I don’t read Industrial Equipment News on a regular basis (who does?), but they printed a fascinating article by Mark Devlin that is worth checking out.
Mr. Devlin took umbrage at a recent paper written by two sociologist PhD’s in association with the University of Oxford. In the paper, the argument is made that there is something about engineers that causes them to become murderous, right wing radicals in greater numbers than other professions. This is due to the fact that most of the movers and shakers of international Islamic terrorist organizations were trained as engineers.
The 800 pound gorilla that the two sociologists are trying oh-so-hard to ignore is that an engineering degree might just be something sought after by people who are desperate to build bombs and place them where they will do the most damage. Terrorist wannabes will take classes that reveal the weak points in infrastructure and how to use explosives, as opposed to Texas Instruments turning normal college students into monsters with their mind-warping engineering calculators.
Or, as Mr. Devlin so pithily states, “Tough to overthrow much with an English degree.”
But I actually think there are two factors that both Mr. Devlin and the authors of the paper missed.
More than a few terrorist organizations of the Left in the 1960’s and 1970’s were started by, and heavily recruited, disgruntled college students and university professors. It worked back then, why wouldn’t it work now?
(As an aside, I would like to point out that the majority of those Leftist college students who turned to terrorism were enrolled in the soft sciences, mostly philosophy. I think the authors of the Oxford study would get bent out of shape if someone would suggest that the humanities warps the mind and turns people into violent terrorists. I would never do that myself for fear that Ginny, our resident expert on the humanities and former college student in the 1970’s, would decide to retire to her kitchen and assemble something volatile from common household cleaning products.)
It is also no secret that the Arab world is hardly a hotbed of growth and innovation. Seems to me that most of the families which can afford to pay for a modern Western style education would be pushing their spawn to get a degree in the hard sciences, if for no other reason than there is a real need for development through most of the Islamic world.
I corresponded very briefly with our fellow Chicago Boyz and resident engineer Steven den Beste about this article, and he had this to say about well educated terrorists….
“As to them being disproportionately engineers, I would suggest that observation of any large university will show that the vast majority of exchange students are to be found in departments who teach utilitarian subjects. Not too many Arabs are to be found studying postmodern literary theory or art history. And I don’t think you’ll find too many of them in the Women’s Studies department, let alone Queer Studies. Or any other “studies”, for that matter.”
That appears to be sound wisdom to me.
(Hat tip to Ace.)