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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- DECEMBER 2017 


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A Crucial Factor in Evolution Acceptance

(Despite Brights Central’s involvement with high school science educators in teaching about evolutionary change, BC had missed out on a bit of recent relevant research news. Thankfully, a helpful Bright has sent it along.)

Note the researchers' conclusion:  “Understanding the nature of science was the single most important factor associated with acceptance of evolution in our study and explained at least four times more variation than measures of evolutionary knowledge.”

The research study reporting this news was published back in July in Evolution: Education and Outreach. The researchers had concluded from their multifactorial analysis that what most determines college students’ acceptance of natural evolutionary processes is, first and foremost, their understanding of how science works.

Although the study also noted as an influencing factor intrinsic religiosity (the extent to which an individual relies on religion for decision and opinion making), it was less a factor than students’ appreciation for scientific assumptions and process. That is, the researchers saw feeble comprehension of the nature of science itself as more a roadblock to evolution acceptance than religion.  

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Going Against the Grain?

A November 14 follow-up article, seemingly intended to reinforce and elaborate on the conclusions of the earlier study about evolution acceptance, has emphasized another essential point about it.

In the article, the main researcher acknowledged that the findings on evolution acceptance go somewhat against the let’s teach evolution better counsel. (“…[W]e have been working on evolution curriculum reforms for decades that have moved the needle very little on wide-scale acceptance.")

If “understanding the nature of science” is crucial to college students’ acceptance of evolution, it deserves the attention of educators at all levels who want to help students learn about natural evolutionary change on earth.

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Facing Educational Challenges Anew (USA)

The US citizenry exhibits strikingly low acceptance of evolution (chart, from Wikipedia). Subscribers to this bulletin are well aware of this deficiency, and many have been supportive of Brights actively assisting high school science teachers in their efforts to get across to students the reality of (supernatural-free) evolutionary change.

The new findings on evolution acceptance indicate that, to produce an educated citizenry, educators clearly need to be successful in imparting the nature of science itself, ensuring that future citizens can recognize the types of questions science can answer and how the scientific method is used to test hypotheses. When the greatest predictor of learners’ evolution acceptance is greater understanding of the nature of science, teachers simply must better get across to them how science works!

It would be useful to alert more educators to the recommendations from the study of key factors in evolution acceptance. This is a challenge that many Brights will likely want to pursue.

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Dazzle with Book’s “Brightness”

Need an idea for gifting?  Here’s a perfect Newtonmas/December solstice present for any friends or acquaintances who love optical illusions! With this new book in hand, they can enjoy a full-color gallery of stunning visuals.

Brights will find Champions of Illusion: The science behind mind-boggling images and mystifying brain puzzles attractive in two ways. It not only amazes readers with the assembled visuals, it offers explanations behind them as well. (The science underneath is all wrapped into the package – the authors behind this book have made sure that!)

This mind-blowing presentation of contemporary illusions comes from two Brights, authors of the "Best Illusion of the Year Contest" (website details are included in the "Appendix"). Something different in book form… and sure to delight.

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Handy Bookmarks for Books

Brights bookmarks are practical go-alongs to insert in any book gifting you may do now, or later!  These sturdy items will not wrinkle or tear.

Order a packet of five USD$4 now, and you will have them in hand in just that many days.

These are 7"x2" gently bendable of waterproof plastic. The reverse side has the “four pillars” of Brights’ action (openness, visibility, constructive engagement, principled participation) along with home page URL and QR code, so any inquisitive recipient can find their way to the website.

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Big Changes in American Values Afoot (USA)

For Brights who wish to keep a finger on the pulse of the changing religious landscape, the recently published Public Religion Research Institute’s “American Values Atlas” report is well worth a look. 

The single largest survey of American religious and denominational identity ever conducted (2016), this landmark report is based on a sample of more than 101,000 Americans from all 50 states. There is detailed information about religious affiliations, denominational ties, political affiliations, and other important demographic attributes.

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The many charts one can dissect are oh so revealing. One of the more interesting data sets contrasts demographics in four age profiles.

Illustrating “A Generational Shift in Religious Identity” with young adults (left column) and seniors (at right) makes fairly clear that the two peer generations just don’t inhabit the same peer landscape at all.

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A “Silverman Sampler”

Culturally Jewish, Herb Silverman is an Enthusiastic Bright best known for having successfully wooed some fractious folks in freethought into the type of serious cooperation that led to founding of the Secular Coalition for America.

In An Atheist Stranger in a Strange Religious Land, Herb takes the opportunity to write about whatever is occupying his mind. And, as it happens, that covers a lot of stuff! (The book clusters some of his best written work from the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Free Inquiry, and other publications around specific topics/issues.)

Readers can expect the book to be both thought-provoking (with a nonconformist point of view) and chuckle-producing, as are several others listed in the “Books by Brights’” Humor and Humanities category.

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Seasonal Online Gifting via iGive (USA)

December is a good time to remind you that The Brights’ Net is both a USA tax-exempt 501c3 nonprofit organization (Federal Tax ID Number 56-2385064) and a USA charity registered at iGive.com.

This means that lots of Brights have “free” charitable giving potential through their shopping. They can reach over 1,800 different stores that sell online while simultaneously benefiting the Brights initiative with the purchases they make. Friends, as well as Brights themselves, may do this!

The commission percentages to nonprofits vary by company, but most anything purchased online via the iGIve link sends along a percentage of the sale – at NO additional cost!  The starting point is taking the steps to register future shopping efforts via the Brights’ iGive page. It is a (mostly) painless way to spread some December cheer to the Brights' endeavor while doing online shopping. Electronics? Toys? Music? Tools? Flowers? Books? Games? Apparel? –At established companies selling online, most anything is at the fingertips. And it works in the New Year and beyond, too!

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Tackle Death Denial at the “Death Café”! (UK Brights)

@UKBrights has drawn BC’s attention to the existence of the death café movement with its potential to make the navigating of mortality much easier!

Death cafés, it seems, provide a setting in which participants (which vary from young to old) can actually look at the realities of death head on. Founded to liberate death from societal secrecy, the cafés are secular. Cafés have appeared in varied venues, from workplaces to music festivals. An article in The Times offers varied reasons one might want to stop avoiding the subject of death and pay a visit!

If persons holding a naturalistic worldview agree on anything at all, it is that each of us will have only the“one life” afforded us by our birth. So, are Brights any more likely than others to be confronting in advance the reality of their endings?

Anyone wishing to discuss end-of-life issues in a secular forum may want to actually consider the concept – attend a death café, or perhaps start one

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Pooling of Experience in Fish

This latest wee story of nature examines “experience-pooling” by clusters of sticklebacks. Can the merely partially informed individuals pool their experiences such that a grouping can collectively improve on its performance?

Yes - There is evidence of the animals’ integrating individual training experiences to better a clusters’ solving of multi-stage problems. It’s a finding that has implications for how we understand such matters as social foraging, migration and social systems.

The “Hotline Story” from a Danish Bright is available in both Danish and English languages.

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