October 22, 2015

The myth of race

by Jesse Johnson

One of the most harmful effects of evolutionary theory is the concept of race. Despite having zero scientific validity to it, the idea that human beings can be categorized into general “races” that are supposedly connected to their biology has wormed its way into our world views. It needs to make a quick exit—stage left.

Thabiti Anwaybwile (pastor of Anacostia River Church in DC) said it this way: “Believing in race is like believing in unicorns, because neither exist.”

Certainly cultures exist. Certainly ethnicities exist. And certainly racism exists (largely fueled by the whole notion of race to begin with).

But unicorns do not, and neither does race.

Here is a definition of race, followed by four reasons you should evict the concept of race from your vocabulary and your worldview: 

“Race”

Dictionaries and biology textbooks define race this way: “Each of the major divisions of humankind, having distinct physical characteristics.” When different races are listed, they often consist of African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Native-American, Native Hawaiian, and other sub-sets. Hispanics are considered (by those who consider such things) to not be a race but to be a subset of White.

Race is distinguished from culture/ethnicity. Race is supposedly fixed, objective, genetic and scientific. Culture is flexible, subjective, linguistic and social.

Here four reasons why you should reject the validity of race as a concept:

Race goes against logic

There is no logical grid for race. If a man can trace his ancestry back 500 years in Africa, and then immigrates to the United States, does that make him African-American? How long does he need to be in the United States before he becomes “American?” If immigration can change his racial status, in what sense is it biological?

And does it matter if his skin is white? What race is he then? Or his kids?

I suppose exceptions like this used to be just that—exceptions to the fixed concepts of race. But in today’s world, those exceptions are the rule. From our President (what race is someone with a Kenyan father, white mother, born in Hawaii, school in Asia, but the president of the Untied States?) to our friends, multi-ethnic marriages are becoming the norm. The concept of fixed races has simply become illogical.

And while we are on “illogical,” how can Hispanics be considered a subset of Caucasian, when the entire concept of “Hispanic” is connected to the mixing of African slaves with Spanish and Native Americans? Plus, Hispanics make up 20% of the American Population! If a concept of race misses—by definition—at least 20% of the population, it is ceased to become functional.

Race goes against science

Simply put: there is no scientific evidence that human beings can be categorized in any meaningful way by genetics.

University of New Mexico professor (Go Lobos!) Susan Chavez Cameron wrote a 2011 article surveying the history of scientific inquiry into race. She concluded that humans share at least 99.8% similarities in genes, but that the last .2% diversity is not connected to traits normally associated with race. In fact, only about .0002% of genetic diversity fits into what we might consider “racially identifiable” characteristics.

Chavez Cameron goes on to say that genetic diversity is actually greater within racial groups than it is outside of them. She ends her article by saying the concept of race “itself is passe” and “leads to harm” in counseling, medical treatment, and other areas.

Eloise Menses, Anthropology Professor at Eastern, has written a similar article covering the anthropologic evidences that humans can be categorized by race. She concludes:

“Essentially all anthropologists have given up the attempt to identify races of human beings. This is very simply because the best evidence indicates that there are physically no clear boundary lines between the various communities of people around the world. All of the traits that distinguish human beings from one another are found in all communities, although in varying degrees.”

Collin Kidd, a professor at University of  St. Andrews and the author of The Forging of Races, examined all manner of genetic diversity in humans, trying to categorize people by skin color, height/weight, stature, enzymes, hair types, and even ear wax types (who knew?). He concluded that while people can be divided along those lines, those divisions do not produce anything close to our concept of race.

Which should be obvious. You can have two people stand up side-by-side, and they can look identical, but be two different races; there is no underlying genetic differences that validate our desire to separate them by race.

Race goes against history

Throughout history, the concept of race has been used to oppress people. Here is the logic: if you agree that different races developed differently, and that these differences are genetic, then the obvious conclusion is that they are not equal. And if they are not equal, then some races (or at least one race) must be superior.

This gives way to banning inner-racial marriages—after all, you have to guard the purity of the elevated race. This gives justification for slavery—if people are inferior, ought they serve the superior?

In fact, much of our culture’s current understanding of race can be traced back to the German doctor Johan Blumenbach. In the early 1800’s, he examined skulls from around the world and declared that there were five races (Caucasian, Mongolian, Ethiopian, Malay, and American). Blumenbach is the first that I know of to divide races by color (white, yellow, brown, black, red).  But he also argued that because of this diversity, a hierarchy must be established.

Well, it turns out that not only is the concept of a hierarchy based on skin color absent of any scientific backing, but it also is the source of much harm. That harm has been manifest in perhaps every nation of the world, and certainly one of the main evils in American history. While the harm of the past cannot be undone, eliminating the concept of race from our world view would be a good start.

Race goes against the Bible

If you believe in a historic Adam and Eve, then this should be a no-brainer.

The Bible makes it clear that we are all descended from Adam, and that we are all one blood. Every human being has the same genetic core, because we all have a common ancestor. Genesis 1:27 describes the creation of all humans, and 2:7 shows that his occurred through the physical creation of Adam. His name means “man” because we would all come from him.

After the flood, the earth is populated again, but this time with a different approach. All the genetic diversity of the pre-diluvium world was in Noah’s three sons, and the divisions at Babel can trace their roads back to the ark (Gen 10:1-6).

This is why Paul says that all people on the earth are really “one blood” (Acts 17:26; KJV). The Holman says it this way: “From one man he has made every nation.”

The Bible never uses the concept of race, but it does use the concept of ethnicity. God is glorified with there is diversity in the church. The gospel is powerful enough to transcend cultures, social classes, languages, continents, and centuries. Heaven will be a diverse place, and the diversity comes from the transcendent power of the gospel, not from genetic make-up supposed classes of people.

I know our culture treats race like an idol, but the emperor has no clothes, and underneath our skin and hair, we are all pretty much the same. Celebrate diversity of cultures and ethnic groups, but run far away from the idea that humans can be meaningfully divided by race.

 

Jesse Johnson

Posts Twitter Facebook

Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Brian Morgan

    Good stuff brother. Thanks for this clear outline. So, on the census options first shown, we pick “other” and write “human!” 🙂

    • Thanks Brian. This post is much more clear than my message Sunday night.
      I know you are partially joking, but I always answer the question as asked. I mean, a blog post like this is probably more persuasive than being obstinate to a straightforward question.

      • Brian Morgan

        Agreed! Thanks.

      • E S Gonzalez

        Respectfully (truly, truly), then, what’s the point? We’re supposed to DO something with the knowledge we obtain, no matter how small or great the opportunity.
        If you just fall in line and perpetuate the status quo, does it matter what you think contrarily (did I just make up a word?) about the issue?
        I don’t answer the question, but won’t fuss if it’s answered for me. That has actually happened. I submitted a form with that section unmarked, and the lady who accepted it from me, looked up, smiled, and checked Black/African-American. So it seems inconsequential to not fill it out, but it’s not to/for me. It’s important to me to at least try to live what I know.

  • Jason

    Great thoughts!

    Any classification sub-“biblical kind” is really fluid. Grouping people
    by physical characteristics may occasionally be valuable (for instance,
    height considerations can be helpful when picking the center for your
    basketball team), but the racial lines really only have ever served
    awful political purposes, though I’d never really considered the purpose
    of “race” as a concept before now.

  • Matthew

    It’s no accident that evolutionists don’t refer to the full title of Darwin’s book “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races.” Without evolution it’s difficult to have racism. https://answersingenesis.org/ has great resources on the topic.

    • E S Gonzalez

      I wonder how many evolution subscribers even KNOW the full title.

    • True dat.
      I remember when Ray Comfort printed those up, and gave them away to college students. I helped hand a bunch of them out at UCLA. The idea being that a strong argument against evolution is to read what Darwin actually wrote!

  • E S Gonzalez

    This is such a loaded subject and can grow all the more cono using for someone trying to get to the bottom of it bc there seem to be so many varying explanations/definitions for the terms “race,” ethnicity, culture, heritage, etc.
    Good grief! 😉
    I do agree though that race does not exist.
    But admittedly, sometimes I get tripped up by the distinctions we use.
    To help myself and maybe others, I think of it this way …

    Ethnicity: characterized by the sharing of physical features like skin color and hair texture.
    I have brown (moderately to highly pigmented, melanin-rich) skin and a tightly curled, wooly hair texture–though we often find spectrum variations even in people who are grouped in the same ethnicity family.
    I would argue I am part of the same ethnic family as Thierry Henry, Sidney Poitier, Desmond Tutu, Benjamin Totori, Voddie Baucham, etc. …

    Nationality: defined by the country in which one is born or holds citizenship.
    By this definition, I am North American.

    Culture/Heritage – I wonder if some would object to me listing these two together, but in my mind, they’re similar.
    C/H: characterized by social bonds and connections like, customs, food, music, language, history, etc.
    Culturally, I’m Haitian.

    The idea of race is troublesome because of the assumptions it makes and the fact that, really, it’s just a lazy way to engage with the world of people around us.

    You put them in a box without troubling yourself to learn anything about them–time and effort that could produce understanding and appreciation. That time and effort so seldomly taken and made, we’re left with the discord, prejudice, and even hate we see all around us.

  • tovlogos

    Honest report, Jesse. As you indicated, Adam and Eve, as wells as Noah’s story, ends it for me.
    The science of DNA also has proven, that all human beings come from a single female and male. Even evolutionists inadvertently agree; but they call Eve a gorilla named, Lucy.
    An evolutionist once told me that they have proven evolution. I said, Really, despite the lack of transitional types/missing links? He said, they didn’t need the links. I wondered how, with all of the life forms on earth, there could be no missing links littering every backyard on earth. He dismissed that and deferred to cosmology.
    So, just as the devil has an agenda, so do his people. The darkness that has enveloped this world is like a lubricant for the tares.

    • E S Gonzalez

      “… but they call Eve a gorilla named Lucy.” Lol
      The last time I talked with an evolutionist, I walked away humbled, gently reminded by the Holy Spirit that no man comes to the Lord lest He draws him/her. John 6:44
      I’d given an answer for every challenge he made and a challenge to every assertion, and, in the end, he called me a bigoted simpleton and maintained there’s no God.
      It’s not our show, I remembered. IF he’s marked for God, God will get him, no matter the encounter by which that occurs.

      • tovlogos

        Indeed, brother — once in a while it comes my way, but I don’t get involved in that, or I keep it very short if I’m asked a question. I prefer to recommend people who specialize in this area. God does have places for the diversity of His disciples.

        • E S Gonzalez

          I’m a “sister,” by the way … no harm, no foul.
          I’m sorry, it looks like I might have been unclear.
          The conversation that I mentioned above (with the evolutionist) was not so much about the”races” as it was a …
          “God doesn’t exist! And evolution proves it!”(him) vs “Yes, He does, and that THEORY proves not even itself!” (me) thing.
          Lol

          • tovlogos

            Yes, sister — perhaps I’m the one who was unclear; I had no misunderstanding of what you said.

          • E S Gonzalez

            Ah ok, very well then.

  • Jane Hildebrand

    Personally, I’m hoping that when we get to heaven we all look like middle easterners with those beautiful dark eyes, olive skin and silky black hair. Enough of this dry Irish, walk by a candle and set my hair on fire, stuff. 😉

  • Still Waters

    I realized how inadequate terms referring to race were when I lived in a country within the continent of Africa. Even in the rural village where I stayed, there were various tribes and languages – Berber, Tuareg, Fulani, Wolof, Mandinka, Serer, Bambara, Tukulor – each one distinct from the other, yet sharing common traditions. They recognized their differences, sometimes by good natured teasing, sometimes by negative stereotypes. While there, I was reminded of how my own hometown was made up of people of Scottish, Irish, English, and Dutch descent, and how we would say things about Scottish frugality or Irish tempers or Dutch cleanliness.

    Racial terms such as “African” or “Caucasian” ignore those other distinctions which actually can be more significant and, sadly, more divisive – witness the longstanding tensions between the Irish and English, or the terrible tragedy of the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. I look forward to the vision of Revelation 7:9: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,” (Revelation 7:9)

  • Pingback: 6-String Salvo, October 23, 2015 – Mike Lee()

  • Parker Reardon

    Hey, bro! You got a follow-up blog planned to wrangle w/ the unhelpful focus on “racial-reconcilliation”? Also, where’s the link to that sermon that I think you preached recently on this subject?:) Thanks, & press on in gospel-faithfulness!!

  • jeff

    Superb!

  • Nory

    Hi Jesse. Thanks for this article. Now I don’t feel so bad. I stated in my church -I am a preschool/kindergarten Sunday School teacher – that I did not like the song “Jesus Loves the Little Children” because there is only ONE race: The Human Race. I humbly refuse to teach or sing that song with my students.
    And just for the record, I was born and raised in Mexico. I tell people that I am an alien passing by and on my way home (Heaven).

  • Mauricio Baldanza

    Great article, Pastor Johnson. This is a subject we don’t hear Christians talking about. Maybe because they are affraid of stating the facts. I praise the Lord for your Ministry and clarity. May God continue to bless you there. Following you from Brazil via web!

  • Pingback: Just In Case You Missed It – October 21-24, 2015 | Worldly Saints()

  • Pingback: Mixed Race Studies » Scholarly Perspectives on Mixed-Race » The myth of race()

  • Warner Aldridge

    Great article brother!!!!!!

  • 4Commencefiring4

    What is your answer to this: If Genesis is true–and I trust it is–all of humanity descended from two original parents. After x number of generations, we have billions of people with distinct characteristics and distinct appearances that we call the races. So clearly, God allowed this diversity of human beings to emerge. To what end? He also allowed a wide variety of flowers, dogs, birds, primates, and fish to come along. (I don’t believe it’s necessary to think He created each variation separately, but that’s another matter.)

    I believe it makes for a more glorious and wonderful world, don’t you? I really hope the New Earth isn’t a place where all fish will be trout, all dogs bloodhounds, and all birds crows. I’m even happier knowing all models don’t look like Kate what’s-her-name, striking as she may be, or like Twiggy, striking as she wasn’t. It would be boring otherwise. What’s so wrong about acknowledging that it takes a lot of differences to make up a world? God must have had something in mind. Beauty? Seems to work.

  • Pingback: Things I have read on the internet – 6 | clydeherrin()

  • Pingback: Jesse Johnson – The Myth of Race | Servants of Grace Apologetics()

  • Pingback: Jesse Johnson – The Myth of Race » Christian Apologetics & Intelligence Ministry()