Creation 3(3):5–10, August 1980
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The origin of the human races
Why are there different races? Is it because of the tower of Babel when the different languages originated? Or is it as I am told in school text books that man adapted to his environment by changing his skin color?
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The origin of the human races
A human race is defined as a group of people with certain common inherited features that distinguish them from other groups of people. All men of whatever race are currently classified by the anthropologist or biologist as belonging to the one species, Homo sapiens. This is another way of saying that the differences between human races are not great, even though they may appear so, i.e. black vs white skin. All races of mankind in the world can interbreed because they have so much in common.
Most anthropologists recognize 3 or 4 basic races of man in existence today. These races can be further subdivided into as many as 30 subgroups.
(The Australoid or Australian Aborigine, is sometimes regarded as a sub-group of the Caucasoid as they have many features in common with this group despite their dark skin. The American Indian is usually classed with the Mongoloid division).
The most significant difference between these races is:
(b) hair and facial features
(c) skin color. This distinguishing feature is primarily due to difference in amount of the pigment, melanin, in the skin. This melanin protects the body by absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sunlight which falls on the skin. UV radiation can damage the skin and produce skin cancer if it is not filtered out in this way. The shades of color in human skin can be represented by the Von Luschan Scale and ranges from almost pure white to pure black.
Differences such as hair, skin and facial features are almost certainly inherited, but the way in which their inheritance is controlled is little understood, and definitely not simple. In skin color, for instance, 2 to 4 pairs of genes are involved. (Genes are the units in each cell of the body that carry inherited information) It is known that some of these genes produce lightness and some darkness. The brown skinned person has genes for both dark and light. The darker person has more genes for darkness and the lighter person has more genes for lightness.
Concerning the origin of the races, the Bible records that:
- All men are descendants of the first created man Adam, and
- the line of all human ancestry passes through Noah. Only Noah, his sons, and their wives survived the flood which destroyed all other men living at that time (Genesis 7:21), and radically altered the world environs.
All races therefore have developed from this one family since the end of the flood in Noah’s day. The Australian Aborigine, the Chinese, and the European have come into existence only in recent times. The culture (technology and religions, etc.) of each racial group in the world started at a common point-Noah-with full knowledge of God and a sophisticated ocean liner technology. The current states of culture of the races, which varies from space age to stone age, from animal worship and spirit worship to Christianity, is not a result of innocent, ignorant people searching for improvement. It is a direct consequence of whether the ancestors of any race worshipped the living God or deliberately rejected Him.
How did this all happen?
There are several significant factors which can be considered in attempting to account for the origin of the physical difference between races. The first of these is the origin of different languages; the second is the splitting into groups which this produced; and the third is the environment into which each of these groups moved.
After the flood, the Bible records that God commanded Noah and his family to multiply and cover the earth (Genesis 9:1, 18, 19). In Genesis 11:1–4 the Bible records the fact that man had decided to disobey God’s command to cover the earth. They had, instead, decided to establish a ‘massive urban complex’ as a focal point. The Tower of Babel was built to ensure that worship and society were united around this common goal of staying together.
In Genesis 11:8–9 is recorded God’s judgment on this disobedience by His imposition of different languages on man. Previously, they had all spoken the one language. The purpose of this is spelled out in Genesis ‘so that man could not understand one another and therefore no longer be able to work together against God’. (Gen.11:5–7) They would be forced to spread out over the surface of the earth as God had commanded them. The efficiency of this judgment can be seen when you attempt to get groups of people of different nationalities to work together. How God imposed different languages is not stated, but since he had created Adam with inbuilt speech, it would be no major problem to reset the physical and nervous controls to produce another differing form of inbuilt speech. This new language would also have its own repertoire of words and the capacity to coin new words consistent with their language.
With this enforced separation, it is not too difficult to imagine how other minor physical differences such as skin variations already in existence, could begin to show.
In any group of ‘white’ people today the ability to tan or produce brownness varies. Some just can’t do it and pay the price-sunburn. Others produce Hollywood brown without too much trouble. We are even familiar with the person whose skin is just ‘naturally’ dark. In a group of ‘black’ people, such minor variations also exist, producing shades of blackness.
The Bible refers to genetic variations, such as the height of man, before the flood. It is therefore very probable that both before and after the flood variations in skin coloration also existed-even in Noah’s family.
Up to the time of Babel, since there was only one language, all of mankind formed only one culture or ‘marriage group’. Any variations would tend to be minimized since ‘darkish’ could marry a ‘lightish’, and the average color of the population would stay the same. However, the coming of new languages changed all that. The large group was split into many smaller groups. It is unlikely that each group would have contained a representative of all shades of skin color. So if a census had been taken of average skin color of each group, some would have averaged towards the darker end, and some to the lighter end. The same sort of difference would no doubt have occurred for any body characteristic-straight hair, wavy hair, eye shape, etc.
The world environment had been dramatically changed by the flood. As the groups dispersed, then, they were going to areas which offered them new and different climates and diets. Studies on the relationship between skin color and health in a given environment, suggest the following origin of racial colors. After Babel, those who went to colder climates who had darker skin, would probably suffer Vitamin D deficiencies, such as rickets. The skin produces Vitamin D from sunlight. The person with darker skin is worse off in a cold region since there is less sunlight, and since he is more sunlight resistant, he can produce less Vitamin D. The colder environment, both through sunlight and the available diet, would tend to favor those with fairer skins. Dark skinned people would be therefore less healthy and tend to have fewer children. Gradually the number of black people in any group that went to a cold region would dwindle. From that point on the remaining population was a ‘white’ race.
Likewise, those who went to brighter, hotter regions, and had darker skins would survive more easily (i.e. get less skin cancer, etc.) and hence be selected for. In this case, the whiter persons would dwindle from the population and a ‘black’ race would result. It is interesting to note that if a pure white European is married to a pure black Negro, the offspring are an intermediate brown called mulatto. If two mulattos are married, the offspring can be any of 9 colors, from pure white to pure black.
The simplest conclusion that it may be possible to draw from this observation is that Noah and his family possessed genes for both dark and light. Dark enough to protect them, and light enough to ensure sufficient Vitamin D. In the world before the flood it is unlikely that there would have been extremes of heat or cold, so that a balanced skin color was the most suitable. After Babel the extremes of environment sorted these color factors into groups which contained different numbers of light and dark genes. The final ratio of dark to light genes in any one group would be the most useful balance for that environment. This process of gaining a light or dark skin is not an adaptation in the evolutionary sense of the organism developing something new to cope with a new environment. All basic factors in skin color were present in the first created man. Adam was designed to ‘cope’.
The Caucasian eye has only one layer of fat. The eye of the Chinaman, however, has a double fold of fat giving it an almond appearance. This doubly insulated eye has probably been very useful in cold snowy winters, and in protecting the eye from snow reflected UV light. Both the Caucasian eye and the Chinese eye have fat. The Chinese eye simply has more of it.
After the ‘new languages’ arrived, man would tend to live and marry only with those who reinforced his language grouping and adhered to the culture he accepted. Each of these groups would have represented a ‘gene pool’ (certain number of inheritable characteristics) which now was isolated from all other gene pools. Within each of these groups, marriage only between those in the group would tend to enhance those physical traits the individuals regarded as ‘desired’, e.g. size or skin color or intellect, and bring out any common oddities in the gene pool that previously would have been masked by continual intermarriage. It is easy to imagine how persons possessing genes for ‘pygmy’ size could be persecuted into leaving their ancestral society and seeking refuge from their society in a previously unoccupied and secluded habitat.
Further evidence for this common cultural and physical ancestry is supplied by a study of the stories which each group has in common, such as the large number of flood legends.
Despite what appears to be marked racial differences, the races of the world would disappear if total intermarriage was practiced today. Even though the genes for almond eyes, black or white skin, still existed, they could appear in different combinations. White skin could appear with almond eye, and pygmy size with blue eyes.
The dispersion of people which would have followed the imposition of new languages at Babel, would have produced situations of cultural and environmental difference. These new conditions would have created a stress or pressure which would have acted on characteristics already present. With time, certain features, both physical and cultural, became associated with a particular group, and a separate race was formed. The races, in most cases, represent recombinations of pre-existent ‘created’ genes, with minor degenerate mutation. The origin of human races does not conform to the popular concept of evolution, i.e. from simple to complex. There has been no ‘evolution’ of genes which did not previously exist, only the recombination and degeneration of created genetic information. No race of the world today comes from a background of zero technology or of innocent, ignorance of God. All cultures which do not have a correct knowledge of God have got that way by deliberate rejection. They are not primitives in need of education and technical aid so that they can understand the Gospel, but spiritual degenerates in need of the Gospel so they can appreciate education and relevance of technology.
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