The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #152

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- JANUARY 2016 


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Such Good Timing – Now!

The Brights’ Net has laid the groundwork to make one “new year’s resolution” extra-easy to accomplish (lots easier than losing weight, for example). While the year is young, why not take some time to educate others about a topic that impacts the status and welfare of citizens who hold a supernatural-free outlook!?

Teach.  Have you already shared the Brights’ “Reality about Morality” infographic? If not, then sometime in the early weeks of 2016, please do so.  If you have already, then put your mind to thinking up fresh recipients. Who else would benefit by learning what science is saying about the naturalistic foundations of human morality? Forward the infographic along to those new targets.

You might add a note to explain why it is important for citizens to recognize that scientists actually know quite a lot about human morality, and the evidence indicates it has come about naturally, without involvement of supernatural agency. It remains a high priority for Brights to pursue varied means to communicate "this reality" to the general public.

Learn.  If you yourself are totally new to these ideas, then educate yourself first!  Project volunteers from the constituency, aided with input from notable morality researchers (people like Frans deWaal, Jessica Pierce, and Peter Singer) have amassed a wealth of evidence regarding morality’s natural foundations. With that, they crafted the online “Reality about Human Morality” web portal. It has an excellent bibliography of readings. This one-stop shop not only provides general explanatory material in 15 spoken languages, but its “open science” approach gives online access to the bulk of original studies bolstering the infographic’s four main ideas.

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Evolution of Cooperation

One key component in the morality realm is cooperation. This attribute can be found throughout the living world—from the cellular to the societal level. It is considered central to the development of humankind.

So what do we know about how cooperation came about?

A new article in The Scientist offers agreeable access for interested Brights to some of the concepts related to the topic of cooperation.

Think about it:  “Our cells are descended from single-celled organisms that once competed with or preyed on one another, but now work together to function as a cohesive unit.” How did this happen? The article offers clues, along with other fascinating examples of ways in which cooperative biology has come about.

Regarding evolution of morality, The Brights’ Net web portal makes relevant peer-reviewed research studies available to the general public. Still, it is a fact that published scientific studies rarely lend themselves to easy comprehension by persons outside the field of morality research. Articles like this one in the Scientist are helpful interpreters for Brights who aren’t active in the fields but have an interest in evolution of life.

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New Brights Website Launched (Russia)

The Russian Brights, through voluntary efforts, have launched a “Brights website” specifically for Russian-speaking communities. The website features a modern design with some rather striking graphics. Start your tour at: http://brights-russia.org/articles

Some key structural elements adopted for the new website include About page graphics: 

• Worldview and Principles

• Brights

• Views

• Goals

In addition to basic articles, the site’s developers are initiating a library of videos, a blog, a forum, and other elements. Brights who speak or read Russian can now converse with other Brights who use Russian language.

They can also help further the site development. Whether or not you speak Russian, if you like the idea of supporting the Russian Brights in bringing fresh content to those who do, please visit the page for financial donations.

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The Matter of Religion and Trust

Why do so many politicians weave mention of religion into their campaigning? A new study using American polling data suggests that they have good reason to do so: They want to be viewed more favorably. There’s a widespread belief that persons who are to some extent religious are trustworthy. The politician feeds that belief by incorporating religion into what she or he says.

The research was conducted by Scott Clifford (University of Houston) and Ben Gaskins (Lewis & Clark College) and the findings reported in the journal American Politics Research. Clifford and Gaskins say that their study shows the challenges for non-religious candidates vying for public office. "Their religious identification reflects a powerful, widespread, but often subtle and unconscious bias in American society against those who do not believe in God," Clifford said.

One additional finding should be of special interest to Brights:

“Believing [that] atheists are moral 
increases willingness to vote for such a candidate.” 

This adds impetus to the “Reality about Morality Project’s goal of educating about morality’s naturalistic foundations. Uncoupling human morality from deity-belief can lift the civic status of persons who hold supernatural-free worldviews and are quite free of the bias about trustworthiness.

Read more about the study at: 

http://phys.org/news/2016-01-god.html

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What? - Discuss Science? (Not Yet, USA)

Today, there’s a science and technology component to a great many major issues of public policy, from standards of living to health, energy, and environment. Yet all too few are the public figures who broach the topic. When something is said about the science that informs public policy issues and challenges, it is sometimes utterly wrong.

While science is impacting a great many aspects of life, our political leaders and our population as a whole are often misinformed or unaware of the connections. Politicians appear averse to even addressing the topic, despite its major economic, environmental, health, legal, and moral implications. Shouldn’t these issues come into the public spotlight to be addressed?

The upcoming elections offer opportunity for candidates to be debating the matters grounded in scientific realms. According to a recent commissioned online poll, there is some interest in having that happen, but public pressure is inadequate so far.

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Addressing Changing Demographics; Causing a Tempest (UK)

A two-year commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life, chaired by a former senior judge and involving leading religious leaders from diverse faiths, has called for British public life to be systematically de-Christianized.

The report has highlighted a decline in people who say they are Anglicans. Across three decades it has gone from 40% (1983) to less than a fifth (2013). The commission points to three striking trends in recent decades that have revolutionized the religion and beliefs landscape in Britain:  1) the increase in the number of people with non-religious beliefs and identities; 2) the decline in Christian affiliation, belief and practice, and within this decline a shift such that Anglicans are now only a plurality of Christians; and 3) the increase in the number of people who have a religious affiliation but who are not Christian.

As reported by John Bingham and Steven Swinford in The Telegraph, the response to the proposals has been vocal and furious, with the Church of England saying the commission appeared to have been "hijacked" by humanists.

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Okay to Omit Teaching about Atheism? (UK)

The back and forth regarding the school curriculum on Religious Studies in the UK continues. 

For non-religious citizens seeking a pluralistic approach, there is concern that a “religions only” curriculum, even if treating several religions, would be inadequate treatment of the subject of worldviews. Tackling topics like death, human relationships, war and peace, sanctity of life, etc. only in religious context would lead to students thinking that religion, in whatever form it may present, has the corner on these matters.

A ruling reported in last month’s bulletin and welcomed by British secular and humanist organizations, appeared to ask that the religious education syllabus not prioritize religious over nonreligious worldviews. In a subsequent statement, the Education Secretary has said that there is “no obligation” for schools to teach about atheism as part of the religious studies curriculum.

The Previous Ruling:

• http://www.bbc.com/news/education-34921857

• http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/12015859/Non-religious-views-should-not-have-been-left-out-of-new-GCSE-High-Court-rules.html

The Secretary’s Statement:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/12070607/Schools-must-teach-children-that-Britain-is-a-Christian-country.html

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Reason Rally 2016 Ahead

Make your plans!  Events being planned for the second “Celebration of Reason” on the Washington, DC mall span Thursday - Sunday, with the main program taking place on Saturday, June 4 at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Brights’ Network was a supporter and helped to sponsor the 2012 Reason Rally. Brights Central is presuming adequate interest from American Brights in continuing support and participation for the 2016 event. Co-sponsorship costs have multiplied several fold, though, so please earmark any extra donation to this purpose.

Also, let us know if you are personally interested in aiding participation by Brights (email to the-brights@the-brights.net with RR2016 in your subject line).

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At the International Forums

Of course the Brights are importantly a visibility campaign, but just how “out” should you be?  Many of us want to express our opinions and inform our neighbors of our worldviews, but does this extend to advertising them at a holiday dinner or starting arguments at work?  One Forum member wants to know about promoting his opinion on the job; it would be interesting to see what the community thinks of it.

If you have advice or questions, or indeed any item of interest, come on over to the Forums and say hello.  Registration is quick and private.

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Some Extra “Brightness” From the Holiday Inbox

It’s always nice to hear about the release of a prisoner who has been receiving the “A Little Brightness” newsletter. But it’s even nicer when appreciation for the Brights’ newsletter for prisoners arrives after a prisoner has been released from incarceration.

David, who had been incarcerated in California, remarked about ALB:

It was one of the two pieces of mail, along with Pique, that I did look forward to when it arrived.  It was also the source of countless conversations with many friends both where I was and in other prisons.  I just want to thank you again for all the work you do to bring this newsletter to prisoners.

Joel, the volunteer who edits the material (much of it based on Brights’ Bulletins), reported that David was asking to continue receiving the bimonthly newsletter by email. So, with Joel’s agreement, ALB is making its initial venture “outside the prison walls” and into the broader world.

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Patch Possibilities

Why not sew a cloth patch to your jacket sleeve, or perhaps attach it to a backpack or laptop case? You might pin it onto the material on your cubicle? More ideas?

Wherever you put a patch, you might start a conversation and boost awareness of the Brights movement where you live or work.

Even better: how about attaching a patch to your pet's halter or coat? “Brandi” here at BC is displaying one effect, but of course actually sewing the patch onto the new winter coat that Kelly gave her would be better.

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

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

 

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February “Foto Swap” Offer

If you do purchase a patch to display someplace, you can email to Brights Central a .jpg or .png photo of it in its location, and Brights Central will mail you another couple swag items!

Simply attach your photo to an e-mail to the-brights@the-brights.net and put FOTO in your subject line. Deadline: end of February.

Please Note: We will be opening an attachment only if it is coming from you at the email address at which you receive the monthly bulletins.

Extra Note: This offer also goes for a photograph of any other Brights item that you may have previously purchased (a T-shirt, a flag, a static cling or sticker).  It is not just for Americans, either. The offer is international as well!  But you’ll need to supply your postal address along with the emailed photo(s).


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