The article “Putting on a ‘Bright’ Face” by Regis Nicoll resulted in a reaction by Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell, co-directors of “The Brights.” Here is the email American Vision received:

Dear Sir/Madam

Would you consider printing a rebuttal of the essay to “Putting on a ‘Bright’ Face” by Regis Nicoll? For example, the following “urban legend” needs correction: “It also suggests that those who hold a different view, like theism, are something less than bright: Maybe, dull?” Although bantered around on the Internet by individuals, The Brights’ Net has disavowed both the accuracy and tenor of the statement. The Brights’ Net works for a level civic/civil playing field for all worldviews, and that does not included demeaning the worldview of religious individuals (a standard which seems to be higher than Mr. Nicoll’s standard).

I agreed to allow “The Brights” to offer a rebuttal on the following condition: Richard Dawkins and Daniel C. Dennett, who are outspoken and out-front “Brights,” must be the ones to write the rebuttal “to dispel the ‘urban legend’ that theists are ‘less than bright.’”

In a follow-up email, I was told that a response by Dennett and/or Dawkins would not be forthcoming. “In general,” the co-directors informed me, “they are too busy to respond to errors in articles and essays.” I’m sure they are busy, but the real reason they would not be the choice to write the rebuttal is because they do believe that non-Brights (theists, Christians, creationists, IDers, believers in the supernatural, etc.) are less than bright. While the “official” site of “The Brights” espouses “a level civic/civil playing field for all worldviews [that] does not include demeaning the worldview of religious individuals,” Dawkins and Dennett are demeaning and anything but civil when it comes to contrary worldviews. Here are two examples:

Dennett: “ If you insist on teaching your children falsehoods—that the Earth is flat, that ‘Man’ is not a product of evolution by natural selection—then you must expect, at the very least, that those of us who have freedom of speech will feel free to describe your teachings as the spreading of falsehoods, and will attempt to demonstrate this to your children at our earliest opportunity. Our future well-being—the well-being of all of us on the planet—depends on the education of our descendants.”[1]

Dawkins: “ It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).”[2]

As one would expect, the co-directors of “The Brights” argued that the views of some Brights do not represent the views of all Brights. But Dawkins and Dennett are not just “some Brights.” Here’s how Wikipedia[3] describes the history of “The Brights” movement: “ Paul Geisert was a biology teacher in Chicago in the 1960s, a professor in the 1970s, an entrepreneur and writer in the 1980s, and the co-developer of learning materials and a web site for teaching religion in the public schools in the 1990s. He also attended the Godless March, which subsequently led to the idea of coining the noun bright.[4] Geisert intended his ‘bright’ noun coinage to allude to humanity’s illumination during the Age of Enlightenment, an optimistic era when science and reason seemed to offer the key to the future. Geisert is now co-director of The Brights Net. The usage has been publicized and endorsed for its persuasive potential by Richard Dawkins in articles for The Guardian,[5] and Wired[6]and by Daniel Dennett in the New York Times.”[7]

Chris Mooney writes the following in the opening paragraph of his article “Not Too ‘Bright’” (October 15, 2003):

When I first read that leading evolutionary thinkers Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett were trying to get the world to stop calling religious unbelievers “atheists” or “agnostics” and start calling them “brights,” I had my doubts. Granted, I didn’t dispute the basic premise of the Dawkins-Dennett media campaign—announced in Wired magazine, Free Inquiry, and on the New York Times op-ed page—namely, that atheists have to put up with a lot of flack in our heavily religious society and that their reputation could use a new shine. As Dawkins noted in Wired, a 1999 Gallup poll found that only 49 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist for president. That’s a big problem. But it’s not at all clear that this problem can be solved simply by coining a new name ( the word “bright” was actually introduced by Paul Geisert and Mygna Futrell, but Dawkins and Dennett have been its most prominent publicists). Moreover, I wasn’t convinced that the word “bright” would have the positive and uplifting effect that Dawkins and Dennett seemed to expect that it would.[8]

While Geisert is said to be the founder of “The Brights,” it’s Dawkins and Dennett who “have been its most prominent publicists.” Geisert has a PR problem on his hands, and he wants American Vision to help him solve it. Like I told him, “Thanks, but no thanks.”


[1] Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meaning of Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995), 519. [2] Richard Dawkins, “Ignorance is no Crime”
[4] To divert people’s attention away from what homosexuals and abortionists actually do, the euphemistic terms “gay” and “choice” were coined. A similar thing is being attempted by the so-called Brights. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” To borrow a line from The Who, “We won’t be fooled again.” (Not that any us was fooled the first two times.)
[6] Here’s a “civil” title for an article: “Religion be damned”
[7] The New York Times article is by Dawkins and Dennett