The Brights' Bulletin

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Issue #166

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



Lifelong Student of Cognition

Someone who has done a lot of thinking about consciousness is philosopher Daniel Dennett, recently profiled in a New Yorker magazine article (“Daniel Dennett’s Science of the Soul,” March 27), soon after the publication of his latest book.

In the article, you can read a bit about this fellow as well as his self-depicted “...winding path leading through a jungle of science and philosophy, from the initial bland assumption that we people are physical objects, obeying the laws of physics, to an understanding of our conscious minds.”

As profile author Joshua Rothman stated of this public Bright:

In the course of forty years, and more than a dozen books, Dennett has endeavored to explain how a soulless world could have given rise to a soulful one. His special focus is the creation of the human mind. Into his own he has crammed nearly every related discipline: evolutionary biology, neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, artificial intelligence.”


Action for Science-Based Public Policy

If in agreement with the goals of the Earth Day 2017 “March for Science” movement, you can look to see if there is a science march taking place near you.

The number of satellite events continues to climb, with well over 400 marches spread across the world.

In the United States in particular, there is growing concern of scientists and the general public of a turning away from science-based public policy. The intent of marchers is to signal strong backing for scientific research and for evidence-based decision making for the broader public good. Bill Nye (“the Science Guy”) is one of the co-chairs of the main U.S. event, along with notable molecular biologist Lydia Villa-Komaroff and public health advocate Mona Hanna-Attisha.


Who Cares What Lies Ahead?

How curious are you about precisely how climate change is going to affect the lives of any immediate descendants you might have (e.g., children or grandchildren)?

This month our “Science-Minded Citizen” follows his own curiosity to explore available data and projections, keeping in mind his two children, both under age 10.

Is there an alternative to judging climate change to be so terrifying that you prefer a blissful ignorance about what awaits? Maybe Adam’s investigation will shed light on that possibility.


Post-Equinox Posting

The March Equinox came and went.

Did you notice?

We hope so, because the nonprofit organization (EIN 56-2385064) that underpins “the Brights” picks the two semi-annual natural occasions for its two direct funding appeals to constituents.

1) Maybe you are one of "the sustainers" who is already making ongoing contributions of small monthly amounts (tax deductible in the U.S.). If that’s you, then we say it now – Our gratitude is ongoing, too.

2) Perhaps you responded to the fund appeal by sending in a one-time donation OR by initiating a new monthly subscription (either fixed 6-months or recurrent). If so, we say not only "Thank you!" but also "Bravo!"

3) Oops! - Maybe you have not yet responded? Just to let you know: It's not too late! We hope you will donate to help sustain the hub of communications and activity.


Downhill Demographics for Nonreligious?

The “birth dearth” projection grows out of a just-published Pew Research Center analysis of demographic data drawn from its 2015 report “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050.” (Figures on births and deaths had not been previously released.)

In 2015, there were slightly fewer than 1.2 billion atheists, agnostics and people who did not identify with any particular religion around the world. Current patterns of religion-switching favor some growth of the religiously unaffiliated population – particularly in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand – but their share of the world’s population in the coming decades is projected to decline due to a combination of low fertility and an older age profile.

The anticipated decline worldwide is from 16% of total population in 2015 to 13% in 2060. 


Might Child Labeling Be Diminishing?

This latest Pew report about changes in religious affiliations over time includes an interesting side note explaining its terminology:

The phrase “babies born to Christians” and “Christian births” are used interchangeably in this report to refer to live births to Christian mothers. Parallel language is used for other religious groups (e.g., babies born to Muslims, Muslim births). This report generally avoids the terms “Christian babies” or “Muslim babies” because that wording could suggest children take on a religion at birth.

In school environments, children are frequently designated by parental religion, especially as regards holidays that families may celebrate. Remarks such as “the Muslim child over there” or “the little Jewish boy” etc. are commonplace.

Richard Dawkins said in his popular The God Delusion (p. 338) “I think we should all wince when we hear a small child being labelled as belonging to some particular religion or another.

He pointed out how scrupulous was about setting out rules for children to register into the constituency of Brights: “The decision to be a Bright must be the child’s. Any youngster who is told he or she must, or should, be a Bright can NOT be a Bright.


Briefly Revealing of Nature

Wee tales continue to be added to the “Bright-Moral-Animal-Hotline” that a Danish Bright uses to report on peer-reviewed scientific articles in a unique manner (an animal supposedly phones in a complaint to a hotline and receives counsel).

A current story derives from scientific study of self-recognition in the Asian elephant (cognitive research with elephants in zoological settings). Recent stories are about delay of gratification in both humans and corvids and food sharing in vampire bats. When possible, a story’s footnote will link to the actual research posted online.

Each story on the website is presented in both Danish and English.


From the International Forums

Whether reporting on weighty matters associated with our naturalistic worldviews, as in the Topic “Who’s Most Afraid of Dying,” which recounts some surprising polling research, or simply celebrating the beauty of the natural world as in “A Fictive Flight over Real Mars,” users of the International Forums bring and discuss interesting content. We invite anyone to come have a look!

If you wish to participate in the Forums, it takes only a few minutes to register. We hope to see you there.


“Brandi-Recommended” – Free Cloth Patch

Extra information: Brandi, the cocker-mix rescue pictured here, is a frequent visitor to the Brights Central office. In this photo taken just last month, she is being held by webmaster, Kevin. Despite her matronly 10 ½ years old (based on prior guesswork at rescue of ~age=3), Brandi still has a puppy look that draws people to her like a magnet. She’s rather choosy, though (like a Bright?).

The design shown is available for purchase as a cloth patch (more details on Brights’ designs are at the merchandise page on the website).

This month only, you can acquire the 2 ½ x 3 inch cloth patch for FREE and get a bit of bonus swag, too. Simply send a self-addressed and stamped envelope to Brights Central, P O Box 163418, Sacramento CA 95816.


Ongoing Seesawing in School (US)

The pattern continues, as additional US states consider laws that would give public school teachers latitude to present scientific explanations as debatable in high school high school students, at high school level scientific understanding.

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