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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"50 Top Atheists in the World Today"

This seems to be a rather eccentric list of leading contemporary atheists: supposedly "50 Top Atheists in the World Today". Some of the people there are rather questionable for such a list - but that's almost a matter of taste when you're looking at folks from so many backgrounds and it's largely comparing apples with oranges.

Conversely, and perhaps more importantly, some major contributors to the philosophical defence of atheism are not there at all. Given that Michael Martin and Quentin Smith are ranked so high, why are Graham Oppy and Michael Tooley (for example) not there, and in positions almost as high?

However, there are some pleasing inclusions that I wouldn't have expected, such as Sumitra Padmanabhan. (Then again, if you're going to include her, which I totally support, why not also include Prabir Ghosh, who actually has a higher profile ... or so I would have imagined?)

All in all it's a bit weird.

For what it's worth, about 8 or 9 of the 50 people on the list contributed to 50 Voices of Disbelief. (I suppose I should count again to check the exact number, but laziness overcomes me...) The person who comes highest on the list, Peter Singer, is one of our contributors.

I'm not saying that that's a high figure, or that it proves anything one way or another. I was just interested to have a look at the list and do a rough comparison.


Anonymous said...

Strange that Woody Allen makes the list at 35. Has he really promoted atheism?

Jeff Sherry

Jon Jermey said...

Dang, missed out again!

Jason Streitfeld said...

I am extremely skeptical about the source, logic and presentation of the list. I'm also skeptical about the Website as a source of good information about schools. I used the Site to search for schools offering bachelor degrees in Religion (there's no option for Philosophy!), and here's what comes up: Liberty University Online, University of the Incarnate Word, Grand Canyon University, Victory University, Mid-American Christian University, and Ohio Christian University.

Jason Streitfeld said...

Yikes. I just saw Coyne's post where he calls the Site a "scam." I wouldn't call it that. I'd call it a shame, a danger, and such, but I think it's a sincere effort to guide lambs in a certain unsavory direction. Okay, maybe "scam" isn't so far off the mark.

Unity said...

The scam alert for the site comes from a WHOIS check which shows it to be run by a young philosophy professer from the University of Kentucky - Wayne J Downs.

Downs is listed as a co-author on an anthology called 'The Patristic Understanding of Creation' with William Dembski.

See - http://www.erasmuspress.net/Publications_2.html

Connection confirmed by biographical details in Downs' CV


Anonymous said...

To tell you the truth, I'm as fed up with 'atheists' as with religionists. The real point is that religion and all its unpleasantnesses exist basically because people are born, brought up and told by their parents, peers or whoever that something is thus-and-thus, and they end up believing it (for any number of scrutable and inscrutable reasons).

Garbage-In-Garbage-Out: it's as ludicrously trivial as that. That's all that the religion vs. atheism debate is all about. Who believes what because they were led to believe it in some way.

And, yes, by and large the religious garbage is winning and will continue to do so, because that's just the way people are made. But atheists are also 'people'—as much as some may resent the implicit assertion that they're ordinary, just like the rest of us—and behave as expected, all-too-frequently exhibiting a fervour (and arrogance, relating to some putative, entirely fictitious, insight into what's what in the world of metaphysics) that's pretty much on par with anything religionists have to offer.

So, prerry please!, could somebody enlighten benighted little me about what's so special about being an atheist—or why anybody should invent something as bizarre as a 'Top Atheist'? It's not like any of these guys have told us of anything profound about life, the universe and everything. Polemicists for the most part, it looks like to me. Victims of 'imagination inflation', a condition that makes one believe things to be true with a fervour exponentially proportional to the level of ignorance about the topic in question. And, let's face it, literally everybody is ignorant with regards to the 'truth' about, and utterly unable to give an authoritative answer as to, whether God exists—atheists included.

Poitn is that the is-God-real debate, is not about anything that actually 'signifies' (as they might have said in Jane Austen's day), but about idea-politics and idea-fashions. And the notion of 'top atheists'—and maybe we should make a list of 'top religionists' and pack them and the atheists off to a desert island where they can commune and interbreed and leave the rest of us alone with their presumptous claims and counter-claims—becomes even more risible.

Geez, I really needed to get that out of my system. Promise: I'll never do it again! 8)