2010/2011 and before

In Januari 2011 the 5th edition of the CONGres conference took place.  In this edition the theme was ‘Crime and Punishment‘.

This conference focused on the nature of socially undesirable behaviour, and the way social groups deal with this behaviour. Although the emphasis lay on the biological basis of socially unacceptable criminal behaviour, we also learned about the role of biological science in solving crimes. We were taken through the development of antisocial behaviour, the evolution of crime and punishment, statistics in law, the genetic basis of violent behaviour and the possible existence and the accompanying ethical implications of a criminal brain. During the parallel sessions we could choose a topic to our liking, ranging from profiling to entomology.

In 2009 the 4th edition of the CONGres conference took place. In this edition the theme was ‘Sex: an evolationary succes story‘.

The theme of the CONGres in 2009 was ‘Sex: An Evolutionary Success Story’, for which ten researchers from different disciplines were invited to speak. Together they broadened our views on sexuality as a personal experience, a social phenomenon and an essential biological means to existence.

Dr. Ken Kraaijeveld provided the kick-off to the symposium with a lecture about sexual selection. Dr. Ellen Laan talked about the importance of sexual arousal for painless and pleasurable sex and the anatomical differences between men and women underlying this.

For the first time, parallel sessions were incorporated into the symposium. After the first plenary lecture, people could choose to go to one of four different lectures with varying subjects. Dr. Gert Hekma took a cultural perspective on the theme of sex. He advocated creating space for people’s specific sexual needs which are often described as perverse, which the ruling sexual and gender dichotomies don’t allow for. Dr. Tom de Jong talked about plant reproductive strategies, emphasizing the advantages of asexual reproduction over sexual reproduction. Dr. Rik van Lunsen, MD, argued for the importance of sexual health: approaching sexuality in a positive and respectful way and being able to have pleasurable and safe sexual experiences. Prof. Dr. Sjoerd Repping showed that the Y-chromosome is not yet done for, because important changes in the Y-chromosome are related to specialized functions and are determined by sex. The different lectures people chose produced a good incentive for discussion and the sessions were a success.

Continuing the plenary lectures after the lunch with an interesting story about pheromones in the animal kingdom, Dr.Tristam Wyatt showed us ‘the success of the smelliest’. Although pheromones are well known in the animal kingdom, research has only provided circumstantial evidence of human pheromones. Dr. Julie Bakker showed us many examples of the influence of sex hormones on the development of our bodies and brains: for example boy and girl toy preferences in monkeys and sexually dimorphe brain regions. Arguing for a better understanding of sex differences in disease and medicine, was Dr. Eva Becher. She explained how understanding these differences will improve medical healthcare for women and men. Among the many highlights of the day was the closing lecture by dr. Rob Knell on the evolution of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and their hosts. He managed to link illuminating stories of slutty animals with a horrifying tale of the first syphilis outbreak.

After the panel discussion, guests and speakers gathered for drinks and lot’s of bitterballen. The CONGres committee would like to thank all speakers, volunteers and sponsors that made the CONGres of 2009 possible.

Some remarkable quotes from the day:

Ken Kraaijeveld: “What are males really good for?”

Ellen Laan: “The part of the clitoris that we know is merely the tip of the iceberg; or rather, the tip of the volcano.”

Gert Hekma: “OK, so this man who fucked the donkey was not guilty of public indecency, because he left the barn with his trousers on, yes?”

Tristram Wyatt: “Although Darwin did not actually say this, pheromones actually make sexual selection the success of the smelliest.”

Julie Bakker: “In homosexuals, the relative length of the ring and index finger are different from heterosexuals. I know, I know; this is the part where all of you check to see if you are gay…”

Eva Becher: “A woman is not just a man with a malformed body.”

Rob Knell: “This part is going to have some maths, so if you’re allergic to that, just zone out and think about worms on cricket genitalia for a while.”

In 2008 the 3rd edition of the CONGres conference took place. In this edition the theme was ‘Science and Religion‘.

On December 10th, 2008 the CONGres committee of study association CONGO organised a symposium on the topic  of Science and Religion: The Meaning of Life Science.

The committee of this years’ symposium consisted of a new chairman, Sicco the Knecht, vice-chairman Esther van Duin, treasurer Dyan Ramekers and Renee Rooijmans as secretary. Other members were Jasper Winkel, Lieneke Janssen, Hedwig Ens, Inger van den Bosch, Hannah Eggink, Feline Smeenk, Saskia Botterhuis and Renate Buijink.

The symposium was a big success; seven distinguished speakers enlightened us on the big questions of life. As a committee we are very thankful for their presence and their inspiring lectures and take pride in the energy they put into this event.

In a birds flight the conference left us with the following: Karel van Dam provided a perfect overview of the definitions and views in this, sometimes heated, debate. Bert Theunissen, gave a historical overview of the relationship between science and religion and disproved a number of famous historic events and tackled eminent preconceptions on the subject. David Linden, a cognitive neuroscientist, explained, most elegantly, how evolution has turned the human brain into a creative entity that can understand love, religion and God.

Cees Dekker, who is well known for his great scientific interest which he combines with a Christian lifestyle, argued that science is a method to study the world around us and religion is a worldview.  Jan van Hooff enthusiastically took the audience on a journey around the world to show that morality exists, in the animal kingdom, without any signs of religion.

Dick Swaab tested the religious among the audience with questions such as: ‘if God meant to create man, why all the other species of homo?’. Finally the eloquent and worthy advisory of Richard Dawkins: Alister McGrath closed the ranks with a mind blowing lecture on Darwinism as a world view which he finds to be unjust. In the panel discussion at the end of the conference all speakers and audience were invited to discuss the topic, guided by a number of statements.

It was clear that all seven were extremely interested in the subject and willing to convince each other and the audience of their views.

Overview speakers and subjects:

Prof. Dr. Karel van Dam – introduction

Prof. Dr. Bert Theunissen – Historical relations between science and religion: the case of evolution

Prof. Dr. David Linden – The Brain and the Religious Impulse

Prof. Dr. Jan van Hooff – Religion as a natural phenomenon

Prof. Dr. Cees Dekker – Science, faith and worldviews

Prof. Dr. Dick Swaab – Neuro-theology: demasqué of religions

Prof. Dr. Alister McGrath – Darwinism as a worldview? Reflections on Recent Scientific Atheism


In 2007 the second CONGres conference took place. In this edition the theme was ‘Brains, Technology and the Future‘.

Due to the great success of the CONGres in 2006 the decision was made to turn the symposium into an annual phenomenon. A new comittee was formed, of old as well as new members.

The second CONGres conference was titled: “Brains, Technology and the Future”.

The first lecture was held by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Maass. He talked about “liquid computing inside and outside the brain”, a fairly technical but interesting talk.

The second lecture was about “vOICe; seeing with sound” by Dr. Peter Meijer. This ingenious invention, with which blind people can discriminate objects based on different frequencies of sound, fascinated many.

The third speaker was Prof. Dr. Marwan Hariz, head of the functional neurosurgery department at University College London. He spoke about his work in deep brain stimulation (DBS), which can be used to treat Parkinson’s disease, among others.

The next lecture was held by Nick Ramsey, who discussed developments in Brain Computer Interfacing (BCI), where signals from the brain, for example EEG, are picked up and transferred to a computer command. After all these medical and technical lectures it was time for something slightly easier to digest.

Dr. Ian Pearson, futurologist, spoke about the future of thinking yoghurt. He had previously worked at British Telecom, where he envisioned the future of technical developments and converted these into concrete ideas for products. He spoke animatedly about his vision of the future of the world that had a lot in common with Science Fiction.

By this time Dr. Anders Sandberg had arrived and he held a talk on neurological technology and its influence on daily life, especially in the future.

The second conference was a success, just as its predecessor. The speakers, visitors and committee members were enthusiastic and everything was organised well. More than 300 people attended this conference in the Roeterseilandcomplex, Room A.A.

A summary of speakers and their subjects:

Prof. dr. Wolfgang Maass Liquid computing

Dr. Peter Meijer The vOICe

Prof. Dr. Marwan Hariz Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

Prof. Dr. Nick Ramsey Brain Computer Interface (BCI)

Dr. Ian Pearson Future of neurotechnology

Dr. Anders Sandberg Philosophy of neurotechnology


In 2006 the first edition of the CONGres conference took place. In this edition the theme was ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’.

The first CONGres committee was formed in 2006 by Jasper Winkel, who became chairman of the first committee. Other committee members were: Brankele Frank and Anne Koeleman as treasurers, Marlies Oostland as secretary and Marle de Jonge, Sam Molenaar and Gerbrand Spaans as regular committee members. They, as the first CONGres committee, were faced with the daunting task of discovering all the aspects of organising a symposium.

The first CONGres was held on December 13, 2006, on Weapons of Mass Destruction. Dr. Kees de Groot, educational director of the undergraduate school of the Earth and Life sciences, was host for the day.

The first lecture was given by Ir. Inez Rijnhart and was about the policy held by the government on biological warfare. The next speaker was Roel Coutinho, who spoke about smallpox and its potential as a biological weapon. Coutinho has been in the press due lately due to swine flu, as he is director of infection control at the RIVM. Dr. Irene Kuiper gave a talk about the forensic aspect of biological warfare, after which Prof. Dr. Jaap van Dissel held a lecture on anthrax as a biological weapon.

Prof. Braeckman talked about the ethical aspect of (biological) warfare, such as justification of war and the possibility of a world without war. Prof. van Hooff held a lecture on war amongst primates. These lectures, along with the talk held by Coutinho, were true highlights of the day.

The first CONGres, held in the Kriterion, drew 120 visitors. These were mainly students from CONGO, who seemed very enthusiastic and made the day a success.

Summary of speakers and their topics:

Ir. Inez Rijnhart Biological Warfare Policy of the government

Prof. dr. Roel Coutinho Smallpox as a biological weapon

Dr. Irene Kuiper Forensic aspects of biological warfare

Prof. dr. Jaap van Dissel Anthrax as a biological weapon

Prof. dr. Johan Braeckman Ethical aspects of (biological) warfare

Prof. dr. Jan van Hooff War amongst primates