Holy War! Researchers say EEs have a 'terrorist mindset'
(01/28/2008 10:07 AM EST)
MANHASSET, N.Y. " 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.
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.
But what is the engineer's mindset?
The authors call it a mindset that inclines them to take more extreme conservative and religious positions.
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 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).