BFF | I am a scientist!


Cursor regularly reports about the adventures of activist groups that are loosely associated with our university. Whether it concerns the occupation of a board room or hysterical behavior at Eindhoven Airport, Cursor journalists are present when self-proclaimed climate activists predict the Apocalypse.

As if it were a law of nature, academics with the least fundamental knowledge about – and understanding of – the topic squeal the loudest. “I am a scientist, listen to me!,” shouts a professor in the social sciences during the demonstration at Eindhoven Airport. Exemplary for this lack of knowledge is the honoree degree in theology (indeed, theology) that was recently awarded to Greta Thunberg. Although prematurely abandoning the educational system is her primary differentiator, many consider Thunberg the climate messiah.

The conviction with which we are told we are approaching the end of times discloses a fundamental problem. Science and our educational system are increasingly claiming the domain of morality. While we are increasingly deriving our moral virtue from abstract problems, we are focusing less and less on solving technical problems, such as fixing the hole in the ozone layer by banning ozone-depleting substances in the eighties.

In this context, these abstract problems form the foundation of a de facto religion, with universities increasingly occupying the position of the church. You are a virtuous person if you consider climate change your number one priority, preferably the only priority. And you’re an evil person if you consider this tunnel vision to be harmful and the likely cause of new problems.

Religion provides meaning, as a personal conviction it can mean a lot to individuals and the society they form. But religion does not generate solutions for complex societal issues. Because it concerns a personal conviction based on doctrines, rationally criticizing religion isn’t very useful. It typically has the exact opposite effect. The stronger the criticism, the stronger the convictions of those criticized. And I have to admit I’m guilty of this attitude; I’ve never felt a stronger urge for beef and croquettes.

Many problems are awaiting us this century. Critical to solving these problems is that we breed openminded engineers; individuals with strong analytical skills, who know how to prioritize, who are inventive and constructively handle criticism they encounter. Folks who acknowledge they may be wrong and to whom we listen because they have a proven ‘problem solving’ track record, not because they scream “I’m a scientist!”

BFF | Bald, Frizzy or Flowing is a joint initiative of Willem Mulder (Bald), Monique Bruining (Frizzy) and Luc Brunsveld (Flowing), that they started at the beginning of 2023 on the site of Cursor.

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