Where Did the Different Races Come From?
The Creation Studies Institute regularly receives enquiries concerning the origin of the black race, e.g. why are there black people, etc. Race is a term that usually refers to the categorization of humans into populations or groups on the basis of various sets of heritable characteristics (AAPA 1996). The physical features commonly seen as indicating race are salient visual traits such as skin color, cranial or facial features and hair texture (Bamshad and Olson 2003).
Anthropologists generally classify people into a small number of main racial groups, such as the Caucasoid or Caucasian, e.g. European or “white”, the Mongoloid which includes the Chinese, Inuit or Eskimo, and Native Americans, the Negroid or Negro, e.g. black Africans, and the Australoid or the Australian Aborigines. Within each classification, there may be many different sub-groups. When discussing this issue, it is important to realize that other influences, e.g. racism, political correctness, etc. are continuing to influence how we define the human race.
This definition must be compared to the biblical model that there is only one race, e.g. the human race, and all human beings are derived from Adam and Eve and their descendants. The biblical account indicates that the survivors of the worldwide Flood, Noah and his three sons and their spouses, were the progenitors of the post-Flood civilization. Therefore, Shem, Ham and Japheth carried all the genetic information in their DNA to account for the variation we see in the various races that have existed, and continue to exist on planet Earth.
Shem is considered the father of the Semites who are Jews and Arabs. Ham is considered the forefather of the Negro or black race and Japheth is considered the forefather of the European or white race. Sometimes racism finds its way into evangelical circles and attempts are made to place a curse on an entire race of people for the foolish acts of one person. A case in point is the treatment of Ham and attempts by white supremacists and neo-Nazis to denigrate all black people. This is no different than the anti-Semitic attacks against the Jews because of the rejection of the Messiah by the spiritual leadership of the Jewish people 2,000 years ago.
These three divisions were further divided at the Tower of Babel resulting in many different languages and cultures that eventually went on to populate the entire planet. Still, the basic divisions were derived from the Shemites, e.g. the descendants of Shem, from whom Abram was a descendent. Abram was himself a Gentile, a Canaanite from the land of Ur, and through him God created the Shemitic (Semitic) race. Both the Arabs and the Jews of today are Semites even though anti-Semitism has come to mean a prejudice against the Jewish people exclusively.
The genetic differences between the various races we identify today are the result of variation within kind, e.g. the human kind. The actual differences are really quite minuscule. The negative influence of Darwinian evolution on the way we have classified races cannot be understated. Darwin’s own writing on the subject indicates why this is such a controversial subject. In Charles Darwin's controversial book, The Descent of Man, he made strong suggestions of racial differences and European superiority. In Darwin's view, stronger tribes of humans always replaced weaker tribes. As savage tribes came in conflict with civilized nations, such as England, the less advanced people were destroyed (Darwin 1871).
Aside from the inherent racism that is implied in the ‘molecules to men’ Theory of Evolution, the actual differences between the races are easily blurred by interracial marriage. A fact that testifies powerfully concerning the truth that mankind has far more in common, one with another, than any cultural or ethnic differences might signify. In fact, modern anthropology has made a concerted effort to move away from racial designations in favor of cultural constructs however; even cultural constructs are being replaced in favor of social constructs.
What cannot be overstated is the fact that the Word of God indicates the God who created us is no respecter of persons. Cultural and ethnic differences aside, all human beings are fatally flawed and incapable of knowing the truth about their own origins and spiritual condition without divine intervention. Apart from God’s grace, human beings will always fail to see themselves the way they really are. People will artificially raise themselves up buy putting others down. They will be intimidated by cultural and ethnic differences without ever realizing their own sinfulness has distorted their perceptions of their fellow human beings.
While the leaders in the field of anthropology and the social sciences in an attempt to unify the human race and find a politically correct way of saying cultural and ethnic differences really do not matter, the nations and peoples of the world continue to line up along racial and cultural lines. This is in contrast to, and often seems to be at odds with, other movements intended to solidify the differences displayed in different cultural and social distinctions, e.g. university studies in multiculturalism. The biblical model allows us to embrace cultures other than our own because the Gospel is a great unifier. The Gospel provides that unifying experience, the adoption into God’s family through the redemption provided in the Messiah, that restores humanity to its proper relationship to the Creator and to their fellow man.
The real difference between a black person and white person with regard to human skin color is determined by the amount and type of melanin, e.g. a class of compounds found in plants, animals, and protists, where it serves predominantly as a pigment, in a person’s skin. Skin color can range from almost black due to very high concentrations of the dark brown pigment melanin to nearly colorless, e.g. appearing pinkish white due to the blood vessels under the skin in different people (Walters and Roberts 2008).
As a general pattern people with ancestors from tropical regions and higher altitudes, hence greater UV light exposure, have darker skin than people with ancestors from subtropical regions. This is far from a hard and fast rule however, because many light skinned groups have managed to survive at the equator by way of social adaptation. The same can be said of dark skinned groups living at subtropical latitudes (Frost 2006) (Norton et al. 2006).
When it comes right down to basics, melanin comes in two types: pheomelanin, e.g. red, and eumelanin, very dark brown. Both amount and type are determined by four to six genes which operate under incomplete dominance. One copy of each of those genes is inherited from each parent. Each gene comes in several alleles, resulting in the great variety of different skin tones.
Alleles are now understood to be alternative DNA sequences at the same physical gene locus, which may or may not result in different phenotypic traits.
So we can see that the skin color, other physical features, e.g. lip fullness, hair texture, etc. are all part of the human genome and if we ascribe to the biblical model, nothing in these differences should be seen as detrimental or advantageous in and of themselves. Much of what is problematic has to do with the predominant theory of man, e.g. Darwinian evolution, that assumes that we have all come from the great apes with some of us being closer to our evolutionary ‘monkey uncles’ than others.
When we look at other characteristics that define certain distinct differences between the races, e.g. the epicanthic fold that produces the oriental look in someone’s eyes, we see this is a normal trait for a major segment of the human population. The reason for this epicanthic fold remains a mystery to evolutionary science, however, the genetics are very similar to skin color and children who have one parent with a pronounced epicanthic fold of non-medical reason and one without can have varying degrees of epicanthic fold displayed in their own eyes and that of their offspring.
So what should we make of these decidedly minor differences? As those who believe the Bible is the Word of God, we take God at His Word. We agree with Him that when He originally created man He declared him to be very good. The results of man’s disobedience and refusal to acknowledge God as his Creator, also leaves mankind in darkness and outside of God’s remedy for what really separates us from God and from our fellow man, e.g. the fact that all are sinners who are all in desperate need of the Savior.
God in His infinite wisdom has provided the cure for this fatal illness, the sin that separates us from God and causes us to see others as “less than” ourselves. It is the Good News that God’s Son, the Messiah, has taken the penalty for our sinfulness upon Himself and by trusting in Him and His redeeming sacrifice for us at Calvary, we are transformed from sinners into saints. Only then can we hope to fulfill our destinies as peace makers and ministers of the gospel of reconciliation. Only then will the divisiveness of racial and cultural prejudice be wiped from the human heart one transformed life at a time.
Steve Rowitt, Th.M., Ph.D. (c)
Chief Technical Advisor
AAPA (1996). “AAPA Statement on the Biological Aspects of Race.” American Anthropologist 100(3): 714-715. American Association of Physical Anthropologists "Pure races, in the sense of genetically homogeneous populations, do not exist in the human species today, nor is there any evidence that they have ever existed in the past." Retrieved 16:35, 10/27/09 from http://www.virginia.edu/ woodson/courses/aas102%20 (spring%2001)/articles/AAPA_race.pdf.
Bamshad, Michael and Olson, Steve E. (2003). “Does Race Exist?” Scientific American Magazine (10 November 2003).
Darwin, Charles (1871). The Descent of Man, Chapter 7 - On the Races of Man. Consider, for instance, the following excerpt:
“We thus see that many of the wilder races of man are apt to suffer much in health when subjected to changed conditions or habits of life, and not exclusively from being transported to a new climate. Mere alterations in habits, which do not appear injurious in themselves, seem to have this same effect; and in several cases the children are particularly liable to suffer. It has often been said, as Mr. Macnamara remarks, that man can resist with impunity the greatest diversities of climate and other changes; but this is true only of the civilised races.”
Frost, Peter (2006). "Why Do Europeans Have So Many Hair and Eye Colors?". University of California – Los Angeles. Retrieved 17:45, 10/27/09 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_ skin_color#cite_note-1
Norton, Heather L., Kittles, Rick A., Parra, Esteban., McKeigue, Paul., Mao, Xianyun., Cheng,
Keith., Canfield, D Victor A., Bradley, B Daniel G., McEvoy, Brian and Shriver, Mark D. (2006). “Genetic Evidence for the Convergent Evolution of Light Skin in Europeans and East Asians.” (PDF). Oxford Journals. http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/msl203v1.pdf.
Walters, K. A., & Roberts, M. S. (2008). Dermatologic, cosmeceutic, and cosmetic development:
Therapeutic and novel approaches. New York: Informa Healthcare. Retrieved 17:45, 10/27/09 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_skin_color#cite_note-0.