Nieuws - 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?