Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pathologies of Engineers

Most physics crackpots are engineers. More than 95% of my sample boast engineering degrees, or combine an undergraduate maths/physics degree followed by an engineering PhD or equivalent.
On Usenet, in a group devoted to crackpottery, many years ago, one Bruce Salem came up with the Salem Hypothesis (it was named later) that if a creationist has an advanced technical degree, it will be in engineering.
(the two above from here)
Al Qaeda’s members are not the Palestinian fourteen-year- olds we see on the news, but join the jihad at the average age of 26. Three-quarters were professionals or semi- professionals. They are engineers, architects, and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion. The natural sciences predominate. Bin Laden himself is a civil engineer, Zawahiri is a physician, Mohammed Atta was, of course, an architect; and a few members are military, such as Mohammed Ibrahim Makawi, who is supposedly the head of the military committee.
(from here.  Continuing on that thread:)
In discussing educational levels, Sageman observes the high prevalence of individuals pursuing technical studies such as engineering and medicine among jihadis. Why are so many jihadis engineers? This is the topic of an important recent Oxford study, Engineers of Jihad, by Diego Gambetta and Steifen Hertog (2007).
(from here)
The sociology paper {Engineers of Jihad} published last November, which has been making rounds over the Internet and was recently picked up by The Atlantic, uses illustrative statistics and qualitative data to conclude that there is a strong relationship between an engineering background and involvement in a variety of Islamic terrorist groups. The authors have found that graduates in subjects such as science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the Muslim world. The authors also note that engineers, alone, are strongly over-represented among graduates who gravitate to violent groups.
A past survey in the United States has already shown that the proportion of engineers who declare themselves to be on the right of the political spectrum is greater than any other disciplinary groups--such as economists, doctors, scientists, and those in the humanities and social sciences.
(the above from here)

I'm sure there is more, much more. The highly acclaimed Bollywood movie, 3 Idiots is in part about how to not be an engineer or how to be a better and more human one, if trapped in engineering.