Part 1: Is Race a Darwinist Construct?
In the previous article we established how Ken Ham makes dishonest accusations about the history of the concept of racial distinctions, completely ignoring the various ways in which a belief in race has subsisted independently of Darwinian evolution. Christendom has held racialist views long before Darwin came around, and modern Darwinists for the most part reject the “racist” views against which Ham is preaching. We will proceed to critique Ham’s arguments which seek to disprove the biological reality of race, and we will subsequently criticize his advocacy of miscegenation, where he again shows how much he sides with the unbelieving, Darwinian establishment in his racial views.
The Reality of Race
Ken Ham asserts that race is meaningless because of the close genetic relations which all humans bear. He states, “If one were to take any two people anywhere in the world, scientists have found that the basic genetic differences between these two people would typically be around 0.2 percent—even if they came from the same people group. But these so-called ‘racial’ characteristics that people think are major differences (skin color, eye shape, etc.) ‘account for only 0.012 percent of human biological variation.’” There are several problems with Ham’s race-rejecting conclusion. First is the fact that Ham’s citation of 0.012 percent genetic difference assumes the very thing he is trying to prove, namely, that racial differences are reducible to external characteristics like skin color or hair texture. There are very compelling reasons to believe that while race is easily identified by external characteristics, the true nature of the differences is actually far more extensive.1 Even if it were true that only 0.012 percent of our genes contributed to these external traits, this still wouldn’t be the full extent of the genetic differences between human races. Ken Ham mistakenly confuses the entirety of racial distinctions for the characteristics by which we identify racial distinctions, and in so doing, he mimics modern egalitarians’ reduction of gender to mere genitalia. Race is typically identified by external features, with skin color being the most obvious trait used to identify race, yet it does not follow that racial differences are no deeper than these more superficial distinctions. Race is hardly a matter of slight variation in melanin production, as Ham implies in his article.
A second reason to doubt Ken Ham’s figure of 0.012 percent difference is that there are better sources which suggest that genetic distances between humans are unequal, and that these distances correlate to recognizable ethnic and racial distinctions. The world’s leading molecular anthropologist, Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, has discovered that we are able to precisely map genetic distances between members of different ethnic groups and races, exactly as a race realist would expect. Steve Sailer says of Cavalli-Sforza’s research,
Cavalli-Sforza’s team compiled extraordinary tables depicting the “genetic distances” separating 2,000 different racial groups from each other. For example, assume the genetic distance between the English and the Danes is equal to 1.0. Then, Cavalli-Sforza has found, the separation between the English and the Italians would be about 2.5 times as large as the English-Danish difference. On this scale, the Iranians would be 9 times more distant genetically from the English than the Danish, and the Japanese 59 times greater. Finally, the gap between the English and the Bantus (the main group of sub-Saharan blacks) is 109 times as large as the distance between the English and the Danish. (The genetic distance between Japanese and Bantus is even greater.)2
What particularly surprised Cavalli-Sforza was the magnitude of the genetic distance between black Africans and everyone else; he concludes, “The most important difference in the human gene pool is clearly that between Africans and non-Africans.”3
A third reason that Ham’s 0.012% estimation is highly suspect is that racial differences exist not only in the presence of genes in the genome, but also in their particular expression. It is true that men of all races share most genes in common, but there are important differences in how these genes are expressed. One recent study has suggested that 25 percent of genes are expressed differently in East Asians in comparison to Europeans! There is a substantial difference in one quarter of the entire genome between Caucasians and Mongoloids. When we realize that the bulk of racial differences are tied to differences in gene expression, we understand that this 25-percent figure is much closer to the reality of racial difference when compared with Ken Ham’s paltry 0.012 percent figure, which simply accounts for the presence or absence of certain genes determining a few external traits like skin color.
Another mistake people sometimes make when arguing that race has no biological reality is to commit a fallacy which Richard Lewontin has made famous. Lewontin insisted that variation within racial groups is much greater than variation between racial groups. Yet he failed to take into account that racial differences are best classified when considered as a whole, not on the basis of differences in any one gene or trait. This is called Lewontin’s fallacy. In other words, while it is true that it is difficult to detect racial differences when looking at a particular gene or trait in the human genome, like blood type for example, it is easy to detect racial differences when observing the human genome as a whole. Race realist Neven Sesardic concludes, “Therefore, contra Lewontin, the racial classification that is based on a number of genetic differences between populations may well be extremely reliable and robust, despite the fact that any single of those genetic between-population differences remains, in itself, a very poor predictor of racial membership.”4
In fact, when we consider the differences in the genome as a whole, we discover that racial distinctions are indeed ironclad. A person from a particular race is never more closely related to anyone of another race than he is to people of the same race. D.J. Witherspoon asks, “How often does it happen that a pair of individuals from one population is genetically more dissimilar than two individuals chosen from two different populations? In fact, if many thousands of loci are used as a basis for judging genetic similarity and when individuals are sampled from geographically separated populations, the correct answer, which many will probably find surprising, is: ‘Never.’”5 For this reason, it is clear that the differences between races have a biological basis in heredity.
But let us assume for the sake of argument that Ham’s figure of 0.012 percent genetic variation between the races is accurate. This still would not make his conclusions valid. A percentage is simply a proportion. Large percentages don’t necessarily represent large quantities, and small percentages don’t necessarily represent small quantities, depending upon the nature of thing being discussed. Ten percent of a mile is still a substantially larger distance than one hundred percent of a foot, even though one hundred percent is a larger proportion. We need to understand the nature of the parameters that we are discussing before we can determine if a 0.012 percent genetic distance is insignificant.
Our friend Tim discusses this problem in his critique of Ham’s pamphlet, One Blood. He uses the analogy of the cosmic distances between celestial bodies to demonstrate the fallacy of Ken Ham’s reasoning on genetics. Tim writes, “When the sun, earth, and Sirius are lined up, the difference between the distance from the earth to Sirius compared to the distance from the sun to Sirius is only 0.00018% (using 8.6 light years vs. 93 million miles.) Therefore [on Ham’s reasoning], it is a matter of indifference if the earth were located at the center of the sun.”6 But the distance between the earth and the sun is obviously not trivial. If the earth were barely closer or farther away from the sun, then life could not exist on this planet. It should be immediately apparent that while 93 million miles isn’t an incredibly large distance between celestial bodies in the universe, it is a massive distance in terms of human experience! The same logic applies to genetic distances. The accumulated genetic code of all living creatures is in many ways analogous to a universe. Relatively small genetic differences can yield massive differences in the results.
Ironically, Ham’s attempt to dismiss racial differences due to the percentage of genetic commonality is actually extremely Darwinistic. Darwinists commonly advance similar arguments to suggest that humans have ancestors in common with apes, citing the large genetic overlap. This argument is undermined by analyzing the genetic similarity humans have with other organisms that are obviously very dissimilar to mankind, thus proving how small genetic differences can account for very large phenotypic differences. The short distance between humans and primates is commonly discussed, but the distance between humans and other animal species, and even plant species, is also relatively small. Recently it was discovered that sea sponges share 70 percent of our genetic code! Obviously, the biological differences between humans and sea sponges are far more extensive than a mere 30-percent distance in DNA might suggest. Therefore we can safely conclude that a broad overlap in shared DNA does not mean that the differences are inconsequential. If Ham were confronted by an evolutionist making such arguments, his counterarguments would be essentially the same ones we would use in response to his race-denial. A genetic percentage can’t undo what our eyes plainly tell us is the truth.
Moreover, if Ham wants to be consistent in arguing that genetic overlap must translate into similarity, he will have to argue that gender, as well as race, is also insignificant. Gender is as real as race, and yet gender differences are only predicated upon relatively small genetic differences between men and women. Both men and women have X chromosomes; men have one copy and women have two, but only men have the Y chromosome. The Y chromosome is very small, containing only about 86 genes out of about 21,000 genes in the human genome, although some estimates are as high as 25,000, which code for about 23 proteins. These genes are essential for male development, yet they comprise only about 0.4 percent of the entire human genome.7 So this means that gender isn’t really biologically important . . . right? This is the exact same logic that Ken Ham uses to conclude that race is biologically insignificant, since, by his reasoning, a 0.012-percent difference between the races must indicate that no real differences exist. But this is false! Both race and gender are extremely important, and Ken Ham would be remiss to deny that gender is important on the basis of the small number of genes that determine gender.
Much of what was said about racial differences can be said of gender differences as well. The bulk of the difference between men and women is not in genes exclusive to one gender, but in gene expression. Men and women have almost all of the same genes, proteins, and hormones, but they are used quite differently in each sex. For example, while testosterone is typically associated with men and estrogen is usually associated with women, both men and women have testosterone and estrogen. The difference is that these hormones exist at different levels depending upon gender. Just as there are substantial differences in gene expression between the races as mentioned above, there are also definite differences in gene expression in men and women. These differences lead us to the obvious biological differences between men and women and between the races of humanity that we see and experience. The take-home message is to understand that small genetic differences can yield large differences in the resultant characteristics or traits because of how genes interact with each other. When we examine the genetic code as a whole and examine how genes are expressed in different people, we can easily establish that race is undeniably a biological reality.
Ham on Miscegenation
Ken Ham continues his diatribe against “racism” by concluding that race is a social rather than biological construct. He also concludes that because all humanity is supposedly of one race, there is no such thing as interracial marriage, and the only disparity with which Christians should concern themselves is religious. There is no need to go into an extensive discussion about Ham’s many logical fallacies when dealing with the issue of miscegenation. Ham repeats many of the common arguments in favor of miscegenation, and these arguments have previously been refuted in other posts.8 My one comment will be to identify the obvious nod to contemporary pop culture with his graphic of supposedly acceptable and unacceptable marriages. Ham provides a graphic with three possible marriage partners. The first couple is a black man paired with a white woman, both of whom are presented as Christians. The second couple is a white man paired with an oriental woman, both of whom are presented as non-Christians. The third couple is a non-Christian white man paired with a Christian white woman. Ham asks the reader to identify which of the three scenarios God’s Word would “counsel (rather than command) against.” Ham concludes that the third scenario is obviously the one to be avoided.
There are several interesting observations that need to be pointed out. Note that the one invalid relationship involves two white people. This chart is clearly aimed at undermining the racial sensibilities of a white audience. The fact that most Christian marriages overwhelmingly involve a man and a woman of the same race is lost on Ham entirely. Furthermore, both interracial couples feature whites marrying outside of their race. One gets the idea that Ham actually considers interracial marriage to be healthier than traditional marriages between a man and a woman of the same racial background. It’s as if Ham knows that white Christian men might naturally be disinclined to see their daughters marrying a black man, so Ham makes sure to tell his audience that they have no basis for opposing these unions. Why couldn’t Ham have shown a black Christian woman marrying an oriental man, or an African pygmy marrying an Alaskan Eskimo woman? The reason is that pop culture doesn’t actively sell miscegenation to non-whites; it sells miscegenation to whites. In doing so, the black man/white woman and white man/oriental woman combinations are the most commonly promoted. In portraying and endorsing these relationships (as long as they meet his intrareligious requirement), Ken Ham is actually endorsing the thrust of contemporary pop culture.9 Recall that it was Ham himself who insisted that the secular world is actually leading the way on the issue of race; and from the examples of acceptable marriage that he provided, evidently he really does believe this. What a shame to see a supposedly courageous Christian apologist endorsing the most pervasive and corrosive elements of pop culture that are infecting Western civilization today!
Even though Ham wishes to argue that the belief in race, along with the consequent “racism,” is a product of Darwinism, he makes the exact same arguments that many prominent Darwinists make in a feeble attempt to disprove the reality of race. He even hijacks Darwinian arguments which seek to establish the genetic unity of the entire animal kingdom, utilizing them to establish the utter biological equality of all mankind. If Ham truly believes Darwinism is the prime enemy, he needs to stop parroting their arguments and preaching against their false sins, foremost among which is “racism.”
The result of this poor alliance is that contemporary creationism serves the interests of the cultural zeitgeist which Christians should be opposing. Creationism has made little progress in convincing the unbelieving world that God created the cosmos ex nihilo. At the same time, most creationists have jumped on the bandwagon of the quixotic quest against “racism” that has become so popular among ethno-masochistic whites. The message of Ken Ham and other organized creationists is that if one truly hates “racism,” then he must reject evolution as being intrinsically “racist.” But what if creationists like Ham were to change their tactics and align themselves with race realism? Certainly this would go against the grain of contemporary culture, but it would afford them an opportunity to point out the vast dishonesty of the mainstream scientific community on race, better enabling them to discredit that community on their Darwinism as well.
Few early Darwinists could have envisioned how the loss of the concept of purpose or teleology in nature would impact Western culture in such a harmful way. Prior to Darwin, most scientists studied nature to understand the purpose and function that God had wired into His creation. This applied to the study of taxonomy and racial classification, and comported well with what the Bible taught about God’s division of humanity along ethnic lines (Deuteronomy 32:8-9; Acts 17:26-27). Darwinism represents an attempt to explain the existence of life without a divine purpose or meaning infused into creation. The existence of distinct races, distinct species, and even life itself is a mere historical accident in the Darwinistic worldview. Instead of rejecting the existence of distinct human races as Darwinist, creationists should work towards educating others about how the existence of distinct races fits into God’s teleological plan. If creationists want to seriously demonstrate the weaknesses of naturalistic evolution, embracing race realism at a time when it isn’t fashionable to do so would be an excellent place to start.
Read Part 3: Darwinism’s Atheistic Implications
- This video is another helpful resource. ↩
- See Steve Sailer, “The Reality of Race” ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Neven Sesardic, “Race: A Social Deconstruction of a Biological Concept,” Biol Philos (2010) 25:143–162. The quote is on p. 152. ↩
- Witherspoon, D.J., et al. (2007), “Genetic Similarities Within and Between Human Populations.” Genetics 176:351–359. ↩
- First Word, “Ham on the Extent of Genetic Differences Between the Races” ↩
- If we consider proteins, the percentage is even more infinitesimal. The genes on the Y chromosome code account for about 23 genes, and the total number of proteins which humans possess is approximately 2 million. Even then, the number of proteins that actually determine gender are probably a smaller subset of these, Testis-determining factor (TDF) being one of the more prominent. ↩
- On the subject of miscegenation, see On Interracial Marriage: The Moral Status of Miscegenation,Christian Ethics and Interracial Marriage, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7, all by Nil Desperandum; Divorce, Miscegenation, and Polygamy: A Comparative Approach to Their Morality, Part 1 and Part 2, by yours truly; and Tim’s commentary on First Word, Mr. Ham Introduces Miss Egenation and Ham on Genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Christ. ↩
- For an excellent overview of secular Jewish influence on contemporary creationist thinking, read “An Unholy Alliance: Jewish Influence on Creationists.” ↩