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Issue #185

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- NOVEMBER 2018 


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“Brightening” Your Bumper

Have you been telling others about the Brights? 

Some people do act as ambassadors and tell others, loud and clear, again and again what “the Brights” are about.  But, if that’s just not you, recall that there are numerous ways to engender others’ awareness.

Brights Central has concluded from self-reports by constituents how they learned about this initiative. (Recall that there’s a “how you heard” question in the online registration form.) It appears that quite a large proportion of “new Brights” have discovered this initiative via a Wiki entry for a luminary Bright. A printed mention in one of their books (or any book) can also bring on curiosity and an online search. Sometimes several sign-ups will come in in close succession from students being told by a professor in class.

Now and then, someone will see one of our “Awesome” (Naturalistic Worldview)” bumper stickers on a car. A new registrant from New Mexico just this week reported “a bumper sticker” as his pathway to the website.

Brights Central keeps bumper stickers on hand at BC's merchandise shop, so if you’d like to “Bright On!” in this relatively passive way, order one for your vehicle. Spreading the word “by bumper sticker” may not bring a lot of people to the website but, then again, you never know! Depending on where you park, it just may!

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Two More Languages Readied for Infographic

Thanks go to you volunteers who helped out with the Norwegian and Mandarin translations of the Morality Infographic, which continues the Brights’ “Reality about Morality” Project

Completing this step has enabled Brights Central to initiate procedures to add those two languages to its web portal’s current 15-language array. When completed, these two infographics will join those statements in the other languages already available at the Morality Portal, all explaining how human morality has come to be.

Just to let you know: The drafted translations have been reviewed and the finalized versions sent onward to Paula, a California-based artist (and also a Bright) who is doing the necessary graphics work for the infographic. BC’s immediate focus shifts now to acquiring additional volunteer translation assistance so we can install the four accompanying explanation statements on the website.

Some background for newer Brights: Besides viewing the aforementioned morality infographic at the website, you can also read the brief overview that highlights the project rationale, which led a team of volunteers (all Brights) to undertake an effort to put forward scientifically-supported assertions and educate the public about the natural foundation of humans’ morality. The process incorporated notable morality researchers (all listed at the bottom of the completed infographic). The core product was four strong statements, backed by peer-reviewed research (the open science studies were posted to the morality portal, with links.

Just a reminder to long-time Brights:  Since the morality infographic is intended for sharing via social media, BC is reminding all Brights to pause and think once again about potential outlets for further sharing. (And, of course, then just “do it”!) It is efforts by Brights themselves that can help others understand that human morality is not a product of revelation or any supernatural entity or force. It’s only natural!

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Evolution Rocks… Still! (Russia)

The home page of the brights-russia.org website directs visitors to a webpage featuring items of likely interest to Russian Brights. Visitors can purchase these and, when doing so, help the development of the community.

The initial item made available featured the “evolution rocks” illustration by Anastasia Ikusova shown in the September 2017 Brights’ Bulletin and now in the black T-shirts at the right.

Some pertinent books and another T-shirt design (featuring 3 celebrities many Brights would recognize) have been added to the webpage since.

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News in the “Faiths & Schools” Saga (UK)

According to the most recent British Social Attitudes survey, there has been since 2002 a dramatic swing from Christianity to “no religion.” For example, the number of citizens identifying as Church of England fell from 31% to 14% since 2002, a decline of over half.  The 45 to 54 year old category showed the severest drop (from 35% in 2002 to only 11% in 2017)!

Roger Harding, Head of Public Attitudes at the National Centre for Social Research, attributed the “unrelenting decline” in the Church of England and Church of Scotland numbers to people “becoming more socially liberal on issues like same sex relationships and abortion.” Emphasizing the stark figures for young people, with fewer than “…1 in 20 now belong(ing) to their established church,” he nonetheless observed that “in every age group the biggest single group are those identifying with no religion.”

Humanists UK, responding to the attitudes survey data, saw in the new figures (52% saying they belong to no religion) “…an urgent wake-up call for the need to have a renewed conversation about the place of religion or belief in British public life, so that a new settlement can be forged that is more equitable for all and is better able to serve future generations.” The well-established organization of British humanists has long been campaigning against the influence of religion the state-funded educational system and the privileging of Christianity in school curricula and other aspects of society.

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Exploring Antipathy to Atheists (USA+)

Lack of belief in God is still too often taken to mean the absence of any other meaningful moral beliefs, and that has made atheists an easy minority to revile.”

This is but one of many observations made by the author of a new book review article at NewYorker.com exploring why Americans in general are so uncomfortable with atheists. The author, Casey Cep, focuses on two books: Godless Citizens in a Godly Republic: Atheists in American Public Life (Norton) and Seven Types of Atheism (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). While doing so, she offers some select historical background regarding nonbelief in America about which many atheists themselves may not be aware. Her concluding remarks touch upon why so many persons who have a naturalistic worldview just do not like to be called “nonbelievers”:

All of us, nihilists included, believe something—many things, in fact, about ourselves, the cosmos, and one another. In the end, the most interesting thing about a conscience is how it answers, not whom it answers to.”

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Diversity Is NOT Pluralism

There’s a difference! It’s a point made in one session of this month’s international gathering in Toronto of the Parliament of World Religions.  at which speakers took a look at the threats to religious freedom and secular democracy in the United States.

As reported by Religion News Services, the Nov. 2ndFaith, Secularism and Democracy” session targeted an “aggressive, oppressive majority.”  “Christian supremacy” was the thread, according to presenter Jaideep Singh, a Sikh leader of SALDEF (a national non-profit civil rights and educational organization based in DC).

Michael Reid Trice, expert on ecumenical and interreligious dialogue at Seattle University, argued that although diversity in the U.S. is a fact, pluralism is not. He said:

Pluralism is aspirational, a garden to be cultivated. We want to blame a leader like the president… but the truth is we did this to ourselves over decades… We have missed the mark of a healthy pluralism in the U.S.

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Pluralism in Peril (US)

In recent decades, there have been only spotty attempts to foster pluralism in the American citizenry. Even the broader notion of instruction in civics itself has for years fallen to the wayside in public school curricula as the dominant focus on mathematics and reading in K-12 education crowded out concerns for students’ civic development. (Civics education has only recently been recognized as lacking in the citizenry with ensuing attempts to reverse course.)

Specific to fostering of pluralism, it is recent public discord that has jarred ancillary groups into action around that concept. In 2017, as a consequence of mass shootings, the Aspen Institute defined the need and took on civic pluralism as a goal: “We want young people to get basic information about the religion and culture of their neighbors, to ‘de-otherize,’ and form friendships and relationships that lower barriers and reduce suspicion.”

The nonpartisan Center for Public Justice, itself a Christianity-grounded organization, has taken a religious approach to sensitizing millennials to “make peace with proximate pluralism” (i.e., to look for a “proper, obligatory, governmental acknowledgement of and response to the deep divisions of conviction that empirically exist in societies.”)

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Cultivating Pluralism

Interestingly, a quite small attempt at “garden cultivation” of pluralism in public education was initiated years ago by co-founders of the Brights. It was a simple website for high school social studies teachers, worldvieweducation.org.

Originally launched as “Teaching about Religion with a View to Diversity” site (with a goal to expand the teachers’ considerations of “religion” in curricula to include “non-religion”), the developers soon after modified the title to recognize that the site’s intent was actually as much to fortify the teachers’ aspirational conception of civic pluralism as it was to simply embrace the nation’s religious and non-religious diversity. The site (now archived) became “Teaching about Religion in Support of Civic Pluralism.

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Save Time? - Or Save Distance?

Time or distance, that is the question, and termite-seeking ants have their answer.

The fresh research behind this month's wee story from a Danish Bright reveals the individual decisions of ant scouts leading to pathway optimization for the raid column’s collective action.

The scouts choose from available pathways in different substrate situations, and the results reveal which factor is favored for the followers’ action. (Such animal behavior is of interest to scientists working toward efficiency in digital networks.)

Like prior little "Hotline Tales", this one is available in both Danish and English languages).

The story’s advice to one ant (“Don’t Take That Shortcut!) lets you know which variable carries the day for the termite-seekers.

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