The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #126

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- NOVEMBER 2013 


From the International Forums

How deep does the naturalistic worldview go? 
Is the naturalistic worldview constrained to things like physics and biological evolution, or does it encompass things like justice and values?  For a nice resume on elements of a naturalistic worldview, see this Topic. And your thoughts are welcome.

Is the truth over-rated? 
Some would argue that people's mental representations of truth are useful only insofar as they confer the power to act in ways that are materially advantageous (that therefore human "truths" are really summations of what is useful).  Others argue that "something is the case," whether we can ever know it or not. Or, they hold that knowledge of the truth is worthy in its own right.  You can opine on that slippery subject here.

Participation in the Forums requires a quick registration process.

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“Reality about Morality” (Infographic)

Brights Central is currently coordinating a small project to help advance the overall Reality about Morality Project.  The broader endeavor, you may recall, is to educate about the basis of morality (that it is supernatural-free). All Brights who have interest in the all-around endeavor are invited to help advance this portion (Project Area C) outlined in the larger Morality Project.

After a survey of research studies, BC summarized the information about morality and produced tentative conclusions, which were submitted to scientists who work in the fields of ethics and morality (Joshua Greene, Steven Pinker, Jessica Pearce and others). 

Now we want to produce an infographic likely to make the morality research studies, statements and endorsements by scientists more meaningful to the broader public. In such a concise visual form, the conclusions about naturalistic basis of morality can be more readily conveyed to wider audiences.

As a Bright who understands the often-frustrating experience of explaining that one's morality does not require any supernatural explanations, we hope you will consider backing this important educational and awareness-building project.

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Pay it Forward Brightly?

While we are considering the realm of morality… Have you ever thought about picking up the tab for the person behind you in the drive-through line” (or something similar)?

Mark (a Bright in North Carolina, USA) sent in this idea. He had read an article about lots of people doing just that and thought it “…a great way to show the world (or at least the person behind you) that people with a naturalistic world view can be generous and kind.”

Of course, you’d need to have the extra money, wouldn’t you? And, for your “paying forward” credit to actually be attributed, you’d perhaps need to pause and show off a bumper sticker (for example, one from the Brights’ Shop).

But, of course, there are oh so many and varied opportunities to display a bit of goodwill.

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Chess, Anyone?

Like chess?  Want to play?  Consider joining The Brights Chess Team.

This team has been running over four years on the chess website, Gameknot.com. The current team consists of 39 people from at least 15 different countries. (It’s mostly a handful of people from the international discussion forums.)  As the team states: “[It] is for brights and those that feel that everyone should experience full civic equality regardless of their worldview.”

One of the team captains (Jason, Ohio, USA) is looking to add some new players. So, if you’re interested, head to the team's webpage, where this beautiful brain image is currently featured.

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Brighten Someone’s Week

Brights on Facebook

Brights on Google+

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Poster Access for Brights

With October 29 delivery of the new batch of Earth and Life: changes across time evolution wall posters, Brights Central has resumed the free distribution to high school science teachers who apply.

As announced last month, previously registered Brights can also acquire a poster for their personal instructional situations. (The poster comes at cost.)

Processing “orders” already received from Brights is taking lots of time. If you have already requested one, please be patient! We will get to you in time. If you have not yet requested one, please think through the need before you make a request. For actual educational value consistent with goals of this endeavor, you should have in mind prospective learners for which the detail in the material will be suitable.  

Last month’s bulletin has background and usage information, and this link leads to acquisition instructions.

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Lost email

A set of requests for the Earth and Life poster vanished[!] on October 17, cause and whereabouts unknown.

If you did NOT receive an acknowledgment of your request prior to the 17th, please re-send it with NEEDE&L in your subject line.

We apologize for the error and inconvenience!  But, thank you for your interest in receiving the poster for your instructional purposes.

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Inbox Delights

Beware of evolutionary studies!  — From Constantine (in Russia):
“Hello, Mynga. Nice to e-meet you and thank you for the warm greeting. I'm an atheist since evolutionary studies at school when I was something 12-13. I always defend and promote my views among the people I contact.”

Just regular folks! — From Olga ( in Wisconsin, USA):
“I am a Bright, / I didn't go to Harvard, Stanford or MIT / But the same sun that enlightens the great Minds / gives me enough energy to Brighten my Life. I didn't go to Yale, But what I like to do / is looking at Nature / where I get plenty of Pleasure.”

Relish a different meaning — From Vicky (in Spain):
“I loved your definition. You're not just atheists who say God doesn't exist because I say so.”

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Communication Quibbles

Prefer HTML? —  It has come to our attention that Brights who registered some time ago may have left their initial subscription settings as “text mode only” unintentionally (despite ability to receive html).  If that fits you, then consider changing your subscription settings to html. It may brighten the presentation, but the preference is of course yours to decide.

Mind your subject line? — Please take care when sending an email query or suggestion to Brights Central to craft your subject line. It should be obviously distinctive and relevant. This goes beyond the problem of not having it appear as spam. You need to also distinguish yourself from the array of email on related subjects (religion, atheism, flowing in at BC). We suggest using UPPER CASE, too.

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Insights from Brights

Blogs and Forums

BloggingBrights.net offers commentary on living life as Brights.

Want an Afterlife?

The Rational Woman” was recently spurred by a book, Death and the Afterlife, to ponder meanings that “afterlife” may take on when that concept is viewed in wholly naturalistic terms.

Worth of Fiction?:
The latest entry under “The Science-Minded Citizen” draws on a study from the New School for Social Research to evaluate the worth of “reading literary fiction” for sensing social cues.

Carry Feedback Forward?

Last month’s bulletin referenced a Scientific American column by skeptic (and Bright) Michael Shermer. In his article, Shermer weighed the conflict between his libertarian beliefs and science, declaring the choice of science imperative and concluding that it “better to understand the way the world really is” than “how we would like it to be.”

The column drew commentary in a number of different secular-oriented forums. This American’s comment could be useful starter material for discussion in Brights' forums.

I do commend Shermer for acknowledging that his values have blocked his ability to consider facts when they were in conflict with the former. However, there is no reason to stop there. Instead of framing opinions based on one's ideological value-laden perspective, there is an opportunity to step back and look at beliefs through a world view.

Where do you find the highest quality of life, the happiest people, the best place to raise a family, have economic security etc.? Let's look at the UN Human Development Index. http://hdr.undp.org/en/statistics/
You will not find the US on the top and when you factor in inequality we have been falling like a rock compared to other developed nations. What you will find is in Norway where the state is trusted and respected, and freedom is assured, along with economic security…  I would suggest if we want to use science to improve quality of life for all, while having considerable freedom and equality, Norway would make a good case study for examining.

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