- Our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. [Martin Luther King, Jr.]
- (Man is) a tool-making animal. [Thomas Carlyle via Benjamin Franklin]
- It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change. [attributed to Charles Darwin]
People like being comfortable. Changing circumstances that upset our routines can be upsetting.
The ability to adapt to changing circumstances is essential to human welfare and, as Dr. King observed, to our survival. If we cannot adapt to changing circumstances, it is as though we expect the world to conform to our expectations, when in reality we must conform our behavior to the circumstances around us.
Context is essential. The propagandist has adapted to prevailing prejudices and may turn them to her personal and short-term advantage but that success is rarely good for the whole community. Humans have subdued the earth, after a fashion, but our “success” may be our undoing.
Adaptability is the fruit of openness. Its main relations are to time and changing circumstances. Only when we have mastered the ability to adapt are we truly ready to face the world on its own terms, as it is.
As is obvious from the wealth and content of scholarly literature on this subject, adaptation is a key concept in the dynamics of life. It describes how evolution operates as a result of environmental changes. This distinguishes it from that branch of evolution that addresses mutations and other changes within the evolving species or system. Thus, the study of adaptation is a branch of evolutionary science.
Adaptation is central to human history and prehistory. We have long known that our technology threatens to outrun our ability to cope with it. The absence of adaptation theory from our educational curricula in late primary and secondary schools is a tragic and shameful oversight.
- Lee Cronk, Napoleon Chagnon and William Irons, Adaptation and Human Behavior: An Anthropological Perspective (Aldine Transaction, 2002).
- G.A. Harrison and Howard Morphy, eds., Human Adaptation (Oxford University Press, 1993).
- Emilio F. Moran, Human Adaptability: An Introduction to Ecological Anthropology (Duxbury, 1979).
It is key to psychological health.
- Sarah Honn Quales and Norman Abeles, eds., Psychology and the Aging Revolution: How We Adapt to Longer Life (American Psychological Association, 2000).
- Donald J. Cohen and Dante Cicchetti, eds., Developmental Psychopathology: Theory and Method (Volume 1); Developmental Neuroscience (Volume 2); Risk, Disorder, and Adaptation (Volume 3) (Wiley, 2006).
- L. Alan Sroufe, Byron Egelund, Elizabeth A. Carlson and W. Andrew Collins, eds., The Development of the Person: The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaptation from Birth to Adulthood (The Guilford Press, 2005).
- David Vision and Mutiya Vision, Adapt (Soul Vision Works, 2005).
- Richard S. Lazarus, Emotion & Adaptation (Oxford University Press, 1991).
- John P. Wilson, Zev Harel and Boaz Kahana, eds., Human Adaptation to Extreme Stress: From the Holocaust to Vietnam(Springer, 1988).
- Regina Lederman and Karen Weis, Psychosocial Adaptation to Pregnancy: Seven Dimensions of Maternal Role Development(Springer, 2009).
- Vanessa S. Castro, Acculturation and Psychological Adaptation (Praeger 2003).
It is essential to anyone in pursuit of a new venture, such as a college or graduate level education.
- G.W. Bernard, Studying at University: How to Adapt Successfully to College Life (Routledge, 2003).
- Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry Committee on the College Student, Helping Students Adapt to Graduate School: Making the Grade (Routledge, 2000).
- George E. Vaillant, Adaptation to Life (Little, Brown, 1977).
Immigrants face adaptation challenges. Those who expect the challenges and are open to meeting them will often succeed.
- Min Zhou and Carl L. Bankston, Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States (Russell Sage Foundation, 1998).
- Mary C. Waters, Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities (Harvard University Press, 2000).
- Boaz Kahana, Zev Kamal and Eva Kahana, Holocaust Survivors and Immigrants: Late Life Adaptations (Springer, 2005).
- Moses O. Biney, From Africa to America: Religion and Adaptation Among Ghanian Immigrants in New York (NYU Press, 2011).
- Young Yun Kim, Becoming Intercultural: An Intgegrative Theory of Communication and Cross-Cultural Adaptation (Sage Publications, 2000).
- Raynel M. Shepard, Cultural Adaptation of Somali Refugee Youth (LFB Scholarly Publications, 2008).
- Catherine Simpson Bueker, From Immigrant to Naturalized Citizen: Political Incorporation in the United States (LFB Scholarly Publications, 2006).
- Reema Zaman, I Am Yours: A Shared Memoir (Amberjack Publishing, 2019): “Zaman can write beautifully about the frustration and pain of being a woman in a man’s world, an immigrant in a world suspicious of outsiders. In the States she finds not only the promise of liberation, but also its opposite. A colleague rapes her; a man she has trusted. She decides to keep the assault to herself. ‘I cannot jeopardize my chances at staying in America, she explains.”
Social systems are adaptive.
- John H. Miller and Scott E. Page, Complex Adaptive Systems: An Introduction to Computational Models of Social Life(Princeton University Press, 2007).
- Walter Buckley, Society - A Complex Adaptive System (Routledge, 1998).
- Timothy A. Mousseau and Charles W. Fox, Maternal Effects as Adaptations (Oxford University Press, 1998).
- A. Roberto Frisancho, Human Adaptation and Accommodation (University of Michigan Press, 1993).
- Robert M. Young, Mind, Brain, and Adaptation in the Nineteenth Century: Cerebral Localization and Its Biological Context from Gall to Ferrier (Oxford University Press, 1990).
- Ang Yan and Yin Shan, Intelligent Complex Adaptive Systems (IGI Publishing, 2008).
- Ang Yan and Yin Shan, Applications of Complex Adaptive Systems (IGI Publishing, 2008).
- Ann Black and Gary S. Bell, Law and Legal Institutions of Asia: Traditions, adaptations and innovations (Cambridge University Press, 2011).
- Anthony J. Marsella, Ayda Aukahi Austin and Bruce Grant, eds., Social Change and Psychosocial Adaptation in the Pacific Islands: Cultures in Transition (Springer, 2005).
- Homa Bahrami and Stuart Evans, Super-Flexibility for Knowledge Enterprises: A Toolkit for Dynamic Adaptation (Springer, 2010).
- Judee K. Burgoon, Lesa A. Stern and Leesa Dillman, Interpersonal Adaptation: Dyadic Interaction Patterns (Cambridge University Press, 1995).
- Colin M. Turnbull, The Mbuti Pygmies: Change and Adaptation (Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1983).
- Glenn Petersen, Traditional Micronesian Societies: Adaptation, Integration, and Political Organization (University of Hawaii Press, 2009).
- Rosalind L. Hunter-Anderson, Prehistoric Adaptation in the American Southwest (Cambridge University Press, 1986).
- Diane Ackerman, The Human Age: The World Shaped By Us (W.W. Norton & Company, 2014): “ . . . spotlights ‘our medicine cabinet of good ideas’ as we face the complex challenges of accelerated adaptation. The book becomes a paean to ingenuity, to the power of science, technology and engineering to make the unthinkable material.”
Technology is an adaptation.
- Kathy D. Schick and Nicholas Toth, Making Silent Stones Speak: Human Evolution and the Dawn of Technology (Simon & Schuster, 1993).
- Richard G. Klein, The Human Career: Human Biological and Cultural Origins (University of Chicago Press, 2009).
- Anthony T. Boldurian and John L. Cotter, Clovis Revisited: New Perspectives on Paleoindian Adaptations from Blackwater Draw, New Mexico (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 1999).
- H.G. Brack, ed., Handbook for Ironmongers: A Glossary of Ferrous Metalurgy Terms: A Voyage Through the Labyrinth of Steel- and Toolmaking Strategies 2000 BC to 1950 (Pennywheel Press, 2008).
Systems of thought evolve, including thinking about evolution.
- Timothy Shanahan, The Evolution of Darwinism: Selection, Adaptation, and Progress in Evolutionary Theory (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
- J.E.R. Staddon, Adaptive Behavior and Learning (Cambridge University Press, 1983).
Competitive adaptation occurs when two systems compete against each other for advantage.
- Michael Kenney, From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007).
- Steven W. Hook, ed., Comparative Foreign Policy: Adaptation Strategies of the Great and Emerging Powers (Prentice Hall, 2001).
Language and literature are an adaptive systems, including fiction.
- Nick C. Ellis and Diane Larsen-Freeman, eds., Language as a Complex Adaptive System (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).
- Patsy M. Lightbrown and Nina Spada, How Languages Are Learned (Oxford University Press, 2006).
- Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (Belknap Press, 2010).
Adaptation occurs naturally through the evolutionary process. Adaptation through biological evolution favors the species, not the individuals within the species.
- Michael R. Rose and George V. Lauder, eds., Adaptation (Academic Press, 1996).
- Geerat J. Vermeij, The Evolutionary World: How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civilization (Thomas Dunne Books, 2010).
- George C. Williams, Adaptation and Natural Selection: A Critique of Some Current Evolutionary Thought (Princeton University Press, 1967).
- Kurt Schmidt-Nielsen, Animal Physiology: Adaptation and Environment (Cambridge University Press, 1997).
- Julius van der Werf, Hans-Ulrich Graser, Richard Frankham and Cedric Gondro, eds., Adaptations and Fitness in Animal Populations: Evolutionary and Breeding Perspectives (Springer, 2008).
- Maurice A. Tauber, Catherine J. Tauber and Sinzō Misaki, Seasonal Adaptations of Insects (Oxford University Press, 1985).
- Colin Little, The Colonisation of Land: Origins and adaptations of terrestrial animals (Cambridge University Press, 1984).
- Alvin Silverstein, Virginia B. Silverstein and Laura Silverstein Nunn, Adaptation (Twenty-First Century Books, 2007).
- John C. Fleagle, Primate Adaptation and Evolution (Academic Press, 1998).
- Michael J. Angilletta, Jr., Thermal Adaptation: A Theoretical and Empirical Synthesis (Oxford University Press, 2009).
- George A. Feldhamer, Lee A. Drickamer, Steven H. Vessey, Joseph H. Merritt and Carey Krajewski, Mammalogy: Adaptation Diversity Ecology (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).
- Alexandra van der Geer, George Lyras, John de Vos and Michael Dermitzakis, Evolution of Island Mammals: Adaptation and Extinction of Placental Mammals on Islands (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).
- J.G.M. Thewissen and Sirpa Nummela, Sensory Evolution on the Threshold: Adaptations in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates(University of California Press, 20o8).
- Peter W. Hochachka and George N. Somero, Biochemical Adaptation: Mechanism and Process in Physiological Evolution(Oxford University Press, 2002).
- John Dawson and Rob Lucas, The Nature of Plants: Habitats, Challenges, and Adaptations (Timber Press, 2005).
- Mary E. Glenn and Marina Cords, eds., The Guenons: Diversity and Adaptation in African Monkeys (Springer, 2003).
- David C. Culver, Thomas C. Kane and Daniel W. Fong, Adaptation and Natural Selection in Caves: The Evolution of Cammarus minus (Harvard University Press, 1995).
- Ann B. Butler and William Hodos, Comparative Vertebrate Neuroanatomy: Evolution and Adaptation (Wiley-Liss, 2005).
- John A. Byars, American Pronghorn: Social Adaptations & the Ghosts of Predators Past (University of Chicago Press, 1998).
- Bobbie Kalman, How Do Animals Adapt? (Turtleback, 2000).
- Bobbie Kalman, Camouflage: Changing to Hide (Crabtree Publishing Company, 2005).
- Joanne Settel, Exploding Ants: Amazing Facts About How Animals Adapt (Atheneum, 1999).
- Alessandro Minelli and Maria Pia Mannucci, Surviving: How Animals Adapt to Their Environments (Firefly, 2009).
The seeds of adaptation are in nature, of course. By their nature, organisms have a capacity to adapt.
- Gary William Flake, The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems, and Adaptation (MIT Press, 1998).
- W. Mitchell Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos (Simon & Schuster, 1992).
- John Holland, Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity (Perseus Books, 1995).
- John Holland, Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems: An Introductory Analysis With Applications to Biology, Control, and Artificial Intelligence (MIT Press, 1992).
We humans have the capacity to adapt, or direct the evolution of other organisms, as a matter of choice.
- Jay Schulkin, Cognitive Adaptation: A Pragmatist Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
- David J. Ortner, How Humans Adapt: A Biocultural Odyssey (Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press, 1983).
- Lloyd T. Evans, Crop Evolution, Adaptation and Yield (Cambridge University Press, 1993).
Our technologies pose new adaptive challenges and may outrun our capacity to adapt to them.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (Cambridge University Press, 2008).
- Peter H. Kahn, Jr., Technological Nature: Adaptation and the Future of Human Life (The MIT Press, 2011).
- Kirkpatrick Sale, After Eden: The Evolution of Human Domination (Duke University Press Books, 2006).
- C.G. Nichols Mascie-Taylor and Lyliane Rosetta, eds., Reproduction and Adaptation: Topics in Human Reproductive Ecology(Cambridge University Press, 2011).
- Kristie L. Ebi, Ian Burton and Glenn McGregor, eds., Biometeorology for Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change(Springer, 2009).
- Rob Roggema, Adaptation to Climate Change: A Spatial Challenge (Springer, 2009).
- Bettina Menne and Kristie L. Ebi, eds., Climate Change and Adaptation Strategies for Human Health (Steinkopf, 2006).
- Robert O. Mendelsohn and Ariel Dinar, Climate Change and Agriculture: An Economic Analysis of Global Impacts, Adaptation and Distributional Effects (Edward Elgar Pub., 2009).
- Ryo Fujikura and Masato Kawanishi, Climate Change Adaptation and International Development: Making Development Cooperation More Effective (Earthscan Publications, 2011).
- Fulco Ludwig, Pavel Kabat, Henk van Shaik and Michael van der Valk, eds., Climate change adaptation in the water sector(Earthscan Publications, 2009).
- Akimasa Sumi, Kensuke Fukushi and Ai Hiramatsu, Adaptation and Mitigation Stragegies for Climate Change (Springer, 2010).
- E. Lisa F. Schipper and Ian Burton, eds., The Earthscan Reader on Adaptation on Adaptation to Climate Change (Earthscan Publications, 2009).
- Jane Bicknell, David Dodman and David Satterthwaite, Adapting Cities to Climate Change: Understanding and Addressing the Development Challenges (Earthscan Publications, 2009).
- David B. Lobell and Marshall Burke, eds., Climate Change and Food Security: Adapting Agriculture to a Warmer World(Springer, 2009).
- Erik Assadourian, et. al., State of the World 2010: Transforming Cultures: From Consumerism to Sustainability (W.W. Norton & Company, 2010).
Lyndon Johnson's Great Society program was an effort to eliminate poverty in the United States. Less than a generation later, the new global economy threatened the capacity of governments to sustain a vibrant middle class, with nations competing against each other for economic advantage, usually at the expense of most of their people. Across the millennia of history, until less than two hundred years ago, economies were local and regional. In a little more than a century, developed nations went through the era of national economies. Yet many people in the United States speak as though they are unaware that the industrial revolution has passed, while others seem obliviousto the fact that it ever happened. Governments and peoples across the world now face the challenges of the global economy, which challenges us to adapt to a new set of economic and political realities.
- Gøsta Esping-Andersen, Welfare States in Transition: National Adaptations in Global Economies (Sage Publications, 1996).
- Gøsta Esping-Andersen, Why We Need a New Welfare State (Oxford University Press, 2002).
- Evelyne Huber and John D. Stephens, Development and Crisis of the Welfare State: Parties and Policies in Global Markets(University of Chicago Press, 2001).
- Sheila Oakley, Labor Relations in China's Socialist Market Economy: Adapting to the Global Market (Praeger, 2002).
- Guoguang Wu and Helen Lansdowne, Socialist China, Capitalist China: Social tension and political adaptation under economic globalization (Routledge, 2009).
- Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum, That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back (Farrar, Straus & Girous, 2011).
The fall of many great nations is a product of their people's unwillingness and failure to adapt to changing circumstances. A people is especially vulnerable to this when it has grown accustomed to success. I fear that this crippling deficiency prevails in my country, the United States, today. In the late 1970s, people began to wonder whether the presidency was "too big for one man." Ronald Reagan convinced the nation that it was not but many people now recognize that he launched the United States into aneraofirresponsibility in which the country has ignored the obvious reality of a national debt that has mounted to unsustainable levels, and ignored our long-term nationalneedsas well. Reagan's "solution" was to borrow against the future to fuel short-term prosperity, as ahomeowner might "adapt" to lean times by taking out a larger home mortgage instead of investing wisely and planning for the future; or as Reagan put it in an ironic statement that would define his presidency, "mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present." Politically it was a brilliant adaptation in a country that had grown accustomed to increasing wealth and instant gratification but it has not been good for the country in the long term. The same political dynamic is at play in the current denials of global warming: if we acknowledge the truth, we will be confronted with the need to change our behavior. I repeat, the value of an adaptation depends on context.
Narratives of peoples that adapted and survived:
- David Treuer, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present (Riverhead Books, 2019): “ . . . an informed, moving and kaleidoscopic portrait of ‘Indian survival, resilience, adaptability, pride and place in modern life.’ Rarely has a single volume in Native American history attempted such comprehensiveness.”
Technical and Analytical Readings
- Jeffrey Skinner, The 6.5 Practices of Moderately Successful Poets: A Self-Help Memoir (Sarabande Books, 2012): on taking life as it comes and simultaneously pursuing a seriously commitment, with humor and dignity.
- Madeline Levine, Ready Or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers, 2020): “. . . Levine continues her basic theme — that the way the wealthy raise their kids today is destructive — while turning the lens outward: In our fast-changing world, the epidemic anxiety of contemporary parents, especially mothers, causes them to both shelter and overmanage their children, which leads those children toward depression and likely failure in a future that will require different skills, preparations and even morals from those of the past.”
Documentary and Educational Films
- Jim Crace, The Gift of Stones (Scribner, 1989): on change in a simple village of stoneworkers.
- Jim Crace, Arcadia: A Novel (Scribner, 1992).
- Jim Crace, Signals of Distress: A Novel (Farrar, Straux & Giroux, 1995): adapting to the beaching of a ship.
- Jim Crace, Quarantine: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998): a retelling of the story of Christ’s forty-day fast in the desert.
- Jim Crace, Being Dead: A Novel (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000): on adapting to life after death.
- Jim Crace, Harvest: A Novel (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2013) on “suspicion and unease (in) an insular agrarian community” when a surveyor arrives.
- Judith Viorst, Unexpectedly Eighty and Other Adaptations (Free Press, 2010).
- Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel (Scribner, 2017): “ . . . a road novel, a slender epic of three generations and the ghosts that haunt them, and a portrait of what ordinary folk in dire circumstances cleave to as well as what they — and perhaps we all — are trying to outrun.”
- Jo Baker, The Undertow: A Novel (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012): “This novel follows four generations of a British family, from World War I to the present.”
Film and Stage
- Adaptation, a filmabout a man with writer’s block, and about itself.
- The Artist, about a silent film star who has difficulty adapting to the decline of his medium and his fortunes; the main subtext is the leading lady’s portrayal of a 1920s-1930s star with distinctly 21st-century attitude, a tacit switch she executes seamlessly.
- An Autumn Afternoon, about “the compromises we make, not necessarily to get ahead in the world but simply to get along in it with a certain amount of dignity intact”
- The Ballad of Cable Hogue, about a prospector who adapts and then does not
- Bye Bye Brazil, in which member of a traveling show struggle to survive
- Europa, Europa, telling the storyof Solomon Perel, forced by circumstance to hide his Jewish identity
- The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, a storyabout crisis response on a New York City subway
- Grave of the Fireflies(Hataru no haka): a deadly serious Japanese anime about Japanese survivors of World II, struggling to survive
- The Class: a brilliant teacher has to struggle with a class of studentswho do not share his view of what is good
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Duke Ellington adapted his musical style to suit contemporary tastes.
- 1927: East St. Louis Toodle-Oo
- 1928: Jubilee Stomp
- 1929: Black and Tan Fantasy
- 1930: Old Man Blues
- 1931: Keep a Song In Your Soul
- 1932: It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing
- 1933: Bundle of Blues; Rockin’ in Rhythm; Stormy Weather
- 1934: Solitude
- 1935: Reminiscing in Black
- 1936: Caravan
- 1938: New Black and Tan Fantasy
- 1939: Subtle Lament
- 1940: Live from the Crystal Ballroom
- 1941: Jump for Joy
- 1942: C Jam Blues
- 1943: Take the “A” Train
- 1943: Live at Carnegie Hall
- 1944: Live at Hurricane
- 1945: Treasury Show
- 1946: Transblucency
- 1947: On a Turquoise Cloud
- 1948: Caravan
- 1949: Warm Valley
- 1950: Mood Indigo
- 1951: Hoppin' John
- 1952: Duke Ellington and his famous orchestra
- 1953: Pasadena Concert
- 1954: How High the Moon
- 1955: a big band recording
- 1956: Newport Festival Suite
- 1957: Such Sweet Thunder
- 1958: live in Amsterdam
- 1959: live in Switzerland
- 1960: Suite Thursday
- 1961: Chelsea Bridge
- 1962: at Newport Jazz Festival
- 1963: The Single Petal of a Rose
- 1964: in Montreal
- 1965: live in Copenhagen
- 1966: with the Ella Fitzgerald Trio in Milan
- 1967: On the Fringe of the Jungle (trio)
- 1968: live in Mexico
- 1969: live in Tivoli Garden
- 1970: live in Paris
- 1971: live in Norway
- 1972: live at Carnegie Hall
- 1973: live in Barcelona
In addition to composing and performing jazz, Ellington also composed symphonic works:
Books by and about Duke Ellington:
- Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington, (Doubleday & Company, 1973).
- Terry Teachout, (Gotham Books, 2013): despite his genius for musical adaptation, transitions in his personal life arguably were less smooth.
Other works and performances:
- Dutilleux, Métaboles (1964)
- Nordheim, Clamavi, for solo cello (1980)
- The Bad Plus, “The Rite of Spring” album: Stravinsky’s masterpiece as jazz
- Stark, Seasonal Music (2016-2018)
- “For All Its Fury”, performed by Third Coast Percussion and Devonté Hynes
- Guarnieri, Piano Concerto No. 2 (1946): a “continuous dialogue between soloist and orchestra” [James Melo, from notes to this album]