The Brights' "Reality About Morality" Project

Status Report, November 2014

By Mynga Futrell, Executive Director

A Milestone

Thanks to the generous support of our donors, The Brights were able to contract with the graphic design firm Visual.ly to produce an infographic that incorporates the four scientifically-supported statements from Project Area B in mid-July. Of necessity, the infographic went through further modifications with help of a volunteer graphic designer and was completed in August. All the illustrations are original. But, that’s only part of why The Brights’ Morality Project is one-of-a-kind.

The Lay Public Explanations

In early August, it was decided that the infographic alone was insufficient to the Morality Project’s aim of presenting scientific information in a way that’s easy for interested persons to mentally digest. With so much of the morality research being conducted today in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and biology being rather complex for the lay public to understand, other material would be needed to supplement it.

Explanations to accompany the infographic’s four scientifically-supported statements on the infographic were drafted by a knowledgeable volunteer. These explanations consisted of highlights of the morality research which supports the four statements and have been modified from an initial rather challenging reading level to garner a readability more suited to persons with a high school reading level. (Quite a challenge!)

The Web Portal

Also in August, Brights Central staff began crafting a web portal to be released with the infographic. The four explanations of the infographic’s content were published there first. With the help of morality researchers who had initially authenticated the four scientifically-supported statements, the Morality Project team was able to create and post a recommended readings list for the web portal. The list features books and articles which may serve as good introductory material to the study of morality – some of them written by contributors to the project.

The Morality Project team came to realize that the web portal could expand the scope of its project considerably, and so in late August, it opted to compile and make accessible for easy viewing the full text in Adobe PDF format of all the studies publicly available online that support the four scientific statements. Shortly thereafter, the web portal of The Brights’ Morality Project’s repository of studies became a one-stop-shop for human morality research.

Apart from making the full text of the scientific studies the Morality Project team compiled available to the public, developing the infographic and web portal also gave the team an opportunity to update the project’s bibliography. A few studies cited on the bibliography in 2013 had been falsified, so those studies were naturally removed. To gain currency, others were added.

Toward a Global Endeavor?

The Brights knew that the content of the infographic could benefit people everywhere – not just the English-speaking world. Accordingly, the Morality Project team sought to enlist the help of volunteer translators from within the constituency to enable publishing the infographic in as many languages as capacity would permit.

The call for volunteer translators, published in The Brights’ July 2014 bulletin, was initially directed toward languages were most widely spoken by Brights: Spanish, German, Italian, and French. Brights from Portugal, Brazil, Sweden, The Netherlands, Russia, Indonesia, Czechoslovakia, and the Esperanto-speaking community responded, volunteering their multilingual expertise as well.

By the end of August, the infographic had already been translated into 9 languages. In order to preserve the scientific integrity of the project’s content, The Brights conducted surveys via the August 2014 bulletin asking native speakers to evaluate the available translations and identify the most accurate and appealing material. Hundreds of Brights helpfully answered those surveys. With that data, the Project team was able to finalize the text of the translated infographics and web portals to be released to the public in mid-September.

Going Forward

As of late October, the infographic has been translated into 13 languages and shared thousands of times on social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus. The Brights is currently drafting a press release directed to traditional news media to get the word out about the project more broadly. More volunteer translators are stepping forward, and there will likely be releases of the infographic and web portal in several more languages over the next few months. Behind the scenes, the Morality Project team continues to compile and review additional scientific studies that support the statements on the infographic and web portal.

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