The Science of Spore: Evolution

Spore has been followed throughout its development by many people interested in science, evolution, natural selection and other topics. It did provide some hope for these people that it might turn out to be a realistic game accurately portraying evolution, but now that it’s been released, is the science of Spore accurate?

The more important question really is “Did the game’s creators intend the game to be scientifically accurate?”, and the answer to that seems to be no.

As stated in commercials for the game, it is not attempting to portray realistic evolution, but more of a guided evolution they call “Creatolutionism”. There is nothing wrong with this, although it may be a disappointment to some players, but it can become a problem if the point is not clearly made that this is not a realistic portrayal of the way evolution actually happens.

Creationists often make fun of scientists, claiming that they believe in things like animals just suddenly sprouting legs and lungs and walking onto land. This is the antithesis of evolution, not a fair description of it. Unfortunately in Spore, this does appear to be what happens. Once you have completed the “Cell Stage”, you simply sprout the necessary appendages and organs, drop the unnecessary ones and walk out of the water fully formed.

The reality is, no complex life form naturally undergoes such radical changes in one generation. Such dramatic and instantaneous changes are clearly the product of engineering, in this case by the player and the game’s designers.

If we believed that evolution happened in this manner we probably would have to turn to some kind of god or designer, so when creationists manage to spread the idea that the theory of evolution does claim such giant leaps in a single generation, they actually start looking like the reasonable ones to some people.

It is also possible in most places to manually produce generation after generation of slightly modified creatures, as would happen if they were actually evolving, but most players will be happy to skip to the end result they want rather than attempting to make it appear as if their creatures are evolving naturally.

There is nothing wrong with this, and it probably makes a more fun gaming experience for most users. We just have to make it clear to everyone who doesn’t correctly understand evolution that the redesigning of creatures in Spore is not even close to the same as evolution in the real world.