Its a funny thing, I very much enjoyed the Tipping Point when I read it. There were a few things that I disagreed with but overall I loved the tone and the writing and I was very excited for Malcolm Gladwell’s next book. But I was disappointed by the next one and the one after that. I felt that the conclusions that he made were pretty earth shattering but I was uncertain about the facts and reasoning that he used to justify these incredible statements. It all seemed so flimsy and I couldn’t really finish reading either Blink or Outliers.
I often stop reading books. For me its not worth the emotional aggravation to finish something I’m not enjoying or getting something out of. This tendency of mine makes me put any book that I don’t like enough to finish, in a metal hopper that’s labeled “Not my kind of thing.” There are many books in that particular bin and I feel ever so slightly guilty when I think about those books because I feel that in a small way I failed. I wasn’t smart enough, emotionally tough enough, or even just determined enough to finish them.
The other day I read this blog post entitled “The Trouble With Malcolm Gladwell: I thought he was sincerely misunderstanding the science, but he knows exactly what hes doing.” by Christopher Chabris.
In it Christopher Chabris lays out a firm case for how Malcolm Gladwell has use science to support stories rather than dramatizing science. The stories that Gladwell is presenting are fun and fascinating but are not at all factual. But Gladwell is presenting these stories as facts and people are believing them. Chablis also states that Gladwell seems to be aware of this and sees nothing wrong with it. Chabris feels that this is a morally repugnant thing to do. That writing fiction in a way that persuades people to believe it as truth is lying and that people with influence have an obligation to use that influence carefully. If the quotes that Christopher Chabris uses to present his argument are true, the fact of the matter is Malcolm Gladwell is writing bad science on purpose and worse, people are gobbling it up.
So now I figure, I’m going to give up feeling guilty about not finishing Gladwells other books because there’s every chance that I was a being a mature responsible adult by setting those books aside. What a nice thought.