The NY Times is just the worst


The newspaper of record did it again, revived the lab leak hypothesis with a stupid opinion piece that is light on the evidence and heavy on the presuppositions. This is not helpful. We already have a popular bias that is contrary to the science, so this is just fueling more error.

The origin controversy is political and polarized. Myths that COVID-19 was somehow a manmade pandemic are still impactful, whether they are true or not. Polls have shown that 2 out of 3 US citizens believe that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that started the COVID-19 pandemic, came out of a laboratory rather than nature.

Scientists worldwide vehemently disagree. The emerging scientific consensus among domain experts is that SARS-CoV-2 is a natural virus that entered humanity via zoonotic spillover (more importantly, there is a consensus stemming from the body of evidence that is entirely unequivocal).

Thanks, NY Times, for boosting a conspiracy theory over the evidence.

The article was written by Alina Chan, who previously coauthored a book on the topic with Matt Ridley. Ridley is, unfortunately, a bit of a loon on many topics, including climate change as well as the lab leak hypothesis, and I guess he’s infectious, because Chan has got it bad. Their book, Viral, was terrible.

The lab leak theory, for the uninitiated, is the notion that the Covid-19 virus that has now devastated the globe is not of purely natural origin but rather escaped from a lab after it was harvested from the wild or engineered by Chinese scientists. It’s not actually a single theory but, rather, a grab bag of possible scenarios by which the virus might have been unleashed on the world—all of them implying some level of shady or incompetent behavior by Chinese scientists. And in trying to take each of these scenarios seriously, Viral’s authors have unintentionally exposed the entire farce of the lab leak discourse—showing both the exceptional flimsiness of the lab leakers’ narrative and also why this very flimsiness makes the lab leak conspiracy theory so hard to eradicate. By relying on an ever-growing arsenal of seemingly suspicious facts, each pointing in a slightly different direction, lab leaker discourse renders itself completely unfalsifiable.

If you want a brief, straightforward rebuttal of Alina Chan’s editorial, Larry Moran has you covered.

Alina Chan has five reasons why the scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were working on SARS-Cov-2 before the pandemic began and why they are denying that the virus escaped from their lab. All of these five points have been discredited and/or discounted but that didn’t stop the newspaper from promoting them.

1. The SARS-like virus that caused the pandemic emerged in Wuhan, the city where the world’s foremost research lab for SARS-like viruses is located.
This is just about the only thing in the lab leak conspiracy theory that is true.

2. The year before the outbreak, the Wuhan institute, working with U.S. partners, had proposed creating viruses with SARS‑CoV‑2’s defining feature.

This is extremely misleading. The researchers at WIV worked in collaboration with scientists in other countries, including the United States, on investigating the features of coronaviruses that could lead to infection of humans. That’s exactly what you would expect them to do. They never created a virus that could be infectious.

3. The Wuhan lab pursued this type of work under low biosafety conditions that could not have contained an airborne virus as infectious as SARS‑CoV‑2.

The labs followed all the standard procedures for work of this type and passed an international inspection.

4. The hypothesis that Covid-19 came from an animal at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan is not supported by strong evidence.

That’s a lie. There is strong evidence that the outbreak began in the market.

5. Key evidence that would be expected if the virus had emerged from the wildlife trade is still missing.

It’s true that the exact infectious animal carrying SARS-CoV-2 has not been identified but the circumstantial evidence is strong—just as strong as the circumstantial evidence that sends some people to jail. It’s crazy to say that evidence for animal transmission is missing when ALL the evidence for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 at WIT is also missing.

I don’t understand why the lab leak hypothesis is popular at all, but I suspect it’s because most people are uncomfortable with the idea that natural processes can produce surprising effects in the absence of intent. It’s the same bias that drives creationism.

Comments

  1. robro says

    I think the NYT got it partly right: it’s political. Don the Con and his hinchmen cooked up the leak theory so they could cover their own bumbling ineptitude at handling the disease and blame the pandemic on China with the hint that it was deliberately created and deliberately released.

    It’s still a political. The reason it’s in the news now is because, as you noted recently, congressional Republicans have been holding hearings on the matter where they even dragged Dr. Fauci into the room.

    So it’s a circus. I’m confident the MAGA mob is totally sold.

  2. raven says

    I don’t understand why the lab leak hypothesis is popular at all, …

    It’s totally political.

    Add in racism.
    The Chinese are…Chinese. They are Asians. They are not white European derived people.

    Add in politics.
    The Red Chinese are still commies.
    They are in many ways still our enemies.
    They have built up their armed forces, are making more nuclear weapons, and preparing to fight someone somewhere for some reason.

    I don’t care for the current mainland Chinese government either but I have enough good reasons that I don’t need to invent another one.

    Add in American politics.
    It is mostly an irrelevant deflection from the failure of Trump and the GOP to fight the Covid-19 virus pandemic. 1.4 million Americans died and something like 17 million are still suffering from Long Covid syndromes.

    Trump and the GOP could have very easily have been a hero for fighting the pandemic.
    All he had to do is sit back and do nothing.
    Let the experts such as the CDC and NIH fight the pandemic as best we know how. We’ve seen these movies before.
    Instead the GOP response was incoherent, inconsistent, and sometimes they were part of the Friends of the Covid-19 Virus fan club.

    It shouldn’t matter that much where the virus came from.
    Once it was here, we had to deal with it. Or die.

  3. Ridana says

    FL (of course) has convened a grand jury of partisan idiots on the government (read: Fauci) response, blaming the behavior of other idiots on “bad messaging,” and not on Republican shit-stirring.

    The grand jury report makes this bizarre, convoluted argument: Early in the pandemic, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases rejected Ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment; some desperate sufferers believed it was a “miracle drug” the government was lying about; because most doctors didn’t dare prescribe Ivermectin, patients obtained it on their own but didn’t know how to use it. Some of them overdosed.

    Therefore, the jury concluded, public health officials who trashed Ivermectin caused the overdoses. “This was a profound failure of public health messaging,” the jury’s report says.

    We lay every overdose that occurred at the feet of those who authored this campaign of vilification,” the report states in bold italic type that all but jumps off the page.

    https://www.floridabulldog.org/2024/06/anonymous-statewide-grand-jury-targets-fauci-public-health-officials/

  4. Walter Solomon says

    Ironically, Jon Stewart, who you recently featured in a post for his takedown of Trump and the media, promoted the lab leak hypothesis. While he could be given a pass for not being a scientist, you’d think he’d be savvy enough to understand that it’s bullshit.

  5. fal1 says

    You don’t understand why the lab leak hypothesis is popular? I think point 1 covers it. Jon Stewart summarised it well….

    “There’s a novel respiratory coronavirus overtaking Wuhan, China,”

    “Oh, you know who we could ask? The Wuhan novel respiratory coronavirus lab.”

  6. bcw bcw says

    The thing to understand is that the NY Times put its thumb on the scale because some editor with a political science or history degree feels more comfortable with the idea that millions of people died because those evil Chinese scientists trespassed into things they shouldn’t mess with (the theme of Jurassic Park) and there’s someone we can blame and punish; rather than biology can be nasty and there are always new variations on disease evolving and the best we can do is be prepared and learn how to stop the deaths as soon as possible.

  7. says

    The origin controversy is political and polarized. Myths that COVID-19 was somehow a manmade pandemic are still impactful, whether they are true or not.

    That’s the NY Times. So eager to present “both sides” of the issue, they give equal weight to scientific consensus and “myths that are not true.” And then call it a “controversy.”
    And then note with amazement that two out of three Americans believe some form of the myth. That’s “journalism.”
    No, it’s not. It’s either raining or it’s not, and the journalist’s job is to look out the damn window and see, as best they can, and report that. And for matters of science and medicine, you ask scientists and medical experts, not people in an Ohio diner.

  8. hillaryrettig1 says

    I don’t understand why the lab leak hypothesis is popular at all, but I suspect it’s because most people are uncomfortable with the idea that natural processes animal exploitation can produce surprising effects in the absence of intent.

    Fixed it for you, PZ. And although I know many good people think vegetarianism is a strong stand against the ills of animal exploitation, it really isn’t. Most – including not just zoonotics, but cruelty, environmental degradation, labor abuse, etc. – are retained in dairy and egg production. (And some of the worst are found in seafood.)

    Animal ag also remains one of our strongest templates for domination (esp. along reproductive / gender lines), and thus is one of fascism’s most reliable props / supporters.

    You go vegan by swapping one meal or ingredient at a time. There’s plenty of advice and suggestions online. But please don’t kid yourself into thinking that vegetarianism is enough.

  9. dbinmn says

    Warning: I am not a scientist. But, when other non-scientist (we have plenty here in Stearns county) argue for the lab leak hypothesis*, I ask these questions, “What was the vector* for the leak?” “Did a worker get the virus and then spread in the off-hours?” “Did the filtration unit fail or a window left open, spreading it through the outside air?” “Did someone stupidly, or nefariously, take it out of the building in a glass vial and it broke?” I realize these are overly pedestrian questions, but if I remember from the NYTimes piece Chan points out that no precise animal was identified at the wet market; therefore, wouldn’t my original question need a precise answer as well?

    apologies for fumbling along with science words.

  10. raven says

    but if I remember from the NYTimes piece Chan points out that no precise animal was identified at the wet market;…

    Chan is wrong about everything.

    We in fact, have evidence that the Covid-19 virus was present in the Wuhan market. It seems to have been circulating among several animals species notably raccoon dogs. I had no idea what raccoon dogs were but I looked them up.
    They are cute little animals, canids related to foxes. I don’t see why anyone would want to eat them though.

    Where the conspiracy kooks fail is that a lab leak hypothesis isn’t necessary. We see one new novel emerging disease around every 18 months and this has been happening for decades. Which lab did smallpox, measles, Swine flu, Zika, mad cow, West Nile, HIV etc.. come from? Our newest threat is the H5N1 Avian flu. It has only infected a few people but it has killed millions of chickens and turkeys.

    New Evidence Supports Animal Origin of COVID Virus …

    Scientific American https://www.scientificamerican.com › article › new-evid…

    Mar 18, 2023 — Genetic sequences show evidence of raccoon dogs and other animals at the Wuhan market sites where SARS-CoV-2 was found in early 2020, …

  11. Pierce R. Butler says

    A (sfaict) well-grounded hypothesis that has never gotten the attention (or maybe the debunking) it deserves:

    Mounting evidence suggests mink farms in China could be the cradle of Covid-19

    a seldom mentioned but obvious hypothesis : that the pandemic originated in a fur farm. China is indeed the world’s leading market and leading producer of fur worldwide. The industry in China is worth more than $20 billion a year, and involves more than 50 million animals. … Raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) — often confused with the American raccoons that they resemble — are small carnivorous canids. A team led by Conrad Freuling, from the German Federal Institute of research on animal health in Riems, experimentally demonstrated in August 2020 that not only are these animals infected by the human coronavirus, but that they infect each other. …
    Strangely, the Chinese/American study ignored farms in Shandong, Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, the four most important provinces for mink farms. … foxes were being sold on the « wet market » of Wuhan. And the Public Health Agency of Canada said in March that mink were sold there too. Photographs taken in the market by CNN in early December 2019 and published January 2020, showed that raccoon dogs were also present. …
    On 24 January, 2020, China’s English-language Global Times said that based on GISAID data and artificial intelligence software the most likely intermediate was… mink. It could even have been the original host. This study pointing to mink was set up by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Wuhan institute of Virology and the Chinese CDC. The team, led by Quian Guo, is highly respected, the study was well run, and the results were not contested. …
    … in 2019 Shandong produced 6.5 million mink pelts, down from nearly 15 million in 2018. This means nearly 9 million mink disappeared from one year to the next, a 55% drop in production for just one province. Such a sharp decline suggests some form of disaster. … WHO, after many concessions to the Chinese government, abandoned the idea of carrying out the field work and instead signed a protocol delegating that part of the work to local researchers.

  12. KG says

    1. The SARS-like virus that caused the pandemic emerged in Wuhan, the city where the world’s foremost research lab for SARS-like viruses is located.
    This is just about the only thing in the lab leak conspiracy theory that is true.

    And is, of course, strong if circumstantial evidence that one of the Wuhan labs working on bat coronaviruses (you do know there were two?) was in some way responsible. Repeatedly yelling “conspiracy theory!!!” or even “Racism!!!” as raven does, doesn’t change that.

    The researchers at WIV worked in collaboration with scientists in other countries, including the United States, on investigating the features of coronaviruses that could lead to infection of humans. That’s exactly what you would expect them to do. They never created a virus that could be infectious.

    I don’t believe they did, but it’s possible, and the last sentence is simply assuming what it wants to prove.

    The labs followed all the standard procedures for work of this type and passed an international inspection.

    Leaks from labs which have passed inspection can still happen. The original SARS escaped twice from Chinese labs. Foot-and-mouth escaped from a British lab. And it’s not clear the correct procedures were followed at the second Wuhan lab working on bat coronaviruses, the Wuhan Center for Disease Control, which is very close to the market. Nor can we know that the correct procedures were carried out when collecting samples from bat caves. In my estimation, the most likely way a Wuhan lab could be involved in the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is that a collector for one of the labs acquired a symptomless case, and spread it to some vulnerable species at the market, without them or their lab knowing anything about it.

    There is strong evidence that the outbreak began in the market.

    There is strong evidence the market was important in spreading the virus. The question is: how did it get to the market in the first place? We know (because it has happened on fur farms) that humans can infect other vulnerable species.

    It’s true that the exact infectious animal carrying SARS-CoV-2 has not been identified but the circumstantial evidence is strong—just as strong as the circumstantial evidence that sends some people to jail. It’s crazy to say that evidence for animal transmission is missing when ALL the evidence for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 at WIT is also missing.

    Other than the strong circumstantial evidence I noted above.

    I highly recommend the BBC radio series Fever: The Hunt For Covid’s Origin. Which does not come down on one side or the other but does make clear how utterly obstructive the Chinese authorities have been. They, of course, deny not only that a lab leak could have been responsible, but also that the “wet market” trade could have been: according to them, the virus probably came into China on frozen food.

  13. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    I don’t understand why the lab leak hypothesis is popular at all, but I suspect it’s because most people are uncomfortable with the idea that natural processes can produce surprising effects in the absence of intent. It’s the same bias that drives creationism.

    Yes. One person I’d met was hung up on “Wouldn’t the virus be easier to stop if it were man-made?” as if she were shopping for comfortable realities. I responded, “Knowing whether there was an arsonist or not wouldn’t help put out the fire.” A minute later, she repeated her fantasy talking point, as if I’d said nothing.

    Likewise, she thought American hospitals were inflating fatalities… by counting deaths from covid exacerbating other ailments. And that it was a weapon, despite the fact that a virus affecting the entire planet, including China, would be lousy targeting.

  14. Daryl Lafferty says

    I must be missing something. The article says that 2 out of 3 Americans believe the lab story, but then says that it’s a myth and that scientists vehemently disagree, along with words like “consensus”, and “body of evidence is entirely unequivocal” .

    I would call that boosting the evidence over the conspiracy theory.

  15. christoph says

    @ Daryl Lafferty, #14: I don’t get it either. I have noticed that progressives criticize the NYT for being too right wing and conservatives criticize it for being too woke. Maybe they’re too centrist? (?)

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    CA#,SC @ # 13: One person I’d met was hung up on “Wouldn’t the virus be easier to stop if it were man-made?”…

    IANAScientist, but I gather that “engineered” DNA always shows traces, specifically remnants of the RNA “envelope” used to insert the genetic material in question. With thousands of labs having sequenced SARS-CoV-2, the probability that no one saw that and blew the whistle asymptotically approaches zero.

    (If I’m wrong, somebody please blow their own whistle on me!)

  17. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Pierce R. Butler #16:
    Wired – How to Detect a Man-Made Biothreat

    [A general paragraph about DNA methods]: scientists can tell if a gene has been added or moved by comparing that organism’s genome to a reference sample. […] deletions sometimes turn up in other parts of the genome that look like the targeted section, but aren’t. […] The deliberate use of radiation can also produce traceable […] mutations.
    […]
    a molecular biologist at Rutgers University, is skeptical that any technology will be able to definitively identify a bioengineered organism. “There is no technology—none—that comprehensively and reliably can distinguish between an engineered genome sequence and a natural genome sequence, and there never will be,” he says. “There are too many ways to manipulate a genome without leaving signatures of manipulation.”
    […]
    The idea that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered in a lab has since been thoroughly discredited, but at the time some scientists had questioned whether a part of the virus called the furin cleavage site, which is responsible for its high infectivity, was evidence of engineering, because some of the virus’s closest relatives don’t have this feature. […] the theory flourished in part because of scientists’ limited knowledge of coronaviruses. It turns out other coronaviruses have these sites as well.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    Daryl Lafferty @14: That’s not from the NYT article, it’s from the Protagonist Science article. Larry Moran links to the NYT article.

  19. says

    Don’t forget that both our political parties really, really, really want to start a hot war with China, and have done so since at least the Obama administration. Nobody in either party really wants to confront racist paranoia against an enemy they’re chomping at the bit to fight.

  20. cag says

    “Only god can make a tree!” so the christers who insist on the virus being man made are admitting that god no longer has a creation monopoly. Own goal.

  21. John Morales says

    Vicar (the unique one):

    Don’t forget that both our political parties really, really, really want to start a hot war with China

    What a stupid, stupid, stupid claim!

  22. jack lecou says

    KG@12: And is, of course, strong if circumstantial evidence that one of the Wuhan labs working on bat coronaviruses (you do know there were two?) was in some way responsible.

    Right? It’s like that time my cousin’s best friend’s boyfriend went to Australia, and got these little stabs in his leg that turned out to be full of taipan venom. And then it also turned out there was a “world-class venomologist” specializing in taipans who just “coincidentally” worked at the local university. Suspicious, right? What kind of a “university” in Australia would have someone who studies venomous snakes?

    So, obviously crystal clear circumstantial evidence that this irresponsible venom professor stabbed and poisoned him. Or let a snake loose. Or accidentally let a snake loose. Or maybe got a wild snake mad once. But they must have done something — it’s too big a coincidence otherwise.

    And my second cousin’s other best friend’s boss went to the police, but — can you believe this — they said all of that wasn’t actually evidence of anything. In fact, they said that this professor’s lab had actually helped to synthesize the anti-venom my cousin’s third wife’s uncle was treated with. But that’s just what they would say, isn’t it? They claim the professor had an alibi, too. But they send lab assistants out to collect snakes all the time. It might might have been one of them that got the snake mad. It’s all just a big cover up. If the snake venom lab didn’t do it, how else could my third cousin’s brother-in-law possibly have ended up with snake venom in his body while innocently hiking around outdoors in Australia?

    All of which is to say that when I heard about the virus lab in Wuhan, I knew it was the same story all over again. I mean, what are the chances that there’d be a lab studying something located in a major city where that same something was a matter of regional concern? That’d be like a volcano erupting in the same area as a volcanology observatory. Or a forest fire breaking out in the same dried-up forest as a wildfire research post. It’d never happen. Just unpossible.

    (Seriously. What is it about the allure of this lab leak nonsense that so deeply breaks some people’s brains?)

    KG@12: (you do know there were two?)

    Yes, and this is kind of a serious problem for the whole lab leak thing. The issue is that two labs don’t somehow “add up” to make things twice as suspicious. That’s not the way causality works. If anything, having (at least) two labs in the same city — and labs in many other cities — is deeply problematic for the “suspicious coincidence” intuition that is at the root of all lab-leaker thinking. It’s also a great example how flawed that thinking is.

    Remember, the virus could reasonably have come from only one of the labs. So either:

    (1) We suppose that it came from the WIV.
    Pro: the WIV is genuinely special (a world leader in coronavirus study, and one of only two BSL-4 labs in China), so its apparent uniqueness gives that “gee whiz, what are the odds of an outbreak in a city with a lab” brainworm what little weight it has.
    Cons: there is absolutely no evidence linking WIV to the actual virus (as opposed to very distant relatives like BaTG13), the market, or any of the early cases. Being in the same city is…all there is. And that’s not actually as big of a coincidence as people seem to think it is.

    (2) We suppose it came from the small lab operated by the Chinese CDC on the grounds of a local hospital.
    Pros: located just a couple of blocks from the market where the earliest cases have been traced, and is a less sophisticated lab where some kind of accident due to sloppy handling is arguably more plausible.
    Con: still no actual evidence that this lab was handling Covid before the outbreak (or, AFAIK, even handling coronaviruses at all in the months leading up to it). Meanwhile, the fact that there are dozens and dozens of these labs (in basically every city with a hospital big enough to host one) utterly obliterates the “gee whiz, what are the odds” factor. If the presence of a facility like this is sufficient evidence in and of itself to start screaming “lab leak”, then an outbreak in almost any moderately sized Chinese city would be considered “suspicious”. Probably nearly any city in the world.

    The fact that conspiracy idiots are willing to treat these mutually exclusive hypotheses more or less interchangeably, depending on whichever is convenient at the moment, is exactly the phenomenon referred to in the excellent New Republic piece PZ linked:

    TNR: By relying on an ever-growing arsenal of seemingly suspicious facts, each pointing in a slightly different direction, lab leaker discourse renders itself completely unfalsifiable.

    It’s basically a fractally recursive, self-contradictory motte-and-bailey argument. And just as fractally fallacious as a result. Any individual hypothesis founders on wild implausibility and a complete lack of evidence. So instead, the case is built by trying to vaguely entertain dozens of individually weak scenarios simultaneously, in a “where there’s smoke there’s fire” fashion. The problem is they are all mutually contradictory: they don’t reinforce, they cancel out. The whole thing vanishes on any critical examination, like the ouroboros conjured from pure conspiracy-addled imagination that it is.

    KG@12: In my estimation, the most likely way a Wuhan lab could be involved in the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is that a collector for one of the labs acquired a symptomless case, and spread it to some vulnerable species at the market, without them or their lab knowing anything about it.

    Sure. That could have happened. I mean, I don’t know that it’s been established that any “collectors” were actually based at the WIV, or even in Wuhan, or how many, or if any of them had returned from any trips in the relevant time frame. But, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose there were. Maybe a whole half-dozen or so. So it could have happened like that. Only two problems:

    (1) Why in the world should we consider it more likely — or worthy of any particular note — that one of those particular 6 people brought it to Wuhan, as opposed to the null hypothesis that one of the millions of other visitors to Wuhan from the wilds of China and Southeast Asia during the period. (Visitors including, just for example, who knows-how-many animal trappers, smugglers, traders and breeders working in the wet market. And thousands of animals.)
    (2) …And then, so what? Suppose we did actually have hard evidence that a WIV researcher accidentally picked up the original infection while doing field work in, say, a bat cave outside Puer somewhere. If the researcher happened to pick up a wild virus a few months before some local farmer would have, what difference would it make? Either way, the real problem would be a wild virus that was ready to go.

    I’m not even sure that actually qualifies as a “lab leak”. It’s certainly not in the same universe as “genetic engineering” or the other BS. So throwing this — still speculative, but at least relatively benign — scenario out as an example of a “lab leak” is a prime example of both the irresponsibility of this kind of speculation, and how it feeds into the way the motte-and-bailey bullshit that typifies “lab leak” stuff works. Your pet version of the “lab leak” will take its place alongside even wilder speculation about bio-weapons and genetic engineering, all interchangeable at will. And then it can be trotted out whenever it’s convenient. “Well, sure, maybe they didn’t engineer it on purpose. But what if somebody who worked in research got sick after visiting a cave full of bats, surely that’s possible, right? Aha! Lab leak confirmed!”

    The other big problem with all the untethered lab leak speculation is that it’s not constructive. It’s not actionable. It’s not even a jumping off point for something that is.

    If there were a confirmed lab leak, like the SARS ones you mentioned from the early ‘naughts, there would be evidence for it. A trail of evidence that could be unpicked, with a root-cause investigation to determine what procedures need to be tightened up for next time. For example, if it was determined that a researcher was exposed in the field, maybe those workers need better gear or training.

    But in the meantime, speculation does nothing except inflame ignorance about science. While random kids, hikers, miners, woodsmen and whoever else who are routinely working, playing or living in those areas and coming into contact with bats and other carrier animals routinely. If there’s a wild virus that’s got a human infectious capability, someone out there is going to run across it sooner or later, researcher or not.

    And those millions of other encounters are exactly why somebody needs to continue to be out there — and in labs like WIV — doing this work. Simply shutting them down is not an option. Even if this outbreak did somehow come about as a tragic result of the research process itself, and not (as is actually vastly more likely) something like a trapped raccoon dog or bats roosting in a barn at a mink farm out in the countryside somewhere, it won’t change the fact that the next one will almost certainly come about as a result of that kind of “natural” human contact with wildlife populations in these increasingly crowded regions.

    KG@12: Which does not come down on one side or the other but does make clear how utterly obstructive the Chinese authorities have been. They, of course, deny not only that a lab leak could have been responsible, but also that the “wet market” trade could have been: according to them, the virus probably came into China on frozen food.

    It seems like a lot of lab leakers fixate on this, but it’s really neither here nor there: authoritarian regime is insular. News at 11. Big deal.

    Obviously it’d be preferable if they had chosen to be more open and forthcoming, but the fact that they haven’t been isn’t actually evidence of anything. Or even particularly suggestive. They clearly find the whole thing to be an embarrassment, and would much prefer if the virus was somehow not indigenous in any way. (I daresay that this instinct to close up was not helped in the slightest by Mr. “China Virus” deciding to blow up any chance at delicacy or diplomacy early on.)

    And again, speculation about a lab leak in China is unlikely to help that situation. It’s not constructive. The problem in evidence is a lack of cooperation and transparency, so address that (assuming you’re in a position to talk to Chinese authorities, that is). But engaging in unfounded speculation about other supposed insidious crimes isn’t going to help.

  23. lotharloo says

    @jack lecou:

    It’s all just a big cover up. If the snake venom lab didn’t do it, how else could my third cousin’s brother-in-law possibly have ended up with snake venom in his body while innocently hiking around outdoors in Australia?

    You gotta think bigger, it’s too much of a coincidence. They say a “snake” bit your best friends’ cousin’s boy friend but I am pretty sure they have not find the actual “snake” that did the biting. It’s all very SUS. Did you know that snakes don’t naturally hunt humans? Why would a snake that does not naturally hunt humans have a poison that is venomous to hoomans? Make no sense! Veri CLEAR the snake is engineered by the AUSTRAILAN govimment FOR their GoAL of WolRD DOMOMINATION!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. lotharloo says

    BTW, another dumbass idiot spreading the lab leak theory is … JERRY COYNE! LULZ.

  25. lotharloo says

    @KG:

    In my estimation, the most likely way a Wuhan lab could be involved in the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is that a collector for one of the labs acquired a symptomless case, and spread it to some vulnerable species at the market, without them or their lab knowing anything about it.

    A hallmark of dealing with stupid conspiracy theories is the scene is always changing, and there are no fixed facts or theories. If the Theory A turns out to be indefensible people easily switch to Theory B and conveniently forget that they used to cheer for Theory A. Then when the same happens to Theory B, guess what, they move to Theory C and so on.

    So here is the question: Why the sick collector did not spread it to schools, grocery stores, restaurants and all other fucking places a person interacts with other people? Why did he spread it to the market of animals where it could have been originally originated from?

  26. fishy says

    Aren’t we currently witnessing, in real time, the growth of a naturally occurring virus amongst cattle that is spreading to humans?

  27. StevoR says

    @ ^ fishy : Are you referring to Q -fever?

    https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/q-fever-farms.aspx#:~:text=%E2%80%8BQ%20fever%20is%20a,best%20way%20to%20prevent%20infection.

    Hadn’t herad of that..

    FWIW Potholer54 has a couple of very good youtube clips on the orgin of Covid versus the tinfoil hat conspiracies here – Did SARS-Cov-2 start in a Chinese lab? and here – More “man-made” SARS-CoV-2 lab-leak malarky which a re worth watching in my view.

  28. raven says

    Aren’t we currently witnessing, in real time, the growth of a naturally occurring virus amongst cattle that is spreading to humans?

    Yeah, and it was already mentioned in #10.

    Bird Flu Has Killed Dozens Of Dairy Cows In 5 … – Forbes

    Forbes https://www.forbes.com › Innovation

    22 hours ago — As of May 30, more than 92 million poultry (primarily chickens) in 48 states have been euthanized because of bird flu since 2022, and 57 dairy …

    This has been ongoing for months now.

    The death toll is high, 92 million dead chickens in the USA. It’s starting to infect cows and kill them also.
    It’s only infected 3 people so far.

    The last outbreak of human H5N1 Avian influenza was in 2013.
    “To date, the number of H5N1 WHO-confirmed human cases amounts to 628 with 374 deaths from 15 countries.”
    It didn’t infect many people but it killed half of them.

    We see an outbreak of novel emerging diseases every 18 months or so.
    The last ones besides Covid-19 virus were Ebola in Africa.
    The other current one is M pox (formerly Monkeypox) which is still ongoing in the USA and surging in Africa.

    We don’t need a lab leak theory to explain novel emerging disease outbreaks.
    They occur around us all the time.

  29. raven says

    There is currently another novel virus emerging in the USA and elsewhere.
    It’s M-pox, renamed from Monkeypox.

    WHO edited

    Multi-country outbreak of mpox
    External Situation Report 32, published 30 April 2024
    Data as received by WHO from national authorities as of 30 March 2024
    Report highlights

    • A total of 466 new laboratory-confirmed cases of mpox and three deaths from 22 countries were reported
    globally to WHO in March 2024, illustrating that low-level transmission continues across the world. The most
    affected regions, ordered by number of laboratory-confirmed cases, were the WHO African Region, the
    European Region, the Region of the Americas, the Western Pacific Region, and the South-East Asia Region.
    • As surveillance reporting to WHO has been declining over time, the current global reported data most likely
    underestimate the number of mpox cases occurring.
    • In the African Region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo reports the highest number of confirmed mpox
    cases, which represent just over a tenth of the suspected (clinically compatible) cases and deaths reported.

    Monkeypox isn’t really monkeypox.
    It’s ratpox and ratpox is the probable ancestor of the human disease, smallpox.

    It’s possible if we let this disease circulate in humans, that it could adapt to us again and we then end up re-evolving, smallpox.

  30. jack lecou says

    Veri CLEAR the snake is engineered by the AUSTRAILAN govimment FOR their GoAL of WolRD DOMOMINATION!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yes! Obviously a field test of a genetically engineered snake being trained for use by Australian special forces. There’s solid proof that the Australian military uses taipans. QED.

    Or a regular snake that escaped from the lab. Or a wild snake that was in a bad mood because it had just been tagged by a researcher. One of those things. It’s all pretty much the same “theory”, right?

  31. Nathaniel Hellerstein says

    The lab-leak theory has this advantage over the zoonotic theory: it means that we’re responsible, rather than victims of events beyond our control. People would rather be naughty than helpless.

Leave a Reply