The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #95
March 31, 2011

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


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- APRIL 2011 


NEWS FLASH! - Thanks to earmarked donations already received, Brights Central has printed a supply of 400 unique “Earth and Life: changes over time” posters, each bearing the Brights’ logo and consisting of a stunning pictorial narrative that combines cosmological and biological evolution. The dissemination aspect of the project is commencing. Key information on the project is provided at the end of this Bulletin, so if you would like to help teachers learn about it, please read on to the bottom and see the different ways you might lend support to the project.
 

Equinox Funding
 
Each equinox season we extend gratitude to those who, knowing it takes more than good thoughts to build an effective online community, remember to part with some funds to support the Brights movement. It is a fact that, even though we appreciate the good words sent our way, even the best thoughts or plaudits count no more than nonchalance when it comes to keeping the lights on and activities rolling along. Resources are necessary.
 
The constituency is actually getting large enough to project some influence in certain arenas, but not yet financially able to staff the vision. There is lots of voluntary and undercompensated effort by many (Thank you all!). We have ongoing requests for translations into different languages, for producing new video, surveying constituents, etc. Running in place is one thing - bringing ideas to fruition, another. It is very much up to you!
 
The economic picture is dismal for many participants, but please send what you can to support our overall endeavor and priority projects! There are now over 54,000 Brights worldwide, with donations to date more like pocket change per Bright, there’s hardly a great overall commitment to the vision. A subscription of a small monthly amount would be fantastic.
 

Survey Indicates Science Weakened by Science Teachers Themselves (USA)
 
What? - Even biology teachers don’t advocate evolutionary biology? Two scholars at Penn State University, in their study of how 926 high school biology teachers say they deal with evolution in the classroom, found that only about 28 percent of these teachers said they consistently teach the subject. Most teachers (a “cautious sixty percent”) said they avoid taking a direct stance on the topic. As the authors state it, teachers “…fail to explain the nature of scientific inquiry, undermine the authority of established experts, and legitimize creationist arguments, even if unintentionally.”
 
It seems that in American high schools, evolution is considered a very touchy subject. According to the Penn State study, a great many biology teachers approach it only indirectly. Some say they teach the subject in a general sense without actually using the term. Some simply teach whatever material might appear in state testing. Others include information about creationism, telling students they can “decide” which to accept. Nearly 13 percent favored teaching creationism or “intelligent design.”
 
Scientists will read this survey, reported in the journal Science, and weep.
 

SIG 2 and Teaching of Evolution (Wall Poster Pilot Initiative)
 
One segment of the Brights constituency stands firm for authentic science. Any Bright can join SIG2 to indicate strong commitment to science and science education. You can sign up if you have interest and have not already done so.
 
To do something positive for science and for youth education, any Bright in the internet constituency can, help guide “free evolution posters to interested high school science teachers” in the SIG2 pilot project, which intends to support and strengthen instruction of teachers who DO include evolution in their curriculum. (More information follows at the conclusion of this bulletin)
 

Morality Project Recommencing
 
From Morality Project Leader, Ruban Bala: “We want to thank our Executive Team of savvy volunteers around the globe for expressing enthusiasm and re-committing to the project despite the earlier delay, and given the wide array of interdisciplinary expertise, we have confidence that they will take the project toward a commendable and promising outcome.
 
“As we move ahead on Area C, we will be actively working on the following items:
  • Identifying the project area's key messages for the public, supported by the interdisciplinary scientific research evidence
  • Refining key messages, audiences and deliverables (PowerPoints, videos, press release, etc)
  • Ascertaining communication channels
  • Deadlines and role allocations
“Also many thanks to you, our international constituency, for your great feedback and support so far. We trust this exciting and important project will benefit all brights in global civil society. We will keep everyone posted as things develop and take shape.”
 

Crisis in Japan
 
Report from the March International Forum Discussions: Unsurprisingly, a lot of interest was shown in the natural disaster and nuclear events in Japan after the historic earthquake and tsunami there, and the resulting problems at the Fukushima-Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Members promoted various charities who are helping the many displaced Japanese people.  As it happens, our membership includes several who have direct experience in the field of nuclear power, and those provided an informed (if sometimes heated) "insider" perspective on the implications of the goings-on in Fukushima.
 
Report from Brights Central: On March 16, BC sent the following message to all registered Brights in Japan:
 
“Brights around the world are surely focused on the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami and all the subsequent disaster. Words do not come readily, but I want to express what I am sure is their concern and hope for the best for you and your loved ones at this time of great stress and crisis. Mynga Futrell, Ph.D., Director, The Brights’ Network”
 
A reply:
"I'm OK . My family and many friends of mine are OK too. People in Osaka are fine, but unfortunately some northern part of Japan, everything were destroyed witheringly. But I'm sure that they'll enter the first stage of recovery at once and bring back into good condition as soon as possible. We'll support it. Now we worry about another matter. It is the Atomic power plant in Fukushima prefecture. The problem did not allow optimism. Thank you for your kindness."
 

Nature and God - What Americans Believe
(A post-earthquake/tsunami study)
 
  • Only about one-in-five (18%) Americans say that seeing innocent people suffer sometimes causes them to have doubts about God. 
  • While most Americans believe in a personal God who is in control of everything that happens in the world - fairly standard orthodox theological affirmations - they resist drawing a straight line from those beliefs to God's direct role or judgment in natural disasters.
These and more conclusions are from a Public Religion Research Institute study conducted immediately after the Japanese crisis.
 

Registration In-Box
 
Alexander (Dorset, UK): “I am delighted to have found the brights. I hope that more people who have a naturalistic worldview discover this community.”
 
Robert (Staffordshire, UK): “i dont need any supernatural being to make me feel like i have a purpose, nature is super enough on its own.”
 
Susanne (Oregon, USA): “Wow, how come it took me the long round-about way to find such an organization?! This should be 'way more visible.”
 
David (Chile): “I agree with a naturalistic view of the world; my mind and perception of the world have always been like yours, even when I was a child.”
 
Richard (Puerto Rico): “Finally an organization I can believe in.”
 

Brights’ Forum Globally Diverse
 
An Italian Member brought news of the controversial punishment of Canadian Catholic school students punished for initiating a pro-choice display at school. One German Member brought news of a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which has legal weight throughout the EU, allowing religious displays in public schools
 
Two things are clear from this narrow sample: our constituency is broad and global, and brights the world over are concerned with civics issues related to the preference given to supernaturalistic opinions.  Why not join the Forum and tell people what's going on where you live?
 

SIG 3: Countering Religious Discrimination in US Army Action
 
This month’s regional email blast from Brights Central went to three clusters of Brights likely to be concerned about a controversy at Fort Bragg, in which chaplains there had apparently promoted a Christian rock festival but had rebuffed a comparable secularist event. The BrightenOp message relayed contact information obtained by the Secular Coalition for America and invited individual action on the matter. This month also saw two influential organizations, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union file a Freedom Of Information Act request to inquire into the contrasting army actions.
 
Receiving the BrightenOp emails were all Brights who had registered into the SIG3 special initiative (Separation of Religion and Government) subgroup and, without duplications, the "Brights Action SCA" subgroup of the Brights' constituency, as well as all citizens in North Carolina who actively subscribe to the general monthly Brights Bulletins.
 

“No Supernatural Ingredients”
 
That’s the message shown on the Brights' static cling, which also shows the logo and gives the website URL. Nothing supernatural - what an easy and inexpensive way to give public notice that you are a participant in the Brights movement.
 
This decal is perfect for placing inside a car window (you may have other location ideas). See the image and, if you’d like, buy a single cling or a cluster of them!
 

How They Heard
 
A Short Route - Katie (Ontario, Canada) – “from a cafepress.ca t-shirt”
 
BC You never know who may notice when you wear a Brights' T - It’s easy to show you are a participant in the Brights with a purchase from the Brights’ Shop.
 
Digging Deeper - Bernard (Quebec, Canada): “in the book ‘La-haut, il n'y a rien’ by Normand Baillargeon”
 
A Long Way Around - Luke (Hertfordshire, UK):  “I was browsing through my ‘Tumblr’ followers one evening and noticed that one of them had posted an interesting little blurb on politics and science etc... so, I had a read, and by the time I got to the bottom, there was a little HTML link embedded in two words ‘The brights’  so I clicked and here I am!”
 
BC: Apparently, even a tiny little html link can entice a curious person! Drop the link into your messages to if you think the recipient might appreciate finding the information. Or, if you want something fancier and more assertive, examine the various email signature and download options.
 
Perhaps you reached the Brights’ website by what you think is a unique pathway? If so, you can let us know by emailing to the-brights@the-brights.net with HOW I HEARD in your subject line.
 

Please Remove Me from the Rolls
 
There are quarrelsome and civil approaches to engaging with supers. Here’s a glimpse of a cordial “brights and supers” exchange (March 7 – 11) illustrating both persons’ chosen approach (civility) and their mutual understanding that the shared priority is to increase civic acceptance for people who have a naturalistic worldview.
 
1) To Whom it May Concern: Please remove me from the rolls of The Brights. I have returned to the Supers. Nothing personal, just a change of heart. Thanks and Truly, James
 
2) James, Will do. And thanks for saying "why"! As a super, you can still support the desire for fair treatment and equal involvement that brights aim for! (Bulletins are posted each month at the site, so you can check in now and then if you wish). All best to you! Paul
Supers/Brights
 
3) Paul, Yes, of course, I certainly support the desire for fair treatment and equal involvement that the brights seek to achieve and will recommend it to others. Thanks and Truly, James
 

Those “Fundamentalist Nonbelievers”?
 
A Bright in Colorado shared a 900-word essay presentation that he was preparing to send to a major metropolitan newspaper. Eric stated, “It still needs some editing, but I wanted to send now. I'm responding to an article (a columnist’s widely published comparison of atheists to fundamentalists).
 
BC’s reply: “What we have learned across time about letters to the editor is that there is little likelihood of being published when an item exceeds 250 words. (There are exceptions, but not many.) Also, as The Brights' Net is trying to put forward a more positive and constructive image of people who have a naturalistic worldview, it would be helpful to avoid reinforcing the use of the term, nonbeliever [in your title], which merely adds more ammunition to the ill-conceived view of so many ‘believers’ that we ‘believe in nothing.’ This ‘values disconnect’ is as damaging to social acceptance and civic participation, perhaps even more so, than the pejorative ‘fundamentalist’ so often directed at atheists.
 
From Eric: “Thanks for your advice. I appreciate the insight because it helps me with my writing process. I have not been an atheist long, and it has been an interesting change in my life. Thanks again.”
 

Kaleidoscope of American Voices
 
Ronald (Alabama): “I cannot be open about this because I live in a society where Christianity is totally in control, and nearly everyone I know believes Christianity is ‘gospel truth.’”
 
Dave (Oklahoma): “It's time to come out of the closet.”
 
Mark (New York): “In the U.S. I feel the nemeses of the Brights are the anti-intellectuals, who unfortunately seem to be rampant. They dominate our media and are contributing to the wrong idea of who or what should be heralded. Instead of astrophysicists, biologists, philosophers, or engineers being regarded as inspirational, we have the likes of …”
 
Jared (New Jersey): “Happy to make our voice just a little bit louder.”
 
Mark (Pennsylvania): “I do not need god or religion to be healthy, happy, or successful... However, other thoughtful, open-minded, and loving people would help.”
 

Books by Brights
 
Out of God’s Closet by Stephen Uhl (a former Catholic priest tells how he frees himself to be a proud, happy, planetary neighbor)
 
Polly by Stephen Goldin (a science fiction and fantasy writer presents a satirical fantasy novel that takes the reader on a quirky ride of self-discovery, challenging convention with some puns and good humor)
 
On the matter of deities, both authors above count themselves atheist.
 

The Evolution Poster Project
(generally described at http://the-brights.net/action/activities/poster.html)
-----------------------------
The poster has been corrected for all misspellings and printed. The Brights’ Net is ready to disseminate 400 posters. Given that a typical high school teacher encounters over 100 students in a day, these posters will aid at least 40,000 youngsters in better comprehending the evolutionary story. [With the situation in many schools, even up to 60,000 students could be exposed.]
 
Involve others in the poster project! It is not just for Brights to donate or to inform teachers. This is the type of positive endeavor that welcomes participation of supers as well as Brights. And, according to the data on the United States, the teachers who do teach evolution are particularly in need of a lot of help and encouragement because so many “tread lightly” on the subject (some skip over it altogether or actually undermine the topic).
 
          -----------------------------
#1 Create General Buzz
 
Tell others about the FREE poster distribution, but be sure you know its limitations first. This is a pilot initiative. The FREE offer extends only until current supplies are exhausted. Qualifying high school science teachers in the USA must commit to classroom use in teaching in order to receive the FREE poster. We want each poster to go to a teacher who really wants it, the teachers who recognize the poster as a teaching tool. It will go up on their classroom walls, not be stored away in a cabinet (or worse).
 
          -----------------------------
#2: Inform a Science Teacher about the Free Brights’ Poster (USA only)
 
Do you personally know American high school science teachers who are (however cautiously) teaching about evolution in their classrooms? Direct them to the website to apply for a FREE poster.
 
          -----------------------------
#3: Sponsor a Poster for a Teacher (International, including US, Option for PayPal users)
 
If you use PayPal, you can sponsor a poster. Anyone who is a science supporter can be involved, not just Brights, so tell your science-loving friends (who have PayPal accounts). Also, other places across the world are a possibility, as long as there is a high degree of confidence in the postal processes.
 
Perhaps there is a qualified high school science teacher in your community who would be anxious to receive and use a “free poster”? Just carefully earmark a PayPal donation that exceeds $20 USA ($25 if the poster is to go to a non-US nation) as “POSTER SPONSOR.” Each such targeted donation will enable BC to reserve a poster for 30 days while you locate a prospective teacher. [Actually, you can sponsor N posters for N teachers, just multiply the funds accordingly.]
 
Donor recognition is also an option (IF you desire it). When you donate this way, BC sends you a code to transmit to a recipient, and it holds a poster. If you do not locate a recipient, that’s okay (the poster is released to general distribution after 30 days). If you do identify a recipient who then applies, the process enables you to be acknowledged and thanked as “poster sponsor” (only if you desire that recognition, of course).
 
          -----------------------------
#4 Extend the SIG Initiative through Your Support
 
Thanks to all the Brights who have contributed so far. Can we keep the funds coming to expand the project further? If you would like still more eye-catching posters to go out the door to draw the gaze of over a hundred students per classroom, and if you wish us to pursue additional distribution arrangements, then please earmark funds in any amount as EVOLUTION POSTER PROJECT.
 

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