On the Other Hand: Not All Big Ideas Are Good Ideas

Each week in On the Other Hand, Ben Bartlett defies the common wisdom and identifies the other side of the story of cultural hot-topic issues.

As you know from my recent column on not making idols of books like Freakonomics, I really enjoy the data and theories behind the forces that make our world work.  I still do, and I will continue to enjoy them. But, “on the other hand,” and in the interest if fair play, I want to hold up an article that is both a challenge to the Big Idea crew and a model of excellent criticism.

Kathryn Schulz takes on Tina Rosenburg’s book called Join the Club, and she manages to do three powerful things.  First, she upholds Rosenburg as an author and an academic.  Second, she tears Rosenburg’s new book to shreds. Finally, and most powerfully, she articulates a fabulous critique of the “big idea” movement in general.

The interplay of ideas is important, but this article highlights the importance of writing and responding to healthy critiques.  Whether you are writing about Christ in today’s pop culture or heaven and hell or anything else, be open to well-structured challenges.  And try it yourself sometime!  You’ll be surprised how much these types of debates can result in more refined ideas.

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