After viewing the mixture of widely different skin tones at a recent church gathering, a long-time Acts & Facts reader asked how so much variety came from only three pairs of human beings—Shem, Ham, and Japheth and their wives. How could all these skin tones come from just these people? Winding the clock back even further, Bible history implies that all skin tones came not from three human pairs but from one: Adam and Eve. Do the genetics of skin color match this Bible-based idea?
Like many animals, human bodies produce melanin—a chemical of color. Melanin darkens moth wings, bird feathers, human skin, and animal fur.1 For example, black bears range across at least 40 U.S. states. Most black bears have black fur, dense with melanin, but some have brown. I watched a huge black bear walk right through my campsite this past summer, but its fur was reddish blonde. Fortunately, it loped off after it heard me trying to escape up the nearest tree. Blonde and cinnamon-red black bears can interbreed with dark black bears, showing that these varieties belong to the same basic kind. Different human “races” similarly reduce to varieties in the same basic human kind.
Hunters and wildlife biologists have even seen black and white bears as siblings!2 These “white black bears” and white polar bears have very little melanin in their fur. And all these color varieties descended from just two bears that endured the terrible Flood year on the Ark along with Noah and his family. Gene shuffling that occurs every generation can produce different amounts of melanin in baby bears, just as it can in human hair and skin.
Readers of ICR.org may recall a March 2015 online news article that helped answer the skin tone question by featuring Lucy and Maria Aylmer.3 Although they are twin sisters from a mother with brownish skin and a white father, Lucy told the New York Post, “No one ever believes we are twins because I am white and Maria is black.”4 As children, Lucy had reddish-blond, wavy hair, and Maria had black, curly hair.
Where did this color diversity come from? Many see it as the expression of different races, but according to the Bible all people belong to just one human race. When the apostle Paul pronounced Bible basics to the people of Athens, he said, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.”5 Genetically, over 99% of your DNA sequence matches anyone else’s on the planet.6 Genetics therefore confirms the biblical view of one human race.
Seeing people as being of different races could reflect evolutionary thinking. Do we need hundreds of thousands of years of evolution to explain all this human variety? No—just like “white black bear” fur color, twins like Lucy and Maria show that skin tone variations can arise through normal genetic processes in just one generation. No need for evolutionary time.
Our great Creator placed into Adam and Eve a way for their descendants to express different levels of melanin and other pigments. The Lord showed His love for creativity when He crafted gene-shuffling protocols that can generate such a kaleidoscope of color tones in animals and humans.
Editor's Note: New technology has revealed further differences among human genomes regarding footnote 6. Modern analyses have detected many structural variants, where the difference between any two human genomes can be more than 1%. However, single nucleotide polymorphisms remain 99% similar.
See Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D. 2017. DNA Variation Widens Human-Chimp Chasm. Acts & Facts. 46 (4).
- More accurately, animals and humans produce pigment varieties classed as either brown-black eumelanins or red-yellow pheomelanins. Genetic mixing of different pigments at different levels generates a much wider variety of skin tones in each generation than would a single pigment.
- Woodford, R. White Black Bears and Blonde Grizzlies: Alaska Bears Wear Coats of Many Colors. Alaska Fish & Wildlife News. Posted on adfg.alaska.gov September 2007.
- Thomas, B. Twins Provide Peek into Mankind’s Origin. Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org March 26, 2015, accessed July 20, 2016.
- Perez, C. Meet the biracial twins no one believes are sisters. New York Post. Posted on nypost.com March 2, 2015, accessed March 8, 2015.
- Acts 17:26.
- Rosenberg, N. A. et al. 2002. Genetic Structure of Human Populations. Science. 298 (5602): 2381-2385.
Image: Twins Maria (left) and Lucy Aylmer (right) pose together. The twins’ mother is half-Jamaican, and their father is white. Copyright © 2015 M. Spaven. Adapted for use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holder.
* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.