The Brights' Bulletin

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Issue #169

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



Are You Boxed In?

Religions have strong cultural dominance in many countries across the globe. It’s not just the adherants who function within prevalent religious metaphors. The nonreligious use them, too. In fact, everyone in the culture tends to employ representations drawn from religion for communicating personal attitudes, philosophies, life stance, etc.

Does religion have a stranglehold on how you describe your worldview? You may borrow from its terminology and depict your life stance using religion-referenced words (identifying as nonbeliever, atheist, etc.) The boxes are set up already, after all.

Wherever religion seemingly “owns” communications about beliefs and cultural practices, it fixes the vocabulary that even nonconformists will tend to use. Such language may disadvantage a Bright who wishes to convey a fuller range of views and engage a wider community of citizens in constructive ways and broader terms.  As one Bright has stated the challenge: “It’s not that I don’t believe in god(s), it’s that I don’t believe in the entire framework of thinking that sets ‘god’ up.” 

When expressing your philosophy or life stance, can you even see or converse beyond that framework?


Thought-provoking Interview with Daniel Dennett

Fans of public Bright Daniel Dennett might want to check out the June 9 airing of his interview on National Public Radio with host Steve Curwood of “Living on Earth”. You can listen to the podcast of the segment or read the transcript.

(Photo: Savannah Christiansen)

The interview topic was Dennett’s latest book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, and it spurred Alva Noe to ponder some of the substance from a philosophical angle in commentary on NPR’s Cosmos & Culture: “Is The Concern Artificial Intelligence — Or Autonomy?” 

Can it be that Charles Darwin and Alan Turing can be credited, in a way, with the same discovery—competence is acheivable without comprehension? 


Revised Bookmarks Coming  

Bookmarks seem to be the favored merchandise of Brights. (They are the most frequently purchased item on BC’s merchandise page.) Now on order: new bookmarks to replenish the supply.

On one side (shown here) is the tagline previously selected by constituents to show what the Brights movement is all about. The reverse side will continue to show the QR code leading to our mini-site with its four “pillars of action”.

There will be another mention in the August bulletin, but if interested, you can pre-order your set(s) of 5 bookmarks now.


From the International Forums

A member of the discussion forums of The Brights Network this month shared a video that not only illuminates a naturalistic view of the human condition, but does so with breathtaking art.  It is presented in the Topic "Self Reflected." The video details the painstaking process of creating a compelling representation of the brain and mind, and reveals the amazing result.

If you have items to share that illuminate and elevate the naturalistic worldview, all are welcome to make themselves known at the Forums; only a brief and confidential registration is needed to post your thoughts.  See you there!  


Constructive Engagement (Practice?)

—Niels Bohr

An item leading off last month’s bulletin misspelled (as Neils) the name of the scientist being quoted. Many a sharp-eyed Bright took notice, and promptly informed Brights Central about the error!

BC, on the receiving end of the emails, had opportunity to recognize that some constituents could benefit from practice at getting an accurate point across with civility.

SHOUTING?! (Hardly the way to constructive interaction)
Disparaging the error-maker? (Lots of that sort of invective online nowadays)

Constructive Engagement:  Couldn’t Brights be leading on this issue?  There’s some pertinent information on the website about making choices of conduct that better blend with the Brights’ civic vision.


Dinosaurs Can Fly?

This month our "Science-Minded Citizen" Adam Manning engages a topic that children love: What about those dinosaurs? 

Relating the “science story” behind his title, The Age of Dinosaurs – Today, some of Adam’s own delight seeps in. As he says in communicating how discoveries were made: “Unlike On the Origin of Species, it was to be several decades before fossil evidence caught up with theory.”


Pledge of Allegiance Advice (USA)

Regarding school children’s reciting of the U.S. Pledge, last month’s Luster blog post by Leyden Marks spurred one Bright to devise an extensive response.

In it, Kevin (California, USA) describes how his personal activism achieved some substantive changes across his children’s school district and within their elementary school, advising: “Every one of us with a child in school can do this.”

Example:  “I worked with the principal to have this explicit instruction used: ‘It’s time for the Pledge of Allegiance. If you choose to say the Pledge, please stand. If you choose not to say the Pledge, please stand or remain seated, quietly.’”

In addition to the recommendations for change, Kevin offers his list of sixteen(!) “reasons to have the Pledge of Allegiance removed from public schools.” They are in addition to the feature that so bugged Marks in his post: the superficiality and hollowness in the ritualistic declaration.

“This incessant ‘pledging of loyalty to the nation’ is teaching students that it’s acceptable, even expected, that you don’t really need to mean what you say!… As a promise, it’s shallow and hollow, not heartfelt and sincere. It isn’t really an honest, grave, pledge of loyalty, anyway.” 


Another New Book by a Bright

Enthusiastic Bright Vinod Wadhawan has written another book promoting rational thought and naturalism.

His latest, Understanding Natural Phenomena: Self-Organization and Emergence in Complex Systems, focuses on those two aspects of certain natural phenomena.

Both traits (self-organization and emergence) are rampant in Nature, with cumulative effects so mind-boggling that many people have great difficulty believing that there is no designer involved in the occurrence of all the structure and order we see around us.

This book is a general-science book in which the author attempts a reader-friendly language without any dumbing down of the narrative. It will likely be of interest to Brights who want to better understand essential features of complexity science behind many natural phenomena.


Altruism in Monkeys (A Hotline Story) 

Do you find animal behavior fascinating? Some of the most interesting research involves scientists studying conduct in varied organisms that surely looks a lot like empathy.

This month’s little tale from nature by a Danish Bright involves scientists looking into altruism in monkeys. Can one monkey sense what another might be feeling?

Peer-reviewed scientific research serves as the stimulus for little Aesop-like “hotline” stories that are available in both Danish and English languages).


Teachers Just Love It

• “The Evolution Poster was a great addition to my classroom this year.  It looked great and was a great resource for students.  During our Geologic History portion of class, students were able to walk up to the poster and reference the poster while building their own timeline.  Fantastic resource! Thank you!! Dawn”

• “Yes I got the poster and it is AWESOME.  I got it laminated so it will last longer… Samantha”

• “The poster is well used at our school!  Since we are a small continuation school, I used it half the year and then shared with my Bio. Colleague.  I had several students come back and remark, ‘hey, why did you give Ms. D your poster, we needed it for our class.’ Thanks again!  Stephanie”


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