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Engineers Have a Terrorist Mindset?

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the only-the-ones-who-drink dept.

IT 837

An anonymous reader writes "Do engineers have a way of looking at the world not all that different from terrorists? According to an article in the EE Times, they do. The story cites 'Engineers of Jihad,' a paper (pdf download) by two Oxford University sociologists, who found that graduates in science, engineering, and medicine are strongly overrepresented among Islamist movements. The paper also found that engineers are 'over-represented' among graduates who gravitate to violent groups. Authors Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog chalk this all up to what they call the 'engineering mindset,' which they define as 'a mindset that inclines them to take more extreme conservative and religious positions.' Is this just pop psychology masquerading as science?"

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is it April 1? (3, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | about 7 years ago | (#22223032)

First and foremost, to answer the question put forth in the summary:

Is this just pop psychology masquerading as science?

To parse:

  • is it pop psychology(?)

    this first would have to lend credence that the thesis warrants comparison to psychology in any way, let alone "pop" psychology which tends to be a few rungs down from the imprimatur of truly researched psychology. It isn't. It's not even close.

  • masquerading(?)

    You bet! No matter what this is trying to be in any genuine sense other than phooey, it's masquerading.

  • science(?)

    Not a chance. Anecdotally I would expect to be able to be able to think of a number of fellow engineers who match the description and thesis. I'm not sure I can even think of a single example. I can think of some peers from the past who I may describe as of a similar mindset, but those I would hardly describe as real engineers.

I'm guessing this article was supposed to be released April 1, but someone jumped the gun. That said, it's not even a very funny joke.


Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223212)

That is my explanation. Ridiculous. Zonk, a few too many magic mushrooms on your pizza?

scientiststendtobeliberals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223570)


regarding this tag- i think its incomplete. scientists tend to be social liberals (dont legislate behavior or morality), but i dont think they tend to be fiscal liberals (big govt with large budget). scientists tend to be more libertarian.

Re:is it April 1? (1)

nominanuda (786275) | about 7 years ago | (#22223214)

A friend of mine is an engineer and he's half Pakistani...that counts, right? I always knew he was shady.

Re:is it April 1? (4, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | about 7 years ago | (#22223490)

About 1/4-1/3 of my EE graduate school was comprised of Indians/Pakistanis here in the US to study. They were great - Other than a strange obsession with Cricket, perfectly agreeable folks. However, there was another 1/4-1/3 here to study from China that were much harder to get along with. They refused to speak English except with the professors and had posters of Mao along with his poetry all over the half of the graduate-student office that they dominated. I don't want to sound xenophobic, but it was very strange.

Re:is it April 1? (4, Interesting)

mapkinase (958129) | about 7 years ago | (#22223378)

"I'm not sure I can even think of a single example"

1. Ph.D. in science. Check.
2. Islamic fundamentalist (is it a movement?). Check.

Half of my mosque is of that type.

Supporting Shari'a, strict dressing, beards and stuff.


Re:is it April 1? ( Not Yet...) (5, Insightful)

Joe_in_63640 (1228646) | about 7 years ago | (#22223406)

Submitted as Brain-Chow:
    I once was told in a Stats class that;

  " Among Lazy, Illiterate American Auto workers,
  that 40% of all sick time was taken on a Monday
  or a Friday". The class ( mostly) was dumbstruck.

    - Never stopping to think that 40% of every
American work week is a Monday or a Friday.

    The well had been poisoned, tho, and despite
the clarity of the punchline-like analysis, many
insisted on various faults, like unions, wage status,

    I feel pretty certain of two things -
    1. That we've been so conditioned by Big Media to
              the insidious Eevil of 'Terrorism' that it invokes
              a knee-jerk response of denial in any other view.

    2. Smart people make very good Engineers and very formidable
              enemies. You won't hear of Inept Terrorists in the news.
              Only the Smart Ones.

                                    - Just my $0.02

Re:is it April 1? ( Not Yet...) (3, Informative)

orclevegam (940336) | about 7 years ago | (#22223590)

Slight clarification about that last point. We do in fact seem to hear a lot about "Inept Terrorists" in the news, although the news never reports them as inept, rather they spin it as the brave efforts of the police narrowly avoiding massive catastrophe. Never mind the fact that the plan the morons had concocted was so bad they would at most hurt (or kill) themselves, and if they got really lucky a few bystanders. Good example was a recent case where some "terrorists" had loaded their cars up with cans of gasoline and then planned on lighting them on fire believing this would lead to massive explosions (this happened over in England btw). Anyone who knows about these types of things knows all you're going to get is a big hot fireball as the car burns down, and that's about it (might work if you had a proper fuel air mixture, but just dumping containers of gas in a car isn't going to cut it). So yeah, plenty of inept to go around.

Re:is it April 1? (3, Insightful)

Naughty Bob (1004174) | about 7 years ago | (#22223586)

I think that the conclusions of this study are too sweeping (or they've been 'sexed-up' to generate more interest). But you make no effort to explain the over-representation of 'graduates in science, engineering, and medicine' in the extremist groups.

I have an engineer-type mindset, and when I believe something, I really believe it. I have always figured that it was because my engineery thought patterns, and the corresponding deductions I make about life in general, give me a set of well reasoned, watertight stances about which I then feel compelled to become hardline (the compulsion arising from the rigor of my reasoning). I also take pride in changing my stance whenever someone convinces me I'm wrong.

Engineer's Syndrome (4, Interesting)

Goaway (82658) | about 7 years ago | (#22223070)

You could probably draw parallels to Engineer's Syndrome [google.com] here.

Why not? (4, Insightful)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | about 7 years ago | (#22223072)

Many of the engineers I've known in college were absolutely convinced of tehir superiority and absolute rightness in all things. Certainly not all, but a fair chunk. Same with Fundamentalism. To a certain extent its still trying to change the world instead of yourself.

Re:Why not? (5, Insightful)

zulater (635326) | about 7 years ago | (#22223136)

I think there's a bit of a difference in "I'm always right" as opposed to "I'm going to kill those that don't think like me". Though IANATerrorist.

Re:Why not? (1, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | about 7 years ago | (#22223192)

There might just be less difference than you think.

Re:Why not? (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | about 7 years ago | (#22223478)

Don't you think that 'science, engineering and medicine' graduates is quite a wide range of people? This study could just as well end up with the conclusion "arts students or those without higher education aren't motivated enough to be terrorists", or "would be terrorists that don't have scientific knowledge tend to blow themselves up before they can get anywhere in the world of terror".

PS if you fucking disagree with me I'm going to fucking mailbomb all your fucking email addresses and DDoS your remaining fucking servers.

Re:Why not? (2, Insightful)

KublaiKhan (522918) | about 7 years ago | (#22223232)

I suppose I could see that. Engineers do tend to try to put things into precise terms--black and white, right and wrong, within tolerances and unacceptable. This is similar to fundamentalist views of the world, in a way...

Re:Why not? (1)

gnick (1211984) | about 7 years ago | (#22223346)

Engineers do tend to try to put things into precise terms--black and white, right and wrong
Precise, maybe, but I'm not so sure about black/white and right/wrong. One of the first things that I learned in engineering is that the optimal solution is almost always somewhere between the extremes. But, once I identify that optimal point, I defy anyone to try to convince me that it lies somewhere else.

Engineers? (4, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 7 years ago | (#22223548)

Ok let's see Engineers are suspect to Terrorism because they view things as right and wrong.

Assuming that this is the truth, that then puts ANYBODY WITH ANY IQ in the sciences and math as potential terrorists! So let's not stop at engineers, but head on over to physicists, and math folks.

Oh wait, maybe this is a bigger and badder idea... What if this is a way to eradicate the "intelligent."

Think hard about this. Who does any dictator knock off first? Oh yeah the intelligent and who can think for themselves.... Gee let's make engineers the scape goats and suspects here...

Come on people do we see the boggieman at every corner...

Think about why maybe many immigrants are engineers. Could it be because engineers can get visa's and jobs here? Maybe its because visa's are not given out to basketweavers!

Re:Why not? (4, Interesting)

gnick (1211984) | about 7 years ago | (#22223302)

Many of the engineers I've known in college were absolutely convinced of tehir [sic] superiority and absolute rightness in all things.
I suspect that's part of the issue. I'm an EE with a long-standing history of blowing stuff up. That said, I now work primarily trying to keep stuff from blowing up (or at least blowing up in some controlled environment.) Engineers make good terrorist candidates. They tend to:
* Be intelligent and educated (Or if not intelligent, obsessive enough to make it through a tough school-path)
* Have superiority complexes ("I know what's right and all differing opinions are wrong and should be corrected")
* Be good problem solvers ("If I wanted to get around this security system, here's what I'd do...")
* Know everything necessary to make good bombs

Re:Why not? (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 7 years ago | (#22223328)

A lot of the reason for this is that engineers live and work in a world where 1+1=2, and everything follows a similarly, objectively correct principle. Whereas when you deal with religion or human behavior, 1+1=2 in some cases, 1+1=3 for high values of 1, and 1+1=-9 when you're dealing with another continent. The Americans likes one all powerful God who knows everything, but lets us live our lives as we see fit. The Japanese like their ancestors to be in charge, Indians tend to like a lot of Gods who have human tendencies and are shaped like animals, while Europeans like their gods to be dead. None of these can be proven correct, none of these can be proven wrong, and all of these tend to get people worked up enough to fight and, sometimes, kill over. If you can accept opposing points of view, then this isn't a bad thing. If you're used to being able to see things absolutely correctly because it follows principles which are correct, then suddenly these beliefs are irrefutable facts that are only opposed by people who are wrong. This certainly doesn't apply to everyone, or even the majority, but I can see people who have these tendencies being overrepresented in both engineering disciplines and terrorist organizations.

Final Solution (1)

TheMeuge (645043) | about 7 years ago | (#22223404)

I can see it now. The Western world is going to take a hint from Mao, and start the wholesale slaughter of scientists and engineers of all sorts. Then they'll remember than many of the Palestinian terrorists were doctors, and add medical professionals to the list.

I think we should all just realize that educated people are dangerous, and must be killed or "re-educated". Then, we will attain the perfectly secure society we all crave.

Rejected yesterday, accepted today? (-1, Offtopic)

whoever57 (658626) | about 7 years ago | (#22223082)

I'll probably be down-modded for this, but: I'm pissed. I submitted this yesterday and it was rejected within 5 minutes. My writeup was very similar to the accepted submission, including a direct link to the original paper.

Re:Rejected yesterday, accepted today? (1)

scooter.higher (874622) | about 7 years ago | (#22223362)

Not only that, but did you see that it wasn't even submitted by a registered user??

"An anonymous reader writes"

Damn... that's gotta sting.


Screw it, I got karma to burn...

Re:Rejected yesterday, accepted today? (5, Funny)

superdave80 (1226592) | about 7 years ago | (#22223374)

Great, a pissed of /.er. How long till he blows something up now?

Re:Rejected yesterday, accepted today? (2, Funny)

markov_chain (202465) | about 7 years ago | (#22223410)

I hear your pain, friend. Time to strap on some C-4 and head for the Slashdot headquarters!

Re:Rejected yesterday, accepted today? (2, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 7 years ago | (#22223426)

My writeup was very similar to the accepted submission, including a direct link to the original paper
Well, that's where you went wrong! You must not be new here, so let me give you my perspective. I've been hanging out here for about a year and a half, and I've noticed that Slashdot doesn't actually link to what's making the news, it links to the news that was made by something. If there's a cool site about how to make a jumbo jet with cardboard and semen, they'll link to Arstechnica's discussion about that site. If wikileaks gets a new memo about how Bill Gates bathes in the blood of infants every night, Slashdot links to the NY Times, with maybe a sub link to the original memo (if the editor doesn't notice it's there).

Re:Rejected yesterday, accepted today? (1)

Hellad (691810) | about 7 years ago | (#22223430)

That is because you linked to the original paper. We here at Slashdot prefer that all stories be removed by a few degrees so that we can argue without RTFA, and even if we do RTFA, it is still just one persons impression of what the original source said. Welcome to the (dis)information super highway. It may sound like I am trolling with an ant-Slashdot sentiment. Actually, I'm trolling against the internet in general. Blogs, forums, etc are a great thing in many ways, but they are terrible for finding news. It is like a world wide version of the telephone game with none of the stories actually representing what is said. For example, take this story about the McDonalds CEO blaming video games for obesity. http://games.slashdot.org/games/08/01/11/1543201.shtml [slashdot.org] . The actual quote (at http://www.eetimes.com/news/latest/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=205920319 [eetimes.com] ) lays things out quite differently than what the linked article "quotes" Easterbrooke as saying. The problem is that people won't bother to find the original source because we trust that the summary is correct. The problem is that it often isn't.

How shocking (1)

pahoran (893196) | about 7 years ago | (#22223098)

Wow, lots of people in a demographic are interested in engineering. Some of them might be terrorists (but probably not the vast majority).

In other news, water is wet, etc., etc.

Engineer and Terrorist are slightly similar. (5, Funny)

binaryspiral (784263) | about 7 years ago | (#22223100)

Engineer's mindset: "What makes this thing tick"

Terrorist's mindset: "I know why this thing is ticking"

Re:Engineer and Terrorist are slightly similar. (4, Funny)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | about 7 years ago | (#22223218)

Sociologist's mindset: "What completely obvious statement can I make about this ticking thing?"

Re:Engineer and Terrorist are slightly similar. (2, Funny)

techpawn (969834) | about 7 years ago | (#22223348)

IT Mindset: "Why did this start ticking? I'll just reboot it, maybe it will stop..."

Re:Engineer and Terrorist are slightly similar. (5, Funny)

geminidomino (614729) | about 7 years ago | (#22223564)

Liberal Arts Mindset: "If they make me clean out the fry vats again, I'm gonna burn this fucking place down..."

"more extreme conservative and religious positions (3, Interesting)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | about 7 years ago | (#22223106)

the 'engineering mindset,' which they define as 'a mindset that inclines them to take more extreme conservative and religious positions.'

All I can say is, thank god I'm an atheist!

Re:"more extreme conservative and religious positi (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223250)

Is this supposed to be funny? You thanking god for being an atheist?

No, not quite.. (1)

shis-ka-bob (595298) | about 7 years ago | (#22223358)

What's funny is that he dares to use a lower case G.

Re:"more extreme conservative and religious positi (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 years ago | (#22223388)

God bless those pagans.

Re:"more extreme conservative and religious positi (1)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | about 7 years ago | (#22223566)

Is this supposed to be funny? You thanking god for being an atheist?

[_] You must be one of those "extreme" people the article is warning about. Please stay online while the DHS traces your post to determine if it came from Iran ("we launch in 5 minutes") or the White House ("we're immune from prosecution"), or AIPIC (in which case, "where's my check?")

[_] Hey everybody - George W. Bush posts on slashdot!

[_] Imagine a boewulf cluster of extreme conservative and religious ... oh, right - that's how we got into this mess in the first place.

Re:"more extreme conservative and religious positi (1, Informative)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 7 years ago | (#22223396)

...except that nearly all of the most extreme, strident, unforgiving and tediously sanctimonious people I have been running across lately seem to be atheists. What's the world coming to when the religious right have a better sense of humor about themselves than the lefty atheists? I'd call it one of the "signs of the apocalypse," but that'd be a religious reference and some atheist would start preaching at me, so let's just leave it that I'm amused and amazed...

Terrorist? No, I'm from Mars. (5, Funny)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | about 7 years ago | (#22223110)

We engineers aren't the most proactive types, we tend to sit next to the flag, banging away on our defenses and designing new weapons in our heads. Oh, and watching out for those dog-gone spies.

Re:Terrorist? No, I'm from Mars. (2, Funny)

AndresCP (979913) | about 7 years ago | (#22223532)

For real. It's those Demomen that are the real terrorists. Where's the investigation into black Scottish cyclopses?

That makes sense (4, Funny)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 7 years ago | (#22223128)

It's all becoming clear now. A lot of Islamic terrorists are engineers. That explains why they have no infrastructure over there... The engineers are too busy killing themselves to build a society. Boy I'm glad my engineering degree will be put to better use than suicide.

Re:That makes sense (1)

kabocox (199019) | about 7 years ago | (#22223398)

It's all becoming clear now. A lot of Islamic terrorists are engineers. That explains why they have no infrastructure over there... The engineers are too busy killing themselves to build a society. Boy I'm glad my engineering degree will be put to better use than suicide.

Think frustrated engineers. Engineers that have been western educated and know how to build modern stuff. Now you take that engineer out of those western schools and put them back into the middle east. Sure, this guys could build a better country, but no one wants to. They all want to fight each other or build weapons. I bet these guys really just want to shoot who ever told them that they had to come back to the middle east.

Re:That makes sense (1)

rbm42 (1229228) | about 7 years ago | (#22223584)

Hmm, does that explain why Ireland suddenly underwent a technical and economic boom when the IRA closed shop? Oh wait, that was in southern Ireland. And they didn't do suicide bombing AFAIK. But still...
Funny to think that by today's standards IRA terrorism seems relatively (repeat, relatively) decent.

Useful degrees (3, Insightful)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | about 7 years ago | (#22223142)

Well, it's not surprising that people studying useful subjects are overrepresented among Islamists in the UK.

After all, who wants a sociologist in their terror cell?

More to the point, people studying proper subjects are more likely to encounter Islamists from other countries on their courses and to be influenced by them - since nobody is going to travel all the way from Iraq/Iran/Saudi/<insert hotbed of radicalism here> to study complete bollocks like sociology or any of the other pap degrees offered, it's no wonder that there aren't too many Islamist sociology and psychology students.

Re:Useful degrees (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223376)

And even if they don't encounter more terrorists on their studies, who is more likely to hear a recruiting speech? Someone useful or someone who has been trained to be perfect middle-management?

Engineers (and scientists) are also overrepresented as atheists. So maybe engineers are generally less likely to just go along with the flock - more likely to take a real stand then sit in the back and accept what the majority says? Or maybe we should do real science before trying to decide correlation vs causation.

Re:Useful degrees (1)

popmaker (570147) | about 7 years ago | (#22223512)

How about medicine students?

Probably True (5, Insightful)

pinkocommie (696223) | about 7 years ago | (#22223152)

I'm from Pakistan and would be willing to guess that this is true. The issue primarily why these results would exist is the concept of fine arts etc aren't as common in most 3rd world countries. In pakistan for example the revered professions are Medicine and Engineering. The best and brightest always gravitate towards those (top 500 out of 50K candidates get into the main tech university in Karachi).
In any case, I'm willing to bet these are also the minds that go hmm there are problems with our society that need to be solved. One could probably divvy up these people into those that leave the country, those that stick behind and those that turn to religion for answers and eventually rise among the ranks of extremists etc.
Terrorism vs extremism isn't as finely delineated as Bush et. al would like to make it out to be. If one could fix the issue of social injustice and lack of opportunities / education I'm willing to bet most of these problems will go away as well.

Re:Probably True (2, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | about 7 years ago | (#22223488)

If one could fix the issue of social injustice and lack of opportunities / education I'm willing to bet most of these problems will go away as well.

I'm not sure I follow your last bit of reasoning there. If anything, the fact that groups like al-Qaeda (run by an engineer and a physician) and Hamas (run by a physicist who succeeded a physician) are led by the most educated members of local society tends to argue against poverty and lack of education as key causes of terrorism. Same thing on a country level -- it's Saudi Arabia that exports terrorism, not (for the most part) Yemen.

Improving people's economic prospects and education is a good thing in its own right, and doesn't require any defense. But it's not obviously a solution to this problem.

The real cause (2, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 7 years ago | (#22223158)

Is that these groups often have R&D schedules adjusted by marketing majors. Hell, going through that a few times would radicalize my pet hamster.

The Engineer (3, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | about 7 years ago | (#22223162)

One of the foremost terrorists in the history of the middle east was Yahaya Ayyash [wikipedia.org] , an electrical engineer (educated at Beir Ziet University) who built bombs for Hamas's Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. His bombs ended up killing over 100 civilians (mostly Israeli, but also Americans and other Westerners in Israel) and dozens of soldiers, ambulance workers, and other first responders.

Re:The Engineer (3, Informative)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | about 7 years ago | (#22223330)

Another leading terrorist was Menachim Begin, who was a lawyer. His Irgun group were responsible for the bombing of the King David Hotel [wikipedia.org] , and for several massacres of Arab villages after the establishment of the Zionist state.

Your point was what, exactly?

Re:The Engineer (4, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | about 7 years ago | (#22223494)

Ayyash's bombs were quite intentionally designed to kill as many people as possible (they were packed with nails and other shrapnel - and laced with rat poison - to ensure maximum lethality). The Irgun made it a point to minimize the casualties from their bombings - they called the King David hotel ahead and time and warned people to get out.

Obligatory (3, Funny)

Pojut (1027544) | about 7 years ago | (#22223168)

http://xkcd.com/319/ [xkcd.com]
http://xkcd.com/253/ [xkcd.com]

Anyone have a link to the one that is done in a "vertical" layout?

Bunch a Dr. Phil level junk (1)

binaryDigit (557647) | about 7 years ago | (#22223176)

Yes, it's absolutely a bunch of pop-psy junk.

And I will summon Allah's hand to strike down any infidels that disagree!

Now back to coding ...

Re:Bunch a Dr. Phil level junk (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 7 years ago | (#22223264)

engineers are allowed to get laid and view porn, but muslim extremists aren't. and therein lies the difference

These authors are credible (2, Insightful)

Anonimouse (934959) | about 7 years ago | (#22223190)

because they are sociologists. To quote an old telco advert, "Its an 'ology'. You're a scientist!" Its incredible what some of "ologists" churns out, and downright sad that they are given any credibility at all.

Must be graduates of Trans Poly U. (1)

strredwolf (532) | about 7 years ago | (#22223194)

Ahh yes, they must be alumni of Transylvania Polytechnic University (or Trans Poly U). Everyone wants to rule the world. So... Scroll down to pick up an MP3 of their fight song curdosy of Tom Smith [tomsmithonline.com] and sing along! (lyrics [tomsmithonline.com] ) Cheer cheer for Trans Poly U...

Immigration restrictions (4, Insightful)

zmooc (33175) | about 7 years ago | (#22223198)

It should be noted that due to US immigration restrictions, 80% of muslims migrating to the US are highly educated. Engineers. This should somehow skew the results.

Were I live, in the Netherlands, only 30% of the muslim immigrants are highly educated (the rest is practically completely uneducated...); if you'd do the same test in the Nederlands, you might find morons have a terrorist mindset;-)

monism (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 7 years ago | (#22223208)

...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).
Duh!! There's only one Right Thing®

Just pop psychology masquerading as science? (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | about 7 years ago | (#22223210)

Sure sounds that way.

ESR (2, Insightful)

emj (15659) | about 7 years ago | (#22223222)

http://catb.org/~esr/guns/ [catb.org]

I guess I'm an idiot for this

Target acquired (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223224)

Solution: Arrest them damn scientists. They only make our lives complicated anyway. All modern technology distracts people and keeps them away from what's important in life: Hard work and the fear of God. You know the joke: Computers solve problems which we wouldn't have without computers. It's funny because it's true!

So what? (4, Insightful)

gnuman99 (746007) | about 7 years ago | (#22223236)

So what?

If the criminals and terrorists are either "uneducated hoards" or someone with some education, I'd expect someone in science to do a "better job" as a criminal than the "uneducated hoards" or someone with a fine arts degree. One of the tasks you learn in *real* science (what the pseudo-scientists here don't seem to grasp) is the ability to plan ahead. Yes, plan ahead. Therefore maybe criminals and terrorists with some science background will get further in their game than square 1.

Furthermore, maybe people that want to get "ahead" in their criminal organizations enter college to gain education in the material that they will find useful. You know, an engineer or a chemist may be a more useful profession for them than a poet.

But then what will these pseudo-scientists find next in their statistics? That some of the non-science terrorists/criminals like to play chess or other strategy games? Or that they are fanatics *before* starting their university education?

75% of people know these statistics are bogus 19 times out of 20.

another sad attempt to rationalize terrorism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223242)

It can't be that a large proportion of islamic jihadists come from fairly well off families and engineering is a highly culturally respected profession.. no.. engineering itself must cause terrorism!

Just another sad ivory tower attempt to call it everything but what it is.

As an engineer I say: (1)

bytta (904762) | about 7 years ago | (#22223248)

I'm gonna f***ing kill you for these lies!
Oh wait... nevermind.

Georgia Tech (1)

ElSupreme (1217088) | about 7 years ago | (#22223268)

I sort of was under the impression that engineers would think critically and not accept faith based on the limited evidence to support it. Then I went to Georgia Tech and found out differently. Maybe I should have become a scientist and not the engineer that I am. But in all honesty, who could pull off, or make a terrorist plot better than an engineer. I know whenever I fly, I am constantly looking at holes in security, not that it is hard to find them, I just don't think most people really look. Plus how else are they going to build those bombs?

Re:Georgia Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223572)

Strangely enough my roommate goes to Georgia Tech and he studies aeronautical engineering. I got into a brief discussion with him on evolution one day and he revealed that he's a young earth creationist. He even said that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics (?!?!!?!?). It's beyond me how someone could study science and physics to such an extent and still not have the thought to question things like this. How you can study rocket science but not understand the second law of thermodynamics is mind-boggling to me.

I always chalked it up to engineers having a mindset that they wanted to accomplish something without much regard to the larger picture. They wonder how technology works but have little thought for society as a whole. Of course this is a generalization and I'm sure isn't true in many cases. However the narrow focus that often makes engineers successful would be conducive to ignoring larger issues.

extreme beliefs (2, Insightful)

pyphil (1228870) | about 7 years ago | (#22223274)

I always thought that those with degrees in science, medicine and engineering were overrepresented within the realm of atheist or agnostic belief frameworks. I guess we cant go without forming a very strong opinion about the universe around us.

just the opposite I would think. (1)

gonar (78767) | about 7 years ago | (#22223278)

I'm an engineer, just about everyone I know is an engineer of one form or another.

in my experience, engineers, if anything, tend to be anti-religious, socially liberal types who constantly look for rational, provable solutions to the world's problems.

not blow up abortion clinics, embassies, airplanes, shopping malls etc all while claiming the evil they do is god's will.

Not true (1)

ccguy (1116865) | about 7 years ago | (#22223282)

Actually the most represented group are lawyers, but I hear they are only useful for the first weeks of training (once the more aggresive groups start taking decapitation 101 they tend to dissapear).

Lookup for terrorist in monster if you don't believe me...

Duh Sherlock. (2, Insightful)

Steauengeglase (512315) | about 7 years ago | (#22223294)

OK, lets back up the truck for a second and try to view this as something other than "those jerks in IT are such elitist pigs" mindset for a second. I have an organization that going to inflict terror on a given population. Am I going to recruit a wet nurses or an engineer?

correlation vs causation (1)

genner (694963) | about 7 years ago | (#22223298)

Has anybody considered the fact that if you start with the mindset of wanting to build a bomb, destro a building, etc; that maybe getting a background in engineering might help you achieve those goals?

Engineering doesn't create more terrorists but terrorists might create more engineers.

business major as terrorist? (2, Insightful)

OnslaughtQ (711594) | about 7 years ago | (#22223300)

I don't think engineers are terrorists, but rather terrorists are engineers. Some rudimentary knowledge of bomb making, architectural structures, and other engineering fields are usually ideal if you're going to blow up a building.

A marketing or business major would not be suitable for the young terrorist. This would lead to things such as radical groups forcing us to buy that blue jacket which we don't really like and think is overpriced anyway, but now we have to buy it or concede that they are right.

Re:business major as terrorist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223434)

If the terrorists are engineers, they're not very good ones. Most of the engineers I know would probably come up with a "remote detonator" or "timer" solution at least.

Salem Hypothesis (1)

Aardpig (622459) | about 7 years ago | (#22223308)

The "Salem Hypothesis" (named after Bruce Salem) is a name for a correlation that has been observed amongst scientists, between subscribing to creationism and working in an engineering discipline. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_hypothesis [wikipedia.org] )

Or maybe... (5, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | about 7 years ago | (#22223310)

Or maybe it's that Engineers are recruited more aggressively than liberal arts majors because likely to bring useful skills and a concrete, analytical mindset to the mission.

The better question is (5, Insightful)

Travoltus (110240) | about 7 years ago | (#22223314)

do terrorists have an ENGINEER mindset?

Terrorism requires the knowledge to bypass security and/or blow stuff up.

To do that, you need engineers. Otherwise all you get is a bunch of talkers, not doers, or at least doers who blow themselves up more often, and who fail to even reach their targets.

What this means is, your average engineer does not have a terrorist mindset, but terrorist groups must recruit engineers in order to Get Stuff Circumvented/Done[tm]. So they recruit engineers as often as they can, because otherwise they cannot Get Stuff Circumvented/Done[tm].

Two examples (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223324)

Yasser_Arafat: After returning to the University, Arafat studied civil engineering http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yasser_Arafat [wikipedia.org] Osama_Bin Laden: Some reports suggest bin Laden earned a degree in civil engineering in 1979, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osama_bin_laden [wikipedia.org]

Engineers don't kill people, people kill people (0, Troll)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | about 7 years ago | (#22223338)

This is simply the "guns kill people" mindset taken to it's next logical step. Obviously an engineer can be used as a weapon. In fact if you want your weapon to have any effect you best hire a few engineers. Especially if you're improvising, or if you want to be the best at it.

My answer to this would be simple : "guns don't kill people, people kill people", in other word, it's the conviction of the guys that matters, not the knowledge. What mindset ? Well it's called "islamic" terrorism for a reason. Yes people who do not believe in separation of conviction and state (that would be all non-christians), and on top of that believe in using violence to advance their cause (like ... all muslims, I'm sorry to say, search "sixth pillar of islam") will obviously infiltrate everything, and attempt to use that to their advantage, killing others in the process. Is this supposed to be a surprise ? Unless I'm seriously misreading my history books, 50 years ago, nobody doubted this, today, it's "hate speech" to even suggest this.

A well-equipped viral geneticist or even just a capable chemist (fortunately "capable" is a bit of a problem for that region of our little planet) would be many times more dangerous than any engineer can seriously hope to be. So will we preventively outlaw them too ? Perhaps all of science ?

There's the ability factor... (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | about 7 years ago | (#22223340)

I don't know if engineers are philosophically predesposed to be terrorists. They are, however, the best trained individuals to plan and execute a terrorist act.

Many of us are intimately familar with society's infrastructure, are able to obtain items normally not available to the general public, and are comfortable and knowledgeable enough to social-engineer our way into areas normally off-limits to the public.

Phooey! (1)

GigaHurtsMyRobot (1143329) | about 7 years ago | (#22223354)

Engineers are not more likely to become terrorists or believe that kind of fundamentalist nonsense... Engineers are just actually able to DO things. Al Qaeda would not be very effective if they exclusively hired gardeners.

It's Darwinian... (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 7 years ago | (#22223360)

...an engineer is capable of making more than one bomb.


What's first Hen or Egg? (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 7 years ago | (#22223384)

It may be possible that in order to become a successful terrorist you will have to know about technology. Terrorists that don't know the difference between sodium chloride and sodium hydroxide won't get far and will probably be more of an amusement than a real problem.

Or it may be with them as with other kids - It's funny to blow things up!

And there may be some truth to the fact that those who can - they do, those who can't become leaders. (This can be applied to any grouping...)

Liberal sociologists see no extremism in a mirror (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223400)

Clearly, in the middle east, religion is major factor, but the conservative part is plain wrong. Extremism comes in conservative AND liberal forms. That area has plenty of problems with tribalism and forms of collectivism. And plenty of illiberal (in the classic sense) totalitarian, non-responsive governments have been propped up by us, and that crap didn't just start with Dubya. Plenty of US liberals are part of that mess.

Liberals seem too willing to fail to see extremism on their side, just the proper way of thinking. And it is the same crap of seeing the world through an American lens. Not everything can fit into our Republican-Democrat model. Seeing the problem of the middle east as a conservative problem is as wrong as the "they hate us for our freedom" crowd.

Job Application: Senior Terror Engineer (1)

umbrellasd (876984) | about 7 years ago | (#22223416)

People that choose an engineering profession have an interest in how things work and want to know how they can make or change those things. All of our infrastructure is designed and created by engineers whether it be civil engineers that design city layouts (which a terrorist needs to understand to be effective), mechanical engineers that determine the structural integrity necessary for various structures (bridges, buildings, roads, etc.) (which a terrorist needs to understand to effectively blow up), or software engineers which create the infrastructure necessary to run virtually all of our businesses today (particularly financial).

I think the article's point is retarded. It basically says, "People that want to change the world are often engineers." Obvious.

There you have it. (5, Funny)

fstolze (1229222) | about 7 years ago | (#22223446)

This clearly underlines why math, science and engineering must be eradicated from the US educational system.

lack of liberal arts? (1)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | about 7 years ago | (#22223448)

While the paper is silly, there is a point there. Would an engineer more likely act with irrational anger than an artist or a musician? Probably not so much in the western world, but I think lack of humanities has a crippling effect on middle eastern thinking.

If you aren't taught about the rights of man, or to find something beautiful in mankind, it may be easier to see death and violence as a viable solution. I'm sure that goes for any profession, but perhaps some engineers ignore that part of education since it is not always required.

Correllation does not imply causation (0, Redundant)

Bryansix (761547) | about 7 years ago | (#22223454)

These people have it backwards. The real reason that people who graduate in science, engineering and medicine are over-represented in terrorist organizations is because those are the degrees that it is useful to have in a terrorist organzation. Do you really think a terrorist is going to get a Political Science degree. They don't want to learn about the greatness of democracy. Do you really think a terrorist is going to get a music degree? They could care less about music! No, if you are a terrorist you either learn about science or engineering so you can build bombs and weapons or you learn about Medicine because either you want to be a medic for the Jihadists or because you want to be a doctor for the so called charitable arm of most terrorist organizations. Most people forget that terrorist organizations in the muslim community most often masquarade as charaties.

Slashdot, You have offended all Engineers! (1)

wiredog (43288) | about 7 years ago | (#22223470)

I come to Michigan and blow up the /. World HQ! All your mod-bombs are belong to us!

Silence! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223492)

I Kill You!

-- Achmed, the Dead Engineer

The problem is... (2, Insightful)

ShiNoKaze (1097629) | about 7 years ago | (#22223518)

Engineers tend to be trained to think. This is a problem for people in charge.

Similar skills/thiking styles != mindset (1)

EaglemanBSA (950534) | about 7 years ago | (#22223522)

I think the correlation is more that terrorists find themselves most effective when they unravel the things we engineers labor to create. We are responsible for every facet of infrastructure, from water and roads to cars, planes, and cell phones and the Internet.

How can one person make the largest impact against a superpower? Hit their infrastructure. It's the only way. We don't have the same mindset, we do vastly different work on the same mechanisms.

Because deadly force is an effective tool? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223524)

It is cheap, universally understood, and yields immediate results. Unlike diplomacy.

the 19 men (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 7 years ago | (#22223534)

who did 9/11 were from mostly upper middle class middle eastern backgrounds. meaning the whole argument about poverty creating terrorism is bs

also bs is the idea that engineering interested is also islamofascist interested. it is more accurate to say that everyone in the middle east is engineering interested, as this is viewed as prestige in the middle east

therefore, those who are islamofascist interested are also usually engineering interested... but only because everyone is. causation vs. correlation, etc...

You Have NO Rights: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#22223538)

In the United Gulags of America [whitehouse.org] .


Congratulations (1)

bperkins (12056) | about 7 years ago | (#22223544)

You've noticed that many engineers are conservative.

Was it the cut of slacks that gave it away?

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)

I've also noticed these traits among some engineers. I thought it was because they were assholes.

In other news, (1)

Mesa MIke (1193721) | about 7 years ago | (#22223578)

... it has been found that violent, drug-crazed criminals are strongly represented by people who drank milk as babies! zomgwtfbbq!

Has anyone even considered..... (1)

moondawg14 (1058442) | about 7 years ago | (#22223596)

that engineers just like to blow shit up? Seriously?

Doesn't fit the profile (4, Insightful)

ianchaos (160825) | about 7 years ago | (#22223600)

Many of the terrorists which have been part of the popular news media the last few years have had the eventual goal of creating a very structured and ordered society. While this may seem to fit the barest idea of what an engineer might approve of, it is a far stretch from matching the what I know of engineering types.

1. Engineers are just as interested in knowing how things work as they are in making sure they work orderly. This would lend itself to a desire for more openness in working systems. To easier be able to lift the hood and see what's going on. Most terrorists seem interested in extremely closed societies with no openness.

2. Terrorists main method of operation is to create fear and chaos in order to eventually gain control. Chaos is not an engineer's friend. While an engineer would be glad to have created order from chaos, he would not create disorder in an attempt to create a working system.

3. Engineering is generally a respected, fairly good paying career choice. What is the incentive to give up a promising future for a life of uncertainty and danger.

I just don't see it.
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