Science in Christian Perspective



Genetic Evidenc e As to the Color of Adam and Eve*
Professor of Biology
John Brown University,
Siloam Springs, Arkansas

From: JASA 6 (June 1954): 13-14.

All of us have at times wondered as to the appearance of our original parents, Adam and Eve. Frequently, students ask, "What was the color of Adam and Eve?" This paper is an attempt to answer this question from our present day knowledge of genetics, race characteristics, and the nature of pigmentation in the human skin.

Pigmentation in animals has been shown to be the result of chemical changes directly related to the presence of certain genes. The genes control an enzymatic system which controls the development of pigment and the degree of pigmentation possible. The action of t he ultraviolet rays of light influences the amount of pigment finally attained upon exposure to light. This knowledge of the relation of genes to the pigmentation in mammals is adequately presented by Hovanitz in his recent 'Textbook of Genetics".1 The multiple factors and multiple alleles controlling the coat color of rodents is well known from the work of Castle, Dunn, and Wright. Our knowledge of the relation of genes to human pigmentation is fragmentary. The Davenports in their studies of pigmentation of Negro -White crosses in Bermuda concluded that there were two pairs of multiple factors for pigmentation of skin due to melanin.2 This is generally accepted today with the possibility of there being additional factors or that the factors may be multiple alleles. Sterns in discussing the matter states, "this does not mean that no other hypothesis can be formulated which may explain the observations equally well, or even better. It may be assurned, for instance, that three pairs of cumulative, equally potent, allelic pairs, Al, A2, Bl, B2, Cl, C2, are involved. This hyopthesis would yield more genotypes than the two-factor hypothesis Moreover, it is probable that each locus may be represented not by two but by multiple alleles."3 Boyd suggests that there are other genes for the carotene pigment present in the skin.4
Thus our knowledge is surely imperfect. It should be pointed out that albinos occur among people of all races and skin color. Further, it is known that most albinos are recessive mutations to the normal pigmentation. The genes for pigmentation are quantitative and cumulative in their action. Crosses between a Negro and a White (Caucasian) result in pigmentation which is intermediate (Mulatto) for we do not have typical 

*Paper presented at the Eighth Annual Convention of the American Scientific Affiliation, Winona Lake, Indiana, September 1-3, 1953.

dominance and recessiveness of gene action expressed.

The origin of the present day differences in pigmentation of the human races must have taken place since the time of appearance of the first man on earth. Evolutionists support the thesis that all the races of man have developed from a common ancestor by mutations and selection of the occurring mutations. This has been recently depicted in Life (Vol. 34, No. 20, May 18, 1953 p. 101-106). According to the Scriptures, the differences arose since the time of Noah. The most reasonable explanation of the origin of the differences of pigmentation is that of mutational changes and the resulting isolation of the differences by geographical and climatic factors.

A consideration of our knowledge of gene mutations leads us to believe that the mutations of skin color have been from the darker to the lighter coloration. Most gene mutations have been in the direction of the dominant gene to the recessive. In the case of multiple alleles, the mutation of the gene may be in either direction. Also a mutated gene may change back to the original gene. Snyder states, "A recessive trait may be common or rare in a population, depending upon whether the recessive mutant gene is common or rare. This in turn will depend upon the past history of the population in terms of mutation, selection, migration, system of mating, and population SiZe."5 The present day population of the world has a far greater proportion of dark skinned individuals than white. Also consideration of selection, migration, and system of mating favor the predominance of dark skinned individuals. Since the genes for pigmentation of skin do not react as simple dominance and recessiveness, we can not accurately trace the mutations which occurred. A consideration of the mutant genes affecting coat color in rodents indicates the change from the dominant to the recessive and from the gene producing a dark pigment to a gene producing a lighter pigment. From our meager knowl edge of the relation of genes to enzymes, it is reasonable to conclude that the mutations of genes would be such that less enzyme or a modified enzyme would be produced. The mutation of a gene to one which does not produce pigment (albinism) is understandable in the terms of a gene which does not produce an enzyme or one which inhibits the action of another enzyme. Since most human albinos are results of recessive genes, it seems f easible that the mutation of the genes for pigment have been from the genes producing the most pigment to genes not producing any pigment. This does not preclude that genes might not mutate back from the lighter to the darker pigmentation, and such might be possible. From our insufficient knowledge as to the chemical nature of the gene, it is questionable that the genes for darker pigmentation could arise from genes for lighter pigmentation which would necessitate the formation of new genic material to produce the enzyme increasing pigmentation. The most reasonable possibility for the occurrence of mutation of the genes controlling pigmentation seems to he from the darkest to the lightest and finally absence of pigmentation.

In addition to consideration of the problem of the direction of mutation, and their origin, we must recognize the rate of occurrence of the mutation, probability of survival, and mutation pressure. That mutations in the human might be established within a period of about 6,000 years from the time of Noah would point to a much greater frequency of occurrence than is common today in known human mutations. Even selection of the mutant gene does not seem to be great enough to account for the population differences observed today. I would conclude that the present differences in pigmentation as found today in the world's population have not been a result of mutations in recent time. Also that the changes must have been sudden and probably supernatural. That is, God at the time of the tower of Babel scattered the descendants of the sons of Noah and at the same time or soon afterwards caused the changes in pigmentation to occur and which continue to the present time. (Genesis 11 :1.9)

Since God uses natural laws in His dealings with man, it is possible that the changes in pigmentation took place by mutations in a great frequency. Also from our present knowledge of mutations it seems likely that the mutations occurred from the darker pigmentation to the lighter pigmentation. Therefore Noah and his ancestors, including Adam and Eve, were dark-skinned individuals. I should hasten to add that this does not mean that Adam and Eve were Negroes, for there are several other physical characteristics other than pigmentation which characterize the Negro race.


1. Hovanitz, William, Textbook of Genetics, 1953. Elsevier Press, Inc. pp. 171-172; pp. 184-187; pp. 338-340; p. 367. Figs 125-127.
2. Davenport, C. B., "Heredity of Skin Color in Negro-White Crosses." Carnegie In-st. Wash. Publ., 188: 106 pp., 1913. Davenport, G. C., and Davenport, C. B., "Heredity of Skin Pigmentation in Man" Amer. Natl., 44: 641-672, 1910. 
3. Sterns, Curt, Principles of Human Genetics, 1950. W. H. Freeman and Co. pp. 328-329.
4. Boyd, William C., Genetics and the Races of Man, 1950.
Little, Brown and Co. pp. 308-309.
5. Snyder, Laurence H., The Principles of Heredity, 4th Ed.
1951. D. C. Heath and Co. pp. 312-335; 401-432.