The evolution of the Pokémon®

By Grant Williams

Images from Pokemon Elite 2000 Pokemon evolving

Pokémon®, for the uninitiated, is a craze that has swept school playgrounds across the world.  It started as a video game, became an interactive card game, morphed into a TV show, and spun off into eight (and counting) huge money-grossing movies.   Its popularity has boosted revenue for the Nintendo Company to some $7 billion worldwide and provided Mr Tajiri—the game’s inventor—with bountiful earnings. 

It has also sparked controversy.  The frenzy caused in some school playgrounds has seen it banned.  Stealing, addiction and class disruption have been blamed on the cards, and associations with the occult sometimes grab the headlines.  Whilst kids are enjoying these fictitious little creatures, they have aroused the ire of many adults!

In a bag of chips recently, I found an Action 3D EVOLUTION card.  On it was a character from the computer game Pokémon Stadium.  As I moved the card, the character morphed from one ‘evolutionary’ stage to the next.  I was fascinated to see Pokémon character Number 48—Venonat (a boggle-eyed hairy bug) ‘evolve’ into Number 49—Venomoth (a fluorescent pink-winged ‘moth with an attitude’).  Not sure if the life cycle of a moth was deemed ‘evolutionary’, I investigated further.  I bought more chips to get more cards.  Had Pokémon unmasked an obsessive tendency?

The Official Pokémon Handbook states:

Image from MyFavouriteGames.com Evolving into super saiyan
The Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game has Starter Card Decks and these have been re-released with slightly different cards since their initial release in the U.S.  This second set is known as the Evolution series.  The Dragonball Z card game has had a MUD (Multi-User Domain) multi-player online computer game developed from it that combines elements of role-playing on different planets.  It is called, predictably, Dragonball Evolution.  Trading cards for The Lord of the Rings even have their characters ‘evolve’ on double image designs in one of the card series.  Here Aragorn ‘evolves’ from a Ranger to the King, and Gandalf the Grey evolves into Gandalf the White.  The meaning of the term ‘evolution’ in society is certainly evolving.

 ‘Just like people, Pokémon don’t stay the same forever.  As they learn and grow they change form—they evolve.’ 

Pokémon creatures can have up to three stages of evolution and ‘evolve’ at different levels in the game.   These higher forms, into which the original characters evolve, are larger and more powerful.

In the mythic Pokémon world, these exotic creatures evolve differently from how life forms supposedly evolved on Earth.   Darwinian evolution is not presented here; chance and mutation are not part of the process. 

Where the Pokémon live, evolution proceeds through conscious choice!  After a Pokémon has fought and won enough battles, the next evolutionary step can be taken to produce a fiercer, more powerful Pokémon.  You can choose to evolve your character at that time or you can even ‘devolve’ your Pokémon if you wish. 

Some characters need a ‘stone’ to help with the process.  For instance, the cute little mouse-character named Pikachu needs a ‘Thunder Stone’ to evolve into Raichu, (a mouse with big pointy teeth that you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley!).

In this make-believe world where Pokémon flourish and evolution is carefully scripted, ‘higher’ life forms are created through the aid and choice of outside sources.  No need for Darwinian chance; you just need a few good battles to take the next step.  (You don’t even need death in the land of Pokémon because if a Pokémon is defeated it doesn’t die; it just faints, ready to rematch at a later date.) Want to become the pinnacle of your evolutionary kind?  Find an appropriate ‘stone’ and the next evolutionary step is yours! 

In science fiction terms the Pokémon game seems plausible, so evolution may have found another ‘credibility niche’ through the workings of children’s games.  While not teaching evolution at a rational level, it does tend to condition children into accepting as ‘normal’ the idea of massive biological change.  (It’s a bit like the slippery ‘bait-and-switch’ definitions that evolutionists used for the word ‘evolution’.) 

In the real world, of course, such transformations are not observed.  To change one type of creature into a radically different type requires a way to generate totally new genetic information.  Evolutionists have still not found any mechanism whereby evolution could pass this unassailable hurdle.

Perhaps Pokémon has finally provided the answer.  Is evolution observable, testable and repeatable?  Yes, but only in the world of the Pokémon.

Published: 30 January 2007