The Brights' Bulletin

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Issue #160

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



A Loss to Brights and Skeptics

Robert Todd Carroll died recently, and thousands across the globe have been taking note, knowing of him as the originator and sustainer of the online The Skeptic’s Dictionary

In fact, Bob Carroll was a pioneer in making use of the Internet for educational purposes when, in 1994, he began conveying to others what was known about such topics as skepticism, critical thinking, and the psychology of belief. His contemporary online collection of dictionary entries is captivatingly tagged A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions.

In English, the alphabetical directory today notes its range as “From Abracadabra to Zombies” (entries are occasionally spiced with tidbits of personal opinion). Most notably for the global skeptical community, various renditions of The Skeptic’s Dictionary, exist in other languages, with print versions in Dutch, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.

Carroll’s own words proffer a focus for his varied educational efforts (emphasis added).

I am interested not only in what people believe, but why we believe what we do. I am especially interested in the cognitive biases and logical fallacies that unconsciously drive much human thinking on subjects we care most passionately about.

At Brights Central here in Sacramento, we also knew him as a long-time philosophy professor at Sac City College (philosophy of religion, 17th century philosophy, and epistemology were research interests) and a supporter of our local Darwin Day fest. He will be missed.


Issues for Deliberation 2016 (USA)

Candidates on the campaign trail talk a lot about economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values.  Many science-impelled issues, given their consequential impacts on the public, would appear as deserving of serious attention and as revealing of the candidates themselves.

So - What about having a lively in-person presidential debate only on science-driven topics?

Alas, a separate and distinct debating of science, engineering, tech, health, and environmental issues, although requested by noted organizations and individuals over the last three presidential election cycles, has not yet taken place. Candidates are so far reluctant to engage. Campaigns seem willing only to prepare and put forward prepared responses to advance questions provided about science issues.

Innovation / Research / Climate Change / Biodiversity / The Internet / Mental Health / Energy / Education / Public Health / Water / Nuclear Power / Food / Global Challenges / Regulations / Vaccination / Space / Opioids / Ocean Health / Immigration / Scientific Integrity

For the 20 listed topics, you can see and evaluate what the candidates of the four parties (Democratic/Clinton, Republican/Trump, Green/Stein, Libertarian/Johnson) have said on the website,


Education, Not Segregation (UK)

The nature and ongoing expansion of “faith schools” in the United Kingdom remains a contentious issue. Citizens who favor secular education view the expansion as seriously divisive. It is hard to promote inclusion when faith schools themselves are “ghettoizing” the British educational system. The National Secular Society, a strong proponent of inclusive and secular education, is among the voices campaigning against the expansion.

Responding to recent governmental actions, NSS campaign director, Stephen Evans states the foundational position of the Society:

“[T]he glaring problem in promoting integration in our education system is the existence of faith schools. This is the elephant in the room, which the Government refuses to address in any meaningful or serious way. It is skirting around the main issue.”

His personal blog article reacts to accusations against NSS “anti-religious” positions:

“There's nothing anti-religious about advocating for secular schools that are open, inclusive and equally welcoming to all children, whatever their religion and belief backgrounds. Religion is fine for those that want it, but Britain's rapidly changing religious landscape screams for the scaling back of religious control of the classroom.”


From the Brights Blog

As a “Science-Minded Citizen,” Adam Manning displays fascination with space. Writing this month, Manning shows capacious enthusiasm for humans making a mark and notes the contemporary interest in humans traveling outward from Earth (especially by rich persons). 

When conceiving of travels in the near future (whether humanity should proceed next to Mars or plan returns to Earth’s moon), he clearly has a favored destination. 

You can check out the “pro” arguments Manning has presented under the title, “A New Home on a Bright Moon.”


At the International Forums

If controversy on the cutting edge is your cup of tea, the Forums often tip to informative or provocative book, film, or lecture offerings.  Example: the latest TED appearance by Sam Harris, on possible dangers attending the development of smart machines.

In another vein: A Forum reader noticed a handy reference, available as a poster: The Cognitive Bias Cheat-Sheet.  An algorithmically designed work of art, the poster clusters categorically, for easy reference, some of the more common mistakes we all make.  For the detail-minded rationalist, most interesting.  Comment on this, or share similar!

From the most casual of chat to the most arcane of debate, the Forums welcome all who care to post.  Anyone may read, and registration to post is quick and confidential.


Changes Ahead for Secular Students (USA)

After establishing and enjoying a secular student group at The Ohio State University during his college years (graduating in 2001), a youthful August Brunsman IV took on the challenges of creating a national organization to serve the interests and needs of secular students on other campuses.

As executive director of the Secular Student Alliance across a decade and a half, August has built the organization into a pillar of the organized secular movement. There are now abundant SSA affiliates on campuses across the United States (mostly college level, but some high schools too).

Now, though, this long-time leader in the secular student movement has announced that this will be the year to be moving on to other things. It is worth noting that August’s time of working tirelessly on behalf of empowering secular students means that he has already influenced a generation of atheist and humanist leaders!

Announcing his year of transition from ED to “ES” (“enthusiastic supporter”) of SSA and the next phase of his life, August asked of other secular leaders:  “I hope you will continue joining me in empowering secular students.”

Board chair of the SSA, Evan Clark, recently remarked on the upcoming departure as follows:

Under August’s direction, the Secular Student Alliance has expanded in ways none of us could have foreseen. Today there are SSA alumni staffing almost every national humanist and atheist organization in America. There are over 500 high school or college campuses that have been touched by an SSA affiliate at one point in time. And there are students that will find community in our affiliates this fall that were born the same year the SSA was founded.


A Productive and Personable Bright

August Brunsman IV has a naturalistic worldview and for good reason has long been listed among the Enthusiastic Brights on the Brights’ website.

He can be seen to somewhat personify two elements highlighted in the Brights initiative:  affirmative civic approaches, and an emphasis on shared human morality. Certainly, when August was recently interviewed, these attributes tended to shine through. 

Interview with August Brunsman, published Sept. 26 by United Coalition of Reason:

Concluding the interview, he provided words of both forethought and caution for other Brights interested in expanding secular points of view.

Secular Vision:  “I want to see the students… taking on positions of moral leadership throughout society. I want them to be politicians, journalists, judges, scientists, police officers, teachers, and leaders in all sectors of society. The core of secular morality is about what we do with the knowledge that every single person we know only gets the one life they have now… [O]ur common humanity is the bedrock of our secular morality. Secular morality aspires to be a universal morality. Secular morality is centered on what we all have in common: reality, and our experience of it as sentient creatures.”

Secular Caution:  “The so called ‘rise of the Nones’ (i.e. more people who say ‘none’ when social scientists ask for their religious affiliation) is an opportunity, not a victory. Lots of ‘Nones’ see the secular movement as a club for people obsessed with being right about a question most Millennials don’t care about. Our movement must, and luckily is, talking about not just about the ‘god’ question, but the ‘one certain life’ reality. In other words, we’re asking ourselves how we can maximize the impact of our one life. I want our alums, and everyone involved in the secular movement, to be reshaping moral dialog in the United States around secular values.”


Solving the PayPal Problem

Many thanks to all the Brights who responded with support to The Brights’ Net’s twice-a-year Equinox fund appeal.
(If you missed seeing it, please click here to access the text on the website.)

At those two times a year, we remind you that you can help Brights to amplify their presence, carry out activities to augment a naturalistic worldview, and press further for changes via social action by Brights.

In recipient feedback to the email sent to participants, one question arose. It appeared several times in varied forms, but generally indicated a desire to avoid PayPal.


I would like to donate with credit card, not via pay pal. Is this possible?”


Sending Your Support by Credit Card

Go to the standard donation page

…and choose the "Network for Good" option there.

Set up on that page with just your name and email address, and go to a set of standard credit card options. You can provide either a one-time donation or arrange recurrent donations.

Any donation you make that way will end up as a gift to the Brights.
(NfG periodically issues a check to The Brights’ Net for any accumulated donations)

Thanks for persevering and playing your part in the Brights’ initiative!  - We really appreciate it.


"Freeways" to Supporting the Brights

Although The Brights’ Net welcomes direct donations, a Bright needn’t send any money to still play an indispensable role in financing the nonprofit activities of the Brights.

There are numerous indirect (and absolutely free!) ways to send your valuable support (,,,

Note: All pathways are accessible from the home page, right column.

Using the option offers you pathways into 1700 online merchants. Install the button, and The Brights’ Net garners a small portion of your every retail expenditure (% varies by merchant).  If you are do Amazon shopping, then the percentage is significant. (It’s no cost to you, but the nonprofit gains 6% to 7% of whatever you buy during a shopping session; that really counts!).  Depending on where you reside, there are five different links at the website to choose from.

When it comes to books (a seeming favorite purchase of Brights around the globe), the availability of Amazon links should not discourage any Bright who, on principle, will much prefer to use independent bookstores for books and related merchandise purchases. Simply employ a handy bookstore finder where you live. 

(U.S. Brights can happily support their local businesses and turn to direct donations instead.)


"A Little Brightness" for Prisoners (USA)

Abundant religious reading material available. And easy access, too.

That’s a feature of American prisons. But for incarcerated individuals, there is usually little (if any) access for readings about nontheistic or naturalistic viewpoints. Brights Central plays a small role in addressing that reality, with its distribution of the “A Little Brightness” newsletter to incarcerated subscribers. 

The material is edited by Joel, a Bright in Texas, who voluntarily selects material from Brights’ Bulletins, adds a page or two of material of surefire interest, and provides copy to BC where, with Kelly’s help, it is duplicated and mailed. ALB has is a loyal following, thanks in part to Joel’s selective inclusion of comments from subscribers. Occasionally a prisoner will send a note of appreciation to BC (once in a while a smattering of postage stamps, or even a prison check for $5)!

The ALB sent out last month definitely lived up to the “Brightness” in its title. It was upbeat!  Besides the Bulletin content, there were a couple of lengthy items.  One marked the year after the successful lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons that earned persons incarcerated in federal prisons the right to identify as humanists if they wanted, to form humanist reading groups, with chaplains required to supply resources to humanist inmates. Prisoners also got to see, for the first time, a 2-page full-color overview of the Brights’ “Reality about Morality” Project. Before receiving the actual handout, they had simply read brief items about the project in their ALB.


Teachers Really DO Appreciate!

Pam in California:  “[I]n my classroom the poster is used as a reference point in our biology/ AP Biology evolution lessons. Plus students enjoy puzzling over it when taking a mental break in class.”

Aiko, in Ontario, CA: “Thank you for the poster.  It just arrived earlier this week.  Yesterday I was able to get it laminated and put up.  My students have already started reading the poster and asking questions.” 

Carol, in Buckeye Valley, OH: “Thank you for the poster.  It is wonderful and well worth the wait!”

Kent, in San Rafael, CA: “The poster is great and is occupying a high-profile space in my room… It is full of information and will be a great resource when we come to that unit (in the spring).  The content in the poster lines up very well with the Disciplinary Core Ideas and Cross Cutting Concepts for high school life science in the CA Next Generation Science Standards.  Thanks again!  Please contact me at the end of the academic year and I will be happy to share with you how we used it."

Ramey in California: “The poster’s wonderful and most certainly has helped students understand better the concepts of evolution… an exciting topic for the grade 9's. Thanks for all you guys do supporting science education!” 

Thanks to all the Brights who have been donating to this unique project!  We still have abundant requests from high school science teachers that we hope, with your support, to fill!  We do follow up with the teachers regarding their use and its value.

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