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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of ten of America's presidencies and who has edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review, which has been on the web since 1995, is now published from Freeport, Maine. We get over 5 million article visits a year. See for full contents of our site

January 12, 2010


Engineers, relative to other graduates, are over-represented among violent Islamic radicals by three to four times, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Sociology.

In the study - Why are there so many Engineers among Islamic radicals? - researchers Diego Gambetta from the University of Oxford and Steffen Hertog from Sciences Po in Paris, propose that there are links between a general mindset that is more prevalent among engineering students, and engineers' relative deprivation in some parts of the Islamic world, which can combine to create Islamic radicalisation.

After researching the background of 404 individual members of violent Islamic groups active in the Muslim world the researchers were then able to find the subject of study for 178 members and of these, 78 members (44 per cent) had studied for an engineering degree. In this sample there were individuals from 30 nationalities; the average share of engineers among the total male working population from these same countries is about 3.5 per cent.

The second most popular subject studied was Islamic Studies (34 members), followed by medicine (14 members), sciences (7 members), education (5 members), with 46 members taking other or unknown degrees making up the remainder.

The over-representation of engineers survives even when comparing data from Jihadists based in Western countries to those in Muslim countries, although the proportion of graduates recruited to Western-based radical Islam groups is lower.

Statistical analysis of poll data on US faculty shows that the odds of being both religious and conservative are seven times greater for engineers relative to the odds of a social scientist. Engineering as a degree might also be more attractive to individuals seeking cognitive "closure"´┐Żand clear cut answers - a disposition that has been empirically linked to conservative political attitudes.

Individuals with above-average skills are also particularly exposed to the frustration and sense of injustice that comes from finding their professional future hampered by lack of opportunities. This happened on a large scale as a result of the economic and technological development failures that Middle East countries have witnessed since the 1970s, and the crash of oil prices in 1982.

The researchers believe these socio-economic factors, combined with the general mindset of engineers, help to explain why there is such a high proportion of engineers in the sample.

Federal Times -
Jim McDermott, chief human capital officer of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, thinks he's found a foolproof way to convince young engineers to come to his agency: Find them dates.

"There are incentives, and then there are incentives," McDermott told a crowd of human resources officials at the HCMF Conference in Arlington, Va., earlier today. "When we're hiring, we say, 'Is there a significant other in the picture?' If there's no significant other, I tell them, 'We can help.' "

McDermott said his unorthodox recruitment pitch works because while nuclear engineers may know how to split atoms, they're not quite so adept on the dating front: McDermott

"Now, engineers study a lot in college," McDermott said. "They neglect very important extracurricular activities. My girls went to school with engineers, [and] they said, 'Dad, they don't know how to dance, they don't know how to dress, they don't even know how to talk.' "

Engineers may not necessarily become better dancers by taking a job at NRC, but McDermott said they can meet other single engineers (who probably won't roll their eyes at Star Trek or lectures on reactor cooling systems). McDermott said NRC's dating scheme has so far resulted in about eight or nine weddings.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: the number of Islamic radicals who go to school to be engineers, something the researchers apparently haven't thought of is that a lot of oil-producing countries (i.e.: Islamic) give full ride engineering school scholarships to kids who show any technical or scientific aptitude. There's no such inducement for young Saudis or Kuwaitis to be Women's Studies majors.

January 13, 2010 6:12 AM  

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