SocraticGadfly: Critiquing the "top 50 atheists"

December 10, 2011

Critiquing the "top 50 atheists"

Via a Facebook friend, I saw this list of 50 top atheists, listed in part for influence and "seriousness." Comments of a critical nature (meant in the journalistic sense) are hereby offered about a few of them, based on their numeric ranking in the list. In some cases, my comment is a critique of the website more than the person

50. David Silverman. Until American Atheists' president officially disclaims its Muslim-bashing tendencies, he tars a lot of the Gnu Atheist movement. I'll pass on liking him.
46. P.Z. Myers. Isn't it a bit ego-deflating to only be No. 46, P.Z.?
43. Michael Newdow. He might have had a case on general principles, but he had a case for provoking revulsion on general principles by exploiting a child. Sue over an invocation at a city council meeting rather than the Pledge of Allegiance at your daughter's school, especially when you're a divorced parent who isn't primary custodian.
42. Greta Christina. Just.No. Were I Chris Hitchens, you'd get a boatload of snark of various sorts, including, were I Snitchens, some of it gender-based. But, I'm not Hitchens, for which I'm thankful.
41. Ophelia Benson. Hypocrite, for a reason which I'll show by quoting from her blurb on the website: "(B)est known for editing the atheist web site Butterflies and Wheels (the title refers to Alexander Pope’s counsel against rhetorical overkill, “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?”)." This Gnu has broken plenty a butterfly in the name of Gnu Atheism.
30. Ray Kurzweil. Wrong. Not him (though he IS wrong), but the website, which says: "(H)is ideas are the logical extension of premises most atheists share." Totally untrue statement. Most atheists don't share most of his ideas and there's no logical extension from them to him, either.
26. Jennifer Michael Hecht. She teaches WRITING at Columbia? Her book "Doubt" has a number of its vs it's errors and other grammatical problems. The atheist Peter Principle at play. I did learn about Eastern "doubt" from her book, but, it could have been better in other ways, too.
24. Jerry Coyne. Opposed on general Gnu grounds.
23. Robert Wright. A one-trick pony as an author; "The Evolution of God" would have been bad enough without him trying to shoehorn other ideas inside that of his non-zero-sum games theory.
22. Richard Carrier. Deserves kudos as being the probable leader in the latest "nonhistoricity of Jesus" studies. I await his new book.
20. Steve Pinker. Pop Ev Psycher. And, I think his influence as an atheist is overrated by this website's ranking.
15. David Sloane Wilson. Someday, more group selection ideas will get better reception. He's a creative thinker.
13. Sam Harris. Just.Shoot.Me. But, first, lock him in a room with a couple of Iranian ayatollahs or something.
10. Christopher Hitchens. I've said plenty about him, the good, the bad and the ugly, elsewhere.
8. Steven Weinberg. A salute for an existentialist atheist outlook on life.
5. Dan Dennett. Didn't you used to be insightful, before you started recycling all your own shit? Daniel Wegner and others have WAY surpassed you in theorizing about consciousness. And, evolution is NOT algorithmic.
2. Kai Nielsen. A grand old man of modern atheism.
1. Peter Singer. WTF? He may be the world's most influential animal rights activist; he is NOT the most influential or most important atheist. Not even close.

Finally, it may miss entirely the person who could be the world's most influential atheist.

If, as I think may well be correct, the Dalai Lama doesn't believe in any of the gods or demons of some types of Tibetan Buddhism, then he's an atheist. Now, as a believer in reincarnation, he's still a metaphysician, and he's obviously religious. BUT, if I'm correct in my guess, he is nonetheless an atheist.

And indeed more influential than anybody on this list, in all likelihood.

Interesting that this was posted on a website for evaluating college choices. I'd be skeptical of some of their recommendations there, going by this.

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