Light reading about 'Rationalist Heroes'.
I am not sure how useful people find having personal heroes. I would argue that they are definitely useful for children. Perhaps I haven't really grown up enough yet (growing up without a father possibly contributed), but I like to have some people in my head I label as "I wonder what would X think about this". Many times they've set me straight through their ideas. Other times I've had to reprimand them, though unfortunately they never get the memo.
One living example is Charlie Munger.
He was an early practical adopter of the cognitive biases framework, and moreover he clearly put it into context of "something to protect":
"not understanding human misjudgment was reducing my ability to help everything I loved"
(The quote is from his talk on "Misjudgment" which is worth reading on its own http://vinvesting.com/docs/munger/human_misjudgement.html)
One interesting point is that Charlie is seemingly a Christian. I have a deep suspicion that he believes that religion is valuable, for the time, as a payload delivering mechanism.
“Economic systems work better when there’s an extreme reliability ethos. And the traditional way to get a reliability ethos, at least in past generations in America, was through religion. The religions instilled guilt. … And this guilt, derived from religion, has been a huge driver of a reliability ethos, which has been very helpful to economic outcomes for man.”
Also, judge for yourself from his recommended reading list - looks like something out of an Atheist's Bookshelf.
There might also be other reasons, family or whatever, that help prop up the religious appearance. I myself am still wearing a yarmulke for this category of reasons. Whatever it is, Munger is no trinity worshiper.
Another interesting thing is that it is clear today's Berkshire Hathaway was Buffett and Munger's joint venture, and most likely would not succeed in the same way without Munger. I've done a fair amout of reading on the BRK's investment strategy at one point, but cannot find the appropriate supporting quote at the moment. Basically Munger steered Buffett away from just going after underpriced 'crap' companies ('cigar butts') that Buffett 1) already did well with 2) were recommended as the only approach by Ben Graham, who taught Buffett how to invest and was personally extremely impressive. It seems that there was significant amount of de-biasing going on.Without this adjustment Buffett would still be successful, but smaller by an order of magnitude at least.
I mention this last thing because when I think of a rationalist succeeding in practical world, Munger comes to mind. Of course this is a small samle size.
Another even more interesting example is Maimonides, who I'd like to write about more extensively at some point. I think that while his conclusions landed very far from the truth as I see it - (he was a highly devout Jewish religious philosopher from the middle ages), this seems largely due to bad inputs, specifically Aristotelian ideas prevalent at the time. His bravery to separate from the pack in that context and reason clearly (based on false premises of the science of his age) always impressed me.
Do you care to have heroes? Who are they?