Monday, October 22, 2012

A Thought About Public Admiration

Compare these results from last December's poll to determine the most admired people in the United States.
Source: Gallup Poll
With this result from a 2009 survey:
Source: "Scientists and Doctors Are Tops, Say Americans"
It appears that  people from the most admired occupations don't show up on the list of most admired individuals. The most admired individuals seem to be primarily those most visible in the media.

One may also wonder why individuals are admired. Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama may be admired in part for achieving so much from such apparently disadvantaged beginnings as well as for their attempts to do good in their current positions.

I perceive a problem. Albert Einstein was justly celebrated as a scientist of surpassing genius in the media. He was very famous as a result. Today the doctors and scientists most worthy of admiration for their accomplishments would not be well known to the public. The professions are very much admired, and perhaps on a one to one basis so too are their members, but the public at large does not know the great figures of these fields. Consequently, kids don't have role models of great scientists or great doctors.

A Moral Dimension

  • Good: Buddha, Baha'u'llah, Dalai Lama, Jesus Christ, Moses, Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi. 
  • Evil: Tomas de Torquemada, Vlad the Impaler, Adolph Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Adolph Eichmann, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin, Genghis Khan, H. H. Holmes and Gilles de Rais.

Where would the most admired on the Gallup list show up on the continuum between the best of the best and the worst of the worst? I suspect they might well be lumped in with the great majority of us somewhere in the middle.

However, look at the following longitudinal results from the series of Gallup polls:

Source: Gallup Poll
Now, in addition to the predicted political leaders and famous people one finds religious leaders Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and John Paul II. One also finds Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela known more for their efforts to promote peace and human rights than for their political careers. I would suggest that these people are included on the list because they are perceived as very good, not simply because they are very famous.

I tried searching using Google for the wisest people in America, with no luck. One would think that wise people should be famous for the quality of the advice that they can offer. The Pickover "good list" seems to include people who have provided great guidelines for living.

Of course, Google will give you help on how to get medical, financial or business advice, but where do you go for wise advice on how to live? How about here.

Where do you go for advice on how to achieve peace in the world? Perhaps here.

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