back to article Sociologists: Studying engineering turns you into a terrorist

A pair of sociologists have produced a piece of research in which they claim that graduate engineers are statistically over-represented among jihadi terrorists. They go on to suggest that engineers have a "terrorist mindset" making them likelier to turn jihadi than other kinds of people. The lead author of the study is Diego …

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Linux

"Engineer" as title.

From "The Main Enemy" page 273, 274 (via Amazon's "look inside"): This is about Afghanistan's anti-Soviet muhadjeen.

"Gulbuddin wasn't an engineer, and I knew it. But resistance party leaders came in only two categories - clerics and engineers. If a commander or party head wasn't addressed by the clerical titles of "mullah" or "maulvi", then it had better be "engineer." So "Engineer Gulbuddin" it would be."

The book doesn't explain why, but perhaps a technical school of some sort that provided the only educated non-clerics in the country? I doubt that all the engineers identified by the study in question are "by title only", but maybe some are. But, as others have mentioned, I believe engineering remains a common field of study in the Islamic world. And good for them. More useful than most sociologists. Apart from the bombs, I mean.

The Penguin, 'cuz sociologists hate Linux but Engineers love it. (Sorry, that's the broadest stereotyping I could fit in. I'll try harder in future.)

Note re: Sociologist bashing: I've had a lot of exposure to them. (I have a little SocRad card around here somewhere...) Some do useful, valuable, interesting work. Too many, though, are complete wastes of space.

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Anonymous Coward

Crap journalism made me smoke crack

Apparently, studying medicine is likely to make you be a doctor, and studying media studies is likely to make you a call centre employee. I think we're confusing effect and cause here!

These days its far too easy for 'accademics' to get stuff onto 'news' websites and 24 hour News TV - crap accademics who find it hard to get themselves noticed in the accademic world can get their pet theories into the public domain by catching the eye of some lazy hack who is too idiotic to make any critical judgements of what they say.

It seems like web news sites like El Reg are particularly prone to this... probably because of their quick news turn-around, their small budgets and their need for attention grabbing RSS newsfeed headlines.

p.s. Being deeply religious or highly political really does make you much more likely to become a terrorist - the irony here is that modern Islaam is actually largely anti-science.

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Coat

Not as Much Fun as Studying Boozy Coeeds at Dressy Sex Parties

These Oxford chaps need to learn to loosen up a bit more.

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Peer review?

Whatever happened to the wonderful process of peer review that used to happen before horribly ill-informed academic papers were dumped on an unsuspecting media?

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Happy

@Rob - Congratulations

Never mind the actual content of this discussion.

I have always wanted to know how far El Reg's moderation rules will let you go. Since you got away with the word "cunt" in a title, I guess the answer is "quite far, actually".

Game on.

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Gates Horns

@Dave Jones

Thanks to Globalization engineers are getting to travel to the dole while their jobs are being shifted to the Far East.

Just as well could say engineers are too busy fixing practical "problems" to ask awkward questions or to see the the bigger picture. Like building the Great Firewall for the Chinese and designing face recognition software for Big Brother at home. If it's not quantifiable, it's not worth considering.

When you study social sciences you (should) ask those awkward questions about things we take for granted during every day toil. This easily leads the head in the clouds syndrome, but it also means you won't accept the crap being fed to you.

Bill Gates because he's a prime example of an "amoral" capitalist engineer.

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Gold badge
Alert

WTF?

They did a load of research trawling the web and came up with 404? Is that a coincidence or just an indication of how carefully they checked their answers......?

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Anonymous Coward

Ha!

Turns out it's not just sociologists that make snap judgements based on a small sample. How many posters here think that sociologists are a waste of space? Come on, hands up. These two sociologists might be twats but doesn't mean they all are. (And I'm a scientist, before you ask!)

Anyway, let's just hope America doesn't get a hold of this, or instead of black gowns and mortar boards, engineering graduates will be wearing orange jumpsuits to collect their degrees.

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Happy

Watch out you lot

Now where did I put that explosive belt... Oh I know, silly me.

SELECT * FROM jihadista.mydeadlyweapons WHERE jihadista.mydeadlyweapons.name LIKE "%belt%" GROUP BY jihadista.mydeadlyweapons.stash_id DESC

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@ Tetchy by anon

Just because religion may be important to you dosn't mean everybody has the same little mind set.

I'm just grumpy that I have to do something useful to get paid

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Anonymous Coward

For those who wonder,

this is a working paper that has been put on a uni of Oxford server (just click on the link the kind people at El Reg have provided us). In other words, it hasn't been peer-reviewed, and in scientific terms is worth squat, fancy Oxford U shield on the front or not. For a paper that claims to find a link between two numerical things (amount of terrorists in engineers vs general population), I find the lack of any t-test or similar very disappointing. All the more 'coz I is Muslim, and a scientist to boot! (Please Reg, don't forward my IP/email etc to youknowwho, I swear I'm not planning anything!)

I seem to remember that a few years ago some physicists had written a fake paper and got it published in one of the more prominent sociology journals though, so peer-review in socio might not be as tough as in other disciplines...

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Alien

100% of terrorists

ARE HUMAN!!!

Dan dan daaa!

So maybe we ought to kill all humans.

Now bite my shiny metal ass, meatbags!

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Coat

We aren't THAT special, and the rest of the world isn't THAT annoying.

EVERY discipline has some dead wood- engineers included. Looking at some of the poorly thought out crap in any store tells that story. The world takes all sorts to run, and if all things were left to any one 'group', things would quickly fall apart.

Sure, this study is crap- it wouldnt have gained any any attention on the Reg if it weren't. Who of our ilk pays attention to valid studies? What was the last study you read from ANY other discipline?

Simply because one's interests don't lie with a particular 'job', doesn't make an entire discipline useless. Our world is dependent upon expertise and compartmentalization. You wouldn't want an EE building a bridge, and i sincerely doubt that any engineering subset follows any other subset's research.

The study IS crap, but then again, so was my last toaster. From the anecdotal accounts above:

"If study X is crap, all sociology is crap." B

ut an equivelent syllogism would then be "If toaster Y is crap, all engineering is crap."

Inductive arguments speak to statistical probability, not to logical neccessity. What discipline handles logic again? Oh right. philosophy, not engineering.

Predominance of 'technical' studies among foreign students from 'lesser world' countries? A culture must have available leisure time without wolves at the door in order to pay attention to things other than plumbing. (Thorstein Veblen...roughly).

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Proof of falling edumacational standards?

Call me stupid, but surely higher education* would push people

a) away from the idea of blowing themselves up to prove a point/ go and visit virgins in the afterlife/ because some weird old nut told them to.

and b) to do things right, rather than the terror-clown approaches that we've seen so far.

*: Unless we include joke 'higher' education here - former poly's and universities that offer 'surfing studies', I'm looking at you....

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Happy

Maybe these Sociologists aren't as stupid as they seem...

Here you all are having a go at Sociologists in general and this pair in particular. On the other hand, they have received funding ffor a twelve month research project, spent 364 days down the pub spending the grant, knocked together the paper in the afternoon of the 365th day and are now back down the pub laughing their arses off.

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Anonymous Coward

Exactly what the terrorist sociologists would want you to believe

I thought Doctors were the potential terrorists in the UK, funny how we don't hear anything about the investigation into them nowadays, after all they were the ones trying to blowup a car in an airport not too long back.

Not sure, if the engineering types would really go for the paradise of vestal virgins, seems a bit too fleshy of a desire for those involved in the nuts and bolts of engineering.

At the end of the day, the group that always tops the list for terrorism is politicians. Imagine a world without them... Kinda peaceful.

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Fact!

That individuals studying sociology are overly represented in the community of morons.

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for every report that says that

I can produce 5 that show sociologists are over represented in the McJob field.

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Go

Darwin explains it all

Non-engineers playing with bombs just don't last long enough to get their names published.

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Unhappy

re. Proof of falling edumacational standards?

"Call me stupid, but surely higher education* would push people

a) away from the idea of blowing themselves up to prove a point/ go and visit virgins in the afterlife/ because some weird old nut told them to.

and b) to do things right, rather than the terror-clown approaches that we've seen so far."

Does the article say that engineers are more likely to be sucide bombers? I didn't see that.

As a number of people have already pointed out, the statistical link could be because terrorist groups are likely to actively recruit people with skills relevent to their activity; I'll bet engineers are "over-represented" at BAE as well. It could also be that people recruited before studying are encouraged to study in technical areas in order to provide these skills.

As far as terrorists not being educated goes; the educated ones are more effective and don't neccesarily conform to our stereotypical images of terrorists.

I'm not sure what is meant by "terror-clown approaches" but I think that over three thousand US soldiers killed in Iraq is an unhappy testament to their effectiveness.

This brings us to the really thorny issue: why would an educated person participate in a terrorist campaign at all?

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Paris Hilton

when does their BS end?

When does their BS end? Every day they give me reason to hate them more and more. Sooner or later I'll pick up arms against them. To hell with being nice and getting along and letting people live they way they choose. Lets just kill them and be done with it. (I don't condone such actions, but others might and someday it'll end in tears for so many.)

I think it's because engineers (among others) are smart enough to know it's all BS and they are under represented in their cult.

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Pirate

Jihad!!!!!!

Brother engineers.

Let us rise up from our basement hovels, devoid of light.

We shall kill the Infidels who debase our art and poke fun our technological genius, We shall rid the world of those that take long "working" lunches and are always going on jollies. Their talk of market penetration is blasphemany!!

Yes Brothers and Sister we attack the marketing dept at dawn!!!

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Alert

Well, it's obvious, innit?

'They go on to suggest that engineers have a "terrorist mindset" making them likelier to turn jihadi than other kinds of people.'

That's because of having to deal with illogical, idiotic arsehats in the Sociology Department. Five minutes of trying to convince one of them that, if he refuses to back up his files to the network, they *will* disappear forever when his laptop crashes/is lost/is sold to buy more drugs, and I'm ready to start assembling bombs from random kitchen objects myself.

Except, rather than being a suicide bomber, I'd be applying them as involuntary suppositories for the SocDept idjits.

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Anonymous Coward

consistency

Surely, the % difference in engineers is only significant if it is significantly different to a small containing superset.

For example as pointed out, all islamic terrorists are muslims.

A quick look at the registers of people on different degrees at my campus reveals far more muslim sounding names doing engineering than say philopsophy.

If this trend is consistent across universities, all the study shows is that terrorists represent an even cross section of their superset.

not very scientific but neithers the study...

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J
Heart

Re: Actually, if you look at it rationally

"YEC's, creationists, and others of that particular group are poorly represented in higher academic fields....Except for--wait for it--ENGINEERS."

It's interesting, I wonder if there are any *real* studies (not based on FOX or, shudder, Wikipedia material!) on this, but my own anecdotal experience is the same, and I thought of the same explanation. I come across these types quite frequently both in real life and online, being a biologist who works on evolutionary matters, and the "engineer" type is quite frequent among them. I wonder if some sociologist will take this one up to study...

What I do know was counted was the religiosity among the members of the USA Nat. Academy of Sciences, and the discipline with the highest proportion of believers in some sort of god was the Mathematicians (lowest was Biologists, don't remember the rest). But that must be because Mathematicians are not scientists at all to begin with...

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Figures...

Typical. The sociologists at my eng'g school went above and beyond to discredit every eng'r and engineering on a whole on a daily basis. (This would be Lakehead U. Known for their forward-thinking ban on Wi-Fi.)

In Canada, we have a National Day of Mourning to remember the people killed at the Montreal Ecole-Polytechnique. They were eng'g and science students, mostly women. On that day, it's customary for the Eng'g Dept to hold a service. In December of 2005, the Sociology Dept asked to speak at the service, and went on to present a 45 minute long harrangue on the evils of eng'g and the war-mongering of all eng'rs.

And this was at an Eng'g memorial service!

Some things never change, eh?

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and...

In previous wars, engineers were behind the design and implementation of mass killing too. This wasn't a problem to social commentators when they were on the "right" side.

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Anonymous Coward

@ Evil Graham

Never mind the swear words. They are acceptable as long as the discussion is going in the direction Reg wants!

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Witty Riposte

Engineers:

Sociologists are frustrated engineers who couldn't hack 'A'Level Physics.

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Coat

I read this wrong..

I thought it said "scientologists"...

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RW
Black Helicopters

More Truths

foo_bar_baz: "Bill Gates because he's a prime example of an "amoral" capitalist engineer."

Amoral, yes. Capitalist, maybe. (Quite possibly a fascist.) Engineer, no.

Gates dropped out of Harvard without getting a degree, not in sociology, not in fine arts, not in law, and definitely not in engineering. Just what he had studied before he dropped out I dunno.

What is Gates, really? An amoral capitalist/fascist marketing wonk. A con man, in other words, like every other marketing wonk on the planet.

Exemplary reminder that the initial demonstration of Windows v.1 was a Potemkin village: there was no Windows behind the windows, just a canned display of predetermined graphics. Or so the story goes.

Gates: a con man then, a con man now.

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Maybe in Reverse

My main thoughts on this study is that they have things mixed up.

I mean, by the time you get to higher education, generally you have picked a general idea of what you want to do.

So, if I wanted to become a terrorist, wouldn't I then go study engineering? I mean, they just don't have a degree in terrorism.

I just think your terrorists are more likely to study engineering to further their careers. I mean, come on, what else are you going to study to try and get accepted at the local terrorism chapter?

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Happy

Some do, Some don't

"The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the "social sciences" is: some do, some don't" Ernest Rutherford

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Joke

engineers are terrorists

If thue then we are running your company networks and administering your systems ;P

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Flame

Email to my M8 Davors

After reading that, I just had to email the link, and some comment, to my m8 Davors, who is studying "rocket science" at the mo.

I've worked in a couple ofUK Uni's. Around 10 years between them, and attended another. Its probably NOT a popular view, but to say I view most unis with derision would be an understatement.

Yo Davors, MATE.

While I can't yet provide definitive objective proof to support my view that All Universities are Full Of Shit, I can probably show you something that will /so/ impress you, regarding one of the various mental daihorreas-dressed-as-sciences that our Fine Institutions foist on an otherways not-that-bad world.

Classic example today!

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/30/engineers_terrorists_wikipedia_oxford_sociology/

Terrorism? Well no.

However it probably terrorises the inbred twats who churn out this garbage, and the establishment that breeds them, as does anything with any basis in fact, or in fact anything other than the "self-actualising" bullshit they eat and swim in will scare even /more/ shit out of them.

And that, dear boy, is why some degrees are worth a lot less than a sheet of used toilet paper.

Then of course, there are psychology, arts, theology etc., but we must savour what we have, and save for another day.

So. What I suggest (for therapy, for those people capable sentient thought, who feel battered by the amount of bullshit floating around in Unis) is repeated listening to "Your's is no disgrace", by Yes, It's sometimes nice to be reminded of the sheer futility of trying to shout some sense into the truly /stupid/ end of humanity, (i.e. those you find a lot of at/running unis.) by seeing it from a distance, and finding it amusing.

So get the fricking ticket, go build something /definitively/ cool. An LEO-capable "Concorde2" perhaps? And just hope it doesn't blow up on the launch pad, or the sociologist will gloat.. Or better still, fill it with sociologists, and hope it does. :-D

FFS. If it was down to them, we would not even have /wheels/, or be able to crush wheat with a stone to make bread.

Jihad Tecchie brothers! AN END TO ALL Humanities and Arts departments!

They are Twats, I hate them.

Cheers!

Fragz.

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Stop

In related news

Studying sociology turns you into an idiot.

Or maybe it's just that idiots are more likely to study sociology?

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Anonymous Coward

I can't help wondering...

What does studying sociology turn you into?

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Stop

Profiling

Oh that's just perfect, really looking forward to this attribute being added to radical profiling.

So, in future if anyone asks you "what are you?" reply "I am a sociologist"

then add ... "can you spare me some change?"

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Flame

Crying with laughter

Well.. what can I say..

I'm a mechanical engineering student @ Nottingham (no not trent!)

I am neither conservative or religious (my religious beliefs can be summed up in one word, b****cks)

But I think what they are saying here is that most terrorists tend to be.. well.. clever, that is, people in REAL degrees, at least thats the way I interpret those uh.. 'facts'.

I can tell you that we have a wonderful chap here who lectures us in "Professional studies" which is basically all about how to engineer morally, something sociologists just wouldn't understand, they probably learn that it is impossible to do anything selfless or some such bull? Well this wonderful lecturer tells us all about people like Mordechai Vanunu, perhaps you could call him a terrorist? Maybe its better to be a terrorist than an apathist, if you sociology students actually tried to improve society, rather than just study it, terrorism would decrease if not disappear. But I guess that burden will have to fall to those of us with some skill?

Flame icon because i may have gone a bit ott?

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Go

Well...!

I have been a liberal arts student (Modern and Economic History if you must know). I am now a computer scientist and (very poor) mathematician. Death to all sociologists ...!

errr....

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Boffin

Sociology has a use

It isn't just "artsy study", in fact they do real studies on social behaviour. I see a problem though on architects being called "engys" ... but even more that some people don't consider us CompSys Engineers as "engineers"! Ouch!

Wait, I mean real CompSys Engineers, not MCSE's or the entire "it is related to a computer" dudes.

Anyway, I'd say that the study is in fact backwards as some have pointed out, with Islamic terrorists studying stuff that would help them, or just not be controversial to their beliefs. IIRC, engineers as a bunch tend to go to be lefties on a lot of stuff (even "false leftism", like the Web2.0 sheep) as conservatism is basically against the engineers nature: no change, ever; while the whole point of engineering is change.

Now, if they took their stats for CompSci alumni out of the BOFHen, well... of course you'll find a bunch of terrorists. Not jihadist, though ... ;)

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Go

Re: Actually, if you look at it rationally

By J

Posted Wednesday 30th January 2008 18:10 GMT

"YEC's, creationists, and others of that particular group are poorly represented in higher academic fields....Except for--wait for it--ENGINEERS."

It's interesting, I wonder if there are any *real* studies (not based on FOX or, shudder, Wikipedia material!) on this, but my own anecdotal experience is the same, and I thought of the same explanation. I come across these types quite frequently both in real life and online, being a biologist who works on evolutionary matters, and the "engineer" type is quite frequent among them. I wonder if some sociologist will take this one up to study...

What I do know was counted was the religiosity among the members of the USA Nat. Academy of Sciences, and the discipline with the highest proportion of believers in some sort of god was the Mathematicians (lowest was Biologists, don't remember the rest). But that must be because Mathematicians are not scientists at all to begin with...

--------------

I do believe there was a rather haphazard set of studies on this....maybe even a decent one. I work from memory most of the time, and I did discover while in college doing a rather dull psych project that while almost no real scientists were YEC or creationists(I think some idiots (turkel?) consistently laid claim to "scientists believe in god", came to find out that it was like some crazy decimal place percentage like .00000001% and the only things they had published was some stuff about worms in farming. Not exactly rocket scientists. I personally find religion to be both interesting, and at the same time amusing...but I just can't take it seriously. I am a problem solver, everything I see is a problem needing a solution, so that is where I came up with the idea....The paper did get good reviews by my professors, psychologists are also under represented in the religious areas(something with knowing religiosity is way too close to mental defect, and seeing an analog of most of the devout in studies of mental imbalance). Anyway, go to town, give it some research and see what you can find out if you're interested.

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Anonymous Coward

Philosophy leads to genocide...

Reading the ridiculous paper, apart from the numerous spelling and grammatical errors (bretherns was my favourite, no it is used as the plural of brother), it seems to be a political manifesto.

Based on their method, I could nominate Ho Chi Minh and Pol Pot, noting that they completed doctorates at the Sorbonne and conclude that Sorbonne doctorates (in Philosophy) will make one a genocide. Then we should round up all the Philosophy graduates and take them to the War Crimes Tribunal.

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