What if our response to COVID-19 was minimally effective but inflicted a TON of harm? Why do those who dare to ask this question run afoul of the academic establishment?
Dr. Eran Bendavid is associate professor of medicine at Stanford and an infectious disease specialist and health outcomes/health policy researcher. He is co-author of the Santa Clara and Los Angeles COVID-19 antibody prevalence studies. Here’s an episode we did with his co-author Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.
We dive into: what is the actual infection fatality rate of COVID-19 (and on what factors does it depend), did lockdowns help or was the harm caused much worse than any benefit, should we open schools, what’s going on in Israel, Sweden, Africa, India, and Vietnam, why are Stanford doctors writing a letter attacking Dr. Scott Atlas, why are politics and science so intermingled with coronavirus discussions, what is up with a vaccine, why does wealth = health in every study that looks at it, and much more.
[Dr. Z] Hey everyone. Dr. Z, welcome to The ZDoggMD Show. Today’s guest is Dr. Eran Bendavid. He is a colleague of mine from Stanford. Eran, introduce yourself, man. What are you, well what’s your deal?
[Dr. Bendavid] Oh, thank you for having me, ZDogg or Zubin, how do you?
[Dr. Z] You know what, how about fellow bald guy?
[Dr. Bendavid] Fellow bald…
[Dr. Z] They’re not gonna be able to tell us apart.
[Dr. Bendavid] No, I know we’re, we’re totally. I’m the one with the glasses.
[Dr. Z] Yeah, that’s true, that’s true.
[Dr. Bendavid] And, and so thank you for having me. Just to sort of introduce myself, I’m a professor at Stanford and my background, I’m in the medical school. My back, my clinical background is I trained in infectious diseases, and then, and then did my research training in health policy, and I’ve been sort of in this border between infectious diseases and health policy, especially with applications to the developing world and have been doing a lot of research that looks at what are the effects of our policies on population health.
[Dr. Z] Right, and what’s interesting about your background is that’s what drew you into COVID when this thing started happening and you are one of the coauthors of the now legendary Santa Clara seroprevalence study, as well as the L.A. seroprevalence prevalence study and a colleague of Jay Bhattacharya, who was on the show the other day. So it’s great to have you on as an yet another voice and perspective to talk about it. How did you get into, so it’s crazy because you were living this very nice academic life and attending on the wards every so often and doing your research, particularly in the developing world, which as you mentioned, so whether it’s HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, figuring out how our policies affect the developing world has been a passion of yours, right? How did that translate into COVID?
[Dr. Bendavid] So that’s exactly right, and so, you know, one of the perspectives that I’ve been sort of working with and, and trying to promote for a long time is the fact that our policies, whether we, you know, think they’re a great idea or not, they have impact on, on population health, and so I’ve worked on things that look at what, what kind of, you know, when we talk about funding foreign aid for, for HIV, what kind of impact that has. When we have these policies that try to promote abstinence or, or condoms, what kind of impact that has on, on actual health behaviors, and, you know, I’ve been, I’ve been sort of on both the parts that look at things that you would think are very politic, political and things that are not, and so I’ve looked at things like the Mexico City policy, which is a, an abortion policy. It’s a, it’s a U.S. policy that, that prevents funding for, for any reproductive health or family planning organization that promotes abortion. Now, when you stop funding for these kinds of things, you also stop funding for other family planning services, and so we’ve looked at the impacts of that and in developing countries that rely on U.S. funding for. So I’ve been, I’ve been on sort of the, this interface between policies and health impacts for a long time.
[Dr. Z] And, and it’s important to talk about that because you can have outcomes research, which is what you’re doing. You can have scientific data, but ultimately that’s filtered through the values of a culture or a population, and then applied via the political process to actual policy, and that’s where things now under COVID have gotten so crazy because it’s all become this stew of, of conflict.
[Dr. Bendavid] Exactly, so it’s now a, I’ll say that, you know, this, the current climate, the current scientific climate for conflict is terrible. You know, I’ve been, I’ve been in some situations in some areas of inquiry that, that are, you know, can be considered a little controversial. It’s nothing like what we’re seeing today, and that’s, you know, that’s a real loss because we’re missing out on some serious perspectives that get drowned out in some, you know, in a, in a serious amount of sort of discontent and strife and it’s almost like we, we forgot that what we’re trying to fight is a virus and instead, sort of turning into fighting each other, and that’s really unfortunate.
[Dr. Z] Yeah, yeah, and you know, you’ve been part of this group now, the Stanford cabal, and, you know, it was crazy, ’cause I, when I saw your original study come out, the, that had estimated, what’s the actual prevalence of this virus in early, what was it, March, April.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, exactly, late March into, late March is when we attribute our, you know, ’cause we did the study in early April, but because antibodies take a few days to develop, so we measured antibodies to the virus that causes COVID, to SARS-CoV-2, and because the, the, we measured it in early April, it’s really a reflection on it, and the antibodies take a few days. It’s really a reflection of, of what Santa Clara County was like in late March.
[Dr. Z] Got it. So there’s that delay of, for getting the antibodies to be produced, and so what you were saying then, and I remember seeing this as like, it could be anywhere, and you gave a range of between what, 40 and 80 times more prevalent than we thought?
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s right, and now I should say, you know, it sounds like a big difference but in many ways this is what’s, this was a very straightforward scientific question and, you know, we answered it with, you know, it was just a singular measurement that we had done and our, our answer was, so let me just tell you, so when, while we were doing our survey, we had about 100 or 150 staff that helped us run the, the survey in Santa Clara County. We asked them, what do you think is the, the prevalence of, of antibodies to COVID in, in our county? And the answers ranged from 0% to 75%, and there was this huge range, and I think part of what we were hoping to do when we did the study was reduce that uncertainty and really, you know, sort of help because, you know, there was the question of the hour and nobody knew how widespread it was. All we saw was, is cases, cases, cases, and we didn’t really know how many people have really gotten infected and so, you know, we said, okay, well, you know, we can really help this and that, that was the original intent and, and so, you know, we came down to, you know, somewhere between 1% and 3%.
[Dr. Z] Of the population was already infected?
[Dr. Bendavid] Of the population in Santa Clara County. So we reduced that range of zero to 75, to a much narrower range. You can do a lot with that, and, you know, the ratio that you mentioned of how many infections to how many cases, some were, you know, maybe as low as 20, maybe as high as 80, but the, but somewhere in that, in that range, right. That, that it gives you a, it gives you a sense of, of how widespread the infection was.
[Dr. Z] Now at that time, why was that an important study to do? Remind us about that because.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, that’s right. So, you know, so, okay. So everybody wanted to know how far, how widespread the infection was because people wanted to know, you know, can be, is, is there a chance that we are approaching herd immunity or that something like that is happening? We’ll talk about herd immunity, I hope.
[Dr. Z] Yes.
[Dr. Bendavid] Because again, it’s one of these things, it’s become, it’s such a flash point.
[Dr. Z] It’s like, oww! I touched the third rail of science, something called herd immunity, which we’ve been talking about for decades as well, which is now something you can’t even talk about.
[Dr. Bendavid] So well, you know, so people wanted to know that. People wanted to know, can you get tested with antibodies because, you know, there, they were saying, well, you know, if a lot of us have antibodies, maybe we’re immune and we can go back and, and can we say something about that? Now with that, we were not studying that, but people wanted to know that. It was very important to know what the fatality rate of the, of the infection was, and again, there was an entirely unknown. You know, everything that was published at the time was from cases or from models, and nobody really knew how widespread infection was and again, given a huge range of possibilities, that makes a huge range for the infection fatality rate.
[Dr. Z] And that makes sense, and you know whether, so ’cause when Imperial College first put out its original model, they’re using data inputs of assumptions without big ranges on them, and to narrow down what those actual inputs are, changes the projections of deaths.
[Dr. Bendavid] Entirely. Now I can understand why some people wanted to use the models early on. We didn’t have any better data.
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] But I think it’s very important to know that, that these models are by and large, they’re often wrong by orders of magnitude about their projections, and, and so once we have, once we know what this thing, what are the critical pieces of information we need and once we know, once we, once we can have a better handle on the data, we should go back and revisit because the, the Imperial models are, you know, there’s no way that they were right. They projected, you know, so they, it.
[Dr. Z] Interrupt for a second.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah.
[Dr. Z] The Imperial models, Imperial College of London models were the ones that were the basis of our most aggressive responses, right.
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s exactly right. They published their, their big model on March 16th and on March 19th, that’s when California shut down. Everybody looked at this and said, we have to, we can’t, you know, 2.2 million deaths projected for the United States. That’s, that’s unacceptable.
[Dr. Z] That’s right.
[Dr. Bendavid] And we have to shut down and I should say, in their model, they also said, if you shut down, you’re going to reduce that by a whole lot. I don’t remember exactly how much, and so that’s, and so that’s the, you know, those models needed to be revisited. Let me tell you just a few examples of where some of these, the projections went completely off. Now, it’s hard to say, well, you know, we didn’t have 2.2 million deaths in the United States. People will say, well, that’s because we had early intervention. Well, Sweden didn’t have lockdowns, and the models projected something around 100,000 deaths for Sweden by August. How many have happened? About 5,000.
[Dr. Z] Okay, let, let’s re, I want, I want to dig into that a little bit, and we we’ll get back to the seroprevalence study because these are conversations that in soundbites on the media just don’t come through. It’s like, well, Sweden is folly or Sweden has the answer. Well, no, what’s really going on, what’s going on with, with the projections? Well, 100,000 deaths versus what actually happened, 5,000. Why, why the discrepancy in your mind?
[Dr. Bendavid] So there, there are two things that, you know, if you look at the model for how did we, how did they get to 2.2 million deaths for the United States?
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] It’s, it’s very simple. We have 300 million people in our country. They assumed, they estimated that about 60% of the population will get infected. So it’s about 200 million, and out of those, about 1% will die. Here you get to two million. That’s, that’s all it is, it’s that simple.
[Dr. Z] Simple math.
[Dr. Bendavid] And, and, and it’s the same for Sweden, the same for England, the same for all these countries. Now we have not had any place where the infection looked like it penetrated 60% of the population in part because, you know, we might have things like T-cells that protect us from infection, in part because there’s, you know, people don’t mix evenly, you know. These models assume that you know, that I am at, at, at equal risk as the spouse of somebody infected in Queens. Okay, so someone, infected in Queens, I’m the same risk as their spouse. That, that does not happen. We are, you know, we are, our population is much more lumpy, and, and so in transmission doesn’t happen in, in that kind of even way.
[Dr. Z] What about the data out of those slums in Mumbai that are saying 60, 70, 80%?
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s exactly the kind of place where you say like, that, that is exactly where people are crowded together.
[Dr. Z] Yeah.
[Dr. Bendavid] They’re, you know, the conditions are, are such that, you know, they will transmit one another. They don’t have access to PPE, to face masks and other protective equipment. You know, it’s exactly the kind of context where, you know, you might see that.
[Dr. Z] Right, right, right, and, and so, so to this point, there is no one answer for these models. These populations are very different. There is no one herd immunity number. There is no one IFR, there is, it, it very much depends, right, or am I seeing that wrong?
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right, and, and so if you look at the seroprevalence studies, there have now been about 100 done in different places. Some places are, you know, under 1%, some places are upwards of 40%, and, you know, Mumbai is sort of the extreme high, upwards of 50%, but, you know, but that’s, there, there’s a huge range. A lot of it is, you’d think, well, you know, New York was hard hit, perhaps your prevalence is high. Spain was, was, well Spain is sort of an unusual example, but, you know, but some of the places that, you know, Gangelt in, in Germany, hard-hit area, high seroprevalence and so, you know, and so it, it, you see that huge range. Now, why is it that some places got hard hit? Very high inoculum, I think you talked about that at some point. You know, very sort of relatively crowded, a high density population. You know, there can be different sort of scenarios and ways of, of understanding that, but you see, you see that huge range, and I should say that also makes a difference for the fatality rate. The fatality rate is not a singular constant. It is a reflection of the population, how, how much co-morbidities you have in the population, the age structure, the inoculum. Again, if you have a lot of people getting very severely infected and of course the hospital capacity and the hospital system in the area.
[Dr. Z] So a couple of things here. One is, you study this for a living.
[Dr. Bendavid] I do.
[Dr. Z] And you understand that there’s a lot of, how do we say, nuance and difficulty being black and white with these numbers? Because like you said, it’s, it’s not, it’s a continuum, it depends on the location. There’s multiple variables. It’s kind of a Baysian thing, like you have a little bit of stuff changing, and that changes everything downstream, right?
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s right.
[Dr. Z] You update your priors, you have this knowledge base. Now that we learn more, now you change your models. So that, that’s one thing that I think is very important that has not been appreciated. I think, by the lay public as much, who want a black and white answer, and the second thing that you said was Spain is a little complicated. Tell me a little more about Spain, because people are pointing to data now that, look, deaths are starting to rise in Spain and there, maybe they’re getting a second wave, and so how are you thinking about that?
[Dr. Bendavid] You know, and I think you guys mentioned this in one of the previous shows is that there hasn’t been a true second wave in places that has already been severely affected. In the U.S. you know, you sort of see this, like shifting distribution. First, it was the Northeast, and, and then the sort of the West came on, and then the South, and now the Midwest is its, so you know, all of these, you see this like shifting of, of the, the initial sort of pattern of, of disease penetration and, and the same actually is happening in the UK, and in a lot of the places in, in Europe where, you know, you see a rising infection, it’s the places that didn’t have that didn’t have a lot of cases and a lot of, a lot of infections in the first time around.
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] And it’s the same in Spain.
[Dr. Z] So, these countries that we hold up as paragons of virtue, that did such a wonderful job, right, like if you talk about, say, you know, the Nordic countries, not Sweden, because Sweden is a pariah, but let’s talk about the other Nordic countries, South Korea, Hong Kong, et cetera, New Zealand, they haven’t had a ton of cases. They squashed it early on that. Either they’ve had very aggressive shutdowns or they closed their borders and they’re geographically isolated, whatever it is. In your mind, are they at bigger risk for this second?
[Dr. Bendavid] Oh, you know they are. I mean, the, you know, so this, this virus does have the ability to spread through populations, and so you can, you can try to keep it off your borders for a while. It’s gonna make it through. You know, you can try to sort of do a lot of very heavy contact tracing. That gets difficult and tiresome, and a lot of places it’s sort of, those systems are fraying. Even the places that have, that have managed to keep a lot of the, the sort of conduct tracing and a lot of the early sort of quarantine methods in place for, you know, it’s, it’s difficult. You, you keep your population on, in and out of quarantine, in and out of lockdowns, and that’s, you know, that’s what you have to do in order to prevent us from this virus, from, from sort of spreading through the population. Now, you know, is it, is it worth it, that’s a little bit of a societal decision, but it’s a hard.
[Dr. Z] Values question.
[Dr. Bendavid] It’s a very hard question. My, my entire paradigm is that these are hard situations and the hard questions, hard policy decisions, you’re right. Let’s not be black and white about these things. Let’s look at, let’s take a holistic view of the costs and benefits, including for a lot of places, the cost of really restricting population. You know, you see what’s happening in, in parts of Australia, the, you know, that are very locked down and people are very, you know, they’re miserable about this and that’s, you know, that’s not an easy choice and I don’t think that, you know, that that’s something that we can just say, well, you know, that might prevent some, some COVID cases, but that’s not the end of this story, and, you know, let’s look at things in that broader lens.
[Dr. Z] So, so what? Okay, there’s a lot, man. We’re probably gonna have talk for like, three hours. What, what, what’s the deal with Spain that you said they were so unique?
[Dr. Bendavid] Oh, so Spain had a relatively low prevalence and, and despite that they seem to have a, you know, very high number of, of deaths and so, you know, and that in that the, you know, they’re the ones, if anybody looks at the place where you might’ve had a high fatality rate, Spain is it. In the distribution of a, you know, a lot of it was, again, elderly, a lot of it was people with comorbidities, smokers. So those things were, were not unusual, but there is something about Spain where it, it looked like, you know, relative to the size of the population that seemed to have gotten infected, they had a, a relatively high number of deaths.
[Dr. Z] Ah, so could it be a mix of genetics, pre-existing T-cell immunity exposures, the way they live, smoking, pre-existing comorbidities like we see in our, you know, Latino-Latina population here. I refuse to say Latinx, by the way.
[Dr. Bendavid] Okay.
[Dr. Z] I just, I won’t say it because my, my Mexican friends don’t know what it is, and I’m like, I’m not going to whitesplain.
[Dr. Bendavid] It doesn’t, it doesn’t, it doesn’t flow off at the tongue, right, and it’s like, it’s really hard to say, Latinx.
[Dr. Z] I’m not going to lie, I thought it was LA-TINKS, because it just doesn’t make sense when you read it. You’re like, what is this? But so sorry, so, so you know, the Hispanic population here, you know, maybe share some of the care. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t think.
[Dr. Bendavid] And this, you know, that’s the nice thing. We don’t fully understand, and that’s an okay place to be. You know, we’re, we’re going to try to understand more. We’re going to dig into that more. We’re going to do more studies into the T-cell immunity or T-cell features of, of the Spanish population. These things are going to happen, and we’re going to learn more, but at this point, you know, why is it that Spain is, is a little bit of an outlier? I don’t know.
[Dr. Z] Yeah, and so I want to ask again about Sweden, because Sweden has become a political football in the U.S. and Anders Tegnell, yeah, there’s, there are accounts on Twitter that are pro and con Anders, and then one of them is called Tegnell Stan and a Stan, right, a stan is a reference to Eminem’s Stan, which we parody in fact recently, and this is a big fan boy, and, oh, you know, he had a mea culpa and he was wrong. No, wait, no, he’s the comeback kid. What’s going on with Sweden? How do we understand Sweden, and are there lessons anywhere for that?
[Dr. Bendavid] So, okay. So I’m, I’m going to give you a preview of, of a study that we’re doing now.
[Dr. Z] Ooh.
[Dr. Bendavid] So, so it’s, it’s gonna come, it’s gonna come out at some point.
[Dr. Z] Wait, wait. I don’t trust anything you do, because it’s all just terrible science, right? No, no, no, so tell me, tell me about the study, and at some point, remind me, I want to ask you about some of the detailed criticism of your first study and how you respond to that, because I didn’t get into that much with Jay.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, let’s do that, let’s do that more.
[Dr. Z] So to your new study.
[Dr. Bendavid] I think we, I think we should come back because I think the issue about the culture of science is very important.
[Dr. Z] Yes.
[Dr. Bendavid] It is, we need to have more civility and more openness in science right now to make progress. I mean, it is really critical because, you know, right now we are embroiled again in sort of, you know, this, you know, bickering and animosity, and there’s this process that, that, you know, I learned about in this book called Mistakes Were Made, But Not by Me. I don’t know if you’ve ever read this book.
[Dr. Z] I’ve heard of that book, yeah.
[Dr. Bendavid] It’s very good. It’s called complimentary schismogenesis, and I know, it sounds big, but it’s really, it’s, it’s a very simple kind of concept that, you know, if you go left, I’m going to go right, and then, and then because you went right, I’m going to go left, and because I went left, you’re going to go right, and, and that’s how the schism happens. That’s the schismogenesis.
[Dr. Z] I see, the genesis of the schism.
[Dr. Bendavid] The genesis of the schism, and that, a little bit feels like that’s, what’s, what’s happening where people are just reacting to the position of somebody else instead of.
[Dr. Z] Open up your, your, any, any social media account and watch what happens. If, if Trump says this, they say that. If Biden says this, they say that. It’s, it’s predictable. You know, we’ll talk about vaccines too, but, okay I, that’ll get, that’ll derail me, but I got to say, this is a passion of mine is this schismogenesis that you’re talking about.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yes, anyways, I mean, that’s why I like your show. I feel like you’re, you’re, you’re pedaling in moderation.
[Dr. Z] That sounds so filthy.
[Dr. Bendavid] I feel like it’s so important.
[Dr. Z] I’m a middle peddler.
[Dr. Bendavid] Anyway, so I’ll tell you about Sweden. I’ll tell you a little bit about what we’ve done and so, you know, Sweden, you know, made a choice early on and the reasons for those choices, at least when you ask their public health officials, Tegnell and whatnot is, they said, we, we want to contain the, the spread of the disease, but we want to make it in such a way that’s going to be sustainable for our, for our population. Okay, so that was the reasoning and what they did is they, they banned gatherings and they did some travel restrictions.
[Dr. Z] 50 and above.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, exactly right, and, and they made some, you know, some policies that were, that were mandatory, but a lot of it was about, actually a lot of it was about communicating to their people, here’s the disease, here’s the risk, here’s who’s, where it’s spreading. Here are the people that, that seem to be most heavily affected and let people make the decisions about, about what to do about that, and they had, they had a, a relative, you know, serious increase in deaths early on. A lot of it was, you know, maybe 40, 50% was nursing home residents and it spread very widely in nursing homes and, and it took a, it took them maybe two, three weeks to really more seriously curtail the spread of COVID in the nursing homes and by that, by that time, you know, there is a lot of people who’ve died.
[Dr. Z] Mortality high, yeah.
[Dr. Bendavid] Mortality was quite high and then, and then the epidemic turned around and their cases started going down and their deaths started going down. For the past month, maybe even two months, their, you know, their case number is stable. It may be between a 100, 200, 300 or so a day, and their deaths are one, two, three, four, five a day from COVID, and that’s it. Now, you know, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna call this a herd immunity, but, but to the extent that this is what a population where disease doesn’t spread, that’s how it behaves is you don’t see a growing number of cases, you don’t see anything exponential. You don’t see a spread and worsening of the spread of the disease and that’s, that’s what’s happening in Sweden right now.
[Dr. Z] They never overwhelmed their health care system, right.
[Dr. Bendavid] They never overwhelmed their healthcare system.
[Dr. Z] Their population was generally adherent and compliant to whatever was recommended. Their, if you look at Google maps data and Apple search data, they were mobile. In other words, they, they went through a period where they auto-regulated. They said, you know what? This is scary. The population behaved as it probably should in the face of an unknown threat, but then it opened back up and you see it happen, and their deaths now are minuscule, whereas countries, let’s contrast this with what’s going on in Israel, they’re talking about locking down again. You’re Israeli.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yes.
[Dr. Z] Yeah, tell me.
[Dr. Bendavid] As of today, I think they’re, you know, they went back into national lockdown.
[Dr. Z] So the only country to have done that.
[Dr. Bendavid] So far.
[Dr. Z] So far.
[Dr. Bendavid] You know, the U.K. is talking about having some regional lockdowns now, back in the areas, again in the places, not the places that had the severe disease early on, but the places that actually got spared early on and now are seeing a resurgence in cases, so.
[Dr. Z] They were spared early on. Let’s say that again. They were spared early on, meaning it’s not a case like in New York or, or in parts of Spain where everybody’s sick, it’s a very bad, and then they get better and then it comes back very bad, and you have to let. We have not seen that happen.
[Dr. Bendavid] No, we have not seen that happen. Nope, not yet. I’m hoping, I’m, you know, I’m not gonna predict the future, but we don’t know.
[Dr. Z] We don’t know.
[Dr. Bendavid] We don’t know. The evidence on the lasting protectiveness of antibodies is still evolving and.
[Dr. Z] So Israel.
[Dr. Bendavid] Israel, yeah. Well, let me just go back to Sweden. One more thing, because here’s, here’s what we’re doing in our, in our study. We’re, you know, here’s what we’re looking at, we’re trying to look at the effect of these highly restrictive policies of, of mandatory stay at home and business closures, okay. Now, Sweden didn’t do it, South Korea also didn’t do it. Now they had other measures again, of, of trying to control the virus. We’re looking at these two countries in particular because, because they, they were the, the disease certainly spread in the population. Okay, so you see the spread and then you see a decline in the spread and, and so what you have there is you have some combination of the less restrictive policies and people’s behavior and the natural dynamics of the epidemic all sort of entangled, and so that’s, and so that’s a nice sort of bundle that you can use to see what happens now. Do you see that the, sort of the change in the pattern of epidemic, do you see a different in Sweden compared to U.K., Germany, Netherlands, the U.S., Spain, Italy, and the answer is, those are all countries that had severe, had much more restrictive lockdowns, had much more mandatory stay at home and, and business closures, and, and you see that there is no additional benefit that’s left over from the mandatory stay at home and, and shelter in place policies after you account for, after you look for what the patterns of, of both the sort of the behavior change and the, and the epidemic dynamics and the less restrictive policies.
[Dr. Z] Okay, let me see if I can restate this and ask some questions ’cause this is such an important thing to discuss, and it’s gonna get all kinds of comments and criticism, and which is good.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yes, that’s good.
[Dr. Z] Which is what you want.
[Dr. Bendavid] Exactly.
[Dr. Z] So you were saying that, and this is not published yet. This is a study you’re doing.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yes it is, right.
[Dr. Z] That if you, if you actually look at, what outcomes are you measuring?
[Dr. Bendavid] We’re looking at, we’re looking at the, the growth in cases in the country, right.
[Dr. Z] Growth in PCR-demonstrated cases.
[Dr. Bendavid] Cases, exactly.
[Dr. Z] Got it.
[Dr. Bendavid] And we’re looking at region by region within each country, so within the, in the U.S. it’s state by state, in England, it’s county by county, in France, it’s a region by region and so.
[Dr. Z] And what you’re proposing is, what you’re seeing is that there is not an incremental benefit to having lockdowns on the number of increasing cases.
[Dr. Bendavid] Exactly.
[Dr. Z] When you compare everything.
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s right. So, so we’re, we’re, you know, we can see that there’s a slowdown in the growth.
[Dr. Z] Yes.
[Dr. Bendavid] This is, now this is sort of a complicated thing, but this is what Mike Levitt has been saying.
[Dr. Z] At Stanford.
[Dr. Bendavid] For a long time at Stanford. He’s been saying for a long time, he’s saying, you know, you don’t see a real exponential growth. You see, you see an exponential growth that sort of slows down, right and so, and so, you know, at first it’s like 30%, and then it’s 20% and it’s 10%, the growth of new cases day on day, and, and you see this sort of slow down everywhere. You see it in the places that had lockdowns and you see it in the places that didn’t have lockdowns, and you see it in the places that implemented things early, and you see it in the places have implemented things late, and so, you know, it’s, it’s, you know, the, you know, the idea that the lockdowns are, are responsible for these slowing downs of cases is hard to make.
[Dr. Z] That is remarkable if true, and I got to say, you know, I’ll put on my skeptical hat and go, well we’re probably cherry picking data. We’re not measuring it right, something else is going on and more will come out, but let’s say it’s true, all right. What that tells me is something that I deeply suspect, and I suspected from kind of early on, if you don’t squash the thing at the very early, like we did with SARS-1.
[Dr. Bendavid] Exactly.
[Dr. Z] And SARS-1 was easy to squash, relatively, because.
[Dr. Bendavid] It was only hospitals.
[Dr. Z] Hospitals, and the fact that you were febrile and symptomatic when you were contagious. Now, it’s like, well, you’re, I mean, you and me could be giving it to each other right now. We’re not because we’re awesome and bald.
[Dr. Bendavid] Baldness protects people.
[Dr. Z] It really, yeah actually, was it the opposite I read somewhere?
[Dr. Bendavid] Oh, no.
[Dr. Z] Yeah, I know. Yeah, well, you know, whatever, being male, being bald.
[Dr. Bendavid] Being tall is not.
[Dr. Z] I’m screwed on all points, but the, the thing is, if you don’t do that, which is a human intervention, a top down intervention, okay, we’re going to squash this. Once it’s out, and you have a virus like this, there is little to nothing in a top down measure that is going to make a massive difference in the dynamics of the spread of this virus beyond the normal dynamics of the population’s behavior.
[Dr. Bendavid] I think that’s right. I think, you know, people know it’s coming, they’re going to do whatever they need to do in order to try to prevent themselves or their kids or whatnot. So there’s going to be, there’s going to be some behavior change that’s going to happen anyways, because, you know, just because you hear it’s coming and, and then you have the natural dynamics of, of the virus and the combination of these two things. That’s, you know, that, that seems to have, you know, sort of contributed to a very similar pattern in all contexts, except for the places that you said, as you said, caught it when it was like 100 cases or something and never let it really enter the population.
[Dr. Z] Never let the dynamics spin out of control from the early part and, okay. So that’s, and remember now, you study this for a living.
[Dr. Bendavid] That, yes.
[Dr. Z] You’re not, you’re not a CNN pundit. You’re not, you’re not an armchair epidemiologist. This is what you do.
[Dr. Bendavid] I have, I have all the, the, you know, I love digging my hands into the data and stirring them.
[Dr. Z] You know the stuff.
[Dr. Bendavid] And looking into that and trying to understand and learn from the patterns, that’s exactly what I do. Here’s, and here’s that I would say that’s actually an important point about that there. It’s important to learn, to be able to learn and, and take the data in in a personal kind of way, and that’s not always easy because, because, you know, we’re, what we’re seeing is a lot of very dramatic kinds of things about, you know, about number of, you know, the, the cases growing here and big headlines in newspapers and whatnot, but we’re not very good at, at looking at, you know, large patterns and saying, wow, that really matters. There is a, a famous study that some psychologists had done that looks at, you know, whether people care more about, you know, a single girl, a single hungry girl in a picture, as opposed to, you know, 100, a news piece about 100 starving kids and who would you give your money to? And people will give more money to the single person than to the 100 kids.
[Dr. Z] You know, it’s, it’s almost like you watch my show, but I don’t think you saw yesterday’s episode ’cause you and I are both fans of Jonathan Haidt and, and actually I’m a fan of Paul Bloom who is another psychologist, and he’s written a book called Against Empathy and it’s for that exact reason that human beings empathize with singular stories. They don’t, they cannot process mass suffering, statistical, they can’t empathize with a statistic. It, that’s why charities will always pitch you, you are going to sponsor Sharon in this country and get her a bag of rice, and we’ll send you letters from her because that makes you go, oh, yes and I can empathize with Sharon. She’s a single, but I cannot empathize with Somalia or an a concept, right, and when it comes to COVID, this has been very harmful to our rational ability to.
[Dr. Bendavid] I, I agree, and when it’s individuals that can understand that we, you know, we’re drawn to individual stories, but at the policy level, you want to be able to look at things in a more holistic and more data driven way.
[Dr. Z] I would say it’s a more compassionate way, because compassion is more a cognitive empathy, love in the face, love and concern in the face of suffering, trying to help the most people as you can. Now, what’s interesting is you’ll see this as a pattern in my audience. My audience are nurturers and caregivers and nurses and doctors, and what they’ll say, well, let’s. We’ll leave the surgeons out of it. They’re more psychopaths, but let’s say we have a nurse, you’ll see in the comments, but you guys are talking about, you know, population dynamics and you know, this many lives and this many, this, but I knew, I had a patient who died alone on a ventilator who was not, didn’t have comorbidities and this is, we’ve got to do something about this, and that’s how it feels.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yes, no, that’s how it feels, and I fully under, and, you know, this disease has done terrible things to a lot of people, and a lot of people got sick and a lot of people are suffering from it for, you know, for a while still. All of that is true and there are a lot of consequences to our actions and so it’s, it’s not, it’s not a but, it’s not a, you know, disregarding any of that. It’s all of it, and I think that’s an important aspect that we, has not been part of the conversation much to date.
[Dr. Z] I agree and we’re going to dig more into that because I think it is so wrapped up, like, for example, what you’re talking about, I want to get back to Israel too, ’cause I want to see what’s going on there, but I, actually answer me Israel and then we’ll.
[Dr. Bendavid] Okay.
[Dr. Z] And then we’ll, then we’ll talk about what I think, what you just said about the population dynamics and the fact that lockdowns may not have helped, how will be politicized by both sides is worth discussing and why and how we can transcend that. So what what’s going on with Israel do you think, and I know you won’t know, but.
[Dr. Bendavid] You know, I don’t know exactly, but, you know, but this is again, you know, so, you know, Israel had an actually pretty effective response in terms of the reduction of number of cases and, and they went down to really pretty low levels. They opened schools and then they had, you know, they actually had one of the schools that had an outbreak of 100 or 200 cases in the school. That actually has been one of the early cases, and an example that people said, well.
[Dr. Z] Shut all the schools down.
[Dr. Bendavid] We need to shut all the schools down.
[Dr. Z] Now these are cases.
[Dr. Bendavid] Cases.
[Dr. Z] These are not deaths.
[Dr. Bendavid] Nope, not deaths.
[Dr. Z] These are not hospitalizations.
[Dr. Bendavid] Not hospitalizations, not a single one hospitalized.
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] Not a single one in that Israeli example was hospitalized, and, and then recently they’ve had a, they’ve had a rise in the number of, of cases. Why that has led to, to a decision to shut the country down again, I think is, you know, and beyond me.
[Dr. Z] When I saw it, I’m gonna be honest with you. I mean, we can speak freely. I was like, they’re making a mistake. I don’t understand why they’re reacting this way, because this is the natural dynamics of a virus that was over-suppressed in the beginning and hasn’t spread. You’re going to see a case-demic as cases rise, not necessarily more mortality to the degree that the cases are rising.
[Dr. Bendavid] No, I don’t know about all the can, like the detailed policies, but I’ll tell you one thing that’s again, a little swirled. We’ll get into the politics, maybe. It’s okay to get into a little bit of the politics of it, isn’t it?
[Dr. Z] Absolutely.
[Dr. Bendavid] For the past few weeks there have been these big demonstrations against the prime minister.
[Dr. Z] I see, Netanyahu.
[Dr. Bendavid] Netanyahu.
[Dr. Z] He’s been prime minister for my whole life.
[Dr. Bendavid] I know, he’s been. I mean, he’s been, he’s been indicted, he’s been convicted of all sorts of things and, and still is, I mean, it’s, it’s sort of amazing.
[Dr. Z] Sounds familiar.
[Dr. Bendavid] And, and I think there’s a, there has been a desire to so make these demonstrations stop and it’s possible that there’s a, that, that desire, that political desire to make those demonstrations stop is involved in the decision to make the lockdowns because there, there are a lot of people who have been sort of advising the Israeli government, including Mike Levitt, who was there for a while. He was sort of stuck there in the beginning.
[Dr. Z] Nice Jewish boy.
[Dr. Bendavid] Exactly, advising the Israeli government and, and saying, you know, this, there is no need for that, and yet at the same time, so.
[Dr. Z] But the stories of a person on a ventilator or frontline healthcare professionals dying because they don’t have PPE and the heart moves and you go, we have to do something. So now our policy should be interventional. Let’s do something here, forgetting that we don’t have, we have the empathy, we lack the compassion to look at the bigger impact, and what is that bigger impact?
[Dr. Bendavid] Well, so, okay, so let’s, let’s talk about it, but I’ll tell you, you know, my wife’s a psychiatrist.
[Dr. Z] Nice.
[Dr. Bendavid] And so I’m going to bring her in every once in a while.
[Dr. Z] So much, oh yeah please do.
[Dr. Bendavid] Oh, she’s, she’s great and, and she says, you know, one of the feelings that we fear the most and that people have the hardest time dealing with is the feeling of powerlessness, and, and so, you know, it’s that feeling of, maybe we can do something about that, and you’re right, that, you know, it’s a new virus, and we don’t quite know how to make those, you know, people, all those deaths sort of go down to zero and we don’t know how to make those cases and, and again, like, and I think some of it is also is that those numbers are constantly in our face right there every day. Every news story is like number of cases, number of deaths, number of hospitalizations and that’s not, that’s not, you know, and so you can, you can’t get away from the feeling of, I got to do something about this.
[Dr. Z] Jud Brewer, who is a psychiatrist who specializes in mindfulness was on my show a couple of times in the early days of this pandemic, and we were both just outraged at the amount of fear being generated and he said that he called it a, a social contagion. He goes, somebody, you could be safe in your house. Someone can sneeze on your brain from 1,000 miles away and panic you.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yes.
[Dr. Z] And that’s what’s happening, and you know what I noticed is pattern. The smart people I was, I were talking to, the people who do this stuff for a living, were all like, man, this is, why are people going ape? This is not, we’re causing so much harm from the response.
[Dr. Bendavid] Right.
[Dr. Z] And actually we were going to do a parody of Nickelback’s Photograph where the media is putting graphs in your face every day, and just be like, ♪ Look at this COVID graph ♪ ♪ Every time I do it makes me hack ♪ ♪ What the hell am I doing here ♪ but we never did it because we don’t, we just, it was locked down, but so, so your wife notices that and sees that that powerlessness is, is.
[Dr. Bendavid] Is driving people to say, we, you know, we have to, you know, we have to do stuff that, you know, and even if that stuff doesn’t really have an effect.
[Dr. Z] I would take it a step further and say conspiracy theorists are trying to find control. So they’re saying, you know what? I can’t understand this. I need certainty, I need a way to explain this, something that’s inexplicable. So something comes out of nowhere and potentially puts the world in a degree of peril where a lot of people are going to die. Well, that just doesn’t happen. It must be, Fauci created it in a lab ’cause there’s no other explanation, but there are other explanations.
[Dr. Bendavid] There are other explanations.
[Dr. Z] It’s a failure of imagination.
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s right.
[Dr. Z] But unfortunately the truth is probably really boring and not satisfying.
[Dr. Bendavid] And here’s, and here’s where I in my, my hope is that the harms of the lockdowns are going to become an ever bigger part of the story enough of that general discussion.
[Dr. Z] Yeah.
[Dr. Bendavid] Because so far they’ve been completely left out of it.
[Dr. Z] Now, now, when I talk with Jay about this, there were a couple of commenters that were like, that’s a typical straw man, where you set it up and say, we’re not talking about the harms of the lockdown, but we are, and that’s a straw man. How do you respond to that?
[Dr. Bendavid] Okay, so let, let me just say this, you know, I would say that it is similar to the way that things like malaria in Africa is, is being addressed where when we’re not, you know, if you, if you people, if you looked at the reports from the WHO or whatnot, it’s there, people are measuring it, but you don’t get the same kind of thing, you know, the, the parallel people would say, well, you know, you should say that a 747 full of kids crashed every single day. That’s what you get for COVID. That’s not what you’re getting for, for the harms of, of the lockdown and we very well may be having that then. So my hope is that those will be at least sort of on a level in the, in the discussion.
[Dr. Z] You know what would be a great way, this is brilliant actually, I never thought of that. You know, imagine your main street in your town, take 20 of them every day. That many businesses are going out of business that were mom and pop that lasted for 100 years and, and it’s so heartbreaking, but nobody, they talk about it occasionally, maybe more on Fox News. You know, it’s like, it’s so polarized, like the left, they can’t even mention it because, because it looks uncompassionate that you’re talking about money, but money is, is, is livelihoods, you know?
[Dr. Bendavid] So, so, that’s, that’s right. So let me, let me talk about lockdowns a little bit. Okay, so if there are two findings in the social sciences that can fill a library each, it is that wealth is good for health.
[Dr. Z] Yes.
[Dr. Bendavid] And education is good for health.
[Dr. Z] And both are true.
[Dr. Bendavid] Both are true.
[Dr. Z] Longer lifespans, but yeah, yeah.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, and I’m not talking about wealth, like Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos.
[Dr. Z] No, no, no, no.
[Dr. Bendavid] I’m talking about the getting people out of extreme poverty of $1.90 a day per person. I’m talking about the progress we have made in, you know, sort of raising people out of extreme poverty. I’m talking about, you know, the fact that, the fact that, you know, it is along the entire continuum of, of wealth that, that, you know, you’re reducing child mortality, you do, everything is, everything improves when, when you’re improving people’s wealth, okay. You know, and that finding is like, you can take the, you can take the, the most sophisticated data hack that cannot break away this pattern. More wealth, you know, you live longer, you live better lives, you live, you know, and you look at Raj Chetty, you know, the, the very well known economist, he’s looked at every single American with their, their income tax return and their life expectancy and, you know, it just goes just a straight line up, you know, and it’s, and it’s a huge gap between the wealthy and the poor, okay. So, and so, you know, the fact that, that we’re taking our GDP and really sledgehammering it, taking down by five, 10, 15% in different places, that’s going to have a huge impact and that’s, you know, so, so just saying like, this is an economy thing, no, it’s going to have a huge impact on health, on all sorts of things. Education, similar thing. You know, this is not the kind of stuff where it’s just like an association. People have done these randomized trials on Head Start, on people, keeping people, keeping kids in, in school and bringing them into, sort of bringing them into high school and you look at things like their risk behaviors and their well-being and their for, especially for adolescent girls, their HIV risk behaviors, their fertility choices, teen pregnancies, and teen births, you know, like randomized trials, not to mention all sorts of things about later life, you know, some opportunities and, and risk patterns and the kinds of, and violence and all sorts of things that, that improves with education and what have we done? We’ve closed schools. Now to say this is not, that closing schools is not going to have an impact on health. It’s going to have a huge impact, and, and so, you know, is it a straw man? Of course people have been mentioning this, but it has not been on a level as on the discussion as COVID.
[Dr. Z] Oh, I mean the little journey you just took me on, I was getting upset, like emotional, like we are screwing this up in a way that is so amazingly awful because we just can’t see. We just don’t, our human brains don’t function at the 30,000 foot compassion level. They function at the, oh my God, I’m scared, I need a sense of control, we need to do something, forgetting all the things you just said, which are all worsened by the fact that we politicized every single piece of this and when you actually look at what, what’s happening, if you say, okay, it’s politicized on the right. It’s a hoax, team denial. If you politicize it on the left, it’s an apocalypse, team doom. The left in particular has, has completely forgotten that wealth equals health, and they will freak out about social justice while advocating the policy of lockdown and so on and closing schools that will worsen inequity for generations.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, that’s right, and to the extent that inequity is a huge of, hugely important for, you know, for, for that entire, you know, for left. I mean, for a lot of us, we don’t, we don’t want to live in this highly unequal, I mean.
[Dr. Z] It’s the biggest danger we have.
[Dr. Bendavid] It’s terrible, right? I mean, we, you know, it’s not good for anyone. It’s, you know, we don’t like it. We, you know, nobody likes to have this sense of, constant sense of unfairness and inequity in this society. We don’t want to live there. It’s not the kind of, not the kind of people we want to be, and it’s going to make things worse.
[Dr. Z] And you know what’s interesting? So both Monica and Jay, who are probably on opposite ends of the political spectrum, see completely eye to eye on this. They’re like, we’re worsening inequity. You know, what we’re doing is we’re, we’re penalizing poor people and the Zoom-ocracy, the people who can live virtually, who are having a ball during lockdowns, because it’s like, this is great. I hate people. I can work and make money not doing in-person stuff, and I can just order an UberEats to come deliver me some food from an essential worker who’s probably at high risk because they have diabetes and are sedentary and, and honestly, if we looked inwards at it, we go, this is a policy failure, and, and the problem is, so if you’re, let’s say you’re right, which I actually think you are about this and that our lockdowns are more harmful than they’re, they’re helping.
[Dr. Bendavid] UNICEF, by the way, they estimated how many kids, 500 million kids do not have access to school.
[Dr. Z] Because of this?
[Dr. Bendavid] Because of this.
[Dr. Z] 500 million?
[Dr. Bendavid] Yes.
[Dr. Z] Half a billion children?
[Dr. Bendavid] Half a billion children do not have access to school this year because you know, schools are closed and they don’t have it.
[Dr. Z] As of today, as of today, we stopped doing this. You and me just decided, right. Just stop, just stop because what happens? You open the schools. Okay, people, this is a bad thing. We have a pandemic. It happens.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah.
[Dr. Z] It’s happened before. Our response is worse than the disease in some levels.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, yeah.
[Dr. Z] Not all levels, not all levels, like maybe distancing is a good idea.
[Dr. Bendavid] Right.
[Dr. Z] You know, masking.
[Dr. Bendavid] Good idea.
[Dr. Z] Monica made a pretty compelling case.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, no harm.
[Dr. Z] So we could do that while still going on because, because here’s the, so people push back all the time on the school thing. Well, there’s all these cases in school. Yeah, they’re not dying. Yeah, they’re not hospitalized. What if they go home to grandma and kill her? Well, how do you respond to that?
[Dr. Bendavid] I mean, it’s, so, or.
[Dr. Z] Or, 40% of school employees are at risk for COVID due to comorbidities or age.
[Dr. Bendavid] You know, that is, that is all right, and again, you know, I think some of that is, is the decisions we have to make in a societal level. You know, so, so strep throat has all sorts of consequences for kids. You know, causes them, not only just the illness, but, you know, afterwards they can get kidney problems and joint problems and heart problems and skin.
[Dr. Z] Neck problems.
[Dr. Bendavid] Right, all sorts of things. We don’t close schools to stop the transmission of strep throat. Right, we make a choice that, that, you know, this, this is, you know, these, this is what’s happening. On the one hand there’s, these are, you know, these are our choices and our values as a society, as on, on the other side, and, you know, and, and we sort of, we weigh one against the other. Now this is our, this is again like where I would say, science is a little bit paralyzed because of the polarization, because we need to know what are the risks of transmission. We need to know, what are the risks for teachers. We need to know what are the risks of, you know, of kids going home and, and, and having, you know, multiple generation kind of, of households and the exposures and the risks that would come from that. There is no hope for that right now in this environment, because, you know, these are, these are all kinds of scientific questions that we can, you know, we can tackle and understand and, and put that into the, again, like into the broad discussion.
[Dr. Z] And, and, you know, this is what Vinay, Vinay Prasad and I discussed on a previous show, which is that there are some things now that are so taboo, you can’t even study them, and Jay brought up Gabriela Gomes talking about herd immunity thresholds. No one will even review her papers, because, did you say herd immunity? Like that, isn’t that what, like, like Trump’s villainous Scott Atlas is telling him to, to do and isn’t that basically letting a disease rip through the community and kill everyone so that you can achieve immunity?
[Dr. Bendavid] I mean, this is again, like, you know, I mean, talk about again, so straw mans, and.
[Dr. Z] Yeah, talk about straw men, right.
[Dr. Bendavid] This is, you know, herd immunity’s a very simple concept, right? It’s, you know, it’s like when, you know, when transmission, one person to the next person is, you know, when one person transmits it to one or less other people, right. Then, you know, then you achieve a, then you achieve so the epidemic is going to extinguish.
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] Then, you know, it’s going to go down, right, because you, it’s not going to grow in the population. That’s it. That’s, that’s the extent of it. It’s not, it’s not, you know, it’s not a best, I think.
[Dr. Z] Nothing magical, nothing political?
[Dr. Bendavid] No, there’s nothing political about it.
[Dr. Z] Now, now, you know, I think people rightfully say that if you have a vaccine, it’s a preferred way to get immunity in a community because you won’t have to suffer the infection.
[Dr. Bendavid] I agree, right, but, you know, but you know, what’s going to happen with the vaccine? I mean, again, like even the vaccine is becoming so politicized.
[Dr. Z] Yo, tell me about this, because this is a mess.
[Dr. Bendavid] It’s a mess and we, we, you know, I wish it wouldn’t be this way because, you know, if we get a good, safe, effective vaccine, I would want everybody to, you know, to, to get it.
[Dr. Z] Quickly.
[Dr. Bendavid] Quickly and, you know, or, I mean, in this environment, it’s not, it’s not heading that way.
[Dr. Z] No way.
[Dr. Bendavid] I would say, you know, again like, they’re, you know, everybody’s politic, everybody’s politicized, everybody’s sort of yelling at one another. I expect science to do better, and I expect the scientists to sort of rise above that and rise above the rancor and not, not get sort of entangled in this, in this.
[Dr. Z] Okay, so you expect these things, Eran Bendavid, and our own institution, Stanford University Medical Center, has created a letter that was signed by multiple people under probably pressure from former Dean Pizzo to speak out about Scott Atlas, who was former head of neuroradiology at Stanford, someone that my wife is familiar with, being a chest radiologist at Stanford, who works with the Trump administration now, is in an advisory role and has taken, actually, stances compatible with what you and Jay are saying in terms of what the data is showing, but it’s been spun through the political mill and they felt compelled to write a letter saying, you know, what did it say exactly?
[Dr. Bendavid] So yes, let me, let me just sort of back out a little bit. So, so you know, that Stanford has for whatever. I mean, for reasons I think that are sort of understandable has had several people that have taken somewhat non-mainstream positions, between Jay, myself, John Ioannidis, Mike Levitt. These are all, you know, and what I would say, I would say about all of them, maybe myself excluded, is.
[Dr. Z] Is they’re awesome.
[Dr. Bendavid] They’re very prominent, very known scientists.
[Dr. Z] Smart.
[Dr. Bendavid] Very smart, you know, they’re, you know, they’re, they’re serious people and, and Scott Atlas is, has, you know, has been increasingly sort of involved. He’s moved from the medical school to the Hoover institution and has been very outspoken on policy issues and it’s been, he’s been in the health policy world for a long time.
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] Okay, and.
[Dr. Z] But he’s not an epidemiologist.
[Dr. Bendavid] He’s not an epidemiologist.
[Dr. Z] He’s not in infectious diseases.
[Dr. Bendavid] He’s a neuroradiologist.
[Dr. Z] That’s right.
[Dr. Bendavid] Who’s been very interested in the interaction of, of the disease and the society and its impact and has spoken out about it quite a bit and you’re right, and, you know, including stuff that has become very politicized, and, you know, even, even if my opinions with, you know, align with Scott more than, you know, I mean, with many of the things he says, I am wary of the politics of it all.
[Dr. Z] Sure.
[Dr. Bendavid] And, you know, and so I, you know, I don’t want to get involved in that because I feel like, again, you know, there’s, its own sort of separate dynamics. It’s the schismogenesis.
[Dr. Z] Schismogenesis, exactly right. Someone had asked me to comment on Scott’s comments from a YouTube video before, well before all this happened and I watched the video and I said, oh, so he’s taking this tact. It does seem a little policy heavy, and he’s got a definite bias here and I don’t really, I don’t feel strongly because I think it’s just going to generate division right now. I’ve been talking about the nuance in this, but yeah. So, so go on, so.
[Dr. Bendavid] Okay so, so there’ve been a few people at Stanford now. Why, why is it that this many people at Stanford? Well, Stanford in some ways, its way of getting people through the door and promoting and rewarding people actually actually encourages this kind of independent ways of doing things, and so you have these people that, that are a little bit willing to not join a group or a tribe and that’s, you know, and then moreso than in, and maybe in other institutions, okay so.
[Dr. Z] Interesting. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much.
[Dr. Bendavid] And, that’s right, and, and so in that, in that sort of soup of, of, you know, a growing number of people who are expressing opinions that are not of the main, of the sort of epidemiologic mainstream, you have a group of people signing a letter led by the former Dean, of the former Dean, heads of divisions, heads of departments, are all sort of signing and, and sending, asking people in their groups to also sign the letter and the letter starts by saying, we uphold the principle of first do no harm. So it’s a nice thing. I would say, I don’t know what to make of them because, because as we said, lockdowns also do harm and so, and so the, you know, in this very intermingled world of ours, it’s virtually impossible to not do harm given that we are in the middle of a pandemic. The pandemic is doing harm. The responses are doing harm. Let’s think about them more holistically, and so the first, first do no harm, and then the second thing is they say that they are opposed to the, the falsehoods and scientific miscon, misconstruals or something.
[Dr. Z] Something along those lines.
[Dr. Bendavid] Something along these lines, that Scott Atlas has been promoting, so singling him out, you know, as, as.
[Dr. Z] They said, former colleague of ours.
[Dr. Bendavid] Former colleague of ours.
[Dr. Z] Right, not current colleague, former colleague.
[Dr. Bendavid] And so singling him out, putting him away and saying that what he, what he promotes are falsehoods.
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] And, and then saying, what we believe is this. So they’re not making the link direct, but they’re saying what we believe are these five things and they’re, and, and I don’t know if I’m going to get all five of them, but it’s like, masks are effective. You know, children get sick and, you know, anyways.
[Dr. Z] Yes, yes, yes, yes, and they were all, yes.
[Dr. Bendavid] It’s five things that are, you know, that, that, you know, they say that it’s actually supported, it’s supported by the preponderance of, of evidence in the scientific literature.
[Dr. Z] That’s right, that’s right.
[Dr. Bendavid] And that’s that, and, you know, as, as oh, and I would say this, and simultaneously there’s a, an, an op ed in the L.A. Times written by two of the folks.
[Dr. Z] That’s right.
[Dr. Bendavid] And, and, you know.
[Dr. Z] Made national news.
[Dr. Bendavid] Made national news and continues to sort of spiral in, in social media and, and, you know, it’s going to end up creating more rancor within the university. There is a petition right away within the university to, to say that, you know, the use of, you know, the use of, of this platform is something that is against us or university principles. So, you know, using, having a former Dean using the university listserv to send a letter out is against University principles because it, it suggests that this is a university-endorsed policy, and so all of that is, you know, in my, you know, my point of just like, that’s not science. Science is not done by a petition, science is not done by, you know, by sort of having.
[Dr. Z] By fiat.
[Dr. Bendavid] Who has, by fiat, who’s more influential. Science is done by people coming together, you know, sort of identifying questions, looking into them, trying to answer them, right, and instead this is just, further sends people in, in, into the opposite camps.
[Dr. Z] When I saw it and my wife sent it to me, I was just like beside myself, like, why would my colleagues do this? This is not, all the things you said, it’s not science. This is grand standing, it’s virtue signaling. It’s, it’s trying to control a narrative that isn’t fully fleshed out or decided, and it also was misrepresenting whatever Scott is actually telling the President.
[Dr. Bendavid] Right.
[Dr. Z] Because we don’t know what that is.
[Dr. Bendavid] We don’t know what that is.
[Dr. Z] Exactly.
[Dr. Bendavid] Certainly, you know, things like, you know, anything about, you know, he’s gotten under a lot of flak for promo, promoting herd immunity. That is, that is I, you know, I have, I don’t know everything he has ever said, but I certainly have not seen him, and I read the New York Times and the Wall, the Washington Post. They did, they did not quote anything that he has said that promotes herd immunity, and so I have not seen, you know, that in the news, and so, you know, again, like, it’s almost like irrespective of what Scott believes, this is, you know, it’s just, it’s just a polarizing move, and, you know, again, like sort of puts. Here’s the other thing that it’s, it, it creates an atmosphere within science that is not conducive to an open debate and open discussion. At the very least at Stanford, where they know that there are, you know, sort of a diversity of opinions about this, I’m tenured, Jay’s tenured, John Ioannidis is tenured, Mike Levitt is tenured, he’s a Nobel prize winner. What about a lot of the junior folks who might want to have, you know, sort of a say in this and might want to have their own opinions? This is, this is bad for, for our diversity of opinion that we need, that is important for the progress of science.
[Dr. Z] Oh, it’s so heartbreaking. It makes, it really, it makes me so sad because the last bastion of discourse of our, of civil argument in our society or our universities, and we have turned them into mano, just, you must fall in line, and what you said about associate professors that aren’t tenured is so important. People don’t realize, and I’ve talked to some people, there’s a sense that they felt pressured to sign on to this document, because if they don’t, the chair of the department or whoever who sent it to them saying, I think you should sign this, what are their chances of getting tenure or advancement or promotion?
[Dr. Bendavid] If they do not.
[Dr. Z] No, and this is the opposite of what we want in our, and you know something, Haidt and other, Jon Haidt has, has talked about this, that universities have become progressively more singular politically and it, you’re a pariah if you deviate from this. That is the opposite, and so what happens, the students are then trying to cancel speakers they disagree with, instead of having them come and debating them. So without speech as our ability to argue, what are we left with?
[Dr. Bendavid] No, I mean I fully agree. I mean, here’s where, you know, I’ll again go back to some philosophers, but, you know, it’s attributed to Hegel this whole notion of the dialectic, of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. We put a one thing, you put another, we come together in, you know, in some kind of, in some kind of a way that moves us forward and yeah.
[Dr. Z] You know what I’m seeing at Stanford? Hubris, ate, nemesis, Greek tragedy.
[Dr. Bendavid] I know.
[Dr. Z] Arrogance, blindness, downfall. That’s what we’re seeing.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah. You know, I will, I will, so I’ll, I’ll go back a little bit to, you know, to our study because our study was certainly.
[Dr. Z] Yeah, pull me off the brink here.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, it was, it was sort of a canary in some ways of, of what was to come, you know, and at various points, we were very heavily involved in the process inside the university where they were, you know, trying to different kinds of oversight about our study, and at some point they told us to pull the study from, you know, from the, they asked us to pull it and.
[Dr. Z] They actually asked you to pull the study?
[Dr. Bendavid] They did, they did. They said, you know, take it off of the pre-print servers, stop talking to the media. They, you know, we have those, and they came all the way from the top of, of the school, and, you know, at some point, there was a discussion about maybe that we should have more statisticians look at our findings. Okay, and so we wrote this, we wrote statisticians, wrote the statisticians who have been most vocal in, in criticizing our work, and we said, let’s get together, work, go through all our data, go through our methods. You know, let’s, let’s go, you know, and you can tell us what can be done different, what would you do that’s going to be sort of a different approach to this, and their answer was, we’re not interested in coming to the table, and I would say, here’s, and I will, I will make this call again to the statisticians, to other people in the medical school. Let’s have an open discussion about these issues. A lot of them are issues that we can come together on. You know, a lot of them that I would actually, I bet there is, there is a surprising amount that we can agree on and we can identify the areas that, you know, if there’s, if there’s disagreement, it’s legitimate disagreement. We are all reasonable, sensible scientists, and, and we can, we can under, we can identify those areas of disagreement and recognize what are the priorities. That’s how we make progress.
[Dr. Z] And you know what, and we were talking about this before. The lockdowns have made all this worse because we can’t see each other face to face. I couldn’t shake your hand. We had to do this dumb elbow bump, right? You know, this was like only like the fourth or fifth in-person interview I’ve done, and if, I feel like I’m awake again. I hate Zoom.
[Dr. Bendavid] I, you know, it’s, it’s been one of these things that from early on in and in the lockdowns, I’ve been, where are the people saying, like, I miss my friends, I miss my aunt, I miss my buddies, I miss my. That like, we are, we want to be with one another. We are the social animals, right? You know, this is, we, that, that fills us with meaning. It gives us, I mean, I think part of, to your point, part of the reason why we can’t talk to one another is because Zoom actually prevents empathy.
[Dr. Z] Oh, 1,000%.
[Dr. Bendavid] We don’t see each other really. We don’t have the same sense of, oh, here’s a good human being that I’m with, and, and, you know, we’re, we’re so, so we’re left with these almost like, caricatures of one another.
[Dr. Z] Hollow caricatures and, you know, Haidt said it at the end of The Happiness Hypothesis. He said, it’s not about the meaning of life. It’s not about the meaning. You know, it’s not about the meaning of life. It’s about the meaning within life, which means between, so our interactions with our fellow humans give us meaning and purpose.
[Dr. Bendavid] Entirely.
[Dr. Z] And it’s been pulled away with good intent. These, these are good people making these decisions, trying to do the best they can under fear and incomplete information, but now we need to look clear-eyed at it and go, are the harms worse than the disease and increasingly, and look, I went through a phase where I was very scared by those Imperial College numbers, and seeing that lockdowns actually seemed to really bend the curve, I said, now, wait a minute. This could work, and now I’m more compelled even by masks and inoculum data, but that all being said, now, looking at it as that, as an emergent, looking at those patterns, telling, what you’re telling me, what others, very smart people are saying, I’m starting to say, you know, I think my early instinct on this, which is that we have a hubris as a species that we’re going to do something about this when it’s already out of the bag.
[Dr. Bendavid] I agree. I mean, we, you know, we tend to think, we tend to attribute everything to the policies and whatnot. You know, there is this, I think it was, you know, Daniel Kahneman in his book. He was, he was like, what you see is all there is, and so you think that, you know, you see the policies, you see the cases, you can’t help but try to attribute one to the other. Well, you know, if you start panning out, you realize that, you know, there are a lot of things that are unexplained. There are a lot of things that sort of go beyond the simple, you know, Denmark did this and New Zealand did this, and look, they’ve won and, you know, Taiwan and South Korea, well, they did the same, but they had a different outcome in Sweden. They, you know, they actually didn’t lock down, but they now are having a good outlook. There’s a lot more than, than what meets the eye then from, you know, from the what you see is all there is.
[Dr. Z] And I love that you cited Kahneman because his whole point is we humans have very flawed, divided brain system one, system two, and we make these snap heuristical judgements that are often, they served us in the wild in the day, but now things are complicated, and our second system that’s slower and more deliberate often gets sabotaged because it requires a lot of ATP and time and wokeness to actually acclimate.
[Dr. Bendavid] And I’ll, I’ll quote my wife again, who says, you know, like we all have the capacity to put our adult brains, our frontal lobe, engage them and have a more deliberative process where we can, like, we see each other for the goodness that we all bring, the good intentions and, and have that as a, you know, bring a slower, more deliberative and a process that really, you know, sort of that respects everybody.
[Dr. Z] I love that you quote your wife. I’ll quote my wife, where she says, “I still don’t understand what you do all day.” Different wives.
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s right.
[Dr. Z] Different wives.
[Dr. Bendavid] If you want, when I meet her at the chest radiology, I’ll let her know.
[Dr. Z] Oh, for sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Margaret will be there. I’m sure, but, so, so to that point, I think it was, we were talking before the show about Jonathan Haidt and his moral matrix theory, moral foundations theory, and the idea that everyone’s trying to be good. They have different moral taste buds and the right may weigh certain things differently than the left, and I’ve done videos about this relating to COVID, but what we should agree on is that we’re all trying to be good and like you said, it’s going to be very hard, that little battle you’re having on social media, on Twitter, where you’re yelling at, you know, Bob Harrington for whatever it is, you know, whoever it is, you’re yelling at. Me and Jen Gunter have gotten into it, doesn’t matter. If we were in the same room like we are right now having this thing, there is no way we would vilify each other. We would hear each other out, disagree, argue, but it would be out of love.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yes.
[Dr. Z] And that’s, what’s missing in this piece of crap.
[Dr. Bendavid] I fully agree.
[Dr. Z] Fully agree, and that’s why now, I don’t like doing Zoom interviews anymore. It’s got to be, I tell people, you want to be on my show, right? Well then, are you willing to come to San Carlos, California, physically be in a studio, six feet apart from me, do, we’ll do all the hygiene theater you want, but the truth is, that’s how you have a conversation, and if they say, hell no, then I go, well, let’s wait ’til we can, because at this point, except for Paul Offit because Offit is so far away.
[Dr. Bendavid] But do you need him though?
[Dr. Z] You got to have him on.
[Dr. Bendavid] No, he’s great, gotta have him.
[Dr. Z] Isn’t he, he’s just the best.
[Dr. Bendavid] He’s great.
[Dr. Z] He’s a rationalist, and you know, he, everybody falls into their politics sometimes, right, but at the, it’s just, he, he’s such a reasonable guy, but. So let’s see, now what didn’t we talk about, Eran, because we had a little tour de force and you got me real fired up.
[Dr. Bendavid] I know.
[Dr. Z] And I derail the conversation multiple times.
[Dr. Bendavid] Happens to me too, I’m sorry.
[Dr. Z] But no, but that’s how it is. That’s called human conversation. We could be like, okay, question. Tell me about vaccines. So, do you have any other thoughts? We talked about the discourse, do you have any other thoughts on the sort of variance in what you’re seeing in infection fatality rates in the seroprevalence studies that you cite, because you, because Jay said on the show, he said, now multiple studies have born out that maybe the IFR is somewhere in the 0.2 to 0.3% range. Is that being too narrow? Are we cherry picking data?
[Dr. Bendavid] Well, no, I saw, I saw, so I don’t, I’m not sure exactly where Jay, I mean, so I know broadly where Jay got his information from, but I don’t know exactly what he had in mind, but, you know, but the, the most comprehensive analysis of seroprevalence studies, which is really the best way to get us to the fatality rate, now, it’s again, not perfect, but it’s as close as, it’s much closer than case counts.
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] So the, the seroprevalence studies, the most comprehensive analysis of seroprevalence studies was put together by John Ioannidis. He put together 86 of these studies and, and the, you know, there, there is a range. The median infection fatality rate across all of these studies is indeed 0.23.
[Dr. Z] That’s the median?
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s the median.
[Dr. Z] So that’s 0.23 of a percent overall fatality across all ages,
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, two, two out of, two out of a thousand, 23 out of 10,000.
[Dr. Z] Got it.
[Dr. Bendavid] And, and you know what, but there is a range and it ranges from, you know, very close to 0%. In fact, the places where you, that are close to 0% are some of the central Asian countries, African countries, you know, are the ones that have the lowest fatality rates.
[Dr. Z] Why?
[Dr. Bendavid] It’s very complicated. I’ll tell you, I mean, I’ll tell you that, especially the, the story with Africa, which is, I certainly have a soft spot for that because a lot of my work has been on, on sub-Saharan Africa is, it’s mind blowing. You know, a lot of the projections for places like Uganda and Malawi, you know, were somewhere in the order of, oh, 50,000, 60,000 deaths, something like that. You know, we’re talking about 40 deaths today to maybe 100 deaths in Malawi. I mean, this is, you know, there has been, there’s no hospital is reporting that there’s any sort of meaningful number of, of COVID patients. You know, on the other hand, number of kids that go unvaccinated is going up. Maternal mortality is going up. You know, the, the World Health Organization has actually put out a recommendation to suspend mass vaccination campaigns.
[Dr. Z] I heard that, through GAVI.
[Dr. Bendavid] No, not through GAVI, just in general, for everybody to suspend mass vaccination campaigns in order to, you know, respect, social distancing, and to.
[Dr. Z] Madness, it’s madness.
[Dr. Bendavid] You know, you think about the generation that’s not going to get measles and not going to get DPT.
[Dr. Z] All these gains that are so hard fought. People have died to get vaccinations to communities.
[Dr. Bendavid] The expected vaccination rate that we’re expecting for 2020 is the same as we had in 2000.
[Dr. Z] So 20 years lost.
[Dr. Bendavid] 20 years of gain, and we were, with enormous gains in child mortality and reduction of childhood diseases.
[Dr. Z] With a benefit to us of net nothing, maybe for COVID.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yeah, for exactly for Africa.
[Dr. Z] I think, and so in Africa, these, these death rates are quite low, and could that be a similar scenario to what happens in the Mumbai slums, where people are, there’s something different in the genetics environment.
[Dr. Bendavid] Okay, so exactly. So there’s, it’s a combination of age structuring or younger people, less obesity, less sort of the kind of chronic diseases that we see most closely associated.
[Dr. Z] Insulin resistance, yeah.
[Dr. Bendavid] Insulin resistance, you know, some, maybe some kind of, of genetic differences, environmental differences. You know, people who are, people will always say, well, you know, it’s just that they’re not being reported. You know, that’s a hard case to make as a meaningful.
[Dr. Z] Numbers are so low.
[Dr. Bendavid] Numbers are so low, no hospitals reporting. It’s, you’d expect to see them, you know, in the big cities. People go to the hospitals in African countries. You don’t see that.
[Dr. Z] What’s happening in like, Indonesia and places like that? I heard there was, I haven’t looked at the data specifically.
[Dr. Bendavid] I don’t, I don’t know. Let’s skip it, ’cause I don’t, I don’t know, but it’s something that.
[Dr. Bendavid] I mean, Vietnam has been a, a crazy story, right.
[Dr. Z] What happened with Vietnam?
[Dr. Bendavid] Oh, I mean, you know, Vietnam had, yeah. I mean, for, for a long time they had, I mean, you know, they, they actually also didn’t impose lockdowns and it just never really seemed like the, the epidemic spread in the country.
[Dr. Z] Do you think they’ve just seen these coronaviruses before?
[Dr. Bendavid] It’s possible. So that’s another hypothesis that sort of, is certainly. I mean, you know, the story with T-cells is still evolving.
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] We seem to have both T-cells that react specifically after exposure and we see that with the vaccination trials. They elicit T-cell response, and we also see that, and we also see people that have not had COVID exposure have T-cell response that seems to be effective for, for COVID protection and protective immunity. Now, to what extent it matters, you know, I mean, you know, it seems to be related to exposure to non-COVID coronaviruses, still other human coronavirus, one of the other, probably more common four circulating common cold coronavirus strains, and, you know, the story remains to be, you know, like, well we’re still learning a lot, but it certainly seems to be at least part of, of the story of why some people just are less, don’t get it as much or don’t get it as bad. Right, I mean, the whole story that Monica was talking about, the inoculum, I think the T-cell has a similar thing where it’s not, it’s not entirely going to protect you, but it’s going to reduce the severity of things for the disease.
[Dr. Z] Just enough that you don’t end up hospitalized or even that ill.
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s right, but just then to close the loop back on the fatality rate, so some places have a very low fatality rate and then some places have upwards of 1% infection fatality rate, and it’s the places where, you know, that had really bad outbreaks that have the high fatality rate, Italy or northern Italy, New York, Spain. Those are the places that, that seem to have had a really high fatality rate and I mean, basically the fatality rate is not a singular number. It depends on, on the local context, it depends on the severity of the disease. It depends on the age distribution, on the comorbidities, on the health system, all of it. Not, not, there’s not a singular one sort of explanation that accounts for all of it, but in places that have had a confluence of these, you know, risk factors that, you know, that really has had a, a relatively, they have high fatality rate and they’ve had bad outbreaks. You know, places, I mean, we saw those pictures, right, early on in New York and in Bergamo. You know, I mean, it was, it was, you know, it was scary and it was one of these things that, you know, really needs to be taken into account when we think about, you know, where, where are the places that are susceptible and how do we prevent this in the future?
[Dr. Z] And instead of translate all that, it’s complicated.
[Dr. Bendavid] It’s complicated.
[Dr. Z] We should study it.
[Dr. Bendavid] Yes.
[Dr. Z] We need to look at both our response damage and the damage of the virus. We need to have open scientific discourse. We need to come at each other with love and compassion instead of fear and distrust. I strongly disagree with what Stanford did and you don’t have to comment on it, but I strongly disagree with that.
[Dr. Bendavid] I agree with you that, you know, universities should be the places that uphold open debate and open speech and this has been an act against that.
[Dr. Z] It, and it furthers a momentum I see in academe of shutting down opposing discourse and do, do you remember Peter Duesberg at Berkeley?
[Dr. Bendavid] Oh I remember.
[Dr. Z] You’re an infectious disease.
[Dr. Bendavid] Certainly in the HIV world.
[Dr. Z] That’s right. So he was an HIV denier to the extent that he’s a researcher at UC Berkeley, where I trained. I actually saw a lecture with him in the early ’90s and, and he was charismatic and compelling, and what he was saying was, HIV does not meet Koch’s postulates, which are these postulates to say, okay, in order to show causation from a germ to a disease, you have to have these things, and HIV is not the cause of AIDS. Rather it’s behavior of gay men. It’s, this is a very controversial, socially inflammatory stuff, but Berkeley said, you’re a tenured professor. We can disagree with you. You’re going to take a lot of heat, but go ahead and do your science.
[Dr. Bendavid] And I would say even more though, you know, so his, you know, his, his ideas were out there and there’s so much compelling evidence against that, that you know, by now, does anybody think that his theories are right?
[Dr. Z] No.
[Dr. Bendavid] No.
[Dr. Z] So eventually the science clears it up.
[Dr. Bendavid] It does clear it up.
[Dr. Z] Exactly, exactly, and that’s the beauty of it, but if you had shut him up, if you had said, shut up, Peter, you can’t say that. You need to stop, we’re going to close your lab, un-publish your pre-print, do this, this, this, this. You know what, we the people of UC Berkeley hereby censure Peter Duesberg, what would have happened it would have driven that stuff underground. It would have driven conspiracy thinking, which we already have. It would have radicalized people that weren’t radicalized, and, and we’re seeing that now. People with good intention trying to be good, put out this letter. You’re not. You’re actually causing more harm.
[Dr. Bendavid] You see that now. I mean, there, you know, there’s that report that’s now making the rounds of, of the potential human engineering of the coronavirus.
[Dr. Z] Right.
[Dr. Bendavid] You know, and it’s like, oh, it’s fine. It’s, it’s a report. He’s, you know, it’s, it’s very detailed. I don’t know if it’s real or not, I can’t even evaluate that, but I think the fact that she’s now being canceled, Twitter is canceling her, you know, it just fosters the, the, you know, like everybody’s trying to sort of find it.
[Dr. Z] Go reproduce it.
[Dr. Bendavid] Exactly. Go reproduce it, go find other evidence. There’s a lot of other evidence that yes, you know, it’s potentially been natural.
[Dr. Z] You know, you can always find a scientist to back some kooky claim that you have. You can always massage data, but there’s always really smart people that can go and review it and be like, actually not so much, and then do other tests, do other trials, and, you know, you know, in the end, you know, we’re in a time where again, we’ve been, so what was it? Schismogenesis, what did you call it?
[Dr. Bendavid] That’s right, complimentary schismogenesis.
[Dr. Z] Complimentary schismogenesis has driven us to be irrational about great many things. You and I are Kahneman worshipers. We, we under, well, you know, you can’t worship anyone because that puts them on a pedestal where they can’t be wrong. You have to say, you know, we admire that work where we’re, you know, Kahneman knights. So we need to work on thinking about our thinking and how we are in the world and I don’t know, man, do you, do you have any sort of, this is a personal question, you don’t have to answer, but do you have any spiritual practice or anything that you do that opens your sort of more compassionate center to being in the world?
[Dr. Bendavid] What do I say? I mean, I’m a pretty profound humanist and believe in, in that people have good intentions and believe that people are, you know, they’re, they’re acting with good reasons and they want to be good.
[Dr. Z] Yeah.
[Dr. Bendavid] Lets me, lets me try to understand everybody.
[Dr. Z] You’re, you’re a Pinkerist.
[Dr. Bendavid] I am a Pinkerist.
[Dr. Z] I’m a Pinkerist too, and I add on a layer of meditative practice, a sort of secular Buddhism that allows me to understand the nature of my own mind that then allows me to see when I’m being reactive and less wise in the world, less compassionate, less productive. So I think we could all use some practice, humanist practice, meditative practice. Even if you go to church and you want to have a prayer practice that’s based on compassion, I mean, that’s wonderful. We need a little more of that.
[Dr. Bendavid] And you know, there is something where it feels like everybody could use a little bit of calming down just a little bit. It’d be so nice.
[Dr. Z] Little aerosolized Valium? I’m not much of a reductionist, but I do like that idea. Everybody just and then we’d all have the withdrawal and the Benzo dependence. So no good deed goes unpunished.
[Dr. Bendavid] I know. Everything’s complicated.
[Dr. Z] The cure is worse than the disease, man. Eran Bendavid, this has been a joy.
[Dr. Bendavid] Thank you very much.
[Dr. Z] This is really fun. I’m glad we got to dig into those things and get riled up and we’ll put this out. I’ll tell these guys right now, like we’re going to put this out on the podcast. There’ll be a transcript, it’s on YouTube and Zdoggmd.com where ultimately the transcript will live. The transcript often has a bunch of errors in it because the people who transcribe right now, it’s tough to follow us because we’re crazy, and, but give us a break. Do me a favor, share this show, be kind to each other, share ideas. In academics, we should challenge each other without censoring each other. We should come together as a tribe that cares about advancing knowledge.
[Dr. Bendavid] Entirely.
[Dr. Z] And that’s the kind of people I want to have on my show. I’m sure I pissed off everyone at Stanford. That’s fine with me ’cause you know what? It means if they come in here and they want to talk to me, that means we can find the love right here. All right, guys, I love you, and we are out. Peace.