Via Eric Rauchway (of The Edge of the American West, but guest-blogging at Crooked Timber), here is a list of the Top 100 Public Intellectuals, as put together by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines. (You can vote for your top five.) Here are the natural scientists they’ve chosen to include:
- Richard Dawkins, biologist, author
- Jared Diamond, biologist, historian
- Neil Gershenfeld, physicist, computer scientist
- James Lovelock, environmental scientist
- Lee Smolin, physicist
- Harold Varmus, medical scientist
- J. Craig Venter, biologist, entrepreneur
- E.O. Wilson, biologist
Bjørn Lomborg is also on the list, but I don’t count him as a natural scientist — Sunita Narain is also a close call, but seems to fall more on the activism side than pure environmental science. Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker would also be there if you classified linguistics as a natural science. I also didn’t include economists, who are certainly social scientists in my classification. And V.S. Ramachandran I counted as more of a psychologist. This is a thankless task.
Note that the list is concerned with public intellectuals — people who have influenced the wide-ranging public discussion in some substantial way — so there’s no point in wondering why Lee Smolin is there but not Ed Witten. You are, however, allowed to wonder why there aren’t more physicists over all, and whether physicists should be blaming themselves or shaking impotent fists of rage at the selection committee. Either way, those biologists are kicking our butts.