The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #132

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- MAY 2014 


“Life Elevated” (USA)

The USA is “a religious nation.” So says a recent Gallup “State of the States” report.

The poll report ranks the different states by their religiosity. It ranks Utah #2.

Whereas most of the country’s religious areas are in its southern regions, Utah stands out quite remarkably from both the South and its far less religious neighboring states. (Reason cited:  Utah has majority Mormon population, and Mormons are the most observantly religious of any category or denomination Gallup routinely measures.)

Nat, a Bright, lives in this exceptional state, where he clearly makes visible his own exceptionality. Of his car’s new license plate, Nat remarks:

“I think it goes quite nicely with Utah's plate motto "Life Elevated"don't you?”

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Insights from Brights

Ahh – the “good things” in Nature. 
This past month, the Blogging Brights appear to have been struck by a bit of “spring fever,” or at least have been stimulated to focus on events of flowering.

 

In “What’s a Flower For?The Rational Woman ponders the discrepancy between those who get emotionally stirred by the beauty of flowers and others, like herself, who just aren’t “moved” by flora.

What bends one person to stop and admire natural floral beauty while a companion will hardly take notice and not get the point? Is it some genetic difference in limbic systems, or what? And what if they are spouses?

Judging by his recent sketches, Thrashin’ Jack apparently has a fairly high emotional response to Nature’s beauty.

His reply to “What’s a Flower For?” (“Lovely is the Fragrant Bud) is one piece of evidence, preceded by “A Thought on This Spring Day.”

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Only a Theory?

Well, yes. And a splendid one, indeed.

As regards evolution through natural selection, one often hears proponents of creationism saying, “Evolution is only a theory.”


One science-minded citizen has had enough of that. So, with some help from Sherlock Homes, and in collaboration with her Brights community cluster, she offers her point of view on the serious topic.

But while submitting a blog post to address what bugs her about the “only a theory” argument, she provided us a rather humorous mini-bio as well.

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Reviews Bear Fruit

(Action Arena 1, Morality Project Update)

After receiving feedback from multiple experts during this month, the infographic team is feeling really good. We have a handle on the global research community's body of knowledge about the origins of morality.

We’ve added new Recommended Readings if you'd like to learn more.

Famed anthropologist Dr. Donald Brown, author of Human Universals, has kindly provided us with some advice regarding the cross-cultural universality of morality. For a more on that topic, check this Bulletin’s final article, titled “Human Universals 2.0.”

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BC Overwhelmed by Requests!

(Action Arena 2, Project Update)

In the previous Bulletin, we noted that a publication of the National Science Teachers Association had informed its subscribers of the availability of the Brights’ Net’s unique Earth and Life: changes over time classroom resource.

Whew!  With NSTA’s announcement, Brights Central has been inundated with a huge flood of teacher applications for the poster. The word is definitely out, as NSTA's notice is the best so far of the Brights’ effort to get awareness of the natural story of life on earth into appropriate learning settings.

The applications keep coming, and if we can fulfill the valid requests, tens of thousands more students will, under the guidance of a knowledgeable teacher, become knowledgeable future citizens who will actually comprehend evolution. According to teachers, this poster helps students understand the “big picture, with key details,” first hand.

Oh, and did we mention the “flood” of applicants!? Fulfillment depends on Brights and other science enthusiasts. Help for Brights to fulfill these requests will be welcomed!

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Skepticism Prevails

Are teacher requests for free Earth and Life: changes over time posters always valid? 

This is a question Brights Central has had to address. And, consequently, Kelly at BC has become something of a sleuth!

For over a year, her fulfillment process has included a step to verify the applicant’s employment position. She added the step soon after stumbling across a couple of misrepresentations from resource-seeking folks who simply did not meet the criteria, despite their application information.

Apparently, acquiring this unique instructional resource for free did generate in some educators a level of desire in excess of their level of honesty. So, we at BC learned to adjust our process for responding to each applicant.

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New Book by a Bright

Articles in this compendium, Science and Religion: 5 Questions, draw from 33 interviews with influential contemporary thinkers, many of them noted Brights.

Edited by Gregg Caruso, the book is based on five questions presented to the various contributors and touches on many domains (cosmology, biology, ethics, human mind).

Contributors evaluate the compatibility of science and religion:  So, are they “overlapping magisteria”? Or not?

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Unanswered Questions (The International Forums)

Member “Steph,” taking note of how markers on roadsides and symbols on maps and charts show cemeteries with a cross, star of David, etc., has asked “what universal symbol could be used to denote a cemetery or grave without any implication to a religious affiliation?”  But there is a paucity of response.  What kind of understandable symbology would be appropriate to connote the funerary inclinations of people of a naturalistic mindset?  Why not drop by and add a word on the matter?

Was Isaac Newton a super or a bright?  So asks a new Topic in the Forums.  Quoted is Karin Figala, writing,"It may seem suprising to present Isaac Newton, the founder of modern mathematical natural science, as a serious student of alchemy.”  Nevertheless, Newton seems an example of the sometimes staggering array of concepts that may constitute a worldview, and a humbling reminder that even the most astute efforts may be led astray by pre-existent ideas. A Nova documentary is linked to provide a deeper examination of this complex historical figure.

A brief and confidential registration will enable you to participate in the Forums.

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Charitable Status Update (USA, UK)

The Brights’ Net has long held federal and state charitable status where it is chartered. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit public benefit educational organization, TBN can provide tax-exemption for eligible contributors who file US federal and California state tax returns.

The Charities Aid Foundation (Registered charity number 268369 in the UK) is a not-for-profit organization that provides a range of services to help its clients give to charity. Recently, a Bright who is a UK resident sought CAF help in wiring a donation in US$ to support the work of the Brights. Subsequently, The Brights’ Net filed rather comprehensive paperwork with CAF. It did so to benefit that one Bright’s request for tax efficiency for his planned donation. CAF approved his request, and the donation will be applied to UK-directed educational activity.

CAF handles requests on a case-by-case basis, but the past CAF scrutiny has probably opened some likelihood of similar action with regard to other similarly situated UK-residents who may wish to support the Brights’ initiative. Such individuals must hold an account with the CAF. Make inquiries to cafov@cafonline.org or by phone to +44 (0) 3000 123 465.

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Pet Patch Promotion

If you have a pet, you may wish to put a cloth patch on your pet’s halter or coat! What a conversation starter that can be! It’s an awesome way to boost awareness of the Brights movement where you live.

A pet naturally draws personal attention and curiosity. When you walk your dog, you can explain what the emblem represents.

Need help with an explanation of the Brights movement? It is easily accessible on a smart phone via the Brights mini-site (see QR code at right) or on the main website.

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Photo4Patch Exchange (May Only)

This month only-- If you’d like to pursue a “Pet Patch Promotion” of your own, Brights Central can send you a cloth patch, for free!

In return, though, you commit to sending back a .jpg or .png photo. We look forward to seeing your pet “dressed up” with the Brights’ emblem.

Be creative!  Perhaps your pet’s photo will provide good company for “Lycisca”, the Siberian husky shown here (and featured on the website)!

If interested in this type of “free trade,” email to the-brights@the-brights.net with PHOTO4PATCH in upper case letters in the subject line.  Oh yes, be sure to provide your postal mailing address so we can actually mail you the patch! 

Note:  This offer is not just for Americans. It is international as well!

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Human Universals 2.0

Morality Project Update

The artist for our “Reality about Human Morality” mini-project plans to finalize the product soon, but she will be making a couple of useful revisions in the draft first.

The changes will nudge us even farther toward showing contemporary evidence for the scientific picture of human morality. In fact, a helping hand from noted anthropologist, Donald Brown, gives our approach to Morality Statement C more than a nudge.  It’s a nice boost!

The Word Cloud

How best to visually introduce Morality Statement C (Because morality is acquired through evolution, it exists in all societies and cultures)?

Surrounding “morality words and phrases” with a diversity of human hands had seemed a reasonable way. So we produced the draft word cloud shown here.

However, as drafted, that element within the infographic had received a bit of questioning from our morality experts. Consequently, the Brights’ infographic team wanted to give the word cloud itself further scrutiny.

We turned to the eminent anthropologist, Donald Brown, asking if he would be willing to advise us on just that one pictorial element, the word cloud.

Nice Advisor

Donald Brown is now American emeritus professor of anthropology (University of California, Santa Barbara). He is the author of Human Universals, a book in which he had compiled sixty-seven shared human traits for which there were no (then) known exceptions. These shared traits he termed “universals”.

That 1991 compilation had definitely challenged the assumption that human behavior is primarily determined by culture. Its collection of shared human attributes had spurred further thinking with regard to underpinnings of aspects of humanity (e.g., cultures, languages). Notably, Dr. Brown’s list was discussed by Enthusiastic Bright Steven Pinker in his influential 2002 book The Blank Slate.

The initial phrases in the draft word cloud had been drawn from the listing of traits Dr. Brown had compiled for his 1991 book. However, it is now 2014, and we wondered about the current empirical status of those traits.

Certainly he would our best advisor, if willing. So, we asked Dr. Brown if he would please take a good look at his list to suggest items for inclusion in the word cloud, targetting those that have, since his compilation in 1991, proved most empirically solid.

Sound Advice! – Nice!

Surprisingly, he willingly lent a hand to the project, and we are most grateful! Subseqent to our query, he spent some time checking into the status of the various human universals and returned with a listing of those that, as he terms them, seem “the most securely universal and relevant." We will be following his recommendations for words and phrases.

Also, Dr. Brown’s review and validation of the four scientific statements that the MP team had developed to ground this project, was positive as well.  So, although he doesn’t ask for it, we are very pleased to acknowledge his help and add Professor Brown to our scientific panel of experts. In his words, “There is no need whatever to acknowledge my contribution, but I do not object either. Hoping the best for the project”.

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