How did different skin colors come about?




Black woman and man. Photo copyrighted. Courtesy of Eden Comm.
What makes people have different skin "colors"? Answer...

As was discussed in Where did the human races come from?, we learned that all humans on earth today are descended from Noah and his wife, his three sons and their wives, and before that from Adam and Eve (Genesis 1-11). But today we have many different groups, often called "races," with what seem to be greatly differing features. The most obvious of these is skin color. Many see this as a reason to doubt the Bible's record of history. They believe that the various groups could have arisen only by evolving separately over tens of thousands of years. However, as we shall see, this does not follow from the biological evidence.

Skin Color

A 'black' gene combination. Illustration copyrighted.

We know that skin color is governed by more than one pair of genes. For simplicity, let's assume there are only two, 1 located at positions A and B on the chromosomes. One form of the gene, "M," "says" to make lots of melanin; another form of the gene, 2 "m," says to only make a little melanin. At position A we could have a pair such as MAMA, MAmA, or mAmA 3 which would instruct the skin cells to make a lot, some, or little melanin. Similarly, at position B we could have the gene pairs MBMB, MBmB, or mBmB instructing cells to make a lot, some or little melanin. Thus very dark people could have MAMAMBMB, for example (see figure 1).

Since both the sperm and eggs of such people could only be MAMB, (remember, only one of each A or B pair goes to each sperm or egg) they could only produce children with exactly the same combination of genes as themselves. So the children will all be very dark. Likewise, very light people, with mAmAmBmB, could produce children only like themselves (see figure 2, below).

DNA. Illustration copyrighted.

Let's look at what combinations would result from parents who are the type of brown-skinned person called a mulatto, or MAmAMBmB (the offspring of an MAMAMBMB and mAmAmBmB union, for example; see figure 3, below).

Figures 2 & 3. Illustrations copyrighted.

We can do this with a diagram called a "Punnet square" (see figure 4 below).

Punnet square. Illustration copyrighted.

The left side (of the above table) shows the four different gene combinations possible in the sperm from the father and the top gives the combinations possible in the eggs from the mother (remember that a parent can only pass on one of each pair of genes to each sperm or egg). We locate a particular sperm gene combination and follow the row across to the column below a particular egg gene combination (like finding a location on a street map). The intersection gives the generic makeup of the offspring from that particular sperm and egg union.

For example, an MAmB sperm and an mAMB egg would produce a child with MAmAMBmB, just the same as the parents. The other possibilities mean that five levels of melanin (shades of color) can result in the different offspring of such a mulatto marriage, as roughly indicated by the level of shading in the diagram. If three gene pairs were involved, seven levels of melanin would be possible.

Baby crawling (Photo copyrighted. Courtesy of Eden Comm.)

Thus a range of "colors," from very light to very dark, can result in a single sgeneration, beginning with this particular type of mid-brown parents.

If people with MAMAMBMB , who are "pure" black (in the sense of having no genes for lightness at all), were to intermarry and migrate to a place where their offspring could not marry other people of lighter color, all their descendants would be black -- a pure "black line" would result.

If "white" people (mAmAmBmB) were to marry only other whites and migrate to a place where their offspring could not marry darker people, a pure (in the same sense) "white line" would result -- they would have lost the genes needed to produce a large amount of melanin and be black.

It is thus easily possible, beginning with two middle-brown parents, to get not only all the "colors," but also people groups with stable shades of skin color.

But what about people groups that are permanently middle-brown, such as we have today? Again, this is easily explained. If those with genes MAMAmBmB or mAmAMBMB no longer intermarry with others, they will be able be able to produce only mid-brown offspring as in figure 3. (You may want to work this out with your own Punnet square.)

Britain's most amazing twins.If either of these lines were to interbreed again with the other, the process would be reversed. In a short time, their descendants would show a whole range of colors, often in the same family. Figure 5 shows what were called Britain's most amazing twins. One is obviously quite light in complexion, while the other is clearly darker skinned.

Of course, this is not amazing at all when you do the exercise on paper, based on what we have discussed. (A clue if you want to do it yourself: mother cannot be MAMAMBMB. Also, the twins are obviously not identical twins, which are derived from the same egg -- that is, monozygous).

If all the people on earth were to intermarry freely, and then break into random groups that kept to themselves, a whole new set of gene combinations could emerge. It may be possible to have almond eyes with black skin, blue eyes with black, tightly curled hair, etc. We need to remember, of course, that the way in which genes express themselves is much more complex than this simplified picture. For example, sometimes certain genes are linked together. However, the basic point is unaffected.

Even today, within a particular people group you will often see a feature normally associated with another people group. For instance, you will occasionally see a European with a broad flat nose, or a Chinese person with very pale skin or Caucasian eyes. Most scientists now agree that, for modern humans, "race" has little or no biological meaning. This also argues strongly against the idea that the people groups have been evolving separately for long periods.

What Really Happened?

We can now reconstruct the true history of the people groups, using:

  • The information given by the Creator himself in the Book of Genesis.
  • The background information given above.
  • Some consideration of the effect on the environment.

The first created man, Adam, from whom all other humans are descended, was created with the best possible combination of genes -- for skin color, for example. A long time after creation, a worldwide flood destroyed all humans except a man called Noah, his wife, his three sons, and their wives. This flood greatly changed the environment. Afterwards, God commanded the survivors to multiply and cover the earth (Genesis 9:1). A few hundred years later, people chose to disobey God and to remain united in building a great city, with the Tower of Babel as the focal point of rebellious worship.

From Genesis 11, we understand that up to this time there was only one language. God judged the people's disobedience by imposing different languages, so that they could not work together against God. The confusion forced the people to scatter over the earth as God intended.

So all the people groups -- black Africans, Indo-Europeans, Mongolians, and others -- have come into existence since Babel.

Child looking down. Photo copyrighted. Provided by Eden Comm.

Noah and his family were probably mid-brown, with genes for both dark and light skin, because a medium skin color would seem to be the most generally suitable (dark enough to protect against skin cancer, yet light enough to allow vitamin D production). As all the factors for skin color were present in Adam and Eve, they would most likely have been mid-brown as well, with brown eyes and brown (or black) hair. In fact, most of the world's population today is still mid-brown.

After the flood, for the few centuries until Babel, there was only one language and one culture group. Thus, there were no barriers to marriage within this group. This would tend to keep the skin color of the population away from the extremes. Very dark and very light skin would appear, of course, but people tending in either direction would be free to marry someone lighter or darker than themselves, ensuring that the average color stayed roughly the same.

The same would be true of characteristics other than skin color. Under these sorts of circumstances, distinct differences in appearance will never emerge. To obtain such separate lines, you would need to break a large breeding group into smaller groups and keep them separate, that is, prevent interbreeding between groups. This would be true for animal as well as human populations, as every biologist knows.

The Effects of Babel

This is exactly what happened at Babel. Once separate languages were imposed, there were instantaneous barriers. Not only would people tend not to marry someone they couldn't understand, but entire groups which spoke the same language would have difficulty relating to and trusting those which did not. Thus, they would move away or be forced away from each other, into different environments. This, of course, is what God intended. (Is there archaeological evidence of the Tower of Babel? Answer... / Is there any reference in early Mesopotamian literature to what happened at the Tower of Babel? Answer... / Read the story of the Tower of Babel - Go...)

It is unlikely that each small group would carry the same broad range of skin colors as the original, larger group. One group might have more dark genes, on average, while another might have more light genes. The same thing would occur with other characteristics: nose shape, eye shape, etc. And since they would intermarry only within their own language group, these differences would no longer be averaged out as before.

As these groups migrated away from Babel, they encountered new and different climate zones. This would also have affected the balance of inherited factors in the population. However, the effects of the environment are nowhere near as important as the initial genetic mix of each group.

Photo - Blond fair-skinned woman, Black skinned man. Photo copyrighted, Eden Communications.

Sunglasses. Photo copyrighted. Photo provided by Eden Comm.SKIN COLOR AND SUNLIGHT

As an example, consider a group of people who moved to a cold region with little sunlight. Here, the dark-skinned members would not be able to produce enough vitamin D, and thus would be less healthy and have fewer children. So, in time, the light-skinned members would predominate. If several different groups went to such an area, and if one group happened to be carrying few genes for lightness, this particular group could, in time, die out. Thus, natural selection acts on the characteristics already present, and does not create new ones.

It is interesting to note that the ancient Neanderthals of Europe, recognized as fully human, show evidence of vitamin D deficiency in that many of their bones were bent. In fact, this, plus a large dose of evolutionary prejudice, caused them to be classified as "ape-men" for a long time. It is thus quite plausible that they were a dark-skinned people who were unfit for the environment into which they moved because of the skin color genes they began with. Notice (again) that this natural selection, as it is called, does not produce skin colors, but only acts on the created capacity for making skin pigment that is already there.

Sun cream. Photo copyrighted. Provided by Eden Comm.

Conversely, fair-skinned people in very sunny regions could easily be affected by skin cancer. Thus, in these regions dark-skinned people would more readily survive and come to predominate.

So we see that the pressure of the environment can (a) affect the balance of genes within this group, and (b) even eliminate entire groups. This is why we see, to a large extent, that the physical characteristics of people tend to match the environment where they live (e.g., Nordic people with pale skin, equatorial people with dark skin).

But this is not always so. The Inuit (Eskimo) have brown skin, yet live where there is not much sun. Presumably they all have a genetic makeup such as MAMAmBmB which would not be able to produce lighter skin. On the other hand, native South Americans living on the equator do not have black skin. These examples confirm that natural selection does not create new information -- if the genetic makeup of a group of people does not allow variation in color toward the desirable, natural selection cannot create such variation.

Pygmies live in a hot area, but rarely experience strong sunshine in their dense jungle environment; yet they have dark skin. Pygmies may be a good example of another factor that has affected the racial history of man: discrimination.

People different from the "norm" (e.g., a very light person in a dark people group), have historically been regarded as abnormal and rejected by the group. Thus, such a person would find it hard to get a marriage partner. This would further tend to eliminate light genes from a dark people, and vise versa. In this way, groups have tended to "purify" themselves.

Also, in some instances, interbreeding within a small group can accentuate a commonly occurring unusual feature that would otherwise be swamped by marriage outside the group. There is a tribe in Africa whose members all have grossly deformed feet as a result of this inbreeding.

Let us return to the Pygmies. If people possessing genes for short stature were discriminated against, a small group of them might seek refuge in the deepest forest. By marrying only each other they would ensure a Pygmy "race" from then on. The fact that Pygmy tribes do no have their own languages, but instead speak dialects of neighboring non-Pygmy tribal languages, is good evidence to support this.

The Effects of Choice

Certain genetic characteristics may have influenced people groups to make deliberate (or semi-deliberate) choices concerning the environments to which they migrated. For instance, people with genes for a thicker, more insulating layer of fat under their skin would tend to leave areas that were uncomfortably hot.

Common Memories

Noah's Ark as shown in The World That Perished. Copyright, Eden Communications.The evidence for the Bible's account of human origins is more than just biological and genetic. Since all peoples have descended from Noah's family, and a relatively short time ago, we would expect to find some memory of the catastrophic flood in the stories distorted by time retelling. In fact, an overwhelming number of cultures do have accounts that recall a world-destroying flood. Often these have startling parallels to the true, original account (such as: eight people saved in a boat, the sending of birds, a rainbow, and more).


Thus, we conclude that the dispersion at Babel broke up a large interbreeding group into small, interbreeding groups. This ensured that the resultant groups would have different mixes of genes for various physical features. By itself, this dispersion would ensure, in a short time, that there would be certain fixed differences in some of these groups, commonly called "races." In addition, the selection pressure of the environment would modify the existing combinations of genes so that the physical characteristics of each group would tend to suit their environment.

There has been no simple-to-complex evolution of any genes, for the genes were present already. The dominant features of the various people groups result from different combinations of previously existing created genes, plus some minor degenerative changes, resulting from mutation (accidental changes which can be inherited). The originally created (genetic) information has been either reshuffled or has degenerated, but has not been added to.


What was Adam like?

Did the first man have black hair, brown skin, and brown eyes? Was he six feet eleven inches tall? These are questions we cannot answer sure, because we were not there to see Adam. However, from reading Genesis, and armed with basic scientific knowledge, we can learn a lot about what Adam was probably like.

Did Adam have a navel?


This is something I have often been asked. Actually, I believe we can have a definite answer here.

Infant, showing navel. Photo copyrighted. Provided by Eden Communications.

Your navel is really a scar formed from the attachment via the umbilical cord to your mother. After birth, the cord was cut, and where it was attached to your body it shrivelled up and formed a scar known as your belly button. If Adam was not born of a woman, he would not have had an umbilical cord, thus no scar, and thus no navel.

Adam was the FIRST MAN


Now think about Adam. Was he born in the same way you or I were? He certainly was not. He was made directly by God from the dust of the earth.

In Genesis 2:7 we read, "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

Adam was not born of a woman. He was the first human. In l Corinthians 15:45 we read, "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul." Adam was the first man.

This is an important point by the way, there were no other human beings made alongside Adam.



Surgery. Photo copyrighted. Provided by Eden Communications.

Consider Genesis 2:21-22,

"And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."

Genesis 3:20 states:

"And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was [to be] the mother of all living."

The first woman (the first wife) was made directly from part of Adam. She was not born of a woman either. Adam and Eve were unique. Neither of them would have had a navel. When you think about it, that would have been a tremendous witness to everyone who saw them while they were alive. They had evidence that they were the first two people.

Did Adam have one fewer rib than Eve?


Human ribs. Photo copyrighted. Supplied by Eden Communications.

I have often had people ask me, after reading the passage about the creation of woman, why men don't have one fewer rib than women if God made Eve from Adam's side (or rib). The way I answer this is: If a man had an accident and his leg was amputated as a result, and then he married and had children, would all his children have only one leg?

Of course not! This is because the instructions for how we are constructed are contained in the DNA in the nucleus of our cells - in our genes. When God took part of Adam to make Eve, He didn't change Adam's genes. All the information in Adam's genes was still there.


Adam was the FIRST HUSBAND


Eve was made specially for Adam. This was the first marriage. That is why Jesus in Matthew 19:4-6 reminded people that the meaning of marriage is dependent on the origin of marriage - and the first marriage is in Genesis:

Bride and groom. Photo copyrighted.

"And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Adam was the FIRST FARMER


Vegetables. Photo copyrighted. Supplied by Eden Communications.

In Genesis 2:15 we read, 'And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.' Adam, the first man, was told to work, and to look after the garden God had made.

This would not have been a chore. This would have been a joy for Adam. This was a perfect garden. There were no thorns and thistles, as these did not come until after God had cursed the earth. And because everything God had made was 'very good' (Genesis 1:31), Adam, the plants, the garden, and in fact every thing, would have been perfect.

How different this is to today's world. How different looking after gardens and farming is today!



Giraffe. Photo copyrighted.

We are told that Adam named many of the animals, Genesis 2:19-20:

"And out of the ground the Lord God [had] formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field."

Man has always given names to things. Scientists who give names to the different animals and plants are called taxonomists. Anyone who studies taxonomy knows how hard it is to remember all of those names. Adam would not have had this problem because he was made perfect. He would have been as intelligent as man could ever be.

Adam was the FIRST GENIUS


By the way, to name the animals, Adam must have been able to speak. He must have had a complex language right from the start. He did not even have to learn to speak as we have to. He was made as a mature human being.

How different it was for Adam. He awoke after his creation, a conscious being, fully formed, able to communicate and understand.

Have you ever thought about the fact that Adam did not see God make him? The evidence that God created was all around Adam though. Adam did not even see God make Eve. This means Adam had to have faith in God's Word concerning where he came from, just as we have to have faith today. But just like Adam, we have plenty of evidence that God created just the way His Word states.

Antelope. Photo copyrighted.

Some people think that because Adam had to name all those animals on day six of creation, this could not have been an ordinary day. They think it must have been a long period of time. I am often told that there is no way someone could name all of the names in one day. However, people who say this usually think that because they couldn't name and remember all the names, Adam could not have either.

Adam after the Fall. Copyrighted, The God's Story Project.

The Bible, though, tells us that the first man Adam rebelled against God and sin came into the world. Ever since, the creation has been running down. Not only are there no perfect humans in the world now, but all humans have lots of mistakes on their genes (mutational defects or copying mistakes that slowly accumulate in the human race).

The first man had no mistakes when he was made - he was perfect.

I think we can get a glimpse (looking through a glass dimly, so to speak) of what Adam was like by observing certain people today. I have met people who have photographic memories, others who are brilliant artists. I have read about people who can play musical instruments brilliantly from a very young age, such as Mozart. Others can do extremely complex mathematical computations in their head which even advanced computers take time to accomplish.

If we put all these talents, plus much more, into one person, I think we are getting close to what Adam was like. Almost makes you feel depressed, doesn't it?

We have to realize that Adam was so much more intelligent than we are. We are even told that we don't use much of our brain power. Imagine a human who could use all of his brain power. It was certainly no problem for Adam to name and remember animals on one day. But Old Testament says, For God one day can be thousand years and thousand years could be one day.

Was Adam brown-skinned?


Hands - black and white. Photo copyrighted.

We can't say for sure, but I suspect Adam had a middle-brown skin color. All humans have the same skin color. We have a pigment called melanin. If we have a lot of this pigment we are very dark (even black). If we don't have much of this pigment we are very fair ('white').

In The Answers, it is explained that from two people having the right mix of dominant and recessive genes for the amount of melanin, all shades of colour in humans could arise. Thus, if Adam and Eve were both a middle-brown colour, all shades from 'black' through to 'white' could be accounted for in their children and future generations. For the same reason, Adam and Eve probably had brown eyes and dark hair.

In a similar sort of way, if Adam had blood group 'A', and Eve had blood group 'B', all of the 'ABO' blood groups (A, AS, B. O) could arise.

Adam was the FIRST FATHER


Father with child. Photo copyrighted.

Genesis 5:4 tells us that Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters. Jewish tradition has it that they had 56 children altogether! Remember Adam lived for 930 years (Genesis 5:5).

If Adam and Eve were the first humans, and all people have descended from them (Acts 17:26, 'And hath made of one blood all nations of men . . .'), then somewhere brothers had to marry sisters. (This is also explained in detail in The Answers Book.)


Adam was the FIRST SINNER


Adam was told he could not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). Therefore, if Adam, being the head of the human race, disobeyed, all of his descendants would have to suffer the consequences.


Disobedience. Copyrighted.

Eve took the fruit and ate it, and gave it to her husband, Adam, who was with her, and he ate it also.

Read about it in God's Story

Even though Eve was the one tempted by the serpent, and the one who first ate the forbidden fruit, Adam is the one who brought sin into the world, because he was the head of the human race and the one to whom the commandment had first been given.

Romans 5:12 states: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."

Because of this sin of rebelling against God's law, God cursed the ground (Genesis 3:17), caused thorns and thistles to come forth (Genesis 3:1 8), and introduced death into the world - Adam and Eve died spiritually, and started to die physically.

The first physical death recorded is that of at least one animal when "unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, end clothed them." God killed an animal, and shed blood, and gave a covering to Adam and Eve. This is a beautiful picture of something special to come - that shed blood would be a covering because of sin.

Hebrews 9:22 states that "without shedding of blood [there] is no remission." God requires the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. However, the blood of bulls and goats was not good enough. Because a man brought sin into the world, a man needed to atone - but it had to be a perfect man. If all descendants of Adam now suffered from sin, how could this be accomplished?

First Adam needed a 'Last Adam'


Jesus Christ. Copyrighted, The God's Story Project.
Read about it in God's Story

God provided a second Adam--a perfect Adam who could be the perfect sacrifice. God himself came to earth as a man.

Jesus Christ, the second member of the Trinity, was born of a woman to become a man so that the perfect sacrifice could be made. Jesus was God, but He was also man as God intended man to be--sinless. He was crucified on the cross of Calvary. He shed His blood and paid the penalty for our sins, and was raised from the dead, conquering death, the judgment which God had brought upon man because of sin.

That is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22:

"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."

We read further in 1 Corinthians 15:45-47:

"And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.... The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven."

First Corinthians 15:26 states: "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Death is swallowed up in victory, Paul says. And we can say with him, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55). Christ has paid the penalty. The last Adam has conquered death and provided a means of deliverance from the first Adam's fall into sin, resulting in separation from God.