Prospect Magazine has published its annual world thinkers poll. "World Thinkers 2013" is based on more than 10,000 votes from over 100 countries, "Online polls often throw up curious results," the editors write, "but this top 10 offers a snapshot of the intellectual trends that dominate our age."  In it's coverage of the event, the Guardian noted:

When Prospect magazine listed Britain's leading public intellectuals in 2004 and invited readers' votes, it was Richard Dawkins who emerged as No 1. Nine years on, the biologist, author and campaigner has bettered that by topping its "world thinkers" rankings, beating four Nobel prize winners (and another contender regarded as certain to receive one soon) in a poll based on 65 names chosen by a largely US- and UK-based expert panel.

Joining him in the top 10 are the psychologists Steven Pinker (3) and Daniel Kahneman (10), the economists Paul Krugman (5) and Amartya Sen (7) and the philosopher Slavoj Žižek (6), who all, like him, figured in the magazine's first list of world-class thinkers in 2005.

A late run by the octogenarian British physicist Peter Higgs (8) secured him a place in an elite squad containing three other scientists, while the remaining slots are taken by academics turned politicians from the Middle East: Afghanistan's Ashraf Ghani (2), an economist who served as finance minister after the US-led invasion; Iraq's Ali Allawi (4), another ex-minister and author of The Occupation of Iraq and The Crisis of Islamic Civilization; and Egypt's Mohamed ElBaradei (9), prominent in the Arab Spring and now in opposition to Mohamed Morsi.

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". ... ("Richard Dawkins named world's top thinker in poll",  by John Dugdale, April 25th)

Among the leading 65 public intellectuals on Prospect's long-list are a number of Edgies. Indeed, four out of the top twelve — Richard DawkinsSteven PinkerDaniel KahnemanJared Diamond — are among the long-time core contributors who have helped establish Edge, in the words of the Guardian, as "the world's smartest website".



A Conversation with

Jerry Coyne, Leonard Susskind, Daniel C. Dennett, Nicholas Humphrey, Tim D. White, Neil H. Shubin, Richard Dawkins, Frank Sulloway, Scott Atran, Steven Pinker, Lee Smolin, Stuart A. Kauffman, Seth Lloyd, Lisa Randall, Marc D. Hauser, Scott Sampson


Just as I was about to send out this edition of Edge announcing the publication of Intelligent Thought: Science Versus The Intelligent Design Movement, I received the email below which it a stark reminder of why this book is necessary, why it belongs on your bookshelf, and why sixteen of the world's leading scientists (and Edge contributors) dropped everything to write essays on a crash schedule so the book would be published before the end of the school year.

Also, below, please find the (a) the chapter by Neil Shubin ("The 'Great' Transition"), evolutionary biologist at University of Chicago who was responsible for the discovery of "Tiktalik", the 3.5 million year-old fossil that gives evidence for the water-to-land transition, and (b) the letter signed by all the contributors sent with the book to every member of Congress.

Maulik Parikh is a post-doc in the Physics Department of Columbia University. He is leaving the U.S. to teach physics at a university in India.


Date: Mon, 8 May 2006
From: Maulik Parikh
To: John Brockman
Subject: Intelligent Design


I have been teaching a new course on the frontiers of science, required for all freshmen at Columbia. These students are mostly sharp, capable, and open-minded. Still, many of them think that intelligent design should be studied in the interest of being fair and balanced. What's troubling is that even those who accept evolution often treat it as a matter of belief, of political persuasion, as if it were akin to being for or against free trade. And if they reject intelligence design it's often not because they can see its vacuousness as a scientific theory, but merely because the religious and conservative stripes of ID can sometimes look a little uncool. As for science, reason, evidence -- what's that?





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We've shown that disfluency leads you to think more deeply, as I mentioned earlier, that it forms a cognitive roadblock, and then you think more deeply, and you work through the information more comprehensively. But the other thing it does is it allows you to depart more from reality, from the reality you're at now. ..



President Barack Obama awards the National Medal of Science to psychologist Anne Treisman in a ceremony at the White House on February 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.  

COMMENTS: Steven Pinker, Michael Gazzaniga, Michael Goldberg & Eric Kandel

ANNE TREISMAN, the Eremitus James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at Princeton University, where she  taught beginning in 1993 is one of the most influential cognitive psychologists in the world today.  In recognition of her achievements, she was awarded the National Medal of Science by President Barack Obama in a white House ceremony in January, 2013.  

For over 40 years she has been defining fundamental issues of how information is selected and integrated to form meaningful objects and memories that guide human thought and action. Her creativity and insight have often challenged investigators to think outside the box, to reach beyond their own specialties and to address the hard questions of human cognition. Her current research interests include visual perception of objects and the role of attention, integration of information in perception of moving and changing objects, perceptual learning, visual memory for objects and events, and the coding of shape and motion.

Dr. Treisman is married to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics.




"Don't ask."

What question about your field do you dread being asked? Maybe it's a sore point: your field should have an answer (people think you do) but there isn't one yet. Perhaps it's simple to pose but hard to answer. Or it's a question that belies a deep misunderstanding: the best answer is to question the question.  


For me, it would be "Why are there recessions?" Don't ask.

SENDHIL MULLAINATHAN is Professor of Economics at Harvard. In 2011, he was appointed by the U.S. Treasury Department to serve as Assistant Director for Research at The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

[ED. NOTE: Word Length for comments: up to 500 words.]

CONTRIBUTORS: Raj Chetty, Lawrence Krauss *, Adam Alter *, George Dyson, Jens Ludwig, Emanuel Derman, Scott Atran, Jaron Lanier, Haim Harari, Richard Thaler, Paul Bloom, Michael Norton *, Samuel Arbesman *, Lillian Lee *, Jon Kleinberg *, Nicholas Epley *,  Susan Blackmore, NEW  Nicholas Epley

* Sendhil Mullainathan responds


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