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BRIGHTS BULLETIN -- FEBRUARY 2018 


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What’s Needed? - Enlightenment, Perhaps?

Enlightenment Now” is the title of the new hardcover by Steven Pinker, an award-winning researcher and author of numerous books, including The Blank Slate and The Better Angels of our Nature.  Pinker has made his mark in numerous ways (he was named one of Foreign Policy’s “World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” and Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.”)

Taking note of this latest book’s subtitle (“the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”), we are drawn to Pinker’s incorporation of “humanism” in the listing of elements that he argues to uphold. 

Surely this worthy addition, infusing humanist values in his conception of Enlightenment, sets out something special in this latest “book by a Bright”. After all, a three-word phrase (reason, science, and progress) would offer a shorter and smoother verbal flow. However, that additional element is surely integral to Pinker’s line of reasoning. With humanism ensconced, a case for notions of  “embrightenment” can more readily come to light.

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A Brighter Future for “RE”?

A one-day conference on “21st Century RE for All” may be of interest to many Brights in the UK. It will particularly appeal to those hoping to improve education about “religion and belief” in the schools there, making the curriculum more balanced and non-partisan. Despite 30 years of “RE” taking place there, faith group practices are seen to still overshadow best practices.

The April 14 gathering in London is set to explore the future of religion and belief education in schools, and also to address the barriers that work against a fair, inclusive and representative approach to worldview education.

The event is sponsored by the National Secular Society and will feature A.C. Grayling’s presentation on “Learning about Worldviews, a Philosophical Perspective.” (Dr. Grayling is a long-time Enthusiastic Bright.)

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Lagging in Learning about Worldviews?

While Dr. Grayling can offer a philosophical perspective to underpin the teaching about “religion and belief” in the U.K. schools, U.S. processes are supposed to abide by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protections.

Efforts aimed at educating  students about human worldviews in American public schools appear most in the history and social studies curriculum and, although elaborated generally with high civic ideals, are almost wholly religion-focused. The "RE" aspect of the curriculum, as it appears in the textbooks, is pointed to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. Thus, in terms of civic representation or embrace, it trails well behind demographic changes occurring in the nation and the world.

Ideals of civic inclusion would seem to require considering, if not a broader spectrum of beliefs (encompassing minority religions and a rapidly growing secular component), then at least a stronger emphasis on shared human commonalities. As it stands, curricular acknowledgment of disbelief or of nonreligious segments of society is rather hard to find in either classrooms or textbooks. One website for educators, WorldviewEducation.org, does point educators toward ideals of civic inclusion and pluralism and actually extends beyond its provision of several religions to treat the naturalistic worldview as an example. (The outlook is characterized there as the nonreligious stance.)

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BC’s “Tsunami” of Teacher Requests

Can you visualize this stack of wood as a stack of mailing tubes? At Brights Central - we can.

The appearances are similar, but the numbers aren’t. In fact, the representation shown here isn’t even a decent fraction of the actual mailing tubes we will need to acquire at Brights Central if we are to fulfill the existing requests of a whole batch of high schools science teachers that we didn’t even know about! 

All these teachers, desiring to have the Earth and Life: change over time image in their classroom and agreeing to integrate it into their teaching about evolution, had already completed our application process, only to have their electronic applications “disappear into cyberspace”! 

Well, not really. We found them all, once the problem was discovered. Some sort of glitch had developed in the process by which online applications from high school science teachers reach Brights Central and, across the many months, almost a year, applications had accumulated in the database but been delivered only sporadically to Kelly. (She is the one at BC who handles the "Evolution Poster Project" along with assorted other duties, like keeping office plants alive).

Repeated attempts by a teacher in New Mexico, so very determined to get that poster, prompted some investigation and follow-up troubleshooting by webmaster Kevin. He located and corrected the glitch, and the delayed applications came rolling in. Yes, an out-and-out mountain of unfulfilled teacher requests! Kelly reports: well over 500!!! 

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Bright On, Brights!

There's work ahead for Brights Central, and also for the Brights!  Now we have a new challenge -- to supply what the additional teachers are asking for.

These newly arrived requests will translate into many tens of thousands of students in years to come receiving nicely enhanced instruction about evolution from their schooling, thanks to the Brights!

Recall that the constituency of Brights holds the exclusive privilege of supplying this unique educational resource. Its appropriate dissemination is a major project of the constituency. More posters to be printed; more mailing tubes; more BC time spent.

To take up the challenge, please reflect on the project and help us “roll up our sleeves!”  Please do what you can to help us get this ball rolling.  Thank you!

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Book Project in Need of Reviewers (Russia)

The Russian Brights have been pursuing a research project for publication in English: State Worldview Neutrality in the Context of Worsening Imbalance in Globalization: The Case of the Russian Federation.

Their translation was finished in December and they have native English speakers helping out as editors/proofreaders of the half-completed text. What is further needed will be some experts in the area of law and freedom of thought in order to acquire written reviews that can enhance credibility of the book at the international level.

Perhaps you, as a subscribers to Brights’ bulletins, know of someone specializing in that field who might be willing to read their book and write a short review?  If so, the Russian Brights would be most grateful for your suggestion so that they can extend a request. Please email your proposed expert's name, a contact address, and reasoning to the-brights@the-brights.net. Do put REVIEWER in uppercase letters in your subject line. Thank you.

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Touting by Toting

January saw the most activity at the Brights’ Kiosk on Zazzle.com in several months. Perhaps you are out there plugging the Brights! 

One of the more popular of the items available at the kiosk seems to be the organic grocery tote. At this point, the tote’s design is “super-simple,” in that all it displays is the Brights’ icon alone. (Perhaps that will inspire curious folks at the store to ask what it means?) However, since guiding others to “the Brights” is how we grow, however, we’re adding additional image options to include the main website’s url.

If interested, check in soon for those changes. “Living on the Bright side of life” will be one of the added tote options, since that seems to be the second-favorite image at the small kiosk.

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Brights’ Kiosk, Fully Explained

Perhaps you haven't visited the kiosk yet? (If not - check it out. Occasionally you can catch a sale.)

Please take note:  Each purchase you make does send a small commission to The Brights’ Net. Thus, when you buy, you support in a small way our educational activities to illuminate the naturalistic outlook.

It’s indeed “the smallest way” possible. (You can be assured that all Zazzle items carry only the minimum markup that Zazzle allows us.)

Kiosk items and other Brights merchandise are provided simply as a service to Brights, and to disperse the branding images and grow the constituency. 

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Goings and Comings – Islam & Atheism (USA)

Demographic studies (2007, 2014) by the Pew Research Center have illustrated “a remarkable degree of churn” occurring in the U.S. religious landscape. That is, today’s American adults have taken on a religious or nonreligious identity different from the one in which they were raised.

According to a current (2017) analysis of the more recent of those studies, about a quarter of American adults who were raised Muslim (23%) no longer identify as members of the faith, roughly on par with the share of Americans who were raised Christian and no longer identify with Christianity (22%). But there are interesting differences, particularly as concerns the rapidly growing segment of the population who identify as Muslim.

 

Those leaving Muslim Identity: When those who have been brought up as Muslim leave their religion, do they go to another religion? It appears that most do not. Instead, the majority move into the growing cadre of “Nones” (persons who do not identify by religious affiliation). As the survey analysis reports of those adults who have left Islam, 55% now identify as atheist, agnostic, No religion, or not a believer. On the same survey, only 22% currently identify as Christian and 21% as something else.

Unlike some other faiths, Islam gains about as many converts as it loses: 23% of U.S. adults who were raised Muslim no longer identify as Muslims, on par with the share of Muslim adults who converted to Islam (23%). By comparison, while 22% of U.S. adults who were raised Christian no longer identify with Christianity, just 6% of Christian adults are converts. In other words, Christianity as a whole loses more people than it gains from religious switching (conversions in both directions) in the U.S., while the net effect on Islam in America is a wash. Pew has posted some of the reasons behind the religious shifts of both former Muslims and Muslim converts.

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Zebrafish Soothed by Others

This latest wee story of nature discerns “social buffering” in zebrafish.

Experiments looking at the customary fear response of this fish find that it is lower in the presence of others of the same species. The study suggests a shared evolutionary origin for social buffering in vertebrates.

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


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