The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #122

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- JULY 2013 


All-Around “Brightness”!

The Earth and Life: changes across time project of the Brights is an authentic grassroots endeavor. It is spurring changes that just wouldn't occur without participation from Brights themselves.

By providing this unique teaching resource free to high school science teachers who apply, the Brights are helping more and more youngsters to fathom a naturalistic understanding of the world they live in.

Combining the physical and biological across the sweep of time by providing this 5-foot wide teaching resource free ensures that students have a more concrete opportunity to learn both “the big picture” and the “nitty gritty” of evolutionary change while they are in classrooms and getting solid guidance from knowledgeable instructors.

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Making a Difference Now

We have already surpassed a count of 25,000 future citizens having engaged the material with teachers who are serious about their science curriculum. Keep in mind, too, that a poster recipient will have it to use again next year, and the next – and maybe more (it seems that many teachers laminate the poster right away). In planning for 2014, The Brights’ Net is seeking to modify the project’s terms of distribution to enlarge dissemination opportunities. We will likely need to demonstrate strong support from Brights themselves to achieve these ends.

Have you participated in the evolution poster project yet? If not, now is a grand time to do so! As another “Printing Day” for the evolution poster project approaches (goal: end of August, so we can renew distribution in September), we have acquired another matching opportunity. In June, an anonymous donor pledged to Brights Central that earmarked donations received before the printing will be matched (up to $1000).

To be putting more posters into more classrooms with less per-poster cost? – That’d be great. Let’s not lose this opportunity. The per-poster costs go down quite a bit when we are able to make a more substantial print order. We can use your help! Add your support to this next round of the project.

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Introducing the Brights

How do you describe the Brights initiative to others? Everyone who participates in the movement has his own approach. Using logo-themed merchandise to draw attention is just one possibility. Use it, and you may entice curious folks to ask.

This example introductory conversation is spurred by a simple square icon button (available in the Brights’ kiosk at Zazzle).

Hey – what is that emblem there pinned on your shirt?

It’s the symbol of “the Brights” — I am a participant.

What’s “the Brights”?
It’s an online constituency – a network of individuals from all over the globe. Each of us has a naturalistic worldview.

Naturalistic?
Right. No supernatural. No paranormal, mystical; no souls and such. We generally tend more toward the science end of things–that’s just how we see the world.

So, why?
Because we’re citizens of equivalent moral worth. And our Brights movement wants fuller acknowledgment of us. More acceptance. More inclusive participation, that is; something that just doesn’t exist right now in our culture. But we think it should. And we like to say so.

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Simple Spinoff Benefit

If you want opportunities to engage inquisitive folks and talk about the Brights movement, wear a button; carry a tote; put on a hat. A potential advantageous side effect is that you may even run across other Brights nearby!

Brights Central (BC) arranges for Brights-themed merchandise with nominal markup as a service to Brights who would like to participate. Such items give you have a chance to increase understanding of the Brights’ egalitarian civic vision and aims. The website’s merchandise page offers access to different routes for viewing and acquiring Brights-themed items:

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New Book by a Bright

Gregg Caruso, author of Free Will and Consciousness, has assembled and edited a collection of new essays on free will and moral responsibility. These are topics that play a prominent role in our lives (in our understanding of ourselves, society, and the law) and are likely to be of considerable interest to many Brights.

The new volume, Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility, looks at what’s behind the new wave of skepticism about free will and moral responsibility that has appeared in recent years and weighs the likely consequences. Original contributions from an internationally recognized line-up traverse the leading arguments for free will skepticism and debate their implications. Enthusiastic Bright Susan Blackmore, author of The Meme Machine and Conversations on Consciousness, is among the contributors.

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International Brights Forum Report

Forum participants are grappling with the basis of moral behavior in the Topic, "Chief Rabbi: Atheism has Failed,"  which refers to a news article of the same name. Is, as the Rabbi alleges, religion necessary to steer people in the "right" direction?  Or, is a naturalistic perspective sufficient to codify systems that engender satisfying societies?  Tune in and chime in!

The Forum Liaison to Brights Central hopes that there will be much response to "Dreamers, Shapers, Thinkers, Makers. Bright Hands and Minds in the Strange Place between Idea and Reality."  Referencing the "Makers movement," this Topic seeks to relate the intersection between thinking and things to the Brights movement.  Intrigued?  Maybe drop by and share a bit about how your hobbies reflect your worldview!

Registration is simple and confidential.  See you in the Forums.

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Atheists in the News

Some consider making any spot in the New York Times’ print version to be a news benchmark of sorts. Whether you do or not, it is perhaps noteworthy that two stories featuring atheists have achieved that benchmark recently. In one, an atheist landed front page mention. (Actually, readers were simply alerted to the full article by a small box at the bottom of the Times’ Page 1.)

Giving Atheists a Spiritual Home:  This story concerned Jerry DeWitt, a former Pentecostal-preacher-turned-atheist who steps into the pulpit again, this time “holding services” to benefit other atheists. Talking to “the heart” marks his approach. (DeWitt characterizes it as “giving a human shape to a broad intellectual movement that is in its infancy.”)

Atheists Put Up a Monument: A more recent story concerns atheists staking out territory in the public square previously accorded to religion and denied to them. The article maintained a positive focus on the goals of the atheists: to achieve fairness, and to counter longstanding religious privilege.

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Newsy Negations vs. News Neutrality

Both NYT articles previously mentioned exhibited a general neutrality and overall tone in reporting seen all too rarely. They are examples of the notion that, as more atheists progress in “coming out” in society, language used in reporting on atheists is a mixed bag.

For reporters, articles that stick to neutral description aren’t easily achieved: a range of terminology options exist, each with slightly different definitions. Media characterizations remain firmly grounded in religious language and customarily rely on comparisons not generally to the benefit of atheists as citizens. 

Of course religion-based terms for atheists would be commonplace. After all, atheism (defined as without deity-belief) is itself religion-based, and a negation of theism. But media often choose further depictions, with a particular affinity to godless.

Also commonly seen in the media are other comparative terms of negation: nonaffiliated; nontheistic; nonbeliever; unbeliever. The story about atheists putting up a monument is exceptional, in that the reporter did not use a single one of those terms! Real progress!

However, the aforementioned Page 1 box described atheist Dewitt as “Preaching to the Unconverted.” Unconverted? To portray atheists that way is a “from within the fold” point of view. It is somewhat akin to terms like heathen, infidel, and heretic (characterizing those who stray from a religion). But in this case, the term appears to refer to those who haven’t yet joined the fold. This is rather perplexing usage. What fold? One wonders how fitting it is for mainstream media to characterize a gathering of atheist citizens as if in anticipation. ;-) 

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New Monthly Newsletter from Dawkins

Enthusiastic Bright Richard Dawkins has started a newsletter, and it promises to be a complex and influential product, thanks to the abundance of resources available in the Dawkins Foundations (in the U.K. and the U.S.). The forthcoming newsletters for Foundation supporters will likely engage Dawkins’ many concerns directly and will issue calls to action.

This step will be welcomed by a large proportion of participants in the constituency of Brights, particularly those with concerns about religion.

A personal perspective frames Dawkins’ introductory video. He quotes “St. Paul” and talks of having “put away childish things” and “become a proper atheist” in two stages: 1) recognizing the multitude of religions in the world, and 2) gaining acquaintance with evolutionary explanations. We Are Atheists is the title, and the idea that “Atheists are ordinary people” is a major thrust.

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Insights from Brights

An Inquiring Nature?

It’s no secret that many Brights are prone to contemplate diverse topics with determination and solemnity. The BloggingBrights.net offers some interesting examples.  A recent blogpost from Umwelt Utahpia offers one of them.

In “Random Cultural Perspectives: Telephone Poles to Survivalism,” explores a couple of cultural differences that hit close to home. (They might even end up being important on broader scales.)

What to do with proliferating power lines?

*  You will put them above ground, of course. 
(Example, Japan)

*  Oh, no!  Get those unsightly things down below ground.
(Example, USA)

One may wonder how the same fundamental problem can be viewed and solved so differently!

How to prepare for a disaster?

*  We’re projecting calm and some slight need for endurance (maybe three days of shortages). (Example, Japan)

*  We’re forecasting social chaos and an indefinite period of deprivation. (Example, USA)

Get the full story!

What is your cultural attitude about a disaster’s social consequences and how best to prepare? Why? (That is, what does your culture say? What do you?)

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Better Blog Access for Site Visitors

Visitors to the main site are now more likely to see and access what’s available at BloggingBrights.net. The new page now points to titles of example entries from A Rational Woman, The Science-minded Citizen, and Umwelt Utahpia along with brief enticements. Have you read these?

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The Brights' Bulletin



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