Darwin-L Message Log 5:161 (January 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<5:161>From ronald@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu  Wed Jan 26 19:40:23 1994

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 94 15:47:02 HST
From: Ron Amundson <ronald@uhunix.uhcc.Hawaii.Edu>
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: History of "adaptation" in historical linguistics

> There are examples in the
> natural theology literature of the 18th and 19th centuries where not only are
> organisms said to be adapted to the environment but also the environment is
> said to be adapted to the organisms through divine design.  Was there any
> tradition of "linguistic theology" perhaps corresponding to natural theology
> that made arguments like this with respect to languages?


> Bob O'Hara, Darwin-L list owner

I've been asked to write a paper involving the history of the concept
of _adaptation_, and this sort of historical material would be very
interesting to me as well.  Any pre-1800 citations of the word
'adaptation' and/or the concept would be greatly appreciated.  One of
the points I'd planned to make is that Darwin gave the first
principled argument by which the direction of adaptation (i.e. in an
environment/organism adaptive fit, what was adapted to what?) could be
finally determined.  Whewell in his Bridgewater Treatise claimed that
if you denied that plants' seasons were (divinedly) adapted to the
climate, then you had to affirm that the climate was adapted to the
plants' seasons.  Most of my examples of this (except for a bit of
Boyle and Ray) is post 1800.  Other citations would be welcome.

Ron Amundson

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