Name: Elbert Dijkgraaf

Position: Professor of Empirical Economics of the Public Sector (holding an endowed chair)

Faculty: Erasmus School of Economics

Religion: Protestantism

“I am convinced that religion and science are two sides of the same medal. On the one hand, science allows you to discover things that are closer to home and gain a more thorough understanding of the world. On the other hand, religion allows you to attribute things that are incomprehensible to God. This gives me a more relaxed approach to life.

I find it easier to include my religious background in my teaching than in my research. For instance, when I’m teaching, I will try to explain to my students that there is an ethical aspect to cost-benefit analyses: just because there are financial benefits does not automatically mean that you must do something, since you have to take into account ethical considerations, as well.


When doing research, you deal with facts. If you do it properly, your results will not be affected by ethical considerations or beliefs. In order to avoid a potential conflict of interest, I once declined taking part in a study that involved performing a cost-benefit analysis of keeping shops closed on Sundays. I didn’t want people to think: I bet that Dijkgraaf doctored the figures.

God is almighty. He can influence time, too. For example: God creates a tree on Day 1. On Day 2, a scientist checks how old this tree is. His knowledge of science tells him he must count rings. This tells him the tree is forty years old. From a scientific point of view, the scientist is right, and yet he is also wrong. God knows this. He only planted the tree the day before.”