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12-17-2009, 11:05 AM

Salem hypothesis

First proposed by Bruce Salem on the discussion site Usenet, the Salem hypothesis claims that "an education in the engineering disciplines forms a predisposition to [creationist] viewpoints". This was rephrased somewhat by P. Z. Myers as "creationists with advanced degrees are often engineers".

Is there any evidence to back this up, or is it just a gratuitous slander against engineers? A 1982 article in the Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science suggested that many leading creationists trained as engineers, notably Henry Morris, one of the authors of the key creationist book The Genesis Flood. But the article did not present any figures.

More recently, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog have noted a preponderance of engineers among Islamic extremist groups. They suggested that engineers may be at greater risk of being recruited by such groups than other graduates.

Obviously creationism is not the same thing as violent activism, but Gambetta and Hertog's analysis may be useful nevertheless because they discuss the engineering mindset in some detail. They show, for instance, that engineers are more likely to be religious than other graduates (PDF).

None of this is anywhere near enough to prove the Salem hypothesis, but it does provide some intriguing circumstantial evidence.

12-17-2009, 11:07 AM
And here's a human law in more depth:
Why your boss is incompetent (
IN THIS season of goodwill, spare a thought for that much-maligned bunch, the men and women at the top of the management tree. Yes, the murky machinations of the banking bosses might have needlessly plunged millions into penury. Yes, the actions of our political leaders might seem to be informed more by dubious wheeler-dealing than by Socratic wisdom. And yes, the high-ups in your own company might well be the self-important time-wasters you've always held them for.

Don't blame them, though. It's not their fault. There are good reasons to expect that bosses can't help but be incompetent - adrift on a sea of troubles they neither understand nor can control. Better to take pity on the poor souls: there with the grace of the promotion committee go all of us.