Where did the different races come from?
Adam and Eve carried all the traits of all the races in their genetic information just as we today have genetic information from our parents which is not expressed in us. The genetic information is there within us, and it may show itself in the next generation. For this reason, it's hard to tell what Adam and Eve looked like.
What makes a race anyway? Generally, racial characteristics are evident mainly in the skin color, hair type and facial features. (There are slight biochemical differences, too, but these differences are explainable on the same basis as the more obvious physical features.) Skin color is determined by the amount of melanin in the skin. Melanin is a brownish-black pigment which is commonly found in many types of animal tissues as well as in human beings. All human beings have some melanin in their skin unless they are albinos. Melanin does more than just color our skin, however. It also provides protection against skin cancer caused by the sun. For example, northern Europeans have a much higher rate of skin cancer than those people of African or East Indian origin.
People of the same race can vary greatly in their skin color. Northern Europeans are generally lighter skinned than Italians even though they are the same race. The people of India are much darker skinned even though they, too, are Caucasian. Generally, the closer one gets to the equator, the darker skinned the people are likely to be, no matter what their race.
Perhaps an even more obvious racial trait is the unique facial characteristics of different groups of people. Most of these characteristics are not a result of different bone structure, but of fatty deposits under the skin which are largely hereditary. Often it is easy to tell that a person is part of a given family simply because he or she has unique facial characteristics which fit in with that family. Likewise, each of the races has such unique characteristics which are mostly made up of inherited soft tissue shapes and forms. "Round eyes" or "slant eyes" are commonly seen examples of these differences. The same is true for hair characteristics.
All of the racial characteristic are merely differences; they do not make any race any more or less human or any more or less intelligent. In fact, the genetic basis of all these differences was created by God and present in the first perfect pair of human beings. They provide evidence of the range of God's creativity, and some of these differences – such as skin pigmentation – have their source in God's wisdom, as we have seen. About 1,400 years after the creation of the first human beings, we see the human race preserved through the three sons of Noah. This bases the current world's population on the descendants of three families. The division of the world's population several hundred years later through the confusion of tongues at Babel ultimately provided the basis for the current world's nations and races.
As one moves closer to the equator, we typically find that people have more melanin in their skin. This additional skin pigmentation provides added protection against skin cancer, which is more likely as one moves toward the equator where the sun's intensity is strongest. It has been suggested that here we a have true example of "natural selection." (But careful now, this only means that certain traits are removed from the population, there is no new genetic information added.) It is also possible that God moved those with more pigmentation to settle in the sunnier reaches of the Earth, thus providing for their needs in this way. At the same time, since less pigmentation was needed in the colder climates, it appears that God led people who had little pigmentation to settle in these climates.
With the division of the peoples of the Earth at Babel, we have a limiting of the gene pool. Evidently, God divided the world's population into quite a number of languages, effectively cutting off certain genetic possibilities for each group, and through the generations, purifying certain traits through the marriage of related individuals. This would have the same effect as modern dog or horse breeding where selection of mates removes certain traits from the available gene pool while highlighting other traits.
Through the years, as certain traits like skin pigmentation, hair type and soft tissue characteristics became unique to various basic groups of peoples, these peoples settled into their respective areas of the Earth and fathered more tribes and nations so that today many nations are found with similar racial characteristics.
Originally, all of today's racial characteristics were found in Adam and Eve as well as in Noah. Each race today represents only a small number of the genetic possibilities which were originally created. Therefore, interracial marriages represent a recombining of some of the racial characteristics found in our first parents and an increase in the possible features which may be evident in children produced by such marriages. With our modern knowledge of genetics, the modern races certainly make sense in light of the scriptural history of man.
Another feature which shows that all human beings are descended from one source is our emotional nature. Although we have many different and varied cultures and traditions, human emotional needs are identical. We all desire to be loved, and we desire to love. Likewise, sin has had the same effect on these and all our other desires, affecting our behaviors in like fashion, despite our different cultures.
Most importantly, to use the language of our computer age, each of us has been "hard wired" with a need which cannot be satisfied except by one thing. This need is built into us. Our Creator has caringly implanted us with a need for a true peace which cannot be satisfied by anyone or anything but Him.
Almost 3,000 years ago Solomon wrote that despite his wealth, status, power and reputation, life was empty. He said that he finally learned that the only way in which there is meaning is in God. Solomon was right. Life is empty without our Creator. But when we think of facing our Creator, we tremble knowing that we have made ourselves less than He made us to be. He invites each of us to take to heart the truth that the Son of God became one of us to restore us to our Creator through the forgiveness of sins. With the obstacle of sin removed, we can be at peace with our Creator, as He meant us to be. And when we are at peace with Him through Jesus Christ, we cannot fail to have peace with all that He has made.