April 29, 2013 in Trivia
Prospect Magazine’s 2013 poll results on this question may be as good a take on this as any. The poll was based on more than ten thousand votes from over one hundred countries. Prospect describes the results as offering “a snapshot of the intellectual trends that dominate our age.”
This year’s poll gives the number one spot to Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins popularized the term “meme” and is most widely known for promoting the elevation of science and rationalism over religion—which he shuns—and for making the case for atheism in general. Perhaps it is natural that a poll for top “thinker” would put bright beams on rationality.
The Dawkins’ Foundation for Reason and Science states as its mission, “to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and human suffering.”
One of Dawkins’ most provocative books ,“The God Delusion (2008)”, earned this review from Scientific American: “Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, tells of his exasperation with colleagues who try to play both sides of the street: looking to science for justification of their religious convictions while evading the most difficult implications—the existence of a prime mover sophisticated enough to create and run the universe, ‘to say nothing of mind reading millions of humans simultaneously.’”
Numerous arguments against Dawkins’ expressed viewpoints, however, contend that he argues against a “straw man”—knocking down positions of his own creation rather than the true contentions of competing viewpoints. Norman J. Lund argues this case in “A Dozen Logical Fallacies in The God Delusion” published by Oxford Tutorials.
Prospect’s runner up “thinkers” this year are Ashraf Ghani of the Afghan Transition Coordination Commission and the Institute for State Effectiveness, and Harvard professor Steven Pinker, author of “The Better Angels of Our Nature”.
Published in Britain, Prospect is a monthly publication specializing in politics, economics and current affairs. Bronwen Maddox is the editor and chief executive of the magazine. She carries a degree in politics, philosophy and economics from St John’sCollege, Oxford, and lives in London.
Maddox is a Governor of the Ditchley Foundation, established by Sir David Wills in 1958 to advance international learning and to bring transatlantic and other experts together to discuss international issues. She is also a Member of the Council (a Trustee) of Chatham House, home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a world-leading source of independent analysis, informed debate and influential ideas on how to build a prosperous and secure world for all.