Organic Selection and Social Heredity: The Original Baldwin Effect Revisited


The so-called “Baldwin Effect” has been studied for years in the fields of Artificial Life, Cognitive Science, and Evolutionary Theory across disciplines. This idea is often conflated with genetic assimilation, and has raised controversy in trans-disciplinary scientific discourse due to the many interpretations it has. This paper revisits the “Baldwin Effect” in Baldwin’s original spirit from a joint historical, theoretical and experimental approach. Social Heredity – the inheritance of cultural knowledge via non-genetic means in Baldwin’s term – is also taken into consideration. I shall argue that the Baldwin Effect can occur via social heredity without necessity for genetic assimilation. Computational experiments are carried out to show that when social heredity is permitted with high fidelity, there is no need for the assimilation of acquired characteristics; instead the Baldwin Effect occurs as promoting more plasticity to facilitate future intelligence. The role of mind and intelligence in evolution and its implications in an extended synthesis of evolution are briefly discussed

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