“In a word, I believe in intelligent design, lower case i and lower case d. / “But I have a problem with Intelligent Design, capital I and capital D.” – Owen Gingerich (God’s Universe, 2006)
One of the two main hired journalists for the Discovery Institute is a Canadian woman named Denyse O’Leary. Having not long ago** bumped into each other in person, living in the same city, Denyse and I recently had an exchange in an “Intelligent Design”-oriented Facebook group, after I inquired there about uppercase “Intelligent Design theory” vs. lowercase “intelligent design theory”. Do they mean the same thing, or not? Why use capitalized “Intelligent Design” outside of titles in normal sentences?
There I inquired to her if there are any people working with the DI who use uppercase “Intelligent Design" theory in writing. She noted that (paraphrased) she has not done any detailed research about it, but would expect books coming from the same publishing house would use the same style sheet. Thus, I stepped up to the plate with some basic research, bringing together some of what I’d already collected, with a quick bit of search into publishing houses for ID theory books . The results are shown below.
Denyse confirmed that she hasn’t specifically followed closely what the DI does, but says she guesses that they follow a press style sheet. She noted that (near exact paraphrase from private FB group), she has seen the “upcase” usage in various places , but that she herself tends to “downcase” in general, instead of “uppercasing”, other than for proper names. When asked, she did not answer to where she had seen those supposed uppercase uses of “Intelligent Design” by DI Fellows and leading IDists.
Let us then ponder this. Can “ID theory” be considered as a proper noun or a proper name? (The phrase “Intelligent Design movement” [IDM] may be counted as such, which leads to a different conversation, different than this one.) At a basic level, this is an English-grammar question, rather than a philosophical one. The main point here is that one could, and likely should, if they are an Abrahamic monotheistic religious believer, capitalize “Intelligent Designer”, since that’s a translation for “God,” as all of the major DI Fellows have stated or admitted when carefully questioned about it at one time or another. Iow, if one wishes to write “god”, instead of “God”, it’s like writing “intelligent designer” instead of “Intelligent Designer”. Yet why does the DI seem to have a policy to intentionally always NOT capitalize even “Intelligent Designer” as a proper name? After all, isn’t this the reason that BioLogos uses a capital letter “L” in the neological term, to leave no doubt that it’s focus is “science & faith”, not just “strictly natural science”?
BioLogos has made a simple, clear and open, easy to understand decision to capitalize the “L” in BioLogos. The Discovery Institute, in contrast, appears to be secretive, obsfucating and bluring the lines of discourse by having their cake (“Intelligent Design theory”) and eating it (“intelligent design theory”) too. This is known as the “double talking” phenomenon required of being a contemporary IDist (meaning “proponent of ID theory”), which I’ve been tracking as a sociologist of the “origins” conversation for the past 15+ years.
In the recent thread on FB, Denyse had started by responding to the initial question by calling it an ‘editorial decision’, where following ‘house style’ is best, unless there’s a reason to depart from that style. So, what ‘departure’ would offer a good reason for the Discovery Institute to capitalize instead of not capitalizing “Intelligent Design”? She then departed from the thread, and hasn’t returned to discuss.
It does not seem, however, aside from Denyse’s loose guess, that any “editorial decision” by a publishing house so far has gone with capitalized “Intelligent Design theory”. At least I have found no evidence that an “editorial decision” has gone against the wishes of the author(s) of an “ID theory” text. It would appear instead that ALL DI-affiliated and funded authors are intentionally downcasers. Iow, the “house style” of the DI is to always downcase “intelligent design theory”. What I’m asking people here is: why is that?
What follows shows the tally from research conducted so far.
Publishers that downcase “intelligent design”: 14
Downcaser publishers: Discovery Institute Press, IVP, ISI, Harper One, Harper Collins, Free Press, Crossway, Regnery Publishing, Cambridge University Press, Harvest House Publishers, Igantius Press, Angelico Press, Ashgate, Zondervan.
ID theory “downcaser” books included: The Design Revolution & ID: The Bridge, The Nature of Nature, Icons of Evolution, The Privileged Planet, The Design Inference, Understanding Intelligent Design, Signature in the Cell, The Edge of Evolution, Darwin Devolves, Darwin’s Doubt, Theistic Evolution, Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe, Catholicism & Evolution, Being as Communion, and the “Four Views” books. This list is not exhaustive.
Denyse is herself the/an editor of 4 sites - Evolution News & Views, Uncommon Descent, Salvo Mag, and Mind Matters. She thus confirmed she downcases “intelligent design” at all of those online locations.
Publishers that use uppercase “Intelligent Design” (0): None
So where are these “upcasers” that Denyse claims exist in the IDM?
My experience with publishing houses, different from Denyse’s apparently, is that they start with what the author(s) write(s). It would surprise me if Denyse were to suggest that all or even some of the authors of the books above, actually wrote “Intelligent Design theory”, but instead the publishing house over-wrote them many multiple times, and replaced them with “intelligent design theory.” That would indicate even more of a conspiracy against the IDM than many (range of fanatical) IDists believe already exists!
Another way we could also “count”, to find out grammar usage rates, would be by means of Discovery Institute people who downcase “intelligent design” in either book, article, or online writing.
Thus, the following short list of ID theory downcasers: 15
Stephen C. Meyer, John G. West, William Dembski, Michael Behe, Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, Paul Nelson, Jay Richards, Marcos Eberlin, Jonathan Wells, Jonathan Witt, Michael Chaberek, Michael Flannery, Richard Sternburg, Bruce Gordon, et al. This list is also not exhaustive.
Discovery Institute people who use uppercase “Intelligent Design” (0): None found so far.
The evidence I have seen indicates that the Discovery Institute silently refuses to upcase “Intelligent Design”, despite multiple requests to them to do so, and with ample explanation provided for this communications-oriented request. Why not?
Any errors in the research and reporting above are my own. Please fill in the gaps and help confirm if Denyse O’Leary’s suggestion is true or false. If there are indeed ID theory proponents who regularly and consistently use the upcase “Intelligent Design theory” grammar form, it would be very helpful for this to be known more widely. If it is false, then why would Denyse suggest otherwise?
Bill Dembski already warned about this over 15 years ago:
“If intelligent design [theory; IDT] cannot be made into a fertile new point of view that inspires exciting new areas of scientific investigation, then (even if true) it will go nowhere. … The validity of THE design argument, on the other hand [i.e. to distinguish from IDT], depends not on the fruitfulness of design-theoretic ideas for science but on the metaphysical and theological mileage one can get out of design.” (my caps, 2004: 65)
Support for making the distinction between “intelligent design theory” and “Intelligent Design theory”:
“I think it advisable to capitalize ‘Intelligent Design’ (ID) in order to signal that we are using the words in a technical sense, rather than in the sense accepted by every Christian. … Obviously, theists, who believe in an intelligent designer of the universe, may not be on board with all the tenets of ID. My greatest reservation, for example, is the claim that the inference to a designer is supposed to constitute a scientific theory. As a philosopher, I tend to think that such an inference is philosophical or metaphysical in character rather than part of a new, rival scientific theory.” – W.L Craig http://www.reasonablefaith.org/should-christians-accept-intelligent-design#ixzz3ZEUvk8mE
“When capitalized, however, ‘Intelligent Design’ refers to a more particular set of views and arguments as exemplified by the work of the Discovery Institute.” – Deborah Haarsma (http://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/reviewing-darwins-doubt-introduction)
“The idea of intelligent design with lower case letters can mean there is an intelligent Creator that is the source of creation. No argument there. The debates arise when talking about Intelligent Design.” - Christy Hemphill (How is Intelligent Design different from intelligent design?)
Even Discovery Institute leading donor, Howard Ahmanson accepts this:
“All Christians believe in intelligent design with a small ‘i’ and a small ‘d,’ though they have every right to critique the particular theory called intelligent design.” – Howard Ahmanson (http://www.evolutionnews.org/2014/03/am_i_an_occasio083141.html)
So why can’t the Discovery Institute make a public statement clarifying themselves about this? What is wrong with the IDM that the DI requires double-talking in order to fully embrace “ID theory”?
To conclude, why does capitalization of “Intelligent Design” theory (IDT) or lack of capitalization of “intelligent design” theory (IDT) even matter? The first IDist moderator in the FB to give a first response in defending IDism was: “so what?”, as if capitalization or lack thereof didn’t matter at all. Why isn’t “ID theory” capitalized by IDists, while BioLogos capitalizes the ‘L’?
(Author’s note: throwing this out to hear what people think. Likely won’t chime in for a few days, now with other work to do. Thanks for understanding.)