The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #119

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- APRIL 2013 


Evidence-Seeking As a Habit

A favored T-shirt slogan of many skeptics is this: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” But even the most ordinary contention should rest on adequate evidence.

A post on BloggingBrights.net last month touches on the usefulness of having developed a pattern of looking into assertions of the type one so often encounters.

Umwelt Utahpia's “Thinking Critically for Life” portrays how such habits of thinking apply in an ordinary life situation.

In everyday life, one does encounter all sorts of claims. But are they really on solid ground? Do the facts support the contention? 

Surely in parenting and educating youth for solid citizenship and consumer competence, developing both desire and capacity to “look critically for evidence behind claims” should be one of the top curricular goals.

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Parting Ways (USA)

Analysis of newly released survey data by researchers from the University of California-Berkeley and Duke University, indicates that Americans and religion are increasingly parting ways. In fact, religious affiliation in the United States “is at its lowest point since it began to be tracked in the 1930s, according to the analysis.

Responses in the survey were to the question, "What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?Last year, Americans claiming “no religious preference” had more than doubled in number from 1990. 

The authors are careful to distinguish the survey category of "no religion," which means individuals who are not part of an organized religion, from "atheists," who do not believe in God and made up just 3 percent of those interviewed last year.

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Equinox Funding

After each equinox, we extend gratitude in the Bulletin to those of you who responded to the twice-a-year fund appeal with some degree of generosity. So, thanks go out now to all of you who sent something our way in response to last month’s equinox email. We appreciate that you recognize it takes more than good thoughts to support the Brights international endeavor.

The “keep up the good work” words that the occasion sends our way are nice, but of course cheerleading counts no more than nonchalance when it comes to keeping the lights on or pursuing a project. Having resources beyond “pennies per Bright” are necessary for both activities. So, if you haven’t participated yet, please do so now.

Running in place is one thing – making progress and bringing ideas to fruition, another. It is very much up to you! Choose a level of commitment to either the positive vision of civic equality or to the project, or to both!
If you can manage an ongoing subscription of a small monthly amount, that would be just fantastic. (If you are US-based, a contribution counts as a tax-deductible donation. There are many different ways to donate; most international contributors use a PayPal account.)

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Secularist Nose-counting

Experiences of Atheists

In one recent online volunteer survey (now closed) the Atheist Alliance International combined forces with a Ph.D. candidate at a University of Nevada campus to elicit information about what kinds of organizations and affiliations individuals have and to garner any perceptions of discrimination. Results will perhaps increase public awareness when published.

Global Nonreligious

Still available for your participation is another project from the AAI. Its global “Atheist Census” is asking those who count themselves as “nonreligious” to pick their favored identity and provide additional information such as religious background, age, level of education attained, nation, and gender.  Email address is necessary, but AAI states it is solely for validation of your information.

American Secular Census

The website for this survey states its purpose is to compensate for flaws in mainstream surveys caused by religious filtering. These may be mischaracterizing affiliated nontheists and unaffiliated believers. Survey designers paid attention to privacy to encourage more participation. 

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International Brights’ Forum Report

You never know what you'll stumble upon in the Forums! Recently, amazement over some of the many non-human forms of life that inhabit each of us was noted in this brief Topic on the subject of the symbiosis of bacteria and humans: "Help!  I'm a Colony of Bacteria!" As is usual for the Forums, there are links out to additional information of possible interest.

In a more serious vein, there was some discussion of Franz de Waal's assertion, in Salon.com, that militant atheism shares features with dogmatic religion.  In this Topic, some Forum members have weighed in on the subject.  What do you think?

If you'd like to participate in the Forums, registration is simple and quick.  See you there!

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Nuts to (and Nudges for) Our Targeted Fund Appeal

This March, we tried something for the first time. Rather than request financial support for the overall Brights movement support hub, we asked your help to focus the funding on a project, the Earth and Life: changes across time dissemination to high school science teachers. That shift in strategy doesn’t seem to have served either the online community or the teachers very well, though.

We want to do a larger printing of the splendid resource for their use in teaching about evolution. It’s such a direct way to show a naturalistic explanation behind life on earth and, with teacher help, have youngsters actually understand it! So, if you care about this goal, please add yourself as a sponsor.  We still need to accumulate sufficient funding for another several tens of thousands of students.

It’s a fact: Now that the inventory from the prior printing has been exhausted, we can no longer respond positively to the requests we keep receiving from high school science teachers. But, we’ll keep “at it”! We recognize that the economic picture is dismal for many participants, but please send what you can to support our overall endeavor and/or this valuable priority project!

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Dennett HARDtalk

When there seems to be a splendid interview opportunity for an Enthusiastic Bright to enlighten on the Brights movement’s civic vision, how often does it actually happen? Not that often. Religion vs. atheism generally tops civic equality as a topic. 

Philosopher Daniel Dennett’s recent interview on BBC HARDTalk (25 minutes) traveled the typical route. Of course, Professor Dennett speaks often and well about religion in general and, in particular, about the evolving of religion across time, including our own times. (In his excellent book, Breaking the Spell, Dennett argues well for a more objective scientific look at that entity.)

But even this Enthusiastic Bright makes little headway on a civic case for brights.

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Merchandise Memo

Last month we started overhauling a webpage to better show merchandise that displays the Brights logo. Someone pointed out - What about the stickers?! Oops! We forgot about them. 

We’ve corrected the error, and now these too are available.

Remember that items from Brights Central are priced essentially at cost, inclusive of shipping costs. And, given the international postage rates, it’s really a bargain!

You can view or purchase any of the current logo merchandise items.

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Insights from Brights at BloggingBrights.net

March Postings. Read them. Share them. Pass along favorites to your friends, whether brights or supers.

A Rational Woman

The Science-Minded Citizen

  • Parking Perplexity —   in search of the perfect way to find a parking space in a big lot

Umwelt Utahpia

  • My Book Of Lists — a way for others to find out who you – deep, deep down – really are (even after you’ve died!)
  • Not For The Body Or Belly —  dealing with a child who already “looks disapprovingly at you” through eye’s shaped by a religion’s rules
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“Bright Stuff”- Full Display!

More of a Stretch

One term that frequently appears in new registration comments is this one:  “refreshing”  Many newcomers (those who’ve just recently worked their heads out of supernatural explanations provided them in their culture, perhaps by reading The God Delusion) appear to relish it, as in: "Now I'm free of all of that. How refreshing!"

Indeed. If one has had to reach a naturalistic worldview by setting cultural perspectives aside, then there can be a certain freedom in having thought the way through. No doubt about it. But however one arrives at supernatural-free understandings of how the world works, the naturalist outlook can give great satisfaction.

And why not emphasize it? None of us needs to sacrifice the positive aspects of our personal outlooks to the narrower confines imposed by others’ beliefs. Seemingly, degrees of civic progress might well be made with increased constructive civic engagement of broader latitude.

You may personally characterize yourself in any of several ways (e.g., atheist, secularist, nonreligious, rationalist, skeptic, cultural religionist, etc.).  Still, your engagement with other citizens needn’t be confined by the realm of religion. Many options for activism and progress exist beyond it.

Example registration statements offer clues and potential seeds of action:
* From Heron (USA): “I prefer to focus my mind in positive ways.
* Karin (South Africa):  “I’m tired of being seen as a heathen. I want to be seen as a citizen.
* Thomas (USA): "I am a Bright, and I am normal, not some evil satanist."
* Mark (Botswana): “I am a coherent valid individual without the need for superstition to self-regulate.

Showing others what you do believe (from a naturalistic perspective), and not merely what you don’t, is the nature of “brightness”! 

It may be more of a stretch! Thankfully, though, there are those in the constituency who are attempting that stretch.

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