The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #124

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- SEPTEMBER 2013 


Darker Days for Science Literacy, or Not?

Physicist Adam Frank laments what he sees as the present cultural status of science. Online, his op-ed article draws some thoughtful feedback.

Not long ago, Frank says, scientists could afford to look at beliefs like creationism with “head scratching bemusement.” But no longer. It’s “The Age of Denial” (title of article).

  • Dr. Frank bemoans how climate change deniers “…have manufactured doubt about fundamental issues in climate science that were decided scientifically decades ago."
  • He complains: “[A]nti-vaccine campaigners brandish a few long-discredited studies to make unproven claims about links between autism and vaccination.” 
  • And he concludes with a forewarning:
    [S]cience is, simply put, a tradition. And as we know from history’s darkest moments, even the most enlightened traditions can be broken and lost. Perhaps that is the most important lesson all lifelong students of science must learn now.”

Might this scientist be viewing an America-only affliction? Example comment: 
As a resident of Hong Kong, it is with much bemusement that I and many outside the US look on at the denial of scientific reality in your country. Outside the US there is frankly nothing quite like this going on.”

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Religious Protections for Atheists (Canada)

In a protest three years ago, an Ontario father of two school-aged children voiced opposition to a school district policy that permitted distribution of Gideon bibles. In doing so, the secular humanist parent offered to provide for distribution Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children.

The board rejected the offer, so he took the case to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Its recent ruling regarding distribution of literature in schools elevates “atheistic creed” to the same plane with “sacred and foundational.”

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Are Atheists Objectionable? (USA)

It seems the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission presented the president of the American Atheists a “golden opportunity” when it rejected his payment for an “Athe1st” personalized auto license plate.

The MVC’s stated reason for denial of David Silverman's plate? “Objectionable or Need Further Clarification.”

Silverman phoned to “offer clarification”. When doing so, he says, he was told (over the phone) that the proposed plate was “offensive.” Silverman appealed. The Commission has since reversed its decision, but not until the circumstance had drawn the media attention relished by American Atheists.

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Avatar Shirts

New shirts on Zazzle give you fresh conversational opportunities.

Make a chance to steer the curious toward ideals of social acceptance and civic participation for Brights of all stripes. Talk about fairness. About principled involvement in affairs of public importance. Show that persons who have a naturalistic worldview  can engage positively with fellow citizens.

The front carries the simple symbolism of the Brights. The shirtback QR code leads to the Brights mini-site.

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Books by Brights

MEMOIR: The prolific Richard Dawkins has recently published another book.  An Appetite for Wonder is an intimate memoir of his early life and intellectual development. It’s the story of how this notable evolutionary biologist and world-famous atheist (and Enthusiastic Bright) came to write a book widely held to be one of the important books of the twentieth century, The Selfish Gene.

FICTION: The Brights' “fiction department” is far slimmer than its nonfiction, so we’re happy to point out Kylie's Heel, a recently published item by our blogger, The Rational Woman. Susan K. Perry has produced a novel with a strong female character, one whose naturalistic views will be recognizable.

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The Peppered Moth Revisited

Ever wonder what is behind the ups and downs of this classroom classic? If so, you will likely find Dr. Braverman’s “Creationism as Conspiracy Theory: The Case of the Peppered Moth” of interest. The story is of use, too, in showing others how real science works. 

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Poster Project Enters Another Round

Thanks to all who donated so The Brights’ Net gear up to print another round of the Earth and Life: changes across time posters! We have accumulated a teacher waiting list, and when the items are delivered from the printer this month, we will be able to begin distribution right away. Not only will Kelly fulfill for these applicants, but she will also start alerting more high school science teachers of the availability of this distinctive teaching resource.

Please note:  Brights Central is directing all the earmarked funds collected to the actual print order, so that we can obtain the maximum number of posters for the money. Consequently, it is not too late for you to take part! Henceforth, additional donations to the poster project will go toward mailing tubes and postage, to enable us to carry out actual disseminations.

Correction: Many keen-eyed Brights wrote in to BC to correct last month’s description of “the huge swath of time” covered by the 5 Ѕ-foot poster. We’d like to point out that the image looks back over 13 billion years (not 13 million). Thanks to all who wrote. The correction has been made in the archived version of the August Bulletin.

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More Poster Recipients (Brights)

Brights Central would like to extend the educational worth of the poster image, so BC is now negotiating with its developer to broaden our noncommercial exposure. We are delineating criteria in keeping with the developer’s interests and The Brights’ Net’s nonprofit public benefit purposes.

In response to numerous requests from Brights, we are asking that the extension include opportunities for already registered Brights to obtain a personal copy of the poster (at cost of fulfillment). It is to be supplied for the individuals’ use in “illuminating the naturalistic worldview” within their spheres of influence.

We will report in the October bulletin when an agreement on final criteria has been reached and all fulfillment costs determined.

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Insights from Brights

BloggingBrights.net offers original commentary on living life as Brights. And, as this latest blog entry shows, a view from the home front can be direct and personal.

Watch out when The Rational Woman takes on her spouse’s weakness for the latest in technical gadgetry! It’s all in the title: “Oh, Upgrade Yourself!

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The Best Support Ever!

At Brights Central, participating Brights are really appreciated. You might think that The Brights’ Network has greatest fondness for some “big donor” out there? (Okay, that would be nice.). But this nonprofit is actually supported by the individuals who make up the constituency of “the Brights.”

Actually, the ones who matter most to this initiative are those individuals known as our “ongoing monthly” subscribers!  They’re the folks contributing the cost of “a couple of coffees a month” to this initiative.

Are you one of these folks? If so, we really thank you! If not, then we’d welcome your becoming one!

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“Pollinating” (as Brights)

Enough water, nutrients, and light for a plant, and wow! 

Enough aforementioned small donors and individuals participating can add up to a nice total impact, too!

(See all the individual pollination points in the flower shown?). In one sense, The Brights' Net constituency can be seen as a copiously pollinating center "illuminating and elevating the naturalistic worldview."

Brights Central Backstory: Our office “Peace Lily” plant recently bloomed, and all who view it are utterly amazed. The tiny plant had been abandoned last year when another office departed our building. We “adopted” the “poor thing” (5 cm high - shriveled leaves; clearly it was fading away). Now the Spathiphyllum foliage is lush and over 75 cm expanse. The flower projects the equal length above the soil. Gorgeous! (and quite profusely sprinkling its pollen

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What Motivates Brights?

Not an "afterlife"!

Are you, like many Brights, doing things on your own to make a better world?

What spurs your actions? We know that it’s not a hope for eternal life!

Brights don’t credit “a hereafter”, “the next world”, or “life after death”. No thoughts of anyone arising from the dead. Not paradise (heaven, nirvana, rapture). Not re-embodiment. Not souls.

A great many nonsensical ideas in society engulf us and arouse concerns. False beliefs are embraced. Unwarranted fears proliferate. Hokum flourishes! Apparitions. Astrology. Curses. Homeopathy. Spells. The list goes on and on. Sources are not just religion(s).

Diverse cultures across the world pass along countless beliefs not subject to scientific appraisal. Many more have already failed such review.

The sheer prevalence in many societies of unsupported ideas is discomfiting to many a Bright.

Unsubstantiated beliefs carry cultural sway.

Right now, even an extraordinary consensus of scientific opinion about climate change is rejected by numerous influential decision makers. This fact should spur action. But what to do?

Do you care when you see absurdities given priority over reasonable, real world facts? It’s a bet that most Brights do care.

Each of us needs to decide how best to play a role in our community (or more broadly) in order to open up more avenues to authentic understanding.

There would be value in supporting and augmenting correct citizen education (particularly of youth) regarding these matters.

What can you do?

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