Malcolm Gladwell - The Unheard of Story of David and Goliath

History is a tricky business. In order to reconstruct the past, historians have to assemble an incomplete record of evidence and turn it into a coherent account of what may have likely happened. Although some details vary, the general idea could also be said of paleontology. The difference, though, is that history is a social science, and that means that in addition to having an incomplete record, the historian has to deal with the possibility of manufactured evidence. History is written by the victors, and we normally assume that they're right in what they tell us because there's no one else left. See what I did there? :)

At least until recently, virtually no nation has had prominent historians who would interpret the history of their own nation in a way that makes them look like assholes. In fact, we know that they have often made use of ample poetic license to extol the real and imagined virtues of their heroes, and that they have excluded information that shows them in their full humanity, flaws and all (when was the last time you heard about what a douche Gandhi was to his wife, or about Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philandering?).

But even if we ignore the problem of the veracity of historical documents and whether they are written by scrupulous, objective and unbiased people who tell events as they actually happened (instead of convenient propaganda furthering their own agendas), there's still the problem that we don't always pay close attention to what they actually say... I don't know whether the real story of David and Goliath (if there is such a thing to begin with) is anything close to what the Biblical account suggests, but as Malcolm Gladwell argues in the following TEDTalk, even when we take it at face value, our interpretation of the story may conflict with what it says...




I think he kind of forces things a little too hard to fit in with his new interpretation of this particular story (and I wouldn't be so quick to just accept the story at face value), but I definitely like the idea of applying new scientific discoveries to the study of history, to try to make better sense of events and situations that could not always have been explained at the time they happened...
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