In biology , adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits organisms to their environment, enhancing their evolutionary fitness. Secondly, it is a state reached by the population during that process. Thirdly, it is a phenotypic or adaptive trait, with a functional role in each individual organism , that is maintained and has been evolved by natural selection.
Organisms face a succession of environmental challenges as they grow, and show adaptive plasticity as traits develop in response to the imposed conditions. This gives them resilience to varying environments.
Adaptation is an observable fact of life accepted by philosophers and natural historians from ancient times, independently of their views on evolution , but their explanations differed. Empedocles did not believe that adaptation required a final cause (~ purpose ), but thought that it "came about naturally, since such things survived." Aristotle did believe in final causes, but assumed that species were fixed.
In natural theology, adaptation was interpreted as the work of a deity and as evidence for the existence of God. William Paley believed that organisms were perfectly adapted to the lives they led, an argument that shadowed Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who had argued that God had brought about "the best of all possible worlds." Voltaire's Dr.