by Denyse O'Leary
Speaking as an editor, I would say that, in general, it is best to be either an upper or a downer, and stick to it. When editing English, being a downer pays off much better, for practical reasons. It is simpler to ask why a phrase should be capped than why it shouldn't be.
"Intelligent Design" doesn't work for me because ID is not an institution. It is an idea and/or a community of thinkers who are not organized into an institution, and probably could not be so organized.
To see what I mean, consider Free Trade Agreement, vs. free market ideology. The former is an international agreement signed by at least four sovereign countries (United States, Canada, Mexico, and Chile) So that's why I use the caps. The latter is an idea, one that likely resulted in the Agreement, but it is not in itself an individual agreement or institution.
Other examples, of the sort of which I have ruled from my editor's chair:
"northern Canada" - a geographical region, generally north of 60. No assumptions are made about its culture or institutionalization, so "northern" is not capped. "Canada" is a recognized sovereign country, therefore an institution, so its name is, of course, capped.
On the other hand, a place can be cultural and historical, as well as geographical, so we get concepts like "the North" or "men of the North". Or, in the United States, it might be "the South".
"men of the north" just would not convey the same idea because the cultural concept has dropped out with the cap.
Similarly, the Deaf Community (I mean the American Sign Language centre down the road, and that is its actual name) vs. "the deaf community" (people who struggle with serious hearing loss).
Of each cap, I ask, why? And I recommend this approach to editors.
Now, with respect to intelligent design, it is a linked series of propositions about the nature of our universe, propositions like "irreducible complexity", "specialized complexity, and "priviledged planet." I have never noted evidence that ID has been institutionalized beyond the level of a community interested in such propositions, pro or con.
Of course, there is a claque of lobby groups and legacy media anxious to cap the phrase to create the impression that something is happening that basically isn't happening. But if you want to believe them, why not just read the tabloids instead?
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist's case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007).
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