The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 56, July 1952 - April, 1953

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

largely ignores the problem of the psychological debris left in
the wake of their aberrant and fanatical religions.
EDWIN SMYRL
The Desert Year. By Joseph Wood Krutch. New York (William
Sloane Associates), 1951 and 1952. Pp. 270. $3.75.
Something of the enlightenment one gets on turning away
for a time from science-as-mere-fact to science seen through the
eyes of a literary man-that is a man with a feeling for words-
may be suggested by a paragraph in this study of life's manifesta-
tions under desert conditions, wherein occurs the author's crit-
icism of the careless use in scientific literature of the word
"adaptation." I chose this paragraph for specific mention since
it illustrates the method of the whole work.
Certainly thought-horizons are widened as we see Nature through
the mind's eye of one who senses the weight, the dynamics, the impact
and emotional content of English words. We are made to realize that
the printed or voiced symbol is merely a core which sweeps along
in its orbit an aura of suggestion, implication, nuances, or what you
will, endowing the nucleus with its value as a means of communica-
tion between language-using animals, including many individuals of
our own species.
This is only a long way of saying that the so-called "hard-
boiled" scientist (indispensable as he has proved himself to be)
is sometimes unfortunately illiterate. He may defer to the doodle-
bug as an organism but show little respect for the living principle
in language.
"Adaptation"-what sins are committed in they name. "It is a
cold word," says Mr. Krutch.
Its connotations [he continues] are mechanical and it alienates from
us a life process which is thereby deprived of all emotional meaning.
... But those of us who had rather not deny and renounce the rich-
ness of our own experience by thinking of it merely as some process
of mechanical adaptation had better not get in the habit of seeing
nothing but mechanism in the life histories of other living things.
Thus, besides the elevating communion with a genuinely
articulate writer of sound learning and acute sensitiveness to
natural surroundings, the reader receives gently graduated doses
of semantics that will likely do him good.

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 56, July 1952 - April, 1953. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101145/. Accessed August 20, 2014.