The Brights' Bulletin

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Issue #173

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Elevating and Perpetuating What Counts

For any Bright with youngsters in the household, the times appear to call for considering the character qualities that you are hoping to impart to the next generation. (In tempestuous times, it can be useful to amplify and reinforce those traits.)

One useful “refresher” is readily available on the Brights’ website. It is “Seven Secular Virtues” (a downloadable PDF file). The 10-page reading offers brief and excellent discussion, along with a few suggestions for parents.

As its introductory blurb states, the seven virtues (named in the graphic here) are not comprehensive, but “…they are qualities to which we can aspire - often with great difficulty. They are not carved in stone, but in butter, meant to stimulate your thinking about virtue rather than to dictate an immutable set of commandments.” 


Finding a Foothold amid Turmoil

The current global picture displays great volatility and instability.

In such unpredictable times, it can be challenging to pursue and sustain purposeful civic actions consistent with your naturalistic worldview

Even with a worthy aim in mind, where can one find sufficient tranquility to proceed?

For any Bright facing capricious and arbitrary circumstances, it may be helpful to take some time for reflection on “the basics.”  Give yourself a footing for prioritizing civic actions in these turbulent times.

Perhaps you can “re-charge your batteries” by examining once again the core vision, values and affirmative principles of the Brights initiative.

Another approach toward similar ends is the self-check. Discover what you know (and don’t know) about the Brights.  There’s a handy 10-question quiz on the website. (Whether or not you answer a question correctly, you’ll find at hand a concise explanation of the actuality.) 


Grant Funds to Aid Translation (Brights Russia)

Brights Russia has been awarded one of seven regional grants offered by the International Humanist and Ethical Union in its latest funding round.

Earlier this year the Russian cluster published on its website the outcome of two years of research on the status of secularism and freedom of conscience in Russia. The group sought funds from IHEU to hire translators and accelerate the process of putting the report into English. (The e-book in Russian is already available for free download.)

Aided by IHEU’s £500 grant, the Russian cluster will be able to complete the translating and make its research on Russian secularism available to readers around the world (via the IHEU site). Congratulations go to the Russian cluster of the Brights movement!


Praise, Too!  (Brights Russia)

The new Journey to the Cenozoic banner (reported in October’s Brights’ Bulletin, and linked from the teaser image shown here at left) has stirred praise from several quarters.

Bob Ling, for example, sent along this congratulatory message after having a look at the banner:

What a great addition to education. I've come to expect high quality materials from the Brights and have yet to be disappointed.

Coming from Mr. Ling, this applause for the Russian Brights’ achievement is particularly notable. He is the faculty member who led fellow Kankakee faculty in devising for the College its Earth and Life: changes over time image.

The nonprofit Brights’ Net sought to distribute that faculty’s representation of evolutionary change on earth far more widely, obtaining exclusive rights to propagate the evolution image as a classroom wall poster. Dissemination proceeds under the terms of agreement with the College. Now, thanks to earmarked donations from supportive Brights, the poster is issued free to qualified teachers in high school science classrooms.


New Book by a Bright

Creepy sensations like “out-of-body experiences” (OBEs) were long relegated to the fringes of scientific acceptability. Now, however, with the advent of brain stimulation, fMRI scanning, etc., scientific explanations have become available. Studies of phenomena like sleep paralysis and OBE are also making contributions to solving mysteries of the self and consciousness.

So reports Susan Blackmore in her new book, Seeing Myself: The New Science of Out-of-body Experiences. When no rational scientific explanation was available for a weird personal experience of her own, a younger Sue appears to have consulted varied explanatory alternatives in the mystical/paranormal/theosophist vein.

Decades later, the field of brain study has enabled her to discard the supernatural and unravel what had happened to her. In Seeing Myself, she explores the current science of OBE and related phenomena.

Sue is now an Enthusiastic Bright – holding no supernatural or mystical elements in her current worldview.


A Matter of Morality

Recent social research (reported in September’s Brights’ bulletin) found widespread and extreme moral prejudice against atheists around the world. (People in diverse places assume that those who committed immoral acts, even extreme ones such as serial murder, were more likely to be atheists.)

Now Dimitris Xygalatas of the University of Connecticut, who was part of the study team, has authored (23/10/2017) a conversational follow-up discussion of data acquired in the study and related matters.

Are you curious about where such extreme prejudice comes from? Or about whether there is some basis for why people distrust atheists? Might religious people actually be more moral?

In his post-study piece for “The Conversation” (academic rigor/journalistic flair), Xygalatas discusses the relationship between religion and morality and offers numerous links to relevant social studies.


Stress Perpetuation

In people, stress is a primary risk factor for psychiatric disorders. Some stressed individuals are more vulnerable to psychiatric disorders than others? Might their ancestral stress have anything to do with it?

This latest wee story of nature draws on examination of stress across generations of rats. In the study, examiners looked at multigenerational effects when producing phenotypes sensitive to depression-like symptoms.

The “Hotline Story” from a Danish Bright (available in both Danish and English languages), lets you in on the fact that the procedures the scientists used are a bit stressful for readers!  Still, if interested, you can follow its link to learn more about the actual experiment.


Best to Further Reform the Reformation (UK Brights)

On the 500th anniversary of the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 theses @UKBrights points us to an atheist’s much discussed article saying that Luther just didn’t go far enough. The piece (by an employee of the London Library) posits that Christianity needs a new reformation where belief in doing good for its own sake replaces ideas of salvation and damnation.


Four Years and Running (USA)

Last month’s bulletin mentioned a California-based Brights’ cluster having a project nearing a noteworthy anniversary! The October date having passed now, the group can tout that its little “free library” has been operating successfully for all of four years!

Built from scratch entirely by the members and opened in October of 2013 to 24/7/365 usage, the little outdoor book station has become something of a neighborhood gem (according to signatories in its guest book). The adult shelf, a children’s shelf (nature books, a highlight!), and a suggested “take-a-book/bring-a-book” pattern of use support diverse interests, and only once in the four years has someone removed all of the books at one time!

A nearby bin receives book donations quite regularly (just this month a contribution of over 30 little science-based storybooks for children came in from someone called “Jan” who had recently discovered the library). The group’s steward weeds donations in accord with a “no politics/no religion” family-friendly criteria (not to divide neighbors) may have aided in the longevity. (Rejected books are passed along to other local libraries for their book sales.)

Besides making sure that no books grow stale on the shelves, the better secret to the cluster’s long-term success with its book project just might be the dog treats also provided.


Research of Interest

The Future of Secularism: a Biologically Informed Theory Supplemented with Cross-Cultural Evidence

Although social scientists have long predicted declines in religious beliefs and their replacement with more scientific/naturalistic outlooks (a prediction known as “the secularization hypothesis”), skepticism has surfaced in recent decades. After reviewing the pertinent evidence and arguments, researchers conclude that “secularism is likely to undergo a decline throughout the remainder of the twenty-first century, including Europe and other industrial societies.”

Evolutionary Psychological Science 3(3). 224–242. (2017)
Ellis, Lee, Anthony W. Hoskin, Edward Dutton & Helmuth Nyborg


No Religion’ in the Australian Census

The proportion of the Australian population describing themselves as having no religion rose from just 18.8 per cent to 2006 to 30.1 per cent in 2016. (In 2016, more than 7 million Australians ticked "no religion" on the Census form, compared with just 3.7 million ten years before. Almost doubled!) What is the reason behind this very considerable change in a short period of time in the Australian religious/non-religious profile?

Pointers: Bulletin of the Christian Research Association, Volume 27 Issue 3 (Sep 2017)
Hughes, Philip

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