The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #159 (latest issue)

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


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- SEPTEMBER 2016 


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A Summer Reprieve, Now Back

It’s nice to see the Evolution Poster Project back up and running again after a month’s hiatus. (Brights Central doesn’t mail out posters during months when most schools are closed.)

The postal clerks take notice when someone from BC comes through the post office door (Kelly shown here). And, to not hold up the line, they often signal for an extra clerk to handle other customers while one clerk processes our batch of posters.

An aside:  Employees no longer threaten to open up the mailing tubes to be sure the low-cost media mail postage is deserved. Having destructively opened up twice before to some embarrassment, they now trust what’s inside. 

Thanks to all the Brights who have been donating to this unique project!  We still have many requests from high school science teachers that we hope, with your support, to fill!

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At the International Forums

Casual news recently posted to the Forums includes the story of the man who jumped— on purpose — from a plane at 25,000 feet (7.6 kilometers) with no parachute and lived to tell the tale.  Yes, there's video.

If you're the kind of person who likes both podcasts and social science, come and discuss a new episode in which long-held assertions about personality are challenged. Can we conclude that the reporting about the vaunted “marshmallow test” was wrong?  See it here

Anyone may read, and posting requires only a brief registration.

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Canadian Brights - Do Take Note

link specific to Amazon.ca was recently added to the website.  So, if you are an Amazon user in Canada, you can now become a valuable Canadian supporter of the Brights, all at no cost to you.

Simply bookmark the page and use the link when you initiate your every shopping session. The nonprofit organization, The Brights’ Net, will receive 6% to 7% of whatever you buy during the session.  

Links are also available to Amazon.com shoppers and also users in the UK, France, and Germany.

The availability of these links should not discourage those Brights who, on principle, much prefer to go to independent bookstores for their purchases.

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Dawkins-Dennett-Blackmore-Pinker

It wasn’t the “Four Horsemen,” but it was four notable Brights who joined with other luminaries in an Intelligence Squared global event marking the 75th birthday of one of them, the evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins.

The other three Brights engaging with Dawkins about his life and work were cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, philosopher Daniel Dennett, and science writer Susan Blackmore, and there were additional cultural luminaries as well. Got time to spare? You can listen to the hour of tribute at SoundCloud.

If listening is not your plan, you might still want to examine SoundCloud’s brief written introduction to the audio. The event was a tribute to Dawkins, and the online intro outlines some of Dawkins’ “rational revolutionary” accomplishments. Besides the birthday, the occasion also observed the 40th anniversary of the publication of his The Selfish Gene, the book which had brought him to prominence in his field.

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Pulpits and Political Speech (USA)

Seeing that religion occupies a privileged cultural place, it is not unusual for an American Bright to express concern about the mixing of religion and politics. Most recently, the situation is viewed from abroad with considerable alarm by secularists, with concern expressed for how easily U.S. houses of worship might turn into small-scale PACs (political action committees).

Reverend Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, points to proposals that are "short-sighted, reckless and corrosive to religious life."

In 1996 Americans United set up 'Project Fair Play' to "educate religious leaders and other Americans about tax exemption and political activity." Whereas religious leaders may freely address political and social issues from the pulpit, “they may not use their faith communities' resources to endorse or oppose candidates, donate funds to candidates' campaigns, issue endorsements or engage in other activities that have the effect of intervening in an election."

In the middle of the election season, Americans may want to educate themselves on the issues, and Project Fair Play outlines the main issues of keeping religious privilege out of elections.

Whereas speaking out on issues is permitted; candidate endorsement is not. Yet, there is movement this election season to enable the latter. (One example: the current Republican platform.)

Another example is Donald Trumps’ pledge in July to remove “the Johnson Amendment.”).  As has been pointed out by American Atheists, that Amendment applies equally to religious and secular nonprofit organizations, so “Repealing this critical protection of our nation's secular character would fundamentally undermine the First Amendment's Establishment Clause and upend more than 60 years of law… Pastors and religious leaders are free to endorse candidates and engage in politics—and frequently do. But we draw the line when it comes to taxpayer subsidized tax-exempt organizations climbing into the political arena."

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From the Brights Blog

http://blog.the-brights.net/about

Adam Manning (UK) writes in the Brights' Blog as A Science-Minded Citizen, and he surely fits the bill. Adam's activities illustrate how a curious person can "do science" outside of employment (nonscientists alert!). His experiences also show how even the family of such a person can be swept into the action.

In "An Armchair Astronomer No More" Adam describes how a friend's gift of a no-longer-needed telescope provoked him into putting longstanding fascination with "the glitter of a clear night sky" into some productive backyard action.  Of the success, he writes: "My hope is that this account of my first steps in astronomy may encourage others as well."

In "An Environmental Issue We Can All Clear Up" Adam points out how, when surrounded by what he calls the ubiquitous "curse of modern living," we might all tackle a piece of it. And, if we do, we can when observing just how much of a difference we have personally made, relish a strong sense of accomplishment sweeping in!

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Your Worldview Window

Brights are defined as persons who hold a naturalistic worldview. That attribute says something about “the window through which we, as Brights, perceive the world.”

It’s a pretty big deal, really, in that your own worldview pretty much wraps up how you understand the world and interact within it.  You observe and relate with everything around you through your worldview. It’s your personal insight.

According to Wikipedia, the term worldview (derived from the German word Weltanschauung) is generally used in English to refer to the deep-seated cognitive orientation of an individual, or group, or society.  “It refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it.”

Ever thought about how you came to see the world as you do?  Somehow, life has educated you into the worldview that you have.

“No infant has a worldview. Each person’s 'life understanding' takes shape over time as the individual grows and develops, as he or she engages in new events and experiences, interacts with others and with his or her surroundings, and derives answers to inquiries about life and living from fellow human beings. Any individual’s worldview is internal and, in the fine scale, unique.”

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Perpetuating a Worldview (UK)

As reported in The Guardian, the Church of England wants to run a quarter of the 500 new free schools the government has pledged will open before 2020. The Church wants to cement its place as the country’s largest provider of education, and so it is bidding to open lots of schools “under the government’s free school programme.” Stephen Conway, the bishop of Ely, said: “This is a moment to be bold and ambitious, and offer … a Christian vision for education.”

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Reasoning about Instructor Reticence

A segment in a previous Bright’s Bulletin reported that even college level biology teachers display some discomfort with the subject of evolution. They may teach the subject so that their students grasp it cognitively, but as the evolutionary explanation relates to religion or to students’ personal beliefs, they are reticent about their teaching goal being that students should actually accept the explanation.

After absorbing the report, Andrew (California, USA) wrote in to BC with several thoughts.  Among them…

• “Great topic. I could speak at length, but I will summarize by saying this: In my view, if (typically younger) students don't fully grasp evolution, it's because they live in the land of surplus (in terms of time, financial support, social connections, etc.), whereas evolution is centered entirely on the notion of shortage”…

•  “Why is evolution only seemingly taught in the context of biology? Darwinism is universal. In my adult life, I can't stop seeing it everywhere. To be clear, this criticism is leveled in the direction of academia at large, not the Brights organization. You guys are doing a great job getting that 'Earth and Life: Changes over Time' poster out to interested educators.”

• (And, as regards college professors not considering helping students accept the theory of evolution to be an instructional goal): “Yeah, well, I'm not sure I would either. You can lead a horse to water...”

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Humans Keep Evolving

Several indicators point to the continued evolution of the human race. Among them: the emergence of blood abnormalities, an adult ability to digest milk, and changes in our physical appearance.

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Share the Morality Infographic!

It is important for citizens to recognize that scientists actually know quite a lot about human morality, and the evidence indicates it has come about naturally, without involvement of supernatural agency.

So, have you already shared the Brights' "Reality about Morality" infographic with others? What?! You haven’t?  Then it’s time to do so.

Think about a range of recipients. Who would benefit by learning what science is saying about the naturalistic foundations of human morality? Forward the infographic along to those new targets.

It remains a high priority for Brights to pursue varied means to communicate "this reality" to the general public. And it’s available, along with explanations, in 15 languages!


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