BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- FEBRUARY 2011
Some Joys of ‘Brightness’!
The new year had several expressively pleased folks registering in January as new constituents. A sampling:
From Douglas (Manitoba, Canada): “I took the step past being a 'pissed-off-at-jesus' "atheist", to actually looking at the facts and learning new ones and now am amazed at the freedom and joy of learning unencumbered by religious 'hauntings of faith'. What a fresh new look at life!”
From James (Cambridgshire, UK): “I have become very aware of our natural world over what I used to consider spiritual. I have my own views on this but they are scientific not spiritual. Funnily though, I get more out of this than when I believed in spirituality.”
From Tom (Florida, USA): “Now when I look at the world around me, I see evolution. Being a scientist myself, I also know that the Sun is the only reason we exist, and we exist for one reason, to reproduce and propagate our selfish genes. It is such a great feeling to know what I know, and it is also great to be part of an online community of people who share similar thoughts to mine. Life is great, and I will enjoy it until the day I die.”
Enthusiastic Bright Jailed in Nigeria, Then Released
Leo Igwe, a courageous humanist activist, prolific writer, and a supporter of the Brights, arrived in Akwa Ibom on Sunday, January 9 to rescue two children alleged to be witches and abused and abandoned by their families. The incident is mentioned in several places on the Web, with a personal report from Leo describing his arrest and release.
Newly Revised Image for the Poster Project
In November, The Brights’ Net was able to supply wall posters FREE to 50 teachers attending the National (USA) Association of Biology Teachers convention. The posters were very popular; supply was exhausted quickly. All the teachers committed to posting and using the material in their classrooms. Given typical class loads, it is quite reasonable to suppose that five thousand or more students are able to gain improved understanding of the evolutionary narrative (“Earth and Life: changes over time”).
BC has just uploaded a revised "sample poster" image to the website. It incorporates a number of modifications from the previously posted image. Some changes resulted from Brights’ corrections and feedback, and others came about from educator input.
This revised “actual pictorial” is what we will be using for subsequent poster printings.
Next Step for Wall Poster Project
BC is now looking to print a poster quantity able to affect several tens of thousands of students! This pilot project (mailing posters to qualified teacher applicants) is again directed to US schools and being primarily funded by donations from Brights enrolled in the SIG2 (Categorically Sound Science).
A plea for support went out to the SIG members in December, and that appeal has yielded over US$6000, thankfully dropping the per poster printing cost below $20. (One poster is $45; 400 is $15 each; postage to mail on top). BC is continuing to accrue funds for this purpose in hopes of soon reaching that cost of printing 400. If 400 are distributed under the same “high school science teacher agreement,” it could mean over forty thousand students “wowed” by the pictorial narrative of evolutionary change on earth!
If you appreciate this project, register into the SIG2 to receive our final targeted appeal to that group, and thereby learn more project details. Of course, anyone can contribute any amount to this project. Links to all donation pathways are on the website, but you must be sure to earmark your donation to “Evolution Poster Project” to distinguish such a donation from a general one.
How the Brights are Different
After reading the January Bulletin, Joe in Michigan (USA) remarked to BC on something he saw as most “…clearly distinguish[ing] the Brights from many political and religious groupings in today's world”. What he admired is “…the idea that you can have ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ ideas (or a mixture of these) and still be a Bright.”
What he thought to mention is an attribute not always noticed. It is, in essence, the absence of a manifesto of beliefs (of Brights). Having a civic vision, The Brights’ Net seeks to maintain this distinction from other organizations and to be a welcoming civic umbrella for a great diversity of individuals.
Participants can see themselves as persons who share a naturalistic worldview, their many political and ideological (including religious/nonreligious) differences notwithstanding. Needed are more persons serious enough about the civic standing of brights to be able to focus collectively on strategy to translate a culturally stigmatized commonality into worthwhile action.
Focus on the International Brights’ Forums
Report from MB (forum liaison): As is usual, extremely diverse subjects have been discussed in the last month. A topic of likely interest is "Asma on New Atheism", in which member Myron reports on a publication crossfire between author Stephen Asma and blogger P. Z. Myers--Asma defending the practice of religion as an "analgesic" for the masses, and Myers insisting that the only important question about beliefs is, "Is it true?"
It goes without saying that the "New Atheists" have made a splash in the media and in the public perception of people with a naturalistic outlook, but what are your views on that movement? Is the new popularity of religious critique a net positive for the Brights movement, or is all the religious condemnation a mere distraction from the more practical civic project of the Brights? Will the New Atheists help acknowledged Brights get into public office, or have they so polarized the discussion that no common cause can be found between extremists on both sides? In short, are shifting perceptions of various worldviews useful?
UK Brights - News in Brief
Tristan in London and Kerry in Wakefield were recipients of a What on Earth? Wallbook and Ant decided to have his sent to his old school.
Some “No Religion” Campaigns
Many discussions are taking place regarding how to best to check census forms that can translate into privileging of religion in government funding. Examples:
How They Heard of the Brights!
“From a Camino de Santiago pilgrim” (Bjorn in Norway)
“The path was illuminated by another Bright!” (Randy in Mississippi, USA)
“Discussed the term "Bright" in my philosophy course today, so I Googled it and here I am!” (Shannah in Canada)
“From my high school principal” (Joseph in California, USA)
If you reached the Brights’ website by what you think is a unique pathway, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with HOW I HEARD in your subject line.
New Brights Community Cluster Possibility (Northern Ireland)
Ray asks that BC mention a potential Brights BCC forming in Belfast:
“[W]e are trying to get the ball rolling for a BCC in Belfast Northern Ireland… What we intend for the 'Brights of Belfast' group is a gentle mixture of what we might call social confirmation (mates to talk about worldview naturalism with) and & civic action (being an 'amplifier' of the naturalistic voice in Northern Ireland).
U.S. Tax Statements
The Brights' Net is a United States 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. If you file a U.S. federal return and have donated during 2010, your contribution is tax deductible to the extent of law. We have emailed all donors their statement (to the email address in the database). Some few notices were returned as undeliverable. If you donated to TBN but did not receive a statement, please contact email@example.com to resolve your situation. Thanks.
Ruban Bala, the volunteer Bright who has been leader of this endeavor, has recently reconnected with Brights Central with an explanation of his absence. He had encountered a difficult personal situation right at the time a cadre of team members had been assembled to pursue the next phase of the project (Project Area C). Having addressed his circumstances, he now wants to re-start the endeavor in March and is planning to reconnect with, and hopefully regain the participation of, the volunteers already selected for the executive team.
What Brights Believe
Christian (New Jersey, USA): “The more that join, the easier it will be to erase the terrible stigma attached to what we believe!”
Nathan (New Brunswick, Canada): “Yesterday a friend told me to check out your site because he felt like I held the same views as a Bright. I am really glad that I did check out your site because I believe that I hold the same views as a Bright.”
BC: Perhaps “what we believe” and “the same views as Brights” deserve a bit of additional commentary because, as individuals, we actually will vary a lot in our beliefs. When registering into the Internet network, all we confirm is that (whatever the specifics of our beliefs may be) there is no supernatural stuff among them!
Having “a naturalistic worldview” is a rather broad characterization. We aren’t signing on to any dogma when we register into the constituency. This frees us to be ourselves politically, philosophically, religiously or nonreligiously, and so on. Having no evidence to the contrary, we simply accede to the world being natural and go from there. We needn’t quibble over the specifics in belief. We needn’t, but many do!
Bookmarks for Readers Everywhere
Handing over a bookmark is an excellent way to invite others to visit and explore the Brights’ site. See details at:
From new Bright, Joy (Colorado, USA): “I love the logo!”
A Book by a Bright
Islam, God, and the New Enlightenment by Raji Al Munir (The author advocates a worldwide secular humanism-based system of morality over fragmentary values systems like Islam and other religions.)
If you purchase books or any items from Amazon, remember the easiest way to contribute to the Brights’ endeavor (at no cost to you) is to reach Amazon through the website.
A Bit of Poetry from Prison
By Lit Wit Mike*
From chaos to order is clear;
Our knowledge evolved without grace.
And so it is, the Brights appear
Upon Nature's colorful face.
As evolution's course unfolds,
Diverging forms of life arrive,
Each with their own future untold,
And a unique will to survive.
Interpreters of life, behold!
True Science is ever on our side.
Natural Selection, we hold,
Adheres only natural guides.
Oh, those natural sensations,
Leading some to speculation...
“Hear, Hear!” the Brights' presentation:
“A natural explanation.”
* Note: the author sent his poem via Joel, a Bright in Texas who volunteers to refashion each Bulletin into a newsletter for prisoners called, “A Little Brightness.” Kelly at BC prepares and mails them out to Joel’s subscriber list. (Prisoners cannot send or receive email. Joel is able to include some added material that aligns well with the Brights’ aims, but only up to the first class postage 44 cent weight limit.) The ALB has garnered some loyalty, and now we see that prisoners are themselves starting to contribute. If you want to underwrite this project’s minimal postage costs (<$20 per month), please earmark a small donation to that purpose. (We would be glad to acknowledge you if you wish.)
Brights and Humanists
Joel (Michigan, USA) asks: “Do you distinguish between Brights and Humanists? How?”
Response A: Yes, we distinguish by contrasting the definitions: Between Brights and Humanists, of course there is much overlap, but there are differences.
Brights: This characterization involves a solitary and unchanging definition. Just ONE!
(A bright has a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural and mystical elements.) The term was coined as a CIVIC umbrella to embrace people with varied perspectives, not as a philosophy. The definition of a bright fixes entirely on what is absent from the content of a worldview (not what is contained within it). This allows considerable variability in beliefs across individuals. There is no “ism,” not even naturalism, to affix to all who are brights.
Humanists: One can find multiple but generally harmonious definitions, but any will likely focus on some set of beliefs or assertions considered to be shared across adherents. The elements of a person's outlook or stance taken together qualify the name. (The content is what leads to the label.) Humanism is often viewed as a philosophy, and the people who call themselves "humanists" tend to be able to list out beliefs or convictions that they hold, generally in common, although there are several “humanist manifestos” varying to some extent.
Response B: Quentin (UK Brights): “A Bright agrees that s/he fits a definition whilst a Humanist has fits agreeing on one." [a joke, of course]
Response C: As should be clear from the goals on the home page of The Brights’ Net, there was a definitive purpose to establishing the Brights -- a desire to facilitate a wide array of persons starting to think more about what actions will improve the social standing and civic participation of people who are free of supernaturalism. See the vision. There is the intent that participants in the Brights movement be more open about their worldview, engage others constructively, and participate as citizens to build more acceptance for all people who do NOT have supernaturalism driving their outlook.
Some New Voices for Social Change!
Janet (Australia): “at last....a tribe for me”
Fernando (Mexico): “Nice to know that, at least in the Internet, I'm not alone.”
Joshua (Oregon, USA): “I, and I'm certain a great many others, are thankful for the existence of such an organization.”
Holly (Colorado, USA): “I'm excited about counting myself as one of The Brights!”
Richard (New Hampshire, USA): “I think that for many reasons - not the least of which is the survival of the planet - we with a naturalistic world view need a voice to respond to the increasing din from the supernatural crowd. Thank you.”
Hans (California, USA): “It will be interesting to see this movement's shape and distribution 20 years from now. Religions don't happen over night, why should rationality.”
Raymond (New Mexico, USA): “As part of my life journey for seeking the truth I have inevitably been led to this site. I must confess this is the first web site that confirmed my world view. Thanks.”
February for Darwinophiles
Because February 12 is the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, this is a month when many people gather to celebrate science and, in particular, Darwin’s contributions to our understanding of life. If you are not in a physical location to join such a celebratory gathering, you might want to partake of some of his writings directly. At Darwin-online.org.uk, you can reach and view free all of his publications, thousands of private papers, the largest Darwin bibliography and manuscript catalogue and hundreds of supplementary works: specimens, biographies, obituaries, reviews, reference works and much more. Enjoy!
Boost Your Cognitive Capacity!
“What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?'
That was this year's Edge question, and it came from Enthusiastic Bright Stephen Pinker. Several other Enthusiastic Brights (e.g., Richard Dawkins, Sue Blackmore, Michael Shermer, Daniel Dennett) were among the 164 who answered the 2011 question. You’d best plan lots of time if you intend to read them all!