The Brights' Bulletin

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Issue #127

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


Stained Glass Art by JoLynn

Illuminate the Bright Side of Life!

JoLynn (Iowa, USA): “I have interpreted the Brights logo in a colorful stained glass window design. It hangs in an east-facing window to cast the sunrise in Brights imagery.”

Note: With JoLynn’s  permission, the icon imagery above is shown inverted, an interpretation that blends the message with the standard Brights symbolism (any planet in the universe with proximate starshine).

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A Green Light for the Infographic

Thankfully, we are over the top with funding of the Reality about Morality mini-project and will be getting the infographic done! 

If you are one of the Brights who participated, please know that we really appreciate your help in expediting this activity!

We hope the resulting infographic product will put into concise visual form the overall progress thus far. Our assembled task team of volunteer Brights will be building a visual presentation from the varied Project statements, research studies and researcher endorsements already on the website.

They will also be inviting further input from a research scientist in the field regarding the material to be provided. We will report on progress in next month’s bulletin.

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A Possible Mini-Project Extension?

Given that we can now pursue the basic mini-project , we are thinking of the possibility of additional languages (not just English). If you would like to see that happen and have not participated to date, your support for this extension will be very welcome! We will need to pay to obtain the source file so we can modify it as need be.

Languages to be pursued would be based both on the constituency demographics (# of Brights by registration nation) and the availability of volunteer Brights to carry through with the translation task.

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But, Why Bother?

Not everyone sees value in the Reality about Morality Project’s aim of summarizing concisely what is known of the naturalistic origins of morality. Here are a couple of example skeptical comments from a recent discussion thread in the international forums:

"I'm not sure how pointing out the moral implications of Darwinism - that the universe is morally 'cold, bleak and empty' (Dawkins words), I'm not sure how will this persuade people? ... It's what religious people are frightened of - of having goodness pulled out from under them."

“I'm just a little skeptical that people who reject evolution and who believe atheists lack morals will be amenable to the idea that their moral soul is nothing but a bundle of blind natural forces shaped via evolution.”

From Brights Central:  While educating supers may be an ultimate goal, brights themselves (and not just constituent Brights) may be a better priority target for early educational efforts. After all, a great many have moved away from religion but can only weakly articulate and defend a naturalistic basis of morality. Folks who are “up against” public presumptions that morals are presented to humanity by some supernatural deity through scripture need both facts and confidence. They cannot just counter with an “alternative belief” of their own. There must be assured understanding of what science says if Brights are to proceed to engage in viable educational action. With practical and poised comprehension comes greater aptitude to mold comprehensible explanations and perhaps entice others to listen.

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From the International Forums

Members of the Brights' International Discussion Forums are setting up a book club reading for the season (winter, for most of us).  After some preliminary discussion, we have decided to read two books that relate to each other in either substance or execution.  A poll is open until 10 December (as reckoned East of the dateline) where members can vote on which pair of books to choose.  Please join the discussion!  The more the merrier.

Can an atheist have a religious experience? British mentalist and TV personality Derren Brown thinks so, and claims to prove it in a broadcast.  What are your thoughts?  Is the "religious" experience of the atheist legitimate?  Is it the same kind of experience had by a religious person?  What causes the atheist's experience, and how broadly do those causes apply in society?  What implications exist for society if people can be made to have such experiences — even in the admitted absence of a legitimate basis?

You must register to participate in the Forums, but it's quick, easy, and secure.  See you there!

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Got a Charitable Feeling?

Sustaining and strengthening what The Brights' Net does is up to you. This is a nonprofit educational organization. The US-based public benefit organization depends wholly on Brights who appreciate the Brights’ global initiative and who participate caringly. 

If you like the type of positive actions we are taking to illuminate and elevate the naturalistic worldview on behalf of citizens who live "on the bright side of life," then please do keep The Brights’ Net in mind for any of your holiday or end-of-year giving.

The very best support of all is a sustained monthly donation of even a very small amount (available via PayPal).

But there are many other options to back the Brights, and some are fully free. Simple online shopping (via certain links, and at no added cost to you) helps a lot!  Here in one place are some key website links to make support of The Brights’ Net easy in the December holiday season (…or anytime, actually!).

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Feeling Extra Helpful?

Spread the news.  iGIve has extended its $5 “new member bonus.” So, if you aren't already using iGIve, you simply enroll as a potential/new iGive online shopper and choose The Brights' Net as the charity. (You don’t even need to shop online, ever, but practically everybody does nowadays.)

Here's a link you can use or share with others who might like to support the Brights.

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Evolution Poster (for Brights)

Quite frankly, Brights Central has been slightly overwhelmed with the requests from Brights for one of the Earth and Life: changes across time wall posters. (Recall that BC has resumed the free distribution to high school science teachers who apply, so we are working in the others as we can.) Again we say: If you have already requested one, please be patient! We will get to you in time.

If you have not yet requested one, please do think through the need before you make a request. For actual educational value consistent with goals of this endeavor, you should have in mind prospective learners for which the level of detail and intricacy in the material will be suitable. Thank you!

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Science Teachers Respond to Poster Survey

We have wanted for some time to gauge classroom usage of the evolution poster, so last month Brights Central sent out a survey to the high school science teachers who had been recipients last year (324). We are gratified to have achieved a 24.5% response rate. Of course, some teachers were unreachable (no longer at same school, changed email addresses, etc.) and so there was a fair level of email bounces along with reports of changed teaching circumstance (9.6%).

Overall, the reported usage is heartening. Many teachers told of having integrated the poster into their instruction for a surprisingly long time (16.5 days on average!), with the most commonly reported single value being 5 school days of actual usage in instruction.  The poster stayed on classroom display a far longer duration, with 63% reporting more than 2 months (doubtless some were perhaps all year, although that wasn’t a choice we offered), with 12% for 1-2 months, 8% for 2-4 weeks, and 10% 1-2 weeks. Five percent apparently did not use it, despite the commitment.

Most gratifying is how many teachers want to use the poster this coming year!  Although 9.4% do not plan to use it this year and four percent will "use it, but less", those teachers who chose “as much as previously” (64%) and “more than before” (23%) combine to yield a heightened level of usage overall. This result (87%) is a superb indicator of instructional worth, even in the face of possibly changed teaching circumstances.

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A BCC Opens a Library—Wee and Free

Books for children featuring nature, investigation, invention and morality tales… For adults, top notch fiction and nonfiction… A library accessible 24/7, outdoors, and operating on the honor system – Why not? 

That was the thinking of a small Brights Community Cluster (BCC) in Sacramento (USA). And so they did it.

A page on the website describes the process (from planning to product). It offers a glimpse of the shelves and the participants, too.

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A “Coming Out” Splash (USA)

Thanks to an investment from a national freethought organization, 55 "atheist billboards" are showing up in one metro location. It’s probably the largest “coming out” splash via billboards so far, and thus there’s a lot of national media about it (just Google with "atheist billboard 55").

Each billboard features a different local resident - usually smiling broadly and stating a viewpoint. (Many of the individuals are known to folks at Brights Central.) Each person identifies by occupation and a religion-referenced label (mostly atheist, but also humanist, agnostic, skeptic).

A local newspaper covered the campaign.

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Insights from Brights offers commentary on living life as Brights.

Who Needs Friends?
The Rational Woman” has been musing about the role of female friends in women’s lives.
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Books (…and a Film) by Brights

Reason's Greetings! - Books

Here is a sampling of new items that you might want to consider.

The Fiery Alphabet
By Diane Lefer

This novel by a Bright sets a woman’s life-story against the conflict between 18th-century Enlightenment thought and the mystical traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Human Rights as Social Construction
By Benjamin Gregg

This newly reasoned and original conception of human rights by a Bright acknowledges developments in evolutionary neurobiology and posits human rights as locally developed, freely embraced, and indigenously valid. Drawing on cultural resources, the author argues, is likely to increase the chances and opportunities that more people across the globe will come to embrace human rights.

Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind
By Daniel C. Dennett and Linda LaScola

This book is based on a study by Enthusiastic Bright Dennett and his colleague. In the study, clergy disclose in confidential interviews how lives of service become overshadowed by hypocrisy when there is loss of faith. With new transparency in the information age, the phenomenon of non-believing clergy portends surprising developments in the future of religious belief.

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And a Film, Too!

Tim’s Vermeer
By Penn and Teller

How did the Dutch master, Vermeer, achieve seeming photographic realism long before photography was invented?  Desktop video pioneer Tim Jenison had the question, and a pair of magicians (Enthusiastic Brights Penn and Teller) filmed his quest and the test of a potential answer. Teller directed the documentary, and reported his illusory “conversion in thought” to a naturalistic point of view this way:

“Before I made the film, I thought Vermeer was a supernatural being who could magically paint with light. Now I see him as an artist with an exquisite compositional imagination, a brilliant scientific mind and an incomparable work ethic.”
(As reported in the “Science” section of The New York Times, 12/3/2013)

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