Why are There so Many “Colors” of People?

From Issue: Discovery 9/1/2009

Do you remember the song, “Jesus loves the little children—all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black, and white, they are precious in His sight”? It’s true, of course. Jesus does love all the children. In fact, He and God, His father, love all the adults, too (read John 3:16). They don’t care what color a person’s skin is. And neither should we.

The Bible recognizes only one “race” of people—the human race. In Acts 17:26, the apostle Paul wrote that God “made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.” His point was that people are basically all alike, regardless of whether they have a different skin color, language, or cultural heritage. Every human is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). But there’s nothing wrong with asking about how all the “red, yellow, black, and white” colors of humans came to be.

In humans, skin color is caused by a pigment called melanin (MEL-uh-nin). The color of a person’s skin depends on how much melanin he or she has. If a person has a lot of melanin, he or she will be dark skinned. If a person has very little melanin, he or she will be light skinned. The amount of melanin is controlled by genes that are found inside the cells of our bodies. Genes control lots of things, including hair color, eye color, and the amount of melanin in our skin. Melanin is helpful to us as humans because it soaks up harmful ultraviolet rays from the Sun that can harm our bodies.

God designed our bodies so that melanin could be produced to protect us. In climates where there is a great deal of sunshine, people with lots of melanin can survive better than those without much melanin. Those people who live in climates with less sunshine do not need as much melanin. It is very likely that Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, possessed a built-in variety of genes that allowed them to produce in their children some of the same varieties of skin colors we observe today. In fact, scientists today who study genetics tell us that it is even possible to get very light, very dark, and medium-skinned children—all from a single pair of parents. [It’s not at all odd for us to see parents who have two or more biologically related children with noticeable differences in their skin colors.]

God knew that people eventually would want to live all over the Earth, and He gave us skin colors as “built-in” protection. Skin colors are just another piece of evidence about how wise God is!


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