The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #182

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- AUGUST 2018 


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Is Contemplation on Your Calendar?

See above: Graceful Butterflies. Crisp Colors. Beauty. Serenity.

Set those attributes in contrast to some challenges of daily life: Volatility. Complexity. Uncertainty. Urgency.

Considering the nature and character of contemporary times, perhaps it’s time to schedule a breather!

Are any pauses for reflection and rejuvenation ahead of you?

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Time for School Here!

With school start times targeting late August and early September, Brights Central is gearing up for the new school year, and we’ve amassed plenty of mailing supplies for the task.
Note: BC has learned from experience not to mail the Earth and Life: changes over time evolution posters while school staff are away on summer (Northern hemisphere) break.

Going by our teacher survey results, this [pictured] batch of posters alone will inform the understanding of over 41 thousand high school science students across just the next three school years. The “shelf-life” of these posters will last longer into a teacher’s career than that, since we’ve discovered from so many of their comments that science teachers tend to professionally laminate their poster when they receive it.

Example from one Oregon teacher writing BC upon receipt of her poster: “I plan on laminating it with a stiff plastic, so it will be protected and lay flat (for) a station that students will visit and gather information from as they explore evidence for evolution. This teacher, Jennie, closes her lengthier comments with gratitude: “Thank you very much for all you are doing to support teachers and facilitate the learning of accurate science information in our classrooms!” 

Brights who support this project can be proud and know that they are making a real difference!  Please join them, if you haven’t already.

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Another Form of “Gearing Up”

For AmazonSmile users who are doing back-to-school shopping (or any shopping that way, of course), then there’s an extra way to support the Brights’ Net at no cost to you.

Simply use this link to shop at smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a small fraction of your purchase cost to The Brights Net. To tell your friends to add their support, just copy the banner into email, social media, or onto your website if you have one.

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Homeopathy Marketing Under Fire

The Center for Inquiry (CfI), a secular organization that stands in support of science, knows well that homeopathic medicines are just “bunkum.” CfI has tired of how some retailers place these “fake medicines” right alongside the science-based and FDA-approved chemicals, and it has set about to do something about it.

CfI is bringing a fraud lawsuit against CVS, the largest drug store retailer in the United States, seeking to stop its retail marketing practice of nestling these fantasy “remedies/cures” (pure pseudoscience) amid the valid products, corralled together in sections that point to various maladies (e.g., cold, headache, flu, sleeplessness, pain, etc.).

CfI claims that marketing the “natural” homeopathic “treatments” this way is tricking people into buying ineffective products. It asserts that drug retailers know that the items are useless, but sell them anyway.  The secular organization has produced a dedicated website and animated video to explain the basis for its lawsuit.

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New Secular Research Seeks Notice

The Russian Brights community cluster has completed a book about conditions of secularism in Russia and is making the text of the publication available in English to the broader public. (The official E-book has appropriate ISBN.) The text can be downloaded and distributed from this page on the Brights Russia website. 

Authored by the co-chairman of the Council of the Institute of Liberty of Conscience, this work describes the status of religion-government separation in Russia and makes a number of recommendations to the international community. Community cluster volunteers themselves accomplished the translation of this work and obtained some support to publish it via a small grant from the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

The Russian Brights hope that this information will garner attention from international secularist organizations and achieve inclusion in varied kinds of international reports.

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What’s Up with “Freedom of Worldview”? (Russia)

The book published (and translated into English) by Russian Brights has answers to that question and explores the contemporary conditions of secularism in the Russian Federation. It examines human rights violations regarding freedom of worldview choice in that nation from 2016 to the beginning of 2017.

The in-depth study assesses the observance of the principle of worldview neutrality at all levels of government. The researcher, Sergey Buryanov, Ph.D. is a legal specialist in the fields of freedom of thought and state worldview neutrality. Positioned in the Department of International Law and Human Rights at the Moscow City Pedagogical University, he has authored several monographs and many scientific and general articles on freedom of thought and state worldview neutrality, including in peer-reviewed journals.

Along with incorporating fundamental theoretical insights, Buryanov has looked to legal documents, human rights monitoring results, various materials from different civil organizations, mass media, and other open sources as the basis for his conclusions and recommendations. and investigated the activities of those fighting against the above-mentioned violations and their subsequent persecution in the Russian Federation.

The research is intended for scholars, teachers, graduate students, lawmakers, government officials, law enforcement officials, human rights activists, and anyone interested in global studies, issues of worldview neutrality, and/or freedom of worldview choice.

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Added Note from Brights Central

Hoped-for dissemination of the Russian Brights’ book is unlikely to happen unless the material is given helpful notice. It will need to be read and reviewed outside of Russia. Otherwise, the recommendations it provides to the international community will never be implemented, or even considered.

The Russian Brights would wish that any reader having knowledge, access or affiliations that could be beneficial would please act to help information on contemporary conditions of secularism in Russia see the light of day!

Please contact directly Eugene Tsygankov., coordinator of Brights Russia, if you can assist in some aspect of review and/or PR for the material.

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Questions for Curious Brights

>>Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion

The religiously unaffiliated are a growing share of the U.S. population. These “nones” choose not to identify with a religion, and a recent Pew research report looks into the reasons.

From a representative sample of more than 1,300 “nones,” researchers identified the most common reason they give, and it is this: They question a lot of religious teachings.

The “nones” are far from a monolithic group, providing a number of additional reasons for not affiliating with a religion. Have a look at the research!

>>What the “Modeling Religion Project says about atheism

The Center for Mind and Culture has just wrapped up its extensive project using computer modeling and simulation to identify the compelling features of religion and discern religious social dynamics. The project drew upon scholars of religion from the humanities, cognitive psychologists, and complex system specialists, as well as modelers and programmers. So, what insights did it divulge? The “Modeling Religion Project” director offers an overview at Smithsonian.com, noting the virtual simulations’ “attempt to show how faith influences human behavior in the face of terror.”

The MRP’s last publication (“Why Do the Godless Prosper?” in the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, August 2018) looks affirmatively at atheism, seeing it as “the attempt to make sense of the world with naturalistic explanations and to act sensibly in society following secularist principles (i.e., without relying on supernatural agents or complying with supernatural authorities). Can we not then take a naturalistic view of the world to be broader than, and free of being always linked to, religion? 

>>You also think yourself smarter than average

If you do, you just may be a textbook example of overconfidence and self-enhancement. Researchers seeking robust, contemporary evidence for this “smarter than average” used two U.S. surveys weighted to be nationally representative and found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that they are more intelligent than average.

It seems that a tendency to overrate one’s cognitive abilities may be a stable feature of human psychology. Men or more likely than women to agree with the “I am more intelligent than the average person” statement. Other findings look into education, age, etc.

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Assisted Dying of Growing Interest (UK, US)

We know we will all die, but the oft-hoped-for “just go in my sleep” is seldom the reality. Hence, failure to acknowledge and plan for the real reality of the dying process can be problematic.  

@UK Brights has pointed fellow Brights to a lengthy Telegraph article that emphasizes the value of legalized assisted dying. (The article is behind a subscription paywall until archived, but if interested, it can be accessed free in a 30-day trial.)

Americans can look to nonprofit organizations for similar rationales and guidance. Two groups in particular are committed to expanding options for the end of life and a death with dignity. Both support the legalizing of medical aid-in-dying (MAID), a highly contentious topic in the U.S. undergoing opposition by many religious and disability rights adversaries.

Compassion and Choices 
This organization engages in legislative advocacy, grassroots organizing, media outreach and litigation. C&C has made some significant advances (PDF) in the movement to expand end-of-life-options and improve care of dying persons. Its programs have led a few states to put legal MAID in place for terminally ill persons who have less than six months to live.

Final Exit Network

This smaller organization assists some who desire—but cannot legally access—such aid-in-dying in the state in which they live (e.g., do not face imminent death by the <6-months criterion in states where MAID is legal, or live in states where MAID is not yet legal).  FEN’s mission is to educate qualified individuals in practical, peaceful ways to end their lives, offer a compassionate bedside presence, and defend the right of ill persons to choose a death with dignity as “the ultimate human right of the 21st century.”

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Notifying Others of Danger

This month's wee story of nature touches upon a major question in science: When in evolutionary history did animal communication become influenced by another’s (rather than one’s own) perspective?

The researchers in this study tested whether, in response to a snake model (danger) and under differing knowledge conditions (ignorant associates or aware associates), wild chimpanzees emit differing signals. They concluded that chimpanzees are aware enough of another’s perspective to target information toward ignorant group members. The results suggest that the integration of signaling and social cognition systems was already emerging in early hominoid lineages before the advent of more language-specific features, such as syntax.

Like previous stories from a Danish Bright, this little "Hotline Story," is available in both Danish and English languages).

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Cloth Patch for Pet Photo (Interim Report)

Last month’s bulletin offered a free cloth patch (showing the Brights logo) in return for photo of a pet wearing the patch.

It isn’t easy to choose from the submissions received so far (BC is still awaiting a few), but there is something about the look on Sage’s face that placed him into this month’s Brights’ Bulletin.

Sage, the rescued Siberian husky male shown here, is one of three dogs now taking walks in Santa Maria, California, while wearing a cloth patch, thanks their owner’s quick response to the July PHOTO4PATCH offer.

Owner Shannon also provides a home for Pasha (who loves car rides and meeting new people)and the sweet Talulah Bettie Belle (who is hearing and vision impaired). About Sage, she says: “[He]once had to get around in a doggy wheelchair but now is able to enjoy playing with his doggy friends. 

Let’s hope some human friends will notice and ask about the new patches!

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