Humans come in a rainbow of colors: sandy yellows, reddish-tans, creamy whites, pale pinks. And who among us is not curious about the skin colors, hair textures, bodily structures and facial features associated with racial background. Why do many Africans have deep black skin, while that of most Europeans is pale pink? Why do the eyes of most “white” people and “black” people look pretty much alike but differ so much from the eyes of Orientals? Why do some races have kinky hair, while others have straight hair? Why do some races grow to over 7 feet tall (e.g., African Watusis), while others are less than 5 feet (e.g., African Pygmies)? The answers to some of these questions, and others, often may be found in a study of the origin of various races.
WHAT IS A “RACE”?
A human “race” is defined most often as a group of people with certain features in common that distinguish them from other groups of people. Currently there are three or four major “races” of humans, as the word race is commonly defined: (a) Australoid; (b) Caucasoid; (c) Mongoloid; and (d) Negroid. Generally speaking, the Australoids are considered a subgroup of the Caucasoids, simply because the two groups have so many features in common, despite the fact that Australoids possess dark skin (the Australoid group is often known as the Australian Aboriginal Group). If a breakdown by percentages of the world’s population were attempted, the groups would look like this: Caucasoid, 55%; Mongoloid, 33%; Negroid, 8%; Australoid, 4%. It is interesting to note that these races are distributed around the globe throughout over 100 nations, and speak 3,000+ tribal languages and dialects.
Speaking in broad terms, research on racial differences has led scientists to at least three major conclusions. First, there are many more differences among people than just hair texture, skin color, and facial features. Dozens of other variations have been found to exist. The following examples are taken from McCutcheon (1989, pp. 25-35).
- Apocrine glands, which produce scents that we commonly refer to as body odor, vary widely among the races. Asians have an extremely low distribution of apocrines (Koreans are among the least odor-producing people on Earth—50% of them have no apocrine glands at all). With regard to other races, blacks have a slightly higher distribution of apocrine glands than whites.
- Ear wax among races is quite different. One of the most accurate ways to distinguish Asians from blacks and whites is to check for differences in ear wax. Asians produce dry, crumbly ear wax. Blacks and whites produce moist, adhesive ear wax.
- Metabolic rates can differ significantly among races. The higher the metabolic rate, the higher the threshold for sensing cold. The Eskimo’s metabolic rate is 15-30% higher than that of a European. Equatorial people have the lowest metabolism of all because fewer calories are needed to keep their bodies warm.
There are many other differences that could be discussed—teeth, brain size, body shape, etc.
Second, research has shown that in many instances the success of a population’s survival has been aided by its genetic variability. While evolutionists equate this with chance processes operating in the sphere of “survival of the fittest,” creationists see it as just one more example of God’s beneficent design. He has given us such variability, genetically speaking, so that we can successfully adapt as the need arises. More will be said about this later.
Third, despite the human species’ wealth of built-in variation, and despite our constant references to “race,” no one ever has been able to suggest a truly reliable way to distinguish one race from another. While it is possible to classify a great many people on the basis of certain physical characteristics, there are no known features, of groups of features, that will do the job in all cases.
It has been suggested that skin color might be the criterion for race determination. Yet, this provides innumerable difficulties because while most Africans from south of the Sahara and their descendants around the world have skin that is darker than that of most Europeans, there are millions of people in India, classified by many anthropologists as members of the Caucasoid race, who have darker skins than most American blacks. Some Africans, living in the sub-Saharan regions, have skin coloration that is no darker than that of some Spaniards, Italians, Greeks, or Lebanese.
Stature has been suggested as a determining factor for races. African Pygmies, because of their short height, have been considered racially distinct from other dark-skinned Africans, for example. Yet if stature is then to become a (or the) racial criterion, would it not be necessary to include in the same race both the tall African Watusis and Scandinavians of similar stature? Yet no one recommends such.
Various appearance features have also been suggested as the criterion for race determination. For example, most people are familiar with the almond-shaped eye of the Oriental. The little web of skin that is so characteristic in Oriental eyes is said to be a distinguishing feature of the Mongoloid race. Yet, if one were to accept that argument, how, then, could it be argued that the American Indian (who presently is classified as Mongoloid, yet lacks this epicanthic fold) also is Mongoloid? Other distinguishing features fare no better. Such features as hair color, eye color, hair form, the shapes of noses and lips, and many of the other traits set forth as “markers” of one race or another are found distributed all too often throughout many races. Among the tall people of the world there are those who exhibit every skin color imaginable—from black to white and everything in between. Among black people of the world there are some who possess kinky hair, some who possess straight or wavy hair, and again, many in between. Among the broad-nosed, full-lipped people of the world, there are many with dark skins, but there are likewise many with light skins, and many in between.
The complexity of this issue increases. The world is filled with populations that just seem to defy classification. Consider some of these well-known examples: (a) the Bushmen of southern Africa appear to be as much Mongoloid as Negroid; (b) the Negritos of the South Pacific do look Negroid, but are far removed from Africa and have no known links to that continent; (c) the Ainu of Japan are a hairy, aboriginal type of people who appear to be more Caucasoid than anything else; (d) the aborigines of Australia sometimes look Negroid, but often have straight or wavy hair and are occasionally blond as children.
To accommodate this immense diversity, different classification systems have been proposed. Some have suggested as many as two or three dozen races. But none has accomplished its task of successfully defining just how a race should be determined.