This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The word "adaptation" is coming into use by some writers on science, evi dently without a clear conception of its meaning. Thus a writer in the American Naturalist says, "I have seen humming-birds visit the columbines, and they seem especially adapted to fertilize them." In any fair construction of this expression it would mean that there was some special design by which the organs of the humming-bird and the structure of the Aquilegia should be fitted to each other. But the writer could not seriously mean this, for he would remember that the Aquilegias are "adapted" to boreal regions, while the humming-birds are "adapted" to sub-tropical climes, where aquilegias do not exist. Even in garden culture most of the spring flowering Aquilegias are overblown long before the humming-bird arrives, and the ones seen in the columbines must have found only a few belated flowers. If we are to understand "adaptation" in the same sense as we might say a rattan is adapted to an offender's back, there might be no objection; but when the word is used by teleologists, the general intention is to impress us with some special design or mutual relation between the means and the end, - that one was in some sense specially created for the other.
Scientists, above all others, should be careful in the choice ot words.