Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
Jay Bhattacharya – Rewriting the COVID Narrative

Jay Bhattacharya – Rewriting the COVID Narrative


My guest this week is Jay Bhattacharya, professor of medicine at Stanford and a critic of the US’s COVID policy. Jay first came to public prominence in 2020 as a co-writer of the Great Barrington Declaration, which argued that the social costs of lockdowns far outweighed whatever protection they offered against the virus, especially for children. For that offense, Jay and his distinguished colleagues were branded as “fringe epidemiologists” by the head of the National Institute of Health and many others.

As you’ll see in this conversation, there’s nothing “fringe” about Jay or his ideas. He opposes the narratives about lockdowns and COVID’s origin that were being pushed by the government and most mainstream media outlets, and he’s got plenty of evidence to back up his argument. We talk about Jay’s opposition to labeling dissenters as crazy or nefarious, and also about the necessity to persuade (rather than strong-arm) those who are skeptical of science writ large. Jay—and many, many others—believe that COVID originated in a lab conducting gain-of-function research. He outlines what he sees as the unacceptable risks of that research, and explains what we can do to prevent lockdown-style overreach in the future.

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0:00 The problem with scientific consensus

6:36 Why Jay and his colleagues were branded “fringe epidemiologists”

15:52 Jay: We need to engage with everyone—even those with mistaken beliefs

25:55 Persuading science skeptics

36:04 How do we stop COVID overreach from happening again?

46:38 Jay: Gain-of-function research is impossible to do safely

55:03 Are some ideas too dangerous to test?

59:30 Jay: Fauci’s blunder was so catastrophic that only history can judge him

Recorded June 23, 2023

Links and Readings

Rav Arora and Jay’s newsletter, The Illusion of Consensus

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

The Great Barrington Declaration

Steve Koonin’s book, Unsettled: What Climate Science Asks Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters

Steve Koonin’s TGS appearance

Tjalling Koopman’s, Three Essays on the State of Economic Science

Emily Oster’s Atlantic piece, “Let’s Declare a Pandemic Amnesty”

The Norfolk Group Document

Glenn’s paper, “Self-Censorship in Public Discourse: A Theory of ‘Political Correctness’ and Related Phenomena”

Richard Feynman demonstrates flaws in Challenger’s O-rings

Roger Shattuck’s book, Forbidden Knowledge: From Prometheus to Pornography


Glenn Loury
The Glenn Show
Race, inequality, and economics in the US and throughout the world from Glenn Loury, Professor of Economics at Brown University and Paulson Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute