The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #133

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- JUNE 2014 


New YouTube Channel (Russia)

TheBrightsRussia video channel launched in May. It pursues “public education” in the face of some troubling changes taking place in fundamental science there. For content, the channel will be featuring translations into Russian language of select presentations from elsewhere.

The inaugural presentation was a humorous TEDx talk by Luis von Ahn. It was followed June 1 by a lesson on “Bending Spoons” by Enthusiastic Bright Michael Shermer. The video's really, really close look at “the reality” offers an excellent way to reduce superstition.

Although only Russian-speaking Brights can appreciate the vocal translations (so far, they are excellent), anyone can catch the gist by machine-translating the summary text/sketch.

There is a nifty animation of the Brights logo that accompanies each talk on TheBrightsRussia. So, start the video if you want to see this delightful introduction to the content.

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Encountering Popular Opinions

Oft-heard from vocal advocates:

  • “Alternative medical therapies work!”
  • “I am spiritual but not religious.”

As a Bright, how do you,evaluate and respond to the assertions?

These recent tweets lead to opinion articles in The Telegraph and BBC News Magazine, respectively:

http://twitter.com/UKBrights/status/466845469592010752

http://twitter.com/UKBrights/status/470562950819115008

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Insights from Brights

Blogging Brights is where contributors contemplate the realities of living a life on “the bright side”.

Here are some recent entries in the blog:

The 9 Commandments” 
The Rational Woman offers up her personal suggestions of how to behave. If you don’t like them, you can make up your own.  Any number will do; really.

Gravity Is Just a Theory and Reaching, Each Moment Possible
Thrashin’ Jack has taken to making quick and light-hearted replies to other contributors, such as to May entries by The Rational Woman and a Science-Minded Citizen.

Spirituality & ‘Inner’ Life

This month’s contributor to The Science-Minded Citizen is from India. The “not religious, but spiritual” comment he addresses is one heard often, and the world over.

Note: Last month’s blog post about evolution (Only a Theory?) stirred discussion. Others besides Ms. Hatton have concerns about public understanding of the term “theory” as it relates to discourse. Some respondents had alternative ideas on how to address the problem.

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Infographic Final Draft in Process

Action Arena 1, Morality Project

It won’t be long now.  Knowing that humans are endowed with moral sentiments, we will have an opportunity to help more people understand “it came about naturally” (no supernatural).

The infographic will capture the evidence-based nitty-gritty in simple visual form and lead to supportive information on the website. Circulating it in wise ways, you can help counter widely held cultural presumptions that just are not so.

With whom will you share the completed infographic? Where will you send it?  Please plan. There will be opportunities to circulate the image with ease.

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Speaking of Morality

What’s going on in the canine mind? Maybe there’s more than science has previously acknowledged. If you have a dog (or even if you don’t), you may have interest in what researchers are exploring lately regarding what lies behind dogs’ conduct.

  • Deceit?
  • “Theory of mind”?
  • Indignation?
  • Jealousy?

Investigations into such topics indicate there may well be something like morality operating in our “best friend.”

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“Brighteners” from Prison (USA)

Each month, Brights Central mails the “A Little Brightness” newsletter to incarcerated individuals who subscribe.  Now and then, an envelope arrives from that direction.

A prisoner’s letter to BC typically expresses gratitude for the “ALB” newsletter, nothing more. But occasionally we find enclosed a dollar bill, or a poem or drawing, or a newspaper article. Two such “bits of Brightness” landed in the mailbox recently - nice examples to share with the broader constituency.

A pertinent article
One of the most relevant to civic issues of interest to Brights came from a prisoner incarcerated in Louisiana. (Zzundre ran across its content cited in a local newspaper to which he had access).

“‘Openly Secular’ Group seeks to Fight
Anti-Atheist Discrimination

A bit of artwork

One of the better artistic examples came in from a prisoner incarcerated in California. Since there’s no calligraphy on the website, we’ve added Johnny’s handiwork to the array of signs, artwork, poems, and tattoos on the “Expressions & Illuminations” webpage.

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Fresh News from Gallup

A Gallup poll conducted in May points out a large discontinuity between the beliefs that many Americans hold and the general scientific consensus on evolution. The gap is both strong and ongoing.

Gallup's report is titled “In U.S., 42% Believe Creationist View of Human Origins” and begins this way:
“More than four in 10 Americans continue to believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago, a view that has changed little over the past three decades.”

The data presentation and discussions are highly informative.

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Report from the International Forums

Is modern medicine racing off a cliff?  Consider the emergence of resistance to some of our most important drugs: antibiotics.  According to an article in The Telegraph (UK), emergence of resistance to new drugs takes just a few years, and thus it seems we are always behind the curve of emerging disease threats.  Meanwhile, no major new categories of antibiotics are in the research pipeline, suggesting that it’s a matter of time until the scourges of yesteryear return.  Do you have reasons for hope?  Causes for alarm?  Share your thoughts in the Topic.

Registration to the Forums is easy and confidential.  See you there!

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Amazon Ruffles

Amazon, the company, got its start delivering books to readers. Brights are generally ravenous consumers of information, so it made sense for The Brights’ Net to affiliate. As Amazon evolved into an “Everything Store,” commissions became a way that served many constituents, who like to support The Brights’ Net (for free) by way of their purchases at Amazon.

Recently, the giant company has flexed its corporate muscles in a bitter dispute with a large publisher over e-book pricing. The business tactics Amazon has been using (e.g., blocking inventory, delaying deliveries) have revolted many of the company’s former admirers. Some are bolting to seek products elsewhere.

At Brights Central, Amazon commissions ranked second in the monthly income stream. As the Amazon uproar has increased, a lessening of commissions has been duly noted at BC.

The drop-off is not just conspicuous, it is understandable. Books are seen by many as something beyond simply products of commerce. So, if you are someone who is now going elsewhere for books (or typical products), please think about other pathways you can use to keep up your support of the Brights.

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Evolution Posters - UK Bound?

(Action Arena 2, Project Update)

News ? The Brights’ Net is able to briefly widen the scope of the "Evolution Poster Project" to include science teachers in the UK! The momentary expansion is due to a donation from a UK supporter and is necessarily fixed by that donation amount. Consequently, we want to target carefully to maximize impact. Ideally, we wish to better equip students in UK classrooms who do not yet have a firm evolutionary understanding.

Your Advice Welcomed ? To what educational levels should we direct posters?  Brights Central is preparing an application form on the website to enable UK science educators to file their requests for the poster. Given our targeted focus, would 10th and 11th graders benefit more than sixth form students? Please email your targeting suggestions to with “UKPOSTERADVICE” in upper case letters in the subject line.

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Sending More across the Pond

UK Brights! ? You have an opportunity to personally reinforce the natural story of life on earth within more learning settings. During the dissemination period, and with your help, we can expand the evolution project within the UK. Over time, a single poster can affect hundreds of learners. Please consider targeting a donation to this endeavor. You can use this link, or clearly earmark a donation via any method for UKPosters.

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Secular Leadership Pathways

There are numerous online opportunities to gain knowledge and skills useful for secular leadership.

For the smaller commitment of time and effort, the new Secular Leaders Online site may be your best starting place. It offers topics with a variety of instructors using the Moodle platform.  The one-month courses are reasonably priced, and there may even be a free offering now and then.

For a larger time commitment, still wholly online, perhaps you’d like to think a course within the “Science and the Public” program at the University at Buffalo, NY. Its part-time, completely online program offers a “Certificate in Science and the Public.”

Thinking master’s degree? Accomplish the whole Ed.M. within America's only entirely online program for the secular promotion of science and science-based policy.  Any professional with an interest in promoting public understanding of science and a desire to become a leader in science and the public interface may apply.

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Second Class Citizens? (USA)

High Decisions That Matter

For the many who favor neutrality between religion and nonreligion on matters of public governance, last month delivered disappointing news. 

Citizens of every stripe – treated alike?  Children of every family background – not differentiated?  Hardly – at least according to decisions from topmost courtrooms regarding how local governance bodies conduct business and how youngsters in classrooms acknowledge their patriotism.

Some think religion merely an innocuous presence in these circumstances. Others discern deep intrusions and exclusionary discrimination and violations of conscience.

For the latter, two exasperating examples from the [not-so] merry month of May:

  • Q: Can citizens who come before local governance entities be treated in a neutral manner, or is “ceremonial religion” to be accepted as part of the setting? 

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling (May 5) in an Establishment Clause case:

Sample Exasperation Commentary from the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which sponsored the lawsuit:
“The Supreme Court just relegated millions of Americans --- both believers and nonbelievers --- to second-class citizenship. Government should not be in the business of forcing faith on anyone, and now all who attend meetings of their local boards could be subjected to the religion of the majority.”

More:
http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/05/politics/scotus-new-york-public-prayer/
http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/05/05/supreme-court-religious-minorities-dont-have-a-prayer/

  • Q: Should children be able to express patriotism in a classroom free of intrusions of “ceremonial religion”?  Or not?

Massachusetts Supreme Court Ruling (May 9) in a discrimination case:
Upheld:  the legality of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance

Sample Exasperation Commentary from plaintiffs’ attorney David Niose, legal director for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center:
“No child should go to public school every day, from kindergarten to grade 12, and be faced with an exercise that portrays his or her religious group as less patriotic.”

More:
https://secular.org/news/secular-americans-disappointed-ma-supreme-court-decision-pledge-allegiance 
http://www.religionnews.com/2014/05/09/atheists-lose-fight-god-massachusetts-supreme-judicial-court/

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