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[ISN] Holy War! Researchers say EEs have a 'terrorist mindset'


By Junko Yoshida 	
EE Times

MANHASSET, N.Y. " Is there a thread that ties engineers to Islamic 

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 [2], 
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 

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).

[1] http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/users/gambetta/Engineers%20of%20Jihad.pdf
[2] http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200801/primarysources/2

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