In my blog title above I refer to myself as an embedded systems designer rather than an engineer. This is partly due to my embarrassment at some of the insane crap other engineers post on the net and write in books. We need to remember that expertise is real and it matters, engineers are rarely expert at science, philosophy, history or any field of study other than the particular branches of engineering that they practice professionally. Sadly far too many engineers feel the need to spout ridiculous ideas that make me feel ashamed to be an engineer.
Some of the ones that drive me the craziest are the creationist engineers like Forrest M. Mims III at the DI and the fools from the posts here, here, here and, here. Some of the other ridiculous ideas I encounter nearly daily on engineering mail lists include, global warming and DDT denialism, alternative medicine quackery, perpetual motion/free energy schemes and, Google conspiracy theories. This is in addition to the irrational discussions, bordering on religious wars, that I’ve come to expect over choices in programming languages, operating systems, software applications, micros and, test equipment.
I want to make one point very clear, all of the engineering related mail lists I participate in are open to all people. This can make it unclear whether any particular member is actually an engineer or if they are just a layman hobbyist or technician. In the particular case below I believe at least one of, and possibly all, the participants are technicians/hobbyists.
I normally try not to get involved in most of the discussions because I’ve learned that regardless of how much evidence is provided, people with belief in the irrational seldom change their mind. Last week I read a bit that I just had to respond to due to its total confusion of religious thought with data. The topic was global warming and an engineer posted this:
There is no smoke without fire. Looking a little:
That timeline is amazing. It is a major effort and I think that it deserves some
praise. It’s a great website.
I clicked the link thinking there would be something useful there but what do I find, a page titled “Time lines and bible chronology in prophecy and history.“. The page has a content description tag of, “Bible chronology, Ussher chronology, bible timelines time lines, daniel and revelation, end-time prophecy, history, time of the end, daniel, 2300 days years, 1260 days years, 1290, 1335, antiochus epiphenes“. Well I guess praise in the religious meaning is correct but as far as being useful for anything relating to climatology or any other science it is definitely useless. After all a timeline based on a 6000 year old earth, regardless of whether they get some historical dates correct, is not useful for technical purposes. So I responded to the post with this:
A religious site claiming the earth was created in 7 days, 6000 years ago, is hardly a worthy reference for anything other than a theology discussion and theological discussions should not be on the list.
The original poster replied:
This is not about religion. The timeline presented in the referenced site is useful for the period discussed in this thread, and the events presented for the relevant period are relevant and verifiable. If you have a better reference please supply it. Blindly flaming sources based on their provenience will not help a lot.
To refute the credibility of a site, please supply data that contradicts the datapoints discussed in this thread, on that site or elsewhere. I very seldomly respond to messages like yours, but now I felt like saying a few words. Also, the denomination of that site’s author has nothing to do with mine (assuming I would have one), fyi. I am finished now. Let it remain so.
I did not reply to the list because the official policy of the list administrators is theological discussions should not be on the list. Was I guilty of “Blindly flaming sources based on their provenience” ? I don’t think so, I looked at the sites data and said that a clearly religious site claiming a 6000 year old earth was not a credible source of historical data.
Then another list member sent this:
Those who consider only part of the available information are not really looking for the truth.
When you find History and Religon information in the same location, there should be a little more confidence in the information. When they are separated, one should suspect motive.
My jaw dropped when I read that, this person believes that any history that doesn’t include religious ideas taught as fact is bad, WTF! Of course I’m sure he wouldn’t feel that way if the site wasn’t his particular religious viewpoint.
The following days bring more disturbing posts, I just knew that bringing in theology would open the woo floodgates. The first is from the same person who posted the previous response.
I found the topic “Ancient scientists are involved in transgenic experiments with animals and man” to be especially interesting. One of my many interests is pursuing historical support for the people known as “Nephilia” or giants in the bible. Biblical mention is sketchy and so far I have found nothing on the web that seems any more than speculation.
As a student critical of the Bible I find it ambiguous in many places. However, if you want to study the Origin and History of Man it must be included.
This was followed up by this insanity from a new contributor to the thread responding directly to the previous message.
Zecharia Sitchin’s books are a very interesting reading.
Be careful about clicking that link, to steal a phrase from Orac, “the stupid it burns”.
This biblical timeline discussion fork then had another more rational person jump in and go ahead and address the “supply data that contradicts the datapoints discussed in this thread” comment. He pointed out an inconsistency and in response there was much babbling and another biblical history site linked to discuss global warming, WTF! Then there appeared this gem from the poster who had said a few hundred words earlier “I am finished now. Let it remain so.”.
The Biblical ‘creation of the world’ time coincides with the exit from the last ice age, 6 to 12k years ago, with fair precision.
It is one thing to be open minded but you must be careful that you are not so open minded that your brain falls out. I could not find any reference to the last ice age ending < 10k years ago and many estimates are closer to 12k. So, bible 6k plus 66% to 100% is fairly precise, I am not impressed with that kind of precision. People should really avoid trying to mix religion and science it leads to really odd ideas.
Sadly, I’ve got many more examples of this type of embarrassing behavior from engineering lists that I will write about in the future. In closing I’d like to make one observation, many of the list members who make these types of posts are the same ones who have problems with circuits, components or code that nobody else seems to have. So, on the plus side I have a ready reference of engineers that would not be good choices to hire for my employer’s projects. There are enough real problems to overcome in engineering projects, we can’t afford to waste money chasing non-issues caused by engineers with poor critical thinking skills.
3 Replies to “Embarrassed by these engineers”
You wrote (in part), “Some of the ones that drive me the craziest are the creationist engineers like Forrest M. Mims III at the DI. . . ”
While I’m too busy to engage in extended correspondence due to a deadline for a new book, I would appreciate knowing exactly why I drive you crazy.
BTW, as explained on my main web site (www.forrestmims.org), I am not an engineer, and my degree is a BA in government with minors in history and English. For three years I worked as a “development engineer,” but that was a title assigned so the Air Force could place me in a laser research position at one of its labs.
While I have no academic credentials to do science or engineering, you can find a list of my peer-reviewed science and engineering publications on my web site. More are on the way.
Forrest M. Mims III
Thank you for commenting.
Here’s why you drive me crazy. It’s simple, you as a fellow of, and the DI/CSC in general, are attempting to have religious beliefs taught by the government as science. People attempting to promote religious arguments as science drive me crazy. For more of my opinion on government and religion see the older posts here and here.
Thankfully the US Constitution prohibits such promotion of religion by government. As the Kitzmiller v. Dover case clearly showed, the DI’s attempt at disguising religion as science couldn’t even fool a conservative Christian judge.
Add to that the behavior of you and the DI as illustrated in the following articles and you should be able to understand why engineers like you drive me crazy.
Pianka and Mims
Forrest Mims: A wanna-be bully
Influenza viruses = evidence for design
Pianka and the Loonies
Pianka, the FBI and Dembsi’s Wagers
MikeGene Retracts on Pianka
Samuel Chen to the White Courtesy Phone
BTW, I use Merriam-Webster’s definition of engineer, “a person who is trained in or follows as a profession a branch of engineering”. My previous exposure to your work in the 70’s and 80’s leads me to believe that not only are you an engineer, you are a good engineer.
Thanks for the definition of engineer. While it’s certainly possible for non-academics to design circuits, make discoveries and publish papers in leading journals, it’s always best to be up front about credentials–or the lack thereof–to avoid misleading people.
You have prejudged my connection with DI, which is in name only with no support. I’ll be sure to include something about this in a new book.
As for the Pianka affair, you cite links that are filled with errors and even false statements. I do not know the author of the following piece, but he conducted a detailed study of the affair and published his findings here:
I wrote the Pianka expose after learning about a university student who was attended the same speech I heard and who then wrote in her blog, “He’s a radical thinker, that one! I mean, he’s basically advocating for the death of all but 10% of the current population! And at the risk of sounding just as radical, I think he’s right.” See http://www.geocities.com/tetrahedronomega/brenmccnnll.blogspot.com-2006-03-dr.html
The president of the university she attended went out of his way to thank me in person for the expose I wrote.
Forrest M. Mims III
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