Friday, April 26, 2013

Dawkins Tops Lists of World Thinkers

Like the lists of the most beautiful and most successful people in the world, a list of the world’s best thinkers has to be at least a teensy bit subjective.

Even so, when Prospect Magazine named author, intellectual and all ’round brainy guy, Richard Dawkins, the world’s top thinker a few days ago, there wasn’t a lot of disagreement. Says Prospect:
When Richard Dawkins, the Oxford evolutionary biologist, coined the term “meme” in The Selfish Gene 37 years ago, he can’t have anticipated its current popularity as a word to describe internet fads. But this is only one of the ways in which he thrives as an intellectual in the internet age. He is also prolific on Twitter, with more than half a million followers—and his success in this poll attests to his popularity online. He uses this platform to attack his old foe, religion, and to promote science and rationalism. Uncompromising as his message may be, he’s not averse to poking fun at himself: in March he made a guest appearance on The Simpsons, lending his voice to a demon version of himself.
Other authors who made the list are Oliver Sacks (#13); Arundhati Roy (#15); Hilary Mantel (#33), Zadie Smith (#35); David Grossman (#42) and Andrew Solomon (#43).

Scroll down the page to see Prospect’s methodology in picking their top 65.

The list is interesting, but the Guardian seems a little skeptical at least about some aspects when it says:
To qualify for this year's world thinkers rankings, it was not enough to have written a seminal book, inspired an intellectual movement or won a Nobel prize several years ago (hence the absence from the 65-strong long list of ageing titans such as Noam Chomsky or Edward O Wilson); the selectors' remit ruthlessly insisted on "influence over the past 12 months" and "significance to the year's biggest questions". 
This requirement may have been a factor in the top 10 being all-male (presumably a source of frustration to the five women on the selection panel, including Prospect's editor Bronwen Maddox), with longlistees such as Hilary Mantel, Martha Nussbaum and Sheryl Sandberg not making it through to the elite of the elite, and the likes of Germaine Greer and Naomi Klein not even making it into the 65. But it may also, of course, simply reflect the gender make-up of the monthly's readership.
Their assessment is here.


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