• There is diversity in humans around the world
- And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; Acts 17:26
- And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him: Gen 8:18
- Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. Gen 11:9
How different are we?
There are few genetic differences between any two individuals, about 0.1% of the genome. Of this 0.1%, 85-90% of genetic variation can be found between individuals from the same population. The remaining 10-15% accounts for differences between populations (1)Genetic Variation, classification and ‘race’ LB Jorde and SP Wooding, Nature Genetics November 2004, Volume 36, Number 11, pages s28-33.. The genetic difference between populations or ‘races’ is small.
‘Races’ of people have historically been identified by skin colour. This can range from very dark to almost completely white or pink with every shade in between. There is also diversity of eye colour, height, weight and hair colour all of which can be linked to different races.
How does genetic diversity arise?
Diversity within humans is genetically encoded. Each characteristic is influenced by a number of genes with different combinations leading to diversity within the characteristic. As an example, skin colour is determined by at least 3-4 genes (though possibly ten times this number (2)Barsh GS (2003) What Controls Variation in Human Skin Color? PLoS Biol 1(1): e27. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0000027 ). Some genes encode for light coloured skin and others dark coloured skin. A combination of all gene types results in an olive coloured skin. If people with a specific skin colour are isolated, a population will grow with this specific characteristic alone.
The Bible describes all people on earth as descendants from Adam and Eve (Gen 1:27-28, I Cor. 15:45). Genesis 6-8 describes a flood destroying all people on earth with the exception of Noah and his family. The diversity among humans we see today has arisen from this one family.
Considering the example of skin colour, the family of Noah was most likely olive skinned. This mid-range skin colour could be the result of ‘light skin colour’ and ‘dark skin colour’ genes combined. The offspring of Noah’s family could therefore have any skin colour in the spectrum we see today. As the population grewexamples of the different skin colours would have appeared. If there was reason for individuals with the same skin colour to become isolated, populations with this characteristic would develop. The events of Genesis 11, describing people being scattered into groups divided by language was most likely very influential.
Skin colour has an important biological function, balancing susceptibility to sunburn and also vitamin D production. A dark skin colour reduces sun damage, but also reduces ability to produce vitamin D. Dark skin is therefore beneficial in sunny areas (where protection from sun damage needs to be maximised) but disadvantageous in cold areas (where vitamin D production needs to be maximised). The opposite is true for light skin colour. Descendants of Noah with dark skin were best suited to climates near the equator and this would have influenced their migration choices.
This matters because:
The genetic diversity we see today is consistent with the Bible’s description of population growth after the flood.
References and Further sources:
Recommended link for a more detailed answer to this question –
The Answers Book, Edited by Don Batten, Answers in Genesis Ltd. 1999.