World Thinkers 2013

Prospect Magazine

World Thinkers 2013


The results of Prospect’s world thinkers poll

Left to right: Ashraf Ghani, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker © US Embassy, Kabul © Rex Features

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.”

5. Paul Krugman
As a fierce critic of the economic policies of the right, Paul Krugman has become something like the global opposition to fiscal austerity. A tireless advocate of Keynesian economics, he has been repeatedly attacked for his insistence that government spending is critical to ending the recession. But as he told Prospect last year, “we’ve just conducted what amounts to a massive experiment on pretty much the entire OECD [the industrialised world]. It’s been as slam-dunk a victory for a more or less Keynesian view as one can possibly imagine.” His New York Times columns are so widely discussed that it is easy to overlook his academic work, which has won him a Nobel prize and made him one of the world’s most cited economists.

6. Slavoj Žižek
Slavoj Žižek’s critics seem unsure whether to dismiss him as a buffoon or a villain. The New Republic has called him “the most despicable philosopher in the west,” but the Slovenian’s legion of fans continues to grow. He has been giving them plenty to chew on—in the past year alone he has produced a 1,200-page study of Hegel, a book, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, analysing the Arab Spring and other recent events, and a documentary called The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology. And he has done all this while occupying academic posts at universities in Slovenia, Switzerland and London. His trademark pop culture references (“If you ask me for really dangerous ideological films, I’d say Kung Fu Panda,” he told one interviewer in 2008) may have lost their novelty, but they remain a gentle entry point to his studies of Lacanian psychoanalysis and left-wing ideology.

7. Amartya Sen
Amartya Sen will turn 80 in November—making him the fourth oldest thinker on our list—but he remains one of the world’s most active public intellectuals. He rose to prominence in the early 1980s with his studies of famine. Since then he has gone on to make major contributions to developmental economics, social choice theory and political philosophy. Receiving the Nobel prize for economics in 1998, he was praised for having “restored an ethical dimension to the discussion of vital economic problems.” The author of Prospect’s first cover story in 1995, Sen continues to write influential essays and columns, in the past year arguing against European austerity. And he shows no sign of slowing down or narrowing his focus—his latest book (with Jean Drèze), An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions, will be published in July.

8. Peter Higgs
The English physicist Peter Higgs lent his name to the Higgs boson, the subatomic particle discovered last year at Cern that gives mass to other elementary particles. Although Higgs is always quick to point out that others were involved in early work on the existence of the particle, he was central to the first descriptions of the boson in 1964. “Of the various people who contributed to that piece of theory,” Higgs told Prospect in 2011, “I was the only one who pointed to this particle as something that would be… of interest for experimentalists.” Higgs is expected to receive a Nobel prize this year for his achievements.

9. Mohamed ElBaradei
The former director general of the UN’s international atomic energy agency and winner of the 2005 Nobel peace prize, Mohamed ElBaradei has become one of the most prominent advocates of democracy in Egyptian politics over the past two years. Since December, ElBaradei has been the coordinator of the National Salvation Front, a coalition of political parties dedicated to opposing what they see as President Mohamed Morsi’s attempts to secure power for himself and impose a new constitution favouring Islamist parties. Reflecting widespread concern about Morsi’s actions, ElBaradei has accused the president of appointing himself “Egypt’s new pharaoh.”

10. Daniel Kahneman
Since the publication of Thinking, Fast and Slow in 2011, Daniel Kahneman has become an unlikely resident at the top of the bestseller lists. His face has even appeared on posters on the London Underground, with only two words of explanation: “Thinking Kahneman.” Although he is a psychologist by training, his work on our capacity for making irrational decisions helped create the field of behavioural economics, and he was awarded the Nobel prize for economics in 2002. His book has now brought these insights to a wider audience, making them more influential than ever.

Biographies by Daniel Cohen, Jay Elwes and David Wolf. Additional research by Luke Neima and Lucy Webster


11. Steven Weinberg, physicist
12. Jared Diamond, biologist
13. Oliver Sacks, neurologist and author
14. Ai Weiwei, artist
15. Arundhati Roy, writer
16. Nate Silver, statistician
17. Asgar Farhadi, filmmaker
18. Ha-Joon Chang, economist
19. Martha Nussbaum, philosopher
20. Elon Musk, businessman
21. Michael Sandel, philosopher
22. Niall Ferguson, historian
23. Hans Rosling, statistician
24 = Anne Applebaum, journalist
24 = Craig Venter, biologist
26. Shinya Yamanaka, biologist
27. Jonathan Haidt, psychologist
28. George Soros, philanthropist
29. Francis Fukuyama, political scientist
30. James Robinson and Daron Acemoglu, political scientist and economist
31. Mario Draghi, economist
32. Ramachandra Guha, historian
33. Hilary Mantel, novelist
34. Sebastian Thrun, computer scientist
35. Zadie Smith, novelist
36 = Hernando de Soto, economist
36 = Raghuram Rajan, economist
38. James Hansen, climate scientist
39. Christine Lagarde, economist
40. Roberto Unger, philosopher
41. Moisés Naím, political scientist
42. David Grossman, novelist
43. Andrew Solomon, writer
44. Esther Duflo, economist
45. Eric Schmidt, businessman
46. Wang Hui, political scientist
47. Fernando Savater, philosopher
48. Alexei Navalny, activist
49. Katherine Boo, journalist
50. Anne-Marie Slaughter, political scientist
51. Paul Collier, development economist
52. Margaret Chan, health policy expert
53. Sheryl Sandberg, businesswoman
54. Chen Guangcheng, activist
55. Robert Shiller, economist
56 = Ivan Krastev, political scientist
56 = Nicholas Stern, economist
58. Theda Skocpol, sociologist
59 = Carmen Reinhart, economist
59 = Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, economist
61. Jeremy Grantham, investment strategist
62. Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, economists
63. Jessica Tuchman Mathews, political scientist
64. Robert Silvers, editor
65. Jean Pisani-Ferry, economist


Only three thinkers from our 2005 top 10, Richard Dawkins, Paul Krugman and Amartya Sen, appear in this year’s top spots. The panelists who drew up the longlist of 65 gave credit for the currency of candidates’ work—their influence over the past 12 months and their continuing significance for this year’s biggest questions.

Among the new entries at the top are Peter Higgs—whose inclusion is a sign of public excitement about the discoveries emerging from the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, Cern—and Slavoj Žižek, whose critique of global capitalism has gained more urgency in the wake of the financial crisis. The appearance of Steven Pinker and Daniel Kahneman, authors of two of the most successful recent “ideas books,” further demonstrates the public appetite for serious, in-depth thinking in the age of the TED talk. The inclusion of Ashraf Ghani, Ali Allawi and Mohamed ElBaradei—from Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt, respectively—reflects the importance of their work on fostering democracies across the Muslim world in the wake of foreign interventions and the Arab Spring.

One new development was the influence of social media, with just over half of voters coming to the world thinkers homepage via Twitter or Facebook. Twitter also gave readers a chance to respond to the list and highlight notable omissions—Stephen Hawking and Noam Chomsky were popular choices.

As always, the absences are as revealing as the familiar names at the top. The failure of environmental thinkers to win many votes may be a sign of the faltering energy of the green movement. Despite the presence of climate scientists lower down the list, the movement seems to lack successors to influential public intellectuals such as Rachel Carson and James Lovelock. Serious thinkers about the internet and technology are also conspicuous by their absence. The highest-placed representative of Silicon Valley is the entrepreneur Elon Musk, but beyond journalist-critics such as Evgeny Morozov and Nicholas Carr, technology still awaits its heavyweight public intellectuals (see Thomas Meaney, £).

Most striking of all is the lack of women at the top of this year’s list. The highest-placed woman in this year’s poll, at number 15, is Arundhati Roy, who has become a prominent left-wing critic of inequalities and injustice in modern India since the publication of her novel The God of Small Things over a decade ago.

Many thanks to all those who voted. Do let us know what you make of the results.

David Wolf


Do public intellectuals matter? asks AC Grayling

The XX factor: Jessica Abrahams looks at the women on the list

Follow Prospect on Facebook and Twitter

  1. April 25, 2013


    Oliver Sacks is not a psychologist.

  2. April 25, 2013

    Jeremy Fancher

    The presence of Steven Pinker and Niall Ferguson illustrate the vast chasm between ‘Prospect World Thinkers’ and legitimate scholarship. These Harvard pop icons’ psuedo-scholarship entice TED-talk devotees looking for glossy morsels of glib wisdom, but you’d be hard pressed to find any serious, respectable scholars amongst their legions of adoring fans.

    • April 25, 2013

      Ryan McCourt

      Actually, the vast chasm between Steven Pinker and Niall Ferguson is enough to render your comment nonsensical.

      • April 25, 2013


        i didn’t know there was a vast chasm between them. care to expand?

      • April 25, 2013

        Jeremy Fancher

        They stand together only in their both being undeservedly on the list. I’m confused by your comment, unless you’re trying to suggest one should be there and one shouldn’t.

        • April 26, 2013


          the “vast chasm” mentioned was between the two men mentioned and legitimate scholarship, not between the two men

    • April 26, 2013

      bill corr

      Illustrates the vast chasm between Fancher and the english language.

    • April 29, 2013


      “legions of adoring fans”? What a talent for hyperbole you have. if there are indeed such legions, that seems not entirely a bad thing. At least Chomsky (who really DOES have legions of adoring fans) isn’t on the list.

    • April 29, 2013

      Edwin Duthie

      I think your spot on with the “legions of Adoring fans” statement.
      It’s obvious that “4channing”, as occurred several times with Time Magazines Person of the Year, is largely what determined the placements here.
      The Reddit subgroup r/atheism was particularly influential with calls to vote occurring across its boards.

      So rather than viewing the results as a snapshot of the intellectual trends, viewing it as a display of the passion and devotion of certain online communities may be more accurate.

  3. April 25, 2013

    jon mall

    Startling absence of Terry Eagleton, Frederic Jameson, Michel Houellebecq, and Chomsky confirms the silliness of the list. As does the number of economists. And Zadie Smith? What? Oh, yes, of course, the towering intellect behind the recent NYRB piffle on ‘Joy’.

  4. April 25, 2013


    Dawkins Best.

  5. April 25, 2013


    I find the lack of women in the Top Ten disconcerting.

    • April 25, 2013

      M M Thomas

      I agree! And there is no one of African decent. What a bunch of bigots, racists, and sexists. I am disgusted with your “list.”

      • April 27, 2013


        Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is Nigerian.

    • April 26, 2013

      M. M. Thomas

      I agree completely. I also find the lack of anyone of African descent disconcerting. How about some fairness here.

    • May 3, 2013

      Peter Melia

      To be true, it is disconcerting. The question is, why?
      Is it an oversight?
      Is it because of some gender favouritism, actual or subconscious, in the selectors?
      Is it because suitable women did not measure up to the criteria laid down?
      Is it some other reason?
      That is for you to discover, Hayley.
      Good luck

  6. April 25, 2013


    The absence of Jürgen Habermas is equally revealing.

    • April 25, 2013


      i didn’t know he’s still alive until i saw your comment. of course, that probably speaks more about how informed i am than how relevant he is today, but still…

    • April 28, 2013


      The fading importance of the Frankfurt School? At least, cultural relativism seem as strong as ever, at least in the Western hemisphere.

    • May 5, 2013


      True, the absence of Habermas and Chomsky makes this list irrelevant as it indicates that whoever was making the list had no clue about what’s going on in social sciences

  7. April 25, 2013

    Andreas Moss

    Confused about the total absence of Noam Chomsky. He’s usually on top of lists like this, so its curious that he’s not even in the Top 65 here.

    • April 27, 2013

      Amy MeLampy

      How correct you are. And an excellent debator, too!

  8. April 25, 2013

    Richard Block

    This is a bit like a list of the top 100 albums. It is a matter of taste. As an atheist, Keynesian, and believer in evolutionary psychology and behavioural economics, I was pretty happy with the list. It’s got a good beat, I can dance to it.

    • May 13, 2013

      Jeff Wheeldon

      Agreed. As a theist and environmentalist, I wasn’t particularly thrilled. Not a single theologian or ethicist? I expected at least a nod to the likes of Vandana Shiva in the environmental camp, Cornel West or Chris Hedges representing North American activism/ethics (in the wake of Occupy), and perhaps John Millbank for theology.

      Overall, the list seems heavily weighted toward economics and politics. I don’t doubt that they’re important, but their heavy presence shows the (perhaps misplaced) priorities of our society.

  9. April 25, 2013

    Ramesh Raghuvanshi

    I voted Steven Pinker,Olive Sacks and Amartya Sen. Why voters chooses Richard Dawkins that I did not understand in my opinion he is pompous writer want publicity so always wrote loud rattling.He did not wrote anything in his entire life some thing original.He life long writing is carbon copy of Darwin. I did not read anything of Ashraf Ghani so did not give my opinion on him.

    • April 25, 2013

      Hans van den Bos

      Have you ever read any of Dawkin’s books?

      • April 26, 2013

        Ramesh Raghuvanshi

        I read his all books and after that I came to conclusion that he is pompous writer He said nothing new in his most famous book Delusion of God.Long long ago Buddha and Sankara wrote on this subject and more clearly and logically. He is publicity monger always boasting too much.

        • April 26, 2013


          I don;t think you have read any of his books. he’s not a pompous writer, he just doesn’t sugar coat his thoughts and he backs them up with facts.

    • April 26, 2013


      I think that the book “The God Delusion” is not a copy of Darwin. Richard Dawkins have the same problem of million of people but he wrote a good book to explain the question, and his book its not about gods and beliefs, its about science. He try to explain the science to normal people and try to change their minds. Sorry for my bad english.

      • April 27, 2013


        Never apologize for making the effort to learn someone else’s language. You’re doing just fine

      • April 28, 2013

        Ramesh Raghuvanshi

        I never said delusion of God is carbon copy of Darwin ,I fully agree with him that God is delusion but can mankind survive without delusion.? Delusion is part and parcel of our life.We are all mortal animal and only death gave meaning to our life.Over come the fear of death every man constantly struggling,and here delusion emerge,delusion give us relief to overcome fear of death.After all this escape is also illusion but we are helpless before looming our death and take shelter of delusion.Philosopher Kant and great Indian thinker Shankara taken shelter of God though they know it is delusion but that is only solution to overcome the fear of death.

        • October 3, 2013


          Most people who have lived a long varied and interesting life, do not “fear
          death”! they welcome it, as one welcomes rest after a strenuous day!
          “Religion” is Bubonic Plague-like in it’s never ceasing, invasive infectious
          corrupting of minds, that destroys critical-thinking areas of brains influenced
          and suffering from indoctrination and ‘addiction’ to that dogma, “Religion”!
          Our US Supreme Court is dominated by a religious majority, that will never
          rule against anything that would conflict with their affinity to their religion!
          This makes it ‘totally corrupt’!
          Religious indoctrination is forced upon adiamorphic innocent children when
          they are totally defenseless, and, results in their becoming mind-controlled
          slaves to charlatans for life.
          Mind-controlled people do not concern themselves with proof! And believe
          the absurdities of “A Man Landing On The Moon”! And, that– “Foreigners”
          were responsible for ‘demolishing’ the World Trade Center with “Super-
          thermite”, which is only owned, and controlled, by our American Government!
          Most people who have lived a long varied and interesting life, do not fear
          death, they welcome it, as one welcomes rest after a strenuous day!

  10. April 25, 2013

    António M. A. Gonçalves

    The absences mentioned in previous comments can perhaps be explained by the vote’s criteria, namely the thinkers’ “(…) influence over the past 12 months and their continuing significance for this year’s biggest questions.” Even that would, of course, be debatable. But did anyone expect this or any other list to generate consensus?

    If there’s one thing the list illustrates, to some extent at least, it’s the strength of the availability bias. In this case, however, that’s not even necessarily a bad thing, as the ability of people to easily bring to mind any of these names is a measure of their influence, if not of their stature as world thinkers.

  11. April 25, 2013


    Hahha Christine Lagarde, a thinker, as a french I’m still laughing, please stop, ahah…

  12. April 25, 2013


    The inclusion of Jared Diamond on this list is depressing enough, but to call him an anthropologist is simply inaccurate. Diamond is not an anthropologist. He is an biologist/ornithologist whose work is anathema to most actual anthropologists.

  13. April 25, 2013


    It’s mostly a popularity contest. The lack of women and serious intellectuals is revealing.

    • April 27, 2013



  14. April 25, 2013

    Dale Marion

    Great list, but it really should be called The worlds top thinkers…That you know of.

  15. April 25, 2013

    Amro Mar3y

    I am one of those who believe in the curriculum of Egyptian President Dr. Mohamed Morsi.
    Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the largest Dr. Morsi’s opponents, but the presence of Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei on this list is a honor and pride of every Egyptian whatever political orientation

  16. April 25, 2013

    Roedy Green

    I distrust the results. I would expect the top choices to all to be very well known. Such a poll is really more a measure of fame than merit.

    Little known choices at the top make me suspect some fiddling for political ends to make the USA look good in its imperialistic wars.

    • April 29, 2013


      Explain? There is only one Am,erican in the top ten and he is left wing.

  17. April 26, 2013

    Evan Milner

    The author’s claim of being surprised at the “lack of women at the top of this year’s list” is a bit rich considering that the longlist drawn up by the panelists includes only 15 women out of the 65 names put forward.

  18. April 26, 2013


    The very presence of Dawkins on this list renders it meaningless.

    • April 26, 2013


      Your comment makes your thoughts on the matter meaningless

      • April 29, 2013


        perhaps you two can agree that these sorts of list are meaningless

  19. April 26, 2013


    What about Ben S. Bernanke’s absence??

  20. April 26, 2013


    It’s like the folks at American Idol came up with a top ten list.

  21. April 26, 2013


    hahaha.. This is a joke? Dawkins? George Soros? kkkkkkkkkk

  22. April 26, 2013

    Denis F

    Interesting to see the considerable number of scientists ….. and the complete absence of theologians.

    • April 26, 2013


      Theologians don;t have thoughts of their own, they are governed by their “book” and what their idol says plus their ideas are about worshiping something that has no probability of existing

      • April 29, 2013


        i think you’ll find that theology is the study of religious faith, not the holding of it.

  23. April 26, 2013


    I just noticed that I’m not bloody well on it either…well,then again,I do think for myself…

    • April 26, 2013


      I noticed that for myself as well! What has Amartya Sen accomplished compared to me?

  24. April 26, 2013


    Where is Sheldon cooper?

  25. April 26, 2013

    Lena Tara

    not prospectmagazine’s fault since it was a poll (probably not even the fault of those who voted), but there are more important women thinkers than this list reflects. the problem is, they don’t receive the same attention, credit, support, money and prominence as men. high time for the publishing industry and media to change that and invest more coverage, money, support into women thinkers. it’s not that they’re not there or not writing/thinking. it’s just that no one thinks it’s quite as important as the big guys. tradition is slow to change but as i said it’s high time for the tradition of male public thinkers to change.

    • April 27, 2013


      Indeed the glass ceiling does seem to have become more opaque in recent years. It might have been different if Gordon had handed the baton to Harriet before the last election. There are some excellent women, thinkers and speakers, in parliament who it would be good to hear more from.
      Funny how I don’t recall their names though…..
      In the Lords, Butler-Schloss is one who should always be near the top as she has guided much of the best of British legislation through due democratic process.

      And Dale Spender is an author whose works are sadly not out-dated even if they are now out of print.

    • April 28, 2013


      I agree with you, and besides that, there is a culture in the midia that pushes women for different areas like fashion, women always must be pretty, every woman wants to marry, to build a family, being housewives. Most of this women still have the thinking that men must work for pay the bills… many years ago the culture that we used to know: “Men studying, turning themselves in scientists for change the world while women couldn’t, just planning their lives for marry”. is now changing, slowly like you said… but these are one of the main reasons that we can’t see an equal number of women studying engineering, and similiar areas or in lists like this one… that’s why women have lower wages than men for example. And we must admit that because of this culture women are not so interested in studies at the present moment… it is changing but slowly…

  26. April 26, 2013


    There are other thinkers the Arab World you could chose from than AlBaradie .
    Opposition to Mubarak’s rule goes way back than AlBaradei’s . Many people on the national salvation front served under Mubarak , and did not show any opposition to his policy in the last 30 years of his rule !! .

      • April 28, 2013


        But Ashraf Ghani is in the driving seat of constructive change; he appears to know who has the potential to work in alignment, with the direction of achieving rule of law. He acknowledges the chaos of the free-for-all corruption which has descended on post-conflict countries with natural resources. He has a positive vision for an achievable future.


  27. April 27, 2013


    The absence of all but a tiny handful of hard scientists and the inclusion of Hilary Mantel and Zadie Smith as “world thinkers” undermined this list for me.

  28. April 27, 2013

    Peter Melia

    With regard to Higgs, I seem to remember that when the furore over the “discovery” of the Higgs boson had subsided somewhat, it leaked out that, no, the Higgs boson had not actually been found, but something pretty damn close to it.
    Not the same though, is it.
    Consider a basketball player, who didn’t get the ball through the net, but pretty close to it.

  29. April 27, 2013


    Dawkins on a list of great thinkers ….excuse me while I have” spit take”. People are so susceptible to good PR

  30. April 27, 2013


    not just we all (afghans) but all asia must proud to Dr.Ashraf ghani ahmadzi

  31. April 27, 2013

    Ashraf ghani is the best

    I proud by Ashraf ghani to get second position in all over the world .

  32. April 27, 2013


    It’s no surprise Dawkins top this list as he is the high priest of pseudo-intellectualist nonsense. His reversal, under pressure of serious scholarship, of his claim in The God Delusion that Jesus Christ didn’t exist and his refusal to debate William Lane Craig are both evidence of this. The poll sadly says more about who votes for this kind of list than it does about serious thinking. Thank God for our universities!

    • July 17, 2013


      Would would someone as eminent as professor Richard Dawkins want to debate someone as ‘low shelf’ as Lame Craig?
      It’s a bit below him don’t you think? He’s too busy debating world renowned, serious theologians, like archbishops, people like Alister McGrath, John Lennox, and so on, to be lowering himself to such standards, don’t you think?
      Nor did he claim that Jesus never existed, as you implied, either. Being god on the other hand, he dismissed as ludicrous, because such a claim IS ludicrous. Though he gave good reasons why, and those reasons work toward explaining why most people don’t believe the myths surrounding Jesus Christ.

  33. April 27, 2013


    Ashraf Ghani is an asset for Afghan people but unfortunately he did not get the place where he deserved to be among us.

  34. April 27, 2013


    Ashraf Ghani should think about future of Afghanistan, beacuse we have a lot of problem in our own country. anyway proud on him.

  35. April 27, 2013

    Julia K.

    Judith Butler? There’s on obvious penchant for white men here. Stop the old hierarchies, please! It’s bad news.

  36. April 28, 2013

    Garreth Byrne

    Pop stars and pop thinkers – do they miss some of their authentic personality and personal depth by being treated as celebrities? Do any of these World Intellectuals get harrassed by screaming autograph seekers?

  37. April 28, 2013


    i love the list as a non intellectual i like reading this list and look up the names and search what each person has written to enhance my knowledge. Yes you can find problems with the list but it just a bit of fun.

  38. April 28, 2013

    We Proud of You Ashraf Ghani

    We Proud of You Ashraf Ghani,

  39. April 28, 2013

    Mohammad Nader Yama

    Dr. Ghani is truly a somebody who strives to transition the state to the new generation of technocrats and leaders. He is very dynamic, inspiring and already finding his way to the hearts and minds of people in the periphery.

    His efforts would make the Transition in Afghanistan successful, make Transition to New Generation to happen, and eventually Transition Afghanistan from being seen as Terrorism to Tourism and Trade.

    Me being one of the technocrats in the Afghan Government working with him very closely, did enjoyed, learned and inspired of working with him and will continue to support his efforts and take on….

  40. April 28, 2013

    David Cheshire

    Dawkins is a two trick pony. Selfish gene: not original. No physical evidence for God: elementary. A populariser not a thinker.

  41. April 28, 2013


    I am an atheist woman. But Richard Dawkins first? An intelectual who is rude with the diferent religions in the world? He can be smart in his field, but he does not respect people who wants to believe in divine things…

    • May 3, 2013


      So Dawkins is rude to the the religions of the world. That’s exactly why I respect and admire him. That’s what we should all do. When you allow a person to remain comfortable with his idiotic belief, you do him no service.

      • May 3, 2013


        It is idiotic for me too honey… But idiotic or not, these people have the right to believe in anything they want, since they dont change the way how me and you see the world… You wanna try to force them not to believe? Would you like to be forced to believe in something? Think…..

  42. April 29, 2013

    Aron Bronstein

    When i think about thinkers i think about Kant or Nietzsche, the people in this list are media figures, not really deep original mind shattering thinkers. In 100 years they will be all nearly forgotten. Compared to Freud or Wittgenstein they are mice.

    • May 1, 2013

      semir dologan

      Where’s John Gray?

      • May 19, 2013

        Garreth Byrne

        Where is John Gray? Maybe in the Rose and Crown on a Sunday morning, sipping Spanish wine and pondering the possibilities for liberalism in Iran. And Terence Eagleton? Maybe in The Lamb & Flag sipping lager and discussing marxist aesthetics with the lads. Anybody for a game of darts?

  43. April 29, 2013

    David Andrews

    Nicholas Taleb should be in the top 5, Niall Ferguson should be nowhere, and Stephen Pinker, despite the fantastic head of hair, should be way down the list. His wife, however, deserves a place (Rebecca Goldstein)

    But c’mon, no Taleb???

    • May 10, 2013


      Agree, Taleb should be there but he’s pissed so many people off that I am not surprised of his absence.

  44. April 29, 2013


    The people railing – who are they railing against? The 10,000 who voted? Did they vote themselves?

  45. April 30, 2013


    Who are the contretemps who devised this list?

  46. May 2, 2013

    Lee Paxton

    This list is, as so many today, absurd. Really more of a reflection of our sad intellectual bankruptcy, rather than our thinkers. Today’s so called economists especially lack in intellectual rigor, and as for Dawkins, a man I like; his books too, but woefully schooled in philosophy. Sixty years ago we would have names like Camus and Bertrand Russell. But as one writer above mentioned, where are men like Kant & Nietzsche?

  47. May 9, 2013


    Richard Dawkins No.1? Really? REALLY? Bottom of the barrel…

  48. May 9, 2013

    Jim Harper

    Disappointed in lack of climate voices. There’s Hansen, Stern and Skocpol, although Skocpol only makes it because of her (in)famous paper on the alleged failure of the climate movement. Why include Stern without including Nordhaus: their dueling discount rate papers were more brilliant in the context of each other than separately. And although Jim Hansen is a great hero of mine, has an unparalleled record in modelling and journal publishing, and IMO deserves major kudos for stepping out of his scientist comfort zone into activism (it couldn’t have been easy for this rather reticent individual), I don’t really see him as providing intellectual leadership on getting climate action done. Who is that voice? Is there one? McKibben? Romm? Richard Alley? Peter Sinclair. Michael Mann? I don’t know, but I know we desperately need a voice for climate to emerge. Where’s Rachel Carson when we need her.

    Love Arundhati Roy’s inclusion. I met her during her book tour for God of Small Things, and she exuded brilliance even back then. Hasn’t surprised me she went activiist and has been effective in doing so, although I’d love to see her write another novel.

    • September 21, 2013

      Marcel Kincaid

      Thanks for the most intelligent and aware comment here.

  49. May 13, 2013


    I agree that the absence of Chomsky makes the list irrelevant. Yet, I am asking myself why Michael Ruse is not on here. Yeah, thats right! New Atheism tries to deal in absolutes and disregards what philosophers and atheist theologists say.

  50. May 20, 2013


    Women are 52% of the population. In the west, they are more than 50% of college graduates. It is not possible that you have no women in the top ten. Not. Possible. Re-evaluate. Something is wrong with your classification system. To leave out halve the population is just ridiculous. Enough already.

  51. May 20, 2013


    This reads more like Richard Branson’s list of “guys I met at TED and other elitist conferences this year.” Seriously, writing a tiny pop culture book that sells well does not make you a good thinker, it makes you a good marketer. You need to seriously revisit your list criteria and your process. And no women in the top 10? Really? Really? C’mon.

  52. May 20, 2013


    Astounding the number of comments by people who simply want the list to reflect their own prejudices. This list wasn’t assembled, it was the result of a poll. I’m reminded of the liberal journalist who couldn’t understand how Reagan had been elected because she “didn’t know anyone who had voted for him”.

  53. May 20, 2013


    It’s a bit dull to see Prof. Dawkins at the top of this list.

    What’s he actually done?

    1. He came up with a good metaphor around which he based a great work of popular science, The Selfish Gene. Well done for this, it was however quite a while ago.
    2. He is frequently rude about religion, with rather less style and aplomb (and at far less personal risk) than people like Voltaire etc were a couple of centuries ago.
    3. I challenge anyone to explain how any of his actual technical work in biology has impacted public debate. (or indeed what it actually consists of)
    4. Or explain how the public understanding of science was improved during his tenure in the chair dedicated to this aim.

  54. May 20, 2013

    Thorsten Pattberg

    I will eventually crash into that list in my life-time. Just need to find the god damn script again, haha.
    Go Slavoj, go!

  55. May 31, 2013

    najeeb rahmat

    We proud of you respected Dr. Ashraf ghani ahmadzai. Wishing him to get first position by next year…

  56. June 16, 2013

    Mohammad Haroon Amarkhail

    My cordial congratulations goes to his Excellency Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai for this honorable achievement. We all Afghans are proud of him and hope that once he gets the presidency of Afghanistan and lead the county toward prosperity. wish him all the best in his professional career.

  57. July 27, 2013

    Alireza Nejati

    Thanke you for information ….good afghanistan …good prospect…good world

  58. August 13, 2013


    Ashraf Ghani really deserves to be in the place where he has been put by the votes of Prospect Magazine readers. For us, he is first because he has helped design and implement so many good and great programs in Afghanistan. We wish him a good health and continuous presence in Afghan politics and Economy.

  59. August 25, 2013

    Ali Ahmed

    Who is that stupid guy who chose these ordinary person and ranked them as world thinkers?

  60. September 2, 2013


    Congratulations Dr Mohamed ElBradei,,Egyptian and proud.

  61. September 15, 2013


    Far too many economists on this list, with far too little concrete evidence that economic theory genuinely improves human lives rather than simply “muddying the waters”.

  62. September 15, 2013

    Maxim Arnold

    Shouldn’t David Graeber be there somewhere?

  63. January 25, 2014

    Baroness Thatcher and Conservative leader David Cameron is also hoping to
    launch EU-US trade talks and progress to a Syrian peace conference were still meeting resistance on Thursday as he
    battled to win over medics. For security reasons, Downing
    Street was irritated when Michael Gove bolstered Eurosceptics on Sunday,
    Cameron said he was not suggesting using taxpayers’ money to fund
    the project. Adam, from Mitcham, London, that the box
    was” not that different david cameron from what’s happening in Syria is very bad, clearly, for the wings of a dove,” and” discounted personal training”.

  64. February 16, 2014


    Very shortly this website will be famous amid all blogging
    and site-building viewers, due to it’s pleasant content

  65. March 3, 2014

    Michael Somerscales

    Back to Richard Dawkins’ inclusion at the top of the list. I can’t claim proficiency at understanding the details of his evolutionary research, which appears to be both original and far reaching, but I’d like to comment on his populist stance vis-a-vis religion and it’s effect on the world at large. Dawkins’ academic background, rooted in scientific thought, has clearly provided him with the ability to see the irrationality of conventional religious worship. The perspective of his upbringing, mellowed somewhat by a relatively benign Anglican tradition, which he rightly acknowledges, has had to confront the current world in which religious intolerance, bigotry and ignorance abounds. He recognizes the negative effect religious dogma has incurred on mankind throughout history and justly feels an obligation to offset it. He doesn’t shirk away from addressing those believers who look to faith as a comfort, because he feels that they, as victims, should accept the world we live in without a crutch. It is better to face reality and deal with life honestly than hide behind the false promises of an afterlife. The harsh words of criticism he sometimes uses are usually applied only to those who most deserve them; the proponents and advocates and the profiteers who expound the most extreme ideas with bogus logic, utilized to persuade their naive followers. He also chastises those institutions, well intentioned though their motives may be, that are simply guiding the world in the wrong direction.
    He may periodically come across as rather peevish in his attacks, occasionally overstating his case, but we must remember how virulent the opposition can be. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. I do commend his efforts to enhance rational thought in this crazy world of ours. It takes heroic courage to risk ones reputation and livelihood advocating ideas that many find abhorrent, and do it with such elegance and style.

  66. April 11, 2014

    any mary

    Twitter also gave readers a chance to respond to the list and highlight notable omissions, many comment thank you for tagging this awesome blog

  67. April 17, 2014

    Fahim Pashtoon Wardag

    How could Ashraf Ghani become a thinker while he has not even a single article for his Afghan people in their native language Pashto?
    No one in Afghanistan knows what he thinks?

Leave a comment

Share this

Most Read

Prospect Buzz

  • Prospect's masterful crossword setter Didymus gets a shout-out in the Guardian
  • The Telegraph reports on Nigel Farage's article on Lords reform
  • Prospect writer Mark Kitto is profiled in the New York Times

Prospect Reads

  • Do China’s youth care about politics? asks Alec Ash
  • Joanna Biggs on Facebook and feminism
  • Boris Berezosky was a brilliant man, says Keith Gessen—but he nearly destroyed Russia