This past weekend I attended the Leadership Summit for the Geo-Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Geo-Institute is one of eight institutes within the Society which deals with specialties within civil engineering, in this case soils and foundations. Part of that meeting was an induction of some of the attendees into the Order of the Engineer, and I was one of those inductees.
The Order of the Engineer has its roots in Canada, instituted in the wake of recurring tragedy during the building of the Quebec Bridge over the St. Lawrence River in the years around World War I. It came to the United States in 1970. There are two key elements in the induction: the “Obligation of an Engineer” (as opposed to an oath) and receiving the iron (actually steel) ring.
In advance of the ceremony, the inductees were given a small card with the Obligation on it, which reads as follows:
OBLIGATION OF AN ENGINEER
I am an Engineer, in my profession I take deep pride. To it I owe solemn obligations.
Since the Stone Age, human progress has been spurred by the engineering genius. Engineers have made usable Nature’s vast resources of material and energy for Mankind’s benefit. Engineers have vitalized and turned to practical use the principles of science and the means of technology. Were it not for this heritage of accumulated experience, my efforts would be feeble.
As an Engineer, I
pledge to practice integrity and fair dealing, tolerance and respect, and to uphold devotion to the standards and the dignity of my profession, conscious always that my skill carries with it the obligation to serve humanity by making the best use of Earth’s precious wealth.
As an Engineer, in humility and with the need for Divine guidance, I shall participate in none but honest enterprises. When needed, my skills and knowledge shall be given without reservation for public good in the performance of duty and in fidelity to my profession, I shall give the utmost.
After an extensive overview of the history of the Order of the Engineer, we the inductees were asked to repeat the Obligation above. In the course of going through it, our leader skipped the italicised words. This was a momentary show stopper: we were not expecting it, but eventually we caught up and finished the Obligation.
The atheists have struck again, I thought. The invocation of divine guidance in one form or another had been a part of the Order of the Engineer since it was started north of the border (or at least that’s the impression that came out from the overview we received).
Contrary to what is fashionable these days, my own view of the matter is as follows:
- God set the universe in place with an orderly system of physical laws within which same universe operates.
- He endowed us with intelligence to discover and make best use of same ordered universe.
- He expects us to do so responsibly and with integrity, an idea that started with Genesis 1:28. We are to neither worship the creation nor run roughshod over it.
One of the important differences between engineers and scientists (and one that sometimes gets blurred due to the overlapping nature of their activity) is that if a scientist, say, comes up with a new theory of the origin and subsequent course of the universe, the universe will be essentially unmoved by the right or wrong of the theory. If an engineer misapplies what theory or experience he or she has at hand, the results can be disastrous for all involved.
That being the case, I think the invocation for divine guidance is a reasonable thing to do, and I will continue to do so.
It’s probably just as well that, if the invocation of divine guidance is excluded, the humility goes also. Atheism is a system that on the one hand degrades the place of the human race by its view of the origin of the species and the vastness of the universe away from the planet and on the other inculcates pride and arrogance amongst its devotees as being far superior to everyone else.