Prospect Magazine Names Richard Dawkins World’s Top Thinker

Among a list of public intellectuals who were selected by committee because they had “influence over the past 12 months” and “significance to the year’s biggest questions,” the British publication Prospect opened the poll to online voters (so take all of this with a grain of salt) and Richard Dawkins came out on top:

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.

Incidentally, no women broke the top 10, but that likely says more about the nature of Internet voters than the nominees themselves.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Gus Snarp

    Did PZ link to the poll while it was running?

  • Andrew Hall

    Once you get on The Simpsons it’s all rainbows and Nobel Science Prizes afterwards.

  • DKeane123

    Wait, I thought there was just a bunch of articles in the UK about how Dawkins was all washed up? They were written by credible theologians too. The cognitive dissonance is too much to bear….

  • Gideon

    Promote “rationalism”? In the philosophical sense? I’m not always clear on what anyone intends to communicate when they flippantly toss out the term “rationalism”. When someone casually says, “I’m for rationalism,” do they just mean “Thinking is a good thing, m’kay”?

  • baal

    I’m still rooting for Dawkins to be elected Pope.

  • baal

    Obviously not. The horde does not like Mr. Dawkins.

  • rharter

    Well deserved. I’m sure Krauss, DeGrasse, and Sam Harris were among runners up.

  • rharter

    Oh, and Michio Kaku

  • Randomfactor

    How many theologians made the list?

  • Randomfactor

    I’m a squid-carrying member of the Horde and don’t recall a link to this one.

  • Gus Snarp

    Nope. None of the above.

  • Spuddie

    Plus being married to a former Dr. Who companion garners many brownie points with the SF inclined.

  • Pseudonym

    Calling Sam Harris a “public intellectual” is more than a little bit of a stretch. “Danger to shipping” would be more accurate.

    There were some very good names on the list, such as Amartya Sen, Mohamed ElBaradei, and Steven Pinker. Still, any list which puts Richard Dawkins on the same level as Slavoj Žižek can’t be all wrong.

    The odd one out on the list for me was Peter Higgs. I don’t want to under-estimate his achievement (along with the at-least-seven other names which deserve to be attached to the achievement), and he does have some very good non-technical things to say about the state of science and its relationship to society. However, he’s not exactly a high profile public intellectual.

  • Al

    “influence over the past 12 months” and “significance to the year’s biggest questions,”. If that is the criteria, then how is Dawkins number 1?

  • Andrew Hall

    Too true! I always liked her with that hat she used to wear on the series.