Why are engineers so frequently wrong?

Last night went out with my brother-in-law for beer and ribs while the Ladies Who Command went to the Ritz for martinis and hors d’oeuvres.  We shoot a couple games of pool and they discuss financial matters and politics.

He’s a New York City guy, born and bred in the boroughs of the city, just about his only time away from New York was his service in the military. He’s a Professor of Electrical Engineering and Chairman of the Engineering Department at a university in New York. In other words, he’s a smart guy – well except for one thing, he’s a karaoke nut, but that’s not relevant to this post. Unlike many other engineers I have met, he knows the limit of his knowledge and expertise and is quite open about it. It is one of the many reasons that our nights out can be so interesting; I know a little bit about a lot things and he knows a lot about a couple of things, so the discussions can be wide-ranging.

All of which brings me to a letter to the editor from the Lake City (FL) Ledger, written by an engineer. Why am I reading the newspaper from a small town that I haven’t even driven thru in a number of years? That is a story for another day – anyway, I posted the following in the forums of the Ledger and thought – Hey, I’ve got a blog now! So my first real post at Somer’s Place

When an engineer goes wrong, they can really be wrong. (Those letters, PE, after Mr Frodge’s name tell us that he is proud of his status as a Professional Engineer) Education in one field of endeavour does not convey knowledge of other matters outside of the discipline studied, although engineers in particular like to think that the difficulty of their studies must mean they know everything about everything because they are obviously intellectually superior to most everybody else, particularly liberal arts majors. That sense of superiority is perhaps one reason we find so many engineers signing onto these lists of ‘scientists’ who dispute global climate change and the Theory of Evolution. Now we have another example of an engineer making wildly wrong statements about matters in which he has little real knowledge. The bolded comments in the following excerpt are mine.

First, civil rights refer to the struggle to overcome discrimination based upon unchangeable physical characteristics, such as skin color or ethnic heritage. Homosexuality is a chosen abhorrent lifestyle, and the pretense that it should be a civil right denigrates the real struggle for civil rights in the U.S. …

Second, these propositions simply amend the state constitutions to define the institution of marriage as between a man and a woman to prevent activist judges from rendering their own definition. And in doing so, those amendments remove rights from one class of American citizens .  Amendments define rights: the right to bear arms, the right to religious freedom, etc. By their nature, amendments are discriminatory in the same way that laws prevent an adult from marrying a child. Willoughby needs to realize that all laws are discriminatory – that is why they are laws. This statement by Engineer Frodge is so wrong that it begins to redefine the nature of “wrongness”

The Rev. Willoughby suggested in his closing paragraph that “prejudice, ignorance and fear” were the reasons why these amendments were successful. Yet he resorts to these very tactics that expose his own prejudice against “evangelicals” and his own ignorance by demonstrating his lack of even the most rudimentary understanding of the nature of law.


“Civil Rights” are those rights that are to be enjoyed by all citizens of a nation and the term does not specifically “refer to the struggle to overcome discrimination based upon unchangeable physical characteristics”. At various times in the story of America, people were discriminated against and had their civil rights abrogated owing to property ownership, place of residence, religious beliefs, level of education, place of birth and “skin color”.

Engineer Frodge writes, “Homosexuality is a chosen abhorrent lifestyle” and I’m sure he believes that is a true statement, it is not. Even if it were true, the state of being homosexual is not a civil right just as having European heritage (being white folks) is not a civil right. The capacity to marry the adult person of one’s choice is however a civil right.

Amendments to the various state and the federal constitution MAY define rights but they also do many other things from naming the state bird to how schools are funded and in general defining how a government is to operate.

Engineer Frodge has shot himself in both feet with this little gem. His use of the word “abhorrent” (–adjective: causing repugnance; detestable; loathsome: an abhorrent deed.) when describing homosexuals would certainly indicate to most people some degree of “prejudice, ignorance and fear” on his part. He then continues to create new states of wrongness and exibits an amazing degree of unawareness when he writes that a previous letter writer has demonstrated “his lack of even the most rudimentary understanding of the nature of law.”

If someone tells me that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, in my opinion he should see a psychiatrist.. — Francis Crick


One response to “Why are engineers so frequently wrong?

  1. Pingback: Another wrong engineer « Somer’s Place

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