Core argument

Hans Rosling (1948-2017) was a professor of public health and at the Swedish Academy of Sciences. I hadn’t heard about him but his death caused newsmedia to report about his mission to better inform people by the innovative presentation of statistics. I looked at some of his presentations, and found them both informative and innovative indeed.

I applaud this chart in which he tabulates not only causes and effects but rather means and goals. (Clicking on the picture will bring you to the TED talk 2007, and at the end the audience may applaud for another reason, namely when he swallows a sword to illustrate that the “impossible is possible”.)

Hans Rosling 1948-2017

Hans Rosling 1948-2017

Continue the discussion

My impression is that we best honour Rosling by continuing the discussion about his work. Thus, my comments are as follows.

First of all, my book Definition & Reality in the General Theory of Political Economy shows that the Trias Politica model of democracy fails, because it allows politicians still too much room to manipulate information and to meddle in scientific advice on policy making. Thus, governance is much more important than Rosling suggested. Because of his analysis, Rosling in some of his simulations only used economic growth as the decisive causal factor to explain the development of countries. However, the key causal factor is governance. The statistical reporting on this is not well developed yet. Thus, I move one + from economic growth to governance.

Secondly, my draft book The Tinbergen & Hueting Approach in the Economics of Ecological Survival discusses that the environment has become a dominant risk for the world as we know it. It is not a mathematical certainty that there will be ecological collapse, but the very nature of ecological collapse is that it comes suddenly, when you don’t expect it. The ecology is so complex and we simply don’t have enough information to manage it properly. It is like standing at the edge of a ravine. With superb control you might risk to edge one millimeter closer, but if you are not certain that the ground will hold and that there will not be a sudden rush of wind, then you better back up. The table given by Rosling doesn’t reflect this key point. Thus, I move one + from economic growth to the environment.

In sum, we get the following adapted table.

Adapted from Hans Rosling

I have contemplated for the means whether I would want to shift another + from economic growth to either human rights (property rights) or education (I am also a teacher). However, my current objective is to highlight the main analytical difference only.

In the continued discussion we should take care of proper definitions.

What does “economic growth” mean ?

The term “economic growth” is confusing. There is a distinction between level and annual growth of income, and there is a distinction w.r.t. categories within. Economic welfare consists of both material products (production and services) and immaterial elements (conditions and services). If the term “economic growth” includes both then this would be okay. In that case, however, the whole table would already be included in the notion of welfare and economic growth. Apparently, Hans Rosling intended the term “economic growth” for the material products. I would suggest to replace his “economic growth” by “income level”, and thus focus on both income and level rather than annual change of a confusingly named statistic. Obviously, it is a policy target that all people would have a decent standard of living, but it is useful to remain aware that income is only a means to a higher purpose, namely to live a good life.

PM. This causes a discussion about the income distribution, and how the poor and the rich refer to each other, so that the notion of poverty is relative to the general standard of society. In the 1980s the computer was a luxury item and nowadays a cell-phone with larger capacity is a necessity. These are relevant aspects but a discussion would lead too far here now.

What does “environment” mean ?

In the adapted table, the environment gets ++ as both means and goal. There is slight change of meaning for these separate angles.

  • The environment as a goal means that we want to preserve nature for our descendants. Our kids and grandchildren should also have tigers and whales in their natural habitat, and not as photographs only.
  • The environment as means causes some flip-flop thinking.
    (1) In economic thought, everything that exists either already existed or mankind has crafted it from what was given. Thus we only have (i) the environment, (ii) human labour. There are no other means available. From this perspective the environment deserves +++.
    (2) For most of its existence (some 60,000 years), mankind took the environment for granted. Clear air and water where available, and if some got polluted it was easy to move to a next clean spot. The economic price of the environment was zero. (Or close to it: the cost of moving was not quite a burden or seen as an economic cost.) Thus, as a means, the environment didn’t figure, and from this viewpoint it deserves a 0. There are still many people who think in this manner. It might be an engrained cultural habit, but a rather dangerous one.
    (3) Perhaps around the middle of the past century, the 1950s, the environment has become scarce. As Lionel Robbins explained: the environment has become an economic good. The environment provides functions for human existence and survival, and those functions now get a price. Even more, the Tinbergen & Hueting approach acknowledges that the ecology has become risky for human survival. The USA and Europe might think that they can outsource most environmental pollution to the poorer regions of the world, but when the rain forests turn into deserts and when the CO2 turns the oceans into an acid soup that eats away the bones of fish, then the USA and Europe will suffer the consequences too. In that perspective, the environment deserves +++.
    (4) How can we make sure that the environment gets proper place in the framework of all issues ? Eventually, nature is stronger than mankind, and there might arise some natural correction. However, there is also governance. If we get our stuff together, then mankind might manage the world economy, save the environment at some cost, but still achieve the other goals. Thus governance is +++ and the environment is relative at ++. Thus we arrive at above adapted table.
Dynamic simulation

As a teacher of mathematics I emphasize the combined presentation of text, formula, numeric table, and graph. By looking at these different angles, there is greater scope for integrated understanding. Some students are better at single aspects, but by presenting the four angles you cover the various types of students, and all students get an opportunity to develop the aspects that they are weaker in.

Obviously, dynamic simulation is a fifth aspect. See for example the Wolfram Demonstrations project. Many have been making applets in Java and embedding this in html5, yet the use of Mathematica would allow for more exchangeable and editable code and embedding within educational contexts in which the manipulation of text, formula, numeric table, and graph would also be standard.

Obviously, role playing and simulation games are a sixth aspect. This adds human interaction and social psychology to the learning experience. Dennis Meadows has been using this to allow people to grow aware of the risk on the environment, see e.g. “Stratagem” or MIT-Sloan.

The economic crisis of 2007+

What I particularly like about Rosling’s table is his emphasis on culture as a goal. Artists and other people in the world of culture will already be convinced of this – see also Roefie Hueting on the jazz stage – yet others may not be aware that mankind exists by culture.

There is also an important economic angle on culture as a means. In recessions and depressions, the government can stimulate cultural activity, such that money starts flowing again with much less risk for competitive conditions. That is, if the government would support the automobile industry or steel and do specific investments, then this might favour some industries or services at the cost of others, and it might affect competitive conditions overall, and even insert imbalances into the economy in some structural manner. Yet stimulating cultural activity might be much more neutral and still generate an economic stimulus.

For example, Germany around 1920 got into economic problems and the government responded by printing more money, and this caused the hyperinflation. This experience got ingrained in the German attitude towards monetary issues. In the Eurozone Germany follows the hard line that inflation should be prevented at all costs. Thus the eurozone now has fiat money that still functions as a gold standard because of the strict rules. (See my paper on this.) By comparison, when the USA around 1930 got into economic problems and the central bank was hesitant to print money (no doubt looking at the German example), this eventually caused the Great Depression. Thus monetary policy has the Scylla and Charybdis character, with the risks of either too little or too much. Potentially, the option to organise cultural activity would be a welcome addition to the instruments to avoid such risks and smooth the path towards recovery.

I am not quite suggesting that the ECB should print money to pay the unemployed in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal to make music and dance in the streets, yet, when the EU would invest in musea and restorations and other cultural services so that Northern Europe can better enjoy their vacations in Southern Europe, then this likely would be more acceptable than when such funds would be invested directly in factories that start to compete with the North. The current situation that Southern Europe has both unemployment and less funds to maintain the cultural heritage is obviously less optimal.

The point is also made in my book Common Sense: Boycott Holland. Just to be sure: this notion w.r.t. culture is not the main point of CSBH. It is just a notion that is worthy of mentioning.

PM. Imagine a dynamic simulation of restoring the Colosseum. Or is it culturally more valuable as a ruin than fully restored ?

By Jaakko Luttinen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Jaakko Luttinen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The road from science and scientific discovery into political discussion is often via the channel of a particular party. Politicians of any party are less likely to discuss an idea when there is no party advocating it anyway.

In the USA, members of the Senate and House are elected via districts, which is District Representation. This likely caused the division between two main parties, Democrats and Republicans. The situation likely causes that there are a lot of Think Tanks that want to reach out across the division, to inform voters directly on their various own approaches. For Think Tanks it is important to find at least one representative who is willing to support their case. Bipartisan support is nice but not always necessary, as one can always wait for the next turn in the political cycle.

In Holland, there is Proportional Representation (PR). With 150 seats, it takes only 1 / 150 = 0.67% of the nation-wide vote to get a new party into Parliament. When an issue is important enough to start a Think Tank on it, then likely at least 0.67% of the voters would care about it nation-wide, and then it might be better to start its own party rather than a Think Tank. Political parties in Holland have their own “scientific bureau“, that can inform the rest of the world about their analyses.

This paper of mine compares DR and PR, with the example of the UK, and concludes that the Dutch system is most democratic. See also the short discussion of this in Mathematics Teaching 222 in the context of the UK referendum on PR in 2011.

Baudet starts a think tank rather than a party

Thierry Baudet (1983) started in 2015 a Think Tank “Forum voor Democratie” (FvD) (forum for democracy).

Unfortunately the FvD English page currently still gives a Dutch text on their mission. Let me translate. Their stated mission is to fight the deterioration of democracy and improve its quality e.g. by means of referenda and direct elections of mayors. They also want to move power from the EU back to Holland. They want a strict system of “green cards” for immigrants. They explain their perceived link of democracy to the latter by that “uncontrolled immigration threathens social peace” (my translation). (Like in Brexit, immigration pops up at unlogical spots, as if people stop thinking when the subject arises.)

It is remarkable that Baudet thinks that he cannot get 0.67% of the vote for such a noble cause as the defence of democracy. In Holland, the political party D66 also wants to improve democracy, but they are pro-EU and not anti-EU, and thus he cannot join up. However, as a Think Tank, Baudet would be forced to collaborate a lot with D66, because of the shared view on democracy.

Perhaps it might be easier to start a niche Think Tank rather than a political party though: for, a party requires capable representatives. It may also be a matter of temperament, as Baudet states that he has no affinity with politics itself and wants to remain “independent”. It is okay for other people to follow him but he will not follow others.

Baudet and his FvD helped initiating the 2016 Dutch referendum on the EU Treaty with the Ukraine, see my discussion here and here. Baudet is also prominent in the petition, discussed in the former weblog text. There I promised to look a bit closer at Baudet’s views, which I will do here.

A bit on Baudet’s background

Today’s society cannot do without education. It is always useful to look at what people got their diploma in. This is not intended for an ad hominem argument but helps to clarify their field of competence and way of thinking. The theme of the “Two Cultures” by C.P. Snow indicates that we must be alert on bridging gaps. (See e.g. here.) When people age and grow more experienced, they will tend to diversify from their diploma, but it is seldom that a person from the humanities acquires a taste for science and mathematics as well.

Baudet’s cv doesn’t state whether he did gymnasium A or B. Generally students with gymnasium B tend to specify this though. Also given his later studies in history and law there is a great likelihood that Baudet did A. We should not expect insight in science and mathematics.

He got a bachelor in history in 2006. At Vox Europ 2012 “The EU is an empire, and empires mean war“, the website claims that he would be a historian too, but generally this label would be reserved for masters, and Vox Europ better corrects the claim.

Observe that the general label “historian” is vague too. It is generally better when people study a particular field before they look into the history of that field. It is awkward to look at an issue in the past when you don’t know about the very field of study itself. Grand themes might be an exception since it is impossible to study everything, but check out this discussion on David Armitage.

Baudet’s 2012 thesis,The significance of borders. Why representative government and the rule of law requires nation states“, is a thesis in law, supervised by law professor Paul Cliteur and philosopher Roger Scruton. Thus it is not a thesis in history, though the thesis refers to historical events.

PM 1. The other members of the thesis commission are in law too, except for Alfred van Staden who is a political scientist and professor in international relations. Would he vouch for these aspects in this thesis ? PM 2. The meaning of a thesis is that it is one way of showing that you are qualified to do scientific reseach in that particular field. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you fully proved a particular argument. PM 3. An objective of a thesis is that the new doctor learns modesty about what can actually be proven. PM 4. Cliteur states on his website that he looks at issues of free speech, see also his lecture. I informed him about the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of CPB, and he doesn’t show an interest. Apparently Cliteur doesn’t see that it is a no-brainer to say that religious fundamentalism and terrorists who abuse religion present a problem to free speech. Those groups enjoy that he pays attention to them because they thrive on attention and it makes them more important than they are. In the mean time, Cliteur doesn’t defend the freedom of scientific thought right on his doorsteps, while it would be important for a free society that such defence is provided.

I am still looking for a review of Baudet’s thesis by an independent reader.

Potentially the mentioned short Vox Europ article has the same theme as the thesis. The scheme of that short article is that imperialism causes wars, that nationalism is opposite to imperialism, and (thus) that nationalism would support peace. Also Baudet classifies the EU as imperialist. Whether these definitions and statements are supported by scientists working in this field remains to be seen. I am more inclined to interprete developments in terms of political economy, and I haven’t read a key (convincing) statement by Baudet yet why his approach from law should generate key conclusions.

For example, Robert Mundell’s theory of the optimal currency area starts from economics and then provides some historical data that confirm the point. It is open for falsification from history. Baudet seems to turn this around, and starts with historical cases like Napoleon or the USSR and transfers insights to the present EU. This complicates the issue very much, since it suggests that we all must be historians of Napoleon and the USSR before we might discuss the EU. Instead, I prefer a background in political economy, and look at the EU and its future, while I am open for falsifications by historians who suggest parallels in their area of study.

For example, Deirdre McCloskey in her work as economic historian started out from economic theory and the philosophies of ethics and liberty before she discovered the key role of Holland around 1650 in the transformation from the Middle Ages towards the modern world economy. I think that McCloskey is a fine economist and historian, and her discovery of the key role of virtue ethics in this historical process is very convincing – i.e. the change of the social view of the merchant as a robber towards that of admiration and high social status, with the whole social infrastructure of bourgeois society supporting that change of perception. A good historian is always aware that one should not read modern ideas into the past. However, scientific laws are the same over time, and economic processes work the same too.

Incidently, Hubert Smeets, a journalist who has been reporting about Russia and the former USSR over many years, suggested in NRC-Handelsblad last weeks, that Baudet, Kelder & Wellens (from the inititative) would have compared the EU to the former USSR. This is a strong accusation, since the USSR was a totalitarian state. Wellens asked the NRC Ombudsman for a correction. The Ombudsman Sjoerd de Jong gave a fallacious reply. This is my deconstruction (in Dutch) of this affair. Conclusion: Smeets made a false accusation. Baudet’s comparison concerns imperialism which is a different issue, and what Baudet wrote by himself doesn’t have to be supported by Kelder & Wellens. The Dutch Ombudsmen do not work well, see my letter of 2013 to the international organisation of Ombudsmen.

Comparison with Hans van Mierlo and D66 who are pro-EU

In 1966, master of law and journalist Hans van Mierlo (1931-2010) founded the political party D66 (“Democrats ’66”). The “crown jewels” of D66 are: (1) a change from PR to DR, (2) direct elections of mayors and prime minister, and (3) referenda. Thus:

  • Baudet cannot join D66 or their scientific bureau (named after Van Mierlo who didn’t do science) since they are pro-EU and he is anti-EU. But he would be forced to collaborate with D66 a lot because of the shared views on the “crown jewels” (except perhaps DR ?).
  • Scientific analysis of democracy shows that these D66 “crown jewels” actually are less democratic. See my book “Voting theory for democracy“.
  • As far as I know, Hans van Mierlo never studied democracy and its electoral systems. Van Mierlo only was in love with the USA of JFK, and in Holland in the 1960s these ideas sounded new.
  • As far as I know, nobody else in D66 studies democracy. See how they disinform the UK.
  • As far as I know, Baudet never studied democracy and its electoral systems either. I am not aware of a clarification by him why D66 never succeeded w.r.t. its crown jewels. Apparently, Baudet only buys uncritically into the propaganda by D66 as if referenda and direct elections would be more democratic. Curiously, Baudet’s 2012 thesis,The significance of borders. Why representative government and the rule of law requires nation states“, discusses representative democracy and not “democracy” by plebiscite.
  • The Brexit referendum is rather disastrous from the scientific view on democracy, but it requires some study – see here – to cut through the dogma that a referendum is pure democracy by definition.
Legalistic / Popular Scientific
Pro EU and euro Van Mierlo, D66: crown jewels
Anti EU and euro Baudet, FvD: referenda, direct elections, vague on DR vs PR
Pragmatic on EU and euro Me, SvHG: anti-crown jewels

When Van Mierlo deceased in 2010, I honoured him with the pamphlet “Laat D66 zichzelf opheffen” (Let D66 abolish itself). About the dead nothing but good, and the pamphlet was intended as an antidote for his sectarian followers in D66 who might turn him into a saint and martyr of democracy. Observe that I signed this pamphlet under my personal and not scientific name, since it is a personal political opinion that a political party better abolishes itself.

Pamphlet 2010: Let D66 abolish itself

Pamphlet 2010: Let D66 abolish itself

PM. There is also the Dutch LibDem Party (LDP), founded in 2006 by Sammy van Tuyll. They are social liberal like D66, like my suggestion from 1993 of a Social Liberal Forum (SLF). Van Tuyll has a background in medicine, economics and law, and should be able to understand my economic analysis. It is not clear to me why he doesn’t study and discuss it. Van Tuyll and I met in 2007 and I explained about the censorship of science, and it didn’t ring a bell. I can only suppose that when Van Tuyll ever is elected into government then he will continue with the censorship of science by the Dutch government.

Meeting Baudet in 2010

I met Thierry Baudet at a book presentation in 2010, when he was co-editor with Michiel Visser of a collection of essays on conservatism. My comment at the book presentation was that a good starting point would be the natural conservatism in classical liberalism as formulated by J.S. Mill and J.M. Keynes. Of course my background is in economics. The book title suggests the conundrum that conservatism actually is progressive, but the content of the book did not clearly resolve this conundrum. Overall I thought that the book was useful, but did not feel that I should buy the second volume.

I gave Baudet a copy of the book by Hans Hulst & Auke Hulst in collaboration with me (1998) Werkloosheid en armoede, de oplossing die werkt” (W&A) (Unemployment and poverty, the solution that works). In response, Baudet gave me his business card, whence I sent him a note on the next day, April 13 2010, to confirm contact. The card and this link show that Baudet was already active in improving democracy.

Baudet's business card of 2010, referring to Dutch Parliament with 150 representatives

Baudet’s business card of 2010, referring to Dutch Parliament with 150 representatives

My presumption was that Baudet would read W&A, and that there would be a discussion proceeding from there. In some interviews Baudet is portrayed with stacks of books in the background so there is the suggestion that he might read books. However, while I read the book that he and Visser edited, I did not get a reply on W&A and neither on my suggestion to have a further discussion. One possibility is that he was too busy with his 2012 thesis (though W&A is relevant for that topic too). But after completion of the thesis, there still is no sign of interest.

There is my warning from January 2012 to various young Dutch intellectuals who might come across as “Young Turks“, including Baudet, that they should not forget about the need for a solid scientific approach to change of society. I knew that Baudet was a PhD student but not that he would present his thesis in June that year. Perhaps Baudet thought this warning superfluous since he was working on that thesis at that time. Perhaps it is okay to put on blinders for a thesis when finishing it. The very purpose of a thesis however is to teach you the scientific attitude that one should not neglect criticism.

In 2012 I highlighted the issue that now surfaces in the petition again, namely the link between the EU and euro crises to the censorship of science by the directorate of the CPB.

If Baudet and his FvD are so much interested in improving democracy, why are they not interested in my analysis of the failure of Trias Politica, and the need for an extension with a constitutional Economic Supreme Court ? Why doesn’t Baudet write a review of “De ontketende Kiezer” (2003) ? Why this island mentality and burking and elbowing out of views of others ?

Baudet doesn’t inform Kelder & Wellens at

Baudet in 2015 collaborated with master of law and journalist Jort Kelder and management accountant Arno Wellens on the petition that wants an enquiry by Parliament about the creation and future of the euro. See my discussion of in the former weblog entry.

Kelder & Wellens confirm to me that Baudet did not inform them about W&A and this warning of mine of 2012 to the “Young Turks”. If they want Parliament to provide “full information”, then I would hope that they themselves acknowledge that they had a glitch in their own information amongst themselves. They disinformed the 40,000+ people who signed their petition.

Because of Baudet’s neglect since 2010 of key information about economics and censorship of science, there now is this initiative that focuses only on the euro, while the relevant enquiry should be about unemployment, role CPB … and euro. The euro is only a symptom, and an addition to what went wrong already before.


Jort Kelder, Arno Wellens and Thierry Baudet, screenshot 2015-12-14

Council of Recommendation

The format of a Think Tank for Baudet’s FvD allows academics to join up in a council of recommendation, too, which some might find problematic if it were a political party.

Member of the FvD council of recommendation are professors in constitutional law Jos Teunissen and Twan Tak. They should understand my approach that there should be no taxation on minimum earnings. See the short text “Don’t tax sweat“.  Teunissen has this useful text “Vrijheid, gelijkheid en belastingen” (2010) on couples, but it is better to start with individuals, and then see DRGTPE p131-132 on couples. Constitutional lawyers should also understand the failure of the Trias Politica model of democracy and the need for an Economic Supreme Court (per nation).

Seeing the names of Teunissen and Tak causes the hope that they will be able to explain these things to the other members of the council, and that all agree that FvD can be abolished as it has been based upon a wrong analysis, neglect by Baudet and disinformation since 2010.

Here we find Baudet’s thesis advisors Paul Cliteur and Roger Scruton again. Obviously the thesis differs from the mission of FvD and it is a bit remarkable that the supervisors travel along, though the direction of travelling might also have been the other way around (from Euroskeptism towards thesis).

To my surprise I also see: Deirdre McCloskey ! After some search, though, we see that Baudet explains in his cv that he taught “between 2010 and 2011” at Arjo Klamer’s school “Academia Vitae” (though it filed for bankruptcy in February 2010), when Jos de Beus (1952-2013) got ill. McCloskey may have taught at this school too. Arjo Klamer was close to De Beus and gave an impressive presentation at the memorial meeting – see my comments on this. It is important to know that Jos de Beus did not understand Kenneth Arrow’s impossibility theorem for collective decision making. It is important to know that there is a line in economic theory from Jan Tinbergen to his PhD student Hans van den Doel to me, with a floundering branch to political theorist Jos de Beus, who collaborated with Van den Doel. Jos de Beus and I met when I presented Van den Doel with the Samuel van Houten Penning in 1994. We had occasional contact but to no effect.

As an economist, Arjo Klamer could help out by studying my work, but he doesn’t. Klamer however is also in the council of recommendation of FvD. For some reason, economists Klamer and McCloskey prefer Baudet’s non-economic approach in theory of law above my development in economic theory from Jan Tinbergen and Hans van den Doel. If only they studied my analysis and stated why they disagree, but now the world must wonder why they don’t look at it at all. And why would they not understand that they cannot see the full analysis yet, because of the censorship ? Ergo, that this censorship must be lifted ?

A member of the FvD council of recommendation is philosopher Ad Verbrugge. He is founding chairman of “Beter Onderwijs Nederland” (BON) (for “Better Education”). At the website of BON, some mathematicians are slandering about my work on mathematics education. Verbrugge doesn’t do anything about this. There is this letter of 2009 (my website has moved to I have rephrased some questions again this Summer for fellow math teacher Karin den Heijer, now board member of BON, see page 11 here.

The link to mathematics education is important. See my letter to the president of KNAW and directorate of CPB 2016, that explains that maltreatment of my work on mathematics education hinders other people to also see the value of my work in economics.

Member of this council of recommendation is Kees de Lange, emeritus professor in physics and former chair of an association on pensions NPB. De Lange might have looked at my suggestions on mathematics education, see my suggestion on what physicists might do. I am not impressed by De Lange’s understanding of economics. I am not aware of someone in the Dutch world of pensions who warned about the 2007+ crisis. In 2009 I contacted De Lange as chairman of NBP and informed him about the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of CPB. His reply was sympathetic to my feelings, as if that were a relevant issue, and that NBP did not look into economic analyses, and that my approach might only be discussed when shared by more economists (but they didn’t look at analyses anyway). I came away from this with the impression that De Lange was lost, both as a scientist and chairman of NBP. Later in 2010 De Lange helped found a political party 50Plus, he was elected in the Dutch Senate as member of a two-man fraction of OSF 2011-2015, but then continued independently.

PM. At this spot it is useful to mention that Baudet, Wellens and De Lange also perform in video channel “Cafe Weltschmerz“, created by (bachelor in business and marketing) journalist Willem Middelkoop (LinkedIn), who after the 2007+ crisis got rich by telling people to get into gold rather than have a parliamentarian enquiry into unemployment and censorship since 1990 by the directorate of CPB. One of Middelkoop’s books was published by Amsterdam University Press and by standard arrangement adopted by the University of Chicago Press, but it should have been accepted at neither place since there is no link to science. See my discussion of the gold bugs. One supposes that Middelkoop likes it when Baudet, Wellens and De Lange continue to create uncertainty amongst viewers, so that the market for gold as a “safe haven” remains strong. It is a pity, though, that this circus also draws in young people looking for answers, like psychiatrist Esther van Fenema (wiki) and mathematician Anna Grebenchtchikova (LinkedIn) and lawyer Hester Bais. They, with their higher education that should guard them, might be falling in the journalistic trap to look at symptoms rather than causes.

Member of the council of recommendation is Tom Zwart, professor of international and European law, since 2007 director of the Dutch School of Human Rights Research. Perhaps freedom of expression is also a human right of a scientist ? Or is the option to do science no human right ?

Member of the council of recommendation are other economists Edin Mujagic, Bruno de Haas and Daniel Lacalle. Let me invite them to study my work, starting with DRGTPE (before the crisis) and CSBH (after the crisis). Mujagic hasn’t responded yet, though my analysis dates from the fall of the Berlin Wall, that also affected his past. Lacalle is a hedgefund manager and could get very rich if he would start supporting my analysis (supporting the boycott of Holland, explaining to all that it is needed, and speculating on it).

Last but not least there is Theodore Dalrymple, who might be very happy to finally understand why the Dutch welfare state isn’t working as it is supposed to.

Thierry Baudet and Paul Scheffer

At “Cafe Weltschmerz” there is also this (tedious) interview of Paul Scheffer (1954, like me, Angela Merkel and Franςois Hollande) by Baudet on the Dutch referendum on the treaty of the EU with the Ukraine. Scheffer states that he would vote Yes for the treaty. Baudet participated in setting up the referendum, with the objective that people would vote No. It is fine that they can have this civilised talk, though it was so tedious that I quit watching after 10 minutes (though the referendum has already taken place).

Baudet was for one year a post-doc in 2013 with Paul Scheffer who has a chair in European studies in Tilburg. Originally, Scheffer first wrote a popular book on migration and the multicultural society, and then turned this into a thesis for Tilburg. The Leiden professor of social history Leo Lucassen stepped down from the promotion committee in protest that not enough had been done to make it a real thesis.

Scheffer did highschool HBS A, and graduated in political science in 1986. In his student years he joined the Dutch communist party, and later switched to the social democratic PvdA. He was at the Wiardi Beckman Stichting (WBS), the “scientific bureau” of PvdA in 1986-1992.

I was a member of PvdA in 1974-1991. When I was at CPB in 1982-1991 I developed my analysis on unemployment, with the conceptual breakthrough when the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 caused me to look at some fundamentals. My analysis was censored by the directorate. I sent a copy of my 1990 paper to Parliament, so that all parties were informed, and I was free to contact PvdA of which I was a member. I contacted WBS, and I assumed that fellow social democratic scientists would be interested in an analysis on unemployment. To my great surprise and dismay, they were not. See the letter reproduced in “De ontketende kiezer” (2003) p128. See my discussion “Soms loopt het zo” in “Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau” (1994). My contact was with fellow econometrician Paul de Beer. I met Scheffer at a PvdA convention at that time so he was in the know. I met Scheffer again at the memorial service of Jos de Beus. I later discovered that Paul de Beer was an adherent of the idea of a basic income. See my discussion about the sectarian behaviour around basic income.

Director of WBS in 1989-2006 was Paul Kalma. I had had some contacts with earlier director Joop van den Berg (1981-1989), now fellow at the Dutch Montesquieu institute. The idea that there are drawbacks to the Trias Politica structure hasn’t arrived there yet.

When Holland succeeds in having this parliamentarian enquiry on unemployment and the role of the CPB … and the euro … then these events at WBS would be important to look into as well. As said at the beginning, the road from science and scientific discovery into political discussion is often via the channel of a particular party. Politicians of any party are less likely to discuss an idea when there is no party advocating it anyway. Thus it is very relevant to know why social democratic researchers at WBS were and still are not interested in a new approach to unemployment. I will be interested in hearing what has been happening as well. Obviously, Parliament will be hesitant to ask questions, since WBS is protected by the aura of science and by that parties will not easily look into dealings of other parties. But the notion of “scientific bureau” better be taken seriously, and scientists should be familiar with the idea of answering questions. Perhaps Thierry Baudet can already ask Paul Scheffer what his recollections are, and why Scheffer didn’t and still doesn’t do anything about the censorship when he heard about it.

The three Pauls (De Beer, Kalma, Scheffer), in 1991 at WBS (wikimedia commons and website De Beer)

The three Pauls: De Beer, Kalma, Scheffer, who were in 1990-1991 at WBS (wikimedia commons and website De Beer)

It is awkward to state the obvious, but let me do it anyway.

  • This weblog advises to boycott Holland till the censorship of science since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB) has been lifted (see the About page)
  • the censored analysis concerns unemployment and poverty
  • resolution of unemployment and poverty is crucial for resolution of world hunger (unless you want to distribute food for free, which isn’t likely to happen)
  • when I was a highschool student in 1972 and wanted to resolve world hunger, I decided that I better study econometrics rather than archeology
  • when I studied econometrics I decided that unemployment was the key topic, since this affects the basic needs. At that time I also wrote an article (in Dutch) that the New International Economic Order (NIEO) was no basic needs programme. Jan Tinbergen read the article and responded on the phone that I very likely was right on this. There is some rumour in Holland that Tinbergen was an impractical dreamer who tragically pursued unattainables, but see my In Memoriam (in Dutch) for praise of his wisdom and common sense.

Jan_Tinbergen_1982-smallThus this weblog is of key importance for world hunger too. It is almost impossible to make a dent into world hunger when you don’t get the economies up and running, with systems of social welfare that are supportive of full employment.

Jean Ziegler has called attention to the issue in clear words, though he lacks the economic theory that has been hit by censorship by the Dutch CPB directorate. See this article “We let them starve” in The Guardian. I haven’t read his 2013 book but I am convinced that it is depressing reading, especially when you know that the solution is at hand, and blocked by censorship. It is depressing too, to read this report on Ziegler’s flirt with Gadaffi (and then check out the pictures of Gadaffi’s visit to Paris and president Sarkozy in 2007).

zieglerMartin Caparros also takes issue at world hunger. See this article in the New York Times. See this interview at the University of Barcelona. Remarkably, there appears to be no English edition of his book yet, and the German edition of his book costs close to $100. Readers of German may also check out this article in Die Zeit.


There are various organisations worldwide that try to deal with world hunger. However, their approach is bottom up in the Third World, and not targetted at protecting science in the Western World and debunking fallacies by Western governments. They are fighting symptoms and not tackling the causes. Admittedly, someone who is hungry is helped immediately with food, and thus it is difficult to be critical of micro management. However, the leaderships of such organisations should be aware where the real solution would come from.

It is the same in Holland. The Dutch chapter of The Hunger Project interviewed Martin Caparros (in English). Let me quote two questions and answers:

You argue that hunger is the consequence of a system. Capitalism is the culprit. At the same time you say that of all the major problems, hunger is easily fixed. It seems too simplistic: changing the system is not simple, is it?
“That’s a problem. Because what would it mean to solve hunger? Make sure people take in more calories each day? That is easily done. It requires some technical changes, but you can realize those if you invest enough money on for instance roads or agricultural innovations. But the point I am making is that hunger is a metaphor for poverty. You cannot solve hunger if you do not first solve the problem of poverty. And that requires an overhaul of our system.”

How do we do that?
“Well, who knows? Until the 80s and 90s people thought equal welfare and justice could be reached with socialism or communism. By now we know better. I think politics should help us change to a moral economy.”

(Quoted from an interview of Martin Caparros by Leontine Aarnoudse, OneWorld, 2016-02-19)

Morality would help but, but the track record of morality shows its limits. People will be willing to help out, but the economic process must support this. Thus, there is my economic analysis, that however has been censored since 1990 by the directorate of the Dutch CPB.

Obviously, when these Dutch organisations like The Hunger Project do not question the censorship of science by the directorate of the Dutch CPB, then they convey an image as if there would be freedom of thought in Holland, and that the problem indeed cannot be solved except by micro management and global morality. What can one do, to make these blind and deaf Dutch people grow aware of their blindness and deafness ?

I collaborated on a book in Dutch that discussed unemployment and poverty. When Holland has such difficulty to manage its own unemployment and poverty (with its level of education and technology and natural gas resources) then one should be modest about claims for the Third World, unless more can be said along the lines of this censored economic analysis. Not all is in this booklet yet, since there is this censorship. Economic scientists should look at DRGTPE. I did not yet collaborate on a book on world hunger. Is that the reason why the coin does not drop ?



The Hunger Project Nederland apparently was founded in 1980, and they “celebrated” the 35th anniversary in 2015. I find this difficult to square, for how can you celebrate continuation of something that should have ended in 1981 ? The official text reads that they celebrate the progress towards elimination of world hunger, with a new target for “in the next generation”, but this reads as an official excuse. The subject is a minefield, with this “celebration”, Ziegler & Gadaffi, and other such issues. I suppose that it is quite acceptable to have parties, for man is not only an animal but also a party animal, but please avoid the cognitive dissonance created here.


I am no expert on terrorism and wonder whether the supposed experts aren’t either.

Dutch historian and “expert on terrorism” Beatrice de Graaf gave a lecture on Dutch TV on March 11 (or see Utrecht University) about David Rapoport‘s four waves of terrorism (his original article).

Her main message was that people might find some comfort in the idea that waves die out. March 22 saw the bombs in Brussels.

This theory of four waves of terrorism appears to be rather silly. Below gives my common sense rejection.

De Graaf is not the only academic who regards the theory of the four waves as serious. The West is vulnerable to terrorism when its “experts on terrorism” are academics lost in theory. It is okay to sooth people not to worry too much, but intellectuals should present effective approaches rather than fairy tales.

The so-called “four waves”

Jeffrey Kaplan summarizes (and then proceeds in adding his own fifth wave) (while Dutch readers can check Edwin Ruis’s review of March 13):

“Rapoport’s theory, first published on the web before finally finding a home in a printed anthology, posited four distinct waves of modern terrorism (anarchist, nationalist, 1960s leftist, and the current religious wave). Each wave had a precipitating event, lasted about 40 years before receding, and, with some overlap, faded as another wave rose to take center stage. Most terrorist groups would gradually disappear, a few (the Irish Republican Army for example) proved more durable. Rapoport’s theory was elegant, simple, inclusive, and had a high degree of explanatory power. In short, it provides a good academic model.” (Kaplan 2008).

Jeffrey D. Simon holds (and wonders about a fifth wave too):

“David Rapoport’s “The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism” is one of the most important pieces ever written in the vast literature on terrorism (Rapoport 2004).  What Rapoport did in his classic study was take the complex phenomenon of terrorism and put it in a historical context that not only explained different periods of international terrorism, but also set forth theories and concepts that can be used to attempt to anticipate the future of terrorism.  That is no easy task.  There haven’t been many assessments and articles written about Rapoprt’s “Four Waves” theory, although this volume of papers initiates a discourse about his important thesis (See Thompson and Rasler, this volume).  Despite the numbers of scholars, policymakers, and others who have joined the field of terrorism studies after the 9/11 attacks, there does not appear to be a great deal of interest in the history of terrorism.  In today’s instant access and information-overload society, we are inundated with analyses of current affairs but pay scant attention to what we may learn from what has transpired in the past.” (J.D. Simon on the Lone Wolf, likely 2010)

I googled to find some criticism, but didn’t see much, though perhaps I didn’t google well. I noticed a critical text by Ericka Durgahee. I didn’t have time to look into this, and the following are my own common sense short remarks.

The anarchists 1880-1920

The dynasties of Hohenzollern, Romanov and Habsburg collapsed. Perhaps the anarchists didn’t really win because we don’t have anarchy now, but those anarchists were replaced by communists and fascists, and we ended up with two world wars, which isn’t quite “die out”.

Anti-colonialism 1920-1960

The anti-colonialists won. Winning isn’t quite “die out”.

Leftists 1960-1989

Leftism became impopular because of the Great Stagflation (unfavourable unemployment and inflation) and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Young radicals were more motivated by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

In Germany, the police managed to isolate the Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF). In another article, Beatrice de Graaf explains how the Dutch radicals (Rode Jeugd, Krakersbeweging) lost their motivation by incompetence of the Dutch police. The Dutch police intended to adopt the tough German approach, but mismanaged this, and both radicals and the general population got the impression of an atmosphere of tolerance and dialogue. In that atmosphere, potential supporters saw no need for radicalisation, and radicals had the example of the dead-end street in Germany.

These events rather concern the transformation of European society after World War 2. There are pockets of terrorism, but there doesn’t seem much difference between RAF and other groups like IRA and ETA: except that each group requires specific attention for its idiosyncracies.

Religious terrorism 1979-now

Religious violence is of all times. There is no reason to predict that it will pass. This is no wave.

Alternative approach

Terrorists tend to be higher educated who are frustrated w.r.t. opportunities in society. They may feel sympathy with the unprivileged. They may adopt any ideology to recruit others in the resistance against the establishment. To counter this, one must look at society as a whole, create fair opportunity, and encourage people to participate. My own work contains aspects that are key to reduce terrorism.

  • Create a social welfare state that works. See DRGTPE.
  • Make democracy work. See VTFD.
  • Provide for good education, e.g. re-engineer mathematics. See EWS.
  • Let people learn how to deal with the human capacity for abstraction. See SMOJ.
Beatrice de Graaf, soothing Dutch viewers that a wave dies out

Beatrice de Graaf, soothing Dutch viewers that a wave of terrorism dies out


ALLEA is All European Academies of Science – including the humanities. Together with the European Science Foundation they defined and maintain the European Code of Conduct of Research Integrity (2011).

The first observation is: there might be a subtle distinction between scientific integrity and research integrity.

For, we are in the realm of law and litigation now. ALLEA & ESF employ and represent hundreds of universities and research institutes, and one of their key issues is reputation. Parliaments will not want to squander taxpayer money on dubious institutes. Given the often abstract nature of scientific output, one of the main substitute criteria is trust. In other words: the boat should not be rocked. One of the pillars for public trust is the wise use of law. Scientists might claim that trust can be built upon science, but the lawyers employing them will explain that science itself on occasion can rock the boat – like saying that the Earth isn’t flat – so the legal pillar is sturdiest.

The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity

The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2011)

How ALLEA / ESF see the world

ALLEA / ESF (page 10) distinguish ethics relating to the external world (say, when you work on an atomic bomb) and ethics internal to the scientific process (say, you discover plagiarism w.r.t. that work for an atomic bomb). For the latter they use the notion of the scientific record. When you deal with that scientific record then there is research. ALLEA are like librarians maintaining an archive: when that archive is tainted, then there is a breach of internal reseach integrity. They state:

“There is, of course, no perfect watershed between the two categories. (…) but in the light of a discussion on a Code of Conduct the distinction may be clarifying.” (page 6) (my emphasis)

The weblog will hold that the distinction cannot be clarifying when the borders are vague. The “may be” is unwarranted, since the vague distinction can only be confusing. It is demagoguery to require a “perfect” watershed. We only require a distinction that works. Conclusion: ALLEA is on a wrong track.

Let us follow their track to see where it leads. Let us suppose that a scientist is busy 90% of the time with unavoidables like reading up, refereeing, meetings and conventions, email, discussions with research colleagues, writing research proposals or judging them, and 10% with writing and editing own research papers. ALLEA uses the term “research integrity” that deals with the supposed scientific record, and thus focuses on this 10%. Nobody will argue that this 10% is unimportant but focusing on it neglects an important part of scientific activity. A scientist might be a bully in discussions with colleagues but when the research papers are okay then ALLEA will legally support him on the issue of ‘research integrity’.

Subsequently, ALLEA formulates a code of conduct for this narrowed-down ‘research integrity’. The positive elements can be listed but are not so interesting legally. Few people would sue a professor for doing the proper things, though it might be an issue in some countries. Legally interesting is only the misconduct.

Subsequently ALLEA uses its magic wand and narrows this ‘research misconduct’ down to five issues (page 6). PM. My background on this issue is methodology, and in that field the term “falsification” is opposite to “confirmation”, which issue refers to Popper’s criterion of falsifiability. It is very strange to see the term “falsification” used in the sense below. The ALLEA / ESF paper wasn’t written by people coming from a background in methodology. My suggestion is that “manipulation” is a better term.

ALLEA / ESF code page 6

European Code, page 6

Nicole Janz (2015) wonders whether these categories aren’t too simple. She presents the following diagram by Rene Custers. ALLEA / ESF leave out the Questionable Research Practices. 

Slide1-data-secrecyBut this still is a weak criticism. In supplement to Janz and Custers, I can remark in stronger criticism of ALLEA.

  • A major case of misconduct is to assume authority in a field when you don’t have it. Check Linus Pauling and high doses of vitamin C. When this isn’t seen as misconduct then scientific institutes cannot be blamed when their employees step out of line.
  • ALLEA’s reference to whistleblowers may be incorrect. Whistleblowing applies to non-scientific employees who normally would remain silent. A scientist however has to speak, and the employer might try to enforce silence: which is censorship.
  • There is this case in which a “book review” is abused for misrepresentation and slander. When a scientist should give a fair evaluation when refereeing an article for a journal, then this should also hold for a book review that is published directly. A book review allows more freedom of judgement, but misrepresentation and slander don’t belong to that. However, commissions of integrity at TU Delft and KNAW / LOWI allowed this to happen – see here.

This Dutch LOWI is called in Dutch “Landelijk Orgaan Wetenschappelijke Integriteit”. This name is fishy and comes with the continuous need to explain that they do something else than looking into scientific integrity:

  • Google Translate of LOWI gives “National Board for Scientific Integrity” – and in this case I agree. You would expect that they do this. But they don’t.
  • LOWI itself has an English webpage, giving “The Netherlands Board on Research Integrity” – which plays into the distinction between “science” and “research”. In English they already better specify what they are doing, once you have grasped the language game that they are playing.
  • My suggestion is that they should call themselves “Dutch Office for Specifically Identified Breaches of Scientific Integrity”, since they only look into three breaches (fabrication, manipulation, plagriarism) at only some institutes (e.g. not at national planning bureaus). This proper name clarifies that there is still a lot to be done. This issue of a name is not just the choice between “Tom” and “Harry”: we are discussing the title of a book.

ALLEA has been neglecting the protection of individual scientists (who meet with censorship) and has been focusing on protecting the Institutes: (a) to generate the legal environment to resolve obvious cases of fabrication, manipulation and plagiarism that cause public worry, (b) by allowing institutes to censor criticism by employees, (c) by neglecting breaches that would cause a stir if they were tackled.

This weblog found these cases of assumed authority:

  1. Research mathematicians (RM) can claim authority in the field of mathematics education (ME) while they have no training for it. An old case in Holland is Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990), a recent case in Holland is Jan van de Craats. The ALLEA rules might maintain that Van de Craats didn’t do anything wrong in his field of research mathematics (RM). The problem however is that he embarked upon another field that he has no training for, namely the didactics of mathematics in primary education. ALLEA might dismiss it as a “context in which research takes place”. ALLEA then makes a deliberate choice to neglect serious breaches of science. (It so happens that Van de Craats wrote a paper for such a journal Tijdschrift voor Orthopedagogiek 2009, and one might say that this article isn’t properly researched as it should have been. See namely here, of which I informed him in 2008 (but I have no license for primary education either). But the real breach is that Van de Craats has been presenting his assumed authority all over, e.g. to Parliament where representatives might think that a professor of mathematics would know about these issues.)
  2. Another case is Klaas van Egmond, in this presentation for Dutch Parliament. He introduces himself as an “environmental scientist” (“milieukundige”) and then proceeds with discussing monetary and financial economics. Listeners might think that economics is included in “environmental science”. Thus he should have said: “I am no economist” – whence everyone would have been alerted to the question why his personal confusions on money and banking would be so important to inform Parliament about.
Robert Merton (1910-2003) and Adriaan de Groot (1914-2006)

Thus ALLEA / ESF are off-track on scientific integrity. What would be the proper track ?

The ALLEA / ESF code page10 refers to Robert Merton (1973), The sociology of science: theoretical and empirical investigations. I would prefer to also refer to Adriaan de Groot (1982) Academie en Forum, with his development of Forum Theory. See these two links on this weblog: one and two.

The key point is this:

  • ALLEA / ESF are on the wrong track since they define cases of misconduct as exceptions while they are rather extremes of common practice.
  • Thus, the key approach is to improve the Forum. When the Forum works well, the extremes are prevented (caught in the early stages of development). This will happen for a wider range than the few selected by ALLEA / ESF – and litigation would be reduced. Protection of the individual scientist against abuse within the Forum should allow the individual to function better in the Forum.

Intermezzo December 29 2015
(1) It appears that Vittorio Busato developed basically the same view, though not explicitly linking to the ALLEA code.
(2) For Dutch readers, there is A.D. de Groot & H. Visser (2003), Het forumwaarmerk van wetenschap, at KNAW
(3) For English readers, there is only A.D. de Groot (1984), The theory of the science forum: subject and purport.
Methodology and Science, 17, 230-259, which journal ISSN 0543-6095 was published in 1968-1995 (J.H. Kok, Kampen).

When research papers and books disappear behind (publisher) pay walls, then this reduces the possibility of criticism. Instead, open source publishing should be the norm, peer review can take place after publication, and criticism can be used to determine ratings. That the scientific community is so slow in changing from closed shop publication to open source publication, can be explained by the distaste for criticism.

Some researchers plea for open source publication, and a recent proposal by Arjen van Witteloostuijn is to restore Popper’s pride of place: “Change the way we conduct, report and publish our research” with a manifesto. However, the simple notion would be that the university or its library would provide for the publication outlet. The employer is also the publisher. There is really no need to set up new publishers. What is needed is to develop the Forum. (Read De Groot’s texts on this.)

PM. Incidently, Van Witteloostuijn’s embrace of Popper may be ill-advised. See here for Popper’s oversight. See here how Tilburg University (where Van Witteloostuijn is employed) sacked in indecent manner a fine expert in methodology of science, Bert Hamminga.

Pieter Drenth (1935), president of KNAW 1990-1996, president of ALLEA 2000-2006

How could it have happened, that ALLEA / ESF got off-track on scientific integrity ?

The ALLEA / ESF code came about by inspiration by Pieter Drenth (1935) (now 80 years of age), president of ALLEA 2000-2006, and former president of Dutch KNAW 1990-1996. ALLEA / ESF explain this on page 19, where they speak about “scientific and research integrity” which elsewhere is narrowed down.

European Code, page 19

European Code, page 19

Quite to my surprise, Pieter Drenth appears to be a psychologist, interested in experiments and testing, and appears to be acquainted with Adriaan de Groot (1914-2006), whom we have been discussing in two recent weblog entries.

Drenth’s interest in good science is obvious. In this “digital memory” interview from 2014 (in Dutch) he explains that he rejected pseudo-science like graphology, and instead relied on statistics and testing. In minute 19 we see reference to Adriaan de Groot and Otto Selz, whom we mentioned too.

Interview with Pieter Drenth (1935) in 2014 (screenshot)

Interview with Pieter Drenth (1935) in 2014 (screenshot)

This is Drenth’s book on testing theory, 4th edition. We observed that psychometricians in Holland have been testing arithmetic skills at elementary schools while neglecting to study the relevant field of science, namely didactics of mathematics. I have not checked how Drenth’s book deals with validity, perhaps it can never be clear enough.

Quite to my regret, Drenth was president of KNAW in 1990-1996, when I sent KNAW these letters (in Dutch) about the breach of integrity of science by the directorate of the Dutch Central Planning Bureau (CPB), i.e. the reason why this weblog advises to a boycott of Holland till the issue is resolved.

The letters are addressed to the board of KNAW. This would include its president Drenth. Reply came from director Moen. (A contact-person has also been Dirk de Hen, now webmaster at ENRIO: European Network of Research Integrity Officers.) (For these letters, see here under “KNAW”.)

Back then, I only had digital copies of my own letters, and it wasn’t yet so easy to scan the hardcopy replies. I haven’t found the time for this scanning and wonder about the use of it. The reply generally states: that KNAW does not see itself as an involved party, within a juridical issue between an employer (CPB) and an employee (me).

[Update 2015-12-07: Drenth informs me that he has no recollection of having seen these letters or issue, and that he presumes that director Moen has dealt with them administratively according to established procedure: which he was responsible for in 1990-1996 and which he still agrees with.]

  • This KNAW reply fully misses the notion that the CPB directorate abuses employment law to enforce this breach in scientific integrity.
  • This KNAW reply doesn’t explicitly state that KNAW deals with the universities and not with institutes like CPB at the central government. However, KNAW could have taken a lead role in giving advice to the government and the judges, even unasked for, about what matters in cases of integrity of science. Thus Drenth was at an ALLEA conference in 1996 speaking about “freedom and responsibility” but he wasn’t in the courtroom explaining to judges that putting me in a separate room and blocking discussion of my papers isn’t exactly freedom of scientific research.
  • [Update 2015-12-07: That Drenth says that he didn’t see these letters doesn’t change his responsibility for the policy of neglect, and thus there is no reason to change the observation of 2015-11-26:] Drenth’s dismal hypocrisy may have set the example for later KNAW presidents like Robbert Dijkgraaf (now at IAS, Princeton).
  • This KNAW reply in 1992-1995 doesn’t specify whether the board has asked for informal advice from economists, e.g. the fellows at KNAW itself. Drenth at VU might have asked VU professor of economics F.A.G. den Butter. Den Butter happened to be involved in a wrong manner, see here 1991 and here 2013. There is no information about such potential contacts. But it seems rather clear that Den Butter didn’t ask KNAW to get involved and protect the integrity of science.

Thus, unfortunately:

  • Drenth’s presidency of KNAW 1990-1996 and of ALLEA 2000-2006 was a failure and no success.
  • Drenth’s international prestige as a defender of scientific integrity makes it very difficult for me to explain to the rest of the world that there is such a case in Holland and that Drenth has been neglecting it. Strong points in my argument are: (1) The ALLEA code of conduct is deficient in both logic and understanding of scientific integrity, (2) It isn’t so difficult (psychometrically) to test that there is censorship of science by the directorate of CPB: see here and here (in Dutch).

PM 1. It isn’t known whether the situation in other countries w.r.t. integrity of science was so dismal that Drenth caused an improvement anyhow. PM 2. It isn’t known either whether other countries were hesitant to join in. The approach to limit “research misconduct” to only some categories may have pushed the wrong buttons to persuade others.

Update 2015-12-07: Drenth’s reaction allows to reformulate the following aspects more clearly.

I am trying to understand what is happening. How can someone with an interest in science neglect this censorship ? Watchers of the video who wonder about this question too are advised to pay attention to the following aspects.

(i) When asked to become secretary at KNAW, Drenth says that it is a body that doesn’t fight for a single university but

“for science for the whole of The Netherlands, you may say”.
(Dutch text (minute 55): “Het leek mij toch ook wel weer aardig om de KNAW [te doen], dat is een geheel nieuw orgaan [voor mij] waarin je niet vecht voor één universiteit maar voor de wetenschap van heel Nederland, zeg maar.”)

Indeed, when there is censorship of science in Holland then one would expect to hear a protest by KNAW. But there wasn’t. This weblog text substitutes “President KNAW 1990-1996” with “Pieter Drenth”. There is no objective to evaluate professor Drenth’s scientific career and achievements, but only to clarify that there is dismal hypocrisy w.r.t. the censorship of science by the CPB directorate. It is important to make the substitution, because Drenth proceeded as president ALLEA 2000-2006 and has become an icon of scientific integrity: which is a huge misconception.

(ii) The interview shows Pieter Drenth as someone who always worked hard and didn’t have to apply for jobs since others asked him whether he would like a job, do a Ph. D., become professor, dean, rector magnificus, president. (iii) He always worked in the tailwind of the mainstream developments in psychological testing. (iv) His knowledge of mathematics is likely to be at what is now a bachelor level, but it would still have gained the admiration of those around him who didn’t have this, and he has been at risk of some vanity. (v) His “conflict” with the “powerful” graphologists was quite a sensation for him since it seemed “huge” but the facts are a bit different – see below. (i) – (v) For him it might be conceptually difficult to understand what it is, when a directorate turns against science, abuses its power, and censors science.

Ad (iii): Judgement about tailwind or headwind requires knowledge of the history of psychology as a science in Holland. I do not have that knowledge. My intention is only to alert viewers to the issue. My own impression is that there is a tailwind. I am responding largely to this video itself. The career itself is indicative too. I consider it a tailwind when Snijders and De Groot ask him to write a book on Test Theory, since this meant from the beginning a support from two key figures. (At minute 41 in the video there is talk about translating APA rules, that causes Drenth to remark that there is a greater need for an introductory book, and then they ask why he doesn’t write it himself. It is not clear why they didn’t use an American book, or translate it, though English was already the language of science.)

Ad (iv): I have done no magic test at distance of Drenth’s math skills in past or present. I just warn viewers of the video: when the video speaks about mathematical skills, surpassing those of his contemporary fellow students in psychology around 1945, then viewers should be critical about what that level actually was, and that it might suffice to be at the level of a current bachelor. I never saw the book “Testtheorie”. It is intended as an introduction. It is used e.g. in the 2nd year of pedagogy at RUG.  It might be a valuable book for bachelor students. I am not judging professor Drenth’s mathematical skills by this book, and neither of co-author prof. dr. K. Sijtsma (currently dean in Tilburg). Authors of books for bachelors tend to have more knowledge of the field than bachelors, and for mathematics this might now be professor Sijtsma.

I didn’t say that Drenth is vain but at risk of vanity. In the video interview at minute 43 he states with a smile that students liked new editions of his textbook on Test Theory less when there appeared more formulas in them: why would this be a cause for smiling ? My effort as a teacher of mathematics is that students should be comfortable with formulas. (This very weblog text alerted Drenth to the problem that research mathematicians (RM) pontificate on mathematics education research (MER) that they are not qualified for. His reaction is that this is annoying but he doesn’t hold this to be a breach of ALLEA research integrity. Again we see the difference between a focus on so-called “research integrity” and proper scientific integrity.)

Ad (v) In the video he dates his “crusade against graphology” in 1968-69, but he informs me that it was in 1963. Originally I stated: “the graphologists were already losing from international science and its computers”. We can subtract 5 years from this statement. In 1963, we are still speaking 18 years after the end of World War 2. There had been quite some technological development, see this other video on the invention of “time sharing“. Yes, graphology was still “important” in Human Resources Departments around 1963 but a check shows that A.D. de Groot did some critical tests in 1947 and that the approach was stopped by the thesis by Abraham Jansen (1963), “Toetsing van grafologische uitspraken: een experimentele studie”, written under supervision by A.D. de Groot. (Skepsis, interview De Groot 2004 page 19 second column). There is also a report of a working group in that year, that likely relates to this thesis. I think that Drenth has had tailwind.

Video minutes 43:30-45:00 gives his assumption that his own “crusade” against graphology helped in eradicating the approach. He states that his crusade started by three large articles by graphologist Wolters in “NRC-Handelsblad” (though this newspaper came about only by a merger in 1970), with his reply in three large articles. He “got later support from the thesis by Jansen”. Everyone who stops for a moment of critical consideration should agree that it was rather De Groot in 1947 who started this, and that the scientific evidence given by the thesis by Jansen would have weighed more than the three newspaper articles by Drenth, or his later public discussion with Wittenberg, chair of the association of graphologists.

Remember that this is not a discussion about graphology. It is a discussion on Pieter Drenth not admitting: “I was deluded and didn’t do anything about the censorship of science by the CPB-directorate since 1990 while KNAW should have done so. Let me inform the current president of KNAW that they don’t make the same mistake now.”

Cover of the 1973 English translation of Jansen 1963

Cover of the 1973 English translation of Jansen 1963

Addendum 2015-12-16

Professor Drenth replied to the above on December 2, which gave me the opportunity to enhance clarity (see the edits). I gave him bilaterally my draft response to other points that still caused questions, so that he could rephrase a final reply. Drenth rejects a change in his reply. Thus here is the additional memo:

Why ALLEA doesn’t see censorship of science in Holland
Appendix A: reply by Drenth, Appendix B: email exchange

Drenth rejects the idea that he misjudged the censorship of science in Holland. Drenth doesn’t focus on the suggestion of reviving Forum Theory (A.D. de Groot). He states explicitly that he regards the final section of this weblog text as a personal attack. My response is that this latter statement is a breach of scientific integrity. Denouncing the critique as a personal attack may cause other people to neglect the criticism. There is no personal attack. There is objective reason to discuss the role of Drenth as president KNAW and ALLEA, with his preference for the legal approach and my preference for the scientific approach. One wishes to understand where his policy preference comes from. The video that I found is not helpful, since it is not critical, and thus there are ample reasons to warn viewers about points to be critical about. It is still a mystery why Drenth, who claims to defend science, doesn’t do so in the cases that I mention: CPB and education of mathematics.

Listening to Theodorakis & Ritsos: Lianotragouda

There is a General Theory of Knowledge (GTOK) implicit in former weblog entries. It can better be made explicit. Let me first draw the diagram and then discuss it. Relevant weblogs are:

A General Theory of Knowledge (GTOK)

A General Theory of Knowledge (GTOK)

The diagram with above weblog entries is rather self-explanatory.

  • What I may need to explain as an author is how this relates to my own work.
  • A nice introduction to epistemology, at the level of the international baccalaureate (IB) programme is the book by Richard van de Lagemaat (CUP, now a new 2015 edition).
  • A general principle is that philosophy should use mathematics education as its empirical field of reference. When philosophy hangs in the air then it is at risk of getting lost. The education of mathematics has adequate challenge for dealing with abstract notions.

Some main steps in the diagram are:

  1. Jean Piaget introduced stages of development. Epistemology tends to focus on the last stage, with a fully developed rational being who wonders what can be known and how this can be achieved. It makes sense to distinguish stages in such questions however. Pierre van Hiele removed Piaget’s dependence of stages upon age, and turned the issue into a logical framework for epistemology. With the Definition & Reality methodology this framework is also empirically relevant. This is also very useful for the link of philosophy to education. See Pierre van Hiele and epistemology.
  2. Karl Popper turned Otto Selz’s methodology for psychology into a philosophy of science in general. This uses falsifiability as a demarcation between science and non-science. Since the Anglo-saxon world tends to distinguish science and the humanities (humaniora), the general term “theory of knowledge” (epistemology) will do.
  3. Selz inspired Adriaan de Groot to create his experiments with chess masters. Later De Groot continued in methodology, and it seems that he is the one who introduced the empirical cycle. His book Methodologie ends in depressing awareness that science cannot establish truth as in mathematics. Thus De Groot advances the uplifting Forum Theory, that focuses on the rules of conduct within the scientific community. While we may not discover the real truth we still can ask why we should trust these guys and gals.
  4. De Groot and Van Hiele were also inspired by their UvA math teacher Gerrit Mannoury (1867–1956). See this project about Mannoury and significa.
  5. The dashed arrow from Van Hiele to De Groot is the unfortunate failed transfer of the theory of levels of insight. De Groot refers to the thesis but missed this notion, see this discussion.
  6. My book A Logic of Exceptions (ALOE) (1981, 2007, 2011) is already deep into methodology. ALOE looks into the logical paradoxes and suggests that empirical sense may help to get rid of mathematical nonsense. There is a distinction between Gödel’s theorems and the interpretation that he gave to them. For the issue of volition, determinism and chance there is no experiment that allows to distinguish what is empirically the case. (I haven’t yet looked at the interpretation of the recent experiment with Bell’s equation at TU Delft, see the websites by Ronald Hanson and Richard Gill.)
  7. The abbreviation DRGTPE stands for the book Definition & Reality in the General Theory of Political Economy. This 2000, 2005, 2011 book had a precursor already called Background Papers to DRGTPE that collected papers from 1989-1992. This essentially gave the framework for political economy, in both mathematical model and empirical methodology. The 1994 book Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau (TP & CPB) (in Dutch) referred to De Groot’s Forum Theory to clinch the argument for an Economic Supreme Court (ESC). Subsequently, DRGTPE 2000 contains a constitutional amendment how the ESC should satisfy such Forum rules.
  8. The news in November 2015 is that I have grown more aware of the importance of Forum Theory for the selection of definitions for applications. This element is implicit in the earlier development but it is useful to state it explicitly, given the importance of the role of definitions. Research groups might be characterised by the definitions that they select. It can depend upon the quality of the rules how flexible research groups are with experiments and adverse information.

Thus, to restate in text what is depicted in the last box in the diagram: This 2015 GTOK has the standard logic (with ALOE), methodology (with Forum Theory), and epistemology, and has more awareness of:

  • levels of insight or understanding
  • Definition & Reality methodology
  • Forum Theory is especially required for the application of definitions.

Some applications of this GTOK are:

(1) My forecast in 1990 (CPB memo 90-III-38) was that unemployment would continue to be high unless Parliament would redesign both the structure of policy making and some policies and markets. I repeated this forecast in 1992, 1994, 2000 extending with other risks like on environment and financial markets, and the condition of the Economic Supreme Court. In the period 1990-2007 Holland seemed to have a lower level of unemployment, which might be a cause for people not paying attention to the analysis. This lower level wasn’t achieved by better policies but by welfare payments (financed by natural gas) and by exporting unemployment by means of maintaining low wages (beggar thy neighbour). The 2007+ crisis and return to higher unemployment confirms my analysis. Though a major element relies on definitions, the forecast as a whole still was falsifiable. Of course the forecast was vague, and not specified with the year 2007, but we are dealing with structure. This also explains why I emphasize that Dirk Bezemer misinforms Sweden and Dutch Parliament: because he keeps silent about the theoretical confirmation given by the empirical experiment of 1990-2007.

(2) The scheme allows us to deal with the confusions by Stellan Ohlsson (abstract to concrete) and Ben Wilbrink (Van Hiele’s theory of levels wouldn’t be empirical).

(3) The scheme allows us to deal with the problem of universals. Van Hiele “demonstrated” the general applicability of the theory of levels by using the example of geometry. (And geometry uses demonstration as a method of proof too.) He mentioned that the theory had general applicability and mentioned chemistry and didactics as other examples, without working out those examples. Freudenthal neglected Van Hiele’s general claim, put him into the box of “geometry only”, and claimed that he, Freudenthal himself, had shown the applicability to mathematics in general. (See here.) Of course, Freudenthal also had the problem that a universal proof is impossible, since you would need to check each field of knowledge. However, now with the definition  reality methodology, we can take the levels of insight as a matter of definition. Like the law of conservation of energy defines what we regard as “energy”. The problem shifts to application. For this, there is Forum theory.

Listening to Poulopoulos, O Dromos


While Europe is busy with refugee immigrants, I take a leave, since I already discussed this two years ago: Europe’s bloody border. Some people accuse this weblog of not looking at the real issues but these people don’t boycott Holland and thus are in serious need of a reality check.

Instead, my thoughts and warm feelings go out to Adriaan de Groot (1914-2006), because his work has always been relevant to me, and comes out top again. He is five years younger than Pierre van Hiele (1909-2010) and like him also studied mathematics with Gerrit Mannoury (1867-1956). De Groot got a bachelor in mathematics, switched to psychology with an MA in 1941, and got his 1946  PhD in mathematics & physics, with supervisor psychologist Geza Revesz who remarkably worked at that department. This study is: Thought and choice in chess (online). Original Dutch: Het denken van den schaker (online).

NB. Mannoury was early into semiotics, and found that “the meaning of a word is its use” quite early before Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) did. For example, immigrant has a different use than future compatriot. Hopefully one day I can say more on Mannoury.

The spelling checker alerts us to problems in this Abstract by Amsterdam University Press. There is also a distinction between a chess master and the computer game chessmaster. But it is great that the English translation is online.

“What does a chessmaster think when he prepartes [sic] his next move? How are his thoughts organized? Which methods and strategies does he use by solving his problem of choice? To answer these questions, the author did an experimental study in 1938, to which famous chessmasters participated (Alekhine, Max Euwe and Flohr). This book is still usefull [sic] for everybody who studies cognition and artificial intelligence.” (Abstract)

A.D. de Groot (1914-2006) (Wikimedia Commons)

A.D. de Groot (1914-2006) (Wikimedia)

Chess and its levels of competence

I will copy much from the obituary, by Fernand Gobet, ICGA journal 240 (?), 2006, p236-243 (?).

“De Groot’s thesis did not, however, attract the interest of chess players only; it was a harbinger of the cognitive revolution in psychology that would occur in the early sixties.Because of its strong impact on cognitive psychology, and because of the breadth of the study, de Groot’s thesis can safely be considered a classic in the field.” (Gobet p36)

Indeed, Gerald Goldin reminded us of the strong influence of behaviorism in the USA, for us: on testing students – see here. The book by De Groot helped the turn to cognitive psychology.

Fernand Gobet p239-240 summarizes the findings by De Groot (1946) and it has been input for Van Hiele (1957).

“De Groot proposed also that a player’s thinking process may be divided into four main phases: orientation, exploration, investigation, and proof. In the orientation phase, players collect relevant information and try to form a first (tentative) judgment of the position. During the exploration phase, sample variations are analysed, and, typically, the number of critical moves or plans is reduced to two. The two candidate moves are analysed in great detail during the investigation phase, which is characterised by a more in-depth search than during the exploration phase. Players strive to validate their favourite move (or plan). Note that most of the argumentation used by chess players consists of convincing themselves that one of the two variations is better than the other. Finally, the proof phase is used to recapitulate the information obtained in the analysis and to check the correctness of the argumentation. De Groot described also several chess methods used by players to reach their solution. These methods include strategic and tactical plans, ideas, and goals. Note that while they differentiate well between strong and weak players, all these methods are tied to the domain of chess. The higher-level thought and choice methods, which organise the structure of the protocol, did not differ between players of various skills.”

I don’t want to go into chess now. Some meta-comments are relevant:

  • Personally, I found it quite surprising that the Georg Rasch model (on competence in reading by Danish children) was mathematically the same as the Arpad Elo rating for chess players: Item Response Theory. It is included in my book Voting Theory for Democracy.
  • Main idea: When you are not challenged enough then you get bored, when the challenge is larger than your competence then you get stressed, and when challenge and competence match then you get flow.
  • This is also a model for competition between theories or academic papers. Currently editors select the articles of a journal – or manage the selection of those. Alternatively, researchers just put their article online. Subsequently the process of Elo rating starts. The main question is how to define the rules of the game. Facebook does it with “likes”. But this is too coarse.

One of the sickest comments in science is to say about an article: “Get it published in a peer-reviewed journal, and then I will look at it.” It is illogical and perverse, and a frequently abused lame excuse for not looking into criticism. When a scientists looks at the article directly, then this is peer-review on the spot. Not looking at it, is shifting the effort to others. For example, when you contact a scientist to report an inconsistency in his or her thesis: then this scientist should look into it, and the reply should not be: “Get …. it.”

There are also other players who discovered that it pays not to stick to the rules. See my game of chess with Vladimir Putin, and the performance of Garry Kasparov on Dutch TV. Surprisingly, in Gobet’s Obituary on page 241  we find the game of chess of 3000 BC that we discussed yesterday, and in this publication Kasparov apparently succeeded in replacing the Egyptian pieces by Staunton pieces. It still isn’t clear yet who must move. The ancient Egyptian or Putin rule is that there are no moves: just proceed at will.

De Groot Obituary, by Fernand Gobet, p241

De Groot Obituary, by Fernand Gobet 2006, p241

In retirement: Forum theory

From onset to retirement is a great leap, but it shows De Groot’s most important contribution. This is the Forum theory. Gobet summarizes:

“During his retirement, de Groot spent much of his energy on philosophical questions, most of them related to psychology. A first theme is related to the notion of truth in science. The Forum Theory , which he had been developing over thirty years, insists on the idea that science is a communal activity directed towards rational consensus. As there is no absolute truth in science, all that scientists can do is to strive for truth, that is, to strive for theories having the highest possible level of certainty. This criterion is met in the case of statements that are unanimously endorsed by all pertinent scientific experts. Such statements then are scientifically true to the best of our present knowledge. Neither are the rules for the correct way of conducting science unchangeable or indisputable. These, too, are to be discussed, and agreed upon in what de Groot calls the forum of expert opinion. A second important theme in de Groot’s reflections was a conception of unifying psychology, a field that is now split into innumerable schools. His approach to this gigantic task was to strive for agreements on the definitions of basic concepts in scientific psychology. De Groot conceded that the task of bridging methodological and terminological differences between schools will not promise any early success. However, connectibility of terminology and method is a necessary requirement for any mature scientific discipline, he argued. Working on it is a must.” (Fernand Gobet, p238)

The key book is De Groot (1982), Academie en Forum, as far as I know not translated into English. The book is great and has for example these elements:

  • Forum continues where his other book Methodologie (1961) ends (see below). Methodologie already contains the Forum (capitalized) but still ends somewhat depressing: exact results like in mathematics cannot really be gotten. The further development of Forum Theory is a positive idea, and uplifting.
  • It indeed also contains the suggestion to look into Elo-rating of research (-ers).
  • Academia discusses education research, design of structure and curriculum, selection processes for higher education (equal input of time versus equal output of quality), innovation (at that time). Design of new topics for education should be accompanied by description how those are going to be tested.
  • It rejects the triad knowledge, skill and attitude, with the argument that it is rather difficult to operationalise and test attitude; and replaces this with another scheme.
  • It highlights the sectarian character of Holland. Two persons are a church; a third causes a schism.

My book Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau (1994) page 81 quoted from Academie en Forum p 9. Appendix A below contains that quote and a remarkably fair Google Translation of it. Please observe that one objective of this weblog is to contribute to the unification, by showing how findings are related. The suggestion of an Economic Supreme Court is also based upon a Definition & Reality Methodology that supplements De Groot’s Methodologie, and that is also required to qualify the Van Hiele theory of levels.

A bit on significance 1956

Psychologists Eric-Jan Wagenmakers and others found it useful to translate an article by De Groot (1956) on (statistical) significance. I agree that the translation is helpful. Let me immediately refer also to Ziliak & McCloskey (2006) Cult of Statistical Significance. In addition: large sample sizes may easily create statistically significant differences: but with little relevance for meaningful significance (how you want to use the results).

“Adrianus Dingeman de Groot (1914–2006) was one of the most influential Dutch psychologists. He became famous for his work “Thought and Choice in Chess”, but his main contribution was methodological — De Groot cofounded the Department of Psychological Methods at the University of Amsterdam (together with R. F. van Naerssen), founded one of the leading testing and assessment companies (CITO), and wrote the monograph “Methodology” that centers on the empirical-scientific cycle: observation–induction– deduction–testing–evaluation. Here we translate one of De Groot’s early articles, published in 1956 in the Dutch journal Nederlands Tijdschrift voor de Psychologie en Haar Grensgebieden. This article is more topical now than it was almost 60 years ago. De Groot stresses the difference between exploratory and confirmatory (“hypothesis testing”) research and argues that statistical inference is only sensible for the latter: “One ‘is allowed’ to apply statistical tests in exploratory research, just as long as one realizes that they do not have evidential impact”. De Groot may have also been one of the first psychologists to argue explicitly for preregistration of experiments and the associated plan of statistical analysis. The appendix provides annotations that connect De Groot’s arguments to the current-day debate on transparency and reproducibility in psychological science.” (Abstract by E-J. Wagenmans et al.)

Methodology 1961

De Groot wrote a classic Methodologie, (1961, 1994 online).  The recommendation in Dutch by G.J. Mellenbergh on pages v-vi is well-deserved. Apparently De Groot’s empirical cycle is appreciated by the English speaking wikipedians, but the Dutch version looks deserted. Amazon states that the English translation Methodology (1969) is out of print.

Logic, philosophy of science and methodology were an early interest of mine, see A Logic of Exceptions (1981, 2007, 2011). It also caused the Definition & Reality Methodology used in DRGTPE.

Methodology (the study, not necessarily this book) appears to very relevant – see here – when you want to understand the Van Hiele theory of levels of insight.

Psychologist Ben Wilbrink rejects Van Hiele’s theory, referring to Popper: the theory wouldn’t be falsifiable.

  • Interestingly, Popper’s approach in the philosophy of science is based upon the approach in psychology by Otto Selz (1881-1943).
  • The Dutch wikipedia text states that De Groot was inspired to his thesis on chess by work by Selz.
  • However, see this discussion that explains where Popper’s criterion of falsifiability doesn’t work.
  • A major problem with the rejection by Wilbrink is that he apparently is not interested in mathematics education research: but it is strange to do “psychology” and not look at the relevant field of application.

One reader at Amazon gave it 100% appreciation, with wonderful words like paedagogocal (kids enjoy a go-go approach) and crimonology (monologues like this weblog are a crime), while the expansion to Ayurveda comes as a surprise out of the blue.

“This book is complete, superb and perfect, therefore handy for research and practical work. It has a high abstract level. Exact for all social sciences; psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, sociology, paedagogocal [sic] and political sciences, journalism, etc. Regarding the human aspects also for biology, medical science; neurology, psychiatry, law, crimonology [sic], general economics, languages and history. A.D. de Groot became a doctor cum laude in Math and Physics in 1946. He had a Fellowship on the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California, 1959-1960. With this book one can expand too, f.i. like Ayurveda methodology, where cures by placebo effects or self-curings are studied too.” (By JPR Petersen on December 2, 2011 on Amazon)

Gobet summarizes the conundrum of psychology that cannot observe “thinking”. I take two quotes:

“De Groot’s approach to psychology is complex. It is a subtle mixture of “hard” techniques, mathematical and statistical – do not forget that he was a professor of methodology for over 20 years – and of “softer” approaches, such as interpretative analysis of verbal protocols. In this case, the psychologist tries to understand the subjects’ behaviour at several levels, some of which are not accessible through sheer quantitative techniques. His work on chess, starting with his thesis, offers a good example of the concomitant application of these two approaches.” (p 241)

“History may prove de Groot correct after all. In the last two decades, there has been a renewal of interest in more qualitative ways of analysing chess data. There has been a revival of interest, too, in “higher descriptions” and of “global descriptions” of positions, besides the more detailed descriptions at the chunk level. Obviously, this is the level you get when you ask experts to speak about their field of expertise. And this is the level of analysis de Groot emphasised in Thought and Choice in Chess.” (p242)

De Groot 1961 overlooked the 1957 Van Hiele levels of insight

Van Hiele’s thesis’s list of literature mentions De Groot (1946) on chess and De Groot (1955) Cognitive psychology and education in geometry in the introduction to geometry. (This is my translation of the title.) Apparently the Dutch term “aanvankelijk meetkunde-onderwijs” means geometry in junior highschool. (Van Hiele also refers to Emma Castelnuovo Intuitive Geometry. Lehrer Rundbrief VII, 11. See my earlier question on history of math (ed).) (This link generates a different person, teacher A.J. de Groot.)

Given that Van Hiele’s 1957 thesis concerns levels of insight, De Groot could have taken an interest, also with the common background in math and Mannoury. Indeed, Van Hiele’s thesis is in the literature of Methodologie (my copy 1961), and it is mentioned on page 184.

The great disappointment is that:

  • De Groot doesn’t include the subtitle in the reference. The full title of Van Hiele’s 1957 thesis is, my translation: “The Issue of Insight, Demonstrated with the Insight of School Children in the Subject Matter of Geometry.”  Thus he indicates that geometry is only used for an existence proof for the levels of insight. Observe the pun: geometry itself uses demonstration as a method.
  • De Groot puts Van Hiele into the box of “geometry only”, instead of seeing that Van Hiele presented a general theory of insight, cognition, epistemology.
  • We can only suppose that De Groot was so busy with Methodologie that he wasn’t really interested in new insights coming from mathematics education.

Never teach generalities by giving only one example. Give strings of examples, so that people see the general portent. Don’t give people any opportunity to put you into the box of a single example.

This is the relevant section of De Groot (1964), Ch 6, p 184. Let me cheat in translation for a first time now, and edit the output of Google Translate. The originals are in Appendix B.

“But what are ‘educational objectives that are considered important ‘ in the case of plane geometry in the first grade of junior highschool ?

One can have rather different views on the aim of teaching geometry. One can even argue whether it is a necessary part, for example of the advanced (HBS) program. As is known it has indeed been proposed to replace plane geometry entirely by something else, for example symbolic logic or set theory. One can see the aim as limited, strictly tied to the program itself: learn to solve certain types of problems. Or one can see the aim as wide in scope, for example: learn to think, analyse a problem, learn to apply systematic methods of analysis and general methods of solution, also for other objectives (cf. e.g. BOS 1955). Or one can put emphasis on the spatial aspect: geometry as a means to develop a structured ‘spatial insight’ (e.g. VAN HIELE 1957). Or, something else again, as a way for a first encounter with a scientific, partly formalised deductive system. There are many sagacious and profound reflections on this – and few conclusions in agreement.”

St Nicholas 1965

Our hero De Groot was no saint but a mere human, and one day became ill. However, he turned his illness into a wonderful opportunity to research the issue of St Nicholas. De Groot (1965), Saint Nicholas: A Psychoanalytic Study of History and Myth, discusses:

“In this book, the fascinating St. Nicholas story is examined from a specific angle. Intrigued by the abundance of fertility and birth symbolism in folklore and legends, the author has tried his hand at a “psychoanalysis of St. Nicholas.” To this end, present-day (Dutch) folklore is traced back to medieval customs and legends and, through a partly historical, partly psychoanalytic interpretation, to pre-Christian beliefs, to Germanic and Greek gods– and in particular to the birthplace of the legend, the city of Myra. The result is an absorbing and often surprising perspective of sixteen centuries of Christian culture.” (cover text)

This is essentially the same analysis as the later one by Tony van Renterghem (1995), When Santa was a Shaman: Ancient Origins of Santa Claus & the Christmas Tree. De Groot has a tougher task as a psychologist, also thinking about semiotics, while Van Renterghem has more liberty to wonder at questions and cultural relevance.

My own proposal since 1992 is to get rid of the religious burden and male chauvism here, and speak about Kidda Claus or Claudia, with helper Jester Peter or Petra. In Dutch: Kinderklaas & Narren-Piet.

Perhaps I am overdoing this. “Santa Claus” is already different from “St. Nicholas”. The fellow in his reindeer sled is not the common religious saint. The situation in the USA may already be neutralised, except for the male chauvism.

Santa in Holland has a helper: not an elf, but a character with the traditional name of Black Peter and the appearance of the black-up Morris Dancers.

  • Protests about racism on one side and pleas to keep the tradition on the other side are at boiling point.
  • Last year the mayor of Gouda arrested 90 people in the mayhem, see my report. Of these 90, 89 have been acquitted so this indeed smells of an abuse of power, and the remaining 1 likely is a case to cover up police brutality.
  • My proposal is to use the name Jester Peter or Petra, and allow all kinds of colours (of which black might be one, but only as one of many). Keep most of the tradition but don’t use a name that plays into racist misunderstandings.

Holland has close connections with Russia, – by chess, – by the Romanovs, – by MH17, – by the current Russian boycott of Dutch agricultural products, – by the Crimea Scythes gold that was on exhibition in Amsterdam when Russia took the Crimea: with now the tantalising question whether it should be “returned” to the Ukraine or Russia. And thus also with St Nicholas, the patron saint of Great Russia. We can only hope that the boycott of Holland is successful for the right reason.

Russian icon (Wikimedia commons)

Russian icon (Wikimedia commons)


In Holland, mathematician Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) rejected empirical methods, like statistics, because he was trained to be an abstract thinking mathematician and he knew little about empirical science anyway. He created “realistic mathematics education” (RME) based upon his own insights on what would work. He also succeeded in establishing this as the norm in Dutch math education. Well, there are plenty of reasons to be wary of abuse of statistics, but the only answer is to become a better statistician. This however was lost to the mathematics education research (MER) community.

Given the void thus created by the absence of MER, psychologists stepped in. At the academia they for example study number sense: in kindergarten and the first years of elementary school, the importance of fingers. As applied science, producing tests as paid-for products, there is CITO. At CITO, (psychological) testers design, process and analyse annual tests of pupils leaving elementary school, for language, math and other subjects, and those support advice on the subsequent school system. It is a huge achievement of De Groot to help set up such a system, that creates some standards, and that doesn’t leave kids in the jungle of well-meaning but perhaps incompetent teachers.

CITO must be praised for this too, since it is by this kind of testing that the failure of RME came to full attention. Teachers at higher and middle education were complaining that students could no longer count, but CITO turned the anecdotal complaints into facts – also eliminating the sneer to similar complaints already in antiquity.

It is however curious that:

  • These psychologists rely on their own understanding of arithmetic, and they don’t feel as if they should study MER.
  • The psychologists apparently took RME as the authorative standard of MER, and devised tests to measure RME, contrary to Freudenthal’s view.
  • Thus CITO created tests with “context sums”, in which text is used to describe situations, such that pupils must detect the underlying mathematical model, and then solve the issue and calculate some answer. See our discussion on Gerald Goldin for similar test issues in the USA.
  • CITO allows an uncontrolled experiment on children, while there would be scientific and medical rules for chimps and rabbits. There are now two competing methods in Dutch primary education: RME and Van de Craats’s “traditional method”. A scientific experiment would be stopped once it is clear what method is best, after which the best method is given to all guinea pigs. CITO just allows the mess. See my letter to CITO, in Dutch, October 18, that didn’t get a decent reply yet. CITO refers to the Inspection of Education, as the formal authority for testing elementary school kids. This is a false referral. The Inspection isn’t a scientific institute. CITO does the actual testing and claims to maintain standards of science. My question to CITO is one of scientific ethics, and they simply dodge it. In psychology it might be called cognitive dissonance.
Problematic psychological research on mathematics education

I am no psychologist, and only give my response from teaching practice and MER and econometric technique (including Jöreskog’s LISREL and latent variables).

Overall: Van Hiele opposed concrete versus abstract while Freudenthal misrepresented this as model versus reality (applied mathematics).

To test mathematical competence according to Van Hiele, you would have to test at the various levels of insight. Students would have to know mathematics before they can apply it – by level – and it is not proper to equalise understanding to applied mathematics. Mathematical competence is not a collection of fields of application. Testing Freudenthal is easier, because you can resort to situations of applied mathematics. It reduces to behaviorism again. When the chimps push the right buttons on the calculators then by definition they have mastered some skill.

These so-called cognitive psychologists have reduced to behaviorism again.

Let me mention seven problematic experiences, and correct me if I am wrong, because I am no psychologist, and they do a lot of testing about issues that I am not aware of:

  1. Research on number sense can be invalid because of inadequate handling of pronunciation of numbers, see here. It is very curious that there is no movement amongst psychologists to reform collective pronunciation of numbers. (Norway had a reform in 1950, the exception.) See my booklet A child wants nice and no mean numbers (2015) (online).
  2. Stellan Ohlsson inverts the process of learning, saying that it would go “from abstract to concrete”, but he means to say “from vague to precise”, see here. How is it possible to confuse these terms ? It is not just Ohlsson as a single person, because he is member of a community that would have discussed these issues.
  3. Psychologist Ben Wilbrink shows inadequate grasp of methodology, and doesn’t want to look into this, see here.
  4. CITO tests mixed fractions in the traditional manner, but those are didactically cumbersome. If psychologists – and especially mathematically capable psychometricians, with the journal Psychometrika founded in 1935 –  had been aware of MER then they could have protested early on that this isn’t mathematics but “mathematics” – see the discussion on the torture by Jan van de Craats, see here. (Let me refer to Van Hiele (1973) with a proposal to abolish fractions – here.)
  5. CITO tends use outcomes of sums as the indicator of achievement, and neglects the methods how the outcomes have been achieved, apart from legal rules that allow or don’t allow a calculator. (Generally, when there is a descriptive text, then it is called a “context sum” and then calculators are allowed.). Thus, kids who use traditional algorithms (e.g. long division) and kids who use RME algorithms (e.g. partial quotients), would be judged equally competent when they have the same outcomes. This is not only the equalisation of “good method but small error” and “hopelessly lost”. Such is a common feature of computerised testing and probably cannot be avoided (except by creative chunking): except by concluding that some tests shouldn’t be computerised. The true problem is that you require the traditional algorithms in arithmetic to do algebra at a later stage. Thus RME might seem to generate “competence in simplifying 165 / 7” but in fact it maims your brain for higher schooling. Hickendorff (2011), a cum laude thesis using CITO data, falls into that trap. This thesis played and plays an important role in the discussion in Holland, with its conclusion as if the traditional and RME methods would be equally effective at the end of elementary school. Such a conclusion only derives from a disregard of MER. Hickendorff explicitly states not to be competent in that field. In itself it is a sign of integrity to emphasize what you are not competent in. This clarity is much appreciated and helps us to identify the problem. For, there still is a problem. Apparently she worked in an environment that was cocooned from the notion that a researcher must develop expertise in the area of application.
  6. I presume that there are psychologists who supported RME by Freudenthal, that wasn’t empirically tested – but I am new to this world and cannot give references.
  7. I presume that there are psychologists who supported traditional mathematics education, like from Hung-Hsi Wu in the USA, that doesn’t seem to be tested empirically either. But I am new to this world and cannot quite give references. For example, John Hattie has been educated on education, and I don’t know how psychology features in that, in his part of the world.
I wouldn't want to be caught before a blackboard like that (Screenshot UChicago)

I wouldn’t want to be caught in front of a blackboard like that (Screenshot UChicago)


Loose ends we haven’t looked into:

  • Wouldn’t Van Hiele have been interested in De Groot’s Methodologie, and have contacted him on that ?
  • What about the role of Hans Freudenthal (1905-1990) in all of this ?
  • Who are the psychologists supporting Jan van de Craats anno 2015 ?
  • When will this misery ever end ?


Appendix A: De Groot Academie en Forum (1982:9) quoted by Trias Politica & Centraal Planbureau (1994:81)


Google Translate actually does a reasonably fair job, for a computer programme.

“(…) is a democratic polity necessary, but not sufficient. For a fruitful development of the politically sensitive social sciences in particular is also needed: a government that understands well its main task of science policy; namely the duty, even in those subject areas, the tradition of critical inquiry, rational discussion and strive for objective judgment – in short – to encourage support, protect the culture Forum. Perhaps a modern democracy was not a triad but with tetras [tessera? / TC] politician must be equipped with the fourth independent power of science. One might think of a corresponding Supreme Court, which is common in severe cases, the government can condemn political prostitution of research, for abuse of expressions such as ‘scientifically proven that …’ and scientifically irresponsible applications. It seems in principle a good idea, at least – in the current situation – a beautiful pipe dream. Realized or not, the idea is dictated by a certainly legitimate concerns about the socio-political climate is such that the last decades has developed in the Netherlands. It seems that the public respect for rationality and integrity, for (better) understanding, and (better) intellectual performance in general, there is no greater on has become. The common aim leveling work a short-sighted anti-intellectualism in the hand; the continued politicization of scientific research standard and rationally decidable problems, not only undermines the (gamma) science but also adversely affects the quality of our entire culture.” (Google Translate)

Dutch original:

“(…) is een democratisch staatsbestel nodig, maar niet voldoende. Voor een vruchtbare ontwikkeling van de politiek zo gevoelige gamma-wetenschappen in het bijzonder is tevens nodig: een overheid die haar voornaamste taak van wetenschapsbeleid goed verstaat; namelijk de taak om, ook op die wetenschapsgebieden, de traditie van kritisch onderzoek, rationele discussie en streven naar objectieve oordeelsvorming – kortom: de Forum-cultuur – te steunen, te bevorderen, te beschermen. Misschien zou een moderne democratie niet met een trias maar met een tetras [tessera ? / TC] politica toegerust moeten worden, met als vierde onafhankelijke macht die van de wetenschap. Men zou kunnen denken aan een bijbehorende Hoge Raad, die in voorkomende ernstige gevallen de overheid kan veroordelen voor politieke prostitutie van onderzoek, voor misbruik van uitdrukkingen als ‘wetenschappelijk is aangetoond dat …’ en voor wetenschappelijk onverantwoorde toepassingen. Het lijkt in principe een goed idee, althans – in de huidige situatie – een mooi luchtkasteel. Realiseerbaar of niet, de gedachte wordt ingegeven door een wel degelijk gegronde bezorgdheid over het sociaal-politieke klimaat zoals zich dat de laatste decaden in Nederland heeft ontwikkeld. Het ziet ernaar uit dat het publieke respect voor rationaliteit en integriteit, voor (beter) inzicht, en voor (betere) intellectuele prestaties in het algemeen, er niet groter op is geworden. Het gangbare nivelleringsstreven werkt een kortzichtig anti-intellectualisme in de hand; de voortdurende politisering ook van wetenschappelijk onderzoekbare en rationeel beslisbare problemen, ondermijnt niet alleen de (gamma-) wetenschap maar schaadt ook de kwaliteit van onze hele cultuur.”  (A.D. de Groot, “Academie en Forum”, Boom, 1982, p9)

Appendix B: De Groot (1961) on Van Hiele (1957)

De Groot (1961, 1964, Ch 6 paragraph 2.2, page 184) (Source DBNL):

Google Translate:

“But what are” considered important educational objectives’ in the case of plane geometry in first class?

One can aim of geometry teaching in general look very different. One can even argue about whether it is a necessary part, for example of the HBS program; as is known has been proposed to replace the plane geometry entirely by something else, such as symbolic logic and set theory. One can see the target limited, strictly tied to the program itself: certain types learn to solve problems; or one can see the large, for example, learn to think, analyze a problem, systematic thinking methods and general solution methods learn to apply also for other purposes (cf. eg forest in 1955.). Or one can focus on the spatial aspect geometry as a means to develop a structured ‘spatial awareness’ (eg from hiele 1957); or different, as a means of an introduction to a science, partly formalized deductive system. There are about many sagacious and profound reflections – and few corresponding conclusions.”

Dutch original:

“Maar wat zijn de ‘belangrijk geachte onderwijs-doelstellingen’ in het geval van de vlakke meetkunde in de eerste klasse?

Men kan het doel van meetkunde-onderwijs in het algemeen zeer verschillend zien. Men kan zelfs twisten over de vraag of het een noodzakelijk onderdeel is, bijvoorbeeld van het H.B.S.-programma; zoals bekend is wel voorgesteld de vlakke meetkunde geheel te vervangen door iets anders, bijvoorbeeld symbolische logica of verzamelingsleer. Men kan het doel beperkt zien, strikt gebonden aan het programma zelf: bepaalde typen vraagstukken leren oplossen; of men kan het ruim zien, bijvoorbeeld: leren denken, een probleem analyseren, systematisch denkmethoden en algemene oplossingsmethoden leren toepassen, òòk voor andere doeleinden (vgl. b.v. bos 1955). Of men kan het accent leggen op het ruimtelijke aspect: meetkunde als middel tot ontwikkeling van een gestructureerd ‘ruimtelijk inzicht’ (b.v. van hiele 1957); of, weer anders, als middel tot een eerste kennismaking met een wetenschappelijk, gedeeltelijk geformaliseerd deductief systeem. Er bestaan hierover veel schrandere en diepe beschouwingen – en maar weinig overeenstemmende conclusies.”