The madness of the engineer

I was once an engineer.  My advanced academic degrees are all in engineering. I loved engineering, but something in my mind just is not suited for it.

I suppose that's also why I haven't come up with a spuriously precise date for the end of the world, like Harold Camping just did. Engineer.

Or why I don't believe in Young Earth Creation Science, like a number of members of that movement. Engineers.

Or why I don't seek a solution to political and economic development issues by hijacking planes and crashing them into large buildings. Many of the 9/11 terrorists were...engineers. One could argue that, if you want to have effective profiling of potential terrorists, an engineering degree should weigh as heavily than ethnicity or religion.

There is a mentality to engineering, a belief in closed systems, predictable outcomes of complex processes, and rationality. All of these are tools. They can be harnessed to reasonable ends, like designing bridges, electronics, and power plants. Or they can be used for insane purposes, constructing plausible structures on foundations of madness, confusion, and falsehood.  Theologians are just engineers without capital budgets.

To an engineer, everything should fit in the box, without leftovers. Tab A fits in Slot B. If you have the money, and a material with the right physical characteristics, you can build a tower to Heaven, and a translation device to handle the resulting multiple languages. Rationality cannot cure madness, but it can certainly make it more powerful.

I'm not going to claim I was a bad engineer because of my inherent negative capability. I was a mediocre engineer because I'm just not that smart.  Too bad, I really did love it.

But now, from outside, I can see how a useful mental process can run rampant outside of its natural habitat, like kudzu or Asian carp. It's worth keeping an eye on.