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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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll give you another statistic

    100% of Islamic Terrorists are Muslim!

    So being a Muslim turns you into a terrorist.

  2. Matt

    You've got to keep in mind

    that the people on the list may not be terrorists in any real sense (given where the data came from) nor can we be certain that the degrees are correctly attributed.

  3. Stuart Bullock
    Paris Hilton

    Sociologists Just Smarting

    Because they are not taken seriously by other academic disciplines.

    If I recall on the toilet wall at my old university, written above the toilet paper, were the words: "Sociology Degrees - Please Take One"

    The picture is Paris Hilton, who would excel in Sociology.

  4. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Bass Ackwards as usual?

    Would it not be more likely that jihadist types would try and recruit people who actually know how to make bombs?

    The bigger question is, what proportion of jihadis raise funds from downloading music?

  5. Ralph B

    They may have a point

    Because as an engineer, I'm feeling well inclined to launch a bloody jihad against sociologists.

  6. Anonymous John


    that's because all the arts grads are flipping burgers?

  7. Rob

    Innumerate hippy cunts!

    Huh! Just because they were too thick to study a real subject and had to settle for arty-farty socio-bollocks, they're now jealous of people who aren't retarded fuckwits and are trying to make themselves feel better with all this "They're not really cleverer than us, they're potential terrorists!" shite!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Well I'm an engineer

    and I do have fun at airports figuring out the holes in the security.

    One small step to killing hundreds of innocent people, really.

  9. Chris Miller

    No worries, Lewis

    In a few more years NuLabr will have closed all the science and engineering departments and we'll only have radical Islamists with sociology degrees - no chance of them constructing a working bomb.

    What's the difference between an engineering graduate, a science graduate and a sociology graduate?

    The engineering graduate asks: "How does this work?"

    The science graduate asks: "Why does this work?"

    And the sociology graduate asks: "D'ya want fries with that?"

  10. Rob Crawford
    Paris Hilton


    Lets face if if I was going to recrute a terrorist, I would choose somebody with a few practictal abilitys rather an a fecking sociologist who would want to drink lattes and write a paper about it

    Yet another attempt by the chattering classes try to discredit people who actually are attempting to be of some practical use.

    May of the terrorists are engineers because they see some practical use for engineering within the country they hail from (or aspire to live in)

    Sociologists, the Paris Hiltons of acedemia

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Why didn't anyone tell me ?

    Well I'm a mechanical engineer and I always thought I was C of E !

    So I've got to be a terrorist now? Allah help me when I tell the missus to put on a veil. Oivay !

  12. dervheid

    Statistically speaking...

    this pair of sociologists appear to be 100% ARSEHOLES!!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Arse V's sciences

    Sociologists may think otherwise but allowing people with arse degrees near mathematics (even if it is just stats) and scientific sampling methods is just foolish. They should go back to enquiring if we require fried reconstituted potatoes with our mechanically recovered meat-like animal products.

    Icon, 'cos I've never seen such stats abuse outside of a government report

  14. Francis Fish
    Black Helicopters

    Engineers get things done - arts grads like to talk

    Remember the whole anti-Thatcher crusade that never was?

  15. Name


    > The duo also cite Wikipedia. (Honest, they really do - note 4, page 4.)

    Post by Andrew Orlowski in 5... 4... 3...

  16. Risky

    Sociologists urgently needed!

    Completely implausible post-title.

    Coat please - the one with a degree in something actually useful the pocket....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Talking shite turns you into a sociologist...

    ...evidently. Remember when Diamond car insurance did this? "Since most accidents are caused by men, why pay the price for being a woman?" Except that if you select any arbitrary criteria, you'd find it unlikely to be an even split, so you could make that argument for absolutely anything - as the sociologist have done. Bless 'em - get 'em a job on Deal Or No Deal chanting "blue blue blue" at sealed boxes.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Another stat

    By reading that article I can conclude that 100% of socialogists are twats with a pointless degree. Carry on stacking those shelves boys....

  19. Anonymous Coward

    oh noes

    Who will build your spaceships and anti lizard weapons if we dont have any engineers? or are the detailed instructions in the not so secret texts, ill have to take a look.

  20. John Savard

    Another Source of Statistical Bias

    It may well be that the professors are quite correct that, among college-educated members of Hamas, or Islamic Jihad, or al-Qaeda, there are more engineers proportionately than among college-educated members of Baader-Meinhof or the Red Brigades.

    This may be because engineering is less incompatible with a traditional, conservative mindset than being a liberal arts student.

    On the other hand, it might also be because the traditional, conservative - and often poor - countries of the Islamic world emphasize practical subjects like engineering in their post-secondary educational systems more than they do the liberal arts

  21. Paul

    To be fair

    Most people with a BEng spent half there early lifes blowing stuff up or pulling it appart, and the other half putting working out how to it back togeather. Or at least I did, but then I did fail to get a BEng and ended up with a BSc (My maths was not good enough).

  22. Kaiwai


    Do people realise that hard line religious fundamentalists tend to steer clear of religious studies and philosophy subjects - to them, they consider those two subjects, subjects of the devil. So what do they do? they take 'hard subjects' which don't challenge their rigid beliefs. That is why there are so many taking engineering. Nothing to do with the mind set of engineers.

  23. A J Stiles

    Don't forget

    Howard Marks, the reformed dope-smuggler (an occupation which involved travelling to politically-unstable areas of the third world) has an MSc. in nuclear physics from Oxford University. In other words, he probably knows how to build an atom bomb. For real, not just something off the Internet.

    Ever wondered why he can walk into a police station with a bifter on the go and not raise too many eyebrows?

  24. David Harper

    Sociology degrees

    Some years ago, when I was studying mathematics at one of our leading universities, the gents toilets had a handy dispenser for sociology degrees installed in each of the cubicles. They came on a roll, with perforations between them to make it easier to detach one, and the paper was nice and soft.

  25. Richard Mason
    Thumb Up

    Typical bloody arts students

    When I was doing my engineering degree at Southampton, a bunch of layabout arts and social science left wing students started a campaign called SCAMROC (Southampton Campaign Against Military Research On Campus) because they were jealous of all the research money the engineering and science faculties were pulling in for doing military research.

    They managed to force the scheduling of a vote at the students union to demand students boycott all lecturers and faculty who received money for military research.

    Fortunately the idiots forgot 4 key elements a) engineers don't like being threatened by arts students, b) the engineering faculty at the time was by far the biggest faculty on campus, c) engineers can organise themselves without having to plaster posters all over the campus and most importantly d) most engineers had already had a morning of lectures by lunchtime when the vote was taking place whilst most of the arts students hadn't even got out of bed.

    Needless to say whilst engineers almost never attended union meetings, we flooded this particualr one and defeated the SCAMROC vote by more than 2 to1.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    And engineers are over-represented because...

    ...a higher proportion of middle-eastern university students actually study science and engineering subjects than in the liberal arts obsessed West, particularly the middle east students who study abroad. I can't think of ANY middle-eastern students I knew at Uni who weren't studying some kind of engineering or science subject. Maybe these sociologists should talk to a statistician first...

  27. aidan worth


    would that be a Bronze Swimming certificate? ;)

    wait, If i wanted to do engineering but ended up doing science... would that make me a super terrorist?

    pic related, Anon would approve of a mass-murdering doctor...

  28. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    Ig Nobel prize candidates.....

    par excellence!!

  29. brimful


    Let's just put aside the fact that the subjects of choice for many Muslims is Engineering, Law, Medicine, and Computing, studying society in a scientific way isn't really going to help them blow sh*t up is it?

  30. Dunstan Vavasour


    Is the sample large enough to be statistically significant? No.

    Have the independent factors which might account for this correlation been analysed? No.

    Is this study, which cites Wikipedia as a source, anything more than desperately woolly thinking? I think not.

    Nothing to see here, move on.

    Dunstan, M.A., C.Eng., M.I.E.E.

  31. Anonymous Coward


    If terrorists recruited Sociologists you'd end up with a group like the People's Front for Judea.

    • JUDITH: They've arrested Brian!

    • REG: What?

    • COMMANDOS: What?

    • JUDITH: They've dragged him off! They're going to crucify him!

    • REG: Right! This calls for immediate discussion!

    • COMMANDO #1: Yeah.

    • JUDITH: What?!

    • COMMANDO #2: Immediate.

    • COMMANDO #1: Right.

    • LORETTA: New motion?

    • REG: Completely new motion, eh, that, ah-- that there be, ah, immediate action--

    • FRANCIS: Ah, once the vote has been taken.

    • REG: Well, obviously once the vote's been taken. You can't act another resolution till you've voted on it...

    • JUDITH: Reg, for God's sake, let's go now!

    • REG: Yeah. Yeah.

    • JUDITH: Please!

    • REG: Right. Right.

    • FRANCIS: Fine.

    • REG: In the-- in the light of fresh information from, ahh, sibling Judith--

    • LORETTA: Ah, not so fast, Reg.

    • JUDITH: Reg, for God's sake, it's perfectly simple. All you've got to do is to go out of that door now, and try to stop the Romans' nailing him up! It's happening, Reg! Something's actually happening, Reg! Can't you understand?! Ohhh! [slam]

    • REG: Hm. Hm.

    • FRANCIS: Oh, dear.

    • REG: Hello. Another little ego trip for the feminists.

    • LORETTA: What?

    • FRANCIS: [whistling]

    • REG: Oh, sorry, Loretta. Ahh, oh, read that back, would you?

  32. Alan Carter

    Missing the point

    Sorry to spoil the sociology-bashing fest, but it doesn't actually matter what definition of engineering they use,so long as they're consistent. The important question - and the Register summary largely ignores this - is whether the % of engineers (however you define them) amongst jihadis is higher than the % of engineers amongst graduates in general. So long as you use the same definition of engineer for each of those two figures, the comparison is perfectly fair. Okay, you might not like the definition they use, but so long as they used it consistently, their conclusions are valid for that particular definition.

    Perhaps it's the case that architects are extremely prone to turning jihadi and their controversial inclusion has skewed the data, reflecting badly on the poor innocent little engineers. I rather doubt this. The group whose name they're tarnishing might be a bit arbitrary, but unless it's only the subgroups whose inclusion you disupute who are responsible for the higher rate of jihadist tendancies, then the core group of "real" engineers must also have a statistically significant difference from average in this respect.

    As a software developer; I can say more about the validity of their statistical methods than about the sources themselves. If the data sources they've used are unreliable, then so are their conclusions. A quick look through the paper, though (did anyone else bother to do this?), suggests that their actual methods are fine. However, feel free to carry on with the knee-jerk "would you like fries with that comments" if that's more fun than debating the paper itself.

  33. jai

    the real threat to our society

    is that people like this get paid to come up with rubbish like this

    my hard earned tax money is probably funding part of this so-called research

    it's an outrage!!!!

    (there should be a Mighty Boosh icon to attach to the comments)

  34. Law
    Black Helicopters


    Well I'm a programmer, working for a company that does DVRs for CCTV systems (I write things that spy on people.. sorry).... one thing I've noticed is that a good way of coming up with solutions to problems like terrorists is to plot your own attack and then try to catch yourself doing it..... so that might explain the engineering thing (is software engineering included in the terrorist list?).

    I think these sociologists have been advising the government on testing too, because to deal with our "new kind of threat" bombers, the government footage you need to pass on have people leaving packages, suitcases and bottles in areas, then moving away. This may have worked 10 years ago with our home-grown nutcases the IRA... but these days all the cool kids just tend to explode with the packages.... so before the governments next line of defence is operational, the terrorists have already got around that sneaky problem!!

    Another hilarious fact - not a single bearded asian guy in any of the test footage.... infact, only one white woman and the rest we fat white men in suits.... maybe the systems are being built to compliment the already stupid profiling that goes on by the airport/tube staff, not replace it! :)

  35. Luther Blissett

    Really funny

    How the Engineers in our midst are still living out the military/industrial complex paradigm.

    Whereas the Sociologists have long moved into the media/information complex paradigm. Same smoke and mirrors, but different sorts of bombs, see? And I don't mean cyber-terrorism either. If you'd only look, you'd see that what the country needs is a few battalions of Royal Sociologists to repulse the demoncracy of the Nu Insect Overlards.

    I blame it on Ada - that's where IT all started to go wrong for the Engineers. Truth arranged by committees - make arranged marriages look good.

    As there's no AI icon I had to choose the sad penguin. Let's cheer him up.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @John Savard

    Quite. Correct, too.

    Less of the flame war on 'soft' sciences and the 'liberal' subjects please...all disciplines have their nitwits producing vapid papers to ensure tenure - just go to the Improbable Research site:

    Nb, my degree is in Comp Sci, in case you were going to flame me...

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Actually, if you look at it rationally

    They're idiots. You can work with the numbers--but they're as backwards as they can be. YEC's, creationists, and others of that particular group are poorly represented in higher academic fields....Except for--wait for it--ENGINEERS.

    This is purely anecdotal(actually, I think someone actually did numbers for it, but I'll be damned if I'm going to go bother finding it), but it makes sense if you think in terms of the old saying..."when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail". Same applies to engineers. An engineer looks around to see, expectedly, everything is engineered!

    No one knows why creationists are highly represented in both engineers and web programmers, but one can guess.

  38. Dave Jones

    Fatal combination?

    Speaking as an engineer - who used to be a scientist - I see the other "divisions" of the student body as follows:

    Artists: long on talk, short on action, easily distracted by nonsense. Good for climbing on barricades and then looking silly by doing things like stripping naked as an artistic protest. Literary types believe that action consists of writing articles.

    Pol Sci and SocSci: Very long on talk, apt to get others to do dirty work for them, mostly waiting for their turn at the trough, so unlikely to rock the boat too much.

    Scientists: Politics? What's that? Is is how we get our money?

    Engineers on the other hand see the world, understand something about most of it, and have the tools to fix things they see as broken. They also get to travel, courtesy of globalization and the need for tech workers in industrialized countries. So, no surprise about the outcome of the research, really.

  39. brimful

    I can just see it now

    Head T to budding T: "Go forth and learn how to make a bomb so that we may bring fear and terror to those who don't pray to Mecca"

    Budding T to head T: "Sounds good, what's the catch?"

    Head T to budding T: "You will learn this by studying sociology as we need to distort the study conducted by those 2 twats in academia"

  40. Tim

    I believe it

    For a terrorist to make a name for himself (I'm assuming that there are few if any female terrorists of Musilim background) he has to stay alive long enough to do something useful (Generally Killing Infadels).

    I'm fairly sure that saying:

    "Not now I'm working on this bomb, I'll come throw rocks at the American tank later" goes down alot better than

    "I'm watching this film and contemplating the deeper meaning behind the colour of the sky in the final scene"

    I'm also sure the less throwing rocks at tanks you do the longer you live, although not being a scientologist I can't just publish it citing wikipedia, I'd have to actually perform some research.

    This leads me to the conclusion you'd make a better terrorist being educated in engineering. Although further research is needed.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Plenty of people call themselves 'engineers'....

    ...but very few actually are. Everyone from toilet cleaners to technicians. Engineering is the 'physical application of the sciences'. As in you have to know the theory of why what you're designing actually works rather than just being able to make a bracket, fix something or write software :p

    How many of these 'engineers' were eligible for Chartered CEeng / CPEng status? None I bet. And don't both counting those muppets with 3rd class 'engineering' degrees either. Got one here that doesn't know Ohms law, and yes he has an electronics engineering degree.

    Paris, cos I bet she puts 'Male Services Engineer' on forms.

  42. Keith Martin


    Wikipedia is probably a more reliable source than one of their other major ones - Fox News. Fair and Balanced indeed.

  43. Owen Carter


    Errr.. whilst the fuzzy thinking is just as evident in both groups, we're ragging on the Sociologists here. We'll do for the Scientologists later..

  44. Richard
    Paris Hilton

    Quetelet must be turning in his grave

    Could it be that the only terrorists who get good enough to be noticed are engineers? Working with explosives tends to be very self-selecting (truly a case of survival of the fittest).

    On a tangential note, I seem to remember noticing a preponderance of former LSE students among terrorists around the time that they caught Carlos the Jackal.

    (we need a "may contain highly dubious content requiring an arts degree or below" icon - oh wait, found it!)

  45. Greg

    Oh, and one more huge bias...

    In addition to the complete randomnes sof the criteria and the fact that there is a bias toward engineering for middle-eastern students:

    Is the list drawn up in any way representative? IMHO, 'basic' terrorist would end up nonames in Al Qaida in Iraq and would explode somewhere killing troups or innocent civilians.

    Then you never have their name anywhere, because they're all the same, they're 'an iraki terrorist' or 'an afghan terrorist'. Those who get their name known are those who have a plan, or are part of it.

    Guess what? Scientific people, like for instance engineers, make plans.

    Sociologists, on the other hand, seemingly don't. They take some data, try to make it explode in a report, and because they're so lame you never hear about them again because the bomb report is comlpetely ill-conceived and does nothing at all.

  46. Peter Richard

    effect as cause?

    Maybe they were already jihadist and decidet that engineering was the more useful course of study than sociology. They want to be effective bombardiers (engineering) not bombastic missionaries (sociology).

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Sociology Degrees

    Second only in uselessness to Media Studies!

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Dictators through history

    A while ago motivated by similar thoughts I selected a range of dictators, henchmen, and similar historical villains to work out what they had studied at college. Engineering proved quite popular, particularly in Communist countries, though law was also common, as was a military education; and a surprising amount had qualified as schoolteachers. A selection of subjects:

    Engineering: Lavrentiy Beria (Stalin's head of secret police), Leonid Brezhnev, Pol Pot, Leopoldo Galtieri (Argentinian dictator), Osama bin Laden

    Law: Lenin, Slobodan Milosevic, Ante Pavelic (Croat fascist leader), Richard Nixon

    Art, literature, architecture: Joseph Goebbels, Albert Speer, (Hitler couldn't get in to art college)

    Medicine: Josef Mengele, Radovan Karadzic

    Education/teaching: Robert Mugabe, Mao Zedong (also a librarian for a while), Benito Mussolini

  49. Anonymous Coward


    tetchy... and all cos some flakes put together some poor research about ye're jobs. I'd hate to see the reaction if someone were to slander something more important.... say your religion. I'd say that would provoke some reaction, eh?

  50. Mike Hoagland

    "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.

  51. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  52. Anonymous Coward

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

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

  53. Highlander

    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?

  54. Anonymous Coward

    @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.

  55. foo_bar_baz
    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.

  56. TeeCee Gold badge


    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......?

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

  58. Sacha TF Padovani

    Watch out you lot

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

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

  59. Rob Crawford

    @ 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

  60. Anonymous Coward
    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...

  61. Mark

    100% of terrorists

    ARE HUMAN!!!

    Dan dan daaa!

    So maybe we ought to kill all humans.

    Now bite my shiny metal ass, meatbags!

  62. Anonymous Coward

    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).

  63. Nick Drew
    Thumb Down

    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....

  64. James Bassett

    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.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  66. Phantom Wibbler


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

  67. Chad H.
    Thumb Down

    for every report that says that

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

  68. Anonymous Coward

    Darwin explains it all

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

  69. Anonymous Coward

    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?

  70. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  71. Anonymous Coward


    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!!!

  72. Morely Dotes

    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.

  73. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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...

  74. J

    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...

  75. Carrie
    Thumb Down


    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?

  76. kelly


    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.

  77. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Evil Graham

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

  78. Carl

    Witty Riposte


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

  79. Rick Brasche

    I read this wrong..

    I thought it said "scientologists"...

  80. 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.

  81. Rachel

    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?

  82. Channing Walton

    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

  83. fred

    engineers are terrorists

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

  84. Fragula The Furry

    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!

    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.



  85. Anonymous Coward

    In related news

    Studying sociology turns you into an idiot.

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

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can't help wondering...

    What does studying sociology turn you into?

  87. John


    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?"

  88. Dave

    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?

  89. Writebaby


    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 ...!


  90. Daniel B.

    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 ... ;)

  91. Anonymous Coward

    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.

  92. Anonymous Coward
    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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