Spore - Is it evolution, creation, design, play, all 4, none?


#1

Spore might be suitable for its own thread to discuss. As some playful teachers say to students in some circumstances: “Go nuts.”

It provides a great example as well as illustration for the guided vs. unguided, front-loaded vs. unloaded, epigenetics, concurrentist discussions. On the ‘good design/bad design/any design’ topic, it’s a bit boring. The guy speaking in one of the videos below is one of the game’s designers, after all. It’s just not Intelligent Design Theory built on the PR-advertised brilliance of the ‘Isaac Newton of information theory’ that helps us to understand agency that designs.

“Nurture your own creation … evolution as a sentient species” (if you’ve got 17 minutes for gameplay or click ahead to creature editing for main idea)
Spore - Gameplay - Beginning

“A wide variety of creatures you can create” - Will Wright, game designer (2 1/2 min)

This was the video sent previously in response to @Revealed_Cosmology telling of kids playing the game.

The game raises many questions relevant to this conversation. Sure, it is not Avida. Instead it involves a free will component that includes designing & making digital creatures. Each person will likely find their own point of contact with the game vis-a-vis Peaceful Science themes, even if they are not a ‘game player’. Just watch it like a video & skip to the main parts of interest to you.

If there are any mathematicians out there, can you come up with any idea of the total number of creatures that could possibly be created in this game, based on the combination of choices of size, shape, structure, type, etc.?

If you really want to stir the conversation about Adam for the digital era (as if telling atheist geneticists and naturalistic TEs that they shouldn’t turn their noses at Genealogical Adam weren’t simple enough!), this video will let you know “how to make a human” :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


#2

@swamidass’s related commentary regarding Spore in the other thread says:

“In general, it is usually a bad idea to try and understand evolution by making analogies to computer code, language, cars, human designs, computer games, etc. We fall prey to the Idol of the Theatre very quickly. Biology is “like” many things, but also very unlike all these things too.”


#3

Having actually played the game before, I can assure you it has very little to do with evolution in our world. Of that, I am entirely sure.


#4

It is a simulation of all four. That does not mean its a realistic one, but just the framework. It sells itself as “evolution” and maybe that is going on in the background but what the player is doing is ID/Creationism. That is what I see when I peak over my young son’s shoulder.

But if someone peaked in on that world without having the view of the player, could they tell that there was an intelligent designer fiddling with some of the creatures, or would they see the background algo that seems more like evolution?


#5

Well, yeah. Spore is about more than just biology, after all. It involves civilisations too. Space travel even. (!) It’s a popular game, that differs significantly from a science lab simulation. :face_with_raised_eyebrow: So I’m not sure what you mean by defining evolution so tightly as to exclude digitally simulating evolution if that is what you are implying. Or perhaps I am misunderstanding your “very little to do” comment.

It’s kinda more an imagination thing in this case than a ‘scientific’ thread. “Space: the Final Frontier … towards which we are evolving.” All the way to cosmogenesis as the Teilhardians might speak. It might not make a lick of difference to biologists or genomicists, but that of course is not the point.

I’m curious then if you do not admit even ‘digital evolution’ during the course of the Spore game, in your case as a player reporting on playing experience? Does the avatar evolve? Are there bad/good designs in Spore? Or are these non-organic things just outside of your natural scientific interest?

I am highlighting this because just as @Revealed_Cosmology notes there are digital simulations of evolution, which indeed require a different language (it would seem) from the strictly ‘regular’ biological or organic kind of natural evolution. It should be clear there is no intended infringement or some such thing on biology or genomics from Spore, nor does it ‘have much to do with’ (learning) biological evolution. To me it seems to merely open options to a new kind of conversation about the science, theology and even philosophy of ‘life,’ including but not limited to those 4 categories listed above. Maybe others who watch the videos will feel the same way.


#6

Levels: Cell --> Creature --> Tribe --> Civilisation --> Space


#7

Evolve in the broadest sense means change. So yes change is happening in this game, as it is in all games, and all systems that are not at equilibrium.

This game, however, does not model any plausible or believable mechanisms of biological evolution. A single individual can evolve from a cell to a sentient beast to a space fairer. A single individual. It is not intended to give insight into how evolution works. All it does dramatize the grand evolutionary story.

A good book on neutral theory or coalescent simulation would be much more appropriate. There is excellent and free software for simulating DNA sequence evolution too. Use that if you want to understand evolution better.


#8

That’s one way of looking at what it means to ‘evolve’. Doesn’t it more specifically mean a certain type of change, rather than all types of change, Joshua? Isn’t change the master category between the two?

I doubt anybody is arguing there is no ‘change’ happening in the game. So could you please clarify the relationship between change and evolution in your mind with the Forum, if you are going to insist there is no evolution involved in the game, contrary to what others think? That is an important part of the OPs message-as-question/invitation for discussion and debate without edicts and value in the example/illustration’s unique contribution.

Joshua seems to see Spore as ‘not a fantastic example’ for his main message (cf. Disclaimer), yet there it is as a popular video game that is ‘edutaining’ youth with this ‘dramatisation’ (well said Joshua) of both creation and evolution &/or ‘intelligent design,’ if one absolutely insists on calling it that. The elusive ‘irreducibly complex’ (EC/TE variant) mechanism of ‘human choice’ is of course part of this discussion somewhere, isn’t it?

“This game, however, does not model any plausible or believable mechanisms of biological evolution.”

Avida attempts that apparently with some success. Yet Spore is not Avida. So that point is conceded & shared between us. Yet no doubt Joshua would admit that having use in biology or for biologists is not the only (sola) thing that counts as a measure of value for points here in this case.

If you don’t see how IDC people speak of this, then be reminded of what @Revealed_Cosmology (who is not part of the IDC) said, “what the player is doing is ID/Creationism”. So is Joshua’s interest in the game or the player or perhaps in both? Biology does not usually bother with what ‘minds’ are thinking, such as players’ minds. This matters also for the discussion of ‘intelligence’ both in biological and digital entities.

He also asked:

“if someone peaked in on that world without having the view of the player, could they tell that there was an intelligent designer fiddling with some of the creatures, or would they see the background algo that seems more like evolution?”

Yes, they could most probably tell. With trained eyes, quite easily. What is being discussed as an ‘autopilot’ simulation (think self-playing piano if it helps) as a demo for how to play the game will look significantly different from how a new player plays or even experienced player games. Game worlds don’t exist in a vacuum. It’s a big industry. Huge. Lots of ‘design thinking’ there. Tons. That’s just not the ‘design thinking’ that the IDC includes, involves or represents.

Spore as a popular video game opens up several topics as a ‘popularisation’ tool for what many people think, even if just ‘colloquially,’ about evolution, which doesn’t exclude (d)evolving human civilisation from public discussion. Joshua’s board is just filled with many other topics right now! It may be helpful for reference again later. Thanks to @Revealed_Cosmology for raising the example.