The Brights' Bulletin


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Issue #140 (latest issue)
November 30, 2014

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


BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- DECEMBER 2014 


 
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Nature Is Awe-inspiring, So…

What if children are taught to “thank God for nature”?
(Action Arena 2: Budding Brights

The blurring of the lines between instilling belief and opening minds can begin quite early in a youngster’s school experiences.

Example from concerned parent (UK):

Teaching Religion in Schools

Teaching religion; teaching about it – not the same at all. Yet the distinction continues to elude many governmental agencies and educators. When a democratic nation with a diverse population is involved in preparing future citizens, it is crucial to distinguish between inculcating and educating. A sustained commitment to civic pluralism is also beneficial.

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Scrutinizing Religious Education (UK)

The role of religion in schools has come under scrutiny during a House of Lords debate on the role of religion and belief in public life. A brief overview is offered by the National Secular Society’s blog.

Not a Part of Pluralism? — The UK Department for Education has updated its guidance by removing “and beliefs such as atheism and humanism” from its 2013 advice, which had previously recommended that schools “Use teaching resources from a wide variety of sources to help pupils understand a range of faiths, and beliefs such as atheism and humanism.”

Not Religion, But… — “[I]n non-faith schools it is best if RE [religious education] includes the views and opinions of atheists and humanists, even if this seems oxymoronic; secularisation affects religion as much as religion affects society.” From The Guardian’s “Teacher’s Blog” (by RE teacher, Andrew Jones)

Not Indoctrination; Pathetic Teaching! “Religious studies teaching is pathetic: Either improve it, or ditch it.” That is the advice of columnist Giles Fraser in The Guardian. “There are so many problems with how this potentially thrilling subject is being taught in schools. And indoctrination isn’t one.”

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Another Project Synopsis 

A favorable review of The Brights’ Morality Project can be found on the website “Evolution: Anything and Everything from an Evolutionary Perspective.”

On the home page, a preview states:

“Nine academics, many prominent in their fields, have collaborated to produce an arguably singularly objective starting point for anyone wishing to understand morality as the product of evolutionary processes.”

The article itself, authored by Mark Sloan, is titled: “Nine Academics, 4 Truths about Morality, and an Open Source Evolution of Morality Reference Library”

Excerpt:

“[T]hey have provided a free, but high quality, starting reference library for understanding the evolution of morality… I understand the “Brights” organization, which advocates a naturalistic world view, initiated and supported the effort. At their “Morality Web Portal” you can find a summarizing infographic aimed at education and the general public and links to more ‘academic’ versions of each of the four claims, arguments for each claim, and the supporting references.”

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Just the Facts!

"Morality is much older than religion.

“The Reality about Morality project provides a fantastic overview of the science of human morality."

Brights are generally well aware of both these statements. Still, we can be pleased when a prominent morality researcher sends that second one to Brights Central.

After visiting the Brights' morality web portal, Dr. Oliver Scott Curry, of the Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, graciously offered the above assessment for our use in any project PR we may pursue. (He had participated briefly in reviewing the Morality Project’s infographic.)

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Ten Commandments Update

The previous bulletin took notice of an ongoing contest to produce “The New 10 Commandments.” The idea was to crowdsource a secular set of guidelines much more shrewd than the Abrahamic versions.

The collaborative effort to offer a “ReThink Prize” is being helped along by several organizational sponsors (e.g, the Richard Dawkins Foundation, Secular Student Alliance, and American Humanist Association).  The $10,000 prize will be shared by the 10 individuals whose beliefs are selected.

The contest is closed; the money has yet to be awarded. According to the website, “Judging in Process. Winners will be announced close to December 17.” 

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Report from the International Forums

What is gender? This is the title of a recent Topic in the Forums.  There are some who think that gender and sex are (and should be) inextricably and innately linked.  There are others who regard gender as a purely social construct that happens more or less conveniently to link biology with behavioral roles.  What are your views?  Why? 

It’s been a while since we had a good climate change debate, but it does come up from time to time.  The widely-accepted scientific consensus is that human activity is responsible for significant evolutions of climate away from natural norms; others believe that natural forces are sufficient to explain most or all of the global temperature trend.  What do you think?  Drop your two cents in the Topic.

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

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An Energetic Website (Russia)

Vitality of the Brights Russia group continues apace on the popular Vkontakte social network (over 25K followers).

With a new "bursting Brights" graphic having recently spiffed up its homepage, administrators are now soliciting help to expand traffic via different media.

While adding features of interest, the site continues to post useful material with a science-leaning bent and spur some meaty participant discussions. (Example: a recent posting contrasting genes and memes prompted by Daniel Dennett’s TED talks). 

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Ghosts / Tarot Cards / Sun Circling Earth?

An interesting list of some of the crazy things people believe in:

http://ow.ly/EgCbc 

https://twitter.com/UKBrights/status/533249582197919744 

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Are Thousands More “Evolutionists” Likely?

We can characterize two different ways for an individual to become an “evolutionist.” One way is by accepting evolutionary change (without understanding it) and the other is by way of actually understanding it

The former is similar to “accepting on faith”, and there are a goodly number of “believers” of that type, as there are creationists who take the other position. 

The latter is more akin to how scientists themselves acknowledge the theory of evolution through natural selection. (Scientists use the theory; it’s not a devotional acceptance.)

Brights who responded to the December 2 #GivingTuesday appeal (to provide more classroom posters to science educators) are likely producing more of the latter type. With the aid of the teacher recipients, the students will gain in stronger comprehension of evolutionary change. BC projects around 13,125 high school science students to directly benefit from those Brights who showed their concern for sound science instruction. Thank you all!

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Book by Enthusiastic Bright

The “Advice Goddess” (syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon) has released her third book. Its title hints at why so many readers have found it hilarious and thought-inspiring. A synopsis on Amazon offers clues to why rave reviews are to be found in major media

Many of us who are nice (but who also sometimes say "f*ck") are frequently at a loss for guidelines about how to be a good person who deals effectively with the increasing onslaught of rudeness we all encounter. To lead us out of the miasma of modern mannerlessness, science-based and bitingly funny syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon rips the doily off the manners genre and gives us a new set of rules for our twenty-first century lives. With wit, style, and a dash of snark, Alkon explains that we now live in societies too big for our brains, lacking the constraints on bad behavior that we had in the small bands we evolved in. Alkon shows us how we can re-impose those constraints, how we can avoid being one of the rude, and how to stand up to those who are.

“Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck” is available at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Nobles, and at a local bookstore near you. (When you purchase items from Amazon via our Affiliate Portal, 6-7% of their purchase comes to The Brights at no extra cost to you!)

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Help with Translation Materials

Translations continue!  Brights Central is currently seeking two or three more individuals for each of the following text translations.

The English→German infographic translation has been installed on the website. However, our volunteers were unable to complete the lay explanations (illness and more pressing demands interfered.), so that explanatory part exists still in English. If you are fluent in both languages and have some free time to donate to a great project, would you volunteer to pick up on where our former volunteers left off? Please email us with “TRANSVOL” in the subject line. The Brights’ 2,200 German-speaking supporters will likely appreciate your help!

An English→Arabic translation of both the infographic and the explanations has been drafted. Before proceeding with installation on the website, BC is hoping to find two or three reviewers to examine the initial translation to ensure it is understandable. Can you help? If so, please email us with “REVIEWVOL” in your subject line.

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Other Brights Central Biz

Advice on Brochure? — BC plans to print another batch of brochures, but perhaps you’d like to point to needed changes before we print? You can look at the prior version on the website. We’ve already made some changes but would consider any recommendations. Put any suggestions in your email to the-brights@the-brights.net with ADVICE in upper case letters in your subject line.

Unicode NowThe multi-language aspects of the Morality Project have prompted a long overdue change in the website to handle the incoming diversity, particularly with languages like Persian and Arabic. Thanks go to Kevin for doing the necessary modifications and testing in order to revamp everything!

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#BrightSwag

Have you checked out The Brights’ Zazzle store lately? In addition to the shirts, shopping totes, and buttons already for sale there, Brights Central just added two new designs. “Living on the Bright side of life” T-shirt and a “Proud supporter of The Brights” magnet are now in our inventory!

As always, these items are available at the lowest possible price to you. Ten percent of your purchase is donated directly to The Brights’ Net's programs too.

If doing any holiday shopping for the Brights in your life, consider taking a look at what merchandise our Zazzle store offers. Who knows? You may also see something you’d like for yourself!


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