The Dutch: Officially Not Insane

We may have to move (Skatje would approve). The new Dutch cabinet has just been announced, and look at the Minister for Education, Culture & Science:

Ronald Plasterk (PvdA), 50, molecular geneticist, staunch athiest and opponent of intelligent design.

Can you imagine the meltdown if such a person were appointed in this country?


  1. ChemBob says

    Outstanding! A country where most of the populace doesn’t believe in mythical omnipotent sky creatures and force their beliefs on everyone else? Imagine that; how wonderful.

  2. Dunc says

    Not only that, but the bicycle is a major form of transport, you can have a toke without worrying about getting busted, and they regard sex as just an enjoyable biological function with no inherent moral issues.

    I sometimes wonder why I haven’t moved there already…

  3. Pat Silver says

    I wish. As opposed to our Prime Minister who is Roman Catholic in all but name and a great supporter of religious schools, and our recently replaced education minister Ruth Kelly who was a member of Opus Dei but who claims that her religion does not affect her actions as a Government minister.

  4. Rienk says

    I don’t know about Plasterk in the cabinet. He is a great researcher, brilliant mind, and all, but he was one of the biggest critics of our (current, again) prime-minister. Plasterk even said he would not accept a position… but now he did, under the prime-minister he so opposes. Brilliant scientist, yes. Nice guy, also. But political integrity? No.

    This administration is all religiosity and no (except for Plasterk) rationality. Still no stem cell research. They’re already talking about changing our euthanasia and abortion laws (one of the most liberal in the world). Two of the three coalition parties oppose gay marriage (The Netherlands was first to legalize it). The want to crack down on “religious intolerance” which in the Netherlands already implies criticism or spoofing a religion. Et cetera. Et cetera.

    If you do move… I’ll move back to and we can overthrow this Dutch government together (with Plasterk as our inside man).

  5. Fernando Magyar says

    Hmm… it might just be a case of the *GRASS* being greener on the other side. Still it’s nice to know that there are places in the world, where to be active in politics, you don’t necessarily have to be delusional to qualify.

    A bit off topic perhaps but it seems that most European governments have at least acknowledged AGW as real. I also guess that the Dutch at least understand the issues of rising sea levels.

  6. says

    So you all mean I’m going to have to retract my Official Certificate Of Pharyngula-Approved Sanity given to the Dutch government? Dang.

  7. says

    I would like to point out that Maria van den Hoeven, the previous Education Minister, who thought it might be a good idea to introduce a “debate” about Intelligent Design within her department, has been given another cabinet post, that of Economic Affairs. Presumably she will use her post to argue in favour of the Prosperity Gospel as a basis for economic policy.

    Apart from Plasterk’s appointment, I find little to be happy about in the line-up for the new Dutch Cabinet. Two cabinet ministers from the fundamentalist Christenunie, and the permanent return of Ernst Hirsch-Ballin, who during his last full term at the same department turned the Dutch police into a drug-running gang, then distracted the public by arguing that ethics could only come from God. A nasty piece of work, him.

  8. DragonScholar says

    Can you imagine the meltdown if such a person were appointed in this country?

    Yes, actually. Nothing would be said until someone of the Bill Donohue-caliber mentions it. Then it’d be a news item and the media would milk it for all its worth. The person would keep their position, but get used as a campaign issue. The news would then be distracted when another celebrety dies and forget about it.

  9. Rienk says

    Even worse, our old prime minister, who refused to defend our tolerant policy of sexual orientation (and marriage) in Islamic Indonesia, is back.

    We have a minister of “Youth and Family” (sounds very Dobbsian to me) who is a member of the Christian Union party.

    Our old minister of Justice, who was removed after many, many, many failures on his side, is back as minister of Social Policy and Labor. He failed us all. Let many pedophiles, rapists and murderers walk, directly because of his policy, resulting in several high-profile cases (rape, kidnapping, a couple of murders)… and he is rewarded by a new position.
    Salient detail is that this minister, Piet-Heyn Donner, wanted to breath new life in our defunct anti-blasphemy law, who happened to be signed into effect by his grandfather, also a Christian zealot who looked like someone from the 1920s.

  10. Flaky says

    Well, the current president of Finland, Tarja Halonen is not only a woman, but used to be the chairman of a GLBT organization (She’s married, although didn’t marry until after she was elected.). She isn’t a member of the evangelical lutheran state church (something that provoked just the sort of questions you’d expect from religious people. E.g. how can a non-member enter the house of God?) and pretty much none of this was really covered in the media. I guess it just wasn’t interesting enough. She fixing Bush’s tie get’s more news coverage.

  11. Bob O'H says

    One thing Flaky omits to mention is that in the official picture of Conan O’BrienTarja Halonen, she has a slight smirk on her face, as if she’s just farted.



  12. Niobe says

    yeah Rouwvoet is a bible literalist. The whole christenunie /sgp is a scary bunch. But they can take the herb, euthanasia, abortion and gay marriage from my cold dead hands.

  13. prsr says

    PZ, having Plasterk in the cabinet is a good thing, but I don’t think you fully understand why. Being an atheist in politics here is not that special but most don’t advertize it or will even decline to answer in front of a camera (as one former cabinet member from D66 did recently). The idea is basically that as long as people don’t know or care about the specifics, at least you won’t turn potential voters away, this concept applies to any personal conviction really.

    This new cabinet was made drawing people from 3 parties, CDA (christian democrats), Christenunie (christian union (fundies)) and what anglo-americans would call the labour party (PvdA).

    The PvdA has been the party that strives for some kind of appeasement when dealing with cultural/faith clashes which basically means a lot of talking and pretending we have to take everyones ridiculous claims seriously.

    I think that having Plasterk around will counterbalance the CU and CDA idiocy on policies where they like to claim moral authority, abortion, euthanasia and other biology related topics. The man has the right background to stomp most of the popular religious fairy tales on these issues firmly into the ground. His biggest task will be replacing his shoe soles and finding new ground to stomp the fairytailes under.

    Oh, and his post of course. Minister of Education. There’s a lot of work to be done there as well.

  14. Umilik says

    Oh those godless dutch. No wonder they have the highest per capita murder rate of any community in the world. Oh wait, no, that’s us here, in mostly Catholic New Orleans…..
    But surely God will strike thee dutch heathens with a great flood…

  15. Rienk says

    @Umilik… and the Dutch know how to build levees, too.

    I’m waving a big “hi” to you from murder capital no. 1, new tornado alley city, and very Catholic New Orleans. At least Mardi Gras is coming up.

  16. says

    It’s always worth keeping in mind the Netherlands still has its very own Bible Belt.
    While it’s not as bad as some (most, probably) other countries, they’ve recently been exporting fundies and YECs to Belgium as well. It’s quite worrying.

  17. thwaite says

    …, staunch athiest and opponent of intelligent design.
    Perhaps the trick is to be just slightly different than the rest of us atheists?

  18. NJ says


    Shame they can’t spell atheist though.

    Aaahhhhh, you’re just jealous because they’re athier than you are!

  19. Stephen says

    Oh those godless dutch. No wonder they have the highest per capita murder rate of any community in the world.

    Just in case anyone was wondering what this refers to: 150 murders last year, in a population of over 16 million. I’ll leave someone else to do the conversion to American units …

  20. Rey Fox says

    Well, the thing with “atheist” is that it’s not an English word per se, but a collection of Latin (and possibly Greek as well, someone will have to fill me in) prefixes and suffixes. “The” + “ist” = “theist”

  21. Dylan Llyr says

    I don’t know about you but it makes me feel uncomfortable that they even deemed it necessary to mention the fact that he “opposes intelligent design”, especially considering it’s only two lines. I’m amazed.

    It shouldn’t be any more noteworthy than that he “isn’t a Holocaust denier” or “doesn’t believe the Earth is ruled by giant lizards”.

    That ID is even mentioned at all in something like this, even in such a dismissive manner, is a small victory for them.

  22. Dylan Llyr says

    Given that this is the Netherlands, I mean. Obviously it’d be newsworthy (sadly) in major parts of America.

    I realise there was that minor scare with the previous holder of that post, but still. Can somebody reassure me that ID is not only “opposed” in the Netherlands but actually virtually non-existent?

  23. robd says

    it is very small, but not non-existent;
    imported from the U-S-bloody-A of course.
    In fact, Maria van der Hoeven, also in this cabinet, once mentioned she favored it when she was education minister, but was laughed out of the house by most.
    So it makes sense to mention Plasterk’s position.

  24. bernarda says

    As some apparently knowledgeable people have posted, there seems to be some insane people in the new Dutch Government. But they have serious competition from the seriously insane Australian PM. Remember he is the same one who called Obama the friend of Al-Qaida.

    “To assist our schools in providing greater pastoral care and supporting the spiritual wellbeing of their students, I am pleased to announce a new initiative today, the Australian Government’s National School Chaplaincy Program. This program will provide up to $20,000 a year directly to government and non-government schools that want to provide chaplaincy services for their school community.

    School chaplains are already making valuable contributions to the personal, spiritual and emotional wellbeing of many school communities nationally, and the Australian Government will invest up to $30 million annually for three years to make these services available to all schools. This funding will contribute towards the cost of engaging chaplains. School communities will also be expected to contribute funding and support for chaplaincy programs at their school.”

  25. says

    Back in 2005 the then- Education and Science Minister in Australia was Brendan Nelson, an MD and former president of the Australian Medical Association. He publicly said he had no problem with Intelligent Design being taught in public schools.

  26. Michael J says

    Thankfully the state education departments screamed blue murder and Dr Nelson’s office quietly withdrew the comment. This is one advantage with Australia in that the education departments are run by professionals and schools (even private schools) need to follow the curriculum.


  27. bernarda says

    May I suggest that you go to # 30 bargal20’s website that she linked. It is particularly interesting to read the comments following her posts.

  28. says

    I’m sorry to read the fine print in some of the above posts suggesting that the Netherlands (a lovely country) is actually getting less secular and liberal. Dammit, I hope this is a temporary glitch.

  29. JohnnieCanuck says

    From the CIA World Factbook wrt Religion in the Netherlands:

    Roman Catholic 31%, Dutch Reformed 13%, Calvinist 7%, Muslim 5.5%, other 2.5%, none 41% (2002)