A commentator on Andrew Sullivan’s blog asks: Where is the Darwinian theory of evil? Because modern biologists this last century or so have been very concerned to avoid teleological arguments, modern biology has still only an impoverished theory of intentionality. Living organisms are focused, in the standard evolutionary account, on surviving themselves in the here-and-now, apparently going through these daily motions unwittingly to ensure those diaphonous creatures, genes, can achieve THEIR memetic goals. Without a rich and subtle theory of intentionality, I don’t believe one can explain complex, abstract human phenomena such as evil or altruism or art or religion very compellingly.
Asking for a theory of intentions and intentionality does not a creationist one make, despite the vitriol often deployed by supporters of evolution. One non-creationist evolutionary biologist who has long been a critic of this absence of a subtle theory of intentionality in biology is J. Scott Turner, whose theories are derived from homeostasis he has observed in natural ecologies. I previously discussed some of his ideas here.
Alfred Gell : Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
J. Scott Turner : The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself. Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.