Fareed speaks with Malcolm Gladwell, longtime ‘New Yorker’ staff writer and best-selling author of ‘The Tipping Point’ and ‘Outliers’ about why we have it wrong about one of the bible’s most famous stories. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
David and Goliath. Of course, one of the most famous stories in the world. But you retell it. Explain why you thought it was important to retell. What is the real story of David and Goliath?
Well, I think we have exaggerated the extent to which David is an underdog in that situation. And I think that feeds into a very dangerous line of thinking, which suggests the only way that the weak can ever triumph is by some improbable miracle.
In fact, and this an insanely fun thing to do when I was doing my book, if you talk to endocrinologists, the rabbis, Israeli Defense Force people – I mean anyone who's thought about the David and Goliath story – they will tell you, first of all, that the sling that David has in his hand is not a child's toy. It’s one of the most devastating weapons in ancient warfare.
David had superior technology. I mean, once he decided to break the rules, he's the guy in charge. And then there's Goliath. There's all of these hints in the biblical story in Samuel that Goliath is not what he appears to be.
In fact, this is where the rabbis come in – the rabbis have been pointing this out for years. He didn't sound like a big terrifying warrior. He is led down onto the valley floor by an attendant. He moves really slowly. It takes him forever to figure out that David is not intending to fight him in a sword fight. And he says these strange things, as if he's not perceiving the situation properly.
And all of these endocrinologists have solved the puzzle by saying, look, he sounds like a guy with acromegaly, which is a tumor on your pituitary gland that causes overproduction of human growth hormone, which is why he's so big, but also often has a side effect of constricting your optic nerves. Goliath can't see. He's got restricted vision.
So here you have a kid with superior technology up against a lumbering giant who can see this far in front of his face. That's not underdog versus favorite, that's something very different. And I love the reconfiguration of advantage that gives us.