Esben Lunde Larsen was appointed the new Minister of Higher Education and Science in Denmark last week. He’s now responsible for overseeing research in the country.
When asked by Jyllands-Posten whether humans are descended from apes, the 36-year-old from the so-called Bible belt near Rinkøbing answered that there was a divine hand at play.
“I think there is a creator God behind it. How he has done it, I haven’t considered too much,” he said.
When asked whether the Earth was created in a Big Bang, the new minister appeared to favour the biblical version of events.
“I believe there is a creator God behind most things in the world, and how it was created is explained by the Bible on the one hand and by science on the other,” he said.
“It’s not crucial for me. The crucial thing is that the world was created. And I, as a person of faith, believe God behind it.”
Your initial reaction may be anger and frustration: Why is someone who doesn’t accept science in charge of scientific research?! Certainly, that’s what historian Mikael Rothstein was thinking:
That myth, magic, miracle and mythology will in some ways will be set as parallel to science is tremendously disturbing.
It is unacceptable that he has a job where he will be head of research and science in our country when he represents the views that are in a glaring contradiction to research and science.
But maybe Larsen is religious in the same way as Francis Collins, the evangelical Christian who runs the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. Collins isn’t a Creationist, but he is very public about his faith in interviews. That said, he has never brought religion into the workplace.
What Denmark wants to avoid is Larsen imitating someone like former Congressman Paul Broun, who served on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology despite frequently speaking out against science. Now that’s scary.
If Larsen can avoid mixing his personal religious beliefs with the work he has to do — and surrounds himself with science experts who can help guide him down the right path — he might be fully capable of doing his job well. Yes, he may still be an embarrassment in the community when it comes to his theology, but he won’t necessarily hurt the scientists he’s supposed to be helping.