RandomAccess asks:

Already shared this with you on Twitter, but figured it might make an interesting topic here. – https://twitter.com/RandomA37679047/status/1511494132375597056?s=20&t=miVusNi5oPHW3vPZpapXWw Thoughts?

And the linked image:

ohhhhhhhhhhh godddddddddddd

So… my first thought was, on the Cleffa/Clefairy issue, “well, they don’t know how evolution works, or why some Pokémon evolve and others don’t, but obviously they know when it’s happening, because all Pokémon media portrays evolution as a very sudden and rapid change, usually heralded by weird freaky glowy $#!t.” But then I thought again. Would they always necessarily know what is evolution and what isn’t? I think most of the time they probably do, because of the weird freaky glowy $#!t. But assuming they can’t see a Pokémon’s level like we can (let alone if we imagine a world running on something closer to anime rules, where evolution seems to run as much on psychological factors as on battle experience), it’s probably extremely difficult to observe evolution in a lab for all but a handful of species. In order to know that Cleffa is not just a small Clefairy, you’d need to have seen the weird freaky glowy $#!t – which happens at unpredictable times for unclear reasons – or had quite a few trainers report to you that they had seen the weird freaky glowy $#!t. And Pokémon do all kinds of different weird freaky glowy $#!t, so unless you actually have good before-and-after photos and measurements of your Cleffa/Clefairy, other scientists who haven’t seen it firsthand might not feel that eyewitness testimony was sufficient proof. I think this is a less intractable problem than a lot of real taxonomic debates, though, because at least there is definitely a right answer. Pokémon evolution is a distinct supernatural phenomenon that either is or isn’t happening, whereas even the basic concept of “species” in the real world is kind of muddy and isn’t always a good reflection of how different animals actually interact with each other (let alone plants, fungi or, Arceus forbid, bacteria). In the present day they probably have this pretty solidly figured out for most species, and honestly I think the advent of personal video recording technology was probably a huge deal for that; even a few decades in the past it would have been more difficult to gather enough evidence to be considered reliable.

The bigger problem is, just generally I don’t think you could even do taxonomy in the Pokémon world in the way that we do in the real world, with cladistics and a “tree of life” and all that $#!t, because Pokémon can all fµ¢£ing breed with each other in a complicated interconnected web that suggests they’re almost all pretty closely related to each other. Like, how do you even begin to conceptualise an evolutionary lineage for, say, Pikachu as a species when you literally own a Pikachu whose father you know, for a fact, was a Glalie and whose grandfather was a fµ¢£ing Stonjourner? Obviously Pokémon breeding doesn’t work like real animal reproduction, but I don’t think we’re ever likely to get any official statement on what’s going on there beyond what we can extrapolate from the game mechanics, so I think this is all just down to what assumptions you choose to make.

And types. Fµ¢£ing types. Types are either a) vague handwavey bull$#!t that humans made up so trainers could memorise them and have a rough idea of which moves are good against which Pokémon, or b) representative of a fundamental truth about how physics works in the Pokémon universe. I don’t think there’s any in-between and I’m not even sure whether the in-universe scientists know which one it is. Because – and I know I’ve said this somewhere else before but it’s worth saying again – it’s obviously nothing to do with evolutionary lineage, right? For one thing, again, evolutionary history is impossible to even conceptualise for Pokémon based on what we know about their reproduction. For another, even ignoring that… we have the Eeveelutions, Pokémon of eight different types that are all more closely related to each other than to other Pokémon of the same type; we also have Pokémon with regional forms that are basically “sister species” to one another but have different types. So there is no “common ancestor of all Fire-types” or whatever; that’s just transparently not how this works on any level. Taxonomy and evolutionary biology have no business trying to figure out how types work. But at the same time, there’s bound to be a sort of institutional bias towards treating Pokémon of the same type as one “family,” because that’s how trainers work with them; most of the strongest trainers are type specialists and Pokémon biologists work closely with trainers as their field agents. And how do you decide what type a newly discovered Pokémon is, anyway? You can’t see a Pokémon’s level, stats or current HP; you can’t just observe a battle, plug numbers into a damage formula and calculate which moves are doing double damage. You probably have some intuition about what type a Pokémon looks like it should be, and an experienced trainer would probably have some intuition about which moves are working better or worse than usual against it. A new type is just some Pokémon that makes you go “fµ¢£, I dunno, it doesn’t match anything on the chart; what do we do?” and when you present those results, someone’s going to insist that you did the tests wrong, or that it’s actually the move you were using that’s a new type, or that one of the Pokémon you used has an undocumented ability that’s making it behave unexpectedly.

And the one in the tags, about Vanilluxe and how it interacts with the history of frozen desserts, that one would be intractable for academic culture reasons, because a lot of the research would be done by either historians who don’t know anything about science, or scientists who know a tiny bit about history and think they’ve solved it. So that’s fun.

6 thoughts on “RandomAccess asks:

  1. “Obviously Pokémon breeding doesn’t work like real animal reproduction, but I don’t think we’re ever likely to get any official statement on what’s going on there beyond what we can extrapolate from the game mechanics”

    And whenever we do get an official statement, it’s specifically calculated to !@#$ with us by answering none of our questions while raising several more. Yes, I’m talking about the “they aren’t really eggs” guy. !@#$ that guy.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I maintain my stance that it makes MORE sense if they aren’t actual “eggs” as we’re familiar with, both visually (either all identical across species or distinctly patterned by species?), ontologically (nobody’s seen one laid), and functionally (we can put them in the PC)
      Rather, I think they’re an unacknowledged stage of Pokemon evolution that are formed externally by the two parents. Pokemon don’t give birth, they create offspring.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The Electric Tale of Pikachu actually touches up on that.

    According to it Pokemon are the same species and Masuda in an interview seems to back that idea up.

    https://www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2016/07/13/pok-233-mon-39-s-burning-questions.aspx

    In the same way humans in our world are a type of animal, are humans in the Pokémon world a form of Pokémon?

    Masuda: Humans are definitely separate from Pokémon. The way you think about it is different than how we think about animals in relation to humans on Earth. For example, on Earth we have mammals and reptiles all these different categories. In the world of Pokémon, they are all Pokémon. We don’t really categorize them in exactly that way. It’s kind of a different way of looking at it. So yeah, humans are definitely separate from Pokémon. For example, humans can’t learn four different moves like a Pokémon can.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This gets weirder when you get into more supplementary material like the Japan-only Pokedex book released during the first games that goes way deeper into how Pokemon operate. It notes that not only do real world animals exist in the Pokemon universe, but some Pokemon evolved from real-world animals, and even vice versa! It touches on some obvious things like Vulpix having evolved from actual foxes, no surprises there, but then it throws a curveball and says Kabuto eventually evolved into modern day turtles. which is… wtf…

      Liked by 1 person

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