July 21, 2003

Caution: Genius Crossing

The Philosophical Cowboy links to this article on that cockamamie "brights" nonsense. If you don't know about it, you're probably better off, but Moira Breen, Natalie Solent, and countless others have written on it, if you're interested.

In brief, "bright" is meant to be a euphemism for "atheist." Instead of saying "I'm an atheist," the theory goes, you say "I'm a Bright! I'm a Bright! Hey everybody! Gather round! I'm a Bright!" And everyone gets this warm, fuzzy feeling about you and gives you a cookie.

I very much doubt "bright" in this sense will take, though I don't really care that much. It's not like it will cause much confusion either way: you run into very few occasions where it's appropriate to use it to refer to a person in its other sense, except sarcastically. And this is just one of many such sarcasm-inviting situations, so there's arguably a kind of symmetry here.

Anyway, the piece by Ben McIntyre is "behind subscription" at the Times, but the Cowboy includes this amusing quote:

"There is undoubtedly something cringingly self-satisfied and self-conscious about the term. The website urging Brights to stand up and be counted even offers handy tips on revealing your inner brightness.

For example, it advises: "if someone inquires about your own religion, you can pop up with, 'Well, actually, I am a Bright'. The other person's curiosity will probably take hold: 'A Bright? What is that?'"

In fact, of course, the conversation would probably go: "What's your religion?" "Well, actually, I'm a Bright." The other person will immediately suspect they are in the presence of a prat. "A Bright, eh? Well, good for you ... must get on."

That sounds about right. Keep up the fine, important work, Einstein.

Posted by Dr. Frank at July 21, 2003 01:17 AM | TrackBack

Oh, lord (pun intended,) I can see the bumperstickers now:

"Two bwrongs don't make a bright"
"I'm bright, you're bwrong, go to hell"
and for a little 70s flava
"Bright On!"

Posted by: JB at July 21, 2003 02:54 AM

You didn't quote my favorite (or favourite) bit: "There is already a fine word that does the job of Brights, which has been horribly abused over the centuries and is just waiting to be reclaimed by non-believers worldwide. Infidel: now that is a title I would come out of the closet for."

Incidentally, you can use "cypherpunk" as both ID and password for the Times site, as you can at many sites.

Posted by: Gary Farber at July 21, 2003 04:43 AM

Gary, you're right-- that's a great one.

Posted by: Dr. Frank at July 21, 2003 06:19 AM
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