feet
(e.g., African Pygmies)? The answers to some of these questions, and
others, may often be found in a study of the origin of various races.
WHAT IS A "RACE"?
A human "race" is most often defined as a group of people with
certain features in common which distinguish them from other groups of
people. Currently there are three or four major "races" of humans, as
the word race is commonly defined: (a) Caucasoid; (b) Mongoloid; (c)
Negroid; and, (d) Australoid. Generally speaking, the Australoids are
considered a subgroup of the Caucasoids, simply because the two groups
have so many features in common, despite the fact that Australoids
possess dark skin (the Australoid group is often known as the
Australian Aboriginal Group). If a breakdown by percentages of the
world's population were attempted, the groups would look like this:
Caucasoid, 55%; Mongoloid, 33%; Negroid, 8%; Australoid, 4%. It is
interesting to note that these races are distributed around the globe
throughout over 100 nations, and speak 3,000+ tribal languages and
Speaking in broad terms, research on racial differences has led
scientists to at least three major conclusions. First, there are many
more differences among people than just hair texture, skin color, and
facial features. Dozens of other variations have been found to exist.
The following examples are taken from McCutcheon (1989, pp 25-35).
(A) Apocrine glands, which produce scents that we commonly refer to
as body odor, vary widely among the races. Asians have an extremely low
distribution of apocrines (Koreans are among the least odor-producing
people on earth---50% of them have no apocrine glands at all). With
regard to other races, blacks have a slightly higher distribution of
apocrine glands than whites.
(B) Ear wax among races is quite different. One of the most
accurate ways to distinguish Asians from blacks and whites is to check
for differences in ear wax. Asians produce dry, crumbly ear wax. Blacks
and whites produce moist, adhesive ear wax.
(C) Metabolic rates can differ significantly among races. The
higher the metabolic rate, the higher the threshold for sensing cold.
The Eskimo's metabolic rate is 15-30% higher than that of a European.
Equatorial people have the lowest metabolism of all because fewer
calories are needed to keep their bodies warm.
There are many other differences which could be discussed---teeth,
brain size, body shape, etc.
Second, research has shown that in many instances the success of a
population's survival has been aided by its genetic variability. While
evolutionists equate this with chance processes operating in the sphere
of "survival of the fittest," creationists see it as just one more
example of God's beneficent design. He has given us such variability,
genetically speaking, so that we can successfully adapt as the need
arises. More will be said about this later.
Third, despite the human species' wealth of built-in variation, and
despite our constant references to "race," no one has ever been able to
suggest a truly reliable way to distinguish one race from another.
While it is possible to classify a great many people on the basis of
certain physical characteristics, there are no known features, of
groups of features, that will do the job in all cases.
It has been suggested that skin color might be the criterion for
race determination. Yet, this provides innumerable difficulties because
while most Africans from south of the Sahara and their descendants
around the world have skin that is darker than that of most Europeans,
there are millions of people in India, classified by many
anthropologists as members of the Caucasoid race, who have darker skins
than most American blacks. Some Africans, living in the sub-Saharan
regions, have skin coloration which is no darker than that of some
Spaniards, Italians, Greeks, or Lebanese.
Stature has been suggested as a determining factor for races.
African Pygmies, because of their short height, have been considered
racially distinct from other dark-skinned Africans, for example. Yet if
stature is then to become a (or the) racial criterion, would it not be
necessary to include in the same race both the tall African Watusis and
Scandinavians of similar stature? Yet no one recommends such.
Various appearance features have also been suggested as the
criterion for race determination. For example, most people are familiar
with the almond shaped eye of the Oriental. The little web of skin that
is so characteristic in Oriental eyes is said to be a distinguishing
feature of the Mongoloid race. Yet, if one were to accept that
argument, how, then, could it be argued that the American Indian (who
is presently classified as Mongoloid, yet lacks this epicanthic fold)
is also Mongoloid? Other distinguishing features fare no better. Such
features as hair color, eye color, hair form, the shapes of noses and
lips, and many of the other traits set forth as "markers" of one race
or another are found distributed all too often throughout many races.
Among the tall people of the world there are those who exhibit every
skin color imaginable---from black to white and everything in between.
Among black people of the world there are some who possess kinky hair,
some who possess straight or wavy hair, and again, many in between.
Among the broad-nosed, full-lipped people of the world, it is true that
there are many with dark skins, but there are likewise many with light
skins, and many in between.
The complexity of this issue increases. The world is filled with
populations that just seem to defy classification. Consider some of
these well-known examples:(a) the Bushmen of southern Africa appear to
be as much Mongoloid as Negroid;(b) the Negritos of the South Pacific
do look Negroid, but are far-removed from Africa and have no known
links to that continent;(c) the Ainu of Japan are a hairy, aboriginal
type of people who appear to be more Caucasoid than anything
else;(d) the aborigines of Australia sometimes look Negroid, but often
have straight or wavy hair and are occasionally blond as children.
To accommodate this immense diversity, many different classification
systems have been proposed. Some have suggested as many as two or three
dozen races. But none has ever been able to accomplish its task of
successfully defining just how a race should be determined.
WHY SO MANY RACIAL CHARACTERISTICS?
Why are there so many different racial characteristics? What is
their origin? And how long did it take for all this to occur?
Biologists determine species by (among other ways) including in a
species all individuals that are capable of interbreeding to produce
fertile offspring. There is only one species of man on the Earth---
`Homo sapiens'. That, on the face of it, is an interesting fact.
Anthropologists and biologists place all races in existence today into
a single species, which points to the fact that the differences between
human races are not really all that great. Members of all races can
intermarry and produce fertile offspring.
It is also interesting to note that these "differences" within the
groups are just as pronounced as differences among the groups. Negroid
people range in color from black to sallow; Mongoloid people range from
yellow, to white, to bronze-brown; Caucasoids range from pink (as in
England) to dark brown (as in Southern India). These skin colors---to
which most people refer when they speak of a "race" of people---are
caused by the brown pigment in the skin known as melanin. The more
melanin a person has, the darker the skin will be as an adult.
Conversely, the less melanin in the skin, the lighter the skin will be
as an adult. A person whose skin possesses no melanin is referred to as
an albino, and cannot produce body pigment. Such a person's pinkish-
white color is caused by blood vessels showing through the colorless
skin. The claim that there are many different skin colors in the world
is not altogether accurate. The apparent differences in color are
merely differences in the amount of the melanin found in the skin, not
differences in the type of color. There is only one coloring agent for
the human race; the shade of color simply depends upon how much melanin
Melanin does far more than simply provide the body with
pigmentation. Its most important role is in protecting the body by
absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight which falls on the
skin. UV radiation can damage the skin and produce skin cancer if not
filtered out by the melanin. People who have large amounts of melanin
in their skin are generally very resistant to the effects of UV
radiation. People with only small amounts of melanin may suffer badly
if exposed to too much UV light.
The energy of the UV light penetrates deeper into their skin and
can cause damage to the skin tissues.
In the evolutionary scheme, mankind is the end product of changes
occurring over millions of years. It has been suggested that
anatomically modern humans first appeared in Africa about 200,000 years
ago (Cann, et al., 1987; cf. Major, 1989). In this model, one group
remained in Africa, while at least one other group migrated out of
Africa, and evolved into all non-African populations. Hence, the
different characteristics would have arisen within this time span.
However, there is no need to suggest long periods of time. The
creationist point of view takes at least three factors into account to
explain the origin of variation:(a) the origin of man;(b) the known
historical/biblical facts regarding man; and,(c) the nature of the
areas to which man migrated. Here are some pertinent facts bearing on
each of these points.
First, the biblical record makes it abundantly clear that God
created man. Thus, man did not "evolve" over millions of years. Rather,
Adam was the first man (I Corinthians 15:45) and, through Eve, all
living would come (Genesis 3:20). This becomes critical in determining
the origin of racial characteristics.
Second, we do know that historically, and biblically, the line of
human descent passed from Adam and Eve and their descendants to Noah
and his family. However, whatever genetic material had been dispersed
into the human race prior to the global Flood was severely limited by
the destruction of that Flood.
Third, after the Flood, the tower of Babel incident occurred. Men
refused to obey God and cover the Earth (Genesis 9:1). So, God confused
their languages, and as a natural result, men migrated to parts of the
globe where they could be with others who spoke their language (Genesis
11:8). This migration, as will be discussed shortly, likely had a part
to play in producing racial characteristics.
THE ORIGIN OF MAN'S "COLORS"
Most people, when they speak of a "race," refer to the racial
characteristic of skin coloration. For the purpose of the present
discussion, we will limit our discussion, for the most part, to the
origin of such a characteristic (being careful to do so only in an
accommodative sense). In humans, production of the skin coloring agent
melanin is controlled by two pairs of genes. We designate them Aa and
Bb, the capital letters representing dominant genes and the small
letters recessive genes. A & B, being dominant, produce melanin very
well. Being recessive, a & b produce melanin to a lesser degree.
Dr. Gary Parker, in his book, `Creation: The Facts of Life' (1980,
pp 77-81), has observed that if Adam and Eve were both AABB, they could
have produced only children with the darkest coloration possible, and
they themselves would likewise have been dark. That, barring genetic
mutations (to be discussed later), would have produced a world composed
only of dark-skinned people. But, as has already been noted, the
Negroid race composes less than 10% of the world's population, so by a
process of elimination, this choice can be ruled out.
If Adam and Eve had both been aabb, they could have had only
children that were aabb, that being the lightest coloration possible.
Then, the world would contain no other groupings. But it does. So, this
option is also ruled out by a process of elimination.
The real question is this: Is there a mechanism by which the racial
characteristics which we see today could have originated with one human
couple---in the short, few thousand year or so history of the Earth?
The answer is a resounding yes! If Adam and Eve had been
"heterozygous" (AaBb; two dominant, two recessive genes), they would
have been middle-brown in color. And, from them---in one generation---
racial differences could easily have occurred. The following chart
expresses the genetic possibilities that could result if Adam and Eve
had been heterozygous. Note that in a single generation, one could
theoretically expect these colorations to be produced: 1 darkest; 4
dark; 6 medium; 4 light; and 1 lightest.
A person born AABB carries genes for the darkest coloration
possible, and since all genes are dominant, has no genes for lightness.
If that person married another person who likewise carried all dominant
genes, and moved to an area where no intermarriage with people of
different colors occurred, the offspring resulting from this marriage
would then carry the same dominant genes. These offspring will have
"lost" the ability to be "white." Conversely, if a person who is aabb,
and thus the lightest possible, marries another person who likewise
carries all recessive genes, and moves into an area where no
intermarriage with people of other colors occurs, henceforth this union
will produce only offspring of the lightest possible coloration. The
offspring so produced will have "lost" the ability to be "black." They
no longer have the genes necessary to produce enough melanin for the
Thus, starting with any two parents who were heterozygous (i.e.,
middle-brown in color), extreme racial colors (black and white, to name
only two examples) could be produced in such a way that races would
have permanently different colors. Of course, it is also possible to
produce a middle-brown race which will have a fixed middle-brown color.
If the original middle-brown parents produce offspring of either AAbb
or aaBB, and these offspring marry only others their own color,
avoiding intermarriage with those not of their own genetic makeup,
their descendants will be a fixed middle-brown color.
Is it likely that people of various colorations intermarried? The
preponderance of so many colorations in the world is evidence aplenty
that they did. Interestingly, even the evolutionists agree on this
point. Rensberger says:
Race mixing has not only been a fact of human history but
is, in this day of unprecedented global mobility, taking
place at a more rapid rate than ever. It is not farfetched
to envision the day when, generations hence, the entire
"complexion" of m ajor population centers will be different.
Meanwhile, we can see such changes taking place before our
eyes, for they are a part of everyday reality (p 54, emp. added).
Dr. Francisco Ayala of the University of California has observed
that if the process started out with a couple that had only a 6.7%
heterozygosity (which is the average in modern humans), the different
combinations possible would be 1x10.<2,017> before the couple would
have one child identical to another (1978, p 63)!
As Parker observed, it is likely that Adam and Eve were
heterozygous. Otherwise, their descendants would have lacked
variation. However, one might suggest that Adam and Eve began with all
dominant (or all recessive) sets of genes, but that changes occurred
after the Creation as the result of mutations. Indeed, many of the
genetic differences, and many of the genetic disorders, no doubt have
arisen since the first couple was removed from the original, pristine
environment. Thus, the possibility that some heterozygosity is a
product of mutations cannot be ruled out.
There can be little doubt that racial characteristics existed
before the Flood, at least to some degree. However, regardless of just
how well-delineated the various groups of people were before the Flood,
Noah's three sons and their wives were the only survivors to pass their
genes to the post-Flood population. The inherent variability within
these survivors, along with the possibility of mutations, would ensure
Furthermore, by dispersing linguistically isolated groups all over
the world, the Tower of Babel incident had a significant affect on the
subsequent development and history of mankind. At least some of the
differences which arose can be attributed to the various environments
in which the people found themselves. While it is certainly true that
genes control melanin production, it is also true that the body has the
ability to "respond" (i.e., adapt), within certain limits, to
environmental pressures. So, those people with darker skins who moved
into equatorial regions could better adapt. Likewise, people with
fairer skins who moved into Scandinavian countries would be favored,
since darker-skinned people could not as easily produce Vitamin D and
would therefore suffer from such diseases as rickets. Environmental
pressures, therefore, could affect the genetic machinery, at least to
some extent (see Mackay, 1984, pp 6-12).
But why are certain racial features as they are? Oftentimes we
simply do not know. Nobody knows, for example, why Orientals have
epicanthic eye folds or flatter facial profiles. The thin lips of
Caucasoids and most Mongoloids have no known advantages over the full
lips of Negroid races. Why should middle-aged and older Caucasoid men
go bald so much more frequently than the men of other races? Why does
the skin of Bushmen wrinkle so heavily in the middle and later years?
Or why does the skin of Negroids resist wrinkling so well? These are
questions for which we currently possess no answers.
What we do know is that the races were produced in a very short
time span, and that the racial variations we see today are merely an
expression of the original genetic endowment of Adam and Eve as carried
through to us by Noah. No long evolutionary process was able, or
needed, to produce them.
Ayala, Francisco J. (1978), "The Mechanisms of Evolution," `Scientific
Cann, Rebecca L., Mark Stoneking, and Allan C. Wilson (1987),
"Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution," `Nature', 325:31-36.
McCutcheon, Marc (1989), `The Compass in Your Nose' (Los Angeles:
Jeremy P. Tarcher).
Mackay, John (1984), "The Origin of Races," `Creation Ex Nihilo',
Major, Trevor J. (1989), "Who is this `Eve'?" `Reason & Revelation',
Parker, Gary E. (1980), `Creation: The Facts of Life' (San Diego, CA:
Rensberger, Boyce (1981), "Racial Odyssey," `Science Digest', 89:50-
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