Student - 27 maart 2014

Blog: Thou shalt not acknowledge

As an atheist, or rather an agnostic who tilts strongly towards atheism, I can easily sympathise with the choice of Wageningen University to ban invisible friends from the list of things/non-things that are allowed to be acknowledged.

Luckily after some turmoil and thanks to the flying spaghetti monster, we can praise it again in our PhD-theses.

As an institution of higher education and research, it is awkward, if not embarrassing to have your scientists give praise to delusion and hallucination in their acknowledgements. Religion and science are antagonists, simple as that. The underlying principles clash in a fundamental way. Science is based on reason and the discussible nature of all evidence. Religion is based on ‘believe what we tell you or else’. Religion tells us  not to ask uncomfortable questions and to be content with the evidence it presents us (none). Therefore, revealing a religious or political world view in a paper easily lessens the credibility and neutrality of the paper. As I said, this ‘no-religion-no-politics’ censorship is easily understandable.

But understandability is not what censorship should be based on. This is not a popularity contest. And even though I can understand the censorship, it is censorship nonetheless and should therefore be criticized and scrutinized and even ridiculed. Every limitation of freedom should be. Who draws the lines of what is allowed and what is not? Based on which guidelines? And what constitutes a religious statement and what doesn't?

But that's idle talk, thanking the Lord is allowed again. I just hope it is for freedom of speech and not for religious influence in the upper levels of our venerable institution. Political statements are still banned from the acknowledgements, but don't you worry, others will make them for us. Research is, and will always be, political, as much as we would like it to be neutral. Just think of the funding this university receives from industry. Soon enough political statements will have disappeared not only from acknowledgements, but from papers altogether. You don't bite the hand that feeds you.


Corporate sponsorship and independent science, religion and reason – well wouldn't it be nice?

resource_wageningenur_nl_forum_reactions_wrapper for object 42 of type wm_language nl_gx_webmanager_cms_core_implementation_languageimpl 1

  • JW

    Pleas clarify these statements to me:

    "Religion is based on ‘believe what we tell you or else’. Religion tells us not to ask uncomfortable questions and to be content with the evidence it presents us (none)."

    You may not be religious, but this statement sounds pretty illogical and unreasoned to me.

    I guess the Bible does not represent itself in a series of reviews, using scientific methodology? So in what way are your talking about evidence?

    What does the Bible actually say about critical thinking?
    Some examples:

    - (Proverbs 19:2) It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.
    - Proverbs 14:15) A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.

    Acknowledging that all things come from God is not that crazy. C.S. Lewis said:

    "Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service, you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already."