Today, common usage of the word "race" refers to groups of people with distinguishing physical characteristics such as skin color, shape of eyes, and type of hair. Unfortunately, the term "race" was applied to different groupings of humans, even though 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. Instead, the word "nation" is used more than 200 times.
To appreciate how minor these human variations are, consider the large variations in the dog family. Most varieties of domestic dogs have been produced during the past 300 years. Dogs may be white, black, red, yellow, spotted, 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, the dingo, and the jackal, all are part of the dog kind. By comparison, human variations are few and minor. The vast number of genes in every kind of life permits these variations, allowing 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 without variations within each kind?
The following three mechanisms probably account for most of the so-called "racial" characteristics. It is uncertain which mechanism played the greatest role in this differentiation of human traits since the flood, approximately 5,000 years ago.
1. Natural Selection. This well-established phenomenon is not a mechanism for macroevolution, as a century of experimentation has shown, although it is an important mechanism for microevolution. 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 skin cancer. Consequently, the fair-skinned person at low latitudes has 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 dark 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 exceptions, however. Eskimos (Inuits) have dark skin and yet live in Arctic latitudes. Their diet, which includes fish-liver oils containing large amounts of vitamin D3, prevents rickets.
2. Cultural Preference. This takes the form of likes (as in mate selection) or dislikes (as in prejudices).
Likes.The old saying that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" probably plays a major role in explaining "racial" characteristics. In other words, a person's cultural upbringing appears to influence mate selection along "racial" lines. This has been demonstrated in geese. Blue snow geese live in one region of the Arctic, and white snow geese live in another. Eggs from each colony were hatched in an incubator. The goslings were then raised by "foster parents" of the opposite color. The young geese later showed a mating preference for geese having the color of their foster parents. In another experiment, the foster parents were painted pink. Again there was a mating preference for the color the young geese saw as they were growing up, even though that color was artificial. The old song "I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad" illustrates the point.
Dislikes. Humans also have prejudices--some people more than others. Prejudices based on physical appearances have caused wars, genocide, forced segregation, and voluntary isolation. Adolf Hitler had a fanatical hostility toward Jews and a strong preference for the supposedly Aryan characteristics of tall, blond, blue-eyed people. This led to his extreme and repugnant steps to exterminate the former and increase the latter. An example of voluntary isolation occurs in Africa. The pygmies, who are typically 4 feet tall, live separately from the Watusi, whose people are sometimes seven feet tall. Yet, they may live within several hundred miles of each other. These and hundreds of other prejudicial actions, operating over several thousand years, resulted in the geographical isolation of people with certain physical appearances.
3. 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 (or a smaller range of genetic potential) 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 filled with marbles--half white and half black. Let's say that each marble represents a person, and the color of the marble represents a gene for that person's skin color. If pairs of marbles are drawn at random and placed on separate islands, about half the islands will have marbles of just one color--white or black. If each pair of marbles represented a husband and wife, this would be somewhat analogous to the dispersion and isolation that would occur after a global disaster with few survivors. occurred after the flood and after Babel. Each person carries genes for skin color. If a husband and wife ended up having the same genes for dark or light skin color, then all their descendants would tend to have 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, at least four genes 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 from a few isolated people. 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 out and repopulate the earth. From the listing of Noah's descendants given in Genesis 10-11, we can see how 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 Japheth's descendants migrated northward. Undoubtedly, many other small groups colonized isolated regions, allowing their unique genetic characteristics to be expressed in subsequent generations.
Understanding these three mechanisms--natural selection, cultural preferences, and isolated populations--we can now ask some interesting questions. What did Adam and Eve look like? Obviously, their genes were coded for all the traits humans have today--and probably other traits that have since 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 look. Undoubtedly, Adam's and Eve's skin color was not "white" or "black" but something in between. The Hebrew word for Adam carries the connotation of red, since an almost identical Hebrew word means "red" or "to show blood." It is quite likely that Adam's skin coloring was most like that of Native Americans.
For the past 130 years, evolutionism has painted a very different picture. Man told us that man supposedly ascended from some apelike ancestor. According to evolutionism, some early humans branched off sooner than others, and therefore, they looked different, acted differently, and had 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 acknowledgment of it is even more so. However, many evolutionists in the several generations following Darwin, and Charles Darwin himself, were racists. The theory of evolution provides a very convincing rationale to justify racism.
Genesis Creation provides quite a different historical perspective. We If we are all descended from Adam and Eve and from Noah and his wife. Consequently, an original male and female, we are all cousins. Think what the world would be like if everyone realized that!
References and Notes
1. The word "race," as applied to groups of people, is never used in the King James translation 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 mean "family" or "offspring," not a variety or subspecies.
2. "Biological arguments for racism may have been common before 1859, but they increased by orders of magnitude following the acceptance of evolutionary theory." Stephen Jay Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1977), p. 127. Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1987), pp. 266-267.