Why is it Always the Engineers?

A friend of mine was in the hospital the past week. While I was waiting at the hospital with the family, there were also a couple of other families waiting for their loved ones to also undergo surgery. There was one family who had two small children who did surprisingly well for being cooped up in a hospital waiting room all day. There was an older man who was waiting for his wife to undergo surgery to remove a part of her liver. He was there with his daughters and their children.

In the afternoon the gentleman started discussing finances and economics with the volunteer helping in the waiting room. She was very knowledgeable about those subjects as her husband had taught economics at UCLA or something. The guy started on about some sort of weird conspiracy about finance systems, government involvement, and some sort of coming immanent financial crises or worldwide depression.

The volunteer wasn’t buying it however, and it was fun watching her debate the guy. After she left for the day, I heard the Mr Conspiracy telling his daughters that he knew all about hospital secrets. All the while he was constantly on his computer checking various web sites and trying to get people to read them. He seemed to be addicted to web surfing and these conspiracy sites. Perhaps it was a way to keep his mind off of his wife’s surgery.

Later that night, my friend and myself were still waiting for her husband to come out of surgery. The conspiracy guy was waiting for his wife to get out of recovery and into a room. We were talking about diets, and of course he acted like an expert on the subject (sort of acted like an expert, but with no actual knowledge). I made a comment about gaining weight since I was spending a lot of time either working behind a desk or working on my thesis at home or school.

We go to talking about my thesis, I gave him a brief overview, but I could tell that he was unfamiliar with optimization and routing algorithms. He made a comment about designing an algorithm to generate a logarithmic curve without using higher-level mathematical functions. He asked if anyone had done anything like this before. I replied that it is a fairly common practice on chipsets where there are no higher level functions other than add, subtract, or multiply. He couldn’t get is head wrapped around the idea that someone else could have come up with the same solution that he had, even though he had made no such search for similar solutions to his problem.

Why does it always seem to be the engineers or computer programmers who fall to conspiracy theories or to creationism? I have a degree in applied math instead of engineering. What are they not teaching engineers these days? No critical thinking? But surely an engineer should be able to solve problems and to use critical thinking to come up with solutions.

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