At first thought this seems ridiculous given the fact that he is an active voice against Intelligent Design and a proponent of the "blind, and materialistic process of natural selection".
However, it is his particular views on natural selection that suggests that he is in fact a teleologist. In his book, Why Evolution Is True, Jerry clearly sees natural selection as a process and/or mechanism that can cause evolutionary change. He writes (WEIT, p14):
Alternatively, evolution might be true, but natural selection might not be its cause. Many biologists, for instance, once thought that evolution occurred by a mystical and teleological force: organisms were said to have an “inner drive” that made species change in certain prescribed directions. This kind of drive was said to have propelled the evolution of the huge canine teeth of saber-toothed tigers, making the teeth get larger and larger, regardless of their usefulness, until the animal could not close its mouth and the species starved itself to extinction. We now know that there’s no evidence for teleological forces—saber-toothed tigers did not in fact starve to death, but lived happily with oversized canines for millions of years before they went extinct for other reasons.
It is ironic that Coyne states that "there’s no evidence for teleological forces". His own view of natural selection as a cause is in line with Darwin's views of natural selection and as pointed out, this makes natural selection out to be some sort of teleological force. To be sure, Darwin's view of natural selection (the view endorsed by Coyne) satisfies Aristotle's notion of final causality. Aristotelian teleology does not deal in "gradual perfection over time" or "perfection of each kind or species over time" or "towards the fittest". Aristotelian teleology can be summed up as “Every agent acts for an end” (Summa Theologiae I.44.4).
It is in this sense that the final cause of natural selection is just that it tends to "maximize reproductive success in particular environmental niches" or "maintains" (WEIT, p63) the prevalence of beneficial mutations, or "limits" or "favours" (WEIT, p50 and p63) some variations over other variations, or "steers" biological change toward the local maxima in the "fitness landscape", or as Coyne puts it "It produces the fitter, not the fittest" (WEIT, p14). Coyne uses natural selection in a prescriptive manner. Prescriptive in the sense that natural selection is an agent (albeit impersonal and blind, as in non-directional) that causally interacts with something else. In this case natural selection is an agent that causally interacts with evolution. The way Jerry describes it, natural selection interacts by "maintaining" or "favour" or "produce fitter" etc.
On the surface Jerry Coyne appears to be against teleology, however, upon closer inspection it is quite clear that the way he uses natural selection makes him a bona fide natural selection teleologist that would have made old Ari quite proud. Darwin was quite a fan of Aristotle. Jerry said he will read a little about Aquinas' views, (Aquinas also a fan of Aristotle). Let's see if Jerry can connect the dots between his views on natural selection and Aristotelian teleology.
What makes this all the more interesting is that Jerry goes on and on in WEIT about how there are mountains of evidence for natural selection the way he describes it. This of course implies that there are mountains of evidence for Aristotle's notion of final causality.