The Phantom Blogger made some comments regarding my Language! post, and since I started to run at the mouth (well, the fingers) I figured I'd convert my response into a whole new post. TPB's comments in italics:
When I said mistakes I meant that since evolution doesn't work through a perfect linear process just through the selection of whats good, then all the needless stuff could be referred to as mistakes or as simply useless (if the theory actually holds).
Selection of what's 'good'? 'Needless'? 'Useless'?
I'm not trying to pick on you or split hairs here, so forgive me if I'm coming across like one of those guys who'll flip out at a spelling mistake in an internet discussion. It honestly isn't my intention. But my focus here is how colored language, even relatively common language, has become by value-laden terms and ideas - by the very people who insist that science is supposed to be scrubbed of such things.
When people call a mutation random all they are saying is that it has no end goal or purpose.
Alright. But since when is science capable of determining end goal or purpose? Since when is this even an interest of science?
See, I keep running into this problem: The standard line for coming down on ID is that science cannot rule on such questions of 'purpose' or 'end goal' or 'design'. My response to that is, fair enough. But that means this 'purpose' and 'end goal' talk is off the table - across the board.
If it's only a violation of some imaginary rule for science when ID people do it, but when ID critics do it (Avise being the latest) it's A-OK, I call - forgive my language - bullshit.
If science isn't in the business of final causes, if final causes and purposes and goals are the stuff of philosophy, then let's keep it out. But that also means removing the negative judgments. There's a name for doing this sort of thing half-way: Bias. Corruption. Hypocrisy.
We have not created any philosophical criteria for whats good and bad a-prior, if its even possible to do such a thing.
Various philosophers have ideas on this front. There's always Aquinas and Aristotle. Are their systems perfect? Probably not.
I'm not demanding scientists develop that criteria either. More the opposite: It's outside their field, it opens a can of worms, etc. But I don't think we should accept, say.. "Well, it's hard to do. So you know - whatever the scientists come up with must be good enough."
I'm not necessarily sure that through finding something with no observable function, that science can detect, and then saying that for all intensive purposes its junk, is really that unscientific, in may be bad philosophy though, the reason we attach words like "junk" to these functions is because we are looking at the data through the vale of the Theory of Evolution, and it would suggest that things with no function are just left over junk, from the thousands of random mutations that have taken place throughout the history of our genome.
Well, here again is the problem. Evolution is just one more process like any other, like oxidation, reproduction, etc. But processes can be used by (even created by) intelligent agents. Hell, we demonstrably use 'evolution' in programming at this point. We use it in animal husbandry.
Keep in mind, this isn't really about evolution for me - I'm not criticizing evolution here. I'm criticizing a specific field that's supposed to be stripped of value judgments, philosophy, and metaphysics, where those practicing in the field have thrown around so many value judgments in so casual a way that at this point it's second nature to use those words without thinking. And we're supposed to think Intelligent Design is the big threat?
Now, I realize that this is where a lot of people (Say, Jerry Coyne) will turn around and say: Well, look. Darwin's who we look to here, and Darwin's goal was to remove God from the picture. Darwin was anti-teleological, Darwin didn't think any Designer guided anything.
And my response is: If Darwin mixed metaphysics and philosophy into his theory, so much the worse for Darwin.