Assorted links

1. The world’s top twenty public intellectuals?  Lots of Muslims make this list.

2. Let readers rank the bias of news stories, using a approach.

3. Alan Wolfe on Bruno Frey, Dan Ariely, and behavioral economics; a thoughtful essay.

4. Megan McArdle on Roissy.

5. Ten more stunning bridges.


Given the fact that it was an online reader poll, I'm surprised that the late Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf didn't make the list.

Following the link from Megan McArdle's page, the second item (at this moment) on Roissy's page is the power of flimsy excuses, perhaps closely related to the recently-discussed power of "because"?

Perhaps the powers of "because" and "flimsy excuses" work in situations where the other person is basically predisposed to comply with the request (either because it's trivial and hardly any trouble, or because it's aligned with their own willingness), but their self-respect demands a be-it-ever-so minimal effort on your part.

In other words, the compliance is yours to lose, but you do lose it if you fail to extend the courtesy of pro forma justification. The refusal might be akin to refusing an unequal offer in an ultimatum game, with human nature making us somehow more ready to punish someone perceived as unfairly seeking advantage (which signals that they are not a reciprocator).

What's with all of the religious leaders on the list? Maybe I'm just an angsty 20 year old atheist but I thought that sort of stuff is what made someone not an intellectual.

Rounding out the top ten, "A former accountant turned rock-star evangelist," a man accused "of anti-Semitism and having links to terrorists," a man who "issues weekly fatwas," and a religious leader who represents a threat to Turkey’s secular order. Shouldn't some of these men make a top 20 public anti-intellectual list?

I can't figure it out. Obviously Foreign Policy is read by a lot of Muslims (some very religious and some very secular?) who participate in online internet polls, but even the non-Muslim candidates are a surprise.

Islam's contemporary conservatism far outweighs Christinity's (at least that of the West). Perhaps this creates a culture where public intellectualism is both more public and more controversial? Or perhaps it is that Islam is at present an ideological battleground between conservative thought and modern, European-influenced secular traditions (with the same effect)?

I'm sure some people will point to debates like 'intelligent design' in the US but overall Christianity has lost its war with secularism in the public-intellectual sphere - something that cannot be said of Islam in 2008.

"Those are the names I recognize.

So I'm guessing the other names on the list who I don't recognize can't be too impressive."

Well, there are three Nobel Prize winners that you didn't recognize: Amartya Sen(Economics), Yunnus(Peace) and Pamuk(Literature).

Vargas Llosa is very influential on Spanish-speaking countries.

Gasparov(the leading voice against Russian government) and Ali(involved on controversies about Islam in Europe) appear more because of their political activities than intellectual production. But since Chomsky appears more because of his political activies too, the inclusion of these two isn't so absurd.

FP explains that the list was skewed because a Turkish newspaper wrote about the poll.

There are some folks on there who I'm not sure qualify as "public intellectuals", even though they may be doing very important or good political work. For example, Kasparov. I don't know enough about Yunus, either - has he actually done much to develop the theory of micro-credit, or is he primarily implementing it? Gore barely qualifies, though he did write a very influential book, so I can't really say he's not a public intellectual.

Looking at the top 100, I don't spot that many more cases, though I'd have included George Lakoff over Larry Lessig. (This even though I agree more with Lessig's politics - Lakoff's theoretical contribution is more important.)

" "Public Intellectual" and "Important Thinker" apparently have no intersection. "

It reminds me a discussion with friends that I have some weeks ago about the election of public intellectuals. First of all, what distinguish public and non-public intellectual? I aways think that the most important function of an intellectual is talk to the public. A thinker that never writes from newspapers can't be qualified as an intellectual.

And, to talk to the public, the thinker should comment the current events. If he simply ignores or rarely refers to the hot topics of the day, he will be 'only' a thinker, not an intellectual.

Of course, they can influence what questions will be debated. Gore gave a lot of notoriety to the Global Warming Debate, though his scientific contribution is zero.

I can't figure it out. Obviously Foreign Policy is read by a lot of Muslims (some very religious and some very secular?) who participate in online internet polls, but even the non-Muslim candidates are a surprise.

Andrew, 28.06.08

Isn't Roissy the guy Tyler called "evil" and said he would not link to his blog?

Oh no, he just said he had an "EVIL" website.

The intellectuals poll was organised by UK-based Prospect magazine, where I'm a senior editor, as well as Foreign Policy. You can see my take on the poll at We were, obviously, hijacked, but hijacked in a rather interesting way.

Didn't FP used to be a serious magazine?

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