Bioethics Blogs

A Dutch University prohibits a PhD student from thanking God in his acknowledgments

A Dutch University (Wageningen University) prohibited a PhD student from thanking God in his thesis acknowledgments. The student, Jerke de Vries, wrote, ”My Father God, thank You, it’s the most wonderful thing to be loved and honoured by You.“ The University refused to grant him his thesis unless he deleted this reference to God. The university argues that science should be independent from politics or religion (political statements are also banned). The student refused to delete God from his acknowledgments and instead tore the whole page of acknowledgments out altogether.
Is the university right to state that science should be independent from politics and religion, or is this a case of discrimination against religious persons? The university has refused to clarify their decision.
One hypothesis is that the university still holds a pre-postmodern view on independent research, and think that research can be entirely objective. Just as there are some dubious cases of research done for the pharmaceutical industry that is motivated by profit, most research is funded by some organisation, and politics often has a huge say in which research will be funded. So how can research be independent from politics? In previous blog posts, I advocated for researcher to make their normative assumptions explicit: if someone has a strong political or religious view on the world, I might like to read about it in the ‘declaration of interest’ section, or in the acknowledgments, if it is relevant for the topic. With the publications of Heidegger’s latest notebooks, it became increasingly clear that he had a strong affinity with Hitler’s politics.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.