Sunday, December 27, 2009

What Majors Do Fundamentalists Prefer

Oxford Sociologists Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog wrote a paper in 2007 observing that we see many more terrorists with engineering degrees than we would expect, if engineers and non-engineers radicalize at the same rate. But in fact we see more engineers by a factor of nine. Why? And guess why this observation is suddenly recirculating the internet? Our currently-most-famous religious extremist's education was...(drum roll)

"Mr. Abdulmutallab grew up in a rarefied slice of Nigeria, the son of an affluent banker. He attended one of the West Africa’s best schools, the British School of Lomé in Togo. After high school, he went to Britain and enrolled at University College London to study mechanical engineering." (From the New York Times, hat tip to Marginal Revolution.)

In the past year or so there was a paper showing that in academia, it's the social sciences that are most likely to devert people. Psychology, anthropology, and linguistics are all more deadly to faith than biology, which is in turn much more deadly than physics. And apparently, than engineering. Anecdotally, it seems like almost every online evolution-creation debate I've ever wasted time on has been with an engineer, and engineers are also overrepresented among crackpots. How many Christian engineers have you argued with in creationist forums?

In any event, it's an interesting problem and it might help us understand the mentality that allows people to become this far gone.


DM said...

Looks like your website is under attack from supernatural forces…,40909.0.html

you really need to add comment moderation to your blasphemy…

Anonymous said...

how do you devert people?