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I'd go with Alain De Botton. I like Sam Harris too but a lot of people hate him. He's not a philosopher per se but he's willing to have strong opinions about controversial issues.

Sam Harris's book on free will was quite naive--he missed a lot of the key points of today's debate, while being fairly emphatic as though he had just discovered something crucial. I certainly don't hate him, but he remains a dilettante, to me.

>he's willing to have strong opinions about controversial issues.

So is Rush Limbaugh. A lot of people are, in fact. Being today's Bertrand Russell should require a bit more than that.

How often does Rush Limbaugh take on his critics in an open debate? Sam Harris regularly accepts invitations to debate his opponents and usually wins the debate in my opinion.

Furthermore, he sometimes changes minds -- including his own -- based on those dialogues. Limbaugh just preaches to the choir.

What about Richard Dawkins ? (good science reputation, strong media presence)

He's more of a symbol, especially in atheist circles, than a great scientist. His "bout" with Wilson is pretty depressing.

Noam Chomsky ?

surely he falls easily into the "cocksure" category

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