ass-burgery terrorists?

via infoproc, it seems that an awful lot of contemporary terrorists are engineers:

“Engineering Terror”

“[I]n the ranks of captured and confessed terrorists, engineers and engineering students are significantly overrepresented….

“For their recent study, the two men [Diego Gambetta & Steffen Hertog] collected records on 404 men who belonged to violent Islamist groups active over the past few decades (some in jail, some not). Had those groups reflected the working-age populations of their countries, engineers would have made up about 3.5 percent of the membership. Instead, nearly 20 percent of the militants had engineering degrees. When Gambetta and Hertog looked at only the militants whose education was known for certain to have gone beyond high school, close to half (44 percent) had trained in engineering. Among those with advanced degrees in the militants’ homelands, only 18 percent are engineers.

“The two authors found the same high ratio of engineers in most of the 21 organizations they examined, including Jemaah Islamiya in Southeast Asia and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Middle East. Sorting the militants according to their 30 homelands showed the same pattern: engineers represented a fifth of all militants from every nation except one, and nearly half of those with advanced degrees.”

steve hsu quips: “Hmm… autistic geeks fight for abstract ideas whereas empathic humanists fight to end human suffering?”


but, of course, he’s on to something there. at least the autistic part. there is a strong link between autism|ass-burgers and engineering:

“Both fathers and grandfathers of children with autism were found more than twice as often in the field of engineering, compared to fathers and grandfathers of other children. This link between autism and engineering may throw light not only on autism itself, but ultimately on the genetic basis of two essential human abilities: ‘folk psychology’ and ‘folk physics’.”

more on gambetta and hertog:

“Gambetta and Hertog found engineers only in right-wing groups — the ones that claim to fight for the pious past of Islamic fundamentalists or the white-supremacy America of the Aryan Nations (founder: Richard Butler, engineer) or the minimal pre-modern U.S. government that Stack and Bedell extolled.

“Among Communists, anarchists and other groups whose shining ideal lies in the future, the researchers found almost no engineers. Yet these organizations mastered the same technical skills as the right-wingers. Between 1970 and 1978, for instance, the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany staged kidnappings, assassinations, bank robberies and bombings. Seventeen of its members had college or graduate degrees, mostly in law or the humanities. Not one studied engineering.

“The engineer mind-set, Gambetta and Hertog suggest, might be a mix of emotional conservatism and intellectual habits that prefers clear answers to ambiguous questions — ‘the combination of a sharp mind with a loyal acceptance of authority.'”


gambetta and hertog are obviously not ass-burgery themselves. (that’s ok. not everybody can be purely logical beings.) since i am an actual ass-burger, i’m going to take it upon myself to speak for autists|ass-burgers everywhere.

*clears throat*

there’s nothing about being on the autistic spectrum (AS) that gives us a “loyal acceptance of authority.” quite the opposite, in fact! AS folks generally joke that getting us to conform to any authority|situation is next to impossible – it’s like trying to herd cats.

no. afaics, the main difference between the “right-wing”|engineer|ass-burgery terrorists and the left-wing|artsy-fartsy|neurotypical terrorists is simply the logic thing.

simon baron-cohen (no, not that baron-cohen, but his cousin) theorizes that people on the AS have hyper-systemizing brains – we are constantly striving to understand how things (including people) work. looking for the mechanics underlying – well – everything!

that seems to explain almost perfectly the “right-wing”|engineer|ass-burgery terrorist vs. the left-wing|artsy-fartsy|neurotypical terrorist dichotomy. to me, anyway. the ass-burgery terrorists look for the logic behind the system – how things really work in the world – while the neurotypicals are completely lost-in-space with their communism, anarchism and “shining ideals.”

i mean, wtf? -isms like communism compleeeeeetely misunderstand how man works. compleeeeeetely. only a non-logical creature could come up with|believe in something so ridiculous.

ass-burgery terrorists want to reveal the wizard behind the curtain – neurotypical terrorists want to be that wizard.

now, i know what you’re going to say. “but the right-wing terrorists are so religious! how is THAT logical?” yeah, well no one is perfect. *sigh*

it has to be admitted, though, that most humans are infected by religiosity. (shame really, but it seems to work – and, after all is said and done, that is all that mother nature cares about.) and, again, in this way the ass-burgery terrorists are more realistic in that they don’t deny the religiosity of man – unlike, say, communists.

i can kinda relate to these ass-burgery terrorists. i don’t relate AT ALL with the desire to blow up things|people. that’s just wrong, wrong, wrong. but i think i can relate a bit to the mind-set wherein you’ve thought through a social problem|question logically – and because you have done so, you can see all the logical fallacies of the majority propping up the status quo – and it just offends you. (like: “it’s so obvious what the problems are! why can’t|doesn’t everyone else see that!”) and something needs to be done to get rid of all those g*dd*mn fallacies…!

kinda like political correctness. it offends me. deeply. and i know it’s not going to be able survive a great, economic depression, which looks certain to happen any day now. (people are NOT gonna be able to afford political correctness when push comes to shove.) and i kinda am looking forward to it, even though i know it’s going to mean financial wreck and ruin for everyone i care about, and possibly even war and what not. but, at this point, almost anything would be better than all this political correctness!! almost.

childish, i know. but autism is a developmental disorder.


test yourself to see if you’ve the makings of a terrorist! (~_^) i score pretty much off the charts, in a range not at all typical for your average chick.

and, now, for something completely different. a little ass-burgery music:

(note: comments do not require an email.)


  1. Surveys have generally shown that engineering faculty tend to be liberal, except for civil and agricultural engineers who tend to be conservative.

    Terrorists, however, do not fall on any left/right spectrum, tending to be ideologues of all persuasions.

    However, successful terrorists need technical skills, and that alone would explain the predominance of engineers among them. You just can’t trust a poet to build a functioning bomb, although you can strap in on him and send him on a mission. So you need both engineers (to stay at home and make stuff) and poets to go forth and die for something or other.

    No AS needed here.


  2. @bob sykes – “Terrorists, however, do not fall on any left/right spectrum, tending to be ideologues of all persuasions…. No AS needed here.”

    but there are leftist and rightist terrorists (i.e. the meta-group we call ‘terrorists’, which is made up of ideologues of all persuasions like you say, can be broken down into smaller groups of lefties and righties). and the righties seem to have more engineers amongst them. so, it seems as though there is a lot of AS amongst right-wing terrorists ’cause there are a lot of engineers there. that is the point.

    on the left:

    the baader-meinhof group aus deutschland was pretty successful, but they were a bunch o’ lefties and the founders, at least, weren’t engineers (gudrun ensslin, horst mahler, ulrike meinhof).

    and there was the weathermen in the u.s. not so successful in terms of destruction, maybe, but again leftists and again not a bunch o’ engineers (bill ayers, bernadine dohrn, jeff jones).


  3. Sorry for my imprecision. I wanted to write that there are both left and right wing terrorists. The cited article seemed to imply there were only right wing terrorists.

    By the way, my personal impression from 37 years on engineering faculties is that while the surveys of faculty politics is largely correct, engineering students are more likely to be conservative relative to their professors.


  4. @bob – “Sorry for my imprecision.”

    no problem. (^_^)

    @bob – “…while the surveys of faculty politics is largely correct, engineering students are more likely to be conservative relative to their professors.”

    says a lot about academia, i guess – which most of us know is dominated by the left-wing. even engineering depts (which i didn’t know ’til now)! meanwhile most of the engineering students wind up going out into the Big World to get real jobs, eh? (~_^)


  5. By the way, my personal impression from 37 years on engineering faculties is that while the surveys of faculty politics is largely correct, engineering students are more likely to be conservative relative to their professors.

    Wild speculation on my part: there is a selection bias effect with left-leaning engineers (or heck, people of any profession) being more likely to seek a career as a professor in academia than their right-leaning counterparts. Academia is naturally left-leaning because it’s an environment that is more appealing to a left-leaning mindset.


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