Too Much Imagining: A Jonah Lehrer Roundup
Jonah Lehrer has resigned from his staff position at the New Yorker, after Tablet Magazine revealed he had fabricated quotes–from Bob Dylan, no less!–in his bestseller Imagine: How Creativity Works, which since has been pulled from the market. Michael C. Moynihan, the journalist who discovered the deception, was interviewed by the Observer, saying he felt “horrible” watching vitriolic reactions pour in. Previously the book saw critique for its loose science in both The New Republic andThe Millions. Roxane Gay wonders about the media system that allowed Lehrer to get so high up in the stratosphere to enable his fall from grace.
Scientific truth is messy. I’m proud of my articles that have attempted to document the ambiguity inherent in claims of empirical fact. (In fact, I’ve received plenty of criticism from scientists for these pieces.) But I stand by my descriptions of the science in Imagine.
As [Jonah] Lehrer writes, ‘Until we understand the set of mental events that give rise to new thoughts, we will never understand what makes us so special.’ This claim raises the stakes for the book. The problem is, it’s probably just not true.
Creativity is not magic, and there’s no such thing as a creative type. Creativity is not a trait that we inherit in our genes or a blessing bestowed by the angels. It’s a skill. Anyone can learn to be creative and to get better at it.