101 episodes

An exiled Northern Irish anthropologist and a hitchhiking Australian psychologist take a close look at the contemporary crop of 'secular gurus', iconoclasts, and other exiles from the mainstream, offering their own brands of unique takes and special insights.

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

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

Join us and let's find out!

Decoding the Gurus Christopher Kavanagh and Matthew Browne

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.3 • 679 Ratings

An exiled Northern Irish anthropologist and a hitchhiking Australian psychologist take a close look at the contemporary crop of 'secular gurus', iconoclasts, and other exiles from the mainstream, offering their own brands of unique takes and special insights.

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

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

Join us and let's find out!

    Interview with the Conspirituality Trio: Navigating the Chakras of Conspiracy

    Interview with the Conspirituality Trio: Navigating the Chakras of Conspiracy

    Back in the early days of the podcast, we tried to take a rest from the wearisome repetition of polemical partisan gurus by covering JP Sears- an alternative-health self-help coach with a sideline in 'comedic parody'. Sadly, we soon discovered he was a red-pilled Roganite 'just asking questions' about all the usual right-wing partisan topics, but with an added dollop of pseudo-profound, self-indulgent spiritual blather.
    JP Sears wasn't an isolated case; he exemplified a disturbingly prevalent trend. One that was supercharged during the pandemic and can be observed clearly in figures like Russell Brand, Aubrey Marcus, RFK Jnr and a whole slew of QAnon and anti-vaccine influencers.
    To help us disentangle this quagmire and the dynamics at play, we are joined by the three co-hosts of the popular Conspiritualty podcast: Matthew Remski, Julian Walker, and Derek Beres.
    We've spoken with them many times over the past few years about a variety of topics but in today's conversation, we explore the contemporary state of the Conspirituality sphere and discuss broader themes they have observed (& how they relate to the gurus we cover). We also examine whether they view activism as core to their podcast, how they handle attacks or engage with legitimate criticism, and how they feel about their own place in the ecosystems they discuss.
    We hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!
    Also covered in the opening segment is a cursed guru-sphere crossover between the Triggernometry guys and our old favourite, Scott Adams.
    The new Conspirituality Book!Our recent appearance on Conspirituality to hear the tables get turned!Review of Conspirituality at Science Based Medicine by Jonathan HowardNY Times: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Coalition of the Distrustful'Why I quit the Conspirutality Podcast' by Be ScofieldMedium article referenced on the Defamation caseTriggernometry: Trump Must Win to Avoid Prison - Scott Adams
    Other Links
    Our PatreonContact us via email: decodingthegurus@gmail.comThe DTG Subreddit

    • 2 hr 40 min
    Andrew Huberman: Forest Bathing in Negative Ions

    Andrew Huberman: Forest Bathing in Negative Ions

    We are back with a moderate-sized Decoding that focuses on Andrw Hubernman a baritone podcaster and neuroscientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
    Huberman is a broad-shouldered, big-bearded... science communicator. Extremely popular with the tech-bro optimiser set, he offers science-based 'protocols' on everything from supplement routines to whether you should avoid sunscreen(!).
    He's been lauded for his ability to communicate scientific topics clearly and in great depth. But has also faced criticism (including from us!) for his tendency to overhype findings from low-quality studies, promote supplements with dubious claims, avoid any positive mention of vaccines, and cheer on the efforts of his podcasting bros/heroes: Lex Fridman and Joe Rogan.
    In this episode, we take a look at a rather specific piece of content, just a 20-minute segment from a recent AMA on the scientific evidence for the benefits of 'grounding' and getting out into nature. We will learn all about the negative ions emanating from streams and waterfalls, the joy that can be sparked by seeing a squirrel wrestle with a nut, whether Huberman actually advocates staring into the sun, and try to solve the age-old question of what is best in life- a sushi restaurant or prancing in a forest.
    Also featuring: some good content recommendations (for a change!) and a review of the recent demented goings on in the gurusphere with one Jordan B. Peterson and his quest to destroy the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
    Surfing the Discourse PodcastNullius in Verba PodcastCourt Decision on Peterson's case against the College of Psychologists of OntarioConspirituality 163: The Huberman Paradox (w/Jonathan Jarry)Oh No! With Ross & Carrie's first episode on GroundingMårtensson, B., Pettersson, A., Berglund, L., & Ekselius, L. (2015). Bright white light therapy in depression: a critical review of the evidence. Journal of Affective Disorders, 182, 1-7. Perez, V., Alexander, D. D., & Bailey, W. H. (2013). Air ions and mood outcomes: a review and meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry, 13(1), 1-20. Wen, Y., Yan, Q., Pan, Y., Gu, X., & Liu, Y. (2019). Medical empirical research on forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku): A systematic review. Environmental health and preventive medicine, 24(1), 1-21. Critical article by Jonathan Jarry on Huberman's promotion of supplementsTime Profile of Huberman: How Podcaster Andrew Huberman Got America to Care About Sciencea...

    • 2 hr 10 min
    Noam Chomsky: Lover of linguistics, the USA... not so much

    Noam Chomsky: Lover of linguistics, the USA... not so much

    OK, so we're finally getting around to taking a chunk out of the prodigious, prolific, and venerable Noam Chomsky. Linguist, cognitive scientist, media theorist, political activist and cultural commentator, Chomsky is a doyen of the Real Left™. By which we mean, of course, those who formulated their political opinions in their undergraduate years and have seen no reason to move on since then. Yes, he looks a bit like Treebeard these days but he's still putting most of us to shame with his productivity. And given the sheer quantity of his output, across his 90 decades, it might be fair to say this is more of a nibble of his material.
    A bit of a left-wing ideologue perhaps, but seriously - what a guy. This is someone who made Richard Nixon's List of Enemies, debated Michel Foucault, had a huge impact on several academic disciplines, and campaigned against the war in Vietnam & the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Blithe stereotypes of Chomsky will sometimes crash against uncomfortable facts, including that he has been a staunch defender of free speech, even for Holocaust deniers...
    A full decoding of his output would likely require a dedicated podcast series, so that's not what you're gonna get here. Rather we apply our lazer-like focus and blatantly ignore most of his output to examine four interviews on linguistics, politics, and the war in Ukraine. There is some enthusiastic nodding but also a fair amount of exasperated head shaking and sighs. But what did you expect from two milquetoast liberals?
    Also featuring: a discussion of the depraved sycophancy of the guru-sphere and the immunity to cringe superpower as embodied by Brian Keating, Peter Boghossian, and Bret Weinstein mega-fans.
    Trust Science, Not Scientists | Peter Boghossian & Brian KeatingA new Epistemic courage/humility matrixGeorge Monbiot's Correspondence with Noam Chomsky on DenialismPiers Morgan Uncensored (2023): Piers Morgan vs Noam Chomsky | The Full InterviewPolitics Joe (2023): Noam Chomsky on Keir Starmer's attack on the Labour left, the war on unions and the future of AIUpon Reflections (1989): The Concept of Language (Noam Chomsky)Jones (2020): Academic article on Chomsky's views on GenocideDaily Beast (2017): How the West Missed the Horrors of Cambodia

    • 3 hr 22 min
    The Science and the Art of Gurometry

    The Science and the Art of Gurometry

    The casual listener, who might possibly not be a loyal Patreon subscriber, or might hypothetically not listen devotedly to every Gurometer scoring episode, could conceivably be a little vague about what we mean by a secular guru(!). And therefore might be tempted to make an ill-considered and poorly-informed comment on Twitter or Reddit, thus exposing them to the devastating yet apropos riposte of a "You know nothing, Jon Snow" meme in reply.
    Don't let it be you!
    Here is a tutorial, a short illustrated primer if you will, on the Science and the Art of 'Gurometry'. No more will you have to live with the shame of not knowing how many syllables there are in anti-establishmentarianism. Never again will you be liable to fall prey to the siren song of pseudo-profound bullshit or fall foul of conspiracy mongers.
    Listen to it. Study it. Meditate on it.
    In no time at all you'll be spotting gurus in the wild, categorising, and classifying them at will. You'll feel like an ornithologist who's just been given a great big pair of binoculars, a spotter's guidebook, and a free afternoon to wander about a National park. Impress your friends, family, and potential sexual partners with your intimate and subtle understanding of What It Means to Be a Guru.
    You're welcome.
    Online Presentation on the Gurometer at The StoaDTG Episode 21: Calibrating the GurometerStrenuous Life Podcast: 10 Red Flags You're Following a Guru, Stephan Kesting with Dr Chris Kavanagh

    • 1 hr 29 min
    Mick West & Eric Weinstein: UFO Tango

    Mick West & Eric Weinstein: UFO Tango

    We are back with a double-bill decoding!
    That's right like moths to the flame, or aliens to a Unified Geometric Field drive, we are back in Weinstein world.
    This time we are looking at a conversation between the irrepressible (ex?) podcaster & mathematician, Eric Weinstein, and skeptical investigator, author, and recent guest on the show, Mick West.
    The conversation here concerns the evidence for UAP/UFOs and the reaction of skeptics and advocates. It had the potential to be something forensic and transcendent but sadly it gets mired in the messy 'interpersonal drama' that Eric just hates so much and tries to avoid at all costs.
    Nonetheless, there is much that can be learnt here, including: the linguistic complexities of the word 'flex', the precise levels of passive aggressiveness that a human mind can tolerate, if there is already secret anti-gravity tech, and whether our obsession with Einsteinian physics is what is stopping us from really understanding what is going on with UAPs.
    We don't have answers. We are just asking questions... honest!
    Also featured: a recent kerfuffle in the online psychology world over DEI statements, the numerology spectrum, the potential harms of green drinks, and much much more!
    So join us, won't you, as we boldly venture through the outermost reaches of the gurusphere.
    Theories of Everything- Eric Weinstein & Mick West: UAPs, Evidence, SkepticismJonathan Pageau: The Surprising Symbolism of 666QAnon Anonymous- Episode 168: The Mutant QAnon Numerology Cult in Dallas.Very Bad Wizards- Episode 263: Free YoelReason article on the Yoel Inbar incident2020 Paper on the potential liver impacts of Green Tea ExtractMick West's Book- Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect

    • 2 hr 56 min
    Interview with Jonathan Howard on Covid Contrarians

    Interview with Jonathan Howard on Covid Contrarians

    The pandemic was a confusing time with public health messages from officials and institutions that were sometimes confused, conflicting, or misrepresented and anti-vaccine misinformation being spread widely. Into this mix, a new phenomenon emerged, that of the covid contrarian. Contrarian doctors usually possessed some relevant qualifications and positioned themselves as independent critical thinkers willing to challenge the dogmas of the mainstream and take a more nuanced perspective on the claims made by anti-vaccine advocates.
    These contrarian figures are the voices that you would usually hear on 'heterodox' podcasts. Figures like the medical doctor Vinay Prasad, the Stanford professor of Medicine Jay Bhattacharya, or the retired nurse, John Campbell.
    But did they really offer an alternative critical perspective? Our guest today, Jonathan Howard, a practising doctor and professor of Neurology and Psychiatry, argues no. And he should know, he has spent the pandemic not only treating patients but tirelessly documenting (and refuting) the claims made by the contrarian set.
    This episode is unfortunately topical due to the recent online fracas surrounding Joe Rogan's credulous promotion of RFK Jnr and the subsequent 'calls for debate' and targeted harassment of Dr Peter Hotez -a public health specialist and advocate for affordable vaccines.
    In any case, we learnt a lot and enjoyed the discussion with Jonathan and hope you will too. Also covered in this episode: How many pull-ups Matt can do, why Chris is drinking a chalky green potion, and the psychology of placebos.
    Jonathan's New Book- We Want Them InfectedJonathan's articles on the pandemic at Science-Based-MedicineJonathan's Older Book- Cognitive Errors and Diagnostic Mistakes: A Case-Based Guide to Critical Thinking in MedicineWhat the Heck Happened to John Ioannidis?Honestly with Bari Weiss: RFK Jr. Is Striking a Nerve. He Explains Why.Vinay Prasad at The Free Press: What RFK Jr. Gets Right—and What He Gets WrongVinay Prasad at Unherd: We need to talk about the vaccinesVice Article: Joe Rogan, Elon Musk Instigate Harassment Campaign Against Vaccine ScientistUncomfortable Conversations with Josh Szeps: "RFK, Joe Rogan & Vaccines" with Michael ShermerVox Article: Joe Rogan wants a “debate” on vaccine science. Don’t give it to him.

    • 2 hr 8 min

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5
679 Ratings

679 Ratings

perfidia45 ,

They Listen to Narcissists So You Don’t Have To

Decoding the Gurus is an antidote to an insidious phenomenon of the podcast world, which the hosts call secular gurus. The barriers to reaching a mass audience are a lot lower than they used to be. If you’re into freedom of speech, that’s basically a good thing. It also allows cranks, narcissists and conspiracy theorists to broadcast their off-key thinking to the world with very few checks and balances.

Decoding the Gurus provides those checks and balances. For starters, the hosts are very ready to offer perspective and opinions from beyond the podcast world. They’re both professional academics at universities outside the US, and they’re refreshingly unapologetic. For all their efforts to bring genuine depth and nuance to their subject, they’re not afraid to come out and call something “just plain wrong.” Unlike some of the gurus they cover, they don’t fall into the trap of believing how they feel about something makes it more or less true. They understand the difference between quality arguments and rhetoric.

Chris and Matt’s often self-deprecating sarcasm won’t appeal to everyone. In fact, this podcast is not for everyone. It isn’t trying to be. Episodes are regularly 2 - 3 hours long. In their episode on the COVID-19 lab leak hypothesis, they spend as much time decoding the credentials of the virologists they’re interviewing as another podcast might spend on the topic as a whole. You may or may not find this content entertaining — that’s besides the point. The point is to assess the credibility of the experts they’re interviewing, rather than taking it for granted. Which is important if you actually care to figure whose opinion you should to trust.

Many of the gurus (and, presumably, their fans) seem to enjoy the feeling that they know something mainstream thought has missed. I suppose it’s a way to feel a bit superior. Taken to an extreme, some gurus seem to feel mainstream thought is suspect because it’s mainstream. That’s a convenient stance for someone selling themselves as an authority without having done the work to acquire high quality academic credentials, or develop rigorous critical thinking skills.

Chris and Matt have done the work. They’re not pandering to the largest audience they can get, or, it seems, supporting themselves with money from this podcast. They’d be the first to point out that they (and many of the gurus) aren’t what you’d normally consider voices of diversity. But I haven’t come across lot of podcasts that blend academic rigor with candid opinions from critical thinkers.

I was tempted to give Decoding the Gurus four and a half stars for the sake of verisimilitude, but I’m going to go with five to offset a one star review from some other listener who’s trying to say the show is meritless because they don’t agree with the hosts.


ohbejuan ,

The problem with this podcast…

After listening to Christopher confess to a preference for sushi restaurants run by robots over a walk in the woods (in the early release of the Huberman episode), I realized something. Christopher is terrible. So I still give this podcast 5 stars, but they are all for Matt. No sharing them with Chris!

RobotLord ,

Too one sided for its own good…

The premise of this podcast is great and I had high hopes going in. I actually enjoy Chris & Matt as hosts… they are well educated, have good chemistry & humor and don’t seem to take themselves too seriously.

The problem ends up being that they are too like-minded politically, and it just creates a fairly uninteresting left-slanted echo-chambery type of critique & discussion.

The net product is effectively a full throated, snickering, cynical take on any person/idea they disagree with politically, while conversely handling people/ideas “of the left” with a very gentle, almost cowardly approach. It’s pretty cringey.

I guess this is human nature to a certain degree, but not having half of the commentary come at least a bit from the other side of the aisle is a missed opportunity for a much more interesting podcast.

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