Misconceptions

Astrology, Celestial Wisdom or Pseudoscience?

We were created from stardust and one day, hopefully this century, we humans will return to the stars. Some people move on. They think the stars and planets determine their fate. Is Astrology Sense or Nonsense?

What is Astrology?

For those wondering why most names for sciences end in “logy”, except “astronomy”, this is because astrology existed before astronomy. Astronomers who study celestial bodies in a scientific way wanted to distinguish themselves from astrologers.

This is no wonder. Astrology is the belief that the position of the planets and stars at your time of birth determines your fate. Although astrologers use detailed methods to extract predictions about your future life course from the positions of the stars, these methods have no scientific basis. In short, astrologers do just about everything that a true scientist would dislike.

Astrology is still popular. This, even though there is no evidence that it works. Source: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/astrology-horoscopes-constellation-1244728/

For example, there is no clear working mechanism of astrology. The midwife's gravity on a baby is four times that of the planet Mars's gravity, for example. The only celestial bodies that you really notice as a human being are the sun (day and night) and the moon (ebb and flow, in combination with the sun). Besides the earth itself, of course. And possibly hitting asteroids. In the latter case, an astronomer can of course make an accurate prediction of your date of death. And hers and the rest of humanity, of course.

What shape?

Another problem with believing in astrology is that there are at least three different astrologies. Chinese astrology is based on the year of birth, Indian (Vedic) astrology and related Greek astrology is based on the positions of planets. And also the Mayas (and probably the Incas too) had an elaborate form of astrology. Assuming the same position of the stars, an Indian astrologer therefore makes a different prediction than a Western one. The yugas of Indian astrology are very different from the baktuns of the Maya.

This while, for example, the Chinese, Greek and Mayan versions of the Pythagorean Theorem, yield the same result.

Gauquelin: Proof That Astrology Works?

The French psychologist Pierre Gauquelin discovered, in his own words, a “Mars effect“. The position of the planet Mars during the birth of someone would affect the chance of becoming a successful athlete. This discovery caused quite a stir, and was embraced by astrologers to defend their belief in the stars. It later turned out that he had made the necessary methodological mistakes. For example, the effect appeared to no longer occur with dates of birth after 1950, when doctors communicated the date of birth.

A similar effect, where the month of birth is one statistically significant effect appeared to have on Canadian ice hockey achievements, could be traced back to an apprentice's age. If a student has a birthday just after the selection year starts, he is much bigger and stronger than a student who reaches that age at the end of the year. Simply because he is almost a year older. He is therefore more likely to be seen and scouted as an “ice hockey talent” than the younger student.

In short: stars and planets are very interesting, but do not determine your fate.

Unless you decide to become an astronomer or an astronaut. Or move to Mars. Stars do not determine the future, our future is in the stars.

Is that allowed to lie to save the world?

Is it allowed to lie, if you can save the world with this?

Lying very useful in politics

In a democracy, in theory, the population rules. In practice, this is “delegated” to professional politicians, who are elected every four years. Getting your way through is difficult, when stubborn people are constantly getting in the way who think they know better. And besides, often have a different agenda than you. That explains why lies are so popular in democracy. Like magicians, politicians and politicians disguise their real, unpopular intentions. They mask these with noble lies. Because the stupid people cannot handle the truth. Below are some examples of “white lies”, well known from public sources, that turned out to be disastrous.

Greenhouse effect

A good example is the increasingly worse anthropogenic global warming (AGW), popularly called the 'greenhouse effect'. The amount of CO2 in the air has risen sharply in the last two centuries. Namely, from approximately 270 ppm to around 415 ppm in 2021. That is not going in the right direction. After all, more CO2 in the air means warming and rising sea levels. Parts of the tropics can also become uninhabitable due to the high temperatures.

If the temperature remains structurally above 26 degrees, our body will suffer from too much heat during heavy work. This is already a huge problem in, for example, El Salvador [1]. And certainly, if, as expected, the average temperature in the tropics will rise even more. Then the tropics become unlivable even with sufficient drinking and light work. Reason enough, therefore, to tackle the AGW problem. Most Dutch and Belgians would like that too.

Meat is unhealthy for the planet, not for humans

One of the main contributors to this CO2 is livestock farming. It is estimated that about 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions, plus the necessary deforestation, are caused by livestock [2]. In short: it is very useful for the earth if we stop eating meat.

Now the problem is: The argument to save the Earth convinces only a few people to abandon meat. But when people start to believe that eating meat makes eating sick, the number of vegetarians explodes. And there you see, a significant reduction in CO2. This explains why the opinion that meat is unhealthy, and that meat can be easily missed, is predominant in progressive, hip blogs. Because who wouldn't want to save the world with a white lie?

A lie yes indeed. Children need meat to grow better - vegetable protein is much more difficult to digest [3]. So while eating a little less meat is beneficial for adults who eat a lot of meat, growing children certainly need plenty of meat.

The war on dairy

Dairy also suffers this fate. After all, dairy also comes from livestock farming and is therefore CO2 polluting. One kg of protein from dairy is about the same as one kg of protein from meat. Milk was once recommended to prevent osteoporosis, and school milk was something we were proud of. Now even schoolchildren get fake milk like oat milk from their well-meaning, socially conscious parents. Oat milk is widely hyped in hip circles, but is in fact a kind of expensive meal drink. With many empty calories and many and too few nutrients, such as protein and vitamin D [4]. The result: malnutrition in children. Because these types of families also eat little eggs and meat.

Ban curse on soy

In fact, just one plant-based milk substitute comes pretty close to cow's milk. Soymilk. Although the protein from soy is about twenty percent less rich in essential amino acids than that in cow's milk. So you have to use more soy milk to get enough of those amino acids. Yet they do not often choose soy. The soybean has a bad smell to socially conscious people.

Although soy is fine to grow in the Netherlands. Moreover, a higher yield per hectare gives than in Brazil: 3.5-4 tons per hectare with experienced growers [6]. That equates to 1500 kg of soy protein per hectare. Sufficient for a whopping 500,000 liters of soy milk per hectare per year. In other words: we could grow enough soy for the complete milk consumption of the Netherlands, 975 million liters, on an area of 2000 square kilometers (this is approximately the area of the province of Limburg). But soy is wrong. So you can't.

Lying to start wars

In general, wars are a very bad idea. Wars cause a lot of human suffering. And there are many victims, both dead and disabled. Countries are also turning into wasteland. The disruption is ruining the lives of millions of people. So no sensible person can be for war. Yet wars are still the rule. Also wars started by democratic countries.

This is possible because the people are being lied to. Consider the weapons of mass destruction of the then Iraqi dictator Saddam, which later turned out not to exist. On this basis, Saddam's regime was overthrown, which has now been replaced by a pro-Iranian regime. With hundreds of thousands of deaths as a result. But oil profits and those of companies like Halliburton and Raytheon were assured. Interesting detail: the energy content of the depleted uranium munitions thrown on Iraq was sufficient to supply all households in North America for four years. free of electricity to provide.

The masks lie and corona test lie

An example a little closer to home. The way in which the Dutch government tackled the corona crisis was characterized by lie upon lie. For example, the government claimed that there was insufficient testing capacity. And made little move to increase this capacity. The result was that the Dutch corona figures compared favorably with those abroad, such as Germany and Belgium. And the Netherlands was excluded when, for example, flights to Germany and Belgium were stopped. That yielded quite a bit of economic profit. In reality, the excess mortality in 2020 already shows that the Netherlands is at least as badly affected as the neighboring countries: about the same as Belgium and much more severe than Germany. [3]

Mouth masks were not necessary, the government claimed. In the rest of the world, including at the WHO, it was already known in the spring of 2020 that the wearing of mouth masks the best prevention against covid-19 spread. The reason for this lie was to prevent the Dutch from hoarding medical mouth masks. There was a great lack of this in healthcare. If the government had told the truth, then Dutch factories could have switched en masse to indigenous production of face masks, as happened in China, for example. Or we could have collaborated with our Belgian, French and German neighbors.

May lie? The Pinocchio doll's nose became longer when it was lying. Source: Adrian Michael / Wikimedia Commons

Does lying make sense?

From the previous examples we see that lying to the population always has a negative effect. Even if the liar's intentions are noble. Lies destroy credibility and trust, that is, social capital. Keeping up lies requires secrecy and censorship. Lies also cause wrong policies and steer society in the wrong direction. All of this is a high price for a short term benefit.

False is wrong. Joking is never allowed. No, not even to save the world. There is no such thing as white lying. If we are too stupid and cowardly as a species to grasp and act on the truth, we don't deserve to survive.

Sources
1. T. Bodin et al., Intervention to reduce heat stress and improve efficiency among sugarcane workers in El Salvador: Phase 1, Occup Environ Med. 2016 Jun; 73 (6): 409–416.
2. https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5_full.pdf
3. Meat diets boost kids growth, Nature, 2005
4. Euromomo, Excess deaths (interactive charts)
5. Angelica Sousa and Katrin A Kopf-Bolanz, Nutritional implications of an Increasing Consumption of Non-Dairy Plant-Based Beverages Instead of Cow's Milk in Switzerland, Adv Dairy Res 2017, 5: 4DOI: 10.4172 / 2329-888X.1000197
6. Local soy, WUR Depot

Nitrogen auction with emission rights solution for nitrogen problems

The Netherlands is a small, densely populated country with an extensive livestock population. That does not go well together. Naturally low-nitrogen nature reserves are increasingly dying. Is a nitrogen auction the solution?

Why is nitrogen a problem?
Just under eighty percent of the Earth's atmosphere consists of nitrogen gas (N2). Nitrogen is an indispensable element for life. We consist of proteins and proteins from amino acids, a nitrogen compound. The Netherlands contains millions of nitrogen sources, ranging from pets to pig fattening, and of course you, dear reader. Car traffic and construction activities also emit nitrogen, albeit much less than people and especially fattening farms. In the nitrogen discussion, we mean all nitrogen sources, other than atmospheric nitrogen and nitrogen bound in proteins. These are mainly ammonia (NH3) and nitrogen oxides (NO, NO2 and the controversial laughing gas N2O). Nitrate (NO3-) that washes out of fertilized fields is an environmental problem.

Nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands have already fallen enormously, but unfortunately insufficient for the new strict EU standard. Source: [2] [3]
Brutal construction freeze due to an administrative emergency
The EU has enacted strict rules for nitrogen emissions. Rules that are easy to enforce in a sparsely populated country such as France or Bulgaria, but very difficult in the Netherlands. The problem is not that nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands are increasing. On the contrary. This has fallen considerably, partly due to strict laws and regulations such as the mineral accounting for farmers [2] [3]. The problem is that partly due to the appalling lack of foresight by the Rutte cabinet, emissions did not fall quickly enough. As a result, a building freeze was declared with significant economic damage - and a continuation of the housing crisis.

Nitrogen Auction: Pros and Cons
The free market is very good at finding the economic optimum. This can be an advantage, at least if the scope of the free market is limited in such a way that no externalities occur. Creating externalities happens quite quickly. For example, clever entrepreneurs started breeding muskrats themselves, when the government put a premium of ten guilders on each rodent killed. In principle, the government can sell the right to emit nitrogen, for example, through a nitrogen auction. If a pig farmer quits, he can sell his emission rights through the auction to another farmer, to a builder or a nature organization (which then does not use them). At a certain point, the entrepreneurs who can earn the most euros per kilo of nitrogen emissions hold the emission rights, creating an economic optimum. According to the school booklet economics.

Any system of laws and regulations involving money has the potential for fraud. Nitrogen emissions take place in the form of gaseous compounds. Gases are notoriously difficult to trace from a single source. For example, a farmer can report that he has installed an expensive capture installation that he does not actually have, or a much worse cheaper model, which means that his emissions are much higher than official figures show. It is therefore necessary to check thoroughly here, preferably also with regular field measurements in the vicinity of major nitrogen pollutants. On balance, this system is therefore feasible.

Sources
1. Emissions authority: give nitrogen rights trading a second chance, FD, 2019
2. Acidification and large-scale air pollution: emissions, 1990 - 2017, Center for the Living Environment, 2017
3. O. Oenema, Fact sheet nitrogen sources, Wageningen University, 2019

Should the Pill of Drion be on everyone's nightstand?

Member of Parliament Pia Dijkstra of the D66 party comes with a proposal to improve the sustainability of public finances. Give anyone over 75 a suicide pill, the Drion pill. Is this a good plan?

What is the Pill of Drion?
In 1991, legal scholar Huib Drion (1917-2004) proposed in an opinion article [1] that a suicide pill should be made available to all elderly people over 75 years old who requested it. This pill had to consist of two preparations: pill A and pill B. Only the combination of these two preparations would have a lethal effect. Preparation B should then be taken a few days after preparation A to allow the suicide to reconsider. This idea caused quite a stir and became the proverbial Pill of Drion.

Bill Completed Life in broad outlines

  • To be eligible, someone must be 75 or older;

  • These are people who do not qualify for euthanasia, but who do consider their lives complete;

  • These people first have a conversation with an end-of-life counselor;

  • There must be at least two meetings with the end-of-life counselor and there must be at least two months in between;

  • The end-of-life counselor is a doctor, nurse or psychiatrist who has completed a special head study to become an end-of-life counselor;

  • The life counselor must check whether the death wish is authentic and consistent, and whether other solutions are possible;

  • If the end-of-life counselor agrees, a date of death will be agreed;

  • The end-of-life counselor collects the lethal substance from the pharmacy, keeps it at home, administers it on the agreed date, stays with it until the client is dead and returns any remainder to the pharmacy;

  • An assessment committee checks whether everything has gone according to the rules. [4]

Benefits of Drion Pill
Proponents of the Pill of Drion cite arguments such as: if an elder feels that his life is no longer meaningful, he should be able to end his life in a painless way, because suicide is a human right.

Is being able to end your life voluntarily a human right?
Source: Adapted

Unspoken arguments are, for example: the elderly are expensive. They don't work, they eat our pension pot, make disproportionate demands on healthcare and to make matters worse, they exacerbate the housing shortage and vote more often than average for populist parties. They poison young, impressionable people with “wrong” ideas such as nationalism, religion and traditional festivals. Every year of life of an elderly person costs society tens of thousands of euros in pension and care, which can be more usefully spent on, for example, redundancy schemes for politicians and contributions to the European Union. Suppose that every older person over the age of 75 took the Pill of Drion, that would mean 1.4 million fewer AOW benefits, hundreds of thousands of empty houses and, if every older person over 65 took this pill, half the health care costs [2 ]. And think of the inheritance tax. Enough to keep even the most insane election promises and to spice up the European Union. At least, for a while. It is also remarkable that the discussion about the Pill of Drion flares up especially in times of economic hardship. For example, in 1991 the Dutch economy showed signs of cooling down and in 1993 there was a slight dip.

Some proponents, such as [3], the D66 proposal does not go far enough. They want everyone to have access to this “miracle pill”, including people under 75. Can Drion's “humane” Pill save our public finances?

Disadvantages of Drion's Pill
The main drawback of the Pill of Drion is that it makes it so much easier to kill without leaving a trace. A murder with this suicide pill can then seem like a suicide by a murderer. A forensic anatomist cannot distinguish between murder and suicide. Also, spreading deadly poisons among the population means that murder weapons are always close by. Every drink can contain a deadly poison. Not a pleasant thought.
In the D66 proposal, this disadvantage has been overcome by placing the professional “end-of-life counselor” as an independent third party. This makes the job more difficult for killers. However, murders by “end-of-life counselors” and psychological murders, in which wealthy older people are told that their lives are over and it is okay if they die, remain possible.

A second drawback is the drawback of euthanasia in general. It is a great violation of the dignity of human life.

Why do the elderly want to die?
A healthy person enjoys life. This also applies to almost all healthy elderly people. Reasons for no longer wanting to live for healthy elderly people are a feeling of loneliness, hopelessness or uselessness. As with young people, loneliness is a major problem among the elderly. We humans are a social animal species and contacts with young people are very important for the elderly. The elderly are the living memory of humanity and also ensure the transfer of culture. It is true that a transfer of culture that is in conflict with the “makeable society” so beloved by D66, but still: a transfer of culture.

Conclusion: the Pill of Drion is an unfortunate idea. There are plenty of useful things healthy seniors can do when they feel useless. The late Drion himself has also done many useful things after his retirement. Instead of glorifying death and seeing the elderly as a burden, we need to develop medical devices and medicines that help older people stay healthy longer (preferably: stop or reverse the aging process) and involve them more in society. There are reasons why older people are less involved with fashionable theories. Often, not always, these are very good reasons. Their life-based criticism can help put things in perspective and develop better concepts.

Sources
1. H. Drion, The Self-Willed End of Older People, NRC Handelsblad, 1991
2. People over 65 make half of all healthcare costs, Vectis.nl, 2018
3. 'Make the Drion pill available to everyone', John Jansen van Galen, Het Parool, 2020
4. Completed Life Bill, EO Explainer, 2020

Should we introduce a meat tax to protect the environment?

Our planet is heavily overloaded. One of the biggest drawbacks in terms of use of space is agriculture, and in that respect especially livestock farming. It would be better for the ecosystem of the earth if livestock farming were to disappear, or at least limited to livestock, which eat plant remains inedible for humans. Should we introduce a meat tax?

How serious is the problem?
At the moment, the earth is facing a major ecological overshoot. That is, we use up renewable resources faster than they are renewed. According to the Global Footprint Network, the Netherlands has already exhausted its rightful share of the world's resources. Belgium makes it even more colorful: April 5. And this is another favorable picture, the result of the Covid-19 outbreak. Since 1970, the year when humanity first went 'red', the ecological footprint has only grown. So the problem is serious indeed. And livestock farming is an important part of this footprint, and therefore of the problem. [1]

The Netherlands and Belgium use between two and three times as much as the earth can handle. Source / Copyright: Global Footprint Network, 2020

A meat tax is not a good idea and for this reason

Animal protein is the most digestible of all protein types according to the DIAAS method, which is recommended by the FAO [2]. Growing children in particular need animal protein. Even soy, the most complete vegetable protein source, is still incomplete. Soy also contains toxins that make raw soy poisonous and can only be rendered unsavory with the help of traditional techniques such as fermentation [3]. Archaeological findings have also shown that the descendants of farmers are taller, stronger and healthier than the descendants of people on a vegetarian diet who often show deficiency diseases [4].

Rich parents have enough money to buy meat for their children and to grow them up healthily. Now poor parents have that money too, because meat is relatively cheap. A meat tax will not deter wealthy parents who like to eat meat. So the real target of the meat tax, which its proponents will never tell you, is poor people, who spend a significant portion of their disposable income on food.

With this meat tax, poor parents are forced to give their children toxic soy or even worse vegetable alternatives. As a result, they are more likely to develop chronic diseases in adulthood.
In short: the heartless meat tax should never be introduced, this amounts to the heredity of poverty and condemning the children of the poor to a defective body.

In vitro meat, a better solution

Better, the government gives substantial development subsidies to Dutch companies that develop lab meat, such as Mosa Meat. Cultured meat is many times less harmful to the environment in terms of ecological footprint. If the cost price can be brought below that of meat from live animals, and at the moment the cost has already fallen from € 250,000 to € 9 per hamburger, this is a better solution. [5]

Sources
1. Global Footprint Network, Earth Overshoot Day
2. Laure Herreman et al., Comprehensive overview of the quality of plant and animal-sourced proteins based on the digestible indispensable amino acid score, Food Science And Nutrition, 2020, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.1809
3. Arlete M. Becker-Ritt, Antinutritional and / or toxic factors in soybean (Glycine max (L) Merril) seeds: comparison of different cultivars adapted to the southern region of Brazil, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 2004, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/jsfa.1628
4. Helen Thompson, Switching to Farming Made Human Joint Bones Lighter, Smithsonian magazine, 2014
5. Mosa Meat: From € 250,000 To € 9 Burger Patties, Clean Technica, 2019

How do we fight fake news?

As is often the case around election time, the Dutch discussion about fake news flares up once again. The Dutch Minister of the Interior, Lady Kajsa Ollongren (D66), wants to establish an “independent” institute that is engaged in countering the spreading of “fake news”, which, according to her, and many others, is a major threat to democracy. would form. Does this make sense?

What is fake news?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a well-known English proverb. Likewise, some “real news” and some “fake news”. In the Middle Ages, answering this question was easy. Real news, that was what the Church (ie the Roman Catholic Church, saw as truth. Or, with the southern neighbors, what the ruling Islamic sect saw as truth. The rest was fake news, or heresy. The spread of fake news took a lot of flee with the invention of the printing press. For example, the Albigenses, who in the twelfth century had similar ideas to Luther and other Protestants centuries later, were a marginal group, their heretical ideas about reading the "holy scriptures" instead. of the interpretation of the church could be quite easily suppressed with brute force. Not many people had a Bible, because it had to be copied by hand: literally a monk's work. That changed after the invention of paper and printing. was no stopping then: the information monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church was quickly broken.

The Internet has a similar effect. In the good old days, when there was no internet yet, many CPN members or journalists were recruited by the BVD (predecessor of the AIVD) [1]. That was also possible, because there was (and is) only a handful of newspapers. All radio and TV stations could also be counted on one hand. Even now, dozens of journalists work as AIVD agents [2]. That also changed with the internet. For a journalist it is no longer a career-technical death sentence if there is no longer employment with newspapers or TV channels. Mainstream controversial talk show host Robert Jensen, for example, set up a much-watched covid-19 policy-critical YouTube channel after his TV show was shut down, with the motto “the [mainstream] media is the virus”. This also applies to journalists such as Joost Niemoller (now active as a weblogger), which is also controversial in the mainstream, or the widely watched (according to the main stream media) online current affairs program Weltschmerz, wholesaling wild conspiracy theories. In addition, there are now thousands of bloggers, vloggers, influencers and, of course, your unsurpassed visionair.nl. Hence, there is a great need in the government to combat this uncontrolled proliferation.

Ministry of Truth

This need among both Brussels and Hague regents explains why there is now so much attention for fake news [3]. For example, Ms Kajsa Ollongren now wants an independent administrative body separate from the government (but funded by the government) to tackle so-called fake news [4]. According to the minister, there is 'no question of' a thought police. She emphasizes that it will not be the government that will monitor incorrect information. "The government does not have that role." An independent body that is not tied to a political party or ministry must track down and report on the disinformation. ”
It is not without reason that an old Dutch proverb says: whose bread one eats, whose word one speaks. A politically independent administrative body (we are talking about that now, after all, the question of what is fake news and what is true news is politically charged) is the worst of both worlds. It is not independent and cannot be approached politically. It is pre-eminently a manifestation of the “deep state”.

Inquisition

The inquisition, an institution of the Roman Catholic Church that detected and combated deviations from Roman Catholic doctrine, was also an "independent body not tied to any political party or ministry." The fact that the local government did the dirty work of the stake was no comfort to the burning witches and heretics. Government organization or not: If an organization is authorized by the government, as here, there is no functional difference from a government organization.

Inquisitors engaged in the fight against fake news. Source: Wellcome Trust / Wikimedia Commons

Furthermore, the government is also an important source of misinformation, as became apparent at the start of the covid-19 epidemic, when the Dutch government organization RIVM considered masks “not necessary” [5] and, following the WHO, claimed that asymptomatic patients virus [6]. Data scientist Maurice de Hond has already provided harsh and substantiated criticism on this. That led to a conviction on the social media giants for “fake news” [7]. There are more examples. Powerful interest groups will always hijack and bribe authoritative sources to impose their own fake news (this time labeled “official truth”) on the rest.

What then works? Simple: monitor the standards of good journalism. Teach citizens how to practice thorough investigative journalism, for example through free courses with an exam. This is probably one of the most useful skills to keep our democracy, a democracy. Our democracy is in safer hands with hundreds of thousands of trained citizen journalists than with a few hundred professional journalists often recruited by the AIVD.

Sources
1. The long arm of the BVD, memories of the infiltration - Dutch Communists from NRC, 1994
2. 'We should not be so surprised that the AIVD recruits informants among journalists' - Trouw, 2019
3. Countering disinformation and fake news - Dutch national government, undated
4. Ollongren tackles “fake news” about elections - BNR Nieuwsradio, 2020
5. 'Mouth mask is not a realistic way of dampening coronavirus' - AD, 2020
6. WHO withdraws claim: 'Perhaps many corona infections by people without symptoms' - De Morgen, 2020
7. Maurice de Hond disappointed in YouTube due to removal of corona video: 'I say the same as German top virologist!' - Gaand.nl, 2020

Why we must unconditionally protect freedom of speech

Is a cartoon worth a human life? At first glance you would say no. However, appearances are deceptive here: not only our freedom, but also the survival of the human species benefits from integrity in thinking, and in this respect from absolute freedom of expression.

Humans and humanity as information processors
Evolution is basically information processing. Evolution is the product of the confrontation of our genotype (the DNA blueprint in our genes) and the resulting phenotype (our bodies) with the natural environment (including other organisms). In billions of years of evolution, the genotype of our species has expanded and adapted until we have grown from two single strands of bacterial and archaeal DNA housed in a simple cell into a complex multicellular organism capable of solving the mysteries of life. to unravel space and time.

This process took place only through the endless exposure of our genome to ever-changing challenges. Our ancestors have survived global disasters such as a catastrophic asteroid impact, a gamma-ray burst, and what may have been a massive volcano eruption. Each disaster has usually selected the toughest survivors. The catastrophic disaster at the end of the Permian 252 million years ago, with more than ninety percent of the species on Earth perishing, paved the way for the ancestor of the dinosaurs (and thus birds), the Chicxulub weft for groups of mammals including the primates, our group.

Some subtler cartoons by Charlie Hebdo wittily portray the supposed inventor of Islam, the merchant Muhammad ibn Abdullah. Source / Copyright: Charlie Hebdo Magazine

Technical and cultural evolution
Economic, social and cultural competition is subject to similar evolutionary pressures. The “DNA” of a bicycle, for example, is the CAD construction drawings, specifications and assembly manuals of the various parts and the entire construction, and the mental blueprint in the brains of bicycle repairers, where the phenotype is the bicycle itself. A beautiful, strong and pleasantly driving bicycle is sold more often, so that the manufacturer can further develop the bicycle and other bicycle manufacturers take over elements. The same mechanism also occurs with cultural elements such as language, ideologies and religion. A religion that is more successful at converting people and preserving the faith is ahead of those that discourage or prohibit conversion, or have too weak a grip on the minds of their adherents. religions, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, succeed best in this.

Why Do Religions Exist?
Religions stem from the same urge that led to the emergence of science: the need to understand the world around us and the meaning of our existence. Religion arises from the physical and metaphysical ideas of the time when religion originated. These ideas are framed, usually by a founder (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism) or group of founders (Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism) and institutionalized in subsequent years as a result of confrontation with other religions and philosophies. The canon (collection of sacred writings) is established and classes of institutionalized bearers of knowledge of the religion emerge, such as monks, gurus, priests, theologians and ulema. This gives religions an additional evolutionary advantage: full-time professionals whose existence depends on the presence of large numbers of believers who give their tithes. These professionals are constantly inventing new ways to bring in believers, maintain their faith, and prevent apostasy. This explains the caste system among Hindus, the emphasis on repentance as the only way to save people from hell among Christians, and the draconian punishments of Muslims leaving Islam.

Do Religions Have Value?
Religions frame ideas and hinder scientific and metaphysical thinking. In principle, religions thus have a negative influence on human survival. Elements of religions can be exceptionally useful. Think of the protection of the family, interpersonal ethics, the stimulation of abstract thinking and the provision of a metaphysical reality that creates a distance from the observable reality and thus stretches the world of thought.
The over-representation of Jews and, to a lesser extent, Christians among scientific pioneers suggests that these religions contain elements that promote the development of theory, induction and critical scientific thinking. While primitive Judaism is very similar to current Islam, later rabbinical Judaism has a more playful, more equal relationship with the supreme god. Also “lernen”, the emphasis on learning, is very important in contemporary Judaism. As far as scientific knowledge is concerned, this is of course very useful in scientific practice. This also applies to Christianity, which focuses more on the esoteric domain and thus (after the devastating defeats suffered by the Catholic Church against Galileo and the Copernicists, and the Protestant heretics) opposed natural science much less and in some cases even promoted. In short: religions can still have a positive value on balance, depending on the ideas they contain. However, this is more the exception than the rule. This also explains why in distinctly atheistic countries like both China's, the Czech Republic and Japan, the practice of science and technology is at a higher level.

Freedom of speech is higher than religious dogma
The essence of evolution is information processing. Our technical and cultural evolution is in fact an extension and a logical continuation of biological evolution. To give up freedom of speech because a mythical supreme being, or a legendary founder, of a religion might be offended is to halt the evolution of human thought and culture. If a religion is unable to refute ridicule or criticism, then this religion loses out in the war of ideas. Just as it is not permitted in the Netherlands or Belgium to extort consumers, it must also not be permitted to make religious criticism impossible with improper methods. If a religion like Islam is unable to survive without intimidating its critics with murder and manslaughter, then this religion must disappear from the face of the earth for good. Anyone calling to kill critics in order to silence them is an obstacle to the evolution of humanity. They are principals of murder and therefore guilty of murder. They should be treated like terrorists. Humanity is better off without them.

Do we have to change agricultural land in the Netherlands into residential areas and nature?

The largest land user in the Netherlands is agriculture. The interim manager Iman Stratenus and his noble companion Eppo Folef Marie van Nispen tot Sevenaer, with a legal background, say they have the solution. What if we abolish agriculture in the Netherlands and convert the land released into a nature reserve?

City-state The Netherlands has a greater population density than many world cities. The Netherlands is home to 17 million people on 40,000 square kilometers of land. Incredibly enough, the Netherlands also succeeds in being largely self-sufficient in food in the field of agriculture. This at a price. For example, the land is drained, which increases the root zone on fields and makes them more accessible for heavy agricultural machines. As a result, nature areas dry out and structural moisture shortages arise.

What if we just abolish agriculture for the most part and use the land that will become available for nature conservation and for housing? That would solve the problems with emission rights in one fell swoop. Land will also be freed up for the cultivation of biomass, another idea that is very trendy among climate enthusiasts. This is the proposal of both aforementioned gentlemen of the initiative natural rich netherlands.

The idea is simple. Make half of the Netherlands a nature reserve. Buy out most of the farmers with the proceeds from selling some of the farmland as land for housing. The authors name 1 million new sustainable homes. Use the remainder for the cultivation of biomass and as a nature reserve, for example to keep fox hunts. From now on, import our food from abroad.

The Netherlands is currently using 66% of the territory for agriculture. What if we just do away with agriculture? Source / copyright: visionair.nl

The authors of this report clearly have an economic background. They assume that the Netherlands will go through 'business as usual' in the coming decades with a stable international system, in which it is indeed economically smarter to import our food than to use scarce land for this.

Certainly in this unstable geopolitical situation, in which existing alliances are falling apart and new geopolitical fault lines arise, this is not very sensible. The covid-19 crisis already showed that countries prioritize their own population. Shipments of masks on transit to other European countries were seized, France introduced an export ban for covid-19 protective equipment. It is downright foolish and irresponsible to assume that if there is a global famine, our neighbors will bail us out when their own people go hungry.

The reason that there is so much room in the Netherlands for agriculture at the expense of other land use is not trivial. As the farmers themselves put it succinctly: You must know well, we farmers provide food.

If we decommission 12,000 square kilometers of agricultural land, as these two propose, the Netherlands will no longer be self-sufficient in terms of food. Our (great) grandparents all experienced in the Hunger Winter of 1944 the dire consequences of being dependent on foreign countries in times of crisis.

It is better, for example, to take a critical look at the existing asylum and immigration policy (now responsible for more than eighty percent of the population growth, see https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/dossier/dossier-asiel-migratie-en-integratie/hoeveel-immigranten-komen-naar-nederland-) and to deal more creatively with the existing space than now, for example through more underground construction and the relocation of the most ecologically damaging agricultural activities to the sea. Three-fifths of the Dutch territory is sea. In the long term, much agricultural land can indeed be used for a different purpose, but only if we succeed in producing replacement food in, for example, agricultural flats, in a synthetic way or at sea.

Royalty and nobility are racist institutions

Nederlanders moeten zich erg schamen over de Zwarte Piet-traditie, vindt de Amerikaanse monopolist Facebook. Opmerkelijk genoeg zijn er in Nederland twee nog veel racistischer instituten, die onverkort kunnen functioneren: adeldom en het koningshuis.

Erfelijk adeldom
Al ver voor de Romeinse tijd bestond het instituut adel. De edele bezit op basis van afkomst een vooraanstaande positie. Er is in Nederland maar één manier om toe te treden tot de adel. Op basis van de geboorte in een aanzienlijke familie, of door de verheffing van deze familie tot het adeldom, aldus de Wet op de Adeldom. Dit geldt ook voor het koningshuis, al zijn hier de regels marginaal soepeler. Een persoon kan toetreden tot het koningshuis, als een lid van het koningshuis met deze trouwt, aldus de Wet Lidmaatschap Koninklijk Huis. Het bekendste voorbeeld is vanzelfsprekend de vrouw van de Nederlandse koning Willem IV,  de Argentijnse Máxima Zorreguieta. Leden van het koninklijk huis treden automatisch toe tot de adel.
Dit maakt zowel het adeldom als in iets mindere mate het koningshuis racistische instituten. Een van de afschuwelijke elementen van het leven onder de Duitse nazi-dictatuur waren de Neurenberger rassenwetten. Onderdeel hiervan was het bijhouden van een afstammingsregister. Kwamen er in je familiestamboom bijvoorbeeld zwarten, Slaven of, het ergste scenario, joden voor, dan was je geen raszuivere Germaan en waren topposities voor je uitgesloten. In Nederland kennen we nog steeds elementen van deze Neurenberger rassenwetten. Ik doel nu op het door de Hoge Raad van Adel uitgegeven adelsregister. Voor de sneuneuzen die net buiten de boot vielen, maar er toch bij willen horen zijn er het “blauwe boekje” van het zelfbenoemde “Nederlands patriciaat” en een lijstje van “aanzienlijke” Haagse families.

Bij een familie van adel hoort uiteraard een indrukwekkend familiewapen. Bron: Wikimedia Commons/Arch

Adel belangrijker dan het op het eerste gezicht lijkt
Vaak wordt gedacht dat adeldom alleen een folkloristisch karakter heeft. Dit is onjuist, zoals ook al blijkt uit de expliciete wetgeving op dit gebied en het bestaan van de Hoge Raad van Adel. Dit blijkt eveneens uit de forse boetes op het “valselijk” voeren van de titel jonkheer, graaf of hertog volgens artikel 435, eerste lid, van het Wetboek van Strafrecht: een geldboete van de tweede categorie. Deze bedraagt maximaal € 4350 in 2020.Een even hoge straf als staat op het vals voeren van bijvoorbeeld een academische titel of jezelf preesenteren als advocaat.

De ongeveer tienduizend “edellieden” zijn oververtegenwoordigd op elitaire en prestigieuze posities die vaak met de “deep state” worden geassocieerd. Diplomaten, ministers en hoge ambtenaren zijn vaak van adel, hoewel hun aandeel langzamerhand wel vermindert.

The consequences
Als de politieke elite geboorte en afstamming ziet als een wettig argument om aan een groep een beschermde status toe te kennen, verliest deze hiermee haar morele recht om discriminatie op afkomst te verbieden. Er zal pas een einde aan racisme komen als iedere Nederlander daadwerkelijk gelijk is voor de wet. Nu is dat niet het geval. Ben je geboren als nakomeling van staatshoofd Willem IV, dan betekent dat een levenslang emolument van enkele tonnen per jaar. Ben je geboren in een adellijk geslacht, dan mag je je graaf of baron noemen, terwijl dat ondergetekende en waarschijnijk ook u, hooggeboren lezer, op maximaal enkele duizenden euro’s boete komt te staan.

Afschaffen of hervormen?
In feite kennen we al vormen van meritocratische adel. Een doctorstitel verdien je (meestal) door enkele jaren ploeteren aan een promotieonderzoek. Dit geldt ook, in mindere mate, voor de ingenieurstitel van weledelgestrenge schrijver dezes. Bij de jaarlijkse lintjesregen worden geregeld mensen die (volgens de overheid) een bijzondere prestatie hebben neergezet, geslagen tot ridder in bijvoorbeeld de orde van Oranje Nassau. Waarom niet de uitvinder van een oplossing voor het zwerfplastic in zee tot Baron-Beschermer van de Schone Oceaan benoemen, of een moedige ex-moslim dissidente tot Hertogin van het Vrije Woord?

Fable or Fact? Refugees generate economic growth

The self-proclaimed quality newspaper Volkskrant published an article by cultural anthropologist Keulemans, in which he claimed that refugees generate economic growth, also per capita. This gentleman based this on a French economic study. Is this correct?

What are the consequences of the arrival of a large number of migrants in a society?
A society consists of people. If you add extra people to this, GDP will rise, because these people participate in economic transactions. This is an obvious first order effect. For example, there is an increase in consumption. After all, these people have to eat. There is also an increase in benefits or salaries. After all, these people have to live on something. This together ensures a higher turnover. This money just doesn't come out of the blue. It is by taxpayers, resp. employers brought together. In the case of benefits, the money could have been spent on another, probably more useful purpose such as infrastructure or education. It is different in the case of employers. Employees enable employers to produce goods and services. Employers sell this production again, so that salary is not an economic loss, but a profit.

At a time when there were hardly any social services, such as in the Dutch Golden Age, migrants could only survive by working. The scarce social services, such as the disciplinary house, were work-oriented and very sparse by contemporary standards. Employers only let them work if it yielded enough for them. That is why in the Golden Age the contribution of Flemish Protestant immigrants to the economy was positive, although wages were depressed. In the case of migrants with enabling skills, such as the Flemish and Jewish professionals who laid the foundations for new industries, even explosively positive.

In general, it is smarter to bring in people with highly deficient skills. If that connection is not there, and the migrants cannot be retrained for little money and in a short time, then they become cost items. In the Netherlands, for example, two-thirds of asylum seekers from the 1980s are still unemployed. [1]

The claims in the article
According to the authors, the paper [2] examined the economic and fiscal consequences of mass immigration in Western Europe between 1985 and 2015. In doing so, the authors used a “widely used empirical methodology” to analyze the macroeconomic effects of “structural shocks and political policy ”. According to the authors, their model shows that the influx of asylum seekers does not deteriorate the economic performance or fiscal balance, because the increase in government spending is more than offset by an increase in tax revenues from the increase in economic transfers (taxes on, for example, salaries and purchases). If asylum seekers become permanent residents, their macroeconomic impact will be positive, the article said.

Are refugees drivers of economic growth?

Are these statements correct?
The aforementioned commonly used empirical methodology is the so-called panel vector autoregression. That's auto-regression applied to time series. Indeed, this method appears to be frequently used in economic research. For those of our readers who have not had any statistics: this research looks at what covariation occurs between the factors studied. Covariation means: the degree to which measured values change simultaneously. For example, the correlation between gravity and falling speed (or between the presence of Mark Rutte and the amount of lies) is positive, in other words, the more gravity, the faster objects fall.

Two input variables were used: asylum applications and net migration. It was investigated what these effects have on tax revenues, government expenditure, GNP per capita and fiscal balance: whether the government has a budget deficit or a surplus.
The model used is also quite simple. It is based on the following causal chain: (net migration, asylum applications) -> effective government expenditure per inhabitant -> net tax revenue per inhabitant -> 'clean' GNP per inhabitant -> unemployment rate. One year is taken as an intermediate step, in other words, the effective government expenditure in 2000 will affect the net tax revenue in 2001.

The data from fifteen Western European countries are used as a source of variation. Very cleverly, the rather pro-multicultural researchers have left out Eastern European countries, with high growth rates and low migration, and Greece (catastrophic collapse and large asylum influx). They would have made this pro-migration story a pro-populism investigation, and that was of course not the intention of the three gentlemen.

Based on the cleverly-researched dataset that remains, the researchers did indeed find the classic Keynesian link between higher government investment and higher economic growth. As migrants usually want to migrate to rich countries with low unemployment, a positive correlation was naturally found between migration and high economic growth / low unemployment.

The conclusion is that this research is flawed. The output data set is deliberately doctored. In this way, the researchers have created a bias to push their political views through. This behavior is unworthy of a scientist. Regarding the journalistic standards of de Volkskrant, the bar was not very high anyway.

Sources
1. No time to lose: from reception to integration of asylum seekers, WRR (2015)
2. Hippolyte d'Albis, Ekrame Boubtane, Dramane Coulibaly, Macroeconomic evidence suggests that asylum seekers are not a “burden” for Western European countries, Science Advances  Jun 20, 2018: Vol. 4, no. 6, eaaq0883, DOI: 10.1126 / sciadv.aaq0883

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