How All Men Came from One Man
WHEN the apostle Paul was talking to a group of philosophers in ancient Athens, he declared: “[God] made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth.” (Acts 17:26) This harmonizes with the Genesis account of creation, which tells us that Adam and Eve were directly created by God, and were commanded to “become many and fill the earth.” (Gen. 1:28; 2:7, 20-22) Eve was to become “the mother of everyone living.” (Gen. 3:20) When we view the billions of persons on earth, with their striking differences in appearance and personality, we may say, ‘How could this be true?’
All over the earth we see a multiplicity of kinds of plant and animal life. By kinds we refer to created kinds, not what are commonly called varieties. The term “species,” originally referring to kinds, is sometimes loosely used with reference to varieties. These kinds are unrelated—for example, cats, dogs, horses. There are barriers that prevent their cross-mating or, more specifically, prevent their reproductive cells from uniting and functioning to bring forth a new kind. This is in harmony with the law that God established at the time of creation, that everything must reproduce “according to its kind.” (Gen. 1:11, 12, 21, 25) The Bible writer James, in an illustration, expressed the principle very simply, asking: “A fig tree cannot produce olives or a vine figs, can it?”—Jas. 3:12.
However, within the boundary of each kind, there is a great proliferation of variety. There are dogs and cats of all colors and sizes; and among flowers there is the begonia, which has so many varieties resembling other flowers that it is called the “mockingbird” flower. The orchid has some 4,000 varieties. These varieties have come about in the course of time because of the almost limitless number of combinations possible in plant life and among domestic animals, and many are brought about by human efforts through careful selection and mating. These humanly assisted types generally would not continue unless maintained under special conditions or in a greenhouse or a laboratory. None of these varieties is another kind; that is, it is not separated so far from the original that its reproductive cells are unable to combine with cells of other varieties within the same kind and produce offspring. However, difference in size among animal varieties may sometimes prevent mating naturally and may also cause difficulty in bringing the offspring to full term and birth. Nonetheless, such varieties are genetically of the same kind.
An illustration of what selective breeding may accomplish, and of its limitations, is found in cattle raising. In herds where high milk production is sought, cows with a good record of production are mated with a bull from a high-producing strain, often a bull from the same herd. The production is gradually raised from generation to generation. But eventually a serious weakness shows up, such as the cows’ beginning to lose their calves prematurely. The limit in selective breeding has been reached.
What is the basis for the producing of such a great variety within each kind? One of the first researchers to provide a partial answer was Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk living in the 19th century. Biology was of absorbing interest to him. He discovered by experimentation that plants and animals had factors in their genetic makeup that passed on certain traits from parent to offspring. Some traits are formed in a relatively simple manner, only a few genetic factors being involved. Others require the interplay of many factors. But there is a mathematical exactness in the probability that certain traits will appear with a regular, fixed frequency in the offspring.
Further research by other men and women led to the knowledge that each body cell of animal or plant has, among its thousands of intricate parts, a nucleus that governs the activity of the cell. The nucleus of each cell in an individual’s body contains small entities called chromosomes. Half of these chromosomes came from each parent. Therefore the basic characteristics or traits of an individual are an inheritance from his ancestors.
To be more specific, the chromosomes can be compared to slender threads or “bead-necklaces” that contain DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), along which lie the genes, which we could liken to the “beads.” The genes are chemical compounds that direct or “trigger off” the cell to build certain features. They are the carriers and transmitters of hereditary traits. One gene, or a group of them working together, may control eye color, or skin texture, or the making of a certain digestive juice, and so forth.
Mendel did not know all these things, but through his experiments came to the conclusion that all inherited characteristics are due to what he called “unit factors” or “elements” (now called “genes”) in the cells of all living things. He found that inheritance follows an orderly rule.
Mathematical Laws Govern the Genetic Process
Mendel found that some characteristics seem to depend on only one factor, or gene, transmitted by each parent. For example, in the flower called the “four-o’clock” a mating of red and white parents brought forth a second generation of all pink flowers. Then, by cross-pollinating, or mating, this pink generation among themselves, he produced a third generation composed of 50 percent pink, 25 percent red and 25 percent white flowers.
In plants and animals, some traits are “dominant.” That is, if one parent possesses a genetic factor, or gene, that produces a given trait in the offspring, it dominates over or overshadows the factor, or gene, contributed by the other parent. The submerged or repressed gene is called “recessive.” In the body cell of every human, for example, there are two genes, or factors, for hair color. (It is not quite that simple, but the principle can be illustrated here in an understandable way.) The gene for dark hair is dominant; the one for blonde is recessive. If one parent contributes a gene for dark hair and the other parent one for blonde hair, the “dark” gene will dominate, according to the mathematical proportion shown in the diagram on page 20. If both genes in an individual’s body cell are for dark, the person himself will have dark hair. If one is a “dark” gene and the other is “blonde,” the person will have dark hair, though it may be somewhat lighter, or possibly red. To be blonde, the person would have to possess in his or her body cells two genes for blonde hair.
Now, while the body cells contain two genes for hair color, in each parent’s reproductive cells one gene for hair color will appear, because the reproductive cell is a half-cell. Each parent, therefore, contributes a half-cell with its gene for hair color, to make up the baby’s body cell. There are four possible arrangements of the genes from the father and the mother: dark-dark, dark-blonde, blonde-dark and blonde-blonde. The child’s hair color will be governed by the combination transmitted.
What a person is as to appearance, or display of certain traits, is called his “phenotype.” What he is as to the genetic or gene makeup in his cells is called his “genotype.” In the diagram, it is seen that the probability of producing dark-haired children, if each parent has a “dark” and a “blonde” gene in his body cells, is three out of four (on a statistical average). The genotype of a blonde person is blonde-blonde (two blonde genes in his body cells). A dark-haired person’s genotype can be either dark-dark or dark-blonde (or blonde-dark), having either two “dark” genes or a “dark” and a “blonde” gene. The dark-haired person would not know for sure what his genotype is unless one of his parents was blonde, or if he had a blonde child.
Mendel also experimented with garden peas in which there are genes in one parent plant for producing smooth-round yellow peas and in the other parent genes for producing green wrinkled peas. The color yellow dominates over green and the smooth-round shape dominates over wrinkled. He found that the offspring were all smooth-round and yellow. But in mating these with one another Mendel got various results. His experiments revealed that the different gene factors combined to produce four varieties.
It was formerly supposed by some persons that, among humans, the heredity was in the blood. The thought was that by a “blending” process the child was intermediate between the two parents as to his appearance and other traits. In other words, the blood of one parent was “diluted,” as it were, by that of the other parent. The child, then, would have an appearance “halfway” between that of his parents. But this is not true. The inheritance is in the reproductive cells and not in the blood, so that, in a group of offspring, there are not only “in-between” types, but also types definitely having the same trait as one of the originals. Also, some types will resemble grandparents or great-grandparents more in certain respects than they resemble their parents. A child might, for example, display a characteristic or a talent that had been possessed by his grandfather but that did not show up in his father or mother at all.
Why Such Variety Exists
Now, all this heredity with its variations comes from the DNA in the reproductive cells. A gene is a small section of the DNA—in itself very complex. Each gene is made up of a string of chemicals arranged in a certain sequence, forming a “code” or “message” that directs the formation of a specific trait, just as words are arranged in various sentences to form phrases. There are thousands of genes—no one knows how many thousands—in the human cell. But let us assume, to be conservative, that there are only 1,000 genes (far fewer than the actual number) and that each gene has only two variants (producing different eye colors, and so forth). Then the number of different gene combinations possible in humans would be 21000. This number—two to the one-thousandth power—is beyond comprehension. It is far greater than the estimated number of electrons and protons in the known universe!
Contributing to the almost limitless variety is the following process: Each of the living cells in the human body contains 46 chromosomes. The reproductive or sex cells are formed by certain of the 46-chromosome cells splitting to form half-cells (called “haploid” cells), each containing 23 chromosomes. During the splitting or dividing process, the 23 chromosomes received from one’s father and the 23 from one’s mother pair up, or mate up. Each of the 23 chromosomes from one parent, bearing along its length genes that direct the building of the many specific characteristics in the offspring, lies alongside the corresponding chromosome from the other parent. Then, when the cell divides, one chromosome goes into one newly formed reproductive cell (actually, a half-cell) and its mate goes into the other half-cell. But in the process, they not only separate but often cross over and exchange parts. This makes the possible number of different combinations practically infinite. These processes account for the fact that a person may have a “double”—one who greatly resembles him in appearance—although major differences will be found in many respects. Only in identical twins can the same genetic makeup be found.
All Humankind One Family
Understanding the genetic principle, knowing how millions of variations occur, we can see why these variations exist, and that all, nevertheless, comprise one human race, one family. There are great differences in some respects, minor differences in most respects. But there is a sameness in human nature everywhere, and all can intermarry and have children. They are all of one kind.
Many of the more marked differences and combinations of distinctive traits are due to isolation of groups for long periods of time. This has come about because of barriers or segregation of certain groups due to geographical isolation or to artificial boundaries created by religious, social, national or linguistic differences. This isolation has caused certain characteristics or traits to be paired with others—for example, the dark skin and hair with the heavy facial features of many blacks, and the “yellow” skin and almond-shaped eyes of the Orientals. But these traits do not necessarily go together. For example, many blacks have small, delicate facial features. Occasionally one sees the above-mentioned features in other persons, but not so often paired together as among those who have kept within certain boundaries in their marriages for a long period of time, intermarrying with persons of their own area, tribe, and so forth.
Understanding the process of heredity, we can see why we all are imperfect—why all of us sin and die. How so? Adam, the father of all humankind, turned away from God, sinning and damaging himself. In Bible terminology, Adam “missed the mark,” fell short of the mark or standard of perfection he originally had. (Rom. 3:23) Having lost perfection, he could not pass it on to his children. The heritage he transmitted was not complete, but was weakened, damaged, an inheritance, not of life, but of death. The result is that “through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) Knowing that we all sprang from one father, inheriting imperfection through no fault of our own, should make humans more considerate and kind toward one another. However, this is not the general attitude.
A more important fact connected with this knowledge is that, since we all inherited sin and death from one common father, we can be delivered by the substitutionary sacrifice of one man. This one is Jesus Christ. God was his Father, with whom he had lived in heaven before coming to earth. He became a man by being born of a woman, miraculously.—Gal. 4:4.
About this, the apostle Paul writes: “Although [Jesus Christ] was existing in God’s form, [he] gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death.”—Phil. 2:5-8.
By undergoing these things, Jesus could give up his perfect human life as an atonement sacrifice for humankind. In this way, God, who loves his creation that he has made so intricately and elaborately, made provision to rescue mankind. The apostle also stated: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) Never having sinned and lost his perfection as did Adam, Jesus Christ is empowered by his Father to transmit this perfect inheritance of life to all who come to him in faith and obedience. He said: “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to do judging, because Son of man he is.”—John 5:26, 27.
Jesus Christ, endowed with this authority and power, can regenerate all who exercise true faith in this arrangement. Millions who will live on earth under his Kingdom rule will receive regeneration, including those then resurrected from the memorial tombs. That is why he taught his followers to pray to the Father: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10, Douay Version) Thus death inherited from Adam the sinner will be wiped out.—Rev. 21:4.
[Diagram on page 19]
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The cell—unit of life. Trillions of these make up our bodies. They differ in size, shape and function, but all have the same 46 chromosomes. (Most of these structures are enlarged for easier identification.)
[Diagram on page 20]
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Father and mother are blonde, possessing genes for blonde only
All children are blonde, each child receiving a blonde gene from each parent. One of 2nd generation marries a person with genes for dark hair only
All dark hair; dark dominates, but all carry the recessive gene for blonde. One of the 3rd generation marries a person with genes for dark and blonde
Dark dominates, but recessive factor asserts itself when two blonde genes come together
[Diagram on page 21]
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Mathematical laws govern the four o’clock flower. When the pink blossoms’ seeds are planted, flowers always appear in the proportion of one red, two pink and one white
[Picture on page 22]
Knowing that we all sprang from one father should make us more considerate of one another