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Dutch Wednesday 2012

Programma 2012

The Improvising society, a lecture on social order in a network society, Hans Boutellier, 25.04.2012

Hans Boutellier, bijzonder hoogleraar burgerschap en veiligheid, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The global information society has a completely different social structure as ideology driven mass societies. It is open, rather insecure and seemingly chaotic. This raises the question how social order (security, safety, trust, morality) has to be understood. Hans Boutellier uses the metaphor of jazz music to give an understanding of social processes in the information age. He will speak about network society, complexity theory and the governance of social order. In his lecture he will also give several examples of cooperation in complex contexts. 

Science and Beauty, Vincent Icke, 30.05.2012

Locatie: Taiga, Dvortsovaja nab. 20 (map)

Vincent Icke, bijzonder hoogleraar theoretische sterrenkunde, Universiteit Leiden

It is not necessary to know what beauty is, if one wants to measure what people find beautiful. In 1883 Francis Galton, one of the founders of probability theory, investigated whether it was possible to read off the character traits of people from their faces. In an attempt to emphasize what certain faces have in common, Galton constructed some sort of "photographic average" of a number of human faces. He discovered that most respondents found such an "averaged portrait" more attractive than the individual portraits. In other words, people find the mean more beautiful than the extremes. Experiments of this type show that the human sense of beauty is extremely conservative. Of course there are sound biological reasons for this. But what does this imply for art? And more extremely, does this have any implications for science? Do people find common-or-garden science, such as botany or classical mechanics, more beautiful than extremes, such as quantum mechanics or molecular biology? And finally, does a sense of beauty help in the production of scientific insight?

Vincent Icke is Professor of Astrophysics at Universiteit Leiden and Professor of Cosmology at the University of Amsterdam, in The Netherlands. He is the head of the Theory Group at Sterrewacht Leiden. He studied theoretical physics and astronomy at Utrecht, and in 1972 obtained a doctorate (for a study of galaxy formation and large scale cosmic structure) at Leiden. At present, his main interests are cosmology, the 'cosmological constant', the formation of structure in the Universe, and radiation hydrodynamics. Recently, he spearheaded the founding of the Faculty of Arts at Universiteit Leiden. Besides his academic pursuits, Vincent Icke takes an active interest in the popularization of science.

Vincent Icke is also a visual artist, whose work covers a wide range of styles, media, applications and concepts. For his distinguished work in science, art, and outreach, Vincent Icke received the tri-annual Willem de Graaff Award in 2010. He was awarded a knighthood (Ridder in de Orde van de Nederlandse Leeuw) in 2011

The End of Tolerance? Religion and Politics in the Contemporary Netherlands, James Kennedy, 12.09.2012

James Kennedy, hoogleraar Nederlandse geschiedenis, Universiteit van Amsterdam

If there is one word with which Dutch history is associated, it is its fabled tolerance, especially during it Golden Age.  That seems to be in short supply now, with many Dutch actively questioning how good it actually is to practice forbearance toward those with unacceptable ideals. This is especially the case in respect to Islam.  The Dutch model of principled pluralism - in which each religious minority was given great leeway to organize its own affairs - is under pressure. This presentation offers a bird's eye view of the Dutch history of tolerance, showing what that concept has  - and has not - meant.  Then it focuses on more recent developments: the unchurching of the Netherlands, the substantial influx of religious immigrants, and the effects all of this has had on Dutch politics, and on Dutch traditions of tolerance.  Finally, it ties the Dutch experience with those in Western Europe, where similar but not identical debates are taking place.

James Kennedy is professor of Dutch history since the Middle Ages at the University of Amsterdam.  An American citizen and trained in the United States, Kennedy has been professor of history in Amsterdam since 2003.  He is particularly specialized in the period after 1945, and has written books about the cultural changes of the 1960s, Dutch euthanasia policy and on the social position of Dutch churches.  He is also a Trouw columnist and a frequent commentator in the media. 

Carnival in Orange. Soccer as a Mirror of Dutch Culture and Collective Memory, Yme Kuiper, 10.10.2012

Yme Kuiper, bijzonder hoogleraar religieuze en historische antropologie, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

The Dutch sculptor Jeroen Henneman once compared the 'great artist'  Dennis Bergkamp  - former striker of Ajax, Arsenal and the national football team ('Orange') - to his countrymen Joannes Vermeer and Piet Mondriaan. Bergkamp's  space creating passes reminded him strongly of the innovations of these two masters of Dutch painting. Many Dutch fans of Orange, but even keen observers from abroad, seem to agree with the idea that Dutch football refers to a specific national style, invented in the 1970's, fine-tuned in the 1980's and attaining its climax in the winning of the European Championship in 1988.

That was twenty-four years ago. National sentiments are still attached to football, especially  in the Netherlands, where the national team is the nation made flesh (that is to say: Orange). Football seems to fill a peculiar hole in Dutch emotional life. It arouses collective passions and ritualized feelings of community among men as well as women. The two big questions are here, of course: why? And, do the Dutch really differ in this respect from the fans of other nations, now football has become a global game? 

Another riddle of the relationship between Dutch culture and football is the fact that a poll recently showed that the most favorite program on Dutch television is a panel that only chats at length twice a week about how football should be played in the Netherlands.  But as we all know when connoisseurs debate the style their team should play, they will often implicitly argue about the kind of nation theirs should be or once was.

Yme Kuiper has a chair Anthropology of Religion and Historical Anthropology at the University of Groningen.  He has written about the biographies of football heroes and also about the Dutch football club SC Heerenveen (new appointed manager Marco vanBasten). His current projects include Religion and Biography as well as research on religious elite formation in the Netherlands and Europe in the Eighteenth and Twentieth centuries. 

Plastic pandas, Bas Haring, 07.11.2012

Bas Haring, bijzonder hoogleraar publiek begrip van wetenschap, Universiteit Leiden

Let op. Locatie: Creatieve ruimte ‘TKACHI’, Obvodny kanaal 60

Nature is diminishing. Each minute twenty soccer fields of primary rainforest disappear, and the rate of species extinction is alarmingly high. All due to us: mankind. But how bad is it really that species vanish and biodiversity decreases? Intuitively species extinction is clearly a "bad thing", but it is not straightforward to find a proper rationale. Plastic Panda's is a quest to the value of biodiversity and researches various philosophical and biological arguments that plea for biodiversity. The conclusion will be that (i) the loss of biodiversity is not a bad thing per se; and (ii) we should accept a new role towards nature --- not a role in which nature is something sacred; nor a role in which nature should be overwon; but a role in which we accept that we, for a large part, create this world, with positive and negative consequences.

Bas Haring is een Nederlandse filosoof en informaticus, schrijver van kinderboeken en populairwetenschappelijk werk, televisiepresentator. Bas Haring is tevens hoogleraar aan de Universiteit Leiden waar hij de leerstoel "publiek begrip van wetenschap" bekleedt. De bedoeling van de leerstoel is om de wetenschap toegankelijker te maken voor het grote publiek. Andere doelen: academici opleiden in deze unieke tak van wetenschap en discussies aanzwengelen met collega-wetenschappers. Hij is initiator van en verantwoordelijk voor het masterprogramma Media Technology, waarin informatica en kunsten samenwerken. Wetenschap komt in de regel neer op het zeer nauwgezet in kaart brengen van kleine ingekaderde vakgebieden. Maar in zeer snel veranderende wetenschapsgebieden - zoals de informatica - loopt men het risico dat het vakgebied niet meer relevant is als wetenschappelijk onderzoek afgerond is. Daarom is men aan Universiteit Leiden een masteropleiding gestart die tot doelstelling heeft om speels, onbevooroordeeld en creatief onderzoek te doen in de informatica.