The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #77
September 30, 2009

(Note that links in archived Bulletin issues may no longer be valid.)


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- OCTOBER 2009


 
New Enthusiastic Bright
 
Vinod Kumar Wadhawan is our latest "Enthusiastic Bright". An outstanding scientist in India, of late he has been writing a series of articles for the nonprofessional, emphasizing a rational and natural (rather than supernatural) explanation of the evolution of complexity in Nature. He is trying to 'simplify complexity'! You can reach additional information on Dr. Wadhawan on his Enthusiastic Brights page!


 
Morality is Natural!
 
How well-grounded in current scientific knowledge is The Brights' Net's supposition that human morality has natural underpinnings (no recognition of any supernatural foundations)? The Brights' "Reality about Morality Project" was launched in 2006 to find out.
 
Could we achieve authentication of this supposition by researchers in the field?
 
The four assertions Brights drafted have been reviewed and shaped by seven noted scientists and ethical philosophers, and so we can now issue some scientifically defensible declarations. The statements, grounded in current scientific knowledge, can become a foundation for developing educational materials and media strategies. We want to build a broader understanding of morality first within the constituency. Then, with interested and knowledgeable Brights at hand, we can subsequently turn out attention to educating the general public.
 
Look for a special emailed announcement on this topic in mid-October. By then, final statements and associated "substantiating studies" will have been posted on the website along with a panel-recommended listing of background readings. Any Brights wishing to become better versed in demonstrating that "morality is natural!" will surely be interested in those readings.

 
A Demonstrated Need?
 
The September equinox fundraising letter stated: "More supernatural-free people are identifying as Brights everyday." What that means in practical terms for these persons is that the topic of "morality" is almost sure to become a conversational item.
 
Example: This month, perhaps in response to the remark in the fund appeal, Steve emailed to Brights Central: "I'd like you to know that I'm beginning more and more to open up to my friends and acquaintances that...I don't believe in anything supernatural or mystical." So, when he did open up to his golfing friend, Charlie, what did Charlie say? The same email recorded the full exchange:
 
Charlie had written:
"If you don't believe in God, then whence came your morals? I know you to be helpful, caring, compassionate, fair, and honest. This didn't happen by chance... Just because we don't have the capacity to understand something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist."
 
Steve, in response simply proceeded to respectfully and warmly reply with his own set of personal beliefs.
 
Steve may not be aware that there's some science in his corner, and that he has capacity to understand and use it in such exchanges. One ultimate aim of the "Reality about Morality Project" is to better equip the Steves out there to reply to those questioning Charlies.

 
New Clusters Forming
 
At the moment The Brights Net is rather inundated with requests for assistance with various activities. New cluster formation is one of them. We are now assisting new groups to form in Norway, Massachusetts (USA), and Virginia (USA). If you are thinking of starting a group in your area, please do let us know.

 
More Books by Brights
 
Newest from Dawkins: Enthusiastic Bright Richard Dawkins latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, can, like many other items besides books, be ordered through Amazon. It's a way to support the Brights at no extra cost to you. Simply reach Amazon through the appropriate search box on the website, and inside the U.S. or U.K. Amazon icon, type the word: Dawkins
 
Children's Books: Author and illustrator Robert Chaplin likes to produce whimsical and intelligent books for children (and adults of all ages). Four books are uniquely described on the website (with his interesting resume):
  •  The Elephant Book (pre-reader, enjoyment for all ages)
  •  Brussels Sprouts & Unicorns (combines satire and naturalism for readers aged 12 and up)
  •  Ten Counting Cat (macabre counting tale, for ages 7 up)
  •  Delicious Chicken Soup by Chef Andrey Durbach (illustrated by Chaplin and uses actual recipes, rhymes, verbal and visual puns for readers ages 8 and up). These, if not on Amazon, can be ordered as directed on the website.

 
Equinox Funding (Better Late Than...!)
 
We appreciate the support of all who contributed to The Brights' Net fund drive to help sustain the action hub of the Brights movement for another six months. Thank you!!  We will use your donation with discretion. And, for those who emailed to ask whether The Brights' Net is a 501c3 nonprofit organization for tax deduction purposes, the answer is "Yes, it is!" Sorry for not making that fact clear in the letter.
 
If you haven't yet contributed, it's not too late! Go to our fundraising page!

 
Upon Reaching Home
 
Derek (Quebec, Canada): "I've been reading Dawkins 'religiously', so to speak, and came upon Daniel Dennett while browsing Wikipedia. I then clicked on the link for 'The Brights Movement' and said to myself, "Finally, a place I can call home!"
 
If you have a website, put a link to the Brights' Net on it. Help more people "find a home."  Click here to get a ready-made link showing the Brights' icon!
 
Got a story of how you learned about the Brights? Send it to the-brights@the-brights.net with "HOW I HEARD" in the subject line.

 
Brights' Traffic
 
There are 584 Websites that have a reference to The Brights' Net (Alexa.com).
 
The-brights.net users come primarily from these countries:
 
 
Germany (8.6%)
 
 
Canada (4.4%)
 
Israel (1.8%)

 
Action Forum's New Flyer
 
The "Evolution Flyer" produced within the international Brights' Forum has reached a form considered appropriate for distribution. (This Flyer is first in what is hoped to be a series of Brights-branded literature, produced through collaboration by Brights in consultation with Brights' Central.)
 
The technical details of hosting this piece on the-brights.net will be resolved soon; provisionally, US letter-sized and European A4-sized versions suitable for offset printing and a plain US letter version of the Flyer are available via this link. Stay tuned for further developments.

 
A Brights' Choir Anyone?
 
From Greg: "Hello from England. I was wondering, has there been any suggestion that any Brights might start a choir? London is a fairly tolerant city and the inhabitants are fairly Bright[ish?] by nature. Which is good, but it may be difficult to make them see the significance in a formal statement of the fact. I am writing in the fond hope that our friends in the US may have sufficient numbers to get the ball rolling."
 
Any suggestions from American Brights?
 
[See next item]

 
One Choral Report
 
BC's equinox letter described the Brights movement as one urging citizens with a naturalistic worldview to employ their own voices, and to do so in "tunes" such that fellow citizens will actually listen. The analogy with music apparently prompted this from David (California), who began with: "Speaking of 'singers', you're going to love this..." and then proceeds to describe the chorus that he is part of:
 
"[It] sings for science, resounds for reason, harmonizes for humanism, lilts for logic and trills for truth. Rather than glorify God, we sing because we're just happy and lucky to be alive, and so we call ourselves the Hereby Chants."

 
Constituents Weigh In
 
Michael (Georgia, USA): "I am just an average person. I work a retail job, live check to check and buy science books almost, no pun intended, well maybe a little, religiously. I am thrilled to be part of this."
 
Sebastian (Chile): "Well, I'm 17 years old, and I feel that when a person is really free, free of supernatural and mystical elements, then the most important is the trust in oneself and our families... Thanks."
 
Sami (California, USA): "Brilliant idea; reframing an issue in a different context can make a world of difference."
 
Erik (Belgium): "A noble initiative for/from those who do not want to spend their all-too-brief lives cowering to or being fanatical with the supernatural, but rather accepting the natural as super in its own right."

 
The State of Atheism in the US and UK
 
University of Cambridge - The "Investigating Atheism" Project. "The purpose of this site is to set these contemporary 'God Wars' in their historical context, and to offer a range of perspectives (from all sides) on the chief issues raised by the 'new atheists'. We hope this will encourage more informed opinion about the issues, discourage oversimplification of the debate, and deepen the interest in the subject."

 
From the Skeptic's Dictionary
 
Professor Robert Carroll, editor of the long-running Skeptic's Dictionary, gave the Brights a favorable mention in his "Why I am not an atheist" essay.
 
Excerpt: "I don't believe any gods exist, but I'm not an atheist any more than I am an asantaclausist or an aeasterbunnyist. Not believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny doesn't commit me to an ideology or belief system shared with others who reject the notion that such creatures exist. My disbelief in leprechauns doesn't unite me with millions of other aleprechaunists. The label of 'atheist' is one that theists use to create the illusion that their belief in spirits has some substance..."

 
A Background Check?
 
From Cameron: "In Glasgow I have actually been asked whether I'm a Protestant Atheist or a Catholic Atheist."

 
Blogging Bursts on Twitter
 
The Brights' Net has just completed its second month on Twitter. Let your friends know they can go to the main Twitter page to glimpse a range of actions by Brights and some occasional reports from Brights Central as well. BC simply tweets in small bursts as time permits and material comes in, so send in a report of what you are doing to promote the movement.
 
We will especially appreciate hearing about your civic actions and any "good works" you accomplish as a Bright. So, keep your emails coming in to the-brights@the-brights.net (put TWITTER in your subject line) or, better yet, if you have a Twitter account, say what you are doing directly, using the #AsABright hashtag. Please also include your location so the geographic diversity of the Brights' constituency is visible.

 
A Civic Problem Waiting to Be Solved
 
From Austria: "My daughter Carmela, has reached the age of 2.5 years and with it the eligibility to visit public Kindergarten. It might sound harmless so far yet there is this one small problem, namely the cross (well actually it's a rather huge crucifix) which "decorates" the kindergarten's main room's inner wall."
 
"This intimidating religious symbol cannot only be found in this particular kindergarten. According to the "Kindergarten Act of the State of Lower Austria," it has to be placed in a kindergarten as long as at least 50% of the children attending it are Christians (no chance, though, to hang the symbols of other religions on the wall if other majorities exist). May I seize the opportunity and ask you if there is a chance of founding a Brights branch in Austria that will concentrate on action?"
 
From BC: For this, a local leader would need to step forward. (Reply with any interest to Brights Central, the-brights@the-brights.net). Furthermore, is it not also a problem that the law is actually categorizing children of kindergarten age by religion? One presumes it is the parental religion that is actually the crux of the matter. These children are children are children.

 
A Step by One Yields a Change for Many
 
An Oklahoma Bright initiated an exchange with an official of the Oklahoma State government regarding the inclusion of the statement "So help me God" into certain state forms. The emails begin and end as follows:
 
"Regarding the ADM-6 form that I have attached, I am having difficulty with the requirement of people wishing to receive payment for their travel claims to sign their name to the statement 'so help me God.' [Explaining that the situation results in] "...forcing people to either make a statement that they do not believe or making them sign something that is untrue. Thank you for your time."
 
Response by the Programs Administrator: "We referred your comments to staff who work with OKDHS forms.  They have been talking with the Finance Division and there are plans to revise this language and remove 'so help me God.  Revisions take a minimum of 30 to 60 days."

 
Anyone for Taking Steps?
 
From Alice: Norway is forming a Brights' movement. All who are interested in changing the current tax situation is urged to join the movement. Contact: the-brights@the-brights.net.

 
Contributions Down; Complaints Up
 
Since the March Equinox, both the donation data and emailed replies indicate that many constituents are facing more somber financial circumstances. Beyond a dip in donations this time (given the global economic situation, not altogether unexpected), there was another marker of change.
 
We received 3 similar emails expressing near indignation, something quite new! These writers were sorely displeased that The Brights' Net was asking for money. Each email was accompanied by a request to be removed from the roster of Brights. Three out of the mass of constituents may not be much, but the messages did attract attention. At BC, we had not encountered such enmity in response to previous equinox requests.
 
Quoting one email: "Well, it had to happen; you've descended to the level of organised religion. By soliciting donations from the laity you are merely instituting a system of tithing on the members. One wonders if ostracism will follow for those who, for whatever reason, do not 'donate' money?"
 
Besides the obvious question of how to sustain an endeavor that has enrolled over 48,000 individuals without seeking funding, the former constituent's attitude shows a lack of understanding of this movement. Or, could it be another person, still so hooked into religion, that there is no ability to view a person's worldview in a civic context? We will presume the affliction isn't widespread, and simply be thankful for only 3 such emails.
 
To support the Brights movement over the coming 6 months, go to our fundraising page!

 
The Brights Net at AAI (Los Angeles)
 
Two students from the CalPoly Brights (the campus group at California Polytechnic University) will be staffing a Brights table at the upcoming Atheist Alliance International convention in Burbank. They are excited by the opportunity. In the campus directory, their vivacious group characterizes itself as "a naturalistic worldview club - because reality is awesome!"
 
Brights' director Mynga is also attending (she represents her local freethinkers' group on the AAI board of directors) and will drop in and out at the booth. The stellar figures presenting (including Enthusiastic Brights, Dawkins and Dennett) insured a sold out conference this year(over 500 attendees).

 
Reference Guide to Contacting Personnel and Locating Information
 
All contact and general information can be found on the website.
 
All the Bulletins, including this one, may also be found on the website.
 
To financially support the civic aims and principles of the movement, click here.


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