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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- MAY 2017 


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Excellent Time to Act

Considering the challenges of contemporary times, with the current volatility of politics in so many nations, would this be the time for standing on values you hold dear?

If so, as a Bright, what would be your plan of action? 

Brights are individuals who base their opinions on a supernatural-free worldview. Nonetheless, the specifics of their outlook are not shared across the constituency. Recall that Principle 1 of the Brights movement clearly states that “our nations, cultures, politics, genders, occupations, interests, and so on vary widely.

Our worldview is naturalistic, and that’s the scaffolding of assumptions that braces all our conduct. We can all be assured that there will be no numinous elements in the thinking of a Bright. Our actions will be grounded in the real world.

That real world has needs. Plan your own course of action?

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Education and Religiosity (USA)

What’s the relationship between levels of education and levels of religious commitment?

A new analysis of U.S. data by the Pew Research Center indicates that the associations may not be as simple as one might expect (or has been thought).

For the public as a whole, more education appears to correlate with less religion. But that’s not the case for Americans who are Christians. For those Americans who classify themselves as such (and that’s still most U.S. adults), there’s a positive correlation.  Higher education meaning more Christian?  What do the Pew folks say about that?

Of course, you can check the data for yourself.

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“Brightness” around the World

As might be expected, most who register into the online constituency of Brights reside in the United States. That’s where “the Brights” began and where the educational nonprofit organization in support of the concept is located.

Despite the prevalence of English-speaking representation (nations like United Kingdom and Australia are also very well represented), the embrace is international in scope. There are persons with a naturalistic worldview all across the globe, and as word gets around, they check out the website, declare themselves “a Bright,” and register. Some, with leadership talent and commitment, organize independently and successfully. 

So far this year, Brights Central’s website has registered constituents from 42 nations besides the U.S., U.K., and Australia. These options on BC’s pull-down menu have been used in 2017: Argentina, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guam (USA), India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Zimbabwe.  

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Making a Difference

Thanks to donors to the evolution poster project, we Brights are helping entire classrooms of students to better understand the evolutionary story, with the guidance of some dedicated science teachers.

Based on our previous survey of teachers applying for the 5 ½-foot-wide Earth and Life: changes over time poster, on average 108 students a day are being helped to see how it was that life came about on earth—naturally. (We would tend to add that they also see “nothing supernatural” involved.)

If you are one of the donors who chose to kick off the New Year 2017 by purchasing one poster for one classroom, you should be gratified to know that your $60 poster donation has carried real sway. Kelly has touched base with each of the teachers to see how they have employed it, and Brights Central has received some wonderful feedback on those recent donations (see next bulletin item).

As the school year ends for many, responses from teachers continue to come in. If donations by other Brights also roll in, then even more teachers and students can benefit. ($60 not necessary; any amount welcome and will be earmarked!) 

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“Extremely Helpful” Poster’s Staying Power!

In limited bulletin space, we provide here just two examples of teachers indicating pleasure with how Earth and Life: changes over time is making a difference in their classrooms. We knew that many teachers laminate the resource for subsequent years, but it also seems that teachers are deciding to keep the poster “up” in the classroom throughout the school year!

I have your poster displayed on my classroom wall and I refer to it multiple times during the year when we are talking about the origin of life, evolution and geologic time scales. Thank you again for this resource. (Todd)

The poster is continually on display in my classroom, but I use it often in discussion and instruction.  My AP Biology class read “My Inner Fish” [last year] and so as we progress along in the year, the topics within the book are interjected - we just discussed the addition of vitamin A to growing embryos- and we rely on the poster to put the timeline in perspective.  It is extremely helpful… Thank you for this resource! (Kathy)

These example declarations make the case for other appreciative teachers who also find value in a resource that combine physical and biological changes in one unique visual presentation with varied applications.

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Why Did YOU March for Science?

The Earth Day 2017 “March for Science” movement took place last month, with over 600 associated marches spread across the world. It wasn’t just the scientists who were marching. There was good representation from the general public there – people who have concerns about the erosion of science.

Why did they march?—The sense of a turning away from science-based public policy seems a strong motivator.

A University of Delaware post-march survey revealed “encouraging policies based on science” to be the major reason cited by those who marched for science on 2017 Earth Day marchers. It makes sense.  Science is critical to our health, economies, food security, and safety, so there’s good reason to defend the role of science in policy and society.

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So What Happens Now?

The Science March is over.

Is that the end of it?  Is zilch to follow?

That’s where the public comes in (and doesn’t that include you?).

It’s a fact: Even if every scientist in the world had marched on Earth Day 2017, and even if scientists continue with their own strong resistance to the erosion of science, they alone cannot defend their inquiry enterprise. It’s up to the public to stand for the scientific undertaking.

It remains to be seen if the public will in fact do so.

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Who Is to Own Space Stuff?

As space endeavors proceed apace, what will be the legal basis for development of any resources “out there”?

Are they to be “the common heritage of humankind”? Or, are the resources to be found in space to be exploited by nation states or by whatever private-commercial partnership might have enabled the venture?

Those are questions that our Science-Minded Citizen" has chosen to explore this month.

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Bright Pride!

Brights bookmarks (for self and friends) seem to be the favorite swag of Brights everywhere.

BC’s in-house supply has dwindled, and it is time to replenish. 

The latest batch of bookmarks bore the message shown here. (A prior version bore the actual definition of a bright.) So, what’s next? Perhaps you have an idea for a new and different message?  If so, send it along for consideration! Email your suggestions to the-brights@the-brights.net with MESSAGE in upper case letters in your subject line. To spur your own creativity, you can check out example sayings in the “sound bites” section of the website.

We can’t fulfill many more orders of the current version. Depending on supply, you will receive either the old or the new (message to be changed IF something absolutely fabulous arrives)!

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Tackling Our Own Tribalism

With the challenges facing humanity, those of us living on “the bright side” of life (the free of supernatural side), tend to see issues looming in which any hard division between brights and supers is problematic to resolving important issues like climate change.

How to engage with those on “the super side” of life?  That’s the challenge.

Clearly, brights and supers won’t see many things alike. But, then again, they will see many other things alike!

The problems persist when communication breaks down, keeping shared items out of reach to both sides. The hopeful “one humanity” message is available on lots of merchandise in the Brights’ Shop at Café Press if you have a liking for it.

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Magpie Munificence?

As reported in prior bulletins, a Danish Bright guides us to peer-reviewed scientific articles in a unique storytime manner: He uses a notion in which an animal phones in a complaint to a hotline and receives counsel.

Each wee tale on the “Bright-Moral-Animal-Hotline” website is presented in both Danish and English, and whenever a link to actual research posted online is available, it is provided.

Image by J. Patrick Fischer - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

For students of the evolution of human altruism, one of the more interesting of the tiny stories will be the one recently added, which guides us to an investigation of prosociality in magpies. Studies of primates have touched upon this “kindness feature,” and the recent magpie study offers some background on that aspect while reporting how azure-winged magpies behave “helpfully.”

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From the International Forums

This month a member of the International Forums quoted a news report about the automatic collision-avoidance system in a Tesla automobile; there is video showing how the car evaded a rear end collision by reacting faster than the human pilot probably could have done.  This seems a good on the face of it … but what if, in turn, the Tesla had been rear-ended by a car without a similar system?  Whose fault would that be?

In fact, such safety systems raise all sorts of technical and ethical challenges, and with the soon-to-be-exploding popularity of driverless vehicles, it is timely to consider the implications.  If you enjoy engaging in depth on such topics—or any—drive by the Forums and have your say. 

Participation requires only a brief and confidential registration process.  See you there! 

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What’s for Real?

@UK Brights drew BC’s attention to an interesting world map from @Telegraph showing the most (and least) religious nations in the world.

The map, published in April, was based on three WIN/Gallup polls taken in 2008, 2009, and 2015 asking respondents about whether or not they “felt religious.” Tables provided also named in order the 20 most and 20 least religious countries.

Its data may help add clarity to the Pew Research Center’s projected a downward demographic trend for nonreligious people. Notice that a “birth dearth” lies ahead—despite increasing secularization in some parts of the world (e.g., Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand)—was a topic in the April 2017 Bright’s Bulletin.


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