Engineers = Evil

Every now and then you come across a new study or news article that really just hits home. It helps provide some “professional” or “scientific” insight into something that you always kind of suspected but could never quite properly articulate to yourself. I came across just such an article today (and the study behind it) and it has me re-examining myself (and many of my friends) in a new light:

Is there a thread that ties engineers to Islamic terrorism?

There certainly is, according to Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog at Oxford University, who recently published a paper titled, “Engineers of Jihad.” The authors call the link to terrorism “the engineer’s mindset.”

The sociology paper 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. [Link]

One risk factor alone usually does not provide cause for worry (although I do have two engineering degrees). However, when combined with other risk factors such as this one that I had previously written about, you can imagine why I have decided to do some real soul searching. I mean, us engineers do have a lot of things in common with terrorists besides the fact that there are a lot of South Asian engineers and quite a few South Asian terrorists. For example, both groups hope that there are virgins in the afterlife (cause there definitely ain’t many women in engineering school). Both groups also stay home on Friday nights and have time to become increasingly bitter.

However, contrary to popular speculation, it’s not technical skills that make engineers attractive recruits to radical groups. Rather, the authors pose the hypothesis that “engineers have a ‘mindset’ that makes them a particularly good match for Islamism,” which becomes explosive when fused by the repression and vigorous radicalization triggered by the social conditions they endured in Islamic countries. [Link]

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p>I wonder if people that know me think I have an “engineer’s mindset.” I will now have to suppress it by pretending to be intellectually lazy and incurious. How do you liberal arts and business majors do it so well?

But the story gets even worse. It doesn’t matter where you live or how well you have it. Engineers EVERYWHERE are evil.

The authors note that the mindset is universal.

Whether American, Canadian or Islamic, they pointed out that a disproportionate share of engineers seem to have a mindset that makes them open to the quintessential right-wing features of “monism” (why argue where there is one best solution) and by “simplism” (if only people were rational, remedies would be simple). [Link]

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p>Our resident scientific statistician, the commenter “Razib,” will no doubt leave several comments validating the scientific methodology used it this study. As a scientist (my other degree) I have to say I agree with their methodology also. However, it would be simply unscientific of me if I didn’t point out some of the criticism of their body of work:

The duo also cite Wikipedia. (Honest, they really do – note 4, page 4.) Based on this rigorous trawl, they decide that 196 of the 404 jihadis had “engaged in higher education at some point”. Within the 196 possibly-educated terrorists, the two surfer-sociologists identify the subject of study in 178 cases.

The degree that came “first by far” among the 178 graduate jihadis, according to Gambetta and Hertog, was engineering – with 78 of their sample group supposedly so qualified.

They speculate that the type of mindset who tends to become an engineer – apparently, conservative and religious are two of the markers – will also tend to become involved in Islamic terrorism.

In fact, the pair have had to push their little data set quite hard to get that many into the “engineering” box. The sociologists’ definition of engineering includes architects (as distinct from civil engineers), all “computer related studies”, town planning, “other” (which includes “rare subjects”) and 36 terrorists where the type of “engineering” studied was unknown.

If you strike out all the architects, computer-studies guys and other random inclusions among the 42 cases where the precise subject is known, and apply the same ratio to the other 36, you come out with just 44 real engineers among the 178 jihadi graduates.

That still leaves engineers 29 per cent more numerous than the next biggest of the sociologists’ arbitrarily-defined groups, the “Islamic Studies” grads. However, the groups are pretty random. If you rearranged them a bit, it would be easy to create one bigger than the engineers.

For instance, if one were to define a group consisting of literary, history, social services, philosophy, media, education, business, architecture, psychology and town-planning graduates – call it the “fuzzy studies” group, chuck in the sociologists too – it would come out at least 50 strong, probably outnumbering the engineers and hard sciences groups put together. [Link]

I think the above “critique” is just a shameless trashing of valid sociological findings in order to sound funny. In any case, if you know any engineers, please report them. But not me please, I am trying to change my mindset for the good of us all.

71 thoughts on “Engineers = Evil

  1. At last, more material for scientist to use to dump on engineers. Not that we really needed it.

  2. The actual context

    We find that graduates from subjects such as science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements in the Muslim world, though not among the extremist Islamic groups which have emerged in Western countries more recently. We also find that engineers alone are strongly over-represented among graduates in violent groups in both realms

    This study is specifically about Islam. The paper says nothing about engineers behaviour in the non-muslim world.

    The repeated South Asian references in the post is just Abhi trolling his own post.

    The references are particularly dishones because, the paper specifically mentions that

    the sample does not fully reflect what is a varied universe of unknown size (for instance, it leaves out or under-represents groups in South Asia, South East Asia, North Africa and Iraq),

    (The only mention of India in the paper was that 2 of 3 founders of the LET group that carries out terrorist in India were from Lahore)

  3. Is it possible that engineers are more likely to get caught? Or, at the least, they are more likely to have their identities busted.

    May be engineers are just too dumb …

  4. Re: monism

    If there’s one thing engineering teaches you, it’s that all the models, predictions, hypotheses in the world are prone to failure. There is no right answer and everything is a compromise.

  5. engineers (and most students) are trained to be methodical, think linearly and be functional drones married to a manual. their faith is defined by logic. that is the profile of a person who could be persuaded to do vile things through (perverted)logic.

    to escape this nagercoil, the grasshopper should read poetry and stop trying to explain things. Be. Never Because.

    Thus spake khoofitustra.

  6. Abhi,

    There’s an earlier article from mid-2007, wherein the author discusses characteristics of terrorists based on a study by a Dr. Sageman. It offers this gem: “Engineers and physicians are far more active in their everyday lives, trying to do things. They’re far more action-oriented than, say, lawyers. You don’t find many lawyers, but you find a lot of engineers and physicians.” Sageman is cited in the study you mention and is as a former spook and forensic psychiatrist who has written on the topic. Another quote from the article: “A study of 172 al-Qaeda terrorists conducted four years ago by Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and former CIA case officer in Pakistan, found that 90 per cent came from a relatively stable, secure background.”

    I guess when I get profiled the next time I fly, I should pull out the study and tell TSA: “I’m a lazy ass brown lawyer, you are safe with me, I’ll just take your money, that engineer (pointing at another brown man), he’ll take your life”.

  7. to escape this nagercoil, the grasshopper should read poetry and stop trying to explain things.

    Nagercoil? Inexplicable poetry-reading grasshopper? What are you on?!

  8. 6 · Jangali Jaanwar said

    A study of 172 al-Qaeda terrorists conducted four years ago by Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and former CIA case officer in Pakistan, found that 90 per cent came from a relatively stable, secure background.”

    I’ve heard this before. Most of the al-Qaeda terrorists are from middle and upper class Muslim families. And what do middle and upper class Muslim men disproportionately study? Thats right, engineering and medicine. The occupations of the terrorists could simply be a reflection of their social and economic class.

  9. If there’s one thing engineering teaches you, it’s that all the models, predictions, hypotheses in the world are prone to failure.

    Indeed models can fail when their assumptions about the surroundings are not updated quickly.

  10. 7 · pingpong said

    to escape this nagercoil, the grasshopper should read poetry and stop trying to explain things.
    Nagercoil? Inexplicable poetry-reading grasshopper? What are you on?!

    Kandy. You should see my sacred tooth.

  11. a few points

    1) pointed this dynamic out years ago to abhi. anyone who is muslim in the USA has encountered the hectoring engineer at masjid who tries to lecture everyone on the Truth of Islam that he read in some dumbass pamphlet. if you are involved in studying evolutionary science it’s pretty clear that an enormous disproportionate number of creationists in the USA are from applied sciences, that is, engineering & medicine.

    2) just because a disproportionate number of fundies are engineers (or technicals) does not mean that a disproportionate of technicals are fundies. you know what i mean? the subset of humans who are religious radicals is really small. the subset of humans in technical professionals are much larger.

    3) as someone who is familiar with scientists i would have to admit though that the technical kind tend to be a little narrow in their viewpoint, and overly eager to take their axioms to their “logical” conclusions. now, as an atheist, i’m pretty f*cking scared when the religious take the bizarro crap in their sacred texts to their “logical” conclusions. those who are more broadly educated in the humanities tend to be more cognizant of complexity, nuance and skeptical of their ability to come to final conclusions. sometimes that is bad (post modernism), and sometimes that is good.

    4) as noted above in the link, the same tendency of skew toward engineering and technical professions seems evident in religious nationalist movements the world over. see hindu nationalism or evangelical christian (though most evangelical christians are not engineers, the intellectuals who emerge out of the movement are disproportionately technicians, not liberally educated professionals).

  12. 2 · DizzyDesi said

    The repeated South Asian references in the post is just Abhi trolling his own post.

    Atleast in the context of South Asian engineers in the sub-continent ( and also probably from middle-east), I think it is easiest for engineers to get a “job” and hence they have more free-mind,time and cover to plot their evil activities as compared to folks from other professions. Hence the correlation engineering and evil.

  13. number of creationists in the USA

    professional creationists that is. the type who turn it into a second career. not the typical tard in the church pews.

  14. And what do middle and upper class Muslim men disproportionately study? Thats right, engineering and medicine. The occupations of the terrorists could simply be a reflection of their social and economic class.

    last i looked into these studies they do check for that. it isn’t like upper class muslim men don’t study law or other fields which funnel them into civil service and what not. the key here is that within schools of higher education the engineering division in muslim countries is generally much more fundyish than natural science, which is more fundyish than humanities. the same trend applies to the USA, though obviously americans are less likely to kill their sister if she’s a harami slut, so the scale is a bit different….

  15. 12 · razib said

    sometimes that is bad (post modernism), and sometimes that is good.

    Razib,

    are there actually scientists who take Homi Bhabha seriously? Or are you referring more to a post-modern state of indecision induced by intellectual laziness?

  16. engineers (and most students) are trained to be methodical, think linearly and be functional drones married to a manual. their faith is defined by logic. that is the profile of a person who could be persuaded to do vile things through (perverted)logic.

    I’m with razib on the stats and the stupidity in the analysis, but I did used to have really valid conversations around khoofia’s point with my (y)engineer friends. While engineering is often dynamic and teaches you to be creative in problem solving, there are many who come into engineering seeking an ultimate truth or an ultimate answer (same in PoliSci and Classics and half a dozen other “lib art” fields, where you also meet wingnuts with opinions totally divorced from reality). There’s a tendency to not want to accept that scholarship is a series of arguments that are then refined, debunked, etc., in any number of dialectic processes, and then we all move on. Again, this is a specific subset of engineers, but they’re certainly out there. I see this among law students and economists, also. All disciplines use a highly logic-oriented reasoning methodology, but sometimes common sense or an ethical framework could really help.

  17. All disciplines use a highly logic-oriented reasoning methodology, but sometimes common sense or an ethical framework could really help

    i would add emotional intelligence to the mix. sometimes what is logically the best decision is not the best decision.

    hmm… how does this extend to the current democratic primaries. hmmm… takes a sip of chai and leans back

  18. A liberal arts graduate who wants to build a fancy bomb for terroristic purposes may also have an obvious problem. He/she probably just not capable to do it.

  19. Engineers as Islamist terrorist presently.

    One simple reason:

    For visa purposes, it is easy (and far more common) to get a visa to enter US with a technical background. Therefore, your recruiting base is wide, and are better “sleepers“.

    I do not think Red Army/ Shinning Path/ IRA/ PLO terrorists were engineers concentrated (rich), even though Yasser Arafat does have an engineering degree. Not, the London ones.

  20. Razib:

    …those who are more broadly educated in the humanities tend to be more cognizant of complexity, nuance and skeptical of their ability to come to final conclusions. those who are more broadly educated in the humanities tend to be more cognizant of complexity, nuance and skeptical of their ability to come to final conclusions. sometimes that is bad (post modernism)…

    Dude, I can’t wait to meet my first post-modern terrist! In fact, I think I’m going to volunteer to be the first. We’ll “deconstruct” all kinds of stuff. Architecture, art, literature, the politican system, you name it!

    Anyone know where I can get several pounds of C4? I think I might stay in tonight to watch “Fight Club.”

  21. Therefore, your recruiting base is wide

    i agree. Engineers have wide bases. Flat too. but they have sharp minds. Must be the pointy heads.

  22. i agree. Engineers have wide bases. Flat too. but they have sharp minds. Must be the pointy heads.

    HAHAHAHA…

  23. So anyone know what the percentage of engineers are in the base populations that terrorsts derive from? How about lawyers, doctors, architects… bloggers?

    Doesn’t think sound like a classic case of mistaking correlation with causation (and the correlation is pretty dubious, as Razib points out)?

    Abhi, I bet there’s a correlation between engineers who blog and engineers who blow themselves up.

  24. Thus spake khoofitustra.

    Glad to see you haven’t neglected your Nietzsche poetry, young man ; )

    A liberal arts graduate who wants to build a fancy bomb for terroristic purposes may also have an obvious problem. He/she probably just not capable to do it.

    Listen up, RC Cola, two words: Chad Person. With the lib arts types, it’s not the know-how, it’s the dough-how.

  25. If I recall correctly, the cult members responsible for the Tokyo gas attacks were also engineers–extremely smart ones. Murkami mentions this in the book Underground.

    When touring the US in the early 1800s, De Tocqueville said something like “what good is the mind of a man who spends 20 years putting the head on top of a pin?” [would I want to give this person the ability to vote in a democracy?]

    Witness the brain of young cs engineer: “what good is my mind if I spend 20 years focusing on syntactically correct computer code?”

    Maybe engineers shouldn’t be allowed to vote :)

    (ok back to the code)

  26. I’d throw in the following: to obtain an engineering degree, you have to take mostly science, math, physics, etc. classes. The corollary is that engineering students, in their minds most formative and influential years, do not take many humanities-related courses. It is in the humanities (literature, history) where students learn how others have tolerated and respected differences, and how to put perspective on your emotional state and the world.

    ps – In addition, there are way more girls in humanities classes, and that has a way of diverting your focus from blowing up the world.

  27. Did Razib say the correlation is dubious? I didn’t see that in the comments. Razib wrote:

    within schools of higher education the engineering division in muslim countries is generally much more fundyish than natural science, which is more fundyish than humanities. the same trend applies to the USA,

  28. Ikram, I refer to the following:

    2) just because a disproportionate number of fundies are engineers (or technicals) does not mean that a disproportionate of technicals are fundies. you know what i mean? the subset of humans who are religious radicals is really small. the subset of humans in technical professionals are much larger.

    Razib, please bestow The Truth upon us, the ignorant, the unwashed (I haven’t showered this AM), the unkempt, the kind-of-hungry.

  29. i was expressing the conditional probabilities. just because a disproportionate number of engineers seem represented in these groups does not imply that we assume that engineers are generally terrorists. i think the engineers = evil dynamics is real, and has multiple causal factors underlying it. in most societies & times i’ve looked into for data sets engineers are more politicallly conservative than natural scientists, who are more conservative than social scientists or humanists. why is this? i think we can agree there are many factors that go into this. e.g., a far higher proportion of natural scientists are academics who depend upon government grants, while a far larger proportion of engineers work in the private sector for firms, and so on. but we should be wary of one-factor explanations (e.g., engineers are sexual repressed).

    While engineering is often dynamic and teaches you to be creative in problem solving, there are many who come into engineering seeking an ultimate truth or an ultimate answer

    i think label one might on this is the psychology of naive positivism. most people from a natural scientific background have this bias for obvious reasons, and engineers harness their naive positivism toward solving “problems.” i did a degree program in chemistry along with a minor in history, and the contrast between upper division courses in the field was pretty funny when it came to discussions.

    this isn’t the first study on this topic. the trend in islamic countries is robust. also, this study, and to some extent others, have suggested that it isn’t a feature of left-wing terrorism. so kush’s objection isn’t valid as a criticism since most of his examples are avowedly left-wing. re: european muslim radicals, i think perhaps it is important to wonder about their social situation and locus within society. if you look at the salafi terrorists from the core of the arab world many are upper middle class professionals by background who came from lower middle class backgrounds (this was a common feature of the islamic radical groups in egypt from which ayman al zawahri emerged, and should be part of the ruling class, or so they perceive themselves. in contrast, the london bombers, no matter their own social status were members of a self-perceived ethnic minority. so in that case, i would expect the profiles and psychology to more resemble black nationalist radicals in the USA in the 1970s. in other words, in some ways the native born islamic terrorists in europe and the USA are i think more analogized to left-wing radicals, who want to change the structure of social relations in some fundamental way to redress the injustices they perceive. in contrast, native born islamic terrorists in egypt can be thought of as right-wing because their aim is to perfect and resurrect some ideal system of social relations which they think have been suborned by corrupt elites (i.e., in a ideal islamic society their merit and piety would be rewarded). the contradiction or paradox is with modern information technology both groups will aver that they are one movement and perceive themselves as such, even though the structural features of why they oppose the establishment might be very different, and ergo, a contrast in their social profiles (if there was a coptic terrorist rebellion in egypt that would be more like what happened with the london bombings on a deep cognitive level).

    this is the exact sort of nested agency modeling and examining a problem from various subjective angles that engineers have a problem with ;-)

  30. Why are engineers only targeted in this study!! Next thing you know we engineers are gonna get screened at airports just because of our profession – “I am sorry sir, but we have to specially check you out because you are an engineer and are likely to have terrorist like mind” – craziness….

  31. Isn’t the tech know-how that comes with engineering degree useful skill for execution of terrorist acts (given their scope these days)? I wonder if engineers are specifically targetted for recruitment for that reason.

    I am not sure if I want to agree with engineers = fundamentalists. If anything, I find scientists, mostly physicists/biologists in that category. They are in search of fundamental truths.

    If engineers believed in absolute truths all around, there will be no safety factors in their designs. Given the uncertainty of real-world, engineers tend to be risk-averse.

    Also, the society does not expect 100% success rate from doctors or lawyers but there is a high intolerance if engineering designs fail. It isn’t a surprise if engineers are conservative.

    Now,I wonder if risk-averseness and conservatism in engineers is conflated with fundamentalism?

  32. I wonder if engineers are specifically targetted for recruitment for that reason.

    yes, they are. i mean, if you read about the terrorist movements you do note that they keep an eye out for guys with skillz. but that might be secondary.

    I am not sure if I want to agree with engineers = fundamentalists. If anything, I find scientists, mostly physicists/biologists in that category. They are in search of fundamental truths.

    well, if you want to follow the analogy, there is no way scientists could be religious fundamentalists. religious fundamentalists take their truths as a priori and revealed from on high, usually in textual form (this is the polemic, in reality this isn’t how it works out). if you’re plumbing the ultimate cases, you are expressing doubt or acceptance of the possibility variation of the nature of the causes. coming to god via doubt is not the normal religious mode (that’s why the church banned descartes though he was a believing catholic).

    engineers take ‘normal science’ that has established, fundamental principles, and they spin off applications. so that’s the issue, they live in a world where science is relatively established with pretty good truths, not a center of vigorous debate. if a scientific principle they used in engineering was an issue of major debate then it wouldn’t be good science to build upon for engineering! (some biotechnology is an exception to that, but i’m not sure that it is really engineering in the same way as more physical disciplines).

  33. I am not sure if I want to agree with engineers = fundamentalists. If anything, I find scientists, mostly physicists/biologists in that category. They are in search of fundamental truths.

    also, this isn’t just an issue for speculation, there’s a robust trend in the academy of physical sciences & engineering being more conservative. there are plenty of studies on this. to some extent this also extends to frequency of religious traditionalism (though again, 60% of american phd scientists are not theists in a conventional sense, so keep within perspective that you need to remember the baseline).

  34. I actually wasted 30 min of my life reading the “paper”. This is methodology? Similarly rigorous observations about humankind may be found in many bars, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this was written in one. SA, if you think you learn tolerance and respect for differences by reading human history, you probably haven’t read much history after all. I suppose none of the Nazis were deeply versed in European art and history? Or the Stalinists were only technically competent engineers (anyone know what Stalin’s position was on classical music)? Are the neo-nazis in America or Germany trained engineers? Is the average American jingoist–hey, call that neoconservative– a techie?

    One thing to keep in mind is that engineering enjoys a very different stature in the middle east (and in India) than in the US. The best and the brightest go to engineering school, and it is not surprising that the most successful terorrist recruits are drawn from the ranks of the best and the brightest.

  35. One thing to keep in mind is that engineering enjoys a very different stature in the middle east (and in India) than in the US. The best and the brightest go to engineering school, and it is not surprising that the most successful terorrist recruits are drawn from the ranks of the best and the brightest.

    i’ve looked at the SAT & GRE scores by field in the USA. the physical sciences and engineering still have the highest numbers, so they are also attracting the best and the brightest (the main exception to the standard trendline is philosophy, where GRE scores are higher than biological sciences though still lower than physical sciences).

  36. razib (#39): Oh yeah? Let us look at your first link, on how math makes you more conservative. You call that “data”? What does “conservative” mean in this case– what positions? What is the causation? Let me offer an explanation: in quantitative disciplines, hiring is merit-based, as opposed to politics-based. Ergo, given the state of the current academe…

    I would rush to add that this hypothesis is probably bogus, but unprovably so. I could throw out 5 other explanations in a similar way, and all of them would have similar characteristics. But I suppose that’s what passes as a quantitative argument in your neck of the woods.

  37. Well, Razib, I thought we were discussing engineering and not also, say, physics. I suppose we are not going engage those who demand that a string theorist likes fixed answers any more than a sociologist, at the very least? Engineering simply does not enjoy the same stature here as in India. Ever heard of someone getting into, say, MIT, in their third try and abandoning whatever college they studied in for the past 3 years? Ever looked at the list of grad students in an engineering program (the undergrad student body is not a good measure for scholarship/aid reasons–but there’s still a disproportionate number of 2nd genners whose parents come from countries where engineering is prestigious)?

  38. I thought engineers generally tender liberal/libertarian. Just go to any site frequented by engineers (slashdot, digg, reddit), most of the comments have a liberal slant.

  39. 37 · razib said

    I am not sure if I want to agree with engineers = fundamentalists. If anything, I find scientists, mostly physicists/biologists in that category. They are in search of fundamental truths. also, this isn’t just an issue for speculation, there’s a robust trend in the academy of physical sciences & engineering being more conservative. there are plenty of studies on this. to some extent this also extends to frequency of religious traditionalism (though again, 60% of american phd scientists are not theists in a conventional sense, so keep within perspective that you need to remember the baseline).

    Let me re-iterate what I noted in my last comment. Is conservatism = fundamentalism?

    Though engineers have good appreciation for ‘normal science’, they live in real world. They have fairly good appreciation for the human limitations. Engineering programs regularly have lectures on “failures in engineering”. Again, I am not sure I agree that engineers by nature are fundamentalists.

    Having the first-hand knowledge of how the ‘applications’ of fundamental truths (science) could fail (sometimes spectacularly), how can engineering breed religious fundamentalism?

    Even if engineering makes one prone to take a book as truth, wouldn’t it also make the person realise if anything could go wrong in application it would?

  40. say, MIT, in their third try and abandoning whatever college they studied in for the past 3 years?

    People here at the undergrad and even grad level transfer quite a bit – up, down, lateral in institute stature for many reasons. And in the process, one may (sometimes may not) loose credits quite a bit.

    MIT/ Caltech do have transfer students

  41. MIT/ Caltech do have transfer students

    You’ll rarely see transfer students past the first or “first and a half” year, also, from my experience, most transfers that I’ve seen have been for personal rather than academic reasons (ie be closer to home, closer to gf/bf, get away from gf/bf.. etc..) I knew a really smart mofo who tranfered to Cornell, dated someone, got sick of them, then transfered OUT all the way to Stanford (if Univ. of Alaska was well reputed in his area he’d have gone there just to get further away)

  42. Eh, Kush, I know. Let’s not be too literal here– having experienced both societies/systems, I don’t think there’s any comparison. Given your background, I am sure you would agree?

    Let us, however, move on. Speaking of “studies” on personality traits and disciplines, here’s one:

    http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-77399626.html

    Of course, it also happens to be total drivel.

  43. here’s a few posts where i collated data. Math makes you more conservative. Is the Academy liberal?. God & the scientists. God and British Scientists. i have some others, but can’t find them right now. there’s a lot of studies on this…really not THAT MUCH need for arm-chair psychoanalysis and inferences from a priori perceptions.

    Razib, from your post ‘Is the academy liberal’, engineers are 51% liberal, 19% conservative, and 30% are ‘middle-of-road’. The number of middle-of-the-roaders, seems, at first glance, to be more than any other group. Again, 34% of engineers are democrat, 13% republican, and 53% are independent, which seems more than any other group. This suggests to me that most engineers do not have strongly help opinions.

    Strangely, 26% of the Computer Scientists are conservative, way more than the engineering group, which is strange given that the line dividing computer science and engineering is kind of hazy. Maybe people who see themselves as scientists have greater faith in objective truths than those who see themselves as engineers.

    Incidentally, the links to the sources of the study do not seem to be working: don’t know if that can be fixed :) .

  44. Also, I am a nerd but not quite the engineering sort of nerd. By that I mean I am not really fascinated by gadgets and my knowledge of TCP/IP is v passing: the internet is pretty much a series of tubes for me (I should know more, but I have forgotten most of my undergrad work). But I have lots of friends, some desi, some not, who are that type of nerds, the kind who are really hardcore engineers, and the only topic of discussion this past month, through the primaries and everything, has been whether the iBook Air is cool or not.

  45. Priya

    Atleast in the context of South Asian engineers in the sub-continent ( and also probably from middle-east), I think it is easiest for engineers to get a “job” and hence they have more free-mind,time and cover to plot their evil activities as compared to folks from other professions. Hence the correlation engineering and evil.

    Except that once they get the job , that free time disappears rather fast. (6:00 on a Friday evening and everyone in office is an engineer from the subcontinent :-( , with a long night ahead).

    God, we’d kill for some free time

    .

    .

    .

    .

    .

    uh-oh.