Pokemon fever has hit our household, as it can in even the best of families. For those readers who have been in solitary confinement for the last decade, Pokemon is a collectible card game with hundreds of little creatures that “evolve” from one bodily form to the next. The word “evolution” gets tossed around early and often.
Weirdly, I happen to invest a lot of time thinking about how to explain actual biological evolution to little kids. The result? My kids are world-class experts on the epic, shattering, and inevitable smackdown between Pokemon evolution and biological evolution.
And now, into the wrestling ring with my 10-year-old:
Mom: How much do you love Pokemon?
Son: A lot. Two kilothinks.* They have cool pictures and you can do a lot of things with them. I really get addicted to these kinds of games, and a lot of the kids in my class like Pokemon too.
Mom: What do you think about evolution? What is it?
Son: Evolution is when a creature’s body adapts to the environment surrounding it in a slow period of time. One creature might have a baby that was more adapted to its environment. So that creature would survive long enough to have babies. And its babies would either have better adaptability than that creature or worse adaptability. Through the years, every species would evolve to have whatever the first one had.
Mom: And what is evolution in Pokemon?
Son: When one of the creatures changes to be more powerful. It’s sort of the same concept except without the environment, and it happens in two snaps of a finger.
Mom: Is Pokemon evolution teaching kids about biological evolution?
Son: I don’t think so. Biological evolution is when a creature adapts to its surroundings, while Pokemon evolution is when a creature adapts to nothing in particular so that it can knock out other creatures.
Mom: There’s another big difference I’m thinking of too.
Mom: Pokemon evolution happens to individuals and real evolution happens to populations.
Son: Oh, RIGHT! Write that down!
There you have it folks. Straight from the next generation: Pokemon evolution has nothing to do with biological evolution!
Pokemon is SMACKED DOWN!
* A “think” is a unit of measure expressing how much mental energy or excitement something generates. Pokemon = 2 kilothinks. New book about monsters = 5 thinks. Cleaning out the cat litter = 1.5 microthinks.