Genes for skin color dispels biological notions of race

Scientists have pinpointed eight genetic variants that strongly influence pigmentation, genes that are shared across the globe. The research "dispels a biological concept of race."


For centuries, skin color has held powerful social meaning — a defining characteristic of race, and a starting point for racism.

“If you ask somebody on the street, ‘What are the main differences between races?’ they’re going to say skin color,” said Sarah Tishkoff, a geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Tishkoff and her colleagues showed this to be a profound error. In the journal Science, the researchers published a large-scale study of the genetics of skin color in Africans.

The researchers pinpointed eight genetic variants in four narrow regions of the human genome that strongly influence pigmentation — some making skin darker, and others making it lighter.

These genes are shared across the globe, it turns out; one of them, for example, lightens skin in both Europeans and hunter-gatherers in Botswana. The gene variants were present in humanity’s distant ancestors, even before our species evolved in Africa 300,000 years ago.

The widespread distribution of these genes and their persistence over millenniums show that the old color lines are essentially meaningless, the scientists said. The research “dispels a biological concept of race,” Tishkoff said.
Humans develop color much as other mammals do. Special cells in the skin contain pouches, called melanosomes, packed with pigment molecules. The more pigment, the darker the skin.

Skin color also varies with the kind of pigments: Melanosomes may contain mixtures of a brown-black called eumelanin and a yellow-red called pheomelanin.
Comment: See Ten Postulates on Race and ‘Caucasian’: " a completely ridiculous term":

  • There is one race: “[God] made from one man [Adam] every nation of mankind” (Acts 17:26) – Read about creation starting in Genesis 1!
  • Skin color differentiation is a false paradigm. Skin thickness varies from 0.5mm on your eyelids to 4mm or more on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. Color is literally “skin deep” and that’s not very deep!
  • All men (human beings) are made in the “image of God” (Genesis 9:6) and have intrinsic worth. This is true from the baby in the womb to the senile and aged cripple!

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