I've made it official CEA policy that we always use lower case. (Edit: If you see "Effective Altruism" on one of our posts or websites in a place where it shouldn't be capitalized, please let me know so I can fix it.)
- Like others have said here, I think of EA as a philosophy/system of thought, along the lines of "liberalism" or "utilitarianism", rather than as a formalized religion or political institution, like "Christianity" or "the Democratic Party".
- I agree that there are specific values and practices that are inherent to EA, but it's difficult to point to any one thing that would "qualify" a person or organization as officially being "part of EA" vs. not.
- There is such a thing as a "registered Democrat", but "registered EA community member" isn't really a thing. You can set up a profile on the EA Hub, but so can literally anyone; this doesn't confer any official privileges.
- See why I don't like the term "effective altruist" (including my reply to Michael Aird's comment, which pulls out the difference between that question and the capitalization question).
- Regarding institutions, I consider many organizations to be some degree of "EA-aligned" even if they have nothing whatsoever to do with our movement. I think of this alignment as a spectrum, rather than a binary thing where an org does or doesn't "count".
- For example, consider a global health charity that gets serious consideration from GiveWell but doesn't quite pass the bar to be a "Standout Charity". Do the charity's employees have "EA jobs"?
- Their work is aligned with EA's mission, and presumably involves what most people in EA would consider a "promising cause area". Given this, I see the "EA jobs" question as beside the point.
In your example, of the person who uses Charity Navigator, I still think the binary distinction isn't helpful:
- Is this person trying to do more good? Yes.
- Is the strategy they're using likely to help them do substantially more good than they would otherwise? Probably not.
- Is their personal philosophy generally in line with EA? Impossible to tell from this single statement.
- Would they fit in well at an EA meetup? Depends on how open they are to considering different ideas.
- Should they be hired for a role at a very EA-aligned organization? Depends on their skills and other elements of fit; their confusion about overhead is just one small fact about them. I wouldn't want them writing curricula about effective giving, but they might be a great accountant.
...and so on.
I got off-topic at the end there, but to return to my main point:
I think that capitalizing "effective altruism" makes it seem more like a binary thing (you count or you don't, you have this identity or you don't) and less like a spectrum (many people are aligned with EA to some degree, but no one is a perfect exemplar of every EA principle). But given how complicated the above questions can get, I think "spectrum" is a better fit than "binary".
Thanks for writing this! I used to write it as Effective Altruism, and once I noticed that a lot of articles and people refer to it in lowercase, I switched to using that. But it wasn't that clear to me why I should be using lowercase until you wrote this.
Anyway, I just noticed now that on the effectivealtruism.org website, the navigation bar says "Introduction to Effective Altruism", and also the parts "Articles > Introduction to Effective Altruism", the title of that post, and the link to that post on the homepage, under "Reading". That is probably wo... (read more)
I think the only inconsistency I see is the capitalization of 'effective altruism' in the navigation bar. The 'Introduction to Effective Altruism' article is capitalized simply because all the articles in that section use title case. In any case, I agree with the overall point that it makes sense to make sure capitalization is consistent throughout the site (and I personally agree it should not be capitalized).