Thursday, September 20, 2012

Darwin the New Pokemon Master?

Social Darwinism is no fun. So why are we talking about it?

Well, partly because I love this little comic:

...and, partly because it's still a part of our history.

So, what the heck is Social Darwinism? Basically, it's Darwin's ideas about evolution being mis-applied to race. Quite a while ago when Darwin first came out with his ideas, it became all the rage to believe in what he was saying. High-society, fashionable white folks talked about Darwinism at their tea parties and giggled over how radical it was.

But they also found it incredibly useful. You see, they need a reason to dislike people who weren't like them... besides the fact that they weren't like them. They latched onto Darwinism, edited it a little, and came up with Social Darwinism. To them, non-whites somehow deserved their position in society (think "slavery") because of an inferior mental status. To Social Darwinists, the fittest would survive, and the fittest were white.

What does this have to do with Pokemon? Well, Pokemon is actually a very good metaphor for Social Darwinism. In the various Pokemon region there are now over 600 Pokemon. That is an incredible amount of genetic diversity. Even if we take only the original 151 Pokemon, we are still getting a wide variety. Everything from the lowly Caterpie to Mewtwo is represented. Pokemon can even interbred across species lines, leaving us to wonder just how genetically similar they are.

Trainers engage in epic Pokemon battles to determine who has the biggest Matapod. And almost always there is a Pokemon that comes out on top as a clear winner. Sometimes it's due to a higher level, other times luck, and even type advantage. In every case some might say it was that Pokemon's "right" to win the fight. The other Pokemon deserved its loss because it could not survive in a battle of the fittest.

Darwin would probably have a lot to say to those who invented Social Darwinism. He would probably find the world of Pokemon very interesting as well. Think about the diversity of life next time you play Pokemon, or step outside (whichever comes first).

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