Stop it. It wasn’t a lab leak


I’m getting a little tired here, gang, of all the “lab leak” nonsense. It’s pure, distilled, refined conspiracy theory stuff. Did the Trump presidency so exhaust us with conspiracy theories that we no longer have the ability to recognize them?

None of the scientists I know are giving any consideration to the lab leak bullshit. Here’s Larry Moran with a couple of videos of qualified scientists discussing it (I don’t consider myself a particularly well qualified scientist — I’m not a virologist, microbiologist, or epidemiologist. But I recognize the skills you need to have to do virology, microbiology, or epidemiology.)

The WHO scientists want to emphasize three things: (1) it is extremely unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 was being studied at WIV so it couldn’t have escaped from there; (2) there is no evidence to support the lab leak conspiracy theory but if any evidence shows up they are perfectly willing to investigate; (3) it’s very likely that SARS-CoV-2 originated naturally in the wild and all efforts should be focused on the most likely scenario and not on an extremely unlikely scenario.

After the interview is over, the three hosts talk about the lab leak conspiracy theory. You should hear what they have to say about Nicholas Wade and his failure to understand the furin cleavage site (1:10 minutes)! And they have lots to say about everything else in the Wade article. Everyone needs to watch that discussion if you are really interested in science and not half-baked conspriacy theories.

Even if it were accidentally released from a lab, it’s not a bioengineered virus, but something that had been collected in the wild during extensive sampling of, for instance, bat caves. It would have originated there, not in a lab. I agree that it’s important to study where these viruses arise, because there are more out there, lurking in the complexity of the natural world, but thinking the only danger can come from intentional manipulation in a lab is going to mislead you into underestimating the risk.

Also, you can never trust anything that comes out of Nicholas Wade. He’s not competent and he’s got strong biases.

Comments

  1. snarkrates says

    The problem is that the conspiracy theory serves a lot of interests. It allows us to retain the illusion that somehow we are in control and that a new pandemic won’t hit us again. It allows technophobes (and this includes some virologists) to oppose whatever they can define as “gain of function” research. It allows the “Gina” bashers to bash Gina. And it allows President Lost Cause to claim the election was stolen by Gina–and coincidentally that they owe him 10 trillion dollars. Good lord, the man couldn’t even count the zeros in 10 trillion without taking off his shoes!

  2. blf says

    [Hair furor] couldn’t even count the zeros in 10 trillion without taking off his shoes!

    Zero! It’s HUGER then that. TEN TRZILLION no zeros there!! Lazy lefty mooching mathemagics don’it even knows hoz to count, just like the rest of ILLEGALLY ELECTED MOB  . Theys want to spend Spend SPEND YOUR tax dollars on communitist casues like tearing down statues and put millions of health care insurers out of their jobs!

  3. KG says

    Even if it were accidentally released from a lab, it’s not a bioengineered virus, but something that had been collected in the wild during extensive sampling of, for instance, bat caves. It would have originated there, not in a lab. I agree that it’s important to study where these viruses arise, because there are more out there, lurking in the complexity of the natural world, but thinking the only danger can come from intentional manipulation in a lab is going to mislead you into underestimating the risk.

    True. But obfuscating the fact that studying dangerous pathogens is itself dangerous, is itself dangerous. Are you saying, is Larry Moran saying, are the relevant experts saying, that they are confident it’s merely a coincidence that the pandemic started in a city which holds the only level 4 biosafety lab in China, a centre for the study of bat coronaviruses? As I noted on an earlier thread, SARS-CoV-2 need never have been studied at WIV for its spread to people to have been a (wholly inadvertent) result of WIV activities: a WIV sampler becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 (quite possibly, asymptomatically) while collecting samples in a bat cave, coming back to Wuhan, and infecting others.

  4. snarkrates says

    KG,
    The point is that there is no reason to posit that the lab had anything to do with the outbreak. There is no evidence that early cases were concentrated among lab personnel and their families. Moreover, there is no reason, given the rather odd symptomology of SARS-COVID-19 that the patient who spread the disease caught it anywhere near the Wuhan lab. The population in China is very mobile, especially during holiday periods.
    Yes, studying dangerous viruses is risky. Not studying them is even more risky. It is in part due to the prior studies of SARS related coronaviruses that we were able to develop mRNA vaccines so rapidly. And it is partly due to the prior administration shutting down pandemic rapid response and cooperation with the Wuhan lab that we have as little insight into the origins of the virus as we do.

    It seems that you are asking us to prove a negative on a field with goalposts on wheels for easy transport.

  5. KG says

    The point is that there is no reason to posit that the lab had anything to do with the outbreak. – snarkrates@6

    That’s clearly false. The outbreak happened in the city where WIV is situated. That’s a reason. And my hypothesis is precisely that they didn’t catch it at or near the lab, but on a sampling expedition, travelling back to Wuhan carrying their samples – and the infection.

    Yes, studying dangerous viruses is risky. Not studying them is even more risky.

    That’s precisely what’s at issue, and your assertion is not an argument.

    It seems that you are asking us to prove a negative on a field with goalposts on wheels for easy transport.

    And that’s, I’m afraid, is just a lie. If you dispute that, produce something I’ve said that justifies the claim that I have moved or would move the golaposts.

  6. Howard Brazee says

    Finding someone to blame does not change our strategies about what we need to do with the next pandemic.

  7. KG says

    Further to #7
    Sorry, you do give some argument for your assertion that not studying dangerous viruses is even more risky. BUt hardly conclusive. I’d be interested in your evidence that:

    It is in part due to the prior studies of SARS related coronaviruses that we were able to develop mRNA vaccines so rapidly.

    The BioNTech work on mRNA vaccines was actually aimed at vaccines to attack cancers. But in any case, if the activities of WIV were in some way responsible for the starting of the pandemic, the speed with which vaccines were develooped would be merely mitigating the vast damage those activities caused. And non-one knew whether vaccines against this virus could be developed – and the same is true for whatever causes the next pandemic. Socio-economic and institutional reforms are far more important in strengthening our global defenses than knowing more about specific viruses, becuase we’re not going to be able to collect them all.

  8. PaulBC says

    Also, you can never trust anything that comes out of Nicholas Wade. He’s not competent and he’s got strong biases.

    I did not have an opinion about Nicholas Wade* and had not even read the byline of the Bulletin article before noticing this statement in the second paragraph

    In what follows I will sort through the available scientific facts, which hold many clues as to what happened, and provide readers with the evidence to make their own judgments

    It took all of five minutes of skimming to conclude that this was a lie. If he had said, “I will present evidence in favor of the lab leak hypothesis and consider evidence on the other side in the interest of rebutting it.” that would be an honest rhetorical description, and a perfectly fine way to organize a work of persuasive writing. I am willing to read the work of someone with “strong biases”. I am not willing to give the same attention to a liar.

    After reading his statement about furin cleavage, I did my own Googling and concluded that the truth was not nearly as definitive as he presented it. I don’t have the background to evaluate it and am curious what competent researchers have to say.

    My preference for its being something other than a lab leak is irrelevant, but I’ll disclose my bias. It has the feel of yellow rain, aluminum tubes, or mobile chemical warfare units (that were actually for making hydrogen to fill weather balloons). I could be wrong, and the WHO has its own biases, but it’s interesting that otherwise reasonable people are jumping on the lab leak bandwagon right now.

    I am more confident there will be a more convincing explanation in a few years one way or the other. Often the best understanding comes out long after the public has stopped paying attention.

    *I may have heard about A Troublesome Inheritance and forgot. The name seemed vaguely familiar but that’s it.

  9. says

    KG@#4

    that they are confident it’s merely a coincidence that the pandemic started in a city which holds the only level 4 biosafety lab in China

    Coincidences happen all the time.

    a WIV sampler becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2 (quite possibly, asymptomatically) while collecting samples in a bat cave

    This is statistically highly unlikely:

    1) Millions of people (non-scientists) routinely get in contact with wild animals. Countless people even sell them in markets. Non-scientists spend plenty of time in bat caves too, you know. In contrast, only a handful of scientists study wild bats or their viruses.

    2) Scientists are educated about safety precautions. Meanwhile, general population thinks that selling live wild animals in markets is safe.

    Ultimately, there is zero evidence suggesting that it was a lab leek. It is also statistically unlikely.

    Humans get zoonotic viruses all the time (SARS-CoV-1, MERS, Ebola, HIV) from contact with wild animals. Meawhile, it’s not like viruses were escaping from labs all the time.

    Here’s another example. It is extremely unlikely (but not impossible) that your next door neighbor is a serial murderer. Without evidence, you cannot go to newspapers and publicly accuse your neighbor of having committed murders. Nor can you demand your neighbor to prove a negative. Even if she allowed you to ransack her entire home, a true conspiracy theorist would simply say that she must have hidden the bodies somewhere else. China and Chinese scientists have every right to be grumpy about all the baseless accusations directed at them. If somebody accused you of having committed crimes with zero evidence and ran to newspapers to slander you, you would also be pissed off.

    Just because something is not entirely impossible does not mean that you should be running around promoting said hypothesis. Your actions cause real harm.

    1) You are slandering Chinese scientists (who are real people with real feelings), promoting anti-science attitudes among general population (“those evil scientists doing dangerous experiments behind our backs”), promoting racism directed towards Chinese people.

    2) You are making the pandemic worse by promoting vaccine hesitancy. If you promote the idea that the virus came from some lab, you create distrust towards science among general population. If some person believes that those evil scientists leaked the virus, why would they want to get a vaccine developed by scientists?

    I recommend you to further educate yourself before you promote conspiracy theories. Here are some good sources:
    https://www.microbe.tv/twiv/twiv-762/
    https://www.microbe.tv/twiv/twiv-760/
    https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-origin-of-sars-cov-2-revisited/

    By the way, finding the right bat (or other wild animal) with the right virus is akin to finding a needle in a haystack. It is normal for it to take many years.

    But obfuscating the fact that studying dangerous pathogens is itself dangerous, is itself dangerous.

    Whether some specific scientific research is safe or no is a completely separate issue from a lab leek conspiracy theory and both topics shouldn’t be discussed together. Yes, scientists should make sure that the research they are doing is as safe as possible. That being said, to me you sound like somebody who doesn’t have the relevant expertise to discuss biosafety level 4 laboratories and whether they are sufficiently safe or no. But researching viruses is certainly necessary. We had SARS-CoV-1, now we have SARS-CoV-2. There will be more. Closing labs does not change the fact that humans have been getting zoonotic viruses for as long as we have existed. And telling scientists not to go to bat caves doesn’t stop non-scientists from getting in contact with bats all the time.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    KG @9:

    I’d be interested in your evidence that:

    It is in part due to the prior studies of SARS related coronaviruses that we were able to develop mRNA vaccines so rapidly.

    https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-did-we-develop-a-covid-19-vaccine-so-quickly#Worldwide-collaboration

    Dr. Eric J. Yager, an associate professor of microbiology at Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Albany, NY, told MNT that scientists have been studying coronaviruses for over 50 years. This meant scientists had existing data on the structure, genome, and life cycle of this type of virus.

    Dr. Yager explained, “Research on these viruses established the importance of the viral spike (S) protein in viral attachment, fusion, and entry, and identified the S proteins as a target for the development of antibody therapies and vaccines.”

  11. rgmani says

    There is at least one ‘lab leak’ possibility in all of this that I haven’t heard considered before. The two that get talked about a lot are

    (1) You start with a somewhat closely related virus (the closest being RaTG13 which is 96 percent similar) and go through a substantial amount of genetic engineering to get SARS-CoV-2. This is something that most virologists have dismissed as extremely unlikely.
    (2) SARS-CoV-2 was found and brought to the lab but it leaked from there rather than from a bat cave or an animal farming operation.

    There is a third which no one talks about which is that the Wuhan lab found a very closely related virus and did some smaller amount of tweaking to it before it escaped.

    Not that I think this explanation likely but it is definitely more believable than the first.

    Of course, both the second and third options mean that the precursor of SARS-CoV-2 is out there somewhere and we still need to find it. Finding the ‘smoking gun’ in the Wuhan lab is not going to be sufficient.

    Interested to hear people’s thoughts on this.

  12. raven says

    AFAICT, the main reason to revive the lab leak hypothesis is…to beat up on China. It’s just a stick for people with an agenda to use.

    It’s not even the best stick we have.
    Cthulhu knows, lately the Chinese government has been creating much larger sticks for anyone to pick up.
    The Tibetan and Uigher people are being suppressed for no other reason than that they aren’t Han Chinese.
    The crackdown on Hong Kong.
    The attempt to annex the entire South China sea.

  13. snarkrates says

    Further, the spike protein is not stable under normal circumstances and folds into an inactive form that an antibody would not recognize. The previous Corona studies had found a way to make the spike topologically stable enough to trigger an immune reaction that would transfer to the protein on an actual Corona virus.

    I would note that Wuhan is also a transport hub–it is more likely that someone was infected and brought the virus to Wuhan en route to somewhere else. Consider the probabilities:
    1) There are relatively few researchers coming into contact with a few animals. Generally, these people are trained and understand the risks.
    2) There are literally hundreds of millions of ordinary Chinese citizens coming into contact with hundreds of millions of animals all the time. They are not trained and do not appreciate the risks of the contact they engage in all the time.

    The overwhelming majority of outbreaks of novel interspecies viruses happen far away from virus labs. Only a few outbreaks are directly traceable to those labs. For your hypothesis to be probable, you would have to attribute special circumstances to the Wuhan facility–be that malice or extreme incompetence–and I give you the benefit of the doubt that this is not your intent.

  14. chrislawson says

    KG, stop spreading disinformation. There are TWO biosafety-4 labs in China, not one (the other is in Heilongjiang) — this is not at all difficult to look up, btw, so shame on you for repeating easily checked errors — and more than 50 around the world. This means that any given zoonotic outbreak will almost certainly occur within spitting distance of a biosafety-4 laboratory except in Africa were there is only one lab in Johannesburg.

    And in Africa, zoonotic infections occur all the time, with the worst cases such as Ebola and Marburg being literally thousands of km away from J’burg, so clearly nasty zoonotic epidemics are common even in the absence of a nearby lab. We also know that zoonotic infections and viral mutations have caused major epidemics before there was even a field of science called virology. We also know that COVID19 is very closely related to viruses endemic to bats in the Wuhan region.

    It is not impossible that COVID was a lab leak, and I don’t trust the Chinese government (or any other) to be transparent about anything even remotely embarassing to them, but any honest appraisal of the evidence is that the lab-leak hypothesis is much, much less likely than zoonotic infection directly from bats or indirectly via an intermediary mammal. In fact, the evidence for a lab leak is so thin that holding vociferously to it is a pretty damning sign of an underlying agenda that is not even remotely scientific or progressive.

  15. raven says

    The whole lab leak hypothesis runs into Occam’s Razor.

    We know that animal to human virus jumps are common, happening about every 18 months for as long as we have been watching for them.
    We see it often with the latest being Swine flu, Zika, and outside the USA, Chikungunya and multiple outbreaks of Ebola.

    Natural processes are sufficient to explain the Covid-19 virus pandemic as routine.

    We also know there will be another animal to human virus jump sooner or later.
    Estimates are that there are 40,000 to 320,000 mammalian viruses. And with 7.8 billion humans, we are a huge target for them to jump.

  16. addicted4444 says

    @KG If one were a truly neutral observer, one would also ask “is it a coincidence that the virus outbreak happened in a city with one of the largest wet markets in China”? And there’s far more evidence pointing to the wet market than the lab.

    Further China has had many virus outbreaks over the past couple of decades. Is it really such a huge coincidence that one of the many outbreaks happened in one of its most populous cities that also happened to contain the lab?

    Finally, I actually don’t think it’s a coincidence that the virus was first found in Wuhan, where the lab is located. But my theory actually has a logical strain to link the two, beyond just “oh one of the many outbreaks happened in the same large city where the lab was present”. The most likely scenario is that the virus moved to humans in the much larger Hubei province and its more rural surroundings, and Wuhan simply happened to be the first city hit that, thanks to the presence of the lab was able to identify that it was a new virus, as opposed to a common cold or flu.

  17. PaulBC says

    KG@4 @7 The location of WIV is provocative circumstantial evidence and it’s a good reason to investigate the lab leak hypothesis (ideally with full cooperation of Chinese authorities and lab staff, which you’re unlikely to get).

    That doesn’t make it a good reason to beat the media drums to convince the overwhelming majority of non-virologists that lab leak is the actual explanation, which, pardon me, is what I’ve been seeing lately.

    is Larry Moran saying, are the relevant experts saying, that they are confident it’s merely a coincidence

    I don’t know. However, the probability that a major virology center and the start of an pandemic are both located in the same city purely by chance is high enough not to rule out coincidence as a reasonable explanation and investigate other causes, even to the point of putting more effort and resources into them.

    It depends on what the probability of a lab leak causing the pandemic is in the first place. I don’t know this. It could be much higher or lower than I believe it is.

    Digression: suppose a delusional person is convinced that thinking about baseball too much causes cancer. They’ve held this belief for years when suddenly a cancer cluster occurs near Cooperstown, NY. It’s the worst ever observed and demands some explanation other than coincidence. This one delusional person could be forgiven (relative to their delusion) for demanding an investigation of the Baseball Hall of Fame. After all, what’s the chance that the worst cancer cluster ever just happens to be in the same city as the Baseball Hall of Fame? Most other people would assign probability effectively 0 of the Baseball Hall of Fame having any connection to the cancer cluster and would investigate other causes (e.g. nearby toxic waste sites).

    I’m not trying to ridicule the WIV connection. The probability of a lab leak starting the pandemic is surely much higher than the probability of baseball causing cancer. Beyond that, all I have is a hunch. I actually do put more weight on the word of experts. (And thankfully, “what I think” is unlikely to affect the outcome of any investigation.)

    But obfuscating the fact that studying dangerous pathogens is itself dangerous, is itself dangerous.

    That isn’t what PZ did, though. Even in the part you quote:

    thinking the only danger can come from intentional manipulation in a lab is going to mislead you into underestimating the risk.

    In other words, thinking that only labs pose a risk will lead to a false sense of security. But PZ would not have said “only” if his intent was to deny that labs may also posed a risk.

    Honestly, do you think a professional biologist is unconcerned with lab safety? That’s a strange choice of hill to die on.

  18. blf says

    chrislawson@17, Good catch on there being two publicly-known BSL-4 labs in Big China (easily checked, as you say; e.g., Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge). I’ve seen the there is only one BSL-4 in Big China claim from others elsewhere (sometimes phrased differently), suggesting it’s a common-ish lie. The Harbin Veterinary Research Institute in Heilongjiang was apparently opened in 2018 (Wuhan 2015), and originally reported then, so it’s not exactly a secret.

  19. dianne says

    This is a rather basic question, but I’m going to ask it anyway: Is it known for certain that SARS-CoV-2 originated in China? The wet market where it was initially thought to have originated was apparently just an early superspreader event. There are a lot of coronaviri around the world and a lot of international travel. Maybe the recombination event that caused SARS-CoV-2 happened in a person in France who then traveled to Wuhan. (Picking on France only because I have a vague memory of there being some evidence that the virus was there earlier than previously thought.) Viruses recombine. A lot. Naturally. There were two previous documented SARS causing coronaviri. SARS-CoV-2 is not a surprise. Nature remains the biggest bioterrorist out there.

  20. PaulBC says

    raven@15 I agree that the atrocities committed by the Chinese government are of much greater significance. The treatment of the Uighurs is cultural genocide at the very least. Hong Kong was supposed to have a deal that extended to 2047.

    I don’t want the US declaring war over these either, but our priorities are just really screwed up.

  21. Pierce R. Butler says

    At the risk (gasp!) of repeating myself, I’d like to again point out the significant possibility that the SARS-CoV-2 zoonotic transfer could have taken place at a fur farm (as it did in the opposite direction multiple times in Europe and North America).

    This idea always seems to drop immediately after anyone raises it, without rebuttal. Can anyone here produce a strong case against it?

  22. chrislawson says

    rgmani@14–

    Genetic engineering will leave distinct traces in the genome of the engineered organism. This can be difficult to detect in large genomes (e.g. wheat’s 17 Gbp), but COVID19’s genome is only 20 Kbp long and has been completely sequenced. The telltale marks of genetic engineering (whole genes appearing de novo, those de novo genes corresponding to known genes from existing organisms, traces of the vector used to insert the genes) simply do not exist in it. It’s not really a matter of a little tweaking or a lot.

    There are non-engineering ways of tweaking viruses, which is how we make attenuated vaccines, but it is actually difficult to make organisms more virulent this way, a revolutionary fact Louis Pasteur discovered completely by accident when working on a cholera vaccine (it was a true accident — Pasteur told an assistant to inoculate his chickens with cultured cholera; the assistant forgot and went on a month-long holiday, inoculating the chickens on his return only to discover that they did not get sick yet acquired immunity to cholera). Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that you don’t develop dangerous viral strains this way.

  23. jrkrideau says

    @ KG
    they are confident it’s merely a coincidence

    As @11 Andreas says ‘coincidences happen”

    Have a look at Wuhan. It is a major industrial educational and research city as well as a major transport hub. It has a population of roughly 11 million, which is about 1million greater than Sweden. A US city like Atlanta would be a nice little suburb.

    As the experts say, there is no reason to completely dismiss the possibility of a lab mishap but given the general scientific consensus that this is the least likely of several possibilities and there are a multitude of other much more likely scenarios, I’d have to bet that much of the current hoopla is US propaganda. Remember ‘yellow cake”?.

  24. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC:

    That isn’t what PZ did, though. Even in the part you quote:

    thinking the only danger can come from intentional manipulation in a lab is going to mislead you into underestimating the risk.

    In other words, thinking that only labs pose a risk will lead to a false sense of security. But PZ would not have said “only” if his intent was to deny that labs may also posed a risk.

    Labs pose an additional risk, doing research that many were probably not aware of prior to this. No “underestimating” there. You’re adding another thing to the pile and not subtracting from it.

    Who the fuck seriously believes that a bunch of people out there had thought viruses only ever come from labs, and now it’s your irritating duty to tell the stupid peasants how stupid they are? What the fuck is that about?

  25. chrislawson says

    Pierce@24–

    I think the fur farm hypothesis is pretty reasonable. The only reason I can imagine that it hasn’t got much traction is that most people who accept a likely zoonotic origin simply see it as one of several plausible possibilities and don’t see the point in fighting about it, while those who are determined to believe COVID19 was engineered will simply reject it out of hand.

  26. says

    The evidence suggests that COVID was in the general population of Wuhan in October. The “leak”, if it happened at all, happened in November when three researchers got sick. November comes AFTER October.

    Lab leak debunked, mic dropped.

  27. sophiab says

    Debunking help:
    I saw I mentioned somewhere that their are other (level 3 or such) labs in Wuhan that also do virology and might gave collected virus samples from bats, and therefore the focus on just one lab (versus if you have 5 mil + people you have virology lab in the city) is silly. I’m not sure what to google though, to check this. Any helpful links from people who know more?

  28. consciousness razor says

    It has a population of roughly 11 million, which is about 1million greater than Sweden. A US city like Atlanta would be a nice little suburb.

    Then let’s not put those labs in places like that. Alright? Can we just go with a voice vote on this? Yes? Good? Okay.

    Of course, I’m absolutely sure that safety is a top priority, except in all of the ways that it’s not, obviously. Make sure to put that somewhere in the text whenever we pass it, so everybody can feel good.

  29. says

    raven@18

    We also know there will be another animal to human virus jump sooner or later.

    That stands to reason.

    Estimates are that there are 40,000 to 320,000 mammalian viruses. And with 7.8 billion humans, we are a huge target for them to jump.

    The relative ease of global travel doesn’t help either.

    So are we just lucky that such major pandemics do not break out more often?

  30. PaulBC says

    rsmith@32

    So are we just lucky that such major pandemics do not break out more often?

    Probably. If someone asked me right now “How worried are you about the next pandemic?” my answer would be less worried than if they had asked that question two years ago.

    Global travel has always been the main reason that pandemics are more likely now than in the past, and that hasn’t changed much in decades

    What has changed in two years is the ability to produce effective mRNA vaccines as a relatively rapid response to a new virus. I hope that development and approval can come faster next time around. Europe and the US have also come finally to the common sense view widely acknowledged in Asia that masks can help. It’s not just one of those inscrutable fashion choices. We’re in much better shape to handle the next pandemic than we were for this one. There is no reason for complacency, but there’s a lot of reason for optimism about our ability to respond to new viral pandemics.

  31. says

    consciousness razor @#31

    Then let’s not put those labs in places like that. Alright? Can we just go with a voice vote on this? Yes? Good? Okay.

    No. Putting labs in the middle of nowhere is not practical. To begin with, how do you convince outstanding scientists with plenty of employment options to accept the fact that they will be living in the middle of nowhere (they will just pick another employment option closer to civilization)?

    Do you have any credible evidence that some lab that researches viruses somewhere has caused some disaster? No? All you have is a conspiracy theory with zero evidence? Do you at least have evidence that labs are dangerous? No? Well, then let’s keep labs where they are (namely, where scientists can live like decent human beings and have access to an electric grid and running water, conference rooms, hotels, etc. benefits of civilization).

    By the way, do you know why nuclear reactors are built next to cities? Alternatively, why, whenever a nuclear reactor is built in the middle of nowhere, a city will develop around it? Workers need a place to live. They have families. Their kids need a school. They need a hospital. They need grocery stores. They need some places to socialize. Ultimately, even if you build your dreaded lab, for example 50 kilometres away from the nearest city, workers will still commute to said city every day. And if the workers get sick with flu like symptoms, they will still go to the nearest hospital. How exactly do you propose to isolate lab workers from the rest of their society?

  32. Pierce R. Butler says

    chrislawson @ # 28: … most people who accept a likely zoonotic origin simply see it as one of several plausible possibilities and don’t see the point in fighting about it…

    Even the World Health Organization team sent to find out whatever they could in Wuhan never mentioned that possibility, sfaict. Unlike the “wet market” or “wildlife” hypotheses, the fur farm suspicion constitutes a $en$itive i$$ue.

  33. chrislawson says

    Pierce@35–

    The wet market and fur farm hypotheses are not mutually exclusive since a lot of that fur is sold at the Wuhan market, and while the fur itself is an unlikely vector, the people who bring it to market could be.

  34. consciousness razor says

    Do you have any credible evidence that some lab that researches viruses somewhere has caused some disaster? No?

    What’s relevant is that there have been accidents, whether or not they’ve led to whatever you qualify as a “disaster.” Did you think that’s never happened before?

    All you have is a conspiracy theory with zero evidence? Do you at least have evidence that labs are dangerous?

    No that’s obviously not all. And yes, there are very obvious dangers, otherwise you should be informing them that (in your expert opinion) their safety measures are superfluous and impractical. You will only receive laughter and/or scorn for even suggesting it, because no serious person would say that.

    Well, then let’s keep labs where they are (namely, where scientists can live like decent human beings and have access to an electric grid and running water, conference rooms, hotels, etc. benefits of civilization).

    Do you think there are either no utilities (and supposedly no decent human beings) or it is a major transportation hub with 11 million people that rivals whole countries … because there just isn’t anything in between?

    You can’t honestly think that. So why this bullshit? Why not some other bullshit?

  35. Rob Grigjanis says

    Andreas Avester @34:

    Do you have any credible evidence that some lab that researches viruses somewhere has caused some disaster?

    Certainly potential disasters;

    In May 2015, for example, Department of Defense officials mistakenly sent live anthrax samples — instead of dead specimens — to 18 labs in nine states, plus a military base in South Korea. From 2009 to 2013, USA Today reported, there were 800 cases in U.S. labs in which workers received medical attention because of incidents involving “select agent pathogens.” (Such information is collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the available reports contain few details.)
    And China has its own experience with lab leaks: A small outbreak of SARS in 2004 that killed one person was traced to the National Institute of Virology Laboratory in Beijing.

  36. KG says

    Andreas Avester@11,
    Your comment grossly misrepresents what I’ve said: I have not said the virus leaked from a lab, I have not said that anyone, let alone scientists, has been involved in any conspiracy either to leak it, or to lie about its origin – although I admit to doubts about the honesty of the Chinese government, based on their known lies about the treatment of the Uighurs, to give a prominent recent example. If you don’t share those doubts, you’re a fool. I recommend you to fuck off and take your dishonest and condescending garbage with you.

    Meawhile, it’s not like viruses were escaping from labs all the time.

    SARS escaped twice from the Chinese Institute of Virology in Beijing, leading to at least 8 confirmed or suspected cases. But perhaps you think that information should be suppressed, in order to avoid the dangers you wag your superior finger about.

    Rob Grigjanis@13, snarkrates@16, thanks for that information. chrislawson@17, apologies, as you say, there are two level four biosafety labs in China, altohugh the Heilongjiang lab is focused on livestock diseases – as far as I can discover, it does not work on bat coronaviruses.. But I invite you to stop spreading misinformation: the closest known relative of SARS-CoV-2 so far discovered – unless you have new information I haven’t seen – is RaTG13, which comes from horseshoe bats in Yunnan, well over 1,000km from Wuhan. And I see you are also misrepresenting what I said: the hypothesis I put forward is not that there was a lab leak. Can’t you bloody read?

    Pierce R. Butler@24,
    I raised the possibility of origin on a fur farm on a thread here some months ago.

    there’s far more evidence pointing to the wet market than the lab. – addicted4444@19

    No, there isn’t. The earliest known cases have no known link to the wet market. It probably did play a role in spreading the infection, simply because it’s a place where a lot of people gather.

    I’d have to bet that much of the current hoopla is US propaganda.- jrkrideau@26

    I’d bet on the same side as you. That has no bearing on the actual origin of the pandemic.

    A number of people have accused me here, without the slightest evidence, of having some nefarious anti-science or anti-Chinese motive – accusations which say far more about those making them than about me. But I’ll repeat what I said here:

    Frankly I’d much rather attribute the pandemic to the spread of “big farmer” (industrial farming by multinationals) pushing small farmers into marginal areas and into wildlife farming, which we know is happening in China, than to scientific research aimed at preventing pandemics – but I can’t get round that remarkable coincidence.

    I’ll be delighted if evidence turns up disproving the “infected sample collector” hypothesis – such as a closer relative of SARS-CoV-2 than RaTG13 in a pangolin or some other intermediate host, a genetic sample showing that SARS-CoV-2 was present in New York or Netherwallop or Turin before the Wuhan outbreak, or in a farmer who collected bat guano and then visited Wuhan in November 2019. But meanwhile, I’m not going to pretend that it’s implausible that the pandemic started because of some mishap involving the WIV, any more than its implausible that it started in some other way, because it isn’t. And no stupid, unfounded accusations from anyone here based on misrepresenting what I’ve said are going to make any difference.

  37. Pierce R. Butler says

    chrislawson @ # 36: … the fur itself is an unlikely vector, the people who bring it to market could be.

    Once the virus transferred to humans, whether those humans went to any given market makes no difference.

  38. snarkrates says

    Look, the problem with the lab-leak theory is that it simply isn’t necessary. China itself is an open-air Petri dish full of a billion and a half people and multiple billions of animals exchanging continually mutating viruses all the fricking time. The probabilities of one of these crossing the line to become a human pathogen are practically 1. In fact the last two SARS viruses did just that. Why would you expect SARS COV-19 to be any different.

    What was different about the 2019 novel corona virus is that it could reproduce asymptomatically in many of its hosts, allowing them to travel long distances while passing through conventional travellers’ screens–e.g. temperature scans, monitoring for symptons of respiratory distress… Not only would that ability be difficult to engineer into a pathogen–even by accident–it would be contra-indicated if you were engineering a weapon.

    As to whether labs pose additional risk, I really don’t think that they do. You have to factor in that having a lab nearby means you have experts nearby, as well as pathogens nearby. And the labs have proven quite adept at containing the pathogens and containing the outbreaks for those rare occasions when someone at the lab is infected. I live less than 20 miles from Fort Detrick, where you have pathogens much nastier than COV-19, including smallpox and Ebola. I can honestly say that I’ve never lost an hour’s sleep to it.

  39. Pierce R. Butler says

    Here’s one major-media (NYT) article which includes the fur-farm hypothesis:

    Peter Daszak, the head of EcoHealth Alliance, who has been lambasted by lab leak theorists for his previous work with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said the findings so far pointed to wild animal farms as the most likely locales for the spillover from animals to people. There are many such farms in China and Southeast Asia, and the animals on them, like raccoon dogs and civets, have contact with both bats and people. Thousands of tests of animals and animal samples from China, including at seafood and other markets, have yielded no evidence of the presence of SARS-CoV-2, according to the W.H.O. report. … Dr. Lucey said he referred to the lack of information about China’s mink farms as “The Silence of the Mink.”

    Also of constructive note:

    As to human studies, the report suggests that testing blood in blood bank donations made from September to December 2019 could be very useful. … the W.H.O. mission had asked the Wuhan blood bank system to hang on to donated blood from that time period. That was agreed to, she said, and now the Chinese are seeking permission to test the blood for antibodies …

    Since when does a top-level lab need “permission” to do antibody tests? Does the Beijing regime really micromanage to that degree?

  40. KG says

    snarkrates@41,

    <

    blockquote>Look, the problem with the lab-leak theory is that it simply isn’t necessary.

    <

    blockquote>
    That’s just pointless dribble; either WIV was in some way involved in the origin of the pandemic, or it wasn’t. It’s a matter of fact.

    I live less than 20 miles from Fort Detrick, where you have pathogens much nastier than COV-19, including smallpox and Ebola. I can honestly say that I’ve never lost an hour’s sleep to it.

    Your personal psychology is irrelevant in any calculation of the actual risk.

  41. snarkrates says

    KG, what you are talking about is not risk–it is the threat. Yes, there is a threat posed by having any source of pathogens in your area. That includes your family dog or cat. It includes a spouse. It includes any food you ingest.
    The anecdata you have posted establish that 1) there is a threat and 2)that the probability of the threat being realized is nonzero.
    They do not evaluate the risk, which requires evaluating the probability–and that probability is vanishingly small compared to all the other sources of exposure. Exactly how vanishingly small depends on the pathogen. If we’re talking influenza, the probability that the source is a lab is utterly negligible. If we’re talking anthrax, which is pretty rare in the US, then I might look at bioterrorism or failing that, at a lab. However, globally, more people get anthrax from melting permafrost than from a lab release. If it’s smallpox, it’s from a lab.

    The point is that when you have probabilities near 1 of being exposed to novel pathogens in the environment, I can pretty much guarantee that the probability that the exposure came from the lab is zero. The probability being very high in the one environment necessarily means that the probability in the other environment is low.

  42. says

    I think that conspiracy theorists and Trump aligned people riding the train of “it’s chinese engineered virus” made any real discussion on lab leak hypothesis pretty much impossible.
    Scientists are people, they do shortcuts, it is not impossible someone was studying coronavirus in lab and was the source of the leak, but proving or disproving this hypothesis is pretty much impossible – unless you find real patient zero, how you can tell if often asymptomatic disease started from wet market visitor or lab worker?

    Definitely accidental lab leak hypothesis should be investigated and treated seriously and thourough audit of safety protocols in such labs is not a bad idea and dismissing it out of hand because a lot of Trumplings go on conspiracy theory will not solve the issue.

  43. says

    @46 Gorzki
    “I think that conspiracy theorists and Trump aligned people riding the train of “it’s chinese engineered virus” made any real discussion on lab leak hypothesis pretty much impossible.”

    No the fact that the timeline makes the lab leak theory impossible. Cases in the general population of Wuhan in October, a month before the “leak”, makes it impossible. It really is that simple.

  44. snarkrates says

    Folks, please listen to yourselves:

    “It’s not impossible…”
    And it’s also not impossible that invisible Martians are behind it.

    “either WIV was in some way involved in the origin of the pandemic, or it wasn’t. It’s a matter of fact.”
    No, because no facts are in evidence. It is a matter of speculation.

    The facts are that there are far more interactions with potential vectors among the general population than among researchers–and that is precisely where most outbreaks begin.

  45. says

    @48 snarkrates
    Thank you! Enough with unprovable maybes. Enough with racist conspiracy theories. We know COVID was among the general population in Wuhan as early as October 2019. That’s why it’s COVID-19 and not COVID-20. There is ZERO evidence it came from the lab. Possibility is not proof.

    The other thing we do know is the “Lab Leak” theory is inherently racist and xenophobic. It will be taken up and amplified by the shittiest humans in the western world. It will be used, with or without evidence, to demonize China and all Asian people. If it takes me screaming “PROOVE IT” from the rooftops to shut down this extremely dangerous conspiracy theory, then I will do it.

  46. PaulBC says

    I had a chance to listen to the video discussion and I’m a lot more confident that the scientists involved aren’t missing the obvious or too biased to investigate lab leak. They end on a note of optimism about finding the source of the virus eventually. It simply takes a long time. That’s what I sort of thought and it’s reassuring to hear it said.

    I am not sure if this is the debunking of Wade that they mention, but it’s informative.

    Independent of any other conclusions, Wade’s article is not a useful contribution to the discussion, though it got a lot of attention. (E.g., some FB friends of mine posted it as food for thought as if it was the balanced treatment Wade pretends it is, which makes me wonder how they missed some obvious red flags.)

    Wade isn’t merely biased. What he has offered is intentionally misleading polemic in the guise of “I report. You decide.” As I observed above, it does not fit his own description in the 2nd paragraph. Also, tellingly,

    Wade’s claim that a Nature letter like Anderson’s is only opinion and not a scientific article is not a small error, but an intentional assault on facts and truth.

    Wade knows what a Nature letter is, but he also knows that most readers do not. His dishonesty is breathtaking. I’m sure this only scratches the surface, though in other cases, such as his obsession with furin cleavage, you could debate how much is dishonesty and how much is his lack of understanding.

    Yes, technically, it does not matter if facts come from a source with a particular agenda, but it’s preferable to seek them elsewhere. Nobody has said a lab leak is impossible, just unlikely. The appearance of a new disease like SARS-CoV-2 should surprise absolutely no one and there are many potential causes that are still being explored. The people exploring these causes are sincerely interested in the answer, not just out of a sense of duty, but out of genuine enthusiasm that comes through in the video.

    One hypothesis posed in this thread (KG and others) is that scientists don’t want to take the lab leak idea seriously because they’re in denial over the danger of gain of function research. (That’s my characterization of the claim.) I don’t believe it. Any profession will be institutionally biased in favor of the idea that they know what they’re doing. However, I would trust a virologist on questions of lab safety more than I’d trust a kibitzer who may be just as biased against research that sounds dangerous.

    We could close the world’s virology labs right now, and ignoring the ill effects of such a move, it would not eliminate the kinds of pandemics that are likely to occur. Zoonotic diseases have appeared throughout human history. The main difference now is that global travel spreads them farther and faster. While lab safety should be prioritized, it is only one factor in preventing pandemics and a minor one.

  47. Rob Grigjanis says

    snarkrates @48:

    The facts are that there are far more interactions with potential vectors among the general population than among researchers

    There are other facts. The closest known relative to the virus was found in Yunnan. The researchers who collect samples (e.g. from caves in Yunnan) have far more interactions with potential vectors than the average person. As do locals harvesting bats or bat guano.

    It seems likely that the Wuhan outbreak was caused by an infected passenger on a high speed train from Yunnan, who probably (?) started their journey soon after exposure. To determine the relative probabilities that the passenger was a native of Yunnan visiting Wuhan, or a sample collector for the WIV, would take more data than we have. It would help of the WIV had records of their researchers’ travels and shared them. Maybe they have and I just haven’t seen them.

  48. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Howard Brazee

    Finding someone to blame does not change our strategies about what we need to do with the next pandemic.

    After a failure, every competent organization will look at how they got there. Root cause analysis. Etc. This is an indispensable thing to do in order to learn from any mistakes to avoid repeating them in the future. If we don’t even know what mistakes were made, then how could we avoid them in the future?

    I agree that it still seems unlikely that the lab had anything to do with it and it’s a gross disservice when people pretend that it’s anything above unlikely.

  49. snarkrates says

    Rob Grigjanis: “The researchers who collect samples (e.g. from caves in Yunnan) have far more interactions with potential vectors than the average person. ”

    I’d phrase it differently–a given researcher collecting samples has more interactions with potential vector than a given average person. But the number of “average people”–even “average people who travel between Wuhan and Yunnan” is far, far greater than the number of collectors.

    Part of the reason that researchers are reluctant to broach the subject of exactly where the virus came from is that there are too many people who have agendas that would be advanced if the origin were one place (e.g. the lab if they oppose “gain of function” experimentation or Chinese tech generally) or the other (e.g. the wet markets or mink farms if they oppose wildlife trade or fur farming). And the lack of information makes a perfect backdrop for every conspiracy theorist or activist to spin their tales.

  50. Rob Grigjanis says

    snarkrates @53:

    But the number of “average people”–even “average people who travel between Wuhan and Yunnan” is far, far greater than the number of collectors.

    But we’re not really talking about ‘average people’ who travel from Yunnan to Wuhan. We’re talking about local people who left on a trip to Wuhan shortly after being exposed to bats. Is that far, far greater than the number of collectors? What percentage of ‘average’ Yunnanese frequent bat caves? 1%? 10%? 50%? What percentage of those would be visiting Wuhan shortly after being in a bat cave, or meeting someone who had? It’s like the bloody Drake equation.

  51. chrislawson says

    KG–
    (a) If multiple commenters here have independently interpreted your comments as being in favour of the lab-leak hypothesis, then I would suggest the problem might be in your communication.

    (b) Case in point, your objection to my statement that bats in Wuhan are a natural reservoir of COVID strains. Here is a map of COVID detections in bat populations around China. Here’s another. And here is a map of COVID detections in bats around the world.

    Yes, the closest known match is from a horseshoe bat population in Yunnan over 1000 km away, but this is still too dissimilar to the strain in humans to be the immediate precursor, which means there are either intermediary or common-ancestor strains of COVID as yet unidentified in either bats or intermediary mammals — which is what I said in the first place.

    (c) The virologist Shi Zhengli who first identified the RaTG13 strain in Yunnan had a terrible fear that COVID19 might have been a leak from her lab — so she went through all of the coronavirus samples they had collected previously from bats and NONE of them matched either the RaTG13 genome OR the human 2019-nCoV genome.

  52. grahamjones says

    When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.

    Lord Kelvin, quoted in Gordis Epidemiology. (When the pandemic broke out, I rushed out and bought a textbook on epidemiology.)

    NEW YORK (Sept. 3, 2013)— Scientists estimate that there is a minimum of 320,000 viruses in mammals awaiting discovery. Collecting evidence of these viruses, or even a majority of them, they say, could provide information critical to early detection and mitigation of disease outbreaks in humans. This undertaking would cost approximately $6.3 billion, or $1.4 billion if limited to 85% of total viral diversity—a fraction of the economic impact of a major pandemic like SARS.

    https://www.publichealth.columbia.edu/research/center-infection-and-immunity/first-estimate-total-viruses-mammals
    I guesstimate ~10000 coronaviruses, one for each of the ~4000 non-bat mammal species, 4 for each of the ~1400 bat species. Humans harbour 7 coronaviruses, but we’re at higher risk than average.

    As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 20,000 wildlife farms have been shut-down in China. In the preceding years, the Chinese government had been promoting and incentivizing the development of the wildlife farming industry, which was valued as 520bn yuan, or £57bn, in 2017.

    (wikipedia)

    If the world had spent 10% of the value of China’s wildlife farming industry looking for viruses, we would probably have found SARS-CoV-2 before it found us. The Wuhan Institute of Virology cost $0.044 billion to construct, I don’t know what it takes to run. They’ve found over 300 bat coronaviruses, but that wasn’t enough.

  53. Rob Grigjanis says

    chrisawson @55:

    (a) If multiple commenters here have independently interpreted your comments as being in favour of the lab-leak hypothesis, then I would suggest the problem might be in your communication.

    Having just reread all of KG’s posts in this thread, I would suggest that multiple commenters here have problems with reading comprehension.

  54. Rob Grigjanis says

    chrislawson @55:

    (b) Case in point, your objection to my statement that bats in Wuhan are a natural reservoir of COVID strains. Here is a map of COVID detections in bat populations around China. Here’s another. And here is a map of COVID detections in bats around the world.

    Your second link appears borked, but I found the source for the first map. More details here.

    The genome organization of BtCoV/273/04 and that of BtCoV/279/04 were essentially the same and were similar to that of SARS-CoV.

    Both of those BtCo viruses were found in Hubei (Wuhan’s province). Good to know, and thanks for the pointer.

  55. Rob Grigjanis says

    Further to #58: The phylogenetic tree in the paper shows (if I’m reading it right) a 54% nucleotide similarity between the two referenced BtCoV viruses and SARS CoV. That’s far less than the 96% for RaTG13.

  56. PaulBC says

    RobG@57

    Having just reread all of KG’s posts in this thread, I would suggest that multiple commenters here have problems with reading comprehension.

    OK, I’ll bite. How am I to interpret this?

    But obfuscating the fact that studying dangerous pathogens is itself dangerous, is itself dangerous. Are you saying, is Larry Moran saying, are the relevant experts saying, that they are confident it’s merely a coincidence that the pandemic started in a city which holds the only level 4 biosafety lab in China, a centre for the study of bat coronaviruses?

    This appears to be (a) questioning the dismissal of WIV’s location as coincidence and (b) warning about the danger of ignoring lab leak as a possibility. (At least, putting this quote in the context of his other writing.)

    Nothing KG said suggests certainty or even very high confidence in the lab leak hypothesis, but it at least meets the weak bar of being “in favour of the lab-leak hypothesis” as something worth giving more heed than the consensus of scientists appearing in the video. They are not entirely dismissive, but appear to consider it less likely or significant than KG does.

  57. Rob Grigjanis says

    PaulBC @61: Interpret anything you like anyhow you like; read between the lines, or read tea leaves, or whatever. There’s nothing I’ve read from KG that says he is “in favour of the lab leak hypothesis”.

  58. Rob Grigjanis says

    Let’s see: KG@7:

    my hypothesis is precisely that they didn’t catch it at or near the lab, but on a sampling expedition

    Gosh, how should you interpret that?

  59. blf says

    grahamjones@56, quoting William Thomson (perhaps more commonly known as Lord Kelvin), “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.”

    YES! That is one of my favourite quotes, which I referenced multiple times (usually in exasperation) when, e.g., plans or proposals don’t appear to have any discernible metrics. The most recent case I can now recall was yet another seemingly-arbitrary “reorganisation” at Big DummieCo. In the meeting to announce the unsuspected changes (i.e., what I call an “ambush meeting”, when you have absolutely no idea what the subject is or what preparations may be necessary), I asked one of the announcing VPs (all paraphrases), “What metrics did you use to decide this, and what metrics will be used to measure its impact?” What I got was waffle: “We talked about it in e-mails, and I suppose increased profits…” “How will you distinguish between the affects on profits — or loss — caused by this, and that caused by other actions?” (silence) “As a very wise man once said: the quote.” (As I now very vaguely recall, the discussion was then “moved along”.)

  60. PaulBC says

    RobG@63 The sampling expedition hypothesis is still a connection to the lab. I recall KG considering six possibilities at one point (a previous thread I think), some of which are more directly instances of “lab leak.”

    However, I appreciate your specific example more than being told (by implication) to develop better reading comprehension. Can I at least assert that there is substantial daylight between what KG “favours” as the explanation and what the scientists on the panel in this video consider likely? Granting their institutional bias, I still put more weight on their views than KG (on some other things, I would defer to his expertise).

  61. MetzO'Magic says

    snarkrates@1:

    And it allows President Lost Cause to claim the election was stolen by Gina–and coincidentally that they owe him 10 trillion dollars. Good lord, the man couldn’t even count the zeros in 10 trillion without taking off his shoes!

    As long as it doesn’t involve taking off his trousers, which he was last seen wearing back to front.

  62. Ichthyic says

    “Gosh, how should you interpret that?”

    uh, that he’s saying they didn’t CREATE the strain AT the lab, but it was instead brought in as a sample and later released unintentionally, as has actually happened twice before.

    that reading comprehension thing? you’re soaking in it.

  63. Ichthyic says

    oh, btw, since NONE OF US have access to any equipment remotely able to analyze any of the evidence already gathered regarding this, nor the expertise to even figure out where to start… this intellectual wankery is at best a fun thought exercise, and at worst nothing more than a way to snipe at each other for absolutely no other fucking reason than everybody appears to be entirely bored.
    Me? I’m more than happy to await final processing of the evidence already collected by WHO and the other independent team that was sent to investigate, and any other team the Chinese allow access to.

    see ya.

  64. Rob Grigjanis says

    Ichthyic @67: Uh, that unawareness of sarcasm thing? You’re soaking in it. I thought it was obvious that #63 was a follow-up to #62 (and so addressed to PaulBC), but I’ll try to keep the easily-confused in mind in the future.

  65. ChrisE84 says

    It’s still much more likely that it wasn’t the researchers’ fault, even if you come up with such hypotheses about expeditions …

  66. rrutis1 says

    Ichtyic @68 Please remember (one of many) recent events where we waited for the relevant organization to render it’s reasoned opinion of something…then we invaded a country based on made up evidence that contradicted the org. I think everyone here is aware we are just speculating at this point but it keeps our wits sharp when postulates are put forth and our friends cut them to ribbons.

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