To begin with, I'm not sure I accept the premise that engineers are more politcally consevative than the general population. There certainly are elements on the left of the politcal spectrum that would like to promote the idea that consevatives are generally less educated, and therefore more easliy duped into believing in unscientifically based concepts and ideas. But if statistics bear out the premise, then so be it.
I think that engineers do tend to be skeptical in general of conclusions that are not wholly supported by the available data. Anyone who has performed design of experiments to define the critical variables controlling a process knows that if one important variable is left out the the analysis, intentionally or accidently, the resulting conclusions can seem correct, but in truth be wildly in error under the right conditions. If such ommissions can occur in the study of fairly well understood manufacturing process scenerios, how much more often do they occur in much more complicated systems such as those found in nature, climatology, and environmental sciences?
Interesting post, David. Great to see some lighter aspects of engineering becoming part of this blog. Don't you think the conservatism in an engineer comes from the fact that all their lives they are taught not to accept anything on the face value and to always base their decisions on complete facts and figures rather than opinions and ideas?
Eldredge, It may surprise you to know that some research indicate engineers are not less religious than the rest of the American population, for instance. They may be devoted to facts, analysis and empirical research but they also seem to be willing to accept that some things can't be placed under a microscope and so may not be easily explained.
David, What's the latest info on Vern and Victor? I am curious if you have kept in touch with the two and how they are faring today? I am curious also if they changed their beliefs over the years and swapped positions or ended up in the same position they both started out in as friends.
@ bolaji - I don't disagree with you. I was questioning the premise that engineers are inherently more conservative than the general population, but didn't intend to infer religious implications, although that could be an interesting discussion.
Regarding engineers' skepticism, I was really thinking in more concrete terms regarding how things/processes work, addressing why engineers might be more skeptical of climate change, environmetnal science, and other fields that rely heavily on statistical data.
As for Vern & Victor. Vern has been a close friend all these years. He's retired after a career as administrator of the nursing program at the same university where he went to school. He's co-author of probably the foremost book on "natural landscaping," the use of wild native vegetation to landscape around the home. Victor is more of a mystery. I hear of him now and then, but haven't followed his postgraduate life. I'll investigate. By the way, Vern is a politically engaged liberal. Victor, reputedly, is -- at least according to my thesis -- a typically conservative engineer.
Generally Vern & Victor exist in every generation and at the end are successful in their iwn way, mostly following trends they decide to beleive, however at some point in time is it possible that one Vern becomes a Victor? Or the other way around?
Society needs both.
Great blog. I've actually found engineers have a wide range of political beliefs and maybe it is just the company I keep, but those that read and comment on the EBN/EETimes pages tend to lean a bit more to the left. Some of the "nerds" I went to school with that have entered the tech industry, in fact, are refreshingly liberal. I have discovered on the business side of things, in talking with CEOs, I have to be more careful in assuming they share my rather liberal leanings, though.
EBN Dialogue enables and encourages you to participate in live chats with notable leaders and luminaries. Not only editors and journalists, but the entire EBN community is able to comment and ask questions. Listed below are upcoming and archived chats.
Thailand Stages a Comeback Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Microsoft Surface: Potential Winners & Losers What are the implications for the electronics industry supply chain of Microsoft Corp.'s decision to launch its own tablet PC? Join industry veteran and EE Times' systems and OEM expert Rick Merritt on Tuesday, July 3, at 12:00 pm EDT for a Live Chat on this subject.
Join EBN contributor Jennifer Baljko on Thursday August 23, 2012, at 11:00 a.m. EST for a live chat on how electronic manufacturers in Thailand have shored up their supply chain to reduce the impact of future natural disasters.
Peter Drucker famously said "Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window." Yet in the razor's-edge world of electronics—with a lean supply chain and just-in-time demands—the need to know the future is vital.
While no one really can accurately predict the future, we can take guidance from another Drucker saying which is the best way to predict the future is to create it.
You've heard the saying "the No. 1 supply chain risk is your people." That hasn't always been the case. But today's complex global supply chain requires a new type of multitalented employee. It's one who understands, finance, marketing, economics, is savvy with technology, graceful with relationships and can think analytically.
Where are these people? Are universities properly preparing the next generation supply chain professionals? How do train your existing workforce for these new, demanding positions?
Brian Fuller, editor-in-chief of EBN, will lead a 60-minute Avnet Velocity panel discussion that will ask and answer these and other questions swirling around today's supply-chain talent challenges.