The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #90
October 31, 2010

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


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- NOVEMBER 2010


Update on the Wall Poster Project
 
Many Brights have expressed interest in the evolution poster project for schools. The project will spread word of the movement while providing eager science teachers with a superb teaching resource.
 
The planned October kickoff has been postponed at least a month so we can put the poster pictorial through a vetting process with the National Association of Biology Teachers (USA). A Bright who prefers to remain anonymous has sent a $US1000 donation designated specifically to enable the NABT assessment. At Brights Central (BC) we are delighted, because a vetting process will give assurance to proceed with the largest printing that Brights in the constituency can muster, reducing the “per poster cost” as low as possible. (Note the unique size and shape!)
 
With the cooperation of one of the pictorial’s developers, we will be able to submit the poster pictorial to the NABT board’s review and also to scrutiny by 50 classroom teachers who will be attending the organization’s annual convention November 3-5. (Thanks to the interest and generosity of the donor and two small contributions from donors excited by the project, we are able to produce 50 posters to for the pilot review by 50 classroom teachers.)
 
All subsequent funds to print and disseminate posters will have to come from donations by Brights who want to facilitate teaching of evolution in schools. We will have to see how generous Brights can be for this worthy purpose. While you await the main call for donations to the project, you can start putting funds in your piggy bank now.
 

So, You Want Your Own Poster?
 
We have been contacted by a number of Brights who would like to order the evolution poster for themselves, or for home schooling purposes, parenting goals, etc. However, we cannot sell it due to the copyright restrictions on material the developers used in creating the pictorial. (There is no other distributor.)
 
The Brights' Net will be able only to give away the poster for educational purposes. Thus, it seems reasonable that we target dissemination to high school science teachers who have curricular responsibility commensurate with the poster’s content. We will be collecting earmarked donations from Brights, and seeing how many such classrooms we can impact. (Sometimes there are as many as 150 students in a single classroom across a day, so a high school science classroom may give exposure to scores of pupils per wall chart.)
 
It is possible that a large donor may step forward that would enable us to revise the agreement under which we are to operate at this point, which is simply supplying the poster to the priority category of teachers (who will complete a statement of agreement).
 

Brights’ Forum Reports a Bit of “Brightening” (Italy)
 
Forum member "Alien", a leading member of the Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics reports, in the Forum Topic titled "A Bright Success" that for the first time in Italy, a hospital has endorsed a program allowing non-religious volunteers to provide "moral and non-confessional support" for patients upon request.
 
This new program is instituted at Hospital Molinette in Turin.
 
Alien says, "Now, finally, after one year of work from our people in UAAR Turin, there is a possibility to get moral assistance that is not religious. A 'bright' assistance, and a bright result of my friends, let me say."
 
But the Forum is not just a place to get important news from Brights in our globe-girdling constituency, it is also a place to relax among friends and discuss whatever interests you, whether pets, chess, or awesome images of natural eventsRegister today!
 

Brights on Linkedin
 
The Brights have a group page on the networking site for professionals, linkedin.com. Please note that BC’s staff is not personally participating. Nonetheless, the site can serve as a valuable tool for Brights in the constituency to help one another.
 
If anyone is seeking an employee with a specialized skill-set, consider posting about it on our page.
 

All By Myself - What Can I Do?
 
It is typical for new registrants to write comments that they know “no one else” in their community who hold a naturalistic outlook.
 
They may not be as isolated as they think! Many persons who have a naturalistic stance are around. They simply are reticent to reveal the fact when occasions arise. Even when circumstances are opportune, they tend to stay silent. Consequently, they miss opportunities to encounter others who also have a worldview free of supernatural.
 
Still, the question arises as to how individuals in isolation can help to advance this movement. They can! Besides offering general support to the organization, a number of suggestions for beneficial activities are provided on the website.
 

Overcoming Reticence
 
It’s possible! However, because so much familiar terminology is religion-referenced and weighted with cultural meaning, the language you use to explain your understanding of the world does present a problem. So, be sure to consider a range of options.
 
This movement, by presenting a fresh framework for consideration, offers you some new language options. One may…
* One may “have a naturalistic worldview”
* Or be a “participant in the Brights movement”
* Or belong as “a member of the Brights’ constituency”
* Or self-identify by a new and different label, as “a Bright”)
It’s up to each individual to choose a path to surmounting reticence, being open about one’s personal understanding of the world when it differs from those around.
 
The general Brights movement focus is on being affirmative, positive, and constructive (when engaging with other citizens). See Principle #8:
 

And How Did You Hear?
 
In answer to that question on the registration form, many new Brights tell how they were led to investigate the Brights’ website. Of the several stories received at BC this month, the following tale was the most interesting:
 
From Derrick (Michigan, USA): “I was asked to pray for someone. I responded with, ‘I'm sorry. I'm not a believer but I wish her luck... I hope she gets better.’ I was then told that there is a group of people like me, who are not believers, so I decided to check this site out.”
 

Commentary on Nonbelievers’ Beliefs
 
From BC: Who says that a Bright is a nonbeliever?  Derrick (in the prior item) says so himself, so who is to say that he is not?  We’d like to be, because we’d bet that he actually believes in a great many things.  He surely doesn’t “believe in nothing” (a common accusation).  A great panorama of beliefs held by the typical Bright just happens not to include some tenets that the broader society deems important to hold.
 
Brights of many stripes are accustomed to self-identifying as nonbelievers, acceding to the existing cultural influences. The media will surely want to cast any Bright as such – simply for not accepting as true the deity-belief that prevails in society. It’s not at all unusual that any of us would describe ourselves as our culture does. But should we really be doing it?
 
Interestingly, when one accepts and uses this negative characterization, one only reinforces its use!
 
People who have a naturalistic worldview can, if they wish, begin to exercise another option. It may take some thought and practice, but you can choose to affirm your outlook in a broader and positive way. As Brights, we are “a group of people who have a naturalistic worldview,” and it’s really up to us to illuminate and elevate it in constructive ways! (Please see the tagline atop this Bulletin!)
 
Example: “I responded (to the request to pray for someone) with, ‘I'm sorry, but I have a naturalistic worldview. I do wish her luck, of course, and I very much hope that she gets better.’”
 

Support Worth a Nod
 
This month we’d like to give mention and gratitude to a couple of Brights (Edwin and Michelle) for their actions. Whatever they are imbibing in Washington State, we’d like to suggest it to others!
 
Edwin (Washington, USA): “I always access Amazon via the brights so my purchases will benefit our movement!”
 
From BC: Thank you, Edwin. Amazon is the painless way to support the Brights movement. 7% of every purchase - IF you start the shopping session via the Brights’ link, that is. 
 
Michelle (Washington, USA), who mentioned her company’s “giving month” and sent a note to BC to tell other Brights: “They might not realize that the Brights organization is one of the ‘approved’ organizations on our long list of orgs. that can receive matching funds… You might want to send a reminder to the entire Brights population to check whether they can donate through their company and have the Brights receive matching funds.”
 
From BC: Thank you, Michelle. We are sending this reminder right now! It seems that a great many employers will match, or even double, an employee’s donation to a nonprofit. Brights can check with their company to see if it will match a gift to The Brights’ Net. If yours does so, obtain a form from the H.R. department, complete your portion of the form, and mail it to us! We will do the rest.
 

Advice from One Bright to Other Brights
 
Mike (Suffolk, UK): “I have stopped describing myself as an ‘atheist’. Although in Britain being an atheist is not something to hide in most circumstances anymore, I do not like to define myself as a negative (someone who doesn’t believe something). Instead, I describe myself, very positively, as a humanist (or sometimes even as a bright). I have been doing this for several years and it is no longer too difficult. I’d like to recommend this point to other brights”
 

Just One Book – Please Name It!
 
When it comes to parenting and education, Brights generally talk a lot about “critical thinking skills.” They favor not just sparking children’s curiosity, but also building habits of inquiry and skepticism, and sustaining them, too! Still, many circumstances work against a child successfully maintaining an inquiring mind while growing up. Surely we who are ourselves free of supernatural/mystical beliefs have some ideas about how best to nourish youngsters in ways that may aid their acquiring practices that can, in the face of so many countering influences, at least keep open the possibility of a naturalistic worldview option.
 
A local Brights Action Meetup in California is on the lookout for top material to promote in children (up to age 12) habits of skepticism and evidence-seeking conduct. Some materials are available, but members are hoping to learn what other Brights - especially those who are parents or relatives or otherwise closely involved with children – consider to be the absolute best. After identifying these topmost books, the group’s members want to check locally to see if those item(s) are actually available in their community’s bookstores and public libraries and, especially, in the terribly under-resourced school libraries. They want to act locally to gather resources and begin to make the book (or books) available.
 
Especially desired is material that avoids the religion/faith arena and leans toward nurturing experiences (not indoctrination in naturalism). Perhaps there is no single “magic” book that nurtures inquisitive thinking, divergent thinking, skepticism, etc., but certainly some books are superb. So, can you help? Send your suggestion for the absolute best book you know of to the-brights@the-brights.net . Put ONE BOOK in upper case in your subject line.
 

Registration Comments (In-Box)
 
Nick (South Carolina, USA): “It is frightening that we cannot be more open about our lack of belief in the supernatural out of fear of reprisal. Perhaps your effort here will pave the way for a saner society.”
 
Jay (Illinois, USA): “This is a truly wonderful and helpful idea. My warmest regards and humble thanks go out to the founders and to each and every member!”
 
Ernesto (Mexico): “I’m trying to find a new philosophy for my life. I think that there is nothing better to follow than a way of life more connected to the reality than with the supernatural beliefs.”
 
Randy (Tennessee, USA): “I accept a wholly naturalistic view of the universe, the world, and life itself. I know it is impossible to disprove a negative, but I cannot accept belief in supernatural explanations as means to cover for man's ignorance. The utter magnificence of the universe and the simplistic beauty of evolution via natural selection make me humble beyond words and, in a strange sense, quite religious indeed.”
 
Larry (Arizona, USA): “I am thrilled!! Have I been a Bright all along? Indeed, I believe I have and now I am part of this sharing community.”
 

New Arrangement for Books by Brights
 
The page listed so many books (in alphabetical order by title) was getting so long it had become unwieldy. We have made a start at improving the situation by creating four broad categories:
Fiction
Nonfiction (grounded in a naturalistic, philosophical, and/or civics framework)
Nonfiction (based on a primarily religion-referenced framework)
Juvenile and/or Education & Parenting
 
Authors: The categorization of your book was accomplished by BC staff reading your own description. Reviews in Amazon (if available) were consulted when in doubt about the placement. If you think your book has been placed into the wrong category, please email the-brights@the-brights.net to explain. (Put MY BOOK in your subject line.)
 

Language Translation Pilot Moves Ahead (Espanol)
 
It is desirable that explanatory information now presented in English on the international site be made available in other languages and in a similar way. Volunteers Manel and Francesc have been tackling the first translation (into Spanish), with Mike, the web guy at Brights Central, helping to get the functionality and graphics for it going. With this pilot effort, we’re hoping to smooth out enough wrinkles that other volunteer translations can be accomplished. Nice progress to see at:
http://espanol.the-brights.net/
 

November Brings Changes at Brights Central
 
We at BC will be busy in November packing and moving and unpacking again! Right now we are searching for a new office location for the international hub of communications and activity. The current lease has long been contingent on another company’s commitment. As that company has moved out of the building, we will have to move, too! The bad part is that our present lease has been well below market rates. So, after over two years, this will be quite an adjustment! We are not likely to find any such bargain again, but here’s hoping we can at least manage the changes.
 
Brights co-founder Paul Geisert is also making an adjustment. Unfortunately, just this past weekend he took a spill and has a broken pelvis to show for it. Fortunately, no surgery was required. Still, this accident will put a serious crimp in his mobility for at least a month.
 

Activist Brights and Supporters
 
Remember that you can financially support the civic aims and principles of the Brights movement by donating to The Brights’ Net nonprofit organization. Guidance for all of the available methods are on the website.
 
Besides the option of sending a check by postal mail (US$), there are a whole variety of “donate quickly” ways to contribute. PayPal handles international currencies, but there are other online pathways available (JustGive, GuideStar/Network for Good, Givv.org , Facebook Causes). Check out your employer’s matching gift plan – it may lead to equaling or even doubling your own contribution. A six-month subscription at PayPal or any online channel is very helpful to planning. Thanks!
 

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