*Engineers of Jihad*

The authors are Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog and the subtitle is The Curious Connection between Violent Extremism and Education.  This is an interesting and important book, and the core message is pretty simple:

In the Islamist sample [of terrorists] we were able to find the discipline of study for 207 of the 231 individuals who at some point had full or partial exposure to higher education…Unsurprisingly, the second most numerous group comprises 38 individuals who pursued Islamic studies.  But the largest group among the Islamist extremists is that of the engineers: 93 out of 207 individuals, or 44.9 percent of those whose type of degree we know, studied this subject.

And here is from the book’s conclusion:

Our findings about disciplines, personality traits, and political preferences are remarkably consistent.  The outstanding result we obtained is that the distribution of traits across disciplines mirrors almost exactly the distribution of disciplines across militant groups…engineers are present in groups in which social scientists, humanities graduates, and women are absent, and engineers possess traits — proneness to disgust, need for closure, in-group bias, and (at least tentatively) simplism…

Definitely recommended.


Okay, Trump can ban engineers from migrating to America.

Funny question: The U.S. bans migration by any member of any Communist Party, and this without the slightest controversy.

Banning Muslims, even Muslims who believe in a Sharia law, stirs controversy.

Underlying principles?

Communists have consciously chosen to adopt a belief system that is inherently contrary to America's ways of operating. Muslims (like most other people of a particular religion) have largely inherited a belief system that they individually follow to highly variable extents, and which is not inherently contrary to America's ways of operating. However, perhaps the analogy does hold to some degree for those who believe that the state must adopt strict Sharia law. But if so, then the beliefs of those who believe that the US should adopt a strict form of Christian law should be similarly prohibited.

There aren't significant groups of Christians who think it should be a crime to say something bad about Jesus, or to convert away from Christianity, or for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. There aren't Christians who want crimes against Christians to be treated differently than crimes against non-Christians. While some Christians want a certain amount of institutionalization of Christianity in America, generally even the most conservative groups support freedom for others to practice their religions.

But hey, why let that get in the way of the talking point?

I think it's legitimate to observe that such extremism is also present in our midst. However, rather than engaging in terrorism, they belong to a powerful state which they wish to do the dirty work for them.

It is not fair at all to paint this as at all representative of Christianity. Maybe a few hundred years ago, but we've come a long way since then.

It is legitimate to note that Christian extremists exist if, in fact, they do exist. But they don't. So it is not legitimate to claim they do. In fact it is a blood libel. It is even more absurd to think that Obama is secretly killing people on behalf of a vast Christian conspiracy.

SMFS - Do you read the news? There are probably as many deaths from Christian terrorists in America as from Muslim ones (9-11 excepted, and granted, that's a ginormous exception). However, I'm prepared to write off both groups as basically brainwashed, insane, etc., for the most part.

Man, Cruz wants to carpet bomb the Middle East. He's getting support in the range of 30% of Republicans. Is there any doubt that there are extermists among Christians, where extremism may be defined as the desire to use violence against religious or ideological opposites?

Like, fine, I don't think there are good polling numbers, and I think you'd have a hard time teasing this out of people. But for all the things that Cruz has to offer, such as with respect to positions on abortion and gay marriage (which, anyways, are largely matters for the courts), these are essentially matters of agreement across the pool of candidates, so what else is there left for people to appeal to him, aside from being unabashedly Christian, and most especially one who seems quite content about the prospect of killing infidels?

"if there is such a thing ...". Man, which religion does not have some extremists in their midst? And anyways, it appears that you either haven't seen or plainly ignore the sorts of comments in some outlets that read something to the effect of "quoting Bible verses ... more verses ... blah blah, God God God, now let's go kill all the devil worshipping Muslims... heaven is coming soon". Have you never seen this kind of stuff? Like, that's pretty nuts, and presumably for every person willing to say such things openly there is a multitude of others who feel precisely the same way.

Is this 1% of Americans? 5%? I wouldn't venture more than 5%, and I would actually be quite surprised if it was that high. But easily another 20% who are Christians who are essentially OK with killing lots of Muslims in foreign countries (although most seem to have more sensible views about the ones who are their neighbours, who they more easily recognize as not being frothing extremists). Geez, even if it's only 0.1%, you're already talking 350,000 people. "If they exist..." my butt. Not 1 or 2. How many thousands, hundreds of thousands? Millions? Thing is, they have the most powerful army in the history of the planet behind their backs. Why on earth would they turn to terrorism? That's retarded. Instead, they sensibly would advocate for the state to do what they want.

And no, obviously Obama's drone actions, etc., are not motivated by a desire to satiate the desires of these extremists. This does not imply that they are not agitating for much violence against Muslims. (And really, I don't think we need to change the topic about the Muslims who want to kill us. We all know for a fact that they exist. 1%? 99%? I gather much closer to 1%, virtually all of which many thousands of miles away.)

It's a sick, racist lie to equate Christian fundamentalism with Islamic terrorism. It's based on progressove hatred for religion and progressive racism of low expectations for brown people/"the other". Religious Americans have "no excuse"

"As many deaths from... in America." Yes, but worldwide the figures aren't even comparable and we are talking about importing... hell, paying for the importation of populations with majority sympathy for Anti-US terrorism.

> There are probably as many deaths from Christian terrorists in America as from Muslim ones (9-11 excepted, and granted, that’s a ginormous exception).

There are more hospitalizations for aspirin than for PCP. Since they're both anesthetics, you're better off treating your headache with angel dust than Advil.

We can make all kind of ludicrous assertions when we ignore the denominator.

Doug - Actually, yes, I'm much more in line with your thinking on the matter.

I'm quite willing to tolerate the risk that there are some nutters out there, and in order to enjoy living in a free society maybe one day I will pay for it with my life when that nutter singles me out or chooses me at random. I'm much more concerned about things like heartburn from drinking too much coffee earlier or the low quality lighting in the stairs up to my apartment. These have a far greater impact on my life than the risk of terrorism.

So ... maybe one minute it will all be over in a flash, but almost definitely not, so let's have a police state. Um K.

I think it’s legitimate to observe that such extremism is also present in our midst.

Sure. Except you were responding to a post that pointed out that such extremism is not in our midst.

There are probably as many deaths from Christian terrorists in America as from Muslim ones (9-11 excepted, and granted, that’s a ginormous exception).

Which is why we're talking about Islamic terrorism instead of terrorism by Muslims. Very different things.

I don't want to live in a police state either. Terrorism is one of the biggest causes of political demand for enhanced police powers. If civil liberties are important to you, it would be logical to support heavily screened, reduced, or even zero immigration from global sub-populations most prone to terrorism.

Doug - That would be giving in to irrational fear, and set the example that fear sells as a political strategy. Like, really, is anyone here legimately fearful of terrorism? Really? Come ON. Get a hold of yourselves. Go buy a fire extinguisher and place it in your kitchen or something.

I don't like the options.

Doug – That would be giving in to irrational fear

How so? I mean, the threat of Islamic terrorism to me is pretty low (I did miss the Bali bombings twice by a matter of days, but it's low in the US), but a very low chance of terrorism is being balanced against what upside?

And again, Nathan, you're using typical left-wing arguments that I've seen hundreds and possibly thousands of times before. But you're not a lefty.

Uh, and I'm going out on a limb here, but... the immigrant culture that has been a consistent feature of the American project since essentially the very beginning? Americans who honest-to-god live in fear of terror attacks in their day-to-day lives are suffering from a mental health issue and should be pitied.

Careless - if that's "left wing", then can we decribe irrational fear as a feature of the right?

Nothing to fear but fear itself.

Whether there are "significant groups" of them is beside the point. What do we really care about? It's whether these people are going to kill someone. While, yes, terrorist acts committed by people from outside our borders is very disproportionately a Muslim phenomenon, there is no reason that extreme Christians who we suspect may be motivated to kill others who don’t believe what they believe should be left out of this equation. I'll admit that our Christian extremist problems are pretty much all homegrown. But when one of these people does take a life it is usually framed as an individual who is simply "mentally ill," which is a separate problem.

So when the medical professionals deem someone Jan doesn't like mentally ill, they are not actually mentally ill?

Well that convinces me. Why should a psychiatrist go to college for all those years? They can just ask Jan.

There simply are not significant numbers of Christian terrorists. Never have been. The Christian tradition is that violence is a monopoly of the state and it is a very unusual set of circumstances that produces a violation of that.

I'm sure you would agree that Muslim terrorists are also mentally ill. Mental illness is a spectrum, but when someone takes a life "in the name of" something it's rarely *only* mental illness driving that decision.

Christians have been killing and committing violence in the name of Christianity for thousands of years, including as individuals. It goes on. Same for almost any religion. Muslims are particularly adept at it right now.

Jan March 18, 2016 at 6:05 am

No I would not agree that Muslim terrorists are mentally ill. Some of them may be but I can't think of any.

People kill and commit violence and always have done. Christianity and perhaps Confucianism are unique in their ability to restrain people from doing it. Atheists down your end of the political spectrum are notable for their ability to encourage people to do it. It has nothing to do with religion as such.

SMFS - Consider the case of the Parliament Hill shooting in Canada. The attacker was a Muslim. It came out that in fact he has lots of mental problems. However, it is stil described as a terrorist event.

Another case in New Brunswick saw a white guy with an interest in Islam drive a car into a bunch of police officers, killing several. It was defined as terrorism. His connection to Islam is routinely highlight. However, ask the guy about his motives? He wanted to draw attention to the excesses of the spy state and trigger a backlash of public support to prevent further expansion of the spy state. Was he crazy? Should we highlight his interest in Islam? Was he a legitimate freedom fighter (however misguided in his methods)? Despite the above, the event is described as a terrorist event committed by a convert to Islam, completely ignoring his self-declared motives for the attack.

Were either of these guys Christian, they would have been described as mentally ill.

Funny thing is, it doesn't seem to matter what the psychologists say. The media and politicians will spin it as they see fit regardless. "Clearly he was mentally unstable" if he's Christian, and "an act of Muslim terrorism" if the perpetrator is Muslim. Indeed, it would be better if we would listen to the psychologists on these questions. But there's always one somewhere who holds the convenient view, and that is the one that many will latch on to.

Can you name a single example of "Christian terrorism" that is readily and causally linked to an identifiable, well-developed strain of Christianity that also has a nontrivial number of followers? Off the top of my head, every putatively "Christian" terrorist of recent vintage has been either (1) explicitly non-Christian in actuality or (2) nominally affiliated with Christianity but with little to no evidence of that contributing to motivation. Compare that to Muslim terror, which is pushed by a large sect within that religious community systematically committed to the infliction of mass violence, and perhaps you can see why so many believe the two phenomena shouldn't be lumped into the same conversation.

Bill, you raise a very good point. But as a counter, I mention that joining the army is very respectable in many Christian circles, and, while I'm not familiar enough with the specific sects to know all their internal workings and motivations, the "killing Muslims" part of things can hardly be irrelevant across all of these groups. Imagine a statement from the pulpit such as "God protect America, and God bless those who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect our great nation, from the threats spawned from hell that we must oppose, whether at home or afar." I think it is not controversial to suggest that f such statements are issued from many hundreds of pulpits each and every week in the USA.

20 years ago, this would not apply in the sense I suggest. But in the present day, how can this be interpreted other than having a strong anti-Muslim sentiment built into it? Christians who seek violence against Muslims join the army, they don't engage in terrorism. In that sense, the Christian terrorists are indeed not representative of any particular sect, and I most definitely acknowledge this as a very good point. But what if the tables were turned? How many months, years or decades of Saudi occupation or Saudi sponsored dictatorship in America would these Christians tolerate before these very same sects, and probably others, started to see implicit promotion of terrorism (in this case you would certainly view it as freedom fighting) in the name of bringing about the "correct" Christian order of things? How far off the deep end would some of these groups go in such circumstances?

I do not mean the following sincerely, but I think the statement is instructive.

Christian terrorists join the army, Muslim terrorists have no army to join and so create their own.

Christian terrorists join the army, Muslim terrorists have no army to join and so create their own.

Setting aside whether this statement is usefully accurate as a matter of moral equivalency, it's certainly tangential to the conservation at hand regarding policy.

It seems that whenever a policy response to terror threats is proposed that involves explicitly acknowledging the existence of large, coherent, and organized sects of Islam committed to the infliction of mass violence, certain loud voices interject "what about Christian terror??" without any willingness to countenance how the two phenomenologically differ. If Christian terrorists are members of the U.S. Army . . . well, you probably don't need an especially comprehensive policy aimed at preventing them from blowing up skyscrapers. Can't say the same for Muslim terrorists.


This is another example of you creating a world inside your own head which has no resemblance to reality whatsoever. You simply make up something and then declare that it is not only true, but un-controversial. Nobody is in the military because they want to kill Muslims. Nobody in the military DOES kill Muslims except for drone pilots and they are targeting FUCKING TERRORISTS. The vast majority of people in the military are not combat troops and the ones who are, are not engaged in active conflicts. Nobody in any Church is calling for Muslims to die. Trolling the comments of an online article is WAY, WAY different than planning terrorist attacks. It does not make you a Christian extremist. Your assertion that there are groups of radical Christian extremists who would be committing acts of terrorism against Muslims except that they are satisfied by exerting political influence on the US government to pursue Muslim-genocide is absurd and completely beyond the pale.

"Christian terrorists join the army"

Holy smokes.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here we have the modern liberal ideology in all its glory.

A gross slander of both Christians and the US military in one sentence.

Cliff - do you know any Christians in the army? I do. I don't pull shit like that out of my ass.

Some Christians join the army because they want to fight God's good fight against Islam. I'm related to one of those people. And no, I don't consider him a terrorist.

And anyways, true to form, both you and Bob are completely ignoring the point because it's a lovely quote to paint me stupid. FIRST I SAY I DON'T ACTUALLY MEAN IT, second I make the point.

Are you unable to see the point? Do I have to spell it out for you? Here, I'll help. The positions are reversed. The Saudi army militarily controls the USA with boots on the ground, or perhaps they rule by proxy after establishing a dictatorship based on an "election" which eliminated all anti-Saudi interests. In this case, do "Muslim terrorists" join the Saudi army or engage in private acts of terrorism? In this case, where there is no US army to join, do "Christian terrorists" start a resistance or engage in private acts of terrorism?

I honestly think our culture is better in consideration of the good and bad in each. But, guys, you're missing the point. Step away from yourself for a second. See it through their eyes. If you actually want to understand. You don't have to agree with them to do so, but you absolutely must be willing to see them as something other than brainwashed half-crazed monsters in order to understand what's actually going on.

But never mind, don't let me get in the way of the opportunity to twist the words or meanings of someone to say "see, that's how stupid liberals are". I imagine there is hardly anything that makes you more content than the opportunity to say such a thing, and not even the EXTREMELY EXPLICIT statement to the contrary of what you latched on to was able to prevent you from jumping at the bit.

"do you know any Christians in the army? I do."

Canadian living in China knows multiple believing Christians in the US army. Hmm.

"I don’t pull shit like that out of my ass."

Pulled it from somewhere.

Can you name a single example of “Christian terrorism” that is readily and causally linked to an identifiable, well-developed strain of Christianity that also has a nontrivial number of followers?

Sure, anti-abortion terrorists. They don't have a high body count, but they're out there once in a while. Nathan's very wrong, but he's not 100% wrong

Bob - in mocking my proposition, here is the position you implicitly hold: "Of all the Christians in the US army, none of them really want to kill Muslims".

How do I respond to you without insulting your intelligence?

Nathan W March 18, 2016 at 7:59 am

Consider the case of the Parliament Hill shooting in Canada.

There is no evidence he had any mental problems. His family and friends spun it that way afterwards. But he had no history of mental illness at all.

Another case in New Brunswick saw a white guy with an interest in Islam drive a car into a bunch of police officers, killing several. It was defined as terrorism.

A Muslim kills a policeman because of American bombing of ISIS and you doubt it was terrorism? Again not a single piece of evidence would suggest he had any mental problems. No history.

However, ask the guy about his motives? He wanted to draw attention to the excesses of the spy state and trigger a backlash of public support to prevent further expansion of the spy state. Was he crazy?

It is amazing what you are willing to believe as long as it makes the West look bad. Why not ask the guy. Or ask Wikipedia:

Facebook activity and a CBC interview show that he had become a supporter of ISIL. He posted images and links that were anti-American foreign policy, and links to anti-Semitic YouTube videos. Global reported Facebook posts in both English and French about Allah and graphic posters with references to Islam’s superiority over Christianity.[12] A Facebook friend who corresponded with Couture-Rouleau said, "So he was really mad that Canada actually supported the American bombing of [ISIS] in Syria and Iraq so I think that was the main motive in killing that Canadian soldier."[13][14] Another told Radio-Canada that Couture-Rouleau spent hours on the internet and devoured jihadist literature, and that Couture-Rouleau dreamed of dying as a martyr.

So, no, it was not about the police state. It was about Islam. You seem to have confused what Glenn Greenwald said about the attack and the actual evidence. Either that or you are making it up again. Where did he declare his reasons?

Funny thing is, it doesn’t seem to matter what the psychologists say.

It doesn't to you. You insist that Muslim terrorists are ill. And you continue to invent Christian terrorism. We will have to wait until a Christian actually carries out an attack before we can be sure about why he did what he did. So far we have no examples.

SMFS - he didn't have a previous diagnosis. Absence of previous diagnosis does not mean that he had no problems.

On the New Brunswick guy. I do not deny his sympathies. But why can we not take at face value his FIRST statement to the police of "why"? Posting ISIS vidoes could be as much about curiosity rather than support. You need a really concrete answer for this in supporting your perpsective: "If he was motivated to do the attack due to ISIS sympathies, then why would he lie about it and say it was trying to draw attention to the excesses of the police state with the objective of achieving policy change to reduce the extent of the police state"?

Why would he lie about that? ISIS supporters are unabashed in their ISIS-driven motives, no?

The "evidence" is posting links. Many people post links to things they think are dumb. The story you're painting is based too much on "faux revealed preferences" and entirely ignores his actual words. Anyone who thinks this is an open and shut can is taking things at face value to support the findings they want to find.

I repeat, why would he have lied about his motives? Life in prison was the certain outcome regardless of his motive.

The confusion arises from the reality that although Islam is a religion, it can be more than a religion in that it can include both a complete, detailed legal system and an ideology.

Islam the religion is fully protected by the U.S. First Amendment. As it should be, for why should anyone care if someone, somewhere is praying to a different God?

Islam the legal system (aka Sharia) prescribes death for apostasy and blasphemy, and mandates inferior treatment of all non-Muslims. Sharia is obviously not compatible with the U.S. Constitution. Although citizens are free to advocate for it, immigration authorities can and should discriminate against those who favor establishment of Islamic law in the USA as this could only be done by destroying the basic freedoms contained in the Bill of Rights.

Islam the ideology is a supremacist ideology that calls for conversion (by force if necessary) until all the world is under Islamic control. It is this which is sometimes called "Islamism" and it, too, is clearly not compatible with the U.S. Constitution (and remains repugnant to most Americans).

I don't know the extent to which Muslims can and do separate Islam the religion from Islamic law and Islamic ideology, yet it seems obvious that immigration law can and should treat these aspects of Islam very differently.

To conflate Islamism with "Islamic ideology" is a cute trick, but not an especially accurate way of viewing the relevant issues. To borrow an analogy from above, this is essentially like saying Christian fundamentalism is "Christian ideology". Most Muslims don't buy in to much, if any, of the Islamist project, and most Christians don't buy in to much, if any, of the Christian fundamentalist project.

dan1111: "Even the most conservative groups support freedom for others to practice their religions."

Actually, there are far more Christians that want to ban Muslims from migrating to the US than there are Muslims that want to ban Christians from migrating to the US.

I was unaware that migrating to the U.S. was an integral aspect of practicing Islam.

Oh no, banning someone from the country because of their religion is not at all the same as preventing them from practicing that religion. Just like they had freedom of speech in the old Soviet Union; they just didn't have freedom *after* speech.

Because forcing someone to relocate to a labor camp is on par with preventing their relocation to your country, I guess.

"There aren’t significant groups of Christians who think it should be a crime to say something bad about Jesus, or to convert away from Christianity, or for a Christian to marry a non-Christian. There aren’t Christians who want crimes against Christians to be treated differently than crimes against non-Christians."
Quite the opposite, there are lots of them. They may be to coward to act on their beliefs (or just think it is lawmakers' problem, "there should be a law"), but so are most Muslim radicals and most left (or right) radicals. How many terrorist attacks American Communists (will you say no American Communists believe in using violence against the system?) have carried lately? How much trouble Neonazis have created as late?


Maybe so.

On the other hand Amish are communists and are generally considered good and productive citizens.

The Veteran's Administration runs a communist health care system---health care in federal faculties, staffed by federal employees for former federal employees, entirely paid for by the state---and no one seems to mind.

So certainly, practicing communists fit well within the American system, in some places.

"On the other hand Amish are communists and are generally considered good and productive citizens."

No, they are not communists, even if your view of communism is restricted to Bakunin and ignores the rest. You would also have to ignore how the Amish themselves actually live and work.

They do not believe in using the power of the state to enforce the collective will. In fact, they're not typically that interested in gaining control of the state; they ignore or escape the state as much as they can.

The fact that some communists see communes as a model for post-capitalist society does not alter this critical difference.

People who decide to leave the Amish community are not punished (and if they change their mind, are usually welcomed back.) Amish church members who commit severe error may be shunned, but there is no Amish gulag or laogai and they don't seem to believe in forced re-education. The Amish do not hold political office and will not serve in the armed forces.

Despite some etymological links between 'commune' and 'communist', there is a world of difference.

Communism as an ideology does not advocate for the non-option to leave or the gulags, etc. that arose in, for example, in the political systems that evolved in the political orders which came to dominate following military victories post-Czar Russia, post-imperial China or post-revolutionary Cuba.

Now don't get me wrong, I do not advocate for communism, but it is clear that those who continue to advocate for communism have learned their lessons - a priori, extensive political freedoms must be an explicit and non-negotiable part of the path into communism and towards the better future they imagine communism will bring. Persuasion, not compulsion, is the only right way forward for them.

"Communism as an ideology does not advocate for the non-option to leave or the gulags, etc."

At yet it always seems to end up that way.

Right, and the sample includes: upholding traditions of political repression after the Czar, upholding traditions of political repression in post-imperial China (with a short interruption for "democracy"), some insane guy in Cambodia who observed more capitalist payload delivered on the backwards peasants in the neighbouring country than were delivered in all of WWII, a moderately repressive regime in Cuba after kicking out what was perceived as foreign imperialists ... care to expand the sample carrying on with the theme of seeing the events as rather unsurprising regardless of the ideology held by the winning side of the respective revolutions?

I think, due to the necessity of Cold War propaganda back in the day, that we have been fed a narrative which significantly overemphasizes the role of political ideology in explaining the worst of what happened in those countries and which more or less completely disregarded anything of historical circumstance in trying to understand how/why it went that way. I wouldn't want to overplay the argument, but it is not irrelevant.

So we're just conveniently ignoring the whole of Eastern Europe, then?

The part about that experience where coercion is necessary to prevent voting by foot seems pretty telling.

You could also view Eastern Europe as a conquered part of the Russian Empire, Soviet edition. The 1968 Prague Spring lends credibility to this line of thinking, as does the nature of the Berlin Wall (and who policed it).

In part, I see this as intellectual exercise, in part, I think reasoning about how communism would play out should be based more on reasoning about how we are as humans, the sorts of freedoms we want, etc. Which do not either suggest that communism in any pure form could be upheld without various forms of repression, I'm inclined to think. The historical samples, however, mostly come across to me as "more of the same" than "new repression due to communism", with a sprinkling of some policy strategies which history tells us would be supremely retarded to try again (e.g., forced collectivization of farming).

This is like comparing Jewish Law, or Catholic canon law, with legislated law enforced by government. Catholic or Jewish "laws" apply only to those who wish to be bound by them. And so, too, with Amish Ordnung rules: they apply only to those who choose to accept them (and, even after acceptance, they cease to apply to anyone who rejects them).

Leaving a faith community may produce some psychological stress, especially if one is then shunned by members of one's former community; however, none of these religious legal systems has recourse to force and thus lacks "force of law" as the phrase is understood in the context of government.

The VA runs a prepaid HMO.

The majority of Muslims in the majority of high-muslim-population countries believe that sharia law should reign. Read the Pew report.

When an unshaven worshipper of Allah goes beserk, he's a terrorist. When a neatly-groomed and uniformed drone pilot pushes a button that releases a missile from a Predator, he's a hero. depending on your point of view.

Western philosopher and lawyers have spent much of the past 2000 years explaining precisely why that should be so.

I would be interested to hear your explanation of why we should ignore all of that for a violence free-for-all.

It hasn't been 2000 years, more like 300. If you were a 15 year-old girl snoring away in Dresden on the night of Feb. 13, 1945 when fire began raining from the sky you might wonder what you had personally done to deserve being immolated. Or a 12 year-old girl walking to school on the morning of Aug 6 in Hiroshima, Japan in the same year. Dangerous people deserve maximum destruction, apparently. There are no doubt some adolescent Afghanis, Yemenis, Somalis, etc. that are being culled from the herd right now for no other reason than that they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This is the reason why you should never support war, except under extreme circumstances.... This is obviously not what US/West and Other major powers (Russia, China, Iran) do, because literally the majority of political leaders (and this includes western leaders!) dont really give a damn about human life. Syria is the current example but there are other that dont even make the news like South Sudan.

You are right, but what does that have to do with Americans who rightly seek safety? We aren't going to be firebombed by American planes any time soon, yet we may become the victims of terrorist attacks should we begin paying for the importation of large groups of people who support terrorist attacks on the United States. Should we, because of our forebears transgressions, self-immolate by importing people who hate us and wish to do us harm? I fail to see how one follows the other.

Thomas, maybe if we stop bombing other countries so much, refugees who come here will be less likely to be radicalized.

Obama wisely declined to get more enmeshed in Syria. He let Russia do it, and he also let them deal with a civilian airliner getting blown up. Now Russia is getting out of Syria.

Because collective punishment is wrong. You should only punish someone who has done something specific. Similarly with immigration, you should only ban people who have--as individuals--done something specific to warrant the ban.

The point of communism is to overthrow our current social system. Being a member of the communist party is a declaration of intent to work on overthrowing our way of life. There's a logic there: an individual has done something specific (joining a political party we used to be at war with) that warrants suspicion. (Even still, I don't like the idea of an immigration ban for communists, but that's another discussion.)

The point of Islam is to submit to god. Being a Muslim is a declaration of intent to live your life in a way that is consistent with the five pillars of Islam. Believing in Sharia law...that's a sign you probably won't be very happy in America, but it's just a set of thoughts. Being a member of a group like Al Qaida, that's an declaration of intent to make trouble. We definitely shouldn't let Al Qaida members immigrate.

I find this sentiment frustrating, to be honest. To put it in fancy-pants rational talk, are we not allowed to make Bayesian inferences about people based on where they come from? There's lots of polling data on opinions prevalent in the Middle East and among Muslims in Europe, and it's really not encouraging. The politically correct insistence that not only is there no problem here, but there literally cannot conceivably be a problem because that would be "collective punishment," is rather stupid in my opinion. And if you think that assimilation will always handle this problem satisfactorily, well, that's something where you really need to make some kind of empirical case. You don't get to just insist it's always true a priori.

A fair question to ask, but I think there's an answer to it.

It's that this type of thinking is being applied in a selective way. People talk about various ways to justify statistical discrimination (shouldn't we use the information we have? Shouldn't we be rational? We cannot let political correctness put us in danger!) against groups they already don't like for other reasons, or are willing to dislike because they're not "us". But they are not willing to apply the same logic to other groups where the case is at least as strong. Like what if we put all men between the ages of 15 and 35 on the terrorist watch list? That would probably have the same order of magnitude safety effect as doing so for all Muslims (which I acknowledge is not a specific proposal that is on the table, but which Trump or Cruz might propose tomorrow). Or what if we banned immigration from all countries with traditional cultures (where rape is used as a social control mechanism, where honor killings happen, etc). Or what if we (as someone else in this thread jokingly suggested) banned immigration by engineers? These are all "rational" proposals that would certainly somewhat lower the probability of immigrant-perpetrated crime and terrorism. But they're obviously wrong (to me at least). And it's easier to see why it's wrong because we in this comment thread more closely resemble some of those groups. I myself am a member of several, and yet harbor no ill will toward the USA. And it would be bullshit for me to be punished over it, even if it makes people safer.

So that's why i think it's being applied selectively. And the selective application of a principle reveals that it's not a principle at all. It's a backward-looking justification of something that is desired for other reasons. People are starting with "I'm scared of Muslims, I would feel safer if we banned them" and reasoning backwards from there.

Is it OK to Ban drunk drivers?

And if so, can you justify why it is OK to ban one group that hasn't done anything, just for being a member of a statistically dangerous group, but it's not ok to ban another for the same reason.

Drunk drivers are individuals who made decisions which demonstrate their lack of consideration for public safety. Unlike race or religion, this targets the individual who makes a specific type of bad choice. However, the should be allowed entry, just not allowed licenses, imo.

On the contrary I would say it's you that is applying (or rather, failing to apply) criteria selectively.

Your examples fail to distinguish between any kind of magnitude.
The FBI actually does focus overwhelmingly on age 15-35 males as it is, and admits it uncontroversially, because being a male aged 15-35 is such a huge risk factor, and investigating 70-year old women is statistically much more likely to be a waste of resources.

In the facetious case of engineers, let's assume for the sake of argument that the correlation is real. I feel comfortable claiming that the practical effect is rather small and so is likely drowned out by noise.

Now I submit that if a person is from one of those countries where 70%-90% of the adult population thinks apostates should be killed, it's worth at least having a very serious conversation about the effect immigration from those countries might have on the destination country, especially in Europe for various reasons, and our ability to assimilate them into a society with Western values. And yet that has become crimethink* in our society. I grant that this is mostly a Europe problem and not really a US problem at this point, and I don't deny that a lot of Trump supporters are not thinking so high-level about this, but the backlash in the Western world is also not a totally insane thing either.

*I hate to be overdramatic and introduce Orwellian vocabulary into this, but the word fit.

"Drunk drivers are individuals who made decisions which demonstrate their lack of consideration for public safety."

How can you claim that every drunk driver who's never had an accident has "demonstrated their lack of consideration for public safety."? They would say they weren't drunk enough to effect their driving skills. You are arbitrarily lumping them in with other drivers who don't have either the tolerance for alcohol or the driving skills to compensate.

Instead you are explicitly "justifying statistical discrimination" that the OP was arguing against.

JWatts - first, I repeat, I do not support using statisitcs to deny entry to people, including drunks.

But the point is that it's different to use statistics on the basis of individual decisions (e.g., to drink) and things that you are born into (e.g., religion). The first satisfies the principle of paying consequences in relation to personal responsibility, the second is offensive to the notion that we not discriminate against people for things that they have no control over.

I think the discussion is muddied somewhat by the definition of drunk driving. When you say "drunk driving" I'm thinking of people who drive at blood alcohol of 23.0, say, a clear and present danger to anyone in their path. But legally there is no distinction (I think in most places) between someone who blows 8.0 (less than two beers for many people) and someone who blows 23.0.

And yes, drunk driving categorically demonstrates lack of regard for public safety. There is no way around this. It is an empirical fact. However, this need not suggest that someone be denied entry into the country on such a basis, but perhaps they should be denied a driver's license (consequences).

"But the point is that it’s different to use statistics on the basis of individual decisions (e.g., to drink) and things that you are born into (e.g., religion). "

So then would you be ok if the temporary ban on Muslims were restricted to those who are currently active Muslims. That would fit your doctrine of choice.

JWatts - I see your logic, but realistically, you're born into a religion, you don't choose it. Exceptions are rare.

Statistically speaking, people who post 100 anti-establishment comments a day are 100 times more likely to be a terrorist (fictitious but plausible statistic).

Can I enter the USA? Of COURSE I can. I'm Canadian, and have never once in my entire life made the remotest hint of a desire to use violence to achieve my objectives (except the willingness to use violence if it goes truly in the direction of dystopia - if I get banned from the USA, it's probably time to collect your guns and start preparing old fashioned communications strategies). The same reasoning should be applied to Muslims.

We should not use algorithms to decide who can enter the country. Too many innocent and well-meaning people get caught in the crossfire. I'll take a dose of terrorism, thank you very much, and since it sounds like I'm playing with YOUR life, well, in good faith, I recommend anti-slip materials for your bathtub if you're concerned about your safety. A small order of fries or opting for a salad might be in order next time you eat out as well ... there are literally hundreds of things that are a greater threat to your safety than terrorism, and you basically couldn't care less about just about every single one of them.

If we're going to be rational, let's be rational.

Similarly with immigration, you should only ban people who have–as individuals–done something specific to warrant the ban.

Sorry, I really don't want to use the resources that would be required to screen hundreds of millions of people who would then come, especially because hundreds of millions of people would then come

There is a legitimate argument about how much to spend resources screening people. I guess that's part 2 to the Republicans' idea that we ban all Muslims entering the country "until we can figure out how to vet them."

I'm just observing that it's very convenient that we somehow cannot afford to act in a just way toward a group like Muslims when the same logic could be applied to other groups and is not being applied in that way. It looks a lot like reasoning created on the fly to start with "I am scared of Muslims and don't know any well enough to care about them; we should ban them" and reason from there to arguments others would accept.

About 2/3 of people arrested for involvement with ISIS in America have been converts. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/01/isis-criminals-converts/426822/ Other studies have found that Western Muslim terrorists who were brought up as Muslims are mostly 2nd generation. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/01/07/frances-oedipal-islamist-complex-charlie-hebdo-islamic-state-isis/ So it isn't the immigrants that we should be worried about.

Also, there is no correlation between supporting Sharia law or generally illiberal policies and supporting terrorism. Yes, really: http://anonymousmugwump.blogspot.com/2015/07/think-again-david-cameron-conveyer.html So screening out people who support Sharia (however that is defined) wouldn't do any good either.

I have a feeling that there are a large number of under-employed engineers in the Middle East...

Clock-bomb engineers

I think that is one of the main points they make -- frustration with not being able to realize their ambitions and hold good jobs. But, I'm not sure I buy that argument. I bet there are a lot of out of work music teachers and accountants in the Middle East, too. Engineering doesn't seem to be an outlier in terms of poor career prospects in a crappy economy.

There are a large number of engineers - period - in the Middle East. That is because studying stuff like e.g. economics is pointless in MENA: whatever the Professor says in class that might be against the regime will be brought there by some spy in class. In consequence, the good professors in these disciplines are either in gaol or abroad. That doesn't apply for engineering profs: what they say can not be construed to be political under any scenario. This is why engineering is so popular with smart youngsters in MENA.

The Economic Research Forum is a really good and independent body of economic analytical capacity specifically focused on MENA issues, and cultivating talent in economic research capacity in the MENA region. They produce a lot of pretty decent research papers, and follow open source data principles to the maximum extent possible while maintaining the utmost of privacy principles. Easily searchable. If you're interested, visit their website and get on their mailout. You'll get a few sentences blurb on the main research outputs a few times a month with links to the publicly accessible papers and all data inputs.

Lots of stuff on education, things related to business startups and business success, youth unemployment, etc.

So nothing macro that could be construed like it is on the slippery slope of criticizing the government? Where's the Analysis on Interest rates, unemployment figures, trade, public choice? All I see on that web site is household level and firm level data. And mostly women in the "Management and Staff" section. Which sounds like great equality, until you realize how large a role women play in the policy scene in Egypt, a country basically ruled by military men (engineers?) for all its recent history.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Also, not many countries have the quality of data to do meaningful research in macro stuff, especially from the perspective of academics. Egypt probably has a lot of garbage in garbage out statitsics. Creating a statistical capacity precedes useful macro analysis.

Most of the translation and editing work I do involves economic research in countries where criticism of government is not encouraged. The role is not to criticize the government, rather, to provide alternative informational inputs and to promote domestic analytical capacity. It tends to come across as "we want to help you make good decisions, and you said this issue is important, so here's some research on that issue."

Key: matching research agendas to stated areas of public policy interest. The academy should not be seen as an enemy of the state, rather, as a source of good advice. It is easy to offer dissenting voices in authoritarian countries if you are trying to improve the quality of decisions, not trying to upset the political order, for example via an agenda to embarass the government.

It is not so bad to be under-employed. It is even hard to define underemployed. We do not consider those with Psychology degrees to be under employed if they are unable to become Psychiatrists.

It all started with Sayyid Qutb:


Who was an English Lit major. Not an engineer.

and (at least tentatively) simplism…

I am willing to bet these authors are not engineers either.

"engineers are present in groups in which social scientists, humanities graduates, and women are absent, and engineers possess traits — proneness to disgust, need for closure, in-group bias, and (at least tentatively) simplism"

Indeed, I bet they're in the former group.

Let's see: "Diego Gambetta is an Italian born social scientist. He is a professor of social theory at the European University Institute in Florence" Check.

"Steffen Hertog is a senior lecturer in comparative politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science. " And Check.

If not those fields, then which/who? This isn't exactly the kind of stuff that an engineer, biologist or computer programmer would work on.

It's pretty common and trivial to coordinate with a member of the field in question when you are writing a book critical to members of that profession. I think everyone would tend to hold the book in more weight if one of the authors was a knowledgeable engineer.

Sounds quite reasonable. Thanks - direct question, direct answer. I agree that it would be a lot more credible with an engineer among the authors, if only to keep in check the tendency of people in one field, even if not intentional, to portray others as less sophisticated, etc.

'A' for comprehension.

Well done!

Is there really a STEM shortage in the United States? Maybe the so-called STEM shortage is a mixed blessing

People with high levels of systematic thinking and gullibility would still exist in the United States without any STEM education. They would just be less competent at blowing things up. This might seem like a good thing, but there would be a lot less stuff to blow up.

I really don't trust this "systematic thinking" bias and STEM.

I think its a stupid psych fad. Math and science need structured thought based on axiomatic principles (with an ability to bend to new experiments from time to time) to do well in, therefore engineers are systematic-logical thinkers.

I don't quite think so. Its a very after-the-fact conclusion as to the thinking of engineers.

As for the terrorism, its probably a factor of two things.

1. If its anything like religious groups in America, liberal arts in university is discouraged. Art and media is discouraged, due to the association with drugs and women(that may well also be the case in Iran). Becoming a biologist instead of a doctor is discouraged. With those restrictions, status is based entirely on income, and distance from non-good thinking majors. Being a well-paid engineer who neglects other subjects is one of the top-tier professions in groups like these. I would not expect someone after 4-6 years of a liberal arts education to be so possibly dogmatic.

2.Skills. Obviously ex-engineers would be recruited more than doctors, social scientists, artists...anyone when it comes to making bombs and hacking airplanes, for obvious reasons. That alone should explain the discrepancy.

I doubt that engineering skills are more useful to terrorist organisations than to any other fighting organisation. Then again, conventional armies *do* need lots of engineers.

So the correct comparison is probably between Jihadis and soldiers at any given level of education.

For a long time weren't most graduates of the US military academies engineers? Looking around I noticed that the Naval Academy will be making sure that at least 65% of their graduates have STEM degrees. Not sure what the surprise is here.

"Shortage" = "I don't like how high their wages are"

No. At least not proximately.

For example, its hard to find good programmers, especially ones who can handle C++. It is not that we are all the time finding good candidates and find yourself unable to affords -- it's that you don't find them in the first place.

Now at one remove, it must be true that the supply depends on the prevailing wage, but it also is constrained by the fact that we want to hire people who can do difficult things most people are simply incapable of doing.

Also when you find one, obviously you don't about his terrible, horrible, terrible, spelling and grammar. The compiler will check it for him.

Not sure if this is the case, but it sounds rather likely that those who are trying to recruit people into extremism might like to pay special attention to those with specific abilities. The number of engineers sounds especially suspicious. While I'm inclined to think that STEM folks are less wary about being drawn into extremism, for the fact of being mostly intellectually equipped with skills which do not involve critical thinking, the nearly 50% figure just sounds ridiculously too high.

Like, if you wanted to recruit people into such a movement, wouldn't engineers seem like a pretty necessary group to bring into the group?

I would like to see stats on whether these engineers are pushed towards suicide bombing. My guess is that this is about 0% of engineer recruits - their skills are targeted for recruitment, and those who are pushed towards suicide bombing will be those with no other skills which are perceived as critical to the military component of extremism.

Consider this: Muslims are legitmately somewhat insular. Where else will you target for recuirtment? Find them where the are alone, of course. After they have gone to uni, where their friends and family will not observe the changes, where they are not part of the moderating influence of traditional community leaders, family, etc., then someone can approach them and encourage them to get involved in some more extreme group, which is geared towards drawing people into extremism.

It's a guessing game, but that percentage of recruits from engineering is really shouting something very loud. What other explanation could there be? I'm inclined to think that engineers might on average be a little naive to the world due to their focus on engineering learning, and hence slightly more recruitable than others, but man, that's a really high number. Someone's targeting engineers for recruitment.

The answer is: CIA has a good HR programme.

Gotta wonder sometimes. ISIS is so patently insane that I'm inclined to wonder if CIA might have brainwashed a bunch of folks to start up some crazy movement, to legitimize ... I dunno, I start to fall apart here with the theory, but maybe it would legitimize various interventions into Muslim countries and make the folks they want to paint as good allies look saintly in comparison.

Mainly, I have a really hard time seeing that sort of movement coming about organically, even in really adverse circumstances. More likely, some offshoot of Salafism that even Salafists think are extremist nutjobs got things rolling ...

No. I dont think they are crazy at all. They captured a large chunk of territory in a very short time, which suggest good organization. They have tons of american weaponry (official version: captured or accidentally got them, my opinion: it defies logic that they got such good weaponry accidentally or by capturing it from other groups, unless they got it directly from US or US allies) . They have a good social media presence and they were able to recruit large numbers of foreign fighters. All this facts suggest government-backed group. Another fact which adds to the conspiracy fuel: the execution of those western journalists really defies logic. Finally, there are OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS (i repeat: OFFICIAL!) that explicitly say US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia wanted to create a Salafist Government in Syria. All in all i believe there is a high probability ISIS was created by US and/or US allies.

... with the goal of justifying an intervention to topple Assad.

By "crazy", I'm largely thinking of twisting scripture to justify sexual slavery and summary executions even of Muslim fighters who don't fight hard enough. The ability to hold such powerful internal contradictions and still think you're fighting the good fighting suggests ... their minds aren't working quite properly.

Even Hanibal Lector was able to achieve nearly perfect implementation despite his verifiably (fictional) pathologies.

Can you post links to support the claims you made about the OFFICIAL documents which purport an intent to install a Salafist state?

Nathan W March 18, 2016 at 12:20 pm

By “crazy”, I’m largely thinking of twisting scripture to justify sexual slavery and summary executions even of Muslim fighters who don’t fight hard enough. The ability to hold such powerful internal contradictions and still think you’re fighting the good fighting suggests … their minds aren’t working quite properly.

So you are now claiming to be a greater authority on Islam than all those Muslims? How fascinating. Muhammed took sex slaves. Muhammed slept with his sex slaves. Taking sex slaves is Sunnah. What scripture do you think they are twisting?

The shorter version of this seems to be that people on your side are doing things you do not like and rather than questioning your priors, you are simply denying they understand their own religion and are trying to blame the CIA for it all. You don't think that perhaps the twisted problematic thought process is yours?

The protective ignorance is strong with Nathan

SMFS - they had to marry them. There were rules preventing them from passing them around from man to man. These are being twisted with the blessing of imams who approve and annul marriages as necessary to provide a faux cover of legitimacy. It is twisted, according to both the letter and especially the intent of scripture.

And, I urge you to perceive these rules as significanlty improving on the status quo existing at the time it was written. The problem is that, as the suppsedly final word, it is difficult to promote doing even better. However, the vast majority of Muslims uphold them to much higher standards than the bare minimum.

Ok and that is the last Nathan comment I ever need to read. Sir, you are a loon.

"All in all i believe there is a high probability ISIS was created by US and/or US allies."

Your US hatred is showing. You ought to be ashamed.

"and/or US allies" is quite cute because it of course includes (unfortunately) Saudi Arabia.

Its like blaming something on the US in World War II because the soviet Union did it.

Can we not bandy about some crazy ideas on subjects that not if the biggest experts on the planet have good answers for? Why not just say "ummm... I don't think that's very likely because ...", but no, you prefer the personal attack to feel good about yourself (pathetic) and actually have nothing substantive to say about the matter (not pathetic, just not useful).

Bob - I dismissed the CIA theory and suggested an organic offshot of Salafism was more likely. As above, you are unable to read nuance and can only latch onto the parts you don't like and transform that into the entire message (never mind that i explicitly disregarded it immediately before/after in BOTH cases). Dude, you really need to work on your reading skills. Or actually, read the entire comment before latching onto the sub-part that offends you. It reminds me of the Obama hit job where people claim he says "I'm a Muslim" as proof that he's Muslim whereas he was actually laughing about "how people think I'm a Muslim".

Perhaps some insulting comments about the uneducated are in order? Na, not my style.

Like, the CIA has done plenty of categorically retarded things over the years (Mujahadeen for example). And, moreover, being critical of the CIA does not imply anti-American sentiment.

Since you guys are such geniuses, how about you share your running theory on the matter. I promise not to be the utter assholes that YOU are if it sounds dumb. Specifically, how do you explain that ISIS has twisted certain scriptures to justify sex slavery?

"Dude, you really need to work on your reading skills."

Ironic because I quoted part of a Moreno Klaus comment, not yours.

Nice rant though. Can't get your pills re-filled in China?

Categogical asshole, as I said. Did you feel good about yourself for a minute?

Nathan, you write a 200 word response to my comment [short for you I admit] because you mistakenly think I was responding to one of yours. In said 200 word comment, you repeatedly insult me (can't read, just like a Birther etc.).

Dude, you take yourself way too seriously.

[It does amuses me to banter with pretentious psuedo-intellectuals.]

lol I'd hope he feels good for a moment, that was a pretty funny exchange

Of course Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar had a HUGE role in creating ISIS, I am not denying that ... I said "US and/or US allies" and i said "probably". Also Bob from Ohio i think you should be smart enough to distinguish criticism of government policies with hatred. Nathan : the smoking gun is here (see point 8C) : http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf . So yeah I stand by my point ISIS is possibly a Western/SaudiArabia/Turkey/Qatar creation.

Bob, I said that you need to work on your reading skills. I do not intend it as an insult, it is an actionable thing that you can work on. The alternative explanation is that you intentionally twist people's words to score cheap points. I don't take myself that seriously as a person, but I know that I've made a lot of effort to understand the issues we're talking about. My present objective is to be able to explore these issues with some generally intelligent people on here without having to deal with a bunch of people coming along and engaging in all manner of personal attacks. And, seriously? You're doing wordcounts on what I write? Like, call me wordy if you want, but let's stick with the issues. Mostly they get long because I'm making some nuanced points, in quite a lot of cases to pre-defend myself from the large variety of predictable attacks that people like you will throw at me if I don't do so (not that it always stops you from isolating some few offending words and ignoring contrary nuance - hence, suggesting to work on your reading skills).

Moreno - all I see is a blank pdf when it loads up. Might be having some issues with the VPN with the new (old old) OS - will have to check back when my non-Chinese Windows installation arrives.

I wouldn't be surprised if people with technical backgrounds are specifically targeted for recruitment. I further wouldn't be surprised if engineering students make up a higher proportion of the university population in MENA than in the U.S., in a sort of Maslowian sense that poorer countries can't afford to subsidize the frivolities of Lit majors. So given that this is limited just to persons with exposure to higher education, that first filter might already be cutting out the substantial majority of the non-engineering recruits.

Not sure if this is the case, but it sounds rather likely that those who are trying to recruit people into extremism might like to pay special attention to those with specific abilities. The number of engineers sounds especially suspicious. While I’m inclined to think that STEM folks are less wary about being drawn into extremism, for the fact of being mostly intellectually equipped with skills which do not involve critical thinking, the nearly 50% figure just sounds ridiculously too high.

Like, if you wanted to recruit people into such a movement, wouldn’t engineers seem like a pretty necessary group to bring into the group?

I suspect it's a combination. Certainly people with strong technical skills are an asset but there might be something specific about the engineering mindset that makes them particularly vulnerable to extremism.

Note that's not a general criticism of engineers, it's just that they fail in a different way than other disciplines.

As a test it would be interesting to see how the proportion of engineers compares to the relative presence of other STEM fields.

Paul Samuelson claimed that the “ergodic hypothesis” is essential for advancing economics from the realm of history to the realm of science.
There has been some research in Psychology which suggests that people switch from 'trait based' or 'attitudinal' decision making to 'situational rationality' over time, or as and when the underlying issue becomes more important or poses an existential threat.
In other words, over time Economists should expect 'trait based' regularities to either fade away or else have a 'situationally rational' explanation. In this case, if the preponderance of engineers in 'Islamic' Extremist movements has indeed persisted then perhaps this has to do with Engineering being a proxy for something else- perhaps Social Class, more particularly the incentive matrix which drives recruitment firstly into a particular discipline and secondly adhesion to a Terrorist ideology.
It may be that Engineering attracts less well connected or more gauche students- the better connected or more polished probably would do better in Finance or Law- more particularly in Industrially less developed countries or those dependent on the export of natural resources.
Lower class or gauche, socially awkward, students may find cadre based parties with a traditional ideology more attractive. Such parties benefit from having an 'activist' wing which uses strong-arm tactics. This can morph into outright terrorism if there is some source of State support or possibility of quasi-military training. The terrorists grab the headlines and raise the salience of the underlying ideology which in turn benefits the supposed 'moderates' who pose as an 'obligatory passage point' for negotiations.
The ideologues may prefer to entrust terrorist operations to gauche engineers for two reasons- one is their technical knowledge, the other is that the gauche engineer finds it difficult to pose an ideological challenge. Take Osama bin Laden- a dim engineering type. He was a great figure head because he was too stupid to do more than mouth the pseudo Quranic jeremiads of Zawahiri, a Doctor but one from an intellectual and cultured family. (Bin Laden's father was an uneducated Yemeni)
By contrast, al Baghdadi, a Divinity scholar, felt superior to Zawahiri and declared himself Caliph.
A different approach to resolving the question as to why a 'trait based' regularity might persist for an ergodic reason has to do with the underlying phenotypal evolutionary stable strategy. It may be that hyper-mechanistic, hypo-mentalistic students are attracted to both Engineering and Ideologies of a substantive and coercive type. However this does not mean that the discipline itself is the driver for what is observed.

The problem with that possibility is that engineers seems to be extremely under-represented in left-wing extremism, and not particularly over-represented in western right-wing extremism.

In the US at least, engineers tend to be libertarian. I wouldn't call them right wing extremists but they do tend to ramble on about the state's monopoly on violence and how taxes are theft. And they tend to be attracted to HBD, Red Pill and other dehumanizing views of human nature.

Maybe apolitical is a better description than libertarian for most western engineers.

The summary above, at least, doesn't mention that engineers are also vastly more useful than other kinds of people for these militant organizations. Engineers also dominate fighter pilot ranks, for example, and nobody writes sociological articles about that.

"Red pill" is a mildly cynical view of the motives of women, not 'dehumanizing'. If it's dehumanizing, pretty much the entirety of feminist discourse would be properly ruled out of bounds as well.

Henry Ford is the archetypal 'engineer' who did indeed embrace an extreme right wing Anti Semitic, anti Trade Union, ideology. It makes sense for Engineers- who would consider organised Labor to be 'Luddite'- to be both against paternalistic or rent seeking Govt. regulation- like Pareto- as well as 'Syndicalist' so as to get around the necessity of raising real wages in line with productivity in defiance of the Dobb-Sen strategy.
But this is irrelevant to the issue at hand.
The Arab world turned its back on Communism because Stalin supported the creation of Israel and insisted that local Leftists toe the line in that respect. However, Egypt, Syria and Iraq created an (inefficient) Public Sector in which left leaning engineers were feather bedded. Indeed, a cozy relationship with the State sponsored Trade Union could become the royal road to riches. The problem here was that it was only the already well connected would be technocrat who benefited. The first generation, farmer's son, engineer gained nothing except an expat salary bossed over by White or Korean or other overseers.

My point was that even if Engineering attracts people with a particular trait, still, provided Public Policy is incentive compatible- i.e in accordance with a compossible Revelation Principle rather than purely Preference Falsification based- then situational rationality will dominate and ergodicity rather than hysteresis will ensure that the observed effect diminishes or disappears on proper factorization.
Israel curbed its own terrorists and turned into a regional super-power. The nutters did not disappear but, in one notorious case, won a Nobel Peace Price and invaded Lebanon.
Many formerly Socialistic countries produce declasse unemployable engineers. They can't make bombs. That is an art. Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians etc don't have a place which will pay them to turn up for the relevant training. Certain Muslim Sects do have this option though at a high price with respect of longevity.
The 'martyr' ideology has a 'Kavka's toxin' aspect. Are engineers better at pretending they believe they aren't pretending to believe something evil and stupid? No. But they are better at pretending to themselves that they are being adequately paid.

Sounds pretty reasonable. Engineering is a pretty reliable path to upwards mobility for those with few connections (although realistically in most countries it only holds promise for those with at least sufficient means to access a reasonably good education). Among other things, it is not subject to any requirement of ideological conformity.

The point about engineers not being likely to pose an ideological challenge also sounds very a propos. I'm doubtful that engineering is conducive to coercive ideologies (or, rather, that self selected engineers also fall into this thinking in general). I would tend to think that they are just less well equipped to recognize the mind games that are being played, the twists in turns in thinking, etc., enroute to radicalization.

A student of law or history is more likely to think questions like "who said that, why, how are they trying to change my way of thinking by saying that, and how does that compare with other things going on", as compared to an engineer who might more easily (perhaps related to self selection into engineering) not think through those sorts of things at all, when presented with a prepackaged ideology which is in fact completely twisted from its precursor in many ways but sufficiently resembles what he grew up with as to more easily accept "yeah, that sounds familiar, I hadn't realized that's what it meant, and now I'm seeing the truth for what it is."

Classic use of sticks and carrots a la conditioning and brainwashing, such as shaming for "incorrect" views or simply pre-threats of violence against those who hold "incorrect" views, in addition to promise of being a hero, fighting God's fight, etc., can be used while inserting the various "correct" (in fact wrong, I think) ideology piece by piece. This need not even be quite orchestrated, and associated method might arise almost organically as an offshoot which is self-reinforcing in a sort of way (evolutionary view).

You are pretty much the stupidest fuckhead posting on this blog...

Care to elaborate, sir? Unlike the pussies who only have the balls to ponder pre-packaged "truths", I'm willing to explore ideas. If there is some reason you disagree, be specific.

The paper that was the inspiration for the book


Some of the arguments that were made in the comments were already addressed in the paper (engineers are over-represented in islamit groups compared with their proportion in men with college degrees, then is not simply a question of "a large number of engineers – period – in the Middle East"; and engineers are not particularly common in left-wing terror groups, then is not a question having the skills needed to make bombs).

The paper mentions network effects but dismisses the same for no good reason. The modern sector in most Islamic Societies is a goldfish bowl. The Left Wing was, long ago, either killed or co-opted. Situational logic- i.e. the desire not to get killed or the hope of being coopted- dominated trait based behavior.
Since revolutionary Islam is both well funded and extra territorial no generalization can be made along the lines of this specious paper.

Engineer here.

Just after college, I did not suffer the shock I saw in my colleagues in their first work. I was happy to had an interesting job that payed for rent, beer and travel. However, others were still drunk on the idea that engineering was a 100% safe and lucrative career. You could see the frustration. "I spent 5 years doing math and mechanics, where's my immediate reward?"

I don't know about other careers, but the groups of civil and mechanical engineers I know feel very entitled. The issue may get more interesting with Tiger moms & dads that say "choose a safe career, be an engineer". So, you have the right mix of people that want results now and have the skills to blow things up.

There seem to be a lot of disillusioned lawyers, but I haven't heard of terrorist lawyers. Different mix of abilities, options, and interests, it would seem.

Law self-selects for the risk averse.

"But the largest group among the Islamist extremists is that of the engineers:"

I can recall reading that same finding in the late 1970s.

I don't know the cause, but it's a long term pattern.

That would be an interesting reference, if you can find it. NYtimes magazine did the engineering terrorist link in 2010.

This reminds me of a discussion with a Syrian friend I had in the late 90's. He said engineering as a career there occupied the position of "first loser", since medicine was the most sought after (and extremely selective) career path.

My recollection from the time is that an explanation offered was that authorities tended to keep a close eye on humanities and social research faculties in the Arab world and fish out troublesome characters, something not done with the STEM faculties. F'rinstance, the main bodies within the PLO were lead by Yasir Arafat (civil engineer) and George Habash (physician).

This phenomenon has been discussed before and one explanation was that Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries encouraged the study of engineering and then the economy tanked. So these smart guys couldn't get a job for years and felt a sense of resentment and injustice which lead them to be radicalized.

Does Saudi Arabia (among other places) rely on western engineers for their large projects? If so, I would expect resentment from the Saudi engineers. Could it be that the Saudis resent occupation by western engineers more than occupation by western military?

Cannot be irrelevant.

For a large project in Kingdom foreign engineers are often part of the project team. The contractor will also be required to hire a certain number of Saudi nationals. The operating assumption is that these required hires will consume payroll but not actually generate output.

This is changing. Some of the countries have partnered with US engineering schools to set up local colleges. So they are churning out engineers.

Recalling The Last Metro, directed by Truffaut, and starring Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu as actors in a theater in Nazi-occupied Paris. In the back of the theater Depardieu is working on something. Someone asks him if he's the janitor, and as he continues working on a bomb that he sets off somewhere later, he says with relish "No, I'm the engineer."

Perhaps it's an old pattern.

Gosh, golly, gee whiz: and it's engineers (software engineers, programming engineers, systems engineers, et al.) who've given us this wonderful internet, this wonderful communications technology, all these apps, all these smartphones and cell phones, all these social media behemoths, all these gargantuan tech firms.

(Applied technology giveth and applied technology taketh away: blessed be the name of applied technology.)

The distribution of proneness to disgust, needs for closure, in-group biases, and (enduringly) simplism in and by our trusted systems of communication and (anti-)social media might help explain the perniciousness of mass communications and some of the perniciousness of contemporary philanthropies. I hope Gambetta and Hertog carry their argument as far as applicable.

"...need for closure..."

Good, so the next time one of my engineer colleagues won't let a harmless defect go unfixed, I can tell them they're being a terrorist. Pretty
much what I was already thinking.

Some of the strongest climate denialists are also among the scientifically better educated. Some of the strongest free market advocates have advanced economics educations. Some of the strongest environmentalists don't understand that high-tech can be lowest entropy.

It's a much more general problem. Deductive ability and training does not prepare a person for understanding the inductive results in complex systems. The concomitant failures for risk assessment leads to caution and defense by emotional, psychological, political and/or religious motivations. After that point, rationality is entrained to follow these motives. Jihadist engineers are just a violent version of this.

This is reminding me that the commenters at the blog of Scott Adams (author of Dilbert and other stuff) strongly support Trump.

(Adams himself writes many posts that appear to support Trump but also appear to want to maintain deniability that he supports Trump; I am very confused by the whole thing but they are by far the best explanation for how Trump is doing what he is doing that I have read anywhere.)

"distribution of traits across disciplines mirrors almost exactly the distribution of disciplines across militant groups"
one of the most academic sentences ever written

When the authors talk about violent extremist groups, they aren't simply talking about individuals with extreme beliefs. They're talking about individuals who take violent actions based on those beliefs. My guess is that engineers are more likely to act on extreme beliefs but may not be more likely to hold extreme beliefs.

They're also more likely to be capable of taking such actions. That's obvious in a technical sense, but I'd bet the average engineer is also more capable of leading and getting things done than, say, the average Islamic Studies student.

A book? Why not a short paper? I saw a social science paper back a while ago--may have even been referenced here--that showed statistically engineers are over-represented as mass murderers.

I thought oil kingdoms essentially only sent students overseas for STEM, so of course they would be represented.

Skimming comments .. It is amazingly easy to create an "other" to fear, isn't it?

Now it is STEM. Good Lord.

Maybe because Engineers are men of action. They get things done. Economists and social scientists are all hat and no cattle.

I would suspect it is the result of two factors.

First, an engineer comes face to face with the perversity of a system. You have a problem to solve, get shit from here to there. Shit runs downhill, or needs a pump, this size pump for this rate of flow, etc. All well defined problems with well defined solutions. You talk to your public health friends and they too can tell you how many children's lives will be saved, etc.

You are hired by essentially a thug with money. They have historical axes to grind, so you don't dare propose to run it from this spot populated by his enemies. They have friends to look after, concrete that isn't to spec but a friend gets the job. The pumps are trash because they are not to spec as a result of some convoluted game. Etc. This happens everywhere to some extent.

If you say anything you never will work again. The engineers who are working recognize that their job isn't to get shit from here to there, but to make the shit that comes out of that thug smell really nice. The pump sizing calculations are no help.

The more you get involved with the more you recognize the fundamental corruption and failure of your society. Truly the world would be a better place if the majority of people in power simply ceased existing. You have some ability to organize your thoughts, put something together, you know how to read and write and present an idea. So you go about making these people cease to exist.

The most important skill to be an engineer in those societies is suckuptitude.

I started in chemical engineering. Other reasons were more relevant, but the realization that chemical engineers are often hired as much to help skirt the intent of the law as to uphold it definitely did not contribute to my wanting to stay in the field.

I think the time has come for westerners to stop being embarrassed to state the superiority of their cultural values. We Indians go on and on about how great our ancient civilization is while I don't hear westerners make that claim about their civilization. When western leaders visit our country, we boast about our "great" culture and when our leaders visit western nations we do the same!! And all the while my fellow country men and women do anything to get an American passport!! At present no other civilization permits free thought like the west does. Unless the west sheds its inhibitions and stands up for its heritage those who value a culture of freedom are in trouble

"I think the time has come for westerners to stop being embarrassed to state the superiority of their cultural values. .. Unless the west sheds its inhibitions and stands up for its heritage those who value a culture of freedom are in trouble."

That statement encapsulates a good part of the Conservative versus Progressive debate in the US. Conservatives want to promote and protect traditional western values and Progressives want to promote and protect identity groups and cultural diversity.

Actually, what they want to do is promote and protect the franchise of people like themselves to be status allocators.

I'm starting to think the West made a terrible mistake by inviting India to join the club.
Now, all we hear is how great India is, how great indian culture is, blah blah blah. It's like having a dinner party guest who does nothing but talk about his own accomplishments.

"All you hear" from whom?

yeah, that sounded like a joke

Meade, as I said in my comment, I believe India should acknowledge the superiority of western culture and stop bragging. But I think it is the west which invited itself to India: for two centuries we were ruled by the British who made English the medium of learning in higher education and established a parliamentary system we uphold to this day. British rule had its negative points but in my view overall it was a blessing. I think India should join the west in the war of civilizations. Democracy in India is crude relative to what you have in the west but India remains in spirit a democratic nation, the army is under civilian control, and we have no official religion.

When you know it, you don't need to brag. Bragging is for insecure people. Unless you strategically need to engage in self promotion to get where you're going ...

I think the real story is that many in the west are enemies of the ideas that make the west great, and thus have been depracating the west for a good 150 years now. I am talking about the left of course.

Make America Great Again. How is that not depracating?

One of the key ideas great is the separation of church and state, which is critical for upholding freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. There may be slighlty more contrary thinking on one side than the other, but there is broad left/right agreement on these.

The primacy of people over kings is also an idea that makes us great. There may be slightly more contrary thinking on one side than the other, but there is broad left/right agreement on this.

The idea that all people should be treated equally regardles or race, religion, etc. is another idea that makes us great. There may be slightly more contrary thinking on one side of the other, but there is a fair degree of contrary thinking on one side than the other.

In each case, the contrary thinking is more on the right than the left. Might you suggest some concrete examples to substantiate your perspective?

Nathan I know some of my fellow Indians who hold an American Passport but who boast their kids are "essentially Indian in their soul." They are a bunch of hypocrites. I tell Indians settled in the west:" stop bragging about the greatness of 'our culture' If we are really are as great as you imagine you would not have migrated to the west. By moving to the west permanently, you implicitly acknowledge that the western civilization is more evolved than ours. And no, it is not about the money. Be honest: if given a choice between migrating to Saudi Arabia or the U.S, with 5 times the salary in Saudi Arabia, which society will you choose? "

I'm just entertained by the notion that the West is somehow afraid to talk about how great it is. I was not aware this was such a problem.

I don't know if it's a problem, but it's definitely a fact.

"engineers possess traits — proneness to disgust, need for closure, in-group bias, and (at least tentatively) simplism…"

A claim that is completely inconsistent with the politics of Silicon Valley.

Perhaps it will be useful to distinguish between "engineers" and "software programmers" (two categories that are usually collapsed under the label "engineers")?

Speaking of core messages and in-group bias, are people being deliberately obtuse here or is in-group bias among social scientists and other non-STEMs so severe that they cannot recognize the most obvious explanation? If Islamist extremists were limited to studying social sciences and humanities, then they would be largely incapable of inflicting practical damage. Hence, we wouldn't witness *violent* extremism since Islamic extremism would be limited mainly to whiny writings and speeches about non-Muslim privilege and Muslim victimhood. Islamist engineers are not turning to terrorism out of frustration from lack of non-terrorist engineering jobs. Extremists that have studied engineering are more likely to have the skills necessary to carry out terrorism.

Suppose we were to observe that a conventional battlefield is populated disproportionately by trained soldiers compared to artists and poets. The explanation has nothing to do with a lack of demand for martial skills in the private sector. It's not even fair to attribute the observation to soldiers' psychological characteristics that are presumed to bias them towards violence.

If it was that the cause, engineers will be over-represented in all types of terrorist groups, not only in islamit terrorism (groups like the Brigate Rosse or the Tupamaros did not have lack of people from social sciences and humanities)

I'm sure terrorist groups prefer to recruit people with useful skills to those who are most apt at generating hot air. I have no interest in purchasing a volume of self-satisfied liberal-arts onanism, but I wonder if they controlled for the distribution of majors in Middle Eastern universities. I bet there are far fewer literature, psychology, political science or PE students, and a far bigger emphasis on STEM and medicine, as well as theology.

Im forwarding this to every engineer I know. Pretty funny really

D-Fens was an engineer.


Engineers think they can change the world with there own hands; "scientists, humanities graduates, and women" complain about things until someone changes the world for them.

The quoted is fairly uninteresting unless we know the distribution of disciplines in the populations extremists are drawn from.

And why the people were chosen? Is anybody surprised that militants who regularly hand craft bombs and coordinate military attacks are hiring way more engineers than "humanities graduates".

I'm going to echo Hazel Mead's comment from a couple of days ago. Tyler why are you recommending this Twaddle?

"engineers are present in groups in which social scientists, humanities graduates, and women are absent,"

Why in a sentence dealing with different vocations do the authors end with "women"? Islamic Jihadists are well known to be sexist, violent thugs. It makes no sense in context, except to contrast engineers with women.

"and engineers possess traits — proneness to disgust, need for closure, in-group bias, and (at least tentatively) simplism "

This is just reeks of a confirmation bias. Is the simplism supported by any significant literature?

The authors' next groundbreaking paper: "The curious connection between ice cream sales and crime rates."

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