Thursday, 29 August 2013

Pokémon Evolution: Ethics in a fictional world

Disclaimer: I know it's a game, but when has that stopped us from writing about issues as if they were a reality!

A PokeIntro

Pokémon has generated a lot of external controversy and by that I mean real life humanoids getting their knickers in a twist about certain elements of the game and the 'evils' it promotes.
Then there's actual issues that have resulted from Pokémon, primarily from the anime episodes. Be it the incredibly off-putting and somewhat racist appearance of Jinx, to the lovely gift of epileptic fits that poor Japanese children had to, seemingly, endure during the Porygon episode.

But what about the deeply philosophical and moral dilemmas that exists within the world of Pokémon and all the regions under the rule of who knows who? Yes lets dive in there and discuss what we all have been worried about for quite some time. PokéMorals, primarily the morals of evolution. No this isn't no Darwin v Creationism debate, so people on both sides can sit down, take a breather an have a cuppa tea.

The basics of evolution (in Pokémon)

According to Bulbapedia
"Evolution (Japanese: 進化 shinka) is a process in which a Pokémon changes into a different species of Pokémon. This change is not merely physical, however, as Pokémon of a higher evolutionary stage have different (and usually more powerful) base stats than their predecessors, may have different moves that can be learned, and sometimes change their types, though usually at least one of the types of the previous form is preserved."

The forms of Evolutionary stages go from Baby- Basic- Stage 1 - Stage 2 and so on. Some Pokémon have only a 2-stage transformation, while others have a typical 3 and then some have no evolutionary form, this applies primarily to Legendary Pokémon, but also to random Pokémon like Tauros,  Zangoose and of course Ditto.

Evolution in Pokémon can happen in a variety of ways. It seems that some Pokémon may evolve naturally, through winning battles and increasing their strength and experience. Much like in Dragonball Z, how characters will get stronger the more they win or specifically the more injury they sustain themselves, heal from and also beating the bad guys at the same time.

But that's how we know Pokémon that are captured and used in battle evolve, but it's unclear as to how wild variants, i.e FREE POKÉMON, evolve when they aren't under constant training and forced combat. We also aren't aware of whether all Pokémon come into existence as their first stage form or if some are simply born as a certain upgraded stage.
For example is every Pikachu actually first born as a Pichu or do some Raichu's magically appear in history.


So we know that through constant battle we can somewhat directly force a Pokémon to evolve, depending on their success rate, but there is another method and that's definately more direct.

Getting your 'Mon Stoned

Several  Pokémon can have their evolution triggered by contact with various special stones, that can be found sparingly throughout Kanto, Johto and the world at large. The most commonly known stones that we encounter in the early Pokémon games and episodes are Fire, Water, Leaf, Thunder and Moonstone. Moonstone is rarer, unlike the others in the list and are commonly usable only by Moon Pokémon such as Clefairy or Jigglepuff.

There is a well known episode of the anime series in which Ash has a Thunderstone and can evolve Pikachu into Raichu, an idea that Pikachu does not like one bit and in fact seems quite terrified off. Ash himself doesn't really want to do this, because he's afraid that Pikachu will lose his memories and when he evolves he'll become an entirely different creature as it were. Because of this bond between Ash and Pikachu, and that clearly Ash does not view his yellow electric fuzzball as merely a collectible battle winning rat, he does not force Pikachu to evolve.
But that isn't and won't be the case for many other Pokémon.

When you capture a Pokémon, it is primarily kept inside a Pokéball, transformed into energy, which to many seems like a form of enslavement, especially as no one really knows what the interior looks like.

Well you know what I mean!

I've always thought that the method of being able to transfer Pokémon into balls and via PC's meant that somehow Pokémon were not entirely organic or that they were transferred by a  particle breaking Star Trek beaming manner, which in itself seems like a somewhat risky, cruel life for what is essentially a living being that can be found everywhere in this digiworld.
But as I said, we don't know how those systems work exactly, but we do know that if you want to and it's applicable, you can force a Pokémon to evolve against it's will and thereby where does ethics come into this?

Is it right to force evolution on a creature, especially when a lot of the time we do it so we can win battles or because we are interested in changing the aesthetics of our captured mon?
Pokémon are not like average earth animals, they can clearly express themselves and their emotions. The Pikachu Thunderstone example above, proves that. So do humans have a right to force them to evolve if they clearly express their refusal to willingly allow this?

Everstone's are a somewhat tricky area in terms of whether it is right or wrong to use them. This particular stone is the pokequivalent to growth stunt medication. A Pokémon holding an Everstone cannot evolve at any  time, even if it hits and surpasses the required level to advance.

The fabled effects of prolonged exposure to an Evanescence stone

But while we might think that forcing evolution is somewhat morally wrong, can the same train of thought be applied to the opposite i.e halting any advancement in a Pokémon?


Ditto is an interesting Pokémon when we try and examine their biological purpose. Ditto has no prevolution or evolution. Ditto can transform into any Pokémon mimicing their powers as well and can be used to mate with a large selection of Pokémon to create an egg that can be hatched and turned into the Pokémon it mated with or a baby version. Again, preemptive breeding is something that is done in the real world among animals and generally not seen as a contrversial issue, but again, Pokémon can express themselves in more obvious manners.

Personally...I wouldn't touch it

Ditto is an singular example, but a valid one, that shows us that some Pokémon do not require being anything more than what they are. It can survive as it is and we don't know if it even requires food or nourishment. Stones do not work on Ditto, because there is nothing to be gained from it.


When Pokémon are captured in- game they must fight because well, that's the mechanics of the game, but in the anime world some Pokémon choose not to fight, though it isn't a large handful. Pokémon are apparently aware of your skills as a trainer and based on your badge collection, will respect you or not and pull of ordered attacks. Pokémon can express their feelings and yet it is the human who owns or encounters the Pokémon that has the final say.

If this was a real world issue and you'd swear it was the way I'm talking about it, would evolving Pokémon by any means that isn't natural and decided by them be right and justifiable? It's one thing to capture these creatures, keep a bunch locked in a Safari Zone purely to be captured by people for the giggles, but then when we have them in our grasp to decide to change their being, is another question altogether.

That being said, this dude was too high to care where he was at.

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