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Hans van Lint is AvL (Antonie van Leeuwenhoek) Professor Traffic Simulation and Computing at the Transport & Planning department, faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences. He's also director of education of the Msc TIL (Transport, Logistics and Infrastructure).

His other passion in life is music - check out the Dutch Genesis tribute band Squonk.

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Posted in June 2010

16% of the Dutch have lost their minds, it’s time politicians (and journalists?) do their homework

Of course, that means that the largest part of our population are the same old friendly, pragmatic, slightly rude but at least sensible people. But that’s still not entirely reassuring after the earth-quake elections last week in The Netherlands. Liberals (VVD) first (20.5%), social democrats (PvdA) next (19.6%), the populist "party for freedom" (PVV) comes third (15.5%) and the christian democrates (CDA) fourth (13.5%). Any one with an internet connection can easily verify that the supposed mass immigration from islamic countries (central to the PVV’s succesfull campaign) is a fragrant lie, just check the site of the central bureau of statistics for an interactive map with immigration and emigration. Why wasn’t there a single politician who – instead of twittering their whereabouts – has simply downloaded some data, plotted a few charts, called a few friendly journalists and let nature take its course. As can be clearly seen from the figure below, immigration from islamic countries has most probably decreased rather than increased due to a series of more stringent immigration laws, the first of which was drafted (irony?) by the present PvdA leader Cohen, and further shaped up to its current "Swiss-like" rigidness in the ensuing administrations. Immigration is not the problem, if you don’t believe, just look at the data. Here’s a bar chart with some results taken from the CBS site (at the time of this post):
 

 

Not shown is that around 90,000 people emigrate from (leave) the Netherlands, that small number should say something (less than 0.5 percent). And so yes, more people immigrate to the Netherlands (around 140,000 a year, still a small number: 0.8 percent), and again yes, quite a few must have questionable motives, morale, habits, tastes or whatever you can think of. Very much like we can expect amongst the rest of us (around 17,000,000). Note that there’s a categorie "other countries" (which accounts for 31 percent of all immigrations) amongst which surely some islamic immigrants were included. But more telling is the table with all immigrations over the period 1995-2008 ordered by country.
 
 
Just to drive the point home, I’ll throw in a pie chart below. Most immigrants come from our neighbours, our atlantic allies, former colonies and the EU, except for Turky (still only fifth).
 
 
So why are 15.5% of the electorate scapegoating a group (islamic immigrants) when this is a – by any statistical standards – negligeable group? There is no mass immigration, most likely because we have a set of rigid laws in place that prevented that in the last decades. It is – to put it scientifically – a hypothesis that can be immediately rejected on the basis of a simple search through the data provided by the same organisation who provides the numbers to underpin approximately every major law in this country.
 
I did not place this post because I think universities should go political. Instead, we deal with hypotheses and collect evidence to support or reject these. But I do think scientists need to speak up. And pretty loud too. I feel ashamed to live in a country in the twenty-first century where neither journalists nor politicians take the trouble to root out populist nonsense with some easily accesible facts. Certainly when there are far more pressing matters to think of and to base our (political) priorities on. We consume more than we can afford to and the largest portion of the planet’s residents pay a dear price for it. We allow religious leaders all over the place to frustrate a break on population growth and to put a stop to the AIDS epidemic by spreading a message of "abstinence" and "anti-condom" sentiments. We allow them to indoctrinate young children into believing things we know for a fact are nonsense. We plunder our oceans and turn our planet into a fragmented and pretty disturbed habitat. Scientists need to speak up and do so on the basis of evidence. And the amount is literally overwhelming. We have for example geology, oceanography, biogeography, genetics, micro biology, evolutionary biology, paleontology, history, archeology, medical science, physics, chemistry and mathematics to name just a few disciplines to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that humans share the same ancestor with every living being on this planet. That is the deepest religious thought ever! And what’s more: we are most likely the only creatures in a very large portion of the universe who can actually marvel at the fact that this is the case.
 
And from that thought to a strong pledge for research and education as the most important investment a country can make is a small and natural step. I sincerily hope that’ll be on the agenda of the 15.5% next time they vote. Ignorance is everything but Bliss…
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