Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Paradox of Spore: New Game Offers Intelligently Directed Evolution

On Friday, September 5, the highly anticipated video game Spore will be unleashed into the wide world.

What is Spore? Here are some details from the official game web site ...

"How will you create the universe?

With Spore you can nurture your creature through five stages of evolution: Cell, Creature, Tribe, Civilization, and Space.

CREATE Your Universe from Microscopic to Macrocosmic - From tide pool amoebas to thriving civilizations to intergalactic starships, everything is in your hands.

EVOLVE Your Creature through Five Stages - It’s survival of the funnest as your choices reverberate through generations and ultimately decide the fate of your civilization."

What I find amusing and paradoxical about Spore is the fact that although its underlying principles support naturalistic evolution, a process that supposedly occurs as a result of undirected time and chance, those who play Spore are using intelligence to direct the game and, in turn, direct evolution.

I find this quite ironic. In an age of the common denigration of Intelligent Design as being merely "creation science" in a new guise, here we have a mainstream game sure to sell multiple millions of copies, supporting evolution, but at the same time ironically and paradoxically requiring intelligent designers - gamers - to evolve creatures.

Am I the only one who finds this amusing? It reminds me of the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment where scientists attempted to demonstrate that life and, hence, intelligence, could come as a result of electrical sparks interacting with gases in earth's atmosphere. This was supposed to support the position that the origin of life could be explained by chance, time, and the right mixture of conditions and elements.

But one flaw in the experiment was the fact that it was being guided by intelligences (namely, the scientists conducting the experiments). There are other reasons for the flawed Miller-Urey experiment that I won't get into here, but interested readers can get a quick overview in the book Icons of Evolution.

At any rate, Spore will allow us, intelligent beings, to direct evolution, a supposedly naturalistic process that works through chance, time, natural selection, genetic mutations, etc. At best, Spore would seem to offer a form of theistic evolution, but not naturalistic evolution that excludes the supernatural.

The real question here is, does the universe show evidence of intelligent design or not? I think it does. Specified complexity at microscopic levels is one line of argumentation supporting the reality of intelligence being the ultimate cause of designed life.

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