breaking news from the world of ideas

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 9
October 2020

Is The Guardian planning an attack on the Great Barrington scientists?

Last night The Guardian sent the following email to Professor Martin Kulldorff of Harvard, one of the three initial signatories of the ‘Great Barrington Declaration’ calling for a different approach to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The article is yet to be published, but it looks very much like a move to delegitimise the ideas of these eminent scientists by smearing them by association. As Professor Kulldorff told The Guardian, he had never heard of the ‘Richie Allen show’ before he was invited on, and as a public health expert, he thinks it’s his duty to talk to all audiences in any case, whatever their beliefs. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 22
September 2020

Sir Graham Brady: I can’t vote for another lockdown

Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, spoke to me about his amendment to require a parliamentary vote on all future coronavirus measures, and how the mood of his parliamentary colleagues has changed since March. He told me:

  • He believes the Government will cave on his request, and reach a compromise with him
  • The mood has changed, and most Tory backbenchers now favour a more balanced approach
  • The Swedish example is much-referenced amongst colleagues and can’t be dismissed
  • The tipping point came recently when new restrictions started being introduced
  • The longer we go on, the more sceptical the party is becoming
  • He would not vote for another national lockdown, and a “very significant number” of Tory MPs wouldn’t either


What was the mood on the Conservative backbenches back at the first lockdown announcement in March, and how has it changed since?

I think like most people in the country my colleagues were pretty apprehensive then. We were facing a new virus, nobody knew how it would behave. There was plausible speculation that it could rapidly overwhelm intensive care capacity in the NHS, and of course the House of Commons was about to go off for an Easter recess. So it did seem reasonable at that point to grant emergency powers to ministers to be able to do what needed to be done if there were terrible pressures with which the NHS couldn’t cope. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Monday, 21
September 2020

Is this the question that will win it for Joe Biden?

We’re beginning to turn our attention to the forthcoming American election — and I’m excited to say we’ve run some of our own exclusive US polling, with our partners Focaldata (who we partnered with for the UnHerd Britain series before the December general election).

It’s a strange election for many reasons, and so we’re doing something a little bit different. Instead of the normal voting intention questions, we’ve put a series of statements to a large nationally representative sample of 4,000+ US citizens and asked whether they agree. The results are surprising, and give an insight into what might ultimately decide the election. We’ll be releasing them over the next week or two. First up… ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 10
September 2020

Merlin Sheldrake: the philosophy of fungi

What have fungi got to do with politics, philosophy, Covid-19 or any of the great crises we face?

Well, potentially rather a lot.

Merlin Sheldrake is a biologist and expert on the mysterious world of fungi, and has just published a book on the subject, Entangled Life, that grabbed our attention.

He’s a fascinating character and we’ve all found ourselves rather mesmerised with the story he has to tell about the fungal world, its possibilities as well as its challenges to our politics and philosophical assumptions.

We start with the basics, and get increasingly abstract – come minute 37 you might think differently about things! Enjoy. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Wednesday, 9
September 2020
Seen Elsewhere

Is Donald Trump toast?

The pollsters Nate Silver, Doug Rivers and Robert Cahaly have radically different ideas about the coming election

by Freddie Sayers
Thursday, 3
September 2020

Tyler Cowen on herd mentality and herd immunity

Tyler Cowen is one of the most influential thinkers in America — economist, political philosopher and general polymath. Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, he’s been paying close attention to the data and how different governments are reacting. I caught up with him to get his assessment of where we are.

One thing we like about Tyler is that he’s not tribal — in less than half an hour, he manages to take a pop at both the herd immunity crowd and the mainstream media that refused to talk about it, Devi Sridhar and Michael Levitt, Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Wherever you’re coming from, stand by to get your feathers ruffled! ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Tuesday, 1
September 2020

Johan Giesecke gets new role at WHO

Swedish epidemiologist Johan Giesecke’s interview with UnHerd made waves around the world when, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis in April, he made the case for why lockdowns were not the answer.

He has now been promoted to a more senior advisory role within the World Health Organisation, as Vice-Chair of the Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards, which advises the Director-General on the response to pandemics.

“It’s a group of thirteen scientists from all around the world. Usually we meet twice a year in Geneva but since Covid-19 we’ve been meeting once a week by telephone,” he tells me down the line from Stockholm. ...  Continue reading

by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 28
August 2020

Prof Michael Levitt: here’s what I got wrong

Professor Michael Levitt, Nobel Prize winner and Professor of Structural Biology at Stanford, was one of our early interviews during the lockdown era. Partly due to that interview, which has been watched over 750,000 times on YouTube, he became one of the best known dissenting scientists, arguing that the trends of Covid-19 were revealed in the numbers, and that they were much less scary than most people thought.

At the end of July, he made a prediction that Covid-19 would be “done” by August 25th. It was shared across Twitter. He agreed, back then, to come in to our new studio once the date had elapsed, to see how his prediction fared… ...  Continue reading

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