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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- MARCH 2017 


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Deep Time Concept - Conveyed

The timeframe of earth’s existence takes on real meaning for students, thanks to the Brights’ project to disseminate Earth and Life: changes over time along with its developers’ suggestions on classroom use.

With the guidance of the inspired teachers who apply for and qualify to receive the wall poster and employ its unique image, students can truly grasp how life on earth has come about – naturally (no supernatural interventions involved – over an almost unimaginable span of time).

Received in February from B. L, at J. M. H.S. in Los Angeles:

I am attaching some pictures taken in my classroom using the evolution poster that was generously sent to me. My students constantly refer to it to help them find important events in the history of our planet.

Many thanks to those Bulletin subscribers who have already contributed to the evolution poster project. It is sustained by the generosity of Brights who care about furthering naturalistic understanding, and you can support the project with any donation amount! 
(Note: To completely sponsor one 5.5-foot wide classroom poster, send $60; special applause for anyone providing such a full sponsorship!)

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Looking Hard at Religious Education (UK)

In hopes of providing a new vision for religious education (RE) in the UK, a high profile independent commission has been established to take a serious look at the subject and inform policy makers.  The process will involve reviewing the legal, education, and policy frameworks for religious education to generate evidence-based recommendations for policy makers and educators to consider. The Commission on Religious Education (CoRE) will operate over the next two years before making recommendations to the Government, publishing an interim report in mid-2017 and a final report in mid-2018.

Such a thorough review was seen to be necessary after increasing concerns about the state of UK’s RE. The commission’s ultimate aim is improving RE's capacity to prepare pupils for life in contemporary Britain.

From a civics perspective, an opportunity to think so deeply and broadly and collaboratively about the character, significance and role of RE in current local, national and global contexts should incorporate consideration of nonreligious and naturalistic worldviews. The British Humanist Association is calling for all children to have access to “accurate and impartial information about religious and non-religious beliefs and philosophical and moral issues,” no matter the school they are attending. The BHA stresses that all school types – including the religious schools currently allowed to teach biased, faith-based RE – should have to deliver the subject in a neutral academic way.

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Speaking Up for Science

If you care about science-based public policy, you may believe that "joining with others in a march to say so” would advance the goal of supporting scientific research and evidence-based decision making for the broader public good. If that is the case, then you will want to check into the upcoming “March for Science” movement.

Not everyone who supports science feels that marches for a cause are all that productive, but in this new era of "alternative facts," anti-vaccine rhetoric and climate change denial, the Science March organizers intend to signal that a broad public is standing up for the values of science itself and clamoring for action to protect scientific enterprise.

Begun simply as a Facebook group’s “Science March on Washington” discussion, an international groundswell of interest has led to currently over 300 satellite marches being scheduled across the planet in addition to the march taking place in Washington, DC.  The date for all marches is April 22, 2017. You can check into the planned locations using the map at the main website. Volunteers are still being sought.

Planners want marchers to send a potent message in defense of science-based public policy. To join a secular contingent at the Washington DC march you can connect on Facebook with American secularists. 

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Dr. Dennett’s 13th Book

With the just published From Bacteria to Bach and Back, Professor Dennett has added another tome to his lengthy list of solo efforts to decipher the nature of the human mind and how it came to be. The volume spans the chronological landscape of development from the prebiotic world to human civilization, with considered explanatory reliance on the varied means of biological and cultural natural selection.

With this book at hand, one can delve into this Enthusiastic Bright’s latest thinking about consciousness (the illusion thereof), along with his views on sundry subjects, from information theory to artificial intelligence, to probability, to education and more. Dennett continues to contrast the myriad “things” discernable to organisms (be they bacteria or humans) with the underlying physical depiction that science provides (of atoms, molecules, etc.) in an effort to understand how the former arises from the latter.

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Not a Partisan Issue (USA)

The Pew Research Center has produced a third report in its series* detailing public views on science and scientists in areas that connect with Americans’ daily lives. This latest report is “Vast Majority of Americans Say Benefits of Childhood Vaccines Outweigh Risks.” 

Knowledge about science is a relevant factor. People with low knowledge are less likely to see great preventive health benefits from vaccines (55% compared with 91% of those high in science knowledge) and more concerned about the risk of side effects.  Similarly, the 68% majority of Americans who don’t correctly recognize “herd immunity” are less likely to rate a vaccine’s benefits as high and comparatively more likely to see the risk of side effects as at least medium. (Herd immunity refers to the health benefits that occur when most people in a population have been vaccinated.) The Pew data is useful information for efforts to sustain a requirement for all children in public schools to be vaccinated.

*An earlier report focused on climate, energy and the environment, including the relationship between people’s beliefs about these issues and their behaviors related to the environment in everyday life. Another report focused on Americans’ views of food, including organic and genetically modified foods.

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Wee Stories from Nature (in Two Languages)

A Danish Bright has created a diminutive website to present small educational stories from nature.  Each story is made available in both Danish and English languages. The stories are based on peer-reviewed scientific articles, and they have a slight moral twist that may remind you of the classical fables by Aesop.

If you are interested in animals and in behavior, these little tales might interest you. The stories center on a Hotline where animals can phone in with their problems and hopefully get some good advice. Maybe even you could find the advice useful.

Please check out and enjoy “Bright-Moral-Animal-Hotline”!

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Easy Support for The Brights’ Net

Recall that The Brights’ Net is a 501c3 nonprofit educational organization, so donations are fully tax deductible in the United States. Besides directly donating, however, there are additional support avenues available you may want to consider.

Do you work for a large company?  If so, check out any charitable program options available! Microsoft, for example, has a matching program to magnify whatever you do give.

Do you shop online?  Do notice on the Brights’ website that The Brights’ Net has arrangement with Amazon and with iGive to direct a fraction of your purchase amount at no cost to you.  iGIve.com can be utilized with over 1700 different online retailers. The largest redirect by far is from Amazon, which provides 6% of your purchase cost to this charity.  All you have to do is start your shopping at the appropriate Brights web page.

Do you buy or sell on eBay? Another way to contribute indirectly by starting at the Brights' eBay page!

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Augmenting the Morality Project

A new “Think Scientifically about Morality” is in the works and its content being considered as an additional infographic for placement in the Brights’ online Morality Portal.

In April, draft text will be made available to interested Brights who have expertise and would like to review and comment on the draft.

If you are such a person and would like to volunteer your time and talent, please email during March to the-brights@the-brights.net with THINK-SCI-MORALITY in capital letters in your subject line.  In your email, please provide further contact information and a brief paragraph outlining your interest and expertise. If you have dual language fluency (English along with another of the languages currently made available in the Portal), be sure to mention that if you would be willing to translate the yet-to-be finalized text!

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Better Feelings toward Diverse Religions (USA)

Seemingly counter to news headlines, Americans are expressing more positive feelings toward the various religious groups than only a few years ago. The warmest feelings go to Jews and Catholics, but even atheists and Muslims (while still at the bottom) are moving into more neutral territory. 

The shifts are registered via a Pew Research Center survey of about four thousand respondents published in February. The study compares June 2014 results with January 2017 data.

The survey report breaks down respondent categories, looking at the effect of varied ages or education levels or political party on feelings about a religious group. (For example, younger adults express warmer feelings toward Muslims than older Americans do.) Across the board, Americans express warmer feelings toward religious groups when they are personally familiar with someone (even just ONE someone) in the group. It makes a difference.

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From the International Forums

The Brights’ International discussion forums remain a place for encountering surprises, some happy, some sad. 

We were privileged and saddened this month to hear the personal account of a Bright struggling with cultural push-back and the moves toward theocracy taking place in Turkey.  A few comments online serve to humanize the headlines.  Perhaps you have a story like this one to share, too?

Of course, the Forums remain populated by brights with a passionate interest in the natural world and the cutting edge of studies in it.  The discussion here models a skeptical attitude and a continuous desire to advance knowledge by challenging views.  Perhaps you know something that will illuminate important controversies in science.  In this Topic even the convictions of recognized authorities in physics are at issue on the most controversial issues of our time.

A new but still quick and confidential registration process is all it takes to grant you a member’s access to the Forums.  We hope to see you there.


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