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Issue #191 (latest issue)

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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- JUNE 2019 


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Small, but Worthwhile

Projects of The Brights’ Net are solely supported by donations from registered Brights, and although we frequently mention in the monthly bulletins our larger-scale actions like the Evolution Poster Project, we only infrequently include information related to some smaller efforts.

Recent correspondence prompts us to remind you of the A Little Brightness newsletter project, now in its 7th year.

With production help from Brights Central, the ALB endeavor is coordinated by Joel, a Bright in Texas, who initiated the project and continues it still. The ALB newsletter offers some secular sensibility to interested persons incarcerated within U.S. prison walls, where coercive use of religion is widespread.

BC sends the (usually 8) pages by postal mail to prisoners who request a subscription. As ALB editor, Joel always incorporates material from the monthly Brights bulletins (since prisoners cannot proceed to any online links contained in Brights bulletins, he adapts somewhat and adds on some material more directly pertinent to needs of prisoners). Reprinting of some personal exchanges based on mail he receives from the prisoners make the newsletters meaningful for the subscribers.

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BC’s Prison Reach Draws Appreciations

Due to word-of-mouth, Brights Central receives prisoner requests to be enrolled as ALB subscribers, and on some rare occasions, a donation of a few postage stamps or a very hard-earned dollar or two will come our way. Most mail, though, consists of address change requests (or returned mail) as prisoners are so often moved from place to place (or released from prison).

In May, there were several address change requests, and we share below one of the accompanying notes. Appreciative correspondence is commonplace, and Josh’s copied here is typical of what BC so often receives along with an address change request.

“First off, thank you for taking the time to produce such an informative newsletter for us guys in prison.  In a territory of overwhelming religiosity, your newsletter is a very welcomed piece of mail. Secondly, I am writing to inform you that my address/prison has changed…”

Due to time and expenses of fulfillment (photocopying and postage), BC does not actively promote the ALB project. It simply grows and shrinks on its own with prisoner attrition. However, the sustained subscriber interest (and the religious strong-arming so common in prison environs) motivates BC to continue it as we can (and as Joel continues his excellent involvement).

As we stated above, “Projects of The Brights’ Net are solely supported by donations from registered Brights.”  Consequently, if you also appreciate this endeavor and would like to help support its printing and mailing, simply earmark any donation you give (add “ALB” as a note if your donation is by PayPal), and we will earmark your contribution for the prison newsletter project.  And thanks!

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So… Who Is Responsible, Anyway?

Last month we promised that June’s bulletin would offer a brief background account of how the Brights’ Evolution Poster Project first came about.  So, here it is.

Q: How was it that The Brights’ Net gained sole rights to reproduce and disseminate the unique image shown on its Earth and Life: changes over time poster?

A: It was the initiative of a Bright, of course. (Actually two Brights!) 

First there was an email that Bob Ling, a science professor, sent to Paul Geisert, who co-founded The Brights’ Net and was himself a former university professor of zoology. Both together transformed an image that Ling’s science faculty intended for the inside walls of their building to our nonprofit organization’s duplicating and disseminating posters to high school science teachers.

Ling informed Geisert that his college, the science department was developing a compound graphic utilizing copyrighted images for key design elements. Here is word-for-word how Ling, at that time, was picturing the final rendering to be painted on the walls.

“[It is] a 60-foot long, 12-foot-high screen printing of the time line of evolution and the formation of the solar system, planets and the earth.  It will span two floors.  The life science floor will have the evolution of life while the physical science floor will have the rest.  The time line will be between the two floors, which are open, with arrows identifying the time of the events.  I have attached a rough draft.” 

Later, as described on the Brights’ website, the image was submitted to various science entities and vetted for accuracy. At last, the final image was painted on the science department’s walls, although not in quite as dramatic a fashion as Ling had at first envisaged. A recent communication to BC enclosed a picture, explaining: “We weren’t able to get the funding to get it to extend up to the third floor as originally planned so we have one of these on each floor.”

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From One Wall to Popular Project

Impressed by its unique combination of physical and biological elements on a single timeline, Dr. Geisert at BC took up the notion of giving the faculty’s multifaceted image much broader exposure.

Together, he and Ling (shown here) worked out an arrangement whereby The Brights’ Net could reproduce the planned image without being in violation of prior restrictions (in order to be able to integrate certain pictures into its screen print, the Kankakee Community College had entered into agreements with copyright owners).  

With sufficient financial support from Brights, the final image could be provided free in the form of a classroom poster to science teachers in instructional settings at efficacious levels and under certain usage conditions. This poster would not be merely a decorative one for classroom walls, but something that serious teachers would want to integrate into their teaching about evolutionary change. (The educators would have to apply and impart these instructional intentions.) 

BC has since 2014 coordinated collection of US tax-deductible donations, managed printings and dissemination of the 5 ½ foot-wide Earth and Life: changes over time wall poster to schools in accordance with the KCC agreement. Even without advertising, the educational project has proved to be immensely popular with high school science teachers who are lucky to learn about it. BC continues to garner abundant applications to fulfill.

Thanks to donating Brights who have sustained the implementation of the project to date, the image has gained a presence within appropriate instructional settings far beyond just on a wall in a solitary building at a sole college campus.

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Are We Getting It Right?  (USA)

The newest guidebook published by the National Council of the Social Studies ©2019 is a 235-page compendium of essays contributed by what its editor terms “some of the leading scholars and teachers in the field.”

This new NCSS manual, directed toward public school teachers, begins by arguing the necessity of religious literacy for public education.

As its editor Charles Haynes contends in his introduction to Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom, there has been a historic failure to “get religion right” in public schools. The history of controversy and litigation has produced a reluctance on the part of teachers to broach this “touchy subject.” Haynes, an authoritative voice in the field, sees the necessity as mounting as our society grows increasingly diverse. He contends it is “unfortunate and dangerous” that schools are so unprepared at a time when they most need to teach about religion and beliefs.

“Religious literacy is a critical mission for public schools because religious literacy is a critical mission for citizenship in a pluralistic society. Can we prevent hate, discrimination and violence by educating for religious literacy and religious liberty?  We must.”

To reduce reticence and help teachers move in a better direction, the volume directs the bulk of its guidance toward its editor’s idea of addressing religion and beliefs appropriately

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But What about Nonreligion! 

One chapter in the aforementioned NCSS religious literacy guidebook for teachers will likely come across to readers as an outlier.

Web definition of “outlier”: a person or thing situated away or detached from the main body or system; a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set.

Chapter 19, entitled “Conscience and the Challenge of Civic Inclusion” was contributed by Mynga Futrell at Brights Central.

Hers was quite a late addition to the compendium, written at the request of the NCSS Director of Publications who was producing the Teaching about Religion collection. This fact should be plainly noted because Dr. Futrell definitely composed her chapter “in a hurry” (with the proposed deadline to be just a month). As she was informed at the time of the invitation to contribute, the other chapters in the book were already written.

Why so late? As it was actually stated to her, the idea of atheists and agnostics had not been dealt with and needed to be included in the book. Would she write a chapter?

It wasn’t quite clear what exactly had led to that late request, but she infers that NCSS (or someone there) had seemingly taken notice of “something missing” in the twenty chapters that were already making their way to press as expressions of the editor’s religious literacy domain.

And so she agreed to write a chapter, requesting to glimpse the titles of the chapters already included. She was provided a copy of the composed Table of Contents, and immediately set to work on the task of somehow furnishing nonreligion with a meaningful place in the book’s worldview spectrum. 

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Incomplete Means Inadequate

From a naturalistic worldview perspective, it appears that “getting religion right” in public education is not yet on the horizon. Even a manual compiled by a notable expert cannot really help teachers deal with beliefs literacy. The guidebook is sorely in need of guidance of its own.

At a time of increasing secularization in the American population (or so it has been reported), the just-published guidebook for teachers entitled Teaching about Religion in the Social Studies Classroom has almost totally overlooked nonreligious literacy as a component of religious literacy. 

Any scrutiny of that book today will reveal the distinct outlier status of freethought and skepticism and secular viewpoints. Apparently, religious literacy is to be perceived with their complete absence from consideration. That defect can hardly be countered by inserting one chapter in an attempt to wedge it in from the side. 

In the book’s index, for example, the varieties of Buddhism make their appearances throughout the 235 pages, racking up 14 categories of index entries spread across 41 pages. And yet, deism, a topic so crucial to understanding the people and times of the nation’s founding has its sole mention in Futrell’s Chapter 19. Outside of that chapter, agnosticism and atheism garner a total of but 5 mentions (when named as words in listings, with but no narrative elucidation at all). The concept of doubt is never broached; nor is the key concept of shared human yearnings that can be fulfilled by either religious or nonreligious outlooks on the world.

From this guidebook, teachers encounter just a shallow and incomplete “religious literacy.” What is missing, and what educators need to grasp when preparing youth for their future citizenship, is an overarching vision of a civic landscape. It is one of inclusion, in which citizens with shared human concerns gain an understanding that different belief systems can address those concerns through diverse means, and not solely through religions’narratives and traditions. That civic view, crucial to comprehending the full human worldviews spectrum and appropriate to educating a diverse citizenry, will surely not be imparted.

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Brights Central Must Need Help

BC apologized last month for our failure to properly handle an acronym in the previous bulletin. We had heard from several folks that our stated “SASE envelope” actually doubles the “envelope” part.

Among the complainers was a rather peevish person who called us “idiots.” Okay. So, we apologized.

But then, that apology response committed yet another error.  (Wouldn’t it be just our luck that there are, among the thousands of Brights out there, not just an abundance of grumpy people but also some retired English teachers?)

Well, actually, it appears we had made three errors, as the following complaint from Donald makes clear, and which we savored nonetheless! 

“As a retired teacher of English, I had to chuckle at this section because of the self-illustrating language. You continue to learn with ‘almost’ [not ‘most’] every bulletin.  Additionally, please note that the clause concluding the first paragraph is not a stand-alone sentence. Further, with regard to the second paragraph, ‘consistently’ splits the infiinitive ‘to display.’ Please accept my apologies for beating a dead horse; I couldn't resist.”

Well, we cannot resist noting Donald’s misspelled “infiinitive” but…  Anyway, do keep the needed corrections coming!

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Innovation among Orangutans

Humans aren’t the only animals that innovate. There are numerous examples of innovation in nature too. A recent trial on orangutans may offer a glimpse into how humans became so resourceful.

Researchers wanted to see if orangutans — a close relative to humans — would spontaneously “invent” a tool to retrieve food from two puzzling apparatuses, even if they had never seen an example of one before. The work was compiled into a research paper published November 8 in Scientific Reports.

If “innovation” means coming up with a new way to solve a problem (one of the most basic definitions of the term), then it is definitely on display with orangutans. In fact, their “hook-bending” talents, as compared to young children’s, yield surprises!

Like prior little "Hotline Tales" for children, this information about orangutans is available in both Danish and English languages).

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Advertise Your Worldview

One worthwhile thing every Bright can do is let others know about the Brights.

We can all help spread the ideas of this initiative, and Brights’ bumper stickers can help!  What they are intended to do is offer opportunities for you personally to act on what the Brights tagline says: illuminate and elevate the naturalistic worldview.

Lots of people know about atheism and agnosticism, but they don't recognize the entirety of how an individual can look at the reality of the world. So, let 'em know!

If you'd like to start some conversations soon, then find a place on your car (or bulletin board, or binder) for the “Awesome!” bumper stickers.

This is the time to obtain one, too!It’s the summer “merchandise special” from Brights Central. (Or, if you are living in the southern hemisphere, then it’s a wintertime offer.)

Until August 1, you can receive a bumper sticker FREE (USA) if you simply send a self-addressed #10 business envelope to The Brights’ Net, Attention: Bumper Sticker, P O Box 163418, Sacramento CA 95816.

If non-US, then we can send one to you for a minimum $2 PayPal donation to cover the international postage. (BC supplies the envelope, but don’t forget that you must put your complete postal mailing address on your PayPal donation!) 

Note: They're 11 inches long, so we do have to bend the end to fit the requested standard #10 envelope (do not sent larger or smaller envelopes, however, as this free offer must go as one-ounce standard postage).

Remember: If in the US, you need to supply the #10 envelope. If you are international, we will supply an envelope and international postage for the minimum $2 PayPal donation.


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The Brights' Net
P.O. Box 163418
Sacramento, CA 95816 USA

E-mail: the-brights@the-brights.net
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