As promised, regarding the comments on my previous blog entry.
First of all, an excerpt of the article regarding Dutch scientists and their believe systems.
Of all Dutch scientists, 44 percent consider themselves to be atheists. Scientists are irreligious much more often than the rest of our population, fourteen percent of which says they’re atheists. As far as their scientific beliefs go, even more professors turn out to be godless. If there were to be a god or higher power, it would not have been involved with the origin of life, sixty percent says. Fifteen percent takes a neutral stance, and a quarter of professors entirely disagrees with above statement.
Fortunately, religious ideas (Creationism & ID) won't get a foothold in public school classrooms anytime soon. The most conservative political parties in Holland, The ChristianUnion (CU, Christian ideas) and the Political Reformed Party (SGP, Protestant ideas) only have a very small number of seats (respectively 5 and 2) in the Chamber of Deputies.
That said, something strange happened at the last election for the Senate. The main political coalition couldn't get a majority in the senate, and had to rely on the single seat of the SGP for additional support and voting strength. This made this small very conservative party (women are not allowed to hold public office, officially because they do not want to), extremely powerful. And, to receive a vote from the SGP in their favor, the political coalition (somewhat comparable to liberal Democrats from the US) has an uneasy alliance with them, and will have to accept some of their more conservative ideas. This has already resulted, as published in Dutch newspapers today, that the Government will be less tough on larger families (three and more children, which in my opinion is just anti-social with a 7.000.000.000 global population right now), among other ideas.
But for the most part, we have a very secular nation. Also because the Dutch have a very strange view on faith. If you believe in God, fine, if you don't believe in God, also fine. We don't care, just don't shove it down our throats (like Jehova's witnesses try to do), and we'll all get along. The best example of this I actually heared was at work last week. A colleague (who is female and a Kurdish-Syrian, and a Muslim) asked me why I wore the "Scarlet A", as atheists are not suppressed in Holland, so there's no reason to 'out' myself like that. I pointed out that this might be the case, there are countries were they are, and I wear it to (besides I admit, provoke and start a discussion) support my fellow atheists wo are suppressed, or even persecuted for lack of believe in a god.
An example of this was from 2005, when then Minister (secretary) of Education, Maria van der Hoeven, proposed on her weblog to hold a debate if ID shouldn't be allowed to be taught in schools as an alternative for Evolution, stating that both 'theories' should be examinated. She got a whole lof to criticism, and quickly retracted the proposal. If I remember correctly (although I'm unable to find the specific source at this moment), a few biologists with whom she had an appointment canceled the meeting. They did so because they had no intention to talk to a political figure actually considering this, and asked if they would have to explain 'the theory of gravity' as well to her. ;)
One thing I really don't like about my fellow countrymen (and women), is the idea of 'Something-ism'. The idea that (as The Bard said) "There's more between Heaven & Earth, but i don't know what". Even though these people state not to believe in God, angels, or something like that, they do think "there's more". I guess some people just don't understand that "The Meaning of Life" is Life itself! There's no higher meaning or purpose. This life is not a test for the eternal after life (if you 'live forever' after you die, what's the point of life anyway?), and we should just do the best we can to make the most of the one life we have.
However, in some parts of our education, musea and schools, religious ideas are getting through, although nothing serious. The worst thing I ever encountered was just a few months ago. The Maastricht Museum of Natural History had a special exhibition about trilobites. It was small, but very entertaining, showing many fossils (including fakes), photographs and information about this extinct form of life. They even had some goggles to experience the way Trilobites saw the world around them. This was very educational, not to mention fun! Besides this special exhibition, you also got acces to the rest of the museum, which finally allowed me to see (a replica of) the original mosasaur, Mosasaurus hoffmanni, as well as the new and recently discovered fossil of Bèr, the giant mosasaur Prognathodon saturator, among other fossils (a Dutch Hadrosaur, the size of a cow), and stuffed animals. Of course, they also had a section on "Why dinosaurs (and their kind) became extinct".
What was disturbing was that besides the usual reasons (asteroids, mammals ate the eggs/young, eggshells became to thick, eggshells became to thin, massive vulcanoes etc.) they also had this answer:
"Did most of them became so large, that there wasn't place for them anymore on Noah's Ark?"
Needless to say, I was shocked and appalled!! This, in a Natural History Museum? I still don't know if it was put op there as an actual legitimate reason/idea, or if they were being sarcastic. I will however try to get into this deeper, and will contact the museum soon to confront them about this.
Actually, it's not a small jump from dinosaurs, to another idea I have.
As a Star Trek fan (which I think many atheists/freethinkers might be), I came up with a special race/species of alien. They are a branch of the omnipotent (god-like) 'Q' (played by John deLancie) from the TNG era, but less self absorved, and more interested in humans (actually living among them). They are called Azhdarchids. Well, I never developed the idea any further, at least not in Star Trek fan-fiction.
Instead, I did some deeper thinking, and moved them to the real world. Azhdarcho is the name of an Uzbekistan mythological dragon. However, they are also the family name for an extinct species of animal, the Azhdarchidae. This name might not mean much to most people, but one member of the family is quite famous: Quetzalcoatlus northropi! The biggest flying animal that ever lived (as far as we know now). I chose this name (beside it sounds cool), because these animals would have had a unique perspective on life and earth. Just soaring over land, they would see the bigger picture, instead of only a small (cramped) view. Although after recent discoveries these animals were probably more like giraffe-sized marabou storks, the name stuck. Besides, the "Scarlet A" might also stand for Azhdarchid.
One final anecdote as the conclusion to this blog entry.
As a hobby I collect scalemodels of heavy equipment trucks and excavators, and have quite an extensive collection. Due to this I also attend a US internet forum regarding this hobby. It's custom to wish everyone happy holidays on the forum, and this was also done around Easter.
After a few posts of people wishing eachother happy holidays or happy Easter, I pointed out that the entire reason of the "holiday", was probably not a happy day for the guy it all revolves around (i.e. Jesus Christ and his crucification). People quickly replyed that this was indeed the case, and we should all be more thoughtful to this. To this day, I still regret posting that it was actually very ironic an atheist had to point this out to the theists... :)
Well, see you next time. When I will tell more about my brother and a very important decision in his (and our!) lives.