It’s generally assumed that the last thing the world needs is more kids pursuing a degree in philosophy, sociology, and other fields of study that generate annoying adults and bloggers. But a new study says that if we had fewer scientists and engineers, ISIS would starve.
Almost half (48.5%) of jihadis recruited in the Middle East and north Africa had a higher education of some sort, according to a 2007 analysis by Diego Gambetta that is cited in Immunising the Mind, a new paper published by the British Council; of these 44% had degrees in engineering. Among western-recruited jihadis that figure rose to 59%.
A study of terrorists in Tunisia – where an electrical engineer went on a murderous rampage in June – showed similar proportions. And a study of 18 British Muslims implicated in terrorist attacks found that eight had studied engineering or IT, and four more science, pharmacy and maths; only one had studied humanities.
Martin Rose of the British Council blames the “engineering mindset” for why scientists and engineers make for such good ISIS fodder—students with a technical background might tend to see the world as a fundamentally rational machine that can be repaired like any non-abstract mechanism and exists in an array of binary states, like “on or off” or, say, “Halal or Haram.” There’s typically a right answer or more efficient route in the sciences, as opposed to the deliberate uncertainty and endless perspectives of the humanities. And besides, if you’re Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who would you rather trust to clean a gun or build a bomb: the mechanical engineer or the poetry scholar? Most of us don’t even want to be in an elevator with an MFA student, let alone trust them with our life on the battlefield. The solution is clear. Per this Guardian post:
Rose suggests that the British Council, the organisation funded by the UK to spread British cultural influence around the world, should involve itself in education reform, to “humanise” the teaching of scientific and technical subjects. A broader-based education would give vulnerable students the intellectual tools to develop an open-minded, interrogatory outlook – and to question authority, whether scientific, political, religious or scientific.
This crippling the Caliphate. So rather than drop bombs across Syria and Iraq, what if we flooded the region with useless students of the liberal arts? Rather than try to infiltrate Raqqa with JSOC operators, why not plant Kenyon graduates? If we deprive the Islamic State of anyone with real savoir faire, they might be forced to recruit from the ranks of our Western society’s literary scene—both freeing us and dooming them.