I have rudimentary knowledge of evolution, and biology in general, so bear with me if this question is a bit naive.
Let's say we have a particular trait, like highly sensitive peripheral vision. There are two ways to go about explaining how this came about:
One is to say that evolution selected for it over time, because animals with a poor sensitivity to peripheral activity could easily become prey. So there is an advantage to having sensitive peripheral vision, and such a trait is adaptive. The picture I have in my mind is of an assembly line where there are randomly wired visual cortices and the best ones get selected for automatically. This seems to be the view of the field of evolutionary algorithms, at least to my mind.
Now, if we focus on the random nature of the wiring, we might see that there is an explosion of possibilities in terms of how the visual system can be wired together. After all, evolution is blind, and it doesn't know beforehand which physical signals are of interest.
I'm trying to think of a more plausible mechanistic explanation. Suppose we assume that given certain reliable properties of the physical world, like permanence of objects for example, evolution has found the optimal way to wire the visual cortex so that peripheral vision (and a host of other good-to-have features) is a natural outcome, then it would give us more focus in what environmental features and algorithms to look for. This can also be thought of as the idea that evolution, over time, has come to assume that certain things in the physical world will be a given and exploits these. (For example, objects in the peripheral areas of vision will tend to have different perceived velocities, so perhaps normalizing velocities across the field of vision automatically results in a need for higher sensitivity in that region. It just so happens that this could also be useful in detecting predators).
My question then is, is my assumption in the above paragraph valid? (Of course, the question then gets shifted to "Why normalize velocities across the visual field in the first place?").