The World’s Top Thinkers

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in July 2011-croppedMost of you probably know who Richard Dawkins is, but Ashraf Ghani and Ali Allawi? Prospect Magazine reports on its 2013 top thinkers poll:

After more than 10,000 votes from over 100 countries, the results of Prospect’s world thinkers 2013 poll are in. Online polls often throw up curious results, but this top 10 offers a snapshot of the intellectual trends that dominate our age.


1. Richard Dawkins
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.

2. Ashraf Ghani
Few academics get the chance to put their ideas into practice. But after decades of research into building states at Columbia, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins, followed by a stint at the World Bank, Ashraf Ghani returned to his native Afghanistan to do just that. He served as the country’s finance minister and advised the UN on the transfer of power to the Afghans. He is now in charge of the Afghan Transition Coordination Commission and the Institute for State Effectiveness, applying his experience in Afghanistan elsewhere. He is already looking beyond the current crisis in Syria, raising important questions about what kind of state it will eventually become.

3. Steven Pinker
Long admired for his work on language and cognition, the latest book by the Harvard professor Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature, was a panoramic sweep through history. Marshalling a huge range of evidence, Pinker argued that humanity has become less violent over time. As with Pinker’s previous books, it sparked fierce debate. Whether writing about evolutionary psychology, linguistics or history, what unites Pinker’s work is a fascination with human nature and an enthusiasm for sharing new discoveries in accessible, elegant prose.

4. Ali Allawi
Ali Allawi began his career in 1971 at the World Bank before moving into academia and finally politics, as Iraq’s minister of trade, finance and defence after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Since then he has written a pair of acclaimed books, most recently The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation, and he is currently a senior visiting fellow at Princeton. “His scholarly work on post-Saddam Iraq went further than anyone else has yet done in helping us understand the complex reality of that country,” says Clare Lockhart, co-author (with Ashraf Ghani) of Fixing Failed States. “His continuing work on the Iraqi economy—and that of the broader region—is meanwhile helping to illuminate its potential, as well as pathways to a more stable and productive future.”…

[continues at Prospect Magazine]


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47 Comments on "The World’s Top Thinkers"

  1. I like Richard Dawkins. He gave atheists round the world the balls to (openly) stand up to religion. But I think there are better thinkers than him. There are and were people out there more unforgiving than him. I think if Christopher HItchens were alive, he’d be a better fit.

    • Jin The Ninja | Apr 26, 2013 at 7:47 pm |

      dick dawkins- thinly veiled racism with an oxford accent.
      chris hitchens (rip)- openly racist and imperialist who will scream in your face.

      neither, but it is interesting that’s who you prefer…

      • Lady of the Snows | Apr 27, 2013 at 6:55 am |

        How on earth were they racist?

        • Jin The Ninja | Apr 27, 2013 at 9:27 am |

          how on earth weren’t they? screaming for the eradication of islam, while championing the prowess of western civilisation- you don’t see that a tad bit problematic?

      • you’re clearly a horse’s ass

        • Jin The Ninja | Apr 27, 2013 at 9:26 am |

          because i don’t worship at the altar of materialism?

          i’d rather a horse’s ass than a golden calf.

          • hmm…I think you need a dictionary…you are confusing materialism with rationalism.

          • Jin The Ninja | Apr 27, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

            i think you’re confusing rational with angry old white dudes. nothing rational about racism and imperialism, sorry.
            atheism is cool w/ me, but atheists do not have a monopoly on logic or philosophy. in fact, i would posit a rejection of consciousness is illogical, and because the new atheists, are inherently materialist- they have no room to make moral or philosophical judgements about rationalism.

          • oh please….and your use of the word materialist rather than the correct word rationalist says a great deal about you

          • Jin The Ninja | Apr 30, 2013 at 11:22 am |

            actually ‘materialism’ is a legitimate way to describe and denote new atheism, and in fact that you are a materialist, and reject consciousness says a great deal about you.

          • you should choose your words more carefully. I don’t reject consciousness. I simply don’t agree that there’s something magical or even mysterious about it.

          • Jin The Ninja | May 2, 2013 at 6:48 pm |

            dawkins rejects consciousness, he believes we are biological machines. is that not your belief?

          • please don’t try to conflate the meaning of the word to belief. I may “believe” in biology, but it’s not a matter of faith, it’s a matter of proof. This consciousness crap is all unproven, a speculation, an immature perspective.

          • Jin The Ninja | May 4, 2013 at 11:55 am |

            “This consciousness crap is all unproven, a speculation, an immature perspective.”

            there we go. was it really all that difficult?

          • was what all that difficult? Not following you.

          • Jin The Ninja | May 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm |

            admitting your feelings towards a working definition of ‘consciousness.’

        • Monkey See Monkey Do | Apr 27, 2013 at 1:47 pm |

          Your out of your league Ray, read some Jung or Alfred Korzybski.. and then read some Nietzsche… Clearly this is a list of the some of the most limited ‘thinkers’ of our time, that many economists on the list should have been a clue.

      • A worthy point…especially for those who recall more than three or four great Hitchens quotes…and can remember his West vs.East unilateralism. I appreciated his candor on religions being topheavy with hogwash…but I got really tired of his vaguely ‘Western Christian imperialism can be dealt with later…first we have to crush Islam root and branch’ attitude. The man sacrificed a simple principle that might have stood up to question…and picked a clear side in a discussion where many sides have many faults. It more or less ruined his credibility.

    • Monkey See Monkey Do | Apr 27, 2013 at 1:34 pm |

      Hitchens couldn’t think his way out of an Imam’s asshole.

  2. emperorreagan | Apr 26, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

    A self-selecting sample of Prospect magazine readers voting on people they find influential? So a biased sample produces a list biased towards people likely to appear in the pages of Prospect and in media catering to a similar class of people as Prospect? Hooray!

    I guess all magazines have to make lists, because that’s the only reason people buy them.

    • kowalityjesus | Apr 26, 2013 at 4:58 pm |

      “World’s Top Thinkers” is a bit self-aggrandizing. how about “The Top Thinkers That Immediately Occur to our Readers” “Thinkers That We Think You Should Know About, And Are Highly Laudable”

  3. All the way down to #65 and no mention of the Dalai Lama. I think the authors need to catch up a bit. It’s kind of like Edison ignoring Tesla because he didn’t understand. And we see where that got us.

    • what are you saying?

      • You know, I don’t mind typing a long response, obviously. I also try my best to be patient as I do it, but without knowing what you know I would have to take a weeks vacation to explain this one properly.

        I’ll wager one thing though… I’ll bet Buzz was responsible for one of those up votes that comment got.

        • how convenient for you

          • I notice you rarely type more than one line in a comment, and usually it is pretty vulgar. Not much of a down payment for what you expect in return. I mean you want me to explain to you what it took decades for me to discover just because you wrote what amounts to be; “Huh?”

            And then you want to get mad because I don’t see that as a fair exchange. I’ll take a guess and say that you probably have not studied Contractual Law.

          • Ouch!

        • You are right of course. Edison hated Tesla and fought him tooth and nail in the AC or DC debate which Tesla won. Tesla is the most over looked genius of American inventors largely due to that pompous, grand standing Edison.

          • Ittabena | May 5, 2013 at 8:29 pm |

            Agreed, agreed and agreed. But I don’t think he was really overlooked. We just don’t “need to know” about it.

            BTW watched an episode of Dark Matters the other night on Netflix. They talked about the AC DC debate and never mentioned Tesla once. They gave all the credit to Westinghouse.

    • I thought you meant ironically? No?
      Cause its not like Edison ignoring Telsa at all is it?

      • Irony? No.

        It is, except of course we are not dealing with electricity here, at least not in the same magnitude.

        • Ah. I was under the impression that Dalai Lama was conjoined to the Tibetan Elites.

          Tesla was/is mindblowingly brilliant.

          • The Tibetan Elites? Not sure what you are referring to.

            There is no more Tibet. If you mention the word too loudly in China you go to jail, no matter where you are from.

            The Dalai Lama now lives in exile in India. Lhasa has become a Chinese tourist attraction.

            You should try listening to him speak. He’s pretty brilliant in his own right, though not about scientific matters.

  4. Hadrian999 | Apr 26, 2013 at 6:12 pm |

    The comments on that site were hilarious and frightening at the same time

  5. BuzzCoastin | Apr 26, 2013 at 7:12 pm |

    if you call them The World’s Top Mainstream Thinkers
    it’s pretty accurate
    but if you’re really smart
    you know smart’s not all it’s cracked up to be
    since it entails spending most of one’s time reexplaining fire to cave men

  6. Steven Pinker was a good choice. I read his book on violence and I found him to be a brilliant thinker. He’s able to synthesize a huge amount of information from a wide variety of fields into a broad, explanatory framework, and to do so in a rigorous, systematic way. He explores all possible interpretations of the data, and carefully measures each of his assertions in proportion to the strength of current evidence.

    I like Dawkins (mostly for The Selfish Gene), but his ideological writings lack the depth of Pinker’s more dispassionate research.

  7. Kyle Willey | Apr 27, 2013 at 12:19 am |

    According to Prospect Magazine, Prospect Magazine is the best magazine.

  8. Lady of the Snows | Apr 27, 2013 at 6:54 am |

    Richard Dawkins is the world’s top thinker? Is he?

  9. Even though he will no doubt dismiss them all as meaningless every morning upon waking, still I wonder… what does Richard Dawkins dream about?

  10. Antediluviancurrent | Apr 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm |

    Vulgar materialism and new atheism tops the list? Funny how people scream and shout about the ‘radicalization of Islam’ and not see the extremism in their own backyard. Two sides of the same coin.

  11. Will Coles | Apr 28, 2013 at 6:02 pm |

    “The world’s top thinkers” as chosen by right wing economists. Some of the favourites on that list (Ashraf Ghani, Paul Krugman, Mario Draghi) can currently be seen spouting their rhetoric as they & their kind fail dismally at their profession, being more corrupt accountants than great thinkers.

    The lack of women says a lot about the mind set of the voters, as well as missing the likes of Noam Chomsky who manages to stay incredibly relevant & visible despite his age.

  12. I find Slavoj Žižek to be delightfully hilarious

    Your thoughts…go!

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