The original question was: How can you explain all the different skin colours if the whole human race is descended from one couple?  I heard a creation speaker claim it is because Adam and Eve would have had a mix of dominant and recessive colour genes and because dominant genes were for dark colour and recessive genes for light,  they have simply been remixed over the generations so today’s black people have all dark genes and white people all light genes.

Answer by Diane Eager

The mixing of dominant and recessive genes to explain variation in many inherited characteristics, including skin colour is a popular but wrong explanation for skin colours.  It is true that if there is more than one gene involved in a particular trait it is possible to get a wide spectrum of a variation by simply remixing the genes.  Such explanations are usually accompanied by a diagram like the one below, showing all possible combinations of offspring from two parents who each have one dominant and one recessive gene variant for two genes, called A and B.  Gene variants are called alleles.  Dominant alleles are indicated by capital letters ‘A’, recessive alleles by small letters ‘a’.  Each parent only passes on one of their two alleles for each gene to each child. 

Parents Genes: AaBb and AaBb

Possible Re-combinations in next Generation:

But this doesn’t work for human skin colour for two reasons.  The first is there are far more genes involved, with lots of subtle controls and interactions in the genetics of skin colour.  The second, and more serious problem, is that it assumes that all skin colour alleles were part of God’s original good creation.  However, some of the present-day alleles are not good, especially for skin colours at the two extremes of the colour spectrum, so this is a false belief.

Human skin colour is mainly the result of how much melanin is produced in the skin.  Melanin protects skin from being damaged by too much ultra-violet (UV) light.  However, some ultra-violet light is useful as it stimulates skin to make Vitamin D – an important hormone involved in absorbing and using calcium.  Therefore, there needs to be enough melanin to protect the skin, but not so much as to inhibit the production of Vitamin D.  This happy situation occurs in people who are a mid-brown colour, which is most of the human population on earth today.

The level of ultra-violet light varies with seasons and in different locations, so skin needs to be sensitive to these changes and adjust the amount of melanin accordingly by increasing or decreasing the activity of the melanin cells.  If this control system does not work properly the melanin producing cells may not be turned on when needed, or may stay turned on when they not needed.  This is what happens in people with very fair or very dark skin.  These two ‘defect’ conditions would not have existed in the created very good world, where everything worked perfectly. 

People whose skin remains dark all the time are unable to make enough Vitamin D in their skin unless they live in a high UV environment, where it is warm enough to live and work outside all year round.  Therefore, black skin is fine for people living in tropical regions, but not good for living in places like Canada or Northern Europe with their long dark winters.  Fortunately, Vitamin D is available in some foods, e.g. oily fish, and our digestive systems can absorb it if we eat these foods.  In some places Vitamin D is also added to the commercial milk supply. 

Since high UV light is not good for eyes, irrespective of what colour your skin is, in the original very good world, it was unlikely there were places with such intense UV light as at the present.  The consistently long lifespans of the pre-Flood people are evidence that before Noah’s Flood, earth seems to have been protected from damaging radiation.  However, this means that very black skin that never lightens would not have been good, and therefore not part of the original creation.

Very light-skinned people can make enough Vitamin D to last them all year round if they can get outside for at least half the year, as Vitamin D can be stored for several months.  Therefore, they can live in places with low UV levels.  However, light coloured skin is easily damaged by UV light, resulting in sunburn, loss of elasticity and skin cancer.  For this reason people from places like northern Europe who move to places like Australia must protect their skin with sunscreen, hats and umbrellas.  This author has amused British audiences by explaining that umbrellas in Australia have Sun Protection Factors, but they are equally good for keeping out British rain. 

Recent research into the genetics of skin colour has confirmed that white skin is the result of degenerative factors including the breakdown of a gene named melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) which codes for a protein that regulates the production of melanin.  A mutant form of this gene named V60L results in decreased production of melanin.  People who have this mutation have light coloured skin and hair, but are also more prone to develop melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer.  In spite of its association with a deadly disease this mutation is fairly common in some European populations because the light skin is able to make Vitamin D during the winter months when UV light levels are low and cold weather keeps people indoors for long periods.  Evolutionists are keen to claim this as an example of a good mutation, as it enables people to live in places with cold winters.  However, anyone who has suffered a melanoma, or lost a friend or relative to this disease, will tell you there is nothing good about this mutation.

Furthermore, extreme seasons with cold winters did not exist in the original very good world.  Extreme seasons are part of the severe degeneration of the climate that occurred after Noah’s Flood. The conclusion is inevitable: White skin would not have been part of the very good world.

Now let’s return to Adam and Eve, and what has happened to the original skin colour down the family tree of man.  The key to understanding this is the Biblical history of the world.  In the beginning God created the world and everything in it and declared it to be very good.  Light levels would vary with distance from the equator and shade from vegetation.  Adam and Eve would have been created with skin that adjusted to UV conditions with the perfect balance between protection and Vitamin D production.  This would have been a mid-brown colour.  They would have been able to go anywhere and maintain that balance by going darker or lighter as needed, but never to the extremes of colour. 

After the Fall of Man skin colour genes became susceptible to mutations as part of the general degeneration that resulted from God’s judgement on people and the environment.  We get a clue that skin colour control genes were starting to break down by the time of Noah in the names of two of Noah’s sons.  One son was named Ham, which came to mean warm, hot or burnt, indicating a darker colour than normal.  Japheth means fair, with the indication of a lighter colour.  These colour changes are confirmed as we follow the descendants of these two sons after the dispersion from the Tower of Babel, as recorded in Genesis 10.  Many of Ham’s descendants migrated to Africa and gave rise to the dark-skinned populations.  Many of Japheth’s descendants moved to Europe and gave rise to light skinned peoples.

After Noah’s flood the environment degenerated and the mutation rate increased, as indicated by the rapidly decreasing lifespans of the post-Flood generations.  Therefore, more mutations affecting skin colour would have been added to those that already existed, resulting in more variation in human skin colour, including the extremes we see in the world today.

Overall, the great variety of human skin colours is a testimony that the real history of the world is from an initial very good creation to its current state of degeneration, and modern day genetic studies confirm this.  The combination of splitting the human gene pool into subgroups following the judgement at Babel followed by mutations in the subgroups has resulted in distinctive clusters of characteristics seen in the different racial groups.

Related questions:

EYES & HAIR: If we all came from only Adam and Eve, where did the huge variation in hair and eye colour come from? Answer here.

HUMAN RACE? Is there only one race of man?  Answer here.

HUMAN RACES: If all races originated from Noah’s sons, why are there such big differences between the races?  Answer here.

NOAH: What Race was Noah? What colour was he? Where in the Bible can I find out?  Answer here.

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