For example let's take two sentences; "engineer made a design for camera", "evolution made an X for eye". What is the best X that could be used?

I need it for an essay about evolution.

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    $\begingroup$ If not already very clear in Bryan's answer... Evolution made X is pretty much never a good phrasing. Instead, say X has evolved. Otherwise, it feels like evolution is a thinking individual with a goal in mind (which would be very wrong). Similarly, don't say, X has been designed but X is an adaptation (assuming X is indeed an adaptation for whatever X stands for). $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Dec 19 '18 at 23:34

Although not ideal, "adaptation" is more appropriate than "design" as a noun describing something that has come about in an evolutionary context, even though not all evolution is adaptive.

In writing, though, I would not phrase it as you have, rather I would change the agency from something evolution does as some sort of "entity" which makes it sound like a goal-driven "designer" with whatever words you use, and instead say that "Eyes evolved from simpler photosensitive groups of cells." Eyes deserve the agency, because having eyes is what would improve the survival of an organism versus eyeless conspecifics and increase the proportion of eyed individuals in the next generation (I hope my simplification of the eye-evolving process as if eyes are a simple Mendelian trait isn't too distracting here, I mean it mostly as metaphor), rather than eyes being a "goal" of something called evolution.

Similarly, you would not say "Chemistry makes water from hydrogen and oxygen," rather you would say something like "Hydrogen gas reacts exothermically in the presence of oxygen gas to produce water." There is no agent "chemistry," that is just the word we use to describe the set of processes in the universe that govern how molecules/atoms/subatomic particles interact. Similarly, "evolution" is not an agent who does things.

One place I would differ in this guidance is in talking very big picture, such as saying that "evolution produced the wide variety of species present today"; in that example, there isn't anything more local to act as an agent, and it's appropriate to refer to the evolutionary process as a whole.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice answer that highlights the likely mistaken representation the OP had when trying to find a synonym of design as if the concept would apply. +1 $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Dec 19 '18 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Remi.b Thanks; I'm not sure if OP's representation was mistaken or not, however; I've often seen people who understand evolution very clearly make similar slips, especially when they are assuming their audience will see between the lines and understand what they mean. Sometimes being more correct also means being more verbose, unfortunately. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Dec 19 '18 at 23:35
  • $\begingroup$ The closes I can think of is "Shaped" or "Favors". I see that most often when talking about side effects or a suite of features or for comparing alternative constructions. There is no agency any more than erosion has agency if you said "erosion shaped a rock outcrop". You could say "evolution shaped the eye such that ...." A cleaner usage would be "evolution favores eyes with X under Y conditions" I do agree giving agency to the eye is probably cleaner. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 20 '18 at 4:02

How about "strategy"? For example, elephants, giraffes and koalas all need to eat leaves from tall trees, but they have evolved very different strategies to accomplish that goal.


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