The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #139 (latest issue)
October 31, 2014

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


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- NOVEMBER 2014 


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Moral Comportment in Animals

As evidence of compassion in cats, recent animal research points to the instance of "a cat guiding an elderly, deaf and blind dog away from obstacles standing in the way of the dog's food." The example lets us know that much work remains to be done for science to reach a mature understanding of the moral lives of non-human animals. But that's exactly what excites those who do research on non-human animal morality. How much more there is to learn!

Already scientists have acquired quite enough substantial evidence to know that we Homo sapiens are not alone in the moral arena. Considerable evidence of basic moral conduct in other primates and in non-primate animals is accumulating. Much of that evidence pertains to primates, and particularly to our closer relatives.

Although there's more known about rat morality than cat morality, images of chimps and rats lost out to the cats to lead off this monthly bulletin. Images of cats, as many folks know, are more popular on the Internet. ; )

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"Refreshing / Important"


These two nice terms were employed by ethicist Jessica Pierce upon first viewing the Brights' new morality infographic. In commending the efforts of The Brights' Net, she wrote:  

"Thanks for all the wonderful work you are doing on behalf of clear-thinking. It is so refreshing and important."

Dr. Pierce, co-author with Marc Bekoff of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals, is currently affiliated with the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, University of Colorado, where she is working on books in several arenas related to animals and freedom.

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Not Just an Infographic

Thanks to all of you who have already shared the Brights' infographic on the underpinnings of morality in humans!  If you haven't done so yet, please do so! You will find it in a rapidly growing number of languages!

Along with the infographic The Brights' Net Morality Project team has constructed a (shall we say it?) rather fabulous web portal. It leads directly to the scientific research that firmly supports the infographic's four assertions. This repository of publicly available peer-reviewed research studies is accessible to anyone with some interest in the subject.

Any declaration that someone can be "good without God" is made stronger when one can point to actual evidence to that effect. Moreover, the Project's explanations and recommended readings (high school level readability) make the naturalistic story -- as determined by science -- understandable. 

A recent update on the Project and portal is now available on the website.

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Home Page Revisions

We have recently modified the home page to give first-time visitors to the website a somewhat warmer introduction to the constituency along with access to social media links.

The banner (formerly "orbs" of some mystery) has been transformed into a realistic glimpse outward to space. This further dose of "reality" comes compliments of NASA.

Responding to requests from Brights, we wanted to provide easier access to the ongoing centralized activities. Now visitors don't have to "drill down" so deep. They can learn about key action priorities with a single click.  Have a look!

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"The Disillusionist"?

Enthusiastic Bright James "The Amazing" Randi, now age 86, is featured in the current issue of The New York Times Magazine. The article, by Adam Higginbotham, explores the fascinating life of this master of scientific investigation, expert magician, and global icon of skepticism.

Randi has exposed a goodly number of con men, and his annual "The Million Dollar Challenge" at "The Amazing Meeting (TAM)" in Las Vegas, has tormented many spiritualists, whether believing, or conniving.

The article should be of interest to almost anyone, but especially enticing to those who have long admired Randi for his accomplishments. "Unbelievable!" "Incredible!"

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Will Atheism Become a Worldview?

In and of itself, atheism can hardly be termed a worldview. A conclusion about deity may be an important philosophical component of a worldview, but it isn't a worldview. However, in a society imbued with theism, the absence of deity-belief, does gain in consequence.

Prior endeavors have pressed hard to improve atheism by means of adding certain elements. One fairly recent example, Atheism Plus (a "new wave of atheism"), incorporated "caring about and working towards social justice" with the essential of nonbelief. "...'not believing in any gods' is not enough."

A current example of trying to make atheism more positive is being pursued by the "two proud atheists" who co-authored a brand new book: "Atheist Mind/Humanist Heart."

About the Book:  As their title implies, Lex Bayer and John Figdor. incorporate key features of humanism in their molding of atheism into a worldview. One reviewer [somewhat ungrammatically] interprets the co-authors' product this way:
"They show that atheism need not be reactionary (against religion and God), but rather, offers a clear set of constructive principles to live by that establish atheism as a positive worldview."

Note: If you choose to buy this book at Amazon,
we hope you will go first to the Brights' web portal!

The authors' strategy is described in their sub-title: "Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the 21st Century".  There's a contest, too. (It ends November 30, so take note!)

About the Contest:  In association with notable organizational sponsors (e.g., Richard Dawkins Foundation, Secular Student Alliance, American Humanist Association), the contest supplies - as its "ReThink Prize" - $10,000 in prizes for the 10 individuals whose beliefs are selected to become "The New 10 Commandments."

Can such efforts achieve the makeover?  Enter the contest if you want to help them out!

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Creative Illuminations

It's always fun to see the ways in which constituents make use of the Brights' icon! 

This jack-o-lantern was recently greeting visitors to a front door in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Sure to have inspired puzzlement and a question or two last month, Brights Central has promoted the pumpkin to a deserving spot on the "Expressions and Illuminations" page of the website.)

If you've produced something even more novel to share with fellow Brights, you can email your image to the-brights@the-brights.net and put ICONIC in upper case letters in the subject line.

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Insights by Brights

On the Art of Writing Well:  If you have interest in how social media and such activities as texting are influencing modern-day writing, you may have interest in Enthusiastic Bright Steven Pinker's latest. Or maybe you'd read it just for entertainment (to read all those examples of horrific prose). At any rate, it is clear that Pinker's prose is a place to learn a lot about language.

On Psychology of the Paranormal:  You may wish to check out this podcast to learn how Enthusiastic Bright Sue Blackmore approaches this topic. Her interview supplies you an opportunity to be reminded that having a naturalistic worldview means coping with far more than deity belief.

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Report from the International Forums

If the humanistic value of aid-in-dying is of interest, visit this Topic in the Forums and encounter the story of Brittany Maynard of the USA, who has gained notoriety for publicizing the reasons for which she chose to end her own life.  What are your thoughts on the subject? 

There has just begun an effort to aggregate YouTube videos expositing the naturalistic worldview, to which a few members have contributed.  The more the merrier!  Do you have a favorite video series about naturalism, the natural world, naturalistic ethics, or other useful material to share?  Please do!

Participation requires only a brief and confidential registration. Thanks.  

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A Science-Leaning Forum (Russia)

The lively BrightsRussia group on the popular Vkontakte social network in Russia continues to post useful material illuminating a naturalistic outlook. For example, one recent item of note (11/02/14) delves into the concept of prejudicial thinking, offering a range of information about the challenges of rational thinking and some clues about how even highly intelligent people cannot escape having biases. 

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Atheist (or Not) Churches (or Not)

Many people have been learning about the spread of the "Sunday Assembly" congregations, which were initiated in the UK.  A recent The Telegraph article summarizes the growth of these secular Sunday assemblies, now to be found in some American locations.

The media in both nations typically describe the congregations as "atheist churches". The UK Brights' Twitter site directs to the article. In doing so, it raises a pertinent question: How suitable is the 'atheist church' moniker when the welcome is actually extended for all?

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A Rational Woman asks: "What if it's now or never?"

She follows by suggesting ways for you to think about whatever might be keeping you from doing what is most meaningful to you.

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Rewards of "Postering"

Kelly, at BC, coordinates The Brights' Net's Earth and Life: changes over time poster project.

Hearing back after checking with the teacher to see if a poster has yet arrived is the most pleasant part of Kelly's activity at The Brights' Net. Here, for the bulletin, she supplies the "very shortest" of recent comments received:

 "Got it. Posted it. Loving it. Thanks!" (Colorado)

"Got it!  Love it!  Having laminated as I write this! Thanks!" (Florida)

"I did receive [it]. Students are constantly drawn to the poster..." (Georgia)

"Thank you so much!!  As soon as I received the poster I sent for it to be laminated." (Illinois)

"It is a great visual and I thank you so much for sharing this resource with me! (California)

Spontaneous mention of lamination is frequent! Consequently, we have considerable confidence of teachers' long-term intentions. Some teachers provide examples of an activity, or send a picture. 

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Laying Groundwork?

Brights have reason to be proud of putting such an appreciated resource in the hands of knowledgeable teachers. Teachers have good reason to request this "free teaching resource" too.

Really understanding evolutionary change is just not that easy.  High school teachers who teach about it often comment how this resource offers them robust visual assistance in their efforts.  Hence, Brights have solid reason to supply it, but only when the situations are suitable.

The over 5-foot-wide image is not merely for classroom decoration. It is intended for integration into instruction, and we want to achieve optimal classroom matches to curriculum. Some effort at Brights Central goes into evaluating incoming online applications to ensure appropriate instructional levels; Kelly then validates employment situations (a step found to be necessary!).

Based on estimates of class sizes provided by teacher applicants, we are fast approaching 100,000 students aided in this project! We are enabling students to genuinely comprehend "the natural story of life on earth." When this is revealed and comprehended, a naturalistic worldview may be in store for many future citizens. 

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Language Boosting - Czech It Out!

 

The latest infographic addition is the handiwork of Jindrich (Czech Republic), who has committed to go further by translating from English into Czech all of the website elucidations. Waiting in the wings and on the way to the artist this week is a Turkish version, thanks to Azer (USA).

Peggy (France) has recently sent in for posting all four elaborations of the French version infographic. Thanks to volunteers who have done likewise, the site now provides the more complete information in seven languages

With infographic translations in German, Indonesian, and Esperanto in hand, we would now like to expand on the material to get four elaborations in those languages as well. If you would like to volunteer for this task (or to tackle an additional language), email to the-brights@the-brights.net with TRANSLATEVOL in upper case letters in your subject line. Recent volunteers have already indicated their interest in pursuing Persian, Hebrew, and Azeri.

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Thanksgiving (for Helpful Brights)

At Brights Central, we won't wait for the American holiday to thank those of you who responded already to our tech-problematic Equinox fund appeal, when those website technical troubles came out of nowhere at just the wrong time. We may still be coming up short compared to usual, but your responses did lend a hand, making a dent in the shortfall!  Thanks so much for the help!


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