The US Census form allows us to identify our RACE based on skin color, national origin, or socio-cultural group. Since the 2000 census, essentially any number of self-identifying terms can be added to their list. No longer are we required to be only Caucasoid, Negroid, Mongoloid, or Other.
The hard divisions associated with the term race are softening and the term itself is often replaced with ‘ethnicity’ or ‘people groups’ which is far more than skin color brackets. It allows for differing countries of origin, ancestry, beliefs, languages, and customs.
Biologically there is only one race – the human race of Homo sapiens. The genetic difference between any two people on the earth is roughly 0.2%. This variation explains why I sneeze when the pollen count climbs and you don’t, why I have to keep check on my thyroid but don’t worry so much about diabetes.
Of the 0.2%, only 0.012% explains the external variations – my brown hair that won’t hold a curl and big feet/short toe combo that makes the wearing of flip-flops a torturous experience. Skin color falls in this tiny percent of human variability.
So, What Is Skin Color?
Skin color is primarily due to the presence of the pigment melanin. The two forms of melanin, one brown/black and the other red/yellow, vary in concentration among individuals as well as the number and size of the melanin particles themselves. Your parents determined your skin tone, each giving you half of their genetic code for melanin production. Some of the coding is ‘expressed’ (apparent) and some is not.
Remember Punnet Squares? (Stick with me – it only hurts your brain for a minute). There are at least six genes that code for skin color but let’s say there are two, R and T that are for really dark and r and t for very fair. If Mom and Dad both have RRTT, the child will also be very dark. Same if both parents are coded for fair complexions. Any other coding leads to a mix of light and dark. These people carry the genetic coding for a range of colors.
The Creation Science theories I read believe Noah and his wife were probably a medium brown, carrying the DNA coding for the whole color wheel of skin tones. So Yes, biologically it was possible for Noah to father all the skin tones of the world, as the Bible states.
WHY are there distinct geographical distributions of light and dark-skinned peoples?
The darker you are, the more likely you come from a hot climate. If you are blonde and fair-skinned, your ancestors were northern latitude dwellers. Let’s look at some explanations of why this occurs.
VIEW 1: Natural Selection
Melanin protects the skin from damaging UV rays. Dark skin is a bonus when you live near the equator. However some UV light is necessary for the production of Vitamin D. Dark skin in a northern climate makes you more susceptible to osteoporosis and rickets, especially before fortified foods. On the flip side, pale skin in a southern climate leads to skin cancers, but works up north in allowing beneficial amounts of light to penetrate.
Natural selection in its purest form would say the less suitable skin tones died off, allowing genetic dominance of dark or light skin. Or they may have simply moved away to more suitable climates.
VIEW 2: Current Evolutionary Thought
Man evolved in Africa from chimpanzees, who have no melanin beneath their fur. In the evolving process, man lost his furry protection and developed lots of melanin as protection from the sun, so all people were dark to begin with. Melanin genes mutated over time, people migrated out of Africa, and settled in regions compatible with their skin tone. (Evolutionary History is More Than Skin Deep, from Berkeley.edu).
[This does not reflect my opinion, just wanted to share this view.]
VIEW 3: Ham, Shem and Japheth were different colors
All mankind was destroyed with the Flood except Noah’s family. His three sons are the ancestors of everyone today (see Part IX of this series). Sometimes Ham is depicted with dark skin, Shem with medium brown, and Japheth more light-skinned. It makes sense somewhat because of the nations that each fathered, but not completely when you dig deep and see that a wide range of colors came from Ham especially. There is no Biblical support of this depiction, yet there may have been genetic bias in these men or their wives towards light and dark. We don’t know.
VIEW 4: Genetic Narrowing
Genesis Chapter 11 describes the beginning of people groups spreading from a central region outward. The genetic diversity was narrowed as they married within their own groups, and in time certain traits, like eye shape and hair texture, became dominant.
Bonus Biology Fact: Human eyeballs are pretty much the same shape. It’s the socket shape and adipose tissue in the eyelids that create the beautiful almond shaped eyes associated with Asian peoples.
VIEW 5: Self-selection
I have to believe people figured out the whole pale skin vs. hot sun thing. Rickets and osteoporosis? Maybe not immediately but red hot blisters on fried skin? If I had to farm or hunt to survive and had no sunscreen, I think I’d opt for less intense rays.
I can see how all of these views (except #2) work, especially together, but they still leave me scratching my head (no, not following any monkey ancestor reflexes to pick out bugs). I love the study of Creation Science but often feel as if we forget to add God into the realm of theories. We stand firmly on the history of Genesis 11, giving the Creator full credit for the invention of language, then seem to drop Him from the division of nations afterward. So I have to add another:
VIEW 6: Perhaps God…
* tweaked DNA when he dispensed languages, intentionally creating bias towards skin color and eye shape and hair texture from the onset of the dispersion.
* dispensed languages based on physical attributes already present, so medium skinned people automatically formed uniform clumps, as did other skin tones and features.
* guided the red-heads toward cooler climates where they wouldn’t fry as readily, and the darker skins to lands where they would thrive, as a blessing to his peoples.
Dark skin is NOT the result of God’s curse on Noah’s grandson Canaan (Genesis Chapter 9). White men came up with that theory, and all the evolutionary ones that support racist views. Man alone is responsible for choosing discrimination based on external features, always for his own selfish gain, welcoming false teaching to justify his behavior.
Noah did indeed father all the peoples of the world. We are one race with many colors, all beautiful, equal and deserving of respect.