I am often struck by the way the first students of evolutionary biology got it right, more or less, while the later period of Darwin regressed and got it wrong. I am thinking of Lamarck and the teleomechanists.
Lamarck, and I am not referring to his theory of acquired characteristics (which is making a comeback in some circles in the era of epigenetics), very naturally ‘figured’ without any coaches, kibbitzers or ideologists, that evolution would work on two levels, one of which would show implicit directionality, e.g. the rise of complexity, versus another level of adaption of incipient forms.
This crude thinking, a set of hunches, actually works far better than the crippled theories that came later based on natural selection…