Saturday, 15 August 2009

A strange list of "geniuses"

Recently, whilst I was looking for references to Dario Fo's play The Pope and the Witch, aggressively criticised here, I found Fo, not well-known here in conservative Australia, listed quite remarkably at number seven in a survey of "living geniuses" conducted by the Telegraph.

Though the list was published almost two years ago and quite a number of those listed have since died (including centenerian Hoffmann), I reproduce it below:

1=

Albert Hoffman

(Swiss)

Chemist

27

1=

Tim Berners-Lee

(British)

Computer Scientist

27

3

George Soros

(American)

Investor & Philanthropist

25

4

Matt Groening

(American)

Satirist & Animator

24

5=

Nelson Mandela

(South African)

Politician & Diplomat

23

5=

Frederick Sanger

(British)

Chemist

23

7=

Dario Fo

(Italian)

Writer & Dramatist

22

7=

Steven Hawking

(British)

Physicist

22

9=

Oscar Niemeyer

(Brazilian)

Architect

21

9=

Philip Glass

(American)

Composer

21

9=

Grigory Perelman

(Russian)

Mathematician

21

12=

Andrew Wiles

(British)

Mathematician

20

12=

Li Hongzhi

(Chinese)

Spiritual Leader

20

12=

Ali Javan

(Iranian)

Engineer

20

15=

Brian Eno

(British)

Composer

19

15=

Damian Hirst

(British)

Artist

19

15=

Daniel Tammet

(British)

Savant & Linguist

19

18

Nicholson Baker

(American

Writer

18

19

Daniel Barenboim

(N/A)

Musician

17

20=

Robert Crumb

(American)

Artist

16

20=

Richard Dawkins

(British)

Biologist and philosopher

16

20=

Larry Page & Sergey Brin

(American)

Publishers

16

20=

Rupert Murdoch

(American)

Publisher

16

20=

Geoffrey Hill

(British)

Poet

16

25

Garry Kasparov

(Russian)

Chess Player

15

26=

The Dalai Lama

(Tibetan)

Spiritual Leader

14

26=

Steven Spielberg

(American)

Film maker

14

26=

Hiroshi Ishiguro

(Japanese)

Roboticist

14

26=

Robert Edwards

(British)

Pioneer of IVF treatment

14

26=

Seamus Heaney

(Irish)

Poet

14

31

Harold Pinter

(British)

Writer & Dramatist

13

32=

Flossie Wong-Staal

(Chinese)

Bio-technologist

12

32=

Bobby Fischer

(American)

Chess Player

12

32=

Prince

(American)

Musician

12

32=

Henryk Gorecki

(Polish)

Composer

12

32=

Avram Noam Chomsky

(American)

Philosopher & linguist

12

32=

Sebastian Thrun

(German)

Probabilistic roboticist

12

32=

Nima Arkani Hamed

(Canadian)

Physicist

12

32=

Margaret Turnbull

(American)

Astrobiologist

12

40=

Elaine Pagels

(American)

Historian

11

40=

Enrique Ostrea

(Philippino)

Pediatrics & neonatology

11

40=

Gary Becker

(American)

Economist

11

43=

Mohammed Ali

(American)

Boxer

10

43=

Osama Bin Laden

(Saudi)

Islamicist

10

43=

Bill Gates

(American)

Businessman

10

43=

Philip Roth

(American)

Writer

10

43=

James West

(American)

Invented the foil electrical microphone

10

43=

Tuan Vo-Dinh

(Vietnamese)

Bio-Medical Scientist

10

49=

Brian Wilson

(American)

Musician

9

49=

Stevie Wonder

(American)

Singer songwriter

9

49=

Vint Cerf

(American)

Computer scientist

9

49=

Henry Kissinger

(American)

Diplomat and politician

9

49=

Richard Branson

(British)

Publicist

9

49=

Pardis Sabeti

(Iranian)

Biological anthropologist

9

49=

Jon de Mol

(Dutch)

Television producer

9

49=

Meryl Streep

(American)

Actress

9

49=

Margaret Atwood

(Canadian)

Writer

9

58=

Placido Domingo

(Spanish)

Singer

8

58=

John Lasseter

(American)

Digital Animator

8

58=

Shunpei Yamazaki

(Japanese)

Computer scientist & physicist

8

58=

Jane Goodall

(British)

Ethologist & Anthropologist

8

58=

Kirti Narayan Chaudhuri

(Indian)

Historian

8

58=

John Goto

(British)

Photographer

8

58=

Paul McCartney

(British)

Musician

8

58=

Stephen King

(American)

Writer

8

58=

Leonard Cohen

(Canadian)

Poet & musician

8

67=

Aretha Franklin

(American)

Musician

7

67=

David Bowie

(British)

Musician

7

67=

Emily Oster

(American)

Economist

7

67=

Steve Wozniak

(American)

Engineer and co-founder of Apple Computers

7

67=

Martin Cooper

(American)

Inventor of the cell phone

7

72=

George Lucas

(American)

Film maker

6

72=

Nile Rogers

(American)

Musician (with Chic and producer)

6

72=

Hans Zimmer

(German)

Composer

6

72=

John Williams

(American)

Composer

6

72=

Annette Baier

(New Zealander)

Philosopher

6

72=

Dorothy Rowe

(British)

Psychologist

6

72=

Ivan Marchuk

(Ukrainian)

Artist & sculptor

6

72=

Robin Escovado

(American)

Composer

6

72=

Mark Dean

(American)

Inventor & computer scientist

6

72=

Rick Rubin

(American)

Musician & producer

6

72=

Stan Lee

(American)

Publisher

6

83=

David Warren

(Australian)

Engineer

5

83=

Jon Fosse

(Norwegian)

Writer & dramatist

83=

Gjertrud Schnackenberg

(American)

Poet

5

83=

Graham Linehan

(Irish)

Writer & dramatist

5

83=

JK Rowling

(British)

Writer (Harry Potter)

5

83=

Ken Russell

(British)

Film maker

5

83=

Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov

(Russian)

Small arms designer

5

83=

Erich Jarvis

(American)

Neurobiologist

5

91=

Chad Varah

(British)

Founder of Samaritans

4

91=

Nicolas Hayek

(Swiss)

Businessman and founder of Swatch

4

91=

Alastair Hannay

(British)

Philosopher

4

94=

Patricia Bath

(American)

Ophthalmologist

3

94=

Thomas A. Jackson

(American)

Aerospace engineer

3

94=

Dolly Parton

(American)

Singer

3

94=

Morrissey

(British)

Singer and songwriter (The Smiths)

3

94=

Michael Eavis

(British)

Organiser of Glastonbury

3

94=

Ranulph Fiennes

(British)

Adventurer

3

100.

Quentin Tarantino

(American)

Filmmaker

2



All in all, the list can best be described as showing the potential problems with a whimsical public who might never have enough time to think clearly about how correct their choices are.

Those who think Britain's populace must be amazingly politically correct are basically accurate. The omission of Pope Benedict XVI, a man whom even his detractors know as exceptionally gifted intellectually, ought to lead people in Australia and "Red" America to realise they live in a different culture from Europe. Nor was not-yet-deceased Russian writer Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, whose acclaim extends beyond those who agree with his politics. Then one sees Richard Dawkins listed but none of his critics like Alistair McGrath or George Weigel or quite a number of others.

However, beyond politics, the list is so spotty that it is worth noting for that alone. Almost every person listed could be counterpointed by an omitted figure, and only a small number, such as poet Seamus Heaney, are acclaimed at all consistently as the best in their field. For that alone, the list certainly warns against trying to use people so poorly informed they make a spur-of-the-moment judgment. I for one have read criticism intensively for a long time and still reallise I am falling prey to this problem!

1 comment:

Jonathan Benney said...

"The omission of Pope Benedict XVI, a man whom even his detractors know as exceptionally gifted intellectually, ought to lead people in Australia and "Red" America to realise they live in a different culture from Europe."

How absurd!

1. The idea that PBXVI is some incredibly intelligent man is entirely spread by the Catholic Church on the sole basis that he now happens to be Pope. He was a university professor, true, but not obviously different from the average.

2. Even if PBXVI had (say) some very high IQ, he has created very little of concrete benefit or popularity to the world, cf all the other musicians, inventors, artists, etc., in the list. The assertion, if there is one, that he has created some sort of new philosophy is exactly equivalent to the CCP declaring that Deng Xiaoping had created "Deng Xiaoping Thought" during his tenure as leader, when in fact he had only been utterly pragmatic.

3. A religious shouldn't be in the list. Apart from the falseness of their beliefs, if they claim to be a representative of some higher power, surely they are fundamentally a conduit rather than a creator? This means that it is irrelevant and bizarre to have Li Hongzhi in the list.

4. The conclusion drawn from the absence of PBXVI - namely that Europe is incredibly PC and Australia & red America otherwise - is absurd and there is no evidence for it. Especially since PBXVI is European and represents a specifically European religion!

Certain of the people in the list I would disagree with, and it could possibly be suggested that Solzhenitsyn could be included, but there would be no grounds for including PBXVI in any such list.