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H. J. van der Meer

H. J. van der Meer studied biology at the Leiden University in the 1970s, where he deepened his knowledge of evolution and indulged in various concepts of optimality, while simultaneously building his own house in The Hague. Under supervision of Gerrit Anker and supported by Bert Otten, he studied the functional morphology of photoreceptors in a number of haplochromine cichlids from Lake Victoria.

During this period he also met his present wife, Joke Zwaanswijk. In the 1980s they started a family their son Beren and daughter Rosanne. van der Meer continued his research on photoreception in cichlids and the potential adaptive character of their visual system at Leiden University, which resulted in his 1991 thesis. In the 1990s he began teaching biology at the Gymnasium Haganum while continuing research at Leiden University.

During the 2000s, in addition to teaching biology and general science to pupils of Gymnasium Haganum, van der Meer supervised students at the Leiden University with their studies on vision and evolution in cichlids. After his retirement from teaching in 2009, he continued his research on vision in cichlids at Leiden University for a couple of years before fully retiring with his family (his first grandchild b. 2015), traveling through Europe, and working on The Emergent Universe.

Published on the Secular Web

Kiosk Article

Thank God for the Atheist

In this article, H. J. van der Meer points out that although much of the world believes in some sort of divine being/s, believers seem perfectly happy to use scientific creations like modern medicines, artificial fertilizers, or mobile phones. He points out that these products could only have arisen from a manner of thinking that has also led us to understand the natural world as a product of evolutionary processes. Although this scientific (or naturalistic) view of the world is incomplete and the world is not fully comprehensible, the worldview is the logical consequence of the methodology. Nevertheless, many Christians believe in a 'god of the gaps' that is called upon when scientific explanations fail, and they may even advocate Intelligent Design creationism. At least traditional (young-earth) creationists, Jews, and Muslims, he notes, are less hypocritical in their rejection of scientific theories about the evolution of life and the universe: they stick to their belief in a divine Creator in the teeth of the evidence. But what is it that causes people to cling so firmly to their religion, and become so suspicious of science, in the first place?