Spore: Proof of Evolution or Intelligent Design?

Since the release of Spore, there have been articles and discussions on whether or not it presents a pro-evolution or pro-creationism (often termed “Intelligent Design” to sound more rational and scientific) viewpoint. Many science elements exist behind the scenes (and much left out to improve gameplay), but for the most part, you, the player, are the god of your creation and you form your species as you see fit.

It’s interesting, then, to observe that proponents on both sides of the evolution issue see Spore as an example that “proves” the correctness of their points of view. Many scientists are pleased that it can get people thinking about the ideas behind the evolutionary process: the appearance of new features, increased complexity over time, the role of reproduction, etc. The linear process displayed in the game – the emergence of intelligence and social skills – is not a necessary step in evolution, but perhaps a necessary crutch in a goal-oriented game to simulate the growth of a mighty galactic power based on the progress of a simple cell organism over millions of game-years. In no way do any of the scientists mentioned in the articles endorse the Spore method of evolution as reality, but they do feel the experience of seeing your creature change from generation to generation is useful on a basic level.

Those on the other side, creationists (aka Intelligent Design proponents), see it differently. In this article, the writer(s) believe that Spore effectively dismisses any issues with I.D. theory. Simply put, because you can design creatures in Spore, a game that has no mechanism for natural selection-based evolution, they can extrapolate that our own world is a product of design. This is circular logic on the article’s points 1 and 2, since there is no requirement to comply with “common ancestor” functionality and as long as you have a mouth with which to eat, you are not going to encounter any negative consequences and your species never goes extinct. Point 3 is more of a philosophical objection to Intelligent Design and although the premise is tempting, not one that can be easily explored. The article also fails to demonstrate how points 4 & 5 even apply to Spore and are just thrown in to dismiss the ideas offhandedly.

Interestingly enough, if Spore were a measure of our own reality, then we live not in a unified creationist universe, but in a chaotic cosmic pantheon of “good” and “evil” gods battling for galactic dominance. Oddly, the article makes no mention of this obvious, inevitable conclusion. It is humbling to know our true place in the universe.

The fact is, Spore doesn’t prove or disprove the concept of natural evolution. It does have evolution – change over time – but as an artificial “hand of god” needed to engage players. That Spore performs this process via Intelligent Design doesn’t refute natural selection, it just builds a better game. In the same way that the gameworld of The Sims doesn’t reflect our real society and the complexity of our relationships with others, Spore does not represent the only possibility of how lifeforms evolve.

In essence, the game Spore is about having fun. It’s about perceiving science as fun, not stodgy, cold and boring. It weaves the elements together well enough that there are no clear answers here about the nature of evolution vs. creationism. The fact that Will Wright managed to “fool” both sides of the camp is precisely why Spore is a great game, not a science project or treatise on life. In his own words, “A game like this can actually generate interesting, meaningful conversations between people. I think that’s the best thing it can do.”

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