Curriculum

‘Spore’ Plays Games With Evolution Theory

By Sean Cavanagh — January 16, 2009 2 min read
The new Spore computer game allows users to choose traits for living things to help them survive. Scholars caution the game is not a substitute for learning science directly.

A much-anticipated commercial computer game about evolution is getting a favorable response from some scholars, who welcome its interactive, engaging approach to the topic even though a few of its features sacrifice strict scientific accuracy to fun.

The game, called Spore, was recently released in stores across the United States. It gives users the ability to “evolve life,” or customize creatures by giving them traits that affect their ability to survive and prosper, as well as share their creations with a vast network of other game players.

Debates over how to teach about evolution, a foundational theory in the study of biology, have raged in schools for years. For a number of academic experts familiar with those debates who had heard of Spore or seen demonstrations of it, the game is a clever way to raise students’ interest in evolution.

But they also say that the game’s primary benefits are probably recreational, rather than educational, given some of the liberties it takes with the science of evolution.

Computer games like Spore “are a natural place for students to gravitate to,” says Joe Meert, an associate professor of geology at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, who covers evolution in his classes. He is a member of Florida Citizens for Science, a group that supports the teaching of evolution in public schools and opposes what it regards as unscienti?c alternatives to it.

“Even the things that it gets wrong, it could be a teachable moment,” Meert says. “Here’s something the game gets wrong. Why is it wrong?”

Spore was designed by Will Wright, known for having previously created popular games such as SimCity, which allows users to plan and build imaginary cities.

The evolution game allows users to create living things, from their inception as “pond scum” to fully evolved beings, by choosing advantageous features. Players can also build civilizations and entire worlds.

The theory of evolution, advanced most famously by Charles Darwin, posits that humans and other living things have evolved over millions of years through the process of natural selection—basically, survival of the fittest—along with random mutation.

In allowing students to control how a creature evolves, Spore employs a process of “external manipulation” that mainstream scientists would reject as unscientific, says Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, in Hammond, who has written extensively about the history of evolution study.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2009 edition of Digital Directions as ‘Spore’ Plays Games With Evolution Theory

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Engaging Young Students to Accelerate Math Learning
Join learning scientists and inspiring district leaders, for a timely panel discussion addressing a school district’s approach to doubling and tripling Math gains during Covid. What started as a goal to address learning gaps in
Content provided by Age of Learning & Digital Promise, Harlingen CISD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How to Power Your Curriculum With Digital Books
Register for this can’t miss session looking at best practices for utilizing digital books to support their curriculum.
Content provided by OverDrive

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Whitepaper
The Digital Transformation in Elementary Education
This white paper reports on the impact of this digital transformation, highlighting the resources educators are most likely to use, their...
Content provided by Capstone
Curriculum School Halts Use of Fictional Book in Which Officer Kills a Black Child
Fifth graders in at least one Broward County school were assigned to read a book that critics say casts police officers as racist liars.
Rafael Olmeda, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
5 min read
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board, Tuesday, March 5, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Broward County School Board member Lori Alhadeff listens during a meeting of the Broward County School Board in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Alhadeff told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she does not feel like the book "Ghost Boys" is appropriate for 5th graders.
Lynne Sladky/AP
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Whitepaper
Empowering Teachers for Student Success
Discover how teachers are effectively using databases with insights from educators who use Gale In Context: For Educators to collect, org...
Content provided by Gale
Curriculum Opinion Introducing Primary Sources to Students
Five educators share strategies for introducing primary sources to students, including English-language learners.
12 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty