Programming: Engineering or Science?

This is just a post of a comment I left on another blog, where they were discussing the topic above. I am a real sucker for this issue. I'm very strongly opinionated about it. I could probably write over 1000 pages on the subject, but here is this brief comment I left. The case was made that programming should be handled as an engineering discipline – and bullocks to any discussion on whether it is an art or science. I, of course, was compelled to engage in the discussion with religious fervor.

  • Software Engineering, Not Computer Science

    I replied,

    Unfortunately, in my brief professional career I've quickly adopted an elitist disdain for engineering. I feel like it is an unenlightened compromise. Would not an ideal economy and an ideal technology evolve solely through the work of scientists? Engineering is necessary in our ugly world where abominable things like bipartisan politics exist, but would it be necessary if we didn't have the pressures of rushed delivery schedules and uninformed policy makers forever moving the target chaotically? My case sounds impotent, because we all know the world is not ideal. However, I am from the new school where we are devoted to changing this world (the author hinted at it, saying scientists "build to learn"). I've been called crazy by friends, family members, and colleagues alike, but I believe computer science will be the field that leads humanity into a level of intellectual life that has never been realized. Engineers will stick with the state of the "art" (not Art) and ride it out til their grave. Yes, they will improve it and streamline it; they will make it the best widget possible with the current tools available. But I emphatically believe that it is the mentality of scientists which pushes things into new realms of possibility. They are the ones who take the risk and have the cavalier attitude and have the curiosity to make ponderous comments; all of which are retrograde to engineering, where one must minimize risk, sequester cavalier rogues away from the herd, and keep all ponderous curiosity to oneself. The world of instantly accessible reality is the only valid domain for an engineer, whereas the world of possibility, imagination, creative inquiry, and wacky proposition is an enemy to good engineering. You need not look far into the history of science to find endless examples where these fantastic castles in the air have provided bricolage for the diligent scientist.
    Science is physics, everything else is stamp collecting. Rutherford
    This is a reductionist view, and of course there were some physicists in the 20th century already who admitted computational theories into the discipline of their mother of sciences. Nonetheless, reductionism so far has gotten the job done. We're still a progressive society, aren't we? Am I off my rocker? I embrace these idealistic aims of science and try to live them each day, even though my job title is software engineer. I also have a maniacal predisposition to my previously mentioned ideal world of possibilities, and I loath the displine of engineering equally as much as I loath the banal primitive world I find myself situated within everyday. I really believe in the ongoing triumph of science over the maladies and shortcomings of our species' plight both metaphorically and technologically. Furthermore, it is my nonhumble opinion that computer science will play a key role in that triumph of science over
    Nature, red in tooth and claw. [Lord Tennyson]

    Ok enough propaganda for one night. Ciao.

    Update: The day after I made this comment, the owner of the blog completely removed the article! My comments are still there under the separate discussion forum, and of course are saved here. But that's kinda funny. Maybe the original author got mad that it was reposted without permission on tekmonkey.org after he/she found it on reddit like I did. Who knows?
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