Episode 77

Published on:

23rd Jun 2023

Interview with Jonathan Howard on Covid Contrarians

The pandemic was a confusing time with public health messages from officials and institutions that were sometimes confused, conflicting, or misrepresented and anti-vaccine misinformation being spread widely. Into this mix, a new phenomenon emerged, that of the covid contrarian. Contrarian doctors usually possessed some relevant qualifications and positioned themselves as independent critical thinkers willing to challenge the dogmas of the mainstream and take a more nuanced perspective on the claims made by anti-vaccine advocates.

These contrarian figures are the voices that you would usually hear on 'heterodox' podcasts. Figures like the medical doctor Vinay Prasad, the Stanford professor of Medicine Jay Bhattacharya, or the retired nurse, John Campbell.

But did they really offer an alternative critical perspective? Our guest today, Jonathan Howard, a practising doctor and professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, argues no. And he should know, he has spent the pandemic not only treating patients but tirelessly documenting (and refuting) the claims made by the contrarian set.

This episode is unfortunately topical due to the recent online fracas surrounding Joe Rogan's credulous promotion of RFK Jnr and the subsequent 'calls for debate' and targeted harassment of Dr Peter Hotez -a public health specialist and advocate for affordable vaccines.

In any case, we learnt a lot and enjoyed the discussion with Jonathan and hope you will too. Also covered in this episode: How many pull-ups Matt can do, why Chris is drinking a chalky green potion, and the psychology of placebos.


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About the Podcast

Decoding the Gurus
A psychologist and an anthropologist try to make sense of the world's greatest self-declared Gurus.
An exiled Northern Irish anthropologist and a hitchhiking Australian psychologist take a close look at the contemporary crop of 'secular gurus', iconoclasts, and other exiles from the mainstream, offering their own brands of unique takes and special insights.

Leveraging two of the most diverse accents in modern podcasting, Chris and Matt dig deep into the claims, peek behind the psychological curtains, and try to figure out once and for all... What's it all About?

Join us, as we try to puzzle our way through and talk some smart-sounding smack about the intellectual giants of our age, from Jordan Peterson to Robin DiAngelo. Are they revolutionary thinkers or just grifters with delusions of grandeur?

Join us and let's find out!
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About your hosts

Christopher Kavanagh

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A Northern Irish cognitive anthropologist who occasionally moonlights as a social psychologist. Chris has long standing interests in the psychology of conspiracy theorists and pseudoscience. His academic research focuses on the Cognitive Science of Religion and ritual psychology. He lives happily in Japan with his family.

Matthew Browne

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An Australian psychologist and numbers-guy. He does research on all kinds of stuff, but particularly enjoys looking into why people believe the things they do: religion, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine and stuff. He's into social media in the same way people slow down for car accidents.