Global Thought Leaders: Religion Reigns Supreme, Richard ranks Fourth

Dec 6, 2016

November 27, 2016

Who has international influence? Rather than any particular field or institution, it turns out to be the individual stars of various specialist areas. This is true of all the fields of knowledge analyzed. It’s notable, however, that a particularly high number of religious thinkers are represented at the top Global Thought Leader ranking:

– Popes Francis and Benedict in first and sixth place,
– the Dalai Lama in second place and
– in fourth place the thought leader of atheists, the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

The ranking analyses more than 200 thinkers from around the world, looking at their influence in the English-speaking digital infosphere, and aggregates different criteria into one overall Thought Leader rank (full details of the method here).


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16 comments on “Global Thought Leaders: Religion Reigns Supreme, Richard ranks Fourth

  • Global Thought Leaders: Religion Reigns Supreme

    There seems to be a rather narrow definition of “THOUGHT” here!

    For most of these characters it is limited to definition 3c.
    3c. something (as an opinion or belief) in the mind

    @OP link – Christianity is in a position to shape intellectual and media discourses on a global scale. Global – except in two regions: in non-religious China and in the predominantly Muslim Arab cultural area, no Popes appear in the ranking of influential figures. Instead, the top three spots in the Arab analysis are occupied by three Islamic theologians.

    I think it is a bit much to equate religious doctrines with intellectual activity, or the rational versions of thought, – although “media discourses” is probably right in terms of some of the lower grades of media communications and pseudo-journalism!



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  • The good thing: A voice of reason ranks high amongst thought leaders.
    The bad thing: Almost everything else.

    While the present Richard as “Evolutionary Biology” on his orange circle, the article groups him amongst “religion” – did they understand anything at all??

    Amongst politics, Mary Robinson ranks highest – I can think of at least a dozen politicians who have influenced the global sphere more with their thoughts.

    They say that they include people due to their thoughts, not positions – what kind of an approach is that? If you have a person in a position to change our world (e.g., a politician or dean of a university), this person’s thoughts matter a lot, because they have the tools to implement their thinking.

    I know that year’s end always brings us lists of almost everything, but this is one of the least convincing I have ever seen. This, unfortunately, also taints my pleasure to see Richard Dawkins on it.



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  • Its great to see Mary Robinson up there. Where is Malala Yousafzai?

    Richard has catalysed the most profound changes and I think the steadiness of his course tackling the most contentious of issues with great clarity and honesty may have caused a little turbulence at times but should have earned him a slot above the Dalai Lama and any number of Popes aggregated.

    Gates, Gore and Berners-Lee make sense.



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  • phil rimmer #5
    Dec 7, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Richard has catalysed the most profound changes and I think the steadiness of his course tackling the most contentious of issues with great clarity and honesty may have caused a little turbulence at times but should have earned him a slot above the Dalai Lama and any number of Popes aggregated. – Gates, Gore and Berners-Lee make sense.

    I think Dawkins, Gates, Gore, Berners-Lee, and a couple of others, have been mixed into this list of intellectual feather-weights, to present a false equivalence, and add credibility to the standing of the light weights.

    I would regard placing Bill Gates as 5th. equal with Benedict, as a gross insult to Gates!



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  • Alan – completely agree with you. It seems the heavy-weights (Richard et al) are meant to provide gravitas to the light-weights who are on the list close to them.

    Of course, let’s not mix up ‘influence’ with ‘influence in the way I approve’. That’s why you might not like to see a figure like the Dalai Lama up high, but there are a lot of people who listen to him. Probably many, many, many more than those who listen to our favorite nominee. And whether you like them or not, you can’t argue that the Dalai Lama doesn’t have universal messages to share (which is more than can be said about many other people on the list) and therefore plays in the same field as Richard (evolution and atheism also being universal messages).

    Anyway, it’s interesting to see how many reactions lists provoke (here or in the Rolling Stone or your magazine of choice). I wonder whether there’s a lesson about evolution to be learned here. Any ideas?



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  • While it’s great that Richard made the list near the top I have to question the methodology.

    What does “Thought Leader” mean?

    … a thought leader as a living person who works primarily as a thinker, and is known and influential beyond the borders of their discipline

    Apart from the obvious snobbery (who is a not a thinker?), does influence = leadership?

    In addition the study is guided by the rule-of-thumb:

    … the evaluation didn’t include figures whose influence is based more on their position than their thinking … [i.e.] all active politicians [most] managers and entrepreneurs

    That’s a very subjective rule. Not to mention that politicians, by definition, are leaders.

    How useful is a study on “thought leadership” that doesn’t have a coherent link to leadership?

    Not forgetting that “thought” is not a very high bar.:

    … our subset of measurable data is the most relevant, at least in terms of intellectual dialogue. Relevant discourse that provokes … response in on-line media, blogs or Wikipedia

    This is the only time that intellect is mentioned in the Method Statement. To be sure; the quality of thoughts does not, in any way, equate to their influence – if that were true most politicians who are leaders would not be leaders (though they might still be politicians).

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to put in a quality control? Noam Chomsky has written books that became, briefly, an attention-grabber but have faded into relative obscurity in a short space of time. Meanwhile the God Delusion has become so desperately needed it has been translated into Arabic and distributed millions of times without the author’s knowledge.

    A lack of metric for quality seems to me to be a problem for this study – idiots repeat what other idiots say (this probably explains the Pope’s rank) but that does not equate to thought in my book, though it does equate to leadership. And there’s the problem, the Village Idiot can herd sheep – but can he make them think? It seems to me that the definition of thought leadership includes changing the world by changing the way it thinks, rather than just whipping them into line.

    In addition, measuring the strength of reaction lumps support (support for the leadership in the public discourse provided by the ‘thoughts’) with criticism (denying and decrying the leadership in the public discourse provided by the ‘thoughts’) – but shouldn’t these things cancel each other out as far as leadership is concerned?

    … like Google’s PageRank, GDI’s influence rank is not immune from manipulation or influence – but only to a small degree, of course

    Weakness in method is okay if we do it. Oh, well, that’s all right then.

    It seems to me that what the authors of the study have done is borrowed an overused phrase (likely to be picked up by search engines) for their title – but what they’ve actually produced is a study of attention – and excluded some of the most attention-grabbing people for no good reason.

    Now, a survey of attention is a good thing in it’s own right. But, as the authors didn’t want that, they’ve come up with a bit of a pig’s breakfast. Gary Kasperov, really?



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  • Stephen of Wimbledon #12
    Dec 8, 2016 at 8:17 am

    … the evaluation didn’t include figures whose influence is based more on their position than their thinking … [i.e.] all active politicians [most] managers and entrepreneurs

    That’s a very subjective rule. Not to mention that politicians, by definition, are leaders.

    . . . . and yet they included popes who most of the world had never heard of prior to a smokey Vatican appointment! !!!!!?



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  • Hi Morpheus [#15],

    I’m glad you liked it.

    I continue to try and be the kind of person I would like to see more often.

    I did not spend a lot of time on it – and, also very important, the time I did spend was worthwhile no matter if you are the only person who appreciated it.

    I did not spend a lot of time on it because I’m practised at critical thinking and sceptically assigning my attention. One of the key things I would like everyone to understand is that they can do this – it’s a simple skillset and it just takes a bit of practice.

    Sadly Comment #2 got 10 likes. Simply accepting a media story as presented is not the best way to consume media – and, more importantly, to ration our attention. Our attention is the most limited natural resource that we each have and that we each command.

    If that’s what happens at this Site – imagine what happens elsewhere …

    Peace.



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