The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #97
May 31, 2011

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


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- JUNE 2011 


New Book by Enthusiastic Bright
 
Michael Shermer’s The Believing Brain: From Ghosts, Gods, and Aliens to Conspiracies, Economics, and Politics—How the Brain Constructs Beliefs and Reinforces Them as Truths will be of interest to many Brights. This book synthesizes Dr. Shermer’s thirty years of research into the how and why of believing.

This latest work shows that Dr. Shermer is interested in more than just belief in weird things, or why people believe this or that claim. Here he takes on why humans believe anything at all, from their suspicions and superstitions to their politics, economics, and social beliefs. 

The Believing Brain can now be purchased from your independent bookstore or via an Amazon link on the Brights' website (the latter method sends a 7% portion of the purchase to The Brights’ Net).
 
You can find more books of interest in our Books by Brights section on the website.
 

Home Science" for Parents and Children

[Action Arena 2]  Brights typically frown on parental indoctrination but don't mind guidance and the fostering of the critical thinking skills that undermine belief in supernatural. Their applause goes to those parents who engage children in experiences through which they can nourish evidence-seeking attitudes and help the youngsters acquire useful habits of mind. The Arena 2 priority is further described on the Brights' website.
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NEWS: Each weekday during May, Scientific American placed online a new family science activity. SA's accumulated postings provide a collection of 20 science activities that adults and kids can do together. The activities use only common household ingredients and take about a half hour. SA provides a brief introductory video and asserts that all the activities are easy and fun to do. Each activity narrative is followed by user comments. Locate all 20 activities under the "Bring Science Home" button.
 

Count Me In & Count On Me
 
Staff at Brights Central frequently get messages from Brights. These recently received from Mauricio and Emily were especially nice to read:
 
Mauricio (Colombia) said: "I am interested in the civic and educational part of your (should I say OUR?) quest… In human history, all the big achievements have started with one first step of one individual, a spark of independent thought that triggers a chain reaction in other minds. I really can see that spark in your effort and that very first step in your initiative, so what can I say: 'I'm in; count me, and count on me as a bright.'"
 
Emily (U.K.) said: “This is a fantastic movement, I have been thinking to myself for a long time that something like this is needed, and here it is! Love live Bright Pride and I hope very many people join to provide support for people who currently feel incapable of "coming out" because there is nowhere for them to turn. Spread this meme!”
 

Caught On Yet? (In a Different Game, Part 1)
 
One may find similarities between soccer, basketball, and tennis (games of sport), but clearly the playing field for each is quite different. And so are the rules and terminology. Most Brights are quite experienced in the religion ballgame. In blogs and blurbs galore, even in the Brights Forum and on its Facebook wall, religion tops out as the topic. It gets lots of keystrokes.
 
But, The Brights’ Net is actually not “playing religion.” It urges a different game be learned and played. This game is more about civics and citizenship. And, if the playing field is different, don’t different concepts and rules apply?
 
“The Brights” is a social action endeavor aimed at civic justice. Fair treatment and equal participation is the thrust, not religion (or departure from it). In a game with “civic parity” as the goal, the “citizens who have a naturalistic worldview” need to take time and effort (and keystrokes) to focus on their civic standing and how to best play the game to score more points (more and better social and civic acknowledgement).
 
When you communicate with others in your community or in varied spheres of acquaintance, you don’t have to “suit up” in the language of religion. (That playing field is treacherous; and its language can trap a player right away into fruitless actions.) You are playing a different game, so you need to show it.
 

Got Your Strategy? (In a Different Game, Part 2)
 
When speaking as Brights, our objective is civic acceptance and participation. If we want to advance toward the goal, it helps a lot for us as “the players” to think through “action elements” that should apply in this civics game. Here are a few ideas.
 
Each can try to be more forthright about personally having a naturalistic worldview. (That's how we extend awareness that there are such perspective and such people in society.) We need to do this purposefully and, in some societies, cautiously. But, unless safety is the concern, which it is in some places, more of us need to move forward toward candor. Some Brights will perhaps want to proceed gradually to take on whatever challenges may exist to openness and candor. But however gradually or quickly, it is crucial to removing a stigma that more Brights are bringing aspects of their worldview into the daylight in places where it is now in the closet (You can do this in positive ways. Remember, civility rules the game between citizens, family included!)
 
To truly illuminate a naturalistic worldview, one needs to say what one stands FOR. After all, “having a naturalistic worldview,” is a bigger idea than just what one thinks about deities or organized religion. What are your values and ideals, and how does the naturalistic outlook apply in the many other areas of life? You can step forward and talk about civic ideals, civility, civic participation, civic fairness, equality, education, etc. You can elicit the principles that fellow citizens (brights and supers alike) often tout but, in many circumstances, fail to apply to those who have a different worldview.
 
Most of all, to the extent possible, to “illuminate and elevate” a naturalistic worldview, one can step into a new arena and function there with openness and integrity. Volunteer for a school board or curriculum committee or task force solving problems or working for civic justice. Say, what about running for a public office?
 

Labels Galore!
 
On May 19, Keith Gilmour of the Glasgow Brights stood before the Humanist Society of Scotland and provided an informative, evem slightly humorous, presentation. (If you can’t tell a “little b” bright from a “big B” Bright, Keith will tell you how!)
 
In the majority of his delightful lecture, Keith highlighted pros and cons of various terms used by nonreligious Brights (atheist, agnostic, rationalist, humanist, nontheist, skeptic) as well as the plus and minus of the invented “naturalistic worldview” umbrella term. The 17-minute talk also gave “a wee bit” about the Brights' MeetUp group Keith leads (124 members; an impressive record of 181 MeetUps!)
 
View the talk on the HSS website.
(Click on EVENTCASTS, then [next page] "May Event". If you want to omit the "background and credentials" section in which he introduces himself  to start straight away with the topic, just skip to the 2.5-minute mark. It is in the remaining 15 minutes that he is focusing on the various labels.)
 

SIG2: Brights' Poster Project (USA)
  
During June, an announcement notice will remain prominent on the home page, making it is easy to share that page by any of the various social media! This way, Brights and supers alike can get the word out to high school science teachers in the U.S. of the availability of the free posters, "Earth and Life: changes over time."  (A teacher mails in a completed request form, and the poster is mailed out to the school address.)
 
Please join and support SIG2!
  

“Reality about Morality” Project Team
 
[Action Arena 1]  Upon occasion, Project Director (Ruban Bala) will invite constituents to provide input on a specific task. This is such an occasion. Please respond to the following if you have a suggestion that exactly fits the bill.
 
"Our Area C Executive Team is currently in the process of designing viral images and straplines that summarize the four scientifically-validated statements about the origins of human morality.
 
You may forward your image and/or strapline suggestion, to mpleader@the-brights.net with STRAPLINE in the subject line. Please send only if you can tie your submission to a particular statement (A,B,C, or D). Limit any explanatory content in the email to 100 words, please."


More on Brights’ Wall Poster Initiative
 
A Poster Arrives! at School: The first reporting back that Brights Central received came from Thomas, a teacher in Washington state. He says: “Thank you for the poster… [It] will be placed in a central location, namely a display case with other scientific objects and displays. This location serves not just science students, but is also visible to the whole student body. During the evolution theory unit we plan to use the poster in individual classes. Thank you once again for the poster.”
 
Dilemmas in Shipping:BC has received several poster requests from science teachers in other countries. The cost of international shipping is, if not prohibitive, then surely extravagant, and we are discouraging these requests. Nevertheless, if there are sponsors who wish to enable this service for someone they know, you may use PayPal to be “INT’L POSTER SPONSOR” ($25). Or, if a high school science teacher simply “must have it!” you can email for instructions on use of PayPal to precede your request form with sufficient postage.
 
Explanation: From California, we can send posters domestically by “media mail” (low postage and slow ground shipping), but there is no similar economical option for overseas. Mailing tube and posting with customs documents translates into shipping costs nearing printing cost. A poster traveling by air is also environmentally wasteful (the paper quality is high, and so the parcel is correspondingly heavy).
 

Pleased as Punch to be Brights
 
Julien (Canada): “Thank you for having an internet community where we Brights can feel a part of something, rather than secluded in a world saturated with religion and superstitious beliefs.”
 
Dan (New York, USA): “It was really nice to find your organization!  I look forward to getting more involved.  It is really nice to have your resources available.”
 
Kathleen (Washington, USA): “I was afraid to ‘come out.’ and I was searching for support.”
 
Maxi (Berkshire, UK): “After years of living with a superstitious, fearful and closed mind,, I couldn't be happier, or more grateful. [R]ational thinkers have given me a fresh view and continue to do so.”
 
Joseph (Pennsylvania, USA): “.  I often feel like we're returning to some kind of neo-dark ages with all the fear of the supernatural and persecution of scientists and research.  I'm very pleased to be a Bright.”
 
Julie (Yorkshire, UK) “I really like the positive nature of what you are trying to do.”
 
Conor (County Down, UK): “I think this is an excellent and worthwhile movement. Although only 14, I have become a Bright of my own free will and I'm very proud and excited to be able to call myself a Bright :)”
 

Advertising God?
 
Do not picture in your mind a tornado [twister/cyclone/whirlwind]! Do not do it! (Okay, pause now.)  Next, don’t think of a waterfall either! (Pause again.)
 
NOT to think of something? It becomes a challenge when the brains of so many tend to bring that very something to mind. Does the term, godless, then, give an unearned advert (and cultural boost) to the deity? Surely it is possible to undermine the supernatural without using the g-word? Or is it?
 
How would you make a bus ad or billboard that doesn’t also give a mention to a deity? Send along your “NO-G” idea to the-brights@the-brights.net. Better yet, have you got any ideas for promoting civic fairness for people who have a naturalistic worldview? We’ll take those ideas, too. We have received: “United we may survive, divided we maybe won’t?” And: “Everyone included/all treated fairly—injustice gives up the ghost!”
 

Financially Supporting Brights’ Activity
 
Casually and Conversationally: The items on the Brights' merchandise page are supplied almost at cost. There is very little markup because making merchandise available has always been considered a “service to constituents” rather than a money-making endeavor. Lapel pins, cloth patches, and the array of “stuff” in the Brights Shop at Café Press (mugs, magnets, stickers, T-shirts, hats, hoodies and other apparel) all help Brights to draw attention to the movement. Most items show the logo and the website URL, and some have slogans, such as “living on the bright side of life.” These are great as conversation-starters, so check ‘em out!
 
Seriously and Directly:To provide actual monetary support to The Brights’ Net, consider any of these available routes:
 

Latest from the Brights’ Forums
 
The Forums experienced a brief unscheduled downtime this month, but thanks to the valiant efforts of the Webmaster, we are back on track.  If you experienced any difficulties, it appears that your access should be restored, and the conversation continues apace.  Brights continue to discuss what they hold "sacred", and many other things.
 
Member Dainn reported on a public statement by James Randi of the James Randi Educational Foundation, in which Randi spoke about being a bright, and on what the meaning of "bright" is.  Thanks for the shout-out, Randi. And, everyone can go to the main website for the specific definition!
 
It is surprising how widespread misunderstanding of the Brights’ initiative persists. Perhaps you have questions about the Brights movement, or know someone who does?  Byregistering at the Forums, you can engage in dialogue with the moderating team, who are available to answer your questions, and many other brights.
 

B Words (Or, Scrap the Sacred for the Secular)
 
Last month we reported that Dr. Anthony Grayling, an Enthusiastic Bright, had named his recent work, The Good Book: A Secular Bible (in the UK) while his American publisher had switched the subtitle to "A Humanist Bible” instead (saying that the term “secular” just would not go over well in the USA).
If you wish to read the original by either title, it is available from your local bookseller or via the Brights' link.
 
John, a Bright in Florida (USA), apparently isn't convinced of the "goodness" contained in the tome that bears that "good book" nickname, because he wrote in to plug these titles: The OK Book, The Almost-Good Book, or The Pretty-Good Book (no subtitles).
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From BC: As the professor's volume was proposed as a secular collection of wisdom, maybe it should be titled along the lines of The Better Book: A Goodness Guide for Everyone Everywhere!  
 

Pro? or Con?
 
The blog piece mentioned last month did stir many Brights, far many more negatively than positively. Thanks to all who wrote their opinions (far too many to report).
 
The blogger’s criticism of Richard Dawkins, a Bright, struck a nerve with many respondents. The mildest and most repeatable statement of personal distaste is perhaps this, from Joe (Massachusetts, USA): “One more thing. I don't really like this Brendan O'Neill person… I mean, Dawkins is the man.”
 
PRO from John (UK): “The journalist is just expressing... the need for something positive to run up the flagpole for the Bright movement, rather than displaying what is, inevitably, a negative image.”
 
CON from Fraser (New Zealand): “He's just complicating a very simple issue. They asked what our religion is. If you are a humanist/atheist/agnostic, then you have no religion. If they'd asked 'what are your worldviews?' then his piece would make sense.”
 
More of Interest:
 
From Beverly (Georgia, USA): “I agree that we should not be defined by what we don't believe; however, I would rather be defined by what I don't believe than defined by merely what I was brought up to believe.”
 
From Marcos (Brazil): “In a world filled with magical thinking, sophism, politics and lies, what you don't believe says as much about you as what you do believe in.”

From Ken (Japan): “I enjoyed reading Brendan O'Neill's blog… But I couldn't help agreeing with some of the readers that Mr. O'Neill seems to be missing the point: while checking the ‘No Religion’ box on the British census certainly makes a statement about one's beliefs regarding religion, it is not necessarily a singular act of self-definition or self-declaration. As at least one commentator noted, it's just a census.”
 

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