Let the ‘lab leak’ conspiracy theory die already


Well, good. Now Orac dismantles the “lab leak” nonsense promoted by Alina Chan and the NY Times.

Even so, before I close, let me just reiterate that it is not impossible that SARS-CoV-2 arose in a lab, either due to scientists carrying out modifications on existing coronaviruses or from a collection of natural coronaviruses, in which the virus escaped. The claim is not impossible, like the claims made for homeopathy. However, as I like to say, just because a hypothesis is possible does not mean that it is equally possible (or even more so) compared to a competing hypothesis. You have to look at the evidence. Lab leak conspiracy theorists love to point out missing evidence that would make a natural zoonotic origin for SARS-CoV-2 an unquestioned slam dunk, even as they gloss over the fact that their evidence base is nothing but holes that they try desperately to fill with appeals to personal incredulity that the virus could have arisen naturally, wild speculation as to how it might have escaped from a lab, conspiracy mongering about “cover-ups” everywhere, and lots and lots drawing links between facts and observations that are probably unrelated. Moreover, if there’s one thing that all versions of lab leak share, it’s suspicion and constant finger pointing at the Chinese for being less than enthusiastic and cooperative about letting investigators into the Wuhan Institute of Virology to try to determine if a lab leak happened. This is, of course, not surprising and not in and of itself evidence for a lab leak. China is an authoritarian regime, and such regimes tend to be secretive.

Note that, since this is Orac, what follows after that “before I close” is 1700 words of even more debunking.

Just as well, there is no last word when trying to deal with the lunacy of committed kooks.

Comments

  1. chrislawson says

    I’d add that China became a lot less internationally co-operative after the US President started using anti-Chinese rhetoric about the outbreak.

  2. jenorafeuer says

    The start of the pandemic, of course, is a place where China’s authoritarian aspect caused them major problems. Just like with the big famines under both Mao and Stalin, part of the problem with authoritarian regimes (okay, it’s far from unique to authoritarian regimes, but it tends to be even worse there) is that local functionaries in the regime never want to look like there’s a problem in their area so they will lie up the chain of command and try to stop any bad news from getting to Dear Leader. One of the things we do have evidence for is that local doctors in the Wuhan area were trying to sound the alarm about a new disease well before the Chinese central government took action, and most of the delay was due to regional Party members not reporting the problems and even actively threatening the doctors who were bringing up the problems.

    And my own comments about the lab leak hypothesis, which I’ve made a number of times… what does it even matter where the virus came from? It’s long since mutated anyway, and we have to deal with the virus we have now. The original source makes no difference in how we should react to it, and yet many of the people touting the lab leak hypothesis are also acting as if this was some proof that we don’t need to take any public health actions against it.

    Basically it’s all a pointless distraction anyway… which is, of course, the point for a number of the folks pushing it, since tje actual goal was just to sow enough Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt to keep the general populace from thinking about the real problems, and to prevent actually useful actions from being taken.

  3. bcw bcw says

    The decision by the NY Times to put its thumb on the scale for the lab leak “theory” would have been made by an editor with a degree in something like political science and little understanding of science. The lab leak theory is attractive to the public because it changes the millions of death from Covid-19 from “evolution means there is a steady stream of new disease forms and the best we can do is to be ready to respond and minimize the number of dead” to “those evil, Chinese, scientists trespassed outside their domain like in Jurassic park and we need to punish them so this doesn’t happen again.”

    Reading the comments was saddening because they all said: “she sounds like she is making a really good argument.” If the NY Times was honest, they would have run a parallel opinion piece pointing out how Alina Chan is misleading and likely wrong and then the comments would have been “they both sound like they could be right, which should we believe?”

    Instead, an even larger fraction of the non-science public will reach the wrong conclusion about Covid19 and what to do in the future. Meanwhile, the Alina Chan has learned that she doesn’t have to do honest science and publish peer reviewed papers to advance whatever agenda she is pushing. Is she anti-China or just self-promoting? She could have asked for an honest debate presentation here if she really believes she has the right answer.

  4. robro says

    bcw btw @ #4 — What are the chances that the thumb of a person at the NYT was that of the publisher or owner, not an editor?

  5. bcw bcw says

    @5 In that the editors picked by Sulzberger are already pretty conservative the distinction may not mean much.
    Meanwhile, at the Washington Post, Amazon and Post owner Jeff Bezos has put an ex-Murdoch British-tabloid-phone-hacker in charge.

  6. says

    They just did another review of this on TWiV including an extensive bibliography of other TWiV episodes and papers debunking the lab leak theory.

    Three important points that are crucial to me are 1) there were 2 variants at the market in Wuhan, a lab constructing viruses would not do that but evolution would, 2) the closest virus to COVID19 is thousands of base pairs different and the changed pairs are scattered all over the genome, a lab could not construct such a thing but evolution could, 3) the pattern of the outbreak is consistent with the virus jumping to humans from the market.

    One thing Dr Racagniello pointed out is that a lab leak conspiracy has to make all the evidence true, through human agency, i.e: 2 variants of a virus humans do not know how to create were innoculated in a victim patient zero at the market. He also pointed out that viruses jumping from animals to humans just like the virus in Wuhan did has been observed many times in the past. There is no need to multiply entities unnecessarily by imagining a lab did it.

    I suppose a lab with an existing virus and some human test subjects could try to nudge evolution in a bad direction but if that’s the scenario why not imagine smallpox or ebola or any other nightmare?

  7. says

    jenorafeuer@#3:
    The start of the pandemic, of course, is a place where China’s authoritarian aspect caused them major problems.

    I find it interesting how people like to note how China’s government’s handling of information made the outbreak worse when it’s equally clear that the free world’s handling of information made the outbreak worse, too. I’m not arguing with you but it’s always seemed a bit weird for us in a country where the president said the pandemic would end in a week, and maybe we could bleach from the inside… we handled the information well? I was watching the SARS outbreak in Toronto, where the outbreak was worsened by the government not wanting to impact tourism. Just like the Chinese in Wuhan. The only conclusion I can come up to is that human civilizations could not effectively spread information about pandemics, if it was mixed with piss, and stored in a jar with instructions printed on the bottom.

  8. jenorafeuer says

    @Marcus:
    I live in Toronto, so I’m right with you on some of that. (And I remember what a mess the 2003 World SF Convention was in Toronto, what with SARS, West Nile, and the blackout earlier that year and the U.S. still largely in post-9/11 ‘not travelling’ mode.)

    And yeah, I put ‘not unique to authoritarian regimes’ for a reason. Though in this case it’s really more a difference of where in the chain the problem was. As you note, a lot of the issues in the response over here was more ‘don’t want to impact tourism/economy/etc.’… even with good information, people often make the wrong decisions due to letting short-term priorities override long-term ones. Here we had good information get to the top and then got mishandled (in some cases deliberately to try to screw things up, back when Trump Jr figured that they could let it kill New Yorkers before having to worry about it). Not quite the same thing as the information not being allowed to get to the people who should have been making those decisions as a result of local idiocy.

  9. Hemidactylus says

    Not a minimizer per se but I’m fully vaccinated against COVID and my B-cells hopefully mutated well to handle variants even if antibody titers on downslide, but the kill rate of SARS-CoV-2 was a joke even in the beginning against what may be very well coming. The kill rate of OG SARS too was a joke, unless renamed bird flu gets attenuated by cow nipples. So Monday morning QBing the last pandemic has taught us nothing except that when people start actually dropping like flies dingbats will still be blaming 5G and sticking UV bulbs up their nostrils and/or anus, drinking bleach, and eating deworming paste. And shunning masks.

    I still eat cheese. Why not? But raw milk? WTF? I cringe at cleaning bird poop off my vehicle because well…bird flu!

    Oh and mpox is kinda not going away. When can people who aren’t gay or bi get shots without fibbing? I am willing to get that shot and H5 ASAP! Seems the supply chain is lethargic in response to either. Capitalism.

  10. StevoR says

    @8.Marcus Ranum : ” The only conclusion I can come up to is that human civilizations could not effectively spread information about pandemics, if it was mixed with piss, and stored in a jar with instructions printed on the bottom.””

    Huh. That certainly does sound like a very poor and likely highly ineffective method of spreading information about pandemics!

    Few people are going to want to fish around in urine-filled jars instructions on the bottom or not.

  11. says

    Repeat after me: Assertion is not evidence. Rinse. Repeat.
    Absent evidence, all ya got is glittering generalities and nebulous conclusions. Nothing you would bet the farm on.

  12. says

    I find it interesting how people like to note how China’s government’s handling of information made the outbreak worse when it’s equally clear that the free world’s handling of information made the outbreak worse, too…

    Actually, I kinda think America’s handling of the “information” was WORSE than China’s: the Chinese just stalled and delayed and covered things up for a bit before kicking into high gear with an actual response; while our “leaders” went from ignoring to minimizing to letting the pandemic loose unchecked on populations they didn’t like to a succession of scams and incoherent BS (the quinine stuff, horse-paste, bleach injections, some Trump-loving African witch-doctor, etc.), all the while encouraging everyone to REFUSE to do ANYTHING that any actual medical or epidemiological experts recommended (‘cuz “deep state” or something). And now the people who inflicted all that crap on us are demonizing Dr. Fauci.

    All of which is, of course, why they’re so eager to go back to screaming about China’s response: they need a diversionary scapegoat, so it’s Yellow Peril 3.0. Or maybe 4.0? 5.0? I have a hard time following Yellow Perils…

  13. raven says

    Speaking of mishandling information, the president of the USA was one of the worst.
    Trump is an idiot.

    40 times Trump said the coronavirus would go away

    Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com › politics › 2020/04/30

    Nov 2, 2020 — Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, President Trump has repeatedly said that the virus will disappear.

    Stay calm. It will go away. You know it — you know it is going away, and it will go away. And we’re going to have a great victory.
    President Trump March 30, 2020

    The Covid-19 virus hasn’t gone away yet.

  14. says

    @8.Marcus Ranum : ”The only conclusion I can come up to is that human civilizations could not effectively spread information about pandemics, if it was mixed with piss, and stored in a jar with instructions printed on the bottom.”

    Now that’s what I would call a piss-poor way to spread information.

  15. KG says

    Yeah… no. Both Orac, and most of the commenters here, appear to think there are only two possibilities: (1) the virus arrived at the Wuhan wet market in one or more individuals of a susceptible non-human species as part of the wildlife trade, or (2) it was produced in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But that’s simply false. I’ve thought from early on that the most plausible alternative to (1) is that a sample collector from one of the two labs in Wuhan that were working on bat coronaviruses acquired a (quite likely, asymptomatic) infection in a bat cave (see here), and transmitted it to other people or members of another susceptible species or both, quite likely at the wet market, without any of the Wuhan scientists, or the Chinese authorities, knowing anything about it. However, I also see a lot of utterly ludicrous naivete about the Chinese authorities: we know they lie systematically – for example about the horrifying repression of the Uighur people, and about their intention to respect Hong Kong’s democratic freedoms; and they have no hesitation in suppressing anyone who raises inconvenient concerns. It’s also worth noting that they deny not only the possibility of any connection with the Wuhan labs; they also deny the virus arrived in Wuhan as a result of the “wet market” trade. They claim it arrived from abroad, probably on frozen food packaging. And I always come back to the question: why did the pandemic start in Wuhan? There are many wet markets in China and nearby countries, while Wuhan is one of very few places where research into bat coronaviruses is going on. Yes, of course this could be a coincidence, but unless and until the actual source of the virus is discovered, the and it’s somewhere whence susceptible species were transported to Wuhan for sale, and not from somewhere sample collectors were sent by one of the labs, the question remains open and it’s absurd to pretend otherwise. I repeat my recommendation of the BBC podcast series Fever: The Hunt For Covid’s Origin.

  16. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Claiming it’s a conspiracy theory is a way to dodge the really important question IMAO, which is what kinds of regulations and oversight, if any, we the public should impose on scientists doing gain of function research creating viruses that are more dangerous in humans (or other animals). I’ve asked this in the FTB Discord once, long ago, before I left voluntarily because I did not fit in, but I’ll ask it here again.

    I remember that the typical answer from the FTB Discord users was something like “trust the individual scientists; no oversight”, which I think is flagrantly ridiculous position. Even if there’s a 1% chance that it was an accidental lab leak of a virus created with the best of intentions, this should have started a public conversation about the benefits vs dangers of this particular kind of gain of function research, the kind of research that makes more dangerous viruses.

    As best as I can determine from my research, the possible gains of this kind of research are nebulous and minimal. Compared to that, we have the risk of of millions of people dead, and billions significantly negatively affected worldwide. Given these premises, it seems obvious that we should ban gain of function research that is intended to, or can be reasonably predicted to, make a virus more infectious or dangerous to humans. Maybe / probably extend that ban to making viruses more infectious or dangerous to other animals.

    Part 2

    I don’t like calling it a conspiracy theory. Typical conspiracy theories are ridiculous because they involve thousands or millions of separate persons all working in concert without anyone leaking the truth to the public. Conspiracy theories like this are ridiculous because it’s impossible for not even one person to leak the truth among thousands or millions of separate people with little to no common interest. However, conspiracies of a dozen people happen all the time. People lie all the time, and people work together in small groups to lie all the time. This is normal. Moreover, the Chinese government coordinating a lying campaign on a slightly larger scale is all so commonplace as to be completely mundane. Calling it a conspiracy theory is a poisoning the well fallacy and conflagration of ridiculous conspiracy theories like “we didn’t land on the moon” with extremely common and mundane conspiracy theories like “2 people working together to embezzle money from the company”.

    The truth of the matter is that most of the calls from the scientists saying that it’s a conspiracy theory are coming from just a few dozen people AFAIK, including Dr Fauci.

    Dr Fauci is not a disinterested third party. If it was a lab leak, Dr Fauci would likely face some sort of ethical culpability for being partially directly responsible for it happening, including directing the funding to the Wuhan lab, and also probably violating prior bans on funding overseas gain of function research to direct funding to the Wuhan lab. Dr Fauci has a huge vested stake in the outcome, and therefore anything he says in this matter should be dismissed out of hand. Being a scientist doesn’t make someone immune to common petty human foibles like pride, arrogance, and desire for money and fame and power. He’s also a longtime political appointee and not a mere practicing research scientist, which should make us doubt his honesty and integrity even more. And on top of all of that, Dr Fauci is widely regarded as the foremost political activist arguing in favor of continued gain of function research. It is hard to imagine someone more biased and less trustworthy on this issue than Dr Fauci.

    AFAIK, most of the rest of the directly acting scientists who are calling it a conspiracy theory are acting directly with Dr Fauci to put out these public statements and academic papers, and they number in the tens or twenties. It is not ridiculous to suggest that there is a strong internal pressure coming from Dr Fauci and others to silence this, whether it’s true or false, by whatever expedient methods are available. This kind of conspiracy is not farfetched. It is mundane and trivial. This kind of coverup of unethical and maybe criminal behavior happens all of the time. It is unremarkable. Calling it a conspiracy theory in the sense of the moon landing is ridiculous.

    Part 3

    There are many flavors of the hypothesis, ranging from a purposeful release of a military engineered bio-weapon (which I think is ridiculous), to an accidental release of a military engineered bio-weapon, to a purposeful or accidental release of a gain of function research virus, to a purposeful or accidental release of a wild strain of virus that was collected from the wild. Not all of these are implausible.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/u-s-intel-report-identified-3-wuhan-lab-researchers-who-n1268327

    U.S. intel report identified 3 Wuhan lab researchers who fell ill in November 2019
    The details add to circumstantial evidence supporting a theory Covid-19 spread to humans after escaping from a lab. But the evidence is far from conclusive.

    This predates the outbreak centered at the wet market by roughly a month. I should not need this particular evidence to claim that the accidental lab leak of a gain of function research virus is plausible. I will argue that it remains plausible even without this evidence. However, with this evidence, if true, it tips the scales of probability so that an (accidental) release of some kind from the Wuhan lab is more likely than not. I would go so high as 90% likely.

    Part 4

    I had to apologize to my friend a while ago. I got pulled along with the zeitgeist like many other people here. Because it came from Trump, and because it seemed racist, we all circled our wagons and agreed with the leftist narrative that it must be a conspiracy theory. However, I recognize how I fell prey to my biases and to tribalism, and I should not have been so quick to dismiss this possibility on such flimsy evidence as was presented.

    I do believe that Dr Fauci performed many extremely unethical actions over the last decade, predating the COVID outbreak and after the COVID outbreak, some of it criminal, and I would like nothing more than to see Dr Fauci charged with perjury for lying to congress under oath and thrown in jail, along with the rest of his co-conspirators who also lied under oath to congress. I’d also like to investigate Dr Fauci’s possible historical decisions to continue funding the Wuhan lab and their gain of function research, IIRC through an intermediary group, in spite of a moratorium at the time on funding foreign organizations who were conduncting this kind of gain of function research.

    Part 5

    This is not the first time nor the last time that the top dozen or two dozen leading scientists of the medical establishment will have covered up things of this scale. It is important that we recognize that scientists in these positions are just as human as the rest of us, and they can fall prey to this kind of coverup, so that we can try to prevent it from happening again, such as through the correct kind of oversight.

    I speak of the HeLa coverup, where for decades, half of all medical research was basically knowingly conducted on HeLa cell lines instead of the actual cell lines being reported in the academic papers (whether it was supposed to be rabbit cell lines, or human cell lines of other human tissue, etc.) This means that all medical research from that period of 10 or 20 years is completely worthless, and yet many papers are still relying on it today. This is a huge shame which almost no one knows about, and has had an unimaginably huge impact on medical research, including to this day. It has set most medical reseasrch back by decades.

    This HeLa situation was not unknown at the time. It was well known among the whole medical research community at the time for at least a decade, but nothing was done about it, and when a researcher tried to fix the issue, he was buried and run out of academia. It wasn’t a conspiracy theory in the typical sense of overt coordination. Instead, many research medical scientists acted independently in a way that seems coordinated in order to protect their own personal prestige, and to protect their friends, and to protect the prestige of academia as a whole. This has happened before, and it happened again for COVID.

    I speak of Walter Nelson-Rees.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Nelson-Rees
    He should be remembered as a hero just like Clair Patterson, but no one even knows the hard work that Walter Nelson-Rees did. Effectively, the coverup of the HeLa debacle was successful.

    PS:
    This kind of coverup from a dozen leading scientists in the medical community has also happened another time. I speak of the origin of HIV-AIDS. HIV-AIDS was also likely the result of a lab leak. It was likely the result of Dr Hillary Koprowski using hundreds of chimpanzees to amplify his OPV (Oral Polio Vaccine) locally in the Congo which he gave to half a million people in the Congo, which matches exactly both in time and space the beginning of the HIV-AIDS epidemic in humans. Like the Wuhan researchers, he didn’t purposefully cause it, but arguably he caused it negligently. The two big human pandemics of the last 100 years were both caused by the practice of human medicine. I think we need a more serious and nuanced discussion about what we can do to stop it from happening for a third time.

    For more reading on this topic of the HeLa coverup, and also the HIV-AIDS coverup, I suggest:

    What Happens When Science Goes Bad.
    The Corruption of Science and the Origin of AIDS: A Study in Spontaneous Generation

    Louis Pascal
    with an introduction by Brian Martin

    University of Wollongong
    Science and Technology Analysis Research Programme
    Working Paper No. 9
    December 1991
    Department of Science and Technology Studies
    University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia

    Copyright Louis Pascal December 1991
    SBN 0 86418 199X

    https://documents.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/dissent/documents/AIDS/Pascal91.html

  17. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    https://documents.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/dissent/documents/AIDS/Pascal91.html

    Tissue cultures are used as a major part of cancer research and many other areas of biology. Not only was a significant part of the world’s scientific research using tissue cultures suddenly rendered invalid, but also much other work that made use of these invalid papers, or that made use of those invalid papers. . . . Moreover, a vast amount of further work that may be legitimate must be considered suspect until it is proven that neither the authors nor their important references ran afoul of HeLa.

    The problem was exposed largely due to the crusading efforts of a single individual, Walter Nelson-Rees, head of a cell bank at the University of California, and for a time vice-president of the professional organization for scientists in his field, the Tissue Culture Association. Nelson-Rees worked tirelessly to uncover and publicize cases of contamination. The reason the problem grew so large despite all his efforts is the same reason so few have ever heard of it: instead of joining forces with Nelson-Rees to rid science of this great adversary, scientists and journal editors joined forces to cover it up, thereby becoming HeLa’s greatest allies. Scientists unwilling to throw away years of work refused to admit their cultures were contaminated and continued to supply samples to other researchers without a word of warning and to publish papers with no mention of the possibility of contamination. Often researchers deceived the journals. But in at least one major case, when a researcher wrote an important paper published in Science without warning the journal that three years earlier he had been told by the American Type Culture Collection that his cultures were probably contaminated, he was able to deflect a portion of the criticism by proving that previously, when he had included warnings, two separate journals had asked him to delete all mention of the possibility of contamination [2]. Other journals refused to publish Nelson-Rees’ lists of contaminated cultures or took unconscionably long, while researchers unknowingly using the cultures wasted valuable time and HeLa continued to spread. Meanwhile, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published a cooked-up case by workers previously discredited by Nelson-Rees arguing through shoddy logic buttressed by illegitimate composite photographs of chromosomes that Nelson-Rees’ charges of contamination were not valid, since, they erroneously claimed, they had found a non-HeLa culture that according to Nelson-Rees’ tests might have been mistakenly classed as HeLa. Nelson-Rees and the chromosome expert at the American Type Culture Collection both agreed that this culture was not in any way mistakable for HeLa. The journal was warned of the serious defects of the paper but published it anyway, and without any mention of the fact that the acknowledged world expert on HeLa identification had told them it was blatant nonsense [3]. At least one major biological supplier, Microbiological Associates (which later changed its name to M.A. Bioproducts) continued to sell a HeLa-contaminated culture for 13 years after first being told by Stanley Gartler and for 7 years after half a dozen other scientists had confirmed Gartler’s charge. What they described in their catalogue as “prostate, benign, human adult” was instead cancerous cervical tissue. The culture, MA160, was a best-seller [4].

    In the end, Nelson-Rees made so many enemies with his disclosures that he was effectively forced to retire in 1981 at the age of 52. Shortly thereafter, the National Cancer Institute halted funding for his laboratory, and the most scrupulously careful cell culture facility in the country ceased to exist. During his years of work, Nelson-Rees and his laboratory had uncovered 90 contaminated cell lines, 22 of them in his last two years. According to the head of the American Type Culture Collection, this represented “about a third of the more popular cell lines used in cancer and related research” [5].

    The HeLa affair was an extraordinary, worldwide scientific debacle with much greater impact on human welfare than, for instance, such well-known scientific achievements as putting a man on the moon. It is one of the major episodes of twentieth-century science, yet it has been hushed up so thoroughly that few even know of its existence. The fight against cancer, and much other scientific research, was greatly compromised, and an unknown, but surely large, number of lives will be lost as a result.

    In this day and age, with biological scientists creating novel life forms, studying exotic and deadly viruses, and engaging in new and untested technologies all over the world, any tiny slip-up resulting in the escape of one of these organisms, might spark off a deadly epidemic of a new disease against which science was helpless. This could quite literally be a worldwide disaster. If scientists of the sort Gold describes had made such a slip-up, what are the chances they would immediately come forward to explain what went wrong and to warn the world so that a maximum effort could be made to contain the disaster and so that similar errors could be avoided in the future? How much greater are the chances they would fail to see the error, would ignore or attack anyone daring to point it out, would enlist the journal editors on their side, and would bury their mistake as deeply and thoroughly as they possibly could? That is what they did this time.

    Emphasis on the “prophetic” last paragraph.

    Maybe we’ll learn after it happens for the third time? Probably not. Enjoy your echo chamber.

  18. says

    Even if there’s a 1% chance that it was an accidental lab leak of a virus created with the best of intentions, this should have started a public conversation about the benefits vs dangers of this particular kind of gain of function research, the kind of research that makes more dangerous viruses.

    First, why should we “start a conversation” from a false or dubious premise? Such conversations aren’t likely to lead anywhere good, especially if they fail (or refuse) to address what is more likely to have actually happened. (Another dubious premise is that this gain-of-function research is really producing dangerous pathogens, or that it even CAN produce something like COVID-19. This premise has also been, at least IMO, plausibly disputed.)

    Here, lemme give another example of how badly “starting a conversation” this way can go:

    “Even if there’s a 1% chance that Chinese are malicious heathens intent on enslaving all our daughters, this should have started a public conversation about the benefits vs dangers of letting Chinese people move to more civilized Western countries and live among us.”

    See what I did there?

    And second, if there’s a greater chance that COVID jumped from live animals to humans in that wet market in the center of Wuhan, wouldn’t it be more productive to “start a conversation” about the benefits vs. dangers of such markets and how THEY should be regulated? What’s the fucking point of “starting a conversation” from an accusation that has very little chance of being true, when other explanations are far more likely to be true?

    AFAIK, most of the rest of the directly acting scientists who are calling it a conspiracy theory are acting directly with Dr Fauci to put out these public statements and academic papers, and they number in the tens or twenties. It is not ridiculous to suggest that there is a strong internal pressure coming from Dr Fauci and others to silence this…

    SO WHAT?! The lab-leak claims have long been debunked by knowledgeable and people anyway. If anyone feels any need to shut this zombie-allegation up, it’s because there’s so many REPUBLICANS keeping it alive to distract attention away from their own despicable failures and malfeasance. The more we let them keep it alive, the more we let them control the entire public conversation.

    As I said before, the lab-leak “theory” is nothing but diversionary scapegoating. It’s just Yellow Peril 3.0. Or maybe 4.0…

  19. says

    Sorry, I need to restate one sentence in my previous comment:

    “What’s the fucking point of “starting a conversation” from an accusation that has very little chance of being true, when other explanations are far more likely to be true — and far more likely to happen again and again?”

  20. says

    I’ve thought from early on that the most plausible alternative to (1) is that a sample collector from one of the two labs in Wuhan that were working on bat coronaviruses acquired a (quite likely, asymptomatic) infection in a bat cave (see here), and transmitted it to other people or members of another susceptible species or both, quite likely at the wet market…

    I agree that this is indeed plausible, and others have mentioned it for some time already. In fairness, I suspect this explanation tends to get lumped together with the wet-market-transfer explanation, simply because it’s generally the same claim: “a virus mutated and jumped from animals to humans.”

    However, I also see a lot of utterly ludicrous naivete about the Chinese authorities…

    You’ve “seen?” Or you’ve heard vague claims? I’ve heard lots of accusations of “naivete,” but never anyone on the ground actually saying Chinese authorities are always honest and trustworthy. The problem here is not that no one doubts Chinese authorities — it’s that we need China’s cooperation on this, and accusing them of malfeasance makes them less willing to cooperate with us. No one’s being “naive,” they’re being diplomatic and trying to work with other organizations that we can’t totally trust, but also can’t push around on their turf. It’s called diplomacy.

  21. raven says

    Gerald the totally crazy loon:

    This kind of coverup from a dozen leading scientists in the medical community has also happened another time. I speak of the origin of HIV-AIDS. HIV-AIDS was also likely the result of a lab leak.

    Gerald, the last person in the world who thought you might be sane at least once a year, just gave up.
    You are obviously delusional and have left the real world.

    Your rambling trash is wrong in every sentence and it isn’t worth my time to bother with any of it.

    The proof is your lie that the HIV virus is a lab leak.
    There is zero evidence for that. The whole polio vaccine in Africa theory was completely made up and factually wrong.

    Unlike the Covid-19 virus where we don’t exactly know which animal species it came from, we do know where the HIV viruses came from.
    BTW, there are two HIV viruses that aren’t all that similar and obviously of independent origin.

    .1. HIV-1, the most common strain of HIV in developed countries, originated from a subspecies of chimpanzees in west equatorial Africa.
    .2. Human Immunodeficiency Virus 2 (HIV-2) is a less virulent AIDS retrovirus that originated from West African sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys) and was transmitted to humans:

    If you are going to say lab leak, there has to be…two lab leaks to produce two different AIDS viruses.

  22. raven says

    GerrardOfTitanServer is incapable of rational thought.
    This is someone delusional and living in a separate reality.

    He’s been told many times by many people that he is a serious loon.
    In Gerrard’s mind, he isn’t crazy. The entire rest of the world is crazy.

    BTW, he’s made the claim before that the HIV/AIDS virus is a human made virus. He’s had it explained before that he is wrong and why.
    It doesn’t do any good.
    Gerrard is incapable of learning anything new or reasoning.

    What he does is collect all of the conspiracy theories there are, and they are starting to star him as a leading character.

    Gerrard can have the last word and he will.
    I’m not wasting another second of my valuable time on total nonsense.

  23. says

    raven: God’s balls, I totally missed his HIV-lab-leak bullshit — thanks for catching that (again).

    Oh well, look on the bright side: at least he’s not repeating the old claim that HIV was deliberately engineered and released to kill Blacks and/or gays…

  24. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    SO WHAT?! The lab-leak claims have long been debunked by knowledgeable and people anyway.

    I clearly dispute that claim, as does like half of all US intelligence agencies.

    I really don’t get the need to claim that it’s been “debunked” given the extremely flimsy evidence and clearly biased arguments being leveled against it.

    Why do you feel the need to claim such extreme confidence given that it’s unwarranted in this case?

    In other words, you’re going to take as holy gospel the words of Dr Fauci and the two dozen people working directly under or with him, considering that Dr Fauci controls their future careers and funding, and considering that they might also share ethical and maybe criminal culpability for their part of it was a lab leak? Naive and foolish.

  25. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    BTW, he’s made the claim before that the HIV/AIDS virus is a human made virus.

    Blatant lies.

  26. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Raging Bee:

    The lab-leak claims have long been debunked by knowledgeable and people anyway

    and Raging Bee:

    I agree that this is indeed plausible,

    You’re such a partisan lying hack. Have you no shame? You just blatantly contradicted yourself in the space of a few minutes and a few posts in order to uphold the narrative that protects those small number of people in power who are probably partially responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people. What the fuck?

  27. says

    Gerrard: as Taylor Swift might say, you need to calm down. The claim I called debunked is NOT THE SAME CLAIM as the one I called plausible. Read more slowly for comprehension. Or, you know, maybe just fuck off and get help…? Check yourself before you wreck yourself and all that…

  28. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    If you are going to say lab leak, there has to be…two lab leaks to produce two different AIDS viruses.

    Why can’t one be a natural transfer and one be a lab leak? I fully accept that many / most virus transfers from non-human animal populations to human populations are caused by something other than the practice of human medicine. This is an extremely ridiculous and fallacious argument that you are using against me with zero principle of charity, instead relying on a fundamentally dishonest “gotcha”.

  29. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Raging Bee:
    Fucking liar. You go read it. That’s exactly what you did.

    Why do I even bother to post here. I should have continued my prolonged absence. Fucking full of dishonest partisan hacks like Raging Bee.

  30. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    .1. HIV-1, the most common strain of HIV in developed countries, originated from a subspecies of chimpanzees in west equatorial Africa.

    AFAIK, we have not located a sufficiently close match of SIV to make such a bold claim. The wide variability of SIV among neighboring tribes of chimps is extremely large. We simply don’t know which location of chimps it came from.

    And from a quick google:
    https://www.nature.com/articles/d42859-018-00008-6

    This was subsequently confirmed by identifying natural P. t. troglodytes reservoirs of the HIV-1 precursor in southeastern Cameroon.

    That’s pretty close to the Congo.

    Not that any of this matters anyway. Hooper has receipts of chimps from all over Africa being present in Koprowski’s lab in the Congo. It doesn’t really matter where the ancestral population of chimps actual for the OPV HIV hypothesis.

    Just one facet of the extremely effective coverup. Because it’s your tribe, you throw out arguments which you should be able to see are inapplicable and wrong with just a modicum of thought, but you’re not actually thinking now. You’re acting on impulse, on instinct, because you identified me as “the other”, and I must be wrong, and you will use any sort of argument to prove that I am wrong, motivated reasoning, in order to reduce your own cognitive dissonance.

  31. John Morales says

    Just one facet of the extremely effective coverup. Because it’s your tribe, you throw out arguments which you should be able to see are inapplicable and wrong with just a modicum of thought, but you’re not actually thinking now. You’re acting on impulse, on instinct, because you identified me as “the other”, and I must be wrong, and you will use any sort of argument to prove that I am wrong, motivated reasoning, in order to reduce your own cognitive dissonance.

    Such acumen!

  32. jack lecou says

    KG@18: Yeah… no. Both Orac, and most of the commenters here, appear to think there are only two possibilities: (1) the virus arrived at the Wuhan wet market in one or more individuals of a susceptible non-human species as part of the wildlife trade, or (2) it was produced in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. But that’s simply false. I’ve thought from early on that the most plausible alternative to (1) is that a sample collector from one of the two labs in Wuhan that were working on bat coronaviruses acquired a (quite likely, asymptomatic) infection in a bat cave (see here), and transmitted it to other people or members of another susceptible species or both, quite likely at the wet market, without any of the Wuhan scientists, or the Chinese authorities, knowing anything about it.

    Wrong. “Field worker dunnit” is not a new hypothesis that no one has considered. It’s explicitly mentioned as part of the spectrum of different kinds of “lab leaks”in a piece quoted in Orac’s article:

    The allegation that SARS-CoV-2 escaped from a research laboratory comes in a wide variety of often mutually exclusive forms, from a willfully engineered bioweapon to an accident during genetic engineering or a routine laboratory procedure and even to a worker infected during bat fieldwork (68–73) (Figure 3).

    If you’d been paying attention, you’d know that those various kinds of “Accidental sample leak” have been an integral part of the general “lab leak” theory from the very beginning: they’re the more defensible “motte” to the gain-of-function/furin cleavage/bioweapon/etc “bailey”. Just because you’ve very carefully worded your formulation of the lab leak as “produced in the [lab]” doesn’t erase that fact.

    So, no, your pet hypothesis is not special. It’s been considered.

    And dismissed, like all the other unsupported lab leak variants. After all, I fail to see how it offers any explanatory advantages over the other variants, nevermind a market crossover. Like all the other lab-leak variants, it’s simply a just-so story, with zero supporting evidence. More so, perhaps, since at least some variations of the lab leak offer some gesture at a falsifiable hypothesis, like the possibility to detect unmistakable genetic tampering signals.

    But let’s think it through. Suppose a field worker for the lab did get infected in Southern China or somewhere, during a course of field work that might have lasted a few weeks or more, during which they’d interact with co-workers, locals, restaurant staff, etc. Then they travel all the way back, probably on a crowded train, get off at the Wuhan train station, mingle with family, friends and coworkers in Wuhan for some amount of time, and then, eventually visit the wet market for some reason. Out of all those encounters, the only time they spread any observed infection is when they happen to visit one of the most likely places in the city for a virus to emerge on its own: the wet market. Oh, and they don’t do this just once, but twice, with two slightly different viral lineages.

    Pretty weird, right?

    Could it happen that way? Maybe. But it doesn’t seem especially likely. It’s so unlikely it’s not really worth thinking about. After all, if we’re not constraining ourselves by evidence, and allowed to carefully craft just-so stories to skirt around any constraints offered by evidence or probability, then there are literally millions of scenarios which become equally plausible. If the field worker can make that journey, why couldn’t, say, a student or young professional living in Wuhan, who returns from a visit to her family out in a province somewhere. Family who occasionally hunt bats, or run a mink farm, or…

    Indeed, this latter class of story is much more probable than anything involving lab workers, because if if you tallied it up, there are likely hundreds or thousands of times more such students and random people, and thus chances for the latter scenario, than there are field workers at WIV…

    (These other scenarios also illustrate the other lie in your false dichotomy at the beginning: an animal at the wet market is not the only “natural” origin possibility. There are many of them. Infected farmers from the country travelling into the city, for example. Or an origin at some of the bat caves within the city. Those aren’t normally talked about, however, because they’re speculation with no evidence. The wet market is the only hypothesis — natural or not — with any supporting evidence whatsoever. If the early cases clustered around, say, the Wuhan train station, we might be considering something else.)

    KG@18: However, I also see a lot of utterly ludicrous naivete about the Chinese authorities: we know they lie systematically

    Where precisely do you see this “naivete” and from who exactly? Because I don’t think I’ve seen anyone, on either side of this issue, uncritically assume honesty or openness on the part of Chinese authorities.

    They’ve not been honest or open about any of this, obviously. I don’t think anyone is confused about that. The problem is that you can’t really draw any conclusions from it, in either direction. Not even to say that originating in China is actually a sure thing. Their behavior is inconvenient for determining what really happened, of course, but otherwise meaningless. (If you really want to try, the evidence for a cover up at the market is much more compelling: authorities removed and destroyed the animals (without preserving samples) and sanitized the whole place. Nothing similar has happened at WIV.)

    KG@18: And I always come back to the question: why did the pandemic start in Wuhan? There are many wet markets in China and nearby countries, while Wuhan is one of very few places where research into bat coronaviruses is going on.

    And there it is. The fundamental “intuition” at the heart of the entire lab-leak phenomenon: “Gee whiz, what are the odds?”

    This is always near the surface of the thoughts of any lab-leaker. But it remains a not very uninteresting observation. A combination of innumeracy, ignorance, and incuriousness:

    To start with, Wuhan is not the only city that has labs. Hundreds of cities across China have labs and researchers studying coronavirus. Also, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Thailand…There’s an open question as to how many cities of any reasonable size could host a virus crossover event without someone on the internet Googling up some plausibly concrete connection to coronavirus research. You’re welcome to actually do that calculation, if you’d like, but until then, “pretty good” remains at least as good an answer to “what are the odds” as “unlikely”.

    Then there’s the fact that Americans (and others, but particularly Americans) hear “Wuhan” — which they had perhaps never heard of before late 2019 — and apparently conjure up the image of some sleepy provincial village in the middle of nowhere. But it’s a “village” of almost 14 million people: if Wuhan were a US city, it’d be the second largest in the country. Bigger than LA[1]. And not only is it a (very) large city and a provincial capital, it’s the key economic and cultural hub for the entirety of central China. It occupies something like the position that, say, Chicago does to the rest of the US Midwest.

    And therein lies the nexus of the ignorance and innumeracy : if a mutated cow virus broke out in Chicago next month, I don’t think any “lab leak” conspiracy would form simply because it turned out there’s USDA lab at the University of Chicago that’s been actively studying that type of virus for a few years. In fact, I don’t think anyone would be surprised by that at all. Of course Chicago would be a good place for that lab, and a good place for the virus to emerge, both for much the same reasons. It’s a big city at the heart of an agricultural region.

    So, why is it suspicious when it’s Wuhan? Answer: it’s not.

  33. says

    Why can’t one be a natural transfer and one be a lab leak?

    That sounds kinda whiny — “Why can’t I cling to just ONE wild inflammatory claim out of two?!” Or maybe “Why can’t we split the difference and compromise and get along?”

    Just one facet of the extremely effective coverup.

    Right. That certainly explains the lack of any actual evidence supporting your claims. Why am I not surprised?

  34. jack lecou says

    GerrardOfTitanServer is incapable of rational thought.
    This is someone delusional and living in a separate reality.

    Indeed.

    I remember I had a long back and forth with them a while back here about the HIV thing. It was actually the first time I’d heard of the polio vaccine accusations, so I looked into it. On the plus side, I got to read a lot of papers and learn a lot about the (actual) genetics and origin of HIV. Spoiler: it wasn’t polio vaccine testing. On the minus side, I laid all that research out for Gerrard as well, in no uncertain terms, and now they’re back here again spouting the same debunked nonsense.

    Far be it from me to tell someone not to sharpen their claws, but don’t expect them to realize just how much they’ve been shredded at the end. Reality and evidence clearly isn’t the point for them.

  35. says

    …if a mutated cow virus broke out in Chicago next month, I don’t think any “lab leak” conspiracy would form simply because it turned out there’s USDA lab at the University of Chicago that’s been actively studying that type of virus for a few years…

    No, such a conspiracy theory would be cobbled up — and very quickly — by angry anti-government Retrumplitarians looking for an excuse to discredit and incite mindless hatred against any damn gummint agency trying to tell them what to do. And if there wasn’t a USDA lab nearby to blame it on, they’d find some other big-gummint office nearby to attack instead. (they’ve already said they want to defund and destroy the FBI, and there’s bound to be an FBI office in the Chicago area, right? They’ll do as a scapegoat, especially if they’ve ever been seen with Chinese officials…)

  36. says

    Also, Gerrard, what “small number of people in power” am I allegedly trying to protect? The Chinese Communist regime? They don’t need no stinkin’ protection from no stinkin’ FTBers. I’m trying to do my tiny little bit to protect AMERICAN DEMOCRACY from a much larger number of fascist insurrectionists and con-artists who are using bogus accusations (including, but by no means limited to, scapegoating China for COVID-19) to cover up and distract everyone’s attention from their own blatant incompetence, failures and malfeasance. Not sure why you’d have a problem with that…

  37. says

    …while Wuhan is one of very few places where research into bat coronaviruses is going on.

    And why, exactly, is that research going on there? Because that’s where the bats and their coronaviruses are. So that would also be the most likely place for a coronavirus to mutate and jump from a bat to a human in the wild (where lab-security protocols aren’t routinely in effect), whether or not any virology lab even exists in that region. QEDuh.

  38. jack lecou says

    No, such a conspiracy theory would be cobbled up — and very quickly — by angry anti-government Retrumplitarians looking for an excuse to discredit and incite mindless hatred against any damn gummint agency trying to tell them what to do.

    Ugh. You’re not wrong.

    Still, I think the specific “what are the odds” argument probably wouldn’t be the backbone of that conspiracy theory in the way it is with Wuhan.

    It works with Wuhan because our brains are bad at logic. For most people outside of China, Wuhan isn’t actually a real place. Just a name, an arbitrary signifier to which they’ve attached a few very limited pieces of information: perhaps only that it’s where Covid-19 came from, and it’s where a coronavirus lab is. Since our brains are compelled to try to put facts together, they attach signficance to what little information they have out of proportion to its objective salience. Of course those facts must be related, they’re the only facts we have. And thus, obviously the lab must have something to do with covid. How could it be otherwise?

    At that point, a conclusion is already formed. Even if they learn additional facts from there, they’ll be selected or ignored to support it, at least without a degree of mental effort to be objective about it.

    So it works with Wuhan because of a particularly rarefied kind of ignorance. With Chicago, well the average American probably knows hundreds of facts about Chicago. Adding a couple more won’t necessarily trigger connections with quite the same degree of emotional salience, it’s just a couple more in the pile.

  39. jack lecou says

    And why, exactly, is that research going on there? Because that’s where the bats and their coronaviruses are.

    Careful with that. I think you’re right in the ways that matter, but that statement could be twisted in a “technically correct” fashion.

    The area typically considered the most at risk for coronavirus spillover is more to the south in China, or further south in SE Asia: SARS started in Guangdong, several hundred miles south, and the samples of SARS-CoV-1 predecessor, RaTG13, etc. have mostly been collected from caves in Yunnan, about 1000 miles to the southwest. The closest relative of SARS-CoV-2 so far was found in Laos somewhere, even further away.

    And then, the WIV itself was founded decades ago, AFAICT before coronaviruses were known to be a particular matter of concern in the region, and certainly before major 21st century spillovers occurred from animal populations in southern China and southeast Asia. It was just a general virology institute, sited in Wuhan because the city is a major population center in the heart of China. It was only later when these kinds of coronaviruses DID start to get on the radar, that WIV started to take lead on some of the research, even if it wasn’t necessarily right on top of the hotspots geographically.

    Still, Yunnan (where the CoV-1 predecessors have been found) and Guangdong (where SARS started) are about 1000 miles apart too, so it should be obvious that these viruses can move around quite a bit, either through animal migration, or being carried by humans. I don’t think anybody can quantify by how much, exactly. And Wuhan itself is actually within at least the northern fringe of the range of the horseshoe bats in question (climate change probably shifts that around on a weekly basis anyway). There are actually bat caves in parks within the city itself. It may not be the area of greatest concern for such spillovers, but it wouldn’t exactly be shocking if the host animals came from Wuhan’s immediate environs somewhere.

    And even if that weren’t true, trains and trucks exists, so Wuhan’s size and economic significance is the more important fact, not its exact location. The collection zone for the animals in the wet market, particularly the exotic ones, probably spans all of Asia. They’re brought into Wuhan for more or less the same reason the lab is there: because it’s an important place with lots of people.

  40. says

    With Chicago, well the average American probably knows hundreds of facts about Chicago.

    One of those facts is that Chicago is a city; another is that there’s lots of nonwhite people in it. And there’s plenty of ass-backward crackers who already HATE Chicago, and most other cities, for that reason. And they’d be the ones to grab and run with any damning scare-story about Chicago their favorite demagogue lobs at them. So, yeah, Chicago is a little safer from such deranged hate than Wuhan; but still not really out of the woods.

  41. says

    Also, Chicago is still associated with that black ex-President who’s still a Kenyan/Indonesian sleeper-agent (or the Antichrist) in many of those crackers’ minds. COINCIDENCE?!! I think not!

  42. says

    I clearly dispute that claim, as does like half of all US intelligence agencies.

    Once again, Gerrard, you are flat-out misrepresenting what those agencies have said. They DID NOT state that the lab-leak theory was true or proven, or that they believed it; they merely rated the credibility of that claim according to a set of generic metrics they use to rate any claim or information they get from any source on any subject. And, IIRC, they rated it “low confidence.”

  43. jack lecou says

    Also, Chicago is still associated with that black ex-President who’s still a Kenyan/Indonesian sleeper-agent (or the Antichrist) in many of those crackers’ minds. COINCIDENCE?!! I think not!

    Oh yeah, exactly. It’d all be “corrupt dumocrat crime city Hussein Obama community organizer blah blah blah”. There’s a whole gross, sticky ocean of pre-existing prejudice and stupidity to base a theory on.

    But that’s why I think the specific incredulity you see with the Wuhan lab leak bozos, the emotional shock of, “ZOMG, there’s a research lab in WuhanChicago?!? One of the largest cities in the country??! What are the odds?!!” probably wouldn’t be that much of a factor in it. Not only wouldn’t Americans be particularly shocked to learn that there’s stuff in Chicago, it’d be buried under all that other, more emotionally salient stuff.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if any notional lab(s) in Chicago didn’t even make the cut for the main conspiracy. I’m sure it was actually designed in China or Iran or France or Quebec or something anyway. No doubt funded by the “globalist” deep state and then smuggled in from Colombia by a giant convoy of terrorists, immigrants and drug smugglers.

  44. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Raging Bee

    That sounds kinda whiny — “Why can’t I cling to just ONE wild inflammatory claim out of two?!” Or maybe “Why can’t we split the difference and compromise and get along?”

    Yes. Why can’t I just stick to the claims that I want to defend instead of defending claims that I nevr made? What’s so wrong with that?

    Once again, Gerrard, you are flat-out misrepresenting what those agencies have said. They DID NOT state that the lab-leak theory was true or proven, or that they believed it;

    False. And projection. I never claimed that half of the intelligence agencies said it was proven. I said that half of them said it was plausible and/or more likely than not. Myself, I never claimed it was proven either. I said that I consider it to be more likely than not. You are the one who is clearly misrepresenting me, again. Please take your head out of your ass, put on your reading glasses, and try again with some honesty and integrity.

    Also, Gerrard, what “small number of people in power” am I allegedly trying to protect?

    Dr Fauci (and his cohorts) who are probably partially responsible for the COVID pandemic by unwisely funding and supporting dangerous gain of function research, and moreover by sometimes violating legal bans on funding such research in foreign countries.

    PS:
    You are such a scumbag. I already caught you out in more than three clear misrepresentation of me in this thread thus far. A normal person would never have completed that in the first place. Moreover, someone with even a shred of decency or integrity would have used the words “I’m sorry” when it was pointed out. You’re almost as bad as John Morales.

    jack lecou
    Of course, I disagree. If you want to retread that again, I’m game. I completely forgot the last conversation, and thus I probably dismissed every single one of your points. What was it again?

    You believe that they didn’t amplify the vaccine locally in the lab in the Congo? Wrong. This is implausible given the standard practice at the time. For example, Koprowski’s competitor at the time amplified his own vaccine locally in locally obtained monkeys/primates. Also, Koprowsky et al had to bring live virus vaccines on planes in boxes with ice to preserve them from NA / Europe to Africa, and the live virus vaccine would still lose potency, so they would need to amplify it locally to be effective. Also, it’s implausible that the 400 chimps that they killed in the Congo lab was used for any other reason. We also have written records from one of Koprowski’s compatriots talking about the titer of the initial vaccine sample flown in, and later notes discussing a higher titer of the doses to be given to people, ergo it must have been amplified locally in the Congo.

    Or you believe that they didn’t use chimps to amplify the vaccine in the lab in the Congo? Also wrong. Again, we have indisputable records of 400 chimps being brought to the Congo lab and killed there. There’s no plausible reason to buy and bring 400 chimps in a lab in the middle of nowhere in the Congo and then kill them except as part of amplifying a polio vaccine to be given to half a million nearby people.

    Or you believe that they used the wrong kind of chimps? Also wrong. We still don’t know which population of chimps was the immediate accessor. Also, there were chimps brought from nearly every part of Africa to the Congo lab.

    Or you believe that the genetic dating is reliable which purports to show that the SIV-HIV crossover happened before 1957? Also wrong. First, the technique of assuming a constant rate of mutation is simply not valid for a retrovirus which changes primarily through recombination, and there’s no way that they could have reliably identified and removed recombinant strains from their analysis, regardless of their protestations otherwise. Moreover, the dating technique assumes a single point of crossover, and on the OPV crossover hypothesis, we had vaccine made from 400 chimps given to half a million people. It’s quite plausible that there were multiple viral crossovers with these 400 chimps and half a million people. This clear possibility means that any dating technique relying on a single point of crossover is bunk.

  45. John Morales says

    Dr Fauci (and his cohorts) who are probably partially responsible for the COVID pandemic by unwisely funding and supporting dangerous gain of function research

    All while eating recently-aborted abused babbis in the basement of a pizza place.

    (Qanon could not do better)

  46. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    jack lecou

    Did you bother to read this link that I posted above? How about just the title?

    https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/u-s-intel-report-identified-3-wuhan-lab-researchers-who-n1268327

    U.S. intel report identified 3 Wuhan lab researchers who fell ill in November 2019
    The details add to circumstantial evidence supporting a theory Covid-19 spread to humans after escaping from a lab. But the evidence is far from conclusive.

    The problem appears to be that you, like many others, are operating on incorrect prior assumptions of probability. You are operating on the assumption that lab leaks are very rare compared to zoonotic transfers that are not directly caused by human medical practice.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_laboratory_biosecurity_incidents
    Lab leaks are worrying mundane and common. That’s tens or hundreds of known lab leaks in the last 100 years. How many zoonotic transfers of novel viruses (without being caused by human medical practice) have there been in the last 100 years? I know this is not exactly comparing apples to oranges, but I think that this information does not support such a strong prior probability that zoonotic transfer is much more likely.

  47. John Morales says

    You’re almost as bad as John Morales.

    Over 37.5 Mwh from my solar panels, so far.

    Today (around a week before winter solstice) I got 24 Kwh.

    (Bbbbbbbbbad to the bone!)

  48. John Morales says

    The problem appears to be that you, like many others, are operating on incorrect prior assumptions of probability.

    <snicker>

    Nah. Doesn’t appear like that at all, because it ain’t.

    Problem is that some people believe they know better than actual experts and expert bodies, such as the WHO.

    (Guess who!)

  49. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Once again, Gerrard, you are flat-out misrepresenting what those agencies have said. They DID NOT state that the lab-leak theory was true or proven, or that they believed it;

    https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/us-intelligence-agencies-remain-divided-likely-covid-origin-rcna90914

    “All agencies continue to assess that both a natural and laboratory-associated origin remain plausible hypotheses to explain the first human infection,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Friday in a 10-page declassified report.

    […]

    While the National Intelligence Council and four unnamed agencies assessed that natural exposure to an infected animal was the most likely scenario for the first human infection, the Department of Energy and FBI’s assessment was that a laboratory-associated incident was more likely the cause.

    […]

    In 2021, a U.S. intelligence report identified three researchers at the Wuhan institute who sought treatment at a hospital after falling ill in November 2019 — providing inconclusive, circumstantial evidence that appeared to bolster a hypothesis that the virus may have spread to humans after escaping from the lab.

    The report released on Friday notes that several researchers were sick in fall 2019 and that some of their symptoms were “consistent with but not diagnostic of COVID-19,” suggesting that they could have had a cold or allergies, and that their illness alone “neither supports nor refutes either hypothesis of the pandemic’s origins.”

    The Intelligence Community was not aware of a particular biosafety incident that might have caused the pandemic, the report said, while noting that some of the lab’s researchers “probably did not use adequate biosafety precautions at least some of the time prior to the pandemic in handling SARS-like coronaviruses,” which increased the risk of potential exposure to viruses.

  50. John Morales says

    Ah, the NBC news article from June 24, 2023.

    (Surely that’s the dog’s bollocks!)

    In 2021, a U.S. intelligence report identified three researchers at the Wuhan institute who sought treatment at a hospital after falling ill in November 2019 — providing inconclusive, circumstantial evidence that appeared to bolster a hypothesis that the virus may have spread to humans after escaping from the lab.

    Ah yes.

    The provision of “inconclusive, circumstantial evidence” that to them “appeared to bolster a hypothesis”.

    Well, no more need be said!

  51. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Everyone here, including Dr Myers, needs to stop drinking the coolaid and stop with this (not baseless) accusations of racism against some speakers of the hypothesis. For example, if Hitler or Trump (basically the same person) said that the sky is sometimes blue – that doesn’t mean the claim is wrong. The sky is sometimes blue. Also, saying that the claim is seemingly racist and therefore it’s wrong – that’s simply fallacious. For comparison, we can attack the Chinese government all day for their genocide of the Uighurs and no one is going to call me racist for that, but to suggest that there was a lab leak in a Chinese lab (an event which is depressingly common around the world), and then suddenly I’m the racist.

    The truth is that both hypotheses are plausible, and it depends on how much you rate the circumstantial evidence regarding the coincidence in location of the Wuhan lab that specializes in studies of Coronaviruses, and the US intelligence report that 3 Wuhan lab Coronavirus researchers were sick in November 2021 with COVID-like symptoms (which flatly contradicts reports made by spokesperson of the lab that no researcher was sick at that time). I rate those circumstantial evidence highly, which is why I think it’s more likely than not that it was a lab leak, but even if you don’t rate those circumstantial evidence that highly, it’s preposterous to say that it’s a “debunked conspiracy-theory”. Unless you’re saying that basically every intelligence agency of the USA is full of conspiracy theorists, and especially the FBI and the DOE under Biden who report that they consider the lab leak to be the most likely explanation.

    Oh wait, or are you going to rely on Fauci and and half dozen friends who are covering up any involvement that they had in this whole affair because it looks bad for them personally because of the involvement that Fauci had knowingly breaking USA rules regarding funding foreign labs doing gain of function research?

  52. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Today (around a week before winter solstice) I got 24 Kwh.

    France switched most of their grid to nuclear power in just 15 years, and it was not costly or hard to do. In 10 or 15 years from now. We’ve been arguing about this for close to 10 years. I hope in another 10 years, you will see that Australia is still very far from 100% renewables for electricity generation, and I hope you remember this conversation and realize: “Gerrard was right. If only we started building nuclear power 20 years ago, we could have near zero pollution and near zero greenhouse gas emissions from our electricity production today”.

  53. John Morales says

    Oh wait, or are you going to rely on Fauci and and half dozen friends who are covering up [blah]

    Ah yes, the elderly and otherwise distinguished scientist is actually a cabalist whose friends do stuff to the world.

    Yup. Wikpedia obviously agrees:
    “Anthony Stephen Fauci (/ˈfaʊtʃi/ FOW-chee;[5] born December 24, 1940) is an American physician-scientist and immunologist who served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) from 1984 to 2022, and the chief medical advisor to the president from 2021 to 2022.[6] Fauci was one of the world’s most frequently cited scientists across all scientific journals from 1983 to 2002.[7][8] In 2008, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, for his work on the AIDS relief program PEPFAR.”

    Obviously, a nefarious mad scientist who secretly did mad science using Chinese labs in China in order to disregard USA rules. Mwahahah!

    [Hey, Gerrard, been following Aussie news recently?]

  54. John Morales says

    I remember the news, sometimes.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/03/anthony-fauci-covid-19-threats-harassment

    auci, who was director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases during the height of attempts to halt the spread of the virus, told a hearing on Capitol Hill that the threats had continued until the present day, even though he retired in 2022.

    He told a subcommittee of the House of Representatives’ oversight and accountability committee that they also included his wife and three daughters and meant he needed round-the-clock security protection.

    “There have been everything from harassments by emails, texts, letters to myself, my wife, my three daughters. There have been credible death threats, leading to the arrests of two individuals,” Fauci said.

    “Credible death threats means someone who clearly was on their way to kill me, and it’s required my having protective services essentially all the time. It is very troublesome to me. It is much more troublesome because they’ve involved my wife and my three daughters at these moments.”

    Asked by the Democratic congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan how he felt, Fauci, 83, seemed to visibly tremble with emotion before answering: “Terrible.”

    When Dingell asked if he was still receiving threats, he replied: “Yes, I do every time someone gets up and says, I’m responsible for the death of people throughout the world, the threats go up.”

    Hey, Gerrard, are you familiar with the sacrificial lamb metaphor?

  55. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Being the target of a harassment campaign doesn’t mean he’s not guilty of some of the things that he is accused of. He did willfully and knowingly violate a ban on foreign funding for the Wuhan lab for gain of function research, and he did lie about this in front of Congress under oath. This is true regardless of whether some Republicans are harassing him or claiming wildly ridiculous things involving a sex slave ring in the non existent basement of a pizza shop.

  56. John Morales says

    Being the target of a harassment campaign doesn’t mean he’s not guilty of some of the things that he is accused of

    mmmhmm.

    He did willfully and knowingly violate a ban on foreign funding for the Wuhan lab for gain of function research

    Or so you claim.

    , and he did lie about this in front of Congress under oath.

    Or so you claim.

    This is true regardless of whether some Republicans are harassing him or claiming wildly ridiculous things involving a sex slave ring in the non existent basement of a pizza shop.

    Wow.

    There you go. Look at the unbounded power of an elderly medical scientist and his alleged friends!

    Mocking the law! Doing mad science!!

    You are funny, Gerrard.

  57. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Or so you claim.

    See here for a discussion of basic background.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/10/29/repeated-claim-that-fauci-lied-congress-about-gain-of-function-research/

    Here’s some newer and specific information about what he did know before he lied to congress under oath. Fauci knew that they were conducting gain-of-function research on coronaviruses at the Wuhan institute, and he lied about it later under oath to congress.

    https://usrtk.org/covid-19-origins/fauci-nih-wuhan-coronaviruses/

    https://michaelbalter.substack.com/p/yes-anthony-fauci-and-other-major

    Fauci himself sent an email about passagign the virus through micr with human ACE2 receptors, which is arguably a gain of function technique. It’s also completely impossible that Fauci would not have known about all of the things that the other researchers knew about who talked and worked in his core team on origins, and we have a lot more documents talking about other gain of function research from other researchers on that core origins team that Fauci put together.

    It’s pretty clearly an orchestrated coverup done at the behest of Fauci and Collins, involved a dozen or so people. These dozen prominent people said the lab leak was a conspiracy theory in social media, and they said it was completely debunked in that Science paper. After that, tribalism took over and the urge to not step out of line took over, and people just accepted it, in spite of these internal communications being known for a long time that shows that people on his team were being pressured to come to certain conclusions based on the obvious political repercussions of blaming China for a lab leak.

    On top of that, we of the possible criminal liability that Fauci has for violating the prior ban on funding this kind of research oversees,. We also know that Fauci would be highly motivated to defend gain of function research and to cover up any negatives about it because he is the biggest champion and advocate of that kind of dangerous research.

    He clearly lied under oath to congress, and therefore he should be tried by a jury of his peers in court, and upon the very likely finding of guilty, he should go to jail.

  58. John Morales says

    He clearly lied under oath to congress, and therefore he should be tried by a jury of his peers in court, and upon the very likely finding of guilty, he should go to jail.

    Wow.

    That is quite malevolent of you.

    Of course, you are an internet kook and he is a respected, accomplished, humble and honest scientist.
    And he is credible.

    (There, there, Gerrard — you are 100% with Qanon and the MAGAs about him, so… grats?)

  59. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    ‘Do You Think Dr. Fauci Intentionally Lied Under Oath?’: Ex-CDC Director Gives Bombshell Testimony

    https://youtu.be/95MgYyAbDwk

    > I think it’s unfortunate. Again I’ve said this before that this whole approach that was taken on January – on February 1st and subsequently in the month of February. If you really want to be truthful it’s antithetical to science […] science has debate and they [Fauci et al] squashed any debate.

    >Do you think that the paper does hide the truth?

    >I think it’s an inaccurate paper that basically was part of a narrative that they [Fauci et al] were creating. […] This was a narrative that was decided that they were going to say this came from the wet market, and they were going to do everything they could to support it to negate any discussion about the possibility that this came from a labratory.

    >Dr fauci was affirmatively told and told in an email that NI-Aid had a monetary relationship with the Wuhan Institute through EcoHealth Alliance. He he was told this in January 27th of 2020. Do you think that Dr fauci intentionally lied under oath to senator Paul when he vehemently denied NIH’s funding of gain of function research?

    >I think there’s no doubt that NIH was funding gain of function research.

    I have no idea why on this issue the left has circled their wagons to protect an obvious perjurer, an arrogant asshat to the extreme. Fauci is an adamant defender of the notion that we should trust him and other scientists, and they should be allowed to, and encouraged to, create viruses in the lab that, if released, could be another COVID pandemic, for the (minor) scientific value that such creation would bring. It’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This kind of research is extremely dangerous, and if not outright banned, should be under the strictest kind of regulation and scrutiny, instead of the complete lack of oversight and regulation that exists now.

    I have no idea why no one here wants to discuss the real dangers that come from gain of function research, and specifically research that involves altering viruses to make them more easily infect humans, including, for example, passaging a non-human virus through mice that were genetically engineered to express human ACE2 receptors. This is exactly the kind of shit that one would expect to lead to human pandemics. It’s a horrible and dangerous practice that needs much more public scrutiny and public discussion, at minimum, and IMAO it needs a complete ban.

  60. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    And he is credible.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

  61. John Morales says

    I have no idea why no one here wants to discuss the real dangers that come from gain of function research

    Because it’s not the topic; the topic is the very conspiracy upon which you engage.

    (Well, one of them)

    It’s a horrible and dangerous practice that needs much more public scrutiny and public discussion, at minimum, and IMAO it needs a complete ban.

    To me, you sound exactly like one of those concerned parents that want to ban books with gay stuff.

  62. says

    One of the tells that we’re dealing with a kooky conspiracy theorist is that they bandy about the term “gain-of-function research” as if it’s something Bond super-villains do, rather than a tool used by legit researchers to identify mechanisms behind infection and growth.

  63. John Morales says

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

    Horsey hydration hesitance.

    (I can point you to reality, but you will nonetheless curate your newspaper articles and indulge your apophenic syndrome; it is impressive, just not in the way you imagine it to be)

  64. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    One of the tells that we’re dealing with a kooky conspiracy theorist is that they bandy about the term “gain-of-function research” as if it’s something Bond super-villains do, rather than a tool used by legit researchers to identify mechanisms behind infection and growth.

    Yes. This is the standard argument. What is the benefit of this research vs the dangers of a leak of of such an “engineered” virus such as CARS-COVID-2 in the specific context of research that makes viruses more infectious to humans? As far as I can tell, the risks far outweigh the minor potential benefits.

  65. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    The character Ian Malcolm, talking about the dangers of genetic engineering, which I think is quite apt at this point.

    Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t start to think if they should.

    I am aware that this kind of research is commonplace. It is commonplace to make viruses in the lab that are more dangerous and infectious to humans. I know that we can do it. I know that we do it all the time. The real question is: Should we do it? Saying that everyone does it is not a defense for doing it.

    I have yet to hear any remotely compelling knowledge that we have learned by making viruses more infectious or dangerous to humans in a lab, and I’ve looked. The best that I’ve found from the likes of Fauci is that by making the next pandemic virus in the lab from a natural virus in another animal population, we can estimate how many mutations it will take for the natural animal virus to be infectious and dangerous to humans, which can help us prioritize other research into protecting ourselves by prioritizing research into viruses that are closest to jumping to humans by natural methods.

    I’m sorry, that is just not a sufficiently compelling reason to do this kind of incredibly dangerous research. This kind of research is nearly indistinguishable from creating a bio-weapon in a lab – purposefully making a virus more dangerous and infectious to humans. It should not be allowed. It absolutely scares me that it’s commonplace, and it absolutely scares me that you’re using the argument “don’t worry because it’s already commonplace”.

  66. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Dr Myers
    I also don’t appreciate the dishonest fob-off that you gave to me. I have been quite clear throughout my postings here that I know that gain of function is a very broad term, and I have consistently said that my concerns are around a very narrow aspect of gain of function research, specifically research that makes viruses more infectious and dangerous to humans. Calling me a crank is fundamentally dishonest. Lots of real scientists express the same concern that I do, and say that this very narrow subset of gain of function research should be heavily limited and/or banned. For example,

    Duprex, W., Fouchier, R., Imperiale, M. et al. Gain-of-function experiments: time for a real debate. Nat Rev Microbiol 13, 58–64 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro3405

    https://www.nature.com/articles/nrmicro3405

    You can disagree with this view, and argue that the benefits are worth the risks, but it’s dishonest to say that the alternative position being presented is illegitimate. You are better than this. Be better.

  67. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    The pause on funding for GOF experiments for quantitative deliberation on risks and benefits is long overdue. The pause covers not all research on pathogenic organisms but only research that enhances pathogenicity or transmission of flu, SARS or MERS. Ultimately, after deliberation some of that research may resume, and that may be appropriate if the weighing of risks and benefits has been done well. What we consider as ‘safe’ must depend on what the impact of an accident would be. More than twice a week in US laboratories, there is a ‘possible release event’ or a ‘possible loss event’, even if we look only at select agents — some of the most dangerous pathogens7. For every 1,000 lab-years of work in BSL-3 laboratories in the United States with select agents, there are at least 2 accidental infections7. This level of safety may be acceptable if the risk is to the laboratory workers only, as it is with most pathogens that are not readily transmissible. However, the same probability of an accident that could spark a global pandemic cannot be called acceptably safe. Although most advocates of PPP experiments have been responsible in their discussion of the issue, a few have inappropriately caricatured those of us who express concern. We do not advocate curtailing research on dangerous pathogens in general, but we support replacing a very specific category of work that is small in extent (the funding pause affects about 18 projects8) but that is exceptional in its level of risk with safer approaches. D.A.R.

  68. says

    While the National Intelligence Council and four unnamed agencies assessed that natural exposure to an infected animal was the most likely scenario for the first human infection

    Read the parts I’ve bolded, SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY. It doesn’t support your claims.

    In 2021, a U.S. intelligence report identified three researchers at the Wuhan institute who sought treatment at a hospital after falling ill in November 2019 — providing inconclusive, circumstantial evidence that appeared to bolster a hypothesis that the virus may have spread to humans after escaping from the lab.

    Again, read the parts I’ve bolded. They’re admitting the “evidence” is nowhere near conclusive. All it says, in fact, is that someone who worked at the lab — and also just happened to live in a big city that had a wet-market, remember — got sick.

    Your lab-leak claims are bullshit, unsupported, and already debunked long ago. If you actually bothered to read the endless walls o’ text you post here, you’d know how lame your “case” is.

    Also, saying that the claim is seemingly racist and therefore it’s wrong – that’s simply fallacious.

    Once again, you’re lying about what we’re saying, and you know it. What we’re saying is: it’s DEBUNKED therefore it’s wrong, and continuing to repeat this debunked claim is racist.

    Being the target of a harassment campaign doesn’t mean he’s not guilty of some of the things that he is accused of.

    No, the falsehood of the accusations means he’s not guilty of the things that he is accused of.

    Dr Myers, I also don’t appreciate the dishonest fob-off that you gave to me.

    Yeah, well, we don’t appreciate your endless copy-pasting walls of text and gumming up a forum with sheer quantity of text in place of quality. Although I do admit it’s amusing when we find those tiny gems in your trainloads of crap that totally undercut the claims you think you’re supporting.

  69. says

    Calling me a crank is fundamentally dishonest. Lots of real scientists express the same concern that I do…

    There’s nothing at all dishonest about calling you a crank, because you consistently ACT like a crank. And citing someone else who shares your “concern” doesn’t make you less of a crank.

    And if we really need to have any sort of a “discussion” or “debate” about any important issue, then obviously-irrational cranks like you SHOULD NOT be included in any such discussion. Important safety issues are for SANE ADULTS to discuss; and you’re clearly not acting sane, or honest.

  70. says

    Ian Malcolm is a fictional character, authored by a man who made his fortune writing about the horrors of science & technology.

    In the paper you cite, Duprex says:

    First, we must recognize that the term ‘GOF experiment’ is being used somewhat pejoratively to describe a small number of recent studies using avian influenza virus that led to increased viral transmission in mammals. Rather like the viruses we work with, the term has taken on a ‘life’ of its own, ‘infecting’ debates and ‘muddying the waters’ for scientists, governments, policy makers, journalists and the public. Although à la mode, it is totally imprecise to equate GOF studies only with influenza transmission experiments. Virology is founded on adaptation approaches, and these have broad utility because they provide phenotypic evidence of a genotypic change when combined with a discriminatory biological assay. Phenotypes include resistance to a drug, alteration of host range, enhanced stability and replication, and not only transmission. Dissecting the underlying genotype drives mechanistic studies, which in turn facilitate the study of host–pathogen interactions. Virologists will be deprived of a powerful tool of human inquiry if they are unable to perform adaptation experiments. Second, it is critical to realize that the benefits of basic research are often unanticipated and accrue over time. Considering that these influenza transmission studies were performed relatively recently1,2, it is impressive that translatable benefits are already apparent, including the identification of mutations that increase virus replication (which is applicable to vaccine production) and changes that enhance stability of receptor-binding proteins (which is useful for surveillance).

    We need GOF experiments to demonstrate causal relationships between genes or mutations and particular biological traits of pathogens. In most cases, there are no alternative approaches that would provide similarly strong evidence as GOF experiments.

    You only cite Relman. Like a crank.

  71. says

    Morales @63: (There, there, Gerrard — you are 100% with Qanon and the MAGAs about him, so… grats?)

    Yeah, I really hate to say this, but it really does look like GOTS is acting here as a Retrumplitarian plant, working, with malicious intent, to once again distract public attention away from their own disastrous performance and toward whatever scapegoat seems handy on any given day.

    I mean, God’s death, Retrumplitarians gave us that quinine stuff, ivermectin, bleach injections, some loony quack from Africa, “herd immunity” that never happened, and gods know what other malicious sadistic con-games in place of sensible policy…but we’re all supposed to think FAUCI is the bad guy?! I bet Putin, Xi and Khameini are all laughing their asses off at this endless shitshow…

  72. says

    Morales: “Today (around a week before winter solstice) I got 24 Kwh.”

    GOTS: “France switched most of their grid to nuclear power in just 15 years, and it was not costly or hard to do…” blah blah etc.

    Me: Yeah, John, you’re a total dumbass, you shoulda waited 15 more years and got one of them quik-built French nuclear reactors installed on your roof!

  73. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Raging Bee
    Lying partisan hack who cannot even admit that the FBI and the DOE both say that the lab leak is more likely than all alternatives, and that most of the other USA intelligence agencies say that the lab leak hypothesis is at least plausible.

    Dr Myers
    Sorry, why is Relman a crank? Did you mean to say he’s a crank? Is he a respectable person? What about the rest of the Cambridge Working Group who are concerned that some experiments on viruses are too dangerous to do?

    I tried to briefly research why Relman might be a crank, but I came up short. The only other controversy that I could find which he was apart of was Dr Atlas’s public policy approach to reach herd immunity through unconstrained public infection, and Relman said that was a stupid idea, aka he’s on the correct side of that issue.

    So, I take it that you have strong personal feelings on this matter from your own experience in the lab. Do you think that there should be no oversight or rules governing hypothetical experiments like making ebola become highly infectious via air transmission? Do you really think that we should just trust the individual scientists to do the right thing? Currently, there are no rules at all to even require a certain bio-security level lab to run that kind of experiment. I think that’s outright obscene and wildly dangerous. Cannot we have a public conversation about what precautions should be required by law, and also what experiments, if any, should simply be banned? Or do you think you shouldn’t have any oversight on matters of bio-safety and preventing the next pandemic?

  74. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    PS: because it really looks like you’re adopting the position “don’t worry, trust us, we don’t need legal oversight”, which is simply a complete non-starter for me.

  75. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Me: Yeah, John, you’re a total dumbass, you shoulda waited 15 more years and got one of them quik-built French nuclear reactors installed on your roof!

    What? I don’t understand. This is either a strawman (I never suggested that there would be residential roof-mounted nuclear power plants; I have always suggested medium-large centralized nuclear power plants) or a non-sequitir: In order to help solve for climate change, air pollution, and national energy security and independence, John, and Australia at large, needs safe, clean, cheap, abundant, scalable, reliable electricity generation. For those goals, it is not a requirement that power plants go on residential roofs.

    Can’t you make a single post that argues in good faith?

  76. John Morales says

    Stupid scientists, stupidly pretending to do sciency stuff, getting away with no oversight.

    Here’s Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COVID-19_lab_leak_theory#Accidental_release_of_a_genetically_modified_virus

    Political and government opinion

    The situation reignited a debate over gain-of-function research, although the intense political rhetoric surrounding the issue has threatened to sideline serious inquiry over policy in this domain.[140] Researchers have said the politicization of the debate is making the process more difficult, and that words are often twisted to become “fodder for conspiracy theories”.[141][27][32] The idea of an experiment conducted in 2015 on SARS-like coronaviruses being the source of the pandemic was reported in British tabloids early in the pandemic.[142] Virologist Angela Rasmussen writes that this is unlikely, due to the intense scrutiny and government oversight gain-of-function research is subject to, and that it is improbable that research on hard-to-obtain coronaviruses could occur under the radar.[73]

    (my emphasis)

  77. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    John,
    And yet, there might be oversight in some sense, but there are no laws that actually require a certain bio-safety level lab to conduct any of the experiments that we’re talking about. There is no legally enforceable classification scheme saying “this experiments needs this level of bio-safety, and this one is too dangerous and is simply banned”. It seems like you are also endorsing the position that we should simply trust the scientists to do the right thing and we shouldn’t have any proper legal oversight and regulations, which I still think is obscene.

  78. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    This just seems so ridiculous. It’s like in the Twilight zone. Many posters here over-worry to an extreme degree about nuclear power plant accidents, but they’re incredibly rare, and their impact is far far less than a COVID pandemic. However, when we talk about other scientists doing work in labs where if there’s an accident (and there will be accidents), the impact will be thousands or millions of times larger than any conceivable nuclear power plant accident. Yet, I’m being brushed off as a conspiracy theorist and a crank for expressing genuine worry about scientists creating the next viral pandemic in a lab, and how there are no hard legal requirements for safety precautions for doing so, and regardless of what safety precautions you have, there will be accidents and leaks at some rate, meaning that we need to do a proper cost-benefit analysis, weighing the cost of a leak times the rates of leaks, compared to the typical and expected benefits of this kind of research.

    tl;dr This shit is way scarier than any nuclear power plant accident. Nuclear power plant accidents can’t kill tens of millions of people. A viral pandemic can.

  79. John Morales says

    … how there are no hard legal requirements for safety precautions for doing so …

    You assert that, but I don’t believe you.

    Again: “Virologist Angela Rasmussen writes that this is unlikely, due to the intense scrutiny and government oversight gain-of-function research is subject to”.

    I reckon a virologist might know a bit more than you about the applicable regulations and oversight regarding research on viruses.

    (There are indeed “hard legal requirements for safety precautions” regarding nuclear power plants, but)

  80. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    John
    Why are you citing a research scientist on this matter as though they are in any way trustworthy? Would you treat an oil executive as a reliable source if they were saying that there was too much safety regulations and red tape in oil drilling? Why do you think that practicing scientists are these mythical super-beings who never lie or cheat? They’re human just like the rest of us, and of course we shouldn’t just believe one of them picked at random when it comes to the matter of their own regulations. Don’t listen to the fox when it comes to how we should guard the hens.

    There are no laws in the USA regarding the necessary level of bio-safety lab to do this kind of research.

    What that scientist is likely complaining about is some oversight that the federal government imposes as a condition for funding grants. Those rules were recently made more strict.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/07/science/covid-lab-leak-biosafety-rules-virus-research.html
    Even then, these new rules still do absolutely nothing about the specific concern that I have:

    Still, the policy does not embrace the most aggressive proposals made by lab safety proponents, such as creating an independent regulatory agency. It also makes exemptions for certain types of research, including disease surveillance and vaccine development.

    “Disease surveillance” is AFAIK codespeak for precisely this sort of gain of function research that takes natural viruses and more them more dangerous or infectious to humans in the lab, meaning that these new controls on federal funding do not apply.

    And this is exactly what Fauci et al want – no meaningful oversight of any kind. For Fauci specifically, he seems like he’s on a one-man religious crusade to protect this dangerous research from oversight because he genuinely believes that’s for the greater good. I strongly disagree with his risk and benefit analysis. It just seems like another old white male who is supremely arrogant and doesn’t want anyone else telling him what he can and cannot do.

  81. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/dual-use-research/expert-recommendations-gain-function-research-aim-boost-safety-transparency

    “While not statutory, there are policies and guidance in place for recombinant DNA research, research with ePPPs, and dual-use research of concern, though some have raised concerns about their application and the risk of conflict of interest when these rules are being applied and adjudicated by the funding agencies,” the report authors wrote. “There are fewer, if any, policies and guidelines for non-government-funded research.”

    Its the wild west. There are no rules, just whatever best practices that are imposed by your university / laboratory / funding source, which might not be worth the paper that it’s printed on because of the lack of proper regulatory oversight.

  82. John Morales says

    Why are you citing a research scientist on this matter as though they are in any way trustworthy?

    Good grief!

    Sure, your opinion is much, much more trustworhy.

    There are no laws in the USA regarding the necessary level of bio-safety lab to do this kind of research.

    Bullshit.

    One click, and here I go: https://www.selectagents.gov/overview/index.htm

  83. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    From your source:

    The program currently regulates 68 select agents and toxins. The list is reviewed at least every two years to determine if agents or toxins need to be added to or deleted from the list.

    Did you even read it?

    Complete non-sequitur.

  84. John Morales says

    Horsey hydration hesitancy:

    Complete non-sequitur.

    Directly on point.

    You are arguing from a position of ignorance, and claiming you know better than actual scientists working in the specific field is not exactly a sensible attitude.

    https://www.selectagents.gov/compliance/faq/index.htm

    “The following biological agents and toxins have been determined to have the potential to pose a severe threat to both human and animal health, to plant health, or to animal and plant products. An attenuated strain of a select agent or an inactive form of a select toxin may be excluded from the requirements of the Select Agent Regulations.”

    Examples:
    “19. SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV) [5]
    20. SARS-CoV/SARS-CoV-2 chimeric viruses resulting from any deliberate manipulation of SARS-CoV-2 to incorporate nucleic acids coding for SARS-CoV virulence factors”

  85. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R47114/4

    Whether
    FSAP would apply to GOF research depends upon the virus or agent being used in such
    experiments. If the pathogen does not appear on the HHS or USDA lists, the research would not
    be subject to FSAP; however, it may be captured by other policies (see Figure 1).
    FSAP focuses on both the people who have access to select agents and the facilities where select
    agents are used and stored. Entities possessing select agents are required under 42 U.S.C. §262a
    and 7 U.S.C. §8401 to develop explicit biosecurity and biosafety plans and procedures which are
    reviewed and certified by FSAP.54 Some have argued that a list-based approach “assumes that we
    already know what to worry about” and is not able to keep pace with emerging threats that may
    not yet appear on such a list.55

    I stand partially corrected. If it’s on that list, then some federal oversight actually exists. However, it wouldn’t apply to any other virus that isn’t on that list. This is a huge oversight.

  86. John Morales says

    However, it wouldn’t apply to any other virus that isn’t on that list. This is a huge oversight.

    As per your #91, that list is reviewed regularly, as often as necessary and at the very least every 2 years.
    You quoted that.

    Presumably (and I’m not gonna pore over the documents of the first source of regulation I found so easily) concerned people report their concerns to the regulator and that report is evaluated by experts and so forth.

    I reckon that, should I look deeper, I’d find even more axes of regulatory oversight, direct or indirect.
    Complicated place, the USA.

    And, of course, when Chinese laboratories are involved, it’s not just medical regulatory bodies that might legitimately take an interest in the science and procedures at hand.

  87. says

    Why are you citing a research scientist on this matter as though they are in any way trustworthy?

    Why are you banging on and on with sometimes-incoherent walls of text as if sheer quantity of comments and repetitive assertions of already-debunked claims makes YOU in any way trustworthy?

    Oh, and the ORIGINAL SUBJECT OF THIS POST was the lab-leak theory and the lying bigoted con-men keeping it “alive” (undead?) for malicious purposes. Lab safety and security issues are a totally different subject. I suspect you have some ulterior motive for changing the subject so aggressively…

  88. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Oh, and the ORIGINAL SUBJECT OF THIS POST was the lab-leak theory and the lying bigoted con-men keeping it “alive” (undead?) for malicious purposes. Lab safety and security issues are a totally different subject.

    Nope.

    Lab safety and security issues are at the heart of the lab-leak theory, whether or not malicious or intentional.

    I suspect you have some ulterior motive for changing the subject so aggressively…

    An unwarranted suspicion. Gerrard is entirely on topic, no subject has been changed.

    And no ulterior motive, either; I’ve interacted here and elseblog with Gerrard for quite a few years now, and earnestness is his mode.
    He means what he says and he says what he means, generally speaking.
    Liberties at times, but vehemence ensues when he finds himself one against many.

    Anyway, I do like you, so I advise you that you’d do far better to argue the merits of his position than to insinuate about his (suspected) scheming and speculate on its basis.
    At least for me, that is counter-productive. Sniping at the person. Not worth it.

    That’s what makes it a conspiracy theory. It’s basically unfalsifiable.

  89. says

    Lab safety and security issues are at the heart of the lab-leak theory, whether or not malicious or intentional.

    Bullshit. First, the lab-leak “theory” or “hypothesis” (scare-quotes because it’s really neither of those things) is driven more by plain old bigotry and desperate diversionary scapegoating than by any actual informed safety concerns. Just like “Satanic panic” was (and still is) driven more by much the same things than by sincere concern for children’s safety. (Do you really think the Republicans who are ganging up on Fauci and our entire public-health establishment (such as it is) want to have MORE big-gummint safety regulations?)

    And second, the lab-leak claims have been debunked, so it really does no one any good to say that valid concerns about lab security are, or should be, in any way connected to debunked and malicious claims.

  90. John Morales says

    Bullshit.

    Really.

    I dare you to attempt to try to elaborate upon this claim.

    So. Let’s take Orac’s opening snippet in what PZ quoted: “Even so, before I close, let me just reiterate that it is not impossible that SARS-CoV-2 arose in a lab, either due to scientists carrying out modifications on existing coronaviruses or from a collection of natural coronaviruses, in which the virus escaped.”

    So, “either due to scientists carrying out modifications on existing coronaviruses or from a collection of natural coronaviruses, in which the virus escaped.”

    (All these quotations are from the OP)

    How, without lab safety or security issues being a central factor could such a theory be sufficiently plausible that even Orac (used to blog in SB, back in the day — Oracknows) acknowledges it’s unfalsifiable?

    You’re basically doing the same as the person about whom you insinuate, just from the opposite direction.

  91. John Morales says

    And second, the lab-leak claims have been debunked, so it really does no one any good to say that valid concerns about lab security are, or should be, in any way connected to debunked and malicious claims.

    Um. If you think so, then so it is for you.

    Of course, you earlier wrote that “Lab safety and security issues are a totally different subject”, in reference to the lab-leak claims.

    Which means that you must perforce believe that evaluating those claims do not require considerations about either lab safety or security issues, lest you yourself seem disingenuous.

  92. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    John Morales
    For what you said to Raging Bee, thank you.
    For the correction as well, thank you.
    Have a good day.

  93. says

    Which means that you must perforce believe that evaluating those claims do not require considerations about either lab safety or security issues, lest you yourself seem disingenuous.

    These particular lab-leak claims were indeed evaluated based on known differences between COVID-19 and what was in the lab, without having to consider safety or security issues specific to the particular lab in question. And the people still pushing such claims aren’t doing it to highlight specific safety concerns either.

  94. John Morales says

    These particular lab-leak claims were indeed evaluated based on known differences between COVID-19 and what was in the lab, without having to consider safety or security issues specific to the particular lab in question.

    Right, right. And therefore, there is no need at all to consider safety or security issues (specific to the particular lab in question!) when evaluating the lab-leak claim.

    It could not possibly be that, say, a novel and unique strain was taken out of the lab so that no sample of that strain remained in the lab, for $NEFARIOUS$ or $MADSCIENCE$ purposes.

    That is just, how do we express that? Ah yes, inconceivable!

    Definitely debunked, because you say so.

    (I mean, what would Orac know? ;) )

  95. says

    Following on (sorry): The reason I say there’s no connection between these lab-leak claims and specific security concerns, is that (AFAIK at least) the people pushing the claim never made any such connection themselves. As Gerrard has admitted, all they have is “it’s possible, therefore we shouldn’t discount it.” (Which is a wee bit like saying “murders are known to happen, therefore we shouldn’t discount the possibility that Gerrard may have murdered…someone or other at a date I don’t feel I have to specify…) I don’t recall hearing anything to the effect of “evidence suggests that on [date] [time], viral matter inadvertently got transported outside on a lab-tech’s shoes due to [failure to follow procedure X]/[some action that wasn’t sufficiently covered by our rules]/[whatever else]. Specific allegations like that would (and should) indeed have led to serious discussion about safety protocols. But in the absence of any such specifics, these particular lab-leak claims aren’t really connected to specific safety/security issues.

    Whoever has actual knowledge/experience of lab-safety issues and procedures can bring it up and get a debate going. But Gerrard isn’t in that group, and neither are any of the Retrumplitarians flogging this lab-leak BS, and AFAIK neither are you or I (though maybe someone else on FTB is?).

  96. John Morales says

    Whoever has actual knowledge/experience of lab-safety issues and procedures can bring it up and get a debate going.

    PZ, for one. Used to stick electrodes in cats’ brains, and dissect specimens and stuff, back in the day.

    Before he moved on to the cute creatures.

    cf. ” Spinal motoneurons of the larval zebrafish
    P Z Myers PMID: 4056102 DOI: 10.1002/cne.902360411 “

  97. John Morales says

    [can’t resist]

    Abstract

    Application of horseradish peroxidase to lesions of the muscles and the central nervous system of larval zebrafish Brachydanio rerio was used to identify several types of neurons present in the spinal cord. The spinal cord was found to contain three distinct motoneuronal types: primary and secondary motoneurons that innervate the axial muscles, and pectoral fin motoneurons that innervate the muscles of the pectoral girdle. The cell types are similar to those described in larvae of other anamniote vertebrates. The axial muscles of a given hemisegment are innervated by two or three primary motoneurons and a larger number of secondary motoneurons in the corresponding spinal segment, whereas fin muscles are innervated by a pool of motoneurons spanning several spinal segments.

    That’s some mad scientist stuff right there. For sure.

    (Herbert West types, they are)

  98. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    That’s what makes it a conspiracy theory. It’s basically unfalsifiable.

    Yes and no. Had they found direct precursors in animals in the wet market, that would be compelling evidence. Similarly, had they found a direct precursor in the lab, that would also be compelling evidence. As it stands now, it seems unlikely that we’ll rule out either explanation. However, I don’t like referring to either position as “unfalsifiable”, because that sneaks in additional baggage. They are falsifiable, and also it seems unlikely that we will find enough evidence either way to falsify either position, in large part to the coverup and stalling tactics of the CCP during the early stages of the pandemic.

  99. John Morales says

    Well, most people acknowledge it’s possible (obs, some don’t) but not everyone acknowledges it’s plausible.

    Suspicion and possibility don’t plausibility make, and I’ve noticed that the more relevant expertise someone has, the less likelihood they assign to that possibility.

    In passing, notice the OP refers to “the “lab leak” nonsense promoted by Alina Chan and the NY Times”; that specificity is necessary because there are multiple such “theories”.

    Some are more plausible than the others, and I reckon that those that rely on the USA and China collaboratively researching the weaponisation of viruses in a China lab as minimally plausible as could be.

  100. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Which is a wee bit like saying “murders are known to happen, therefore we shouldn’t discount the possibility that Gerrard may have murdered…someone or other at a date I don’t feel I have to specify…

    This is just an argument over priors. Lab leaks are depressingly common according to the wikipedia article that I cited above. Those are lab leaks of existing diseases, and not novel pandemics. The thing is, the number of novel pandemics in recent human history is really small, and so it’s hard to get precise priors. I do know that lab leaks of diseases happen all the time. I don’t know how you would form really strong priors in favor of a zoonotic transfer compared to an iatrogenic transfer (which I mean to include accidental lab leaks of samples collected from the wild, and accidental lab leaks of samples that were modified, such as through passage of ACE2 mice).

    I don’t recall hearing anything to the effect of “evidence suggests that on [date] [time], viral matter inadvertently got transported outside on a lab-tech’s shoes due to [failure to follow procedure X]/[some action that wasn’t sufficiently covered by our rules]/[whatever else].

    Again:
    https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/u-s-intel-report-identified-3-wuhan-lab-researchers-who-n1268327

    U.S. intel report identified 3 Wuhan lab researchers who fell ill in November 2019
    The details add to circumstantial evidence supporting a theory Covid-19 spread to humans after escaping from a lab. But the evidence is far from conclusive.

    The Chinese official lied about this. The Chinese official said that none of the researchers were sick at the time. And yet US intelligence says that they were sick at this time. This is still extremely circumstantial, but it is specific to the alternative hypothesis. It also supports the premise that we should have had from the start: which is that if the CCP denies something which would be embarrassing to the CCP, then they’re just as likely lying about it compared to telling the truth, aka the word of a CCP-aligned official is worthless. Loosely, we should assume that they are willing to lie about anything and everything until proven otherwise.

  101. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Whoever has actual knowledge/experience of lab-safety issues and procedures can bring it up and get a debate going. But Gerrard isn’t in that group, and neither are any of the Retrumplitarians flogging this lab-leak BS, and AFAIK neither are you or I (though maybe someone else on FTB is?).

    That’s not the way that our democracy works. It is incumbent upon all of us to do enough research to be at least somewhat informed in our voting decisions. This is a very important issue to me if I go to the polls. Nowhere near enough to vote Republican, but enough to make a big difference between Democratic candidates in a primary. So, I’m trying to educate myself through research and conversations like this so that I can make a better, more informed, decision. Again, I think it is completely unacceptable to say that the scientists should have zero legal oversight. As to what sort of oversight and rules are needed, I admit ignorance. That’s why I’m here asking those questions to try to fill the gaps in my knowledge.

  102. says

    Gerrard: the article you cite does not establish that those lab employees got sick from viruses that were in the lab; and (again) it flatly admits up front that “the evidence is far from conclusive.” TWICE. That’s still nowhere near the specific chain of events I was asking for. And no, “the CCP lies about stuff” doesn’t count as evidence either, even though we know they do.

    …I think it is completely unacceptable to say that the scientists should have zero legal oversight.

    Has anyone here said that? I never did.

    It is incumbent upon all of us to do enough research to be at least somewhat informed in our voting decisions.

    That’s exactly what I’m doing here: trying to stay focused on the actions of a party of dangerous fascists, who want to both retake power and avoid accountability for their actions. And I’m pointing out that their lab-leak allegations are part of that campaign for power, and that therefore, we should recognize it as such and not let them control the public dialogue, or incite indiscriminate fear and hysteria with bogus scapegoating allegations. Given how those fascists managed COVID-19 before, I’d say this is a much more immediate and pressing security concern, at least this year, than safety-procedures questions in virology labs (which I’m less competent to talk about anyway).

    And if you really care about better regulation of dangerous enterprises, you would join with me to make sure the anti-government, anti-regulation, anti-science party doesn’t get to power again. ‘Cuz trust me, they really don’t give a shit about public safety or disease control — that’s not why they’re talking about a lab leak. You want a serious debate about lab safety? Vote the bigots and loonies out first.

  103. says

    Loosely, we should assume that they are willing to lie about anything and everything until proven otherwise.

    Shouldn’t we be making the same assumption about the Republicans who are pushing the lab-leak allegations? When have they ever been more honest than the CCP?

  104. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    And I’m pointing out that their lab-leak allegations are part of that campaign for power

    Again, even Hitler or Trump can be right about something. Just because they said it first does not make it automatically wrong. It might be that, and it might also be true. I care about whether it’s true. Moreso, I care about the risk of it happening (again) in the future, and what can be done to prevent it, and I currently strongly distrust the people in power to be able to make the correct decisions due to their obvious biases and complicity in the cover-up. They still covered it up whether or not the lab leak actually happened. There can be a cover up without an actual underlying incident.

    And again, you speak as though that I’m going to vote Republican over this. I’m not.

    Or do you mean I should shut up because it hurts our chances in the election? No. First, even if it was true, I disagree. We need to be better than them. We should not adopt such a low standard for lying for our benefit, or staying silent about a very important issue because it’s inconvenient.

    Second, I think it hurts our side to do that because it makes us look like partisan hacks and that turns off the undecided middle. As a general belief, I believe that lying is almost always counterproductive for our side with regard to winning elections.

    I simply do not like how you have taken it up ok yourself to decide what issues we can and cannot speak about. You are baby steps away from doing a Dear Muslima.

    Shouldn’t we be making the same assumption about the Republicans who are pushing the lab-leak allegations? When have they ever been more honest than the CCP?

    You simply are not honestly engaging with reality. Fauci and friends made it into a partisan issue. It’s not just Republicans who are pushing the lab leak theory. It’s our entire intelligence community. It’s not just Republicans saying that Fauci lied under oath to Congress and organized a cover-up. But you’re too much of a partisan hack to see it, and you’re going to turn off the undecided middle with your flagrantly dishonest antics. We must be better.

  105. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Not just Republicans pushing the plausibility of the lab leak theory…

  106. lotharloo says

    Get fucking lost Gerrard. Nobody is interested in reading your delusional ramblings. You need help. Fuck off. You have lost any good will and credibility long ago.

  107. StevoR says

    @ GOTS : “Fauci and friends made it into a partisan issue.”

    That’s a pretty appalling disgusting lie and bit of victim blaming there GOTS.

  108. says

    Again, even Hitler or Trump can be right about something.

    Yes, and we acknowledge this when the something is already well-known or independently verified. Neither of these has happened for the lab-leak “theory.”

    Just because [Retrumplitarians] said it first does not make it automatically wrong.

    The fact that it’s been shown (both here and elsewhere) to be utterly lacking in supporting evidence does make it manually wrong.

    Fauci and friends made it into a partisan issue.

    Kindly take your standard Republican projection and shove it back where it came from.

    It’s not just Republicans who are pushing the lab leak theory. It’s our entire intelligence community.

    YOUR OWN CITATIONS admit otherwise. Do you even CARE what the articles you’ve cited actually say?

    First, even if it was true, I disagree. We need to be better than them.

    How is letting Retrumplitarians redirect and misdirect our attention whenever they want “being better than them?” How is letting them put us on the defensive and control the dialogue “being better than them?”

    We should not adopt such a low standard for lying for our benefit, or staying silent about a very important issue because it’s inconvenient.

    What, you don’t think Retrumplitarian incompetence, bigotry and scapegoating is a “very important issue?”

    Now you’re starting to sound like the last active shill for the Democratic Losership Council. Do I need to remind you that Joe Lieberman is dead and his fellow “moderates” have all given up and slunk off into comfy irrelevance? You should follow their example.

  109. says

    Not just Republicans pushing the plausibility of the lab leak theory…

    Oh yeah, a groundswell of millions of people all over the world admitting a lab-leak is not physically impossible. Color me impressed!

  110. lotharloo says

    Annual Review of Virology, “The Emergence and Evolution of SARS-CoV-2”: https://www.annualreviews.org/content/journals/10.1146/annurev-virology-093022-013037

    The above is a very interesting read, linked by Orac. Some interesting excerpts:

    Obvious evidence against the laboratory leak allegation is that the first documented cases of
    COVID-19 were not linked to the WIV nor in the same geographical region of Wuhan (44). The
    WIV laboratory of Prof. Zhengli Shi, who has been the subject of abundant accusations because
    of her work on bat coronaviruses (10, 11, 13), is located more than 30 km from the Huanan market
    epicenter. Clearly, if the virus first emerged at the WIV, then that location should be the site of at
    least some of the earliest cases or linked to those cases. It is not.
    The closest known bat virus relative of SARS-CoV-2 housed by the WIV is RaTG13 (initially
    called RaBtCoV/4991 or Ra4991), sampled from an abandoned mineshaft in Yunnan province, China, in July 2013 (11, 75). However, as this virus has more than 1,000 nucleotide differences
    with SARS-CoV-2, it is demonstrably not the proximal ancestor and too distant to be genetically
    manipulated into SARS-CoV-2 (42). The lab escape allegation therefore posits that the WIV
    must maintain a larger collection of unpublished viruses and virus sequences, including the direct
    ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 (Figure 3). There is, however, no evidence for any such virus, neither
    from the scientific literature nor in any unpublished material.

    Also interesting:

    Another argument presented as evidence of the theory of experimental manipulation in a labo-
    ratory as the origin of SARS-CoV-2 is that the virus did not undergo extensive adaptive evolution
    during its early spread, as might be expected for a virus that has newly emerged in humans (79).
    Such a lack of adaptation is suggested to indicate that the virus was laboratory-adapted to humans,
    perhaps following the insertion of the furin cleavage site (see the next section) and subsequent pas-
    sage in humanized mice. However, these experimental procedures would not have produced a virus
    optimally adapted for human-to-human transmission in nature, and SARS-CoV-2 has experienced
    extensive adaptive evolution during spread through the human population. The virus circulating
    in humans now is far more transmissible than the virus that first emerged in Wuhan (80). The
    first major adaptive mutation in human SARS-CoV-2 was spike D614G, leading to a global selec-
    tive sweep that greatly increased transmissibility (81, 82). Although D614G was initially thought
    to have appeared in Italy in late February 2020 (81), another unpublished (rejected) paper (of
    which I coauthored some versions) shows it was present in patients from Wuhan sampled in early
    January 2020 (E.C. Holmes, personal communication). Hence, there was early selection pressure
    on SARS-CoV-2 to fix mutations that would improve transmissibility, a process that has continued
    unabated (83). This paper also shows that there were no intermediate sequences between the A
    and B lineages in early Wuhan patients, contrary to some claims (84).
    The inconvenient truth is that the original Wuhan variant of SARS-CoV-2 was merely good enough to spread in the tense, well-connected human population that characterized Wuhan in November/December 2019. A virus with the capacity to transmit between hosts will thrive in such an environment, with the mass of susceptible hosts providing the fuel for natural selection to rapidly optimize a virus for efficient human spread. Emergence in Wuhan is what made SARS-CoV-2 a pandemic virus. If SARS-CoV-2 had first emerged in a small rural community, there would have been more opportunities for stochastic processes to have influenced virus evolution and for transmission to cease. The selective milieu in Wuhan was different. Any virus emerging in such an environment would have a good chance of spreading worldwide. And far from being a specifically human-optimized virus, one of the defining characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 is its capacity to infect so many animal species (see the section titled Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to the Animal Hosts). SARS-CoV-2 is a host generalist virus, with humans serving as just one of the hosts in question (85).

    (my emphasis).

  111. John Morales says

    In the news: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/jun/15/anthony-fauci-job-offers-pharm-industry

    Before Anthony Fauci retired from his lengthy run as the US government’s top infectious disease doctor, major pharmaceutical companies tried to lure him away from his post by offering him seven-figure jobs – but he turned them down because he “cared about … the health of the country” too much, he says in a new interview.

    Fauci’s comments on his loyalty to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Niad) – which he directed for 38 years before retiring in December 2022 – come only a couple of weeks after he testified to Congress about receiving “credible death threats” from far-right extremists over his efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19 at the beginning of the pandemic.

    Speaking to medical correspondent Dr Jonathan Pook for the upcoming CBS News Sunday Morning episode, Fauci confirmed that pharmaceutical corporations offered him big money or chunks of private equity if he would leave Niad and work for them instead.

    “At the time that I was getting offered [that], I was making $125,000 to $200,000 – then I would get offered a job that would get me $5m, $6m, $7m a year,” Fauci said in an interview excerpt published on Friday by CBS.

    Pook asked Fauci: “So why didn’t you take it?”

    “Because I really felt what I was doing was having an impact on what I cared about, which was the health of the country and, indirectly, the health of the world,” Fauci replied. “Because the United States is such a leader in science, medicine and public health that what we do indirectly spills over on to the rest of the world. And to me, that is priceless.”

  112. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Obvious evidence against the laboratory leak allegation is that the first documented cases of
    COVID-19 were not linked to the WIV nor in the same geographical region of Wuhan (44).

    This relies on the assumption that the CCP didn’t try to cover it up. They might have found earlier cases and confirmed them with blood tests, but they could have hid this information.

    Clearly, if the virus first emerged at the WIV, then that location should be the site of at
    least some of the earliest cases or linked to those cases. It is not.

    Again, the three sick researchers one month earlier that worked at the Wuhan lab. Their symptoms were consistent with (but not proof of) COVID. Before this knowledge became public, the Chinese officials said that no researchers were sick at that time, which we know now is a lie. They covered this up. Was it COVID? Was it not? We’ll never know, because any blood samples that might have been taken were “accidentally” lost, I’m sure.

    The closest known bat virus relative of SARS-CoV-2 housed by the WIV is RaTG13

    This relies on the assumption that the CCP didn’t try to cover it up. I hope you’re seeing a trend here.

    The lab escape allegation therefore posits that the WIV
    must maintain a larger collection of unpublished viruses and virus sequences, including the direct
    ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 (Figure 3). There is, however, no evidence for any such virus, neither
    from the scientific literature nor in any unpublished material.

    So, they hadn’t published any results yet, and the CCP hid any pre-prints and any earlier work.

    You’re ignoring evidence that contradicts your preferred narrative, and your argument rests almost entirely on the assumption that if it was a lab leak, then the CCP would not cover it up, which is preposterous. On the contrary, if there was a lab leak, the chances that the CCP would cover up this information is near 100%. You have to interpret all of the evidence in light of this – presumably non-controversial – fact. Remember, it’s official policy of the CCP to push the (ridiculous) idea that the outbreak did not start in the Wuhan wet market, and instead it came from frozen food from some other country. Anything that the Chinese government says is equally likely to be a lie as the truth, which tears down almost all of the arguments that you just brought

    Why are you being such a shill for the CCP?

  113. says

    Yep, that’s a hallmark of a deranged conspiracy-theory: “Lack of evidence proves there’s a cover-up, and coutervailing evidence proves how powerful and pervasive the cover-up really is!”

  114. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    John

    “At the time that I was getting offered [that], I was making $125,000 to $200,000 – then I would get offered a job that would get me $5m, $6m, $7m a year,” Fauci said in an interview excerpt published on Friday by CBS.

    Fauci’s household net worth increased by 5 million USD from the start to end of years, and he was making nearly 500,000 USD in just yearly salary IIRC in his last year at the job. Combined with the obvious benefits of being in the highest positions of government power, and it’s pretty clear why an arrogant slimy asshole like Fauci stayed in government.

  115. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Yep, that’s a hallmark of a deranged conspiracy-theory: “Lack of evidence proves there’s a cover-up, and coutervailing evidence proves how powerful and pervasive the cover-up really is!”

    But there is plenty of evidence. I’ve cited it. Such as the three sick researchers which contradicts the prior CCP narrative. We’ve already caught them out in at least one clear lie, showing that they did indeed cover up some evidence that circumstantially implicated the lab.

    I’m sorry. You’re simply wrong. Conspiracies happen all the time, and the fucking Chinese Communist Party covers up things all of the time. Far from an extreme ad hoc assumption, this is a common, mundane assumption.

    You have been wrongly trained to believe that humans never lie, or that humans never work together to lie to protect their own power, and worse, you’re applying this reasoning to the fucking CCP. You need to get out in the real world and touch grass, and see that humans lie all of the time. Eye witness testimony is one of the worst kinds of evidence, and worse, you’re relying on the eye witness testimony of an accused party which the biggest track record in history the planet of engaging in widespread conspiracy coverups.

    Are you saying that the CCP wouldn’t have covered it up? Or are you saying that the proposed coverup exceeds the reasonable abilities of the CCP? Or are you saying that claims of coverup are always crankish? I don’t even.

    Paraphrasing your arguments: “Yea, we know it wasn’t a lab leak because all of the evidence that the CCP provided indicates that it wasn’t a lab leak”. Jesus Christ.

  116. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    I remind you that at the start of the outbreak, China was already in full damage control mode, silencing anyone who even suggested that there was a new virus spreading in the population. So this is the group that you’re going to place any trust in whatsoever? I just don’t understand.

  117. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Either there wasn’t a lab leak, and the CCP is trying to cover up anything that might (wrongly) implicate them, e.g. lying about the 3 sick Wuhan lab researchers, or there was a lab leak, in which case it’s almost certain that the CCP would have tried to cover it up. That’s how proper evidentiary reasoning works, rather than starting with these completely asinine positions “one should always discount a conspiracy unless you have overwhelming evidence otherwise” plus “the natural zoonotic crossover is the default position unless you have overwhelming evidence that it a lab leak”.

    Regarding the second assumption, how did you even arrive at that assumption? Lab leaks of diseases are very common. Why do you think that a zoonotic transfer is the more likely outcome on mere background knowledge? How many zoonotic transfers of novel viruses have there been in the last century vs transfers via human medical practice? For novel viruses in particular, HIV-AIDS and SV-40 crossed over from animals to humans because of polio vaccines.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SV40

    How many happen with zoonotic transfers?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4629502/

    Despite great advances made in diagnostic technology since the 1950s, the annual rate at which novel virulent viruses have been found has remained at 2–3. Most emerging viruses are zoonoses; they have jumped from mammal or bird hosts to humans.

    So, 2 known iatrogenic transfers in the last 100 years, and like 200-300 zoonotic transfers in the last 100 years. So, sure, I grant that zoonotic is a good default assumption without any other evidence. So, that suggests 100 to 1 prior that it’s zoonotic.

    However, we know that one of the few labs in the world working with Coronaviruses is there, and we know that 3 researchers working at the lab got sick with COVID-like symptoms a month before the outbreak at the wet market. We also know that they were in fact doing gain of function research on COVID-like viruses, such as passing them through ACE2 mice (which is an absolutely great way to take a bat virus and make it able to easily infect humans). This is just what we know – they might have been and IIRC were using other techniques to make COVID-like viruses be more infectious to humans.

    I would say that this is about all we know for any certainty. Anything else comes to us from the filter of the CCP. So, how much do you value those two highly circumstantial pieces of evidence? That’s the question. It’s hard to put numbers to it, but I think these pieces of evidence come close to, or IMO exceed, our 100 to 1 prior that it was zoonotic.

  118. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    God’s balls, you’re an idiot. Go the fuck to bed.

    “Russia isn’t using Facebook trolls to try to subvert the election. Authoritarian governments like Russia and China never try to suppress the truth and replace it with a false narrative.”

  119. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/11/17/covid-early-cases-wuhan-china-mystery/

    The Beijing government has insisted the virus came from somewhere abroad, perhaps imported on frozen food.

    .

    In the autumn of 2019, there were many signals that something unusual was happening in Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people. Russell J. Westergard, the deputy consular chief at the U.S. Consulate there, later wrote that, by mid-October, the consulate team was aware of “an unusually vicious flu season.” Medical records show influenza-like illness, a measure of patients with respiratory ailment, soared late in November and in December in Wuhan at a rate higher than previous winter surges. The National Center for Medical Intelligence, a U.S. intelligence-gathering outfit that keeps watch for unusual health events that could affect the military, also registered signs of unusual illnesses at the time.

    .

    The researchers have determined that by the end of February 2020, China had identified as many as 260 cases from the previous December. Yet China reported to the World Health Organization a year later — in early 2021 — that there were only 174 cases that December. This raises important and still unanswered questions: Who were these early cases? How did they get sick? Why were they not reported to the WHO?

    .

    The Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued an “urgent notice” to health institutions to look out for cases of “pneumonia of unknown origin” at 3:10 p.m. on Dec. 30. Then, at 6:50 p.m., came a second notice, warning “not to disclose information to the public without authorization.” That evening, ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, a physician at Wuhan Central Hospital, wrote in a private Weibo chat group that seven people had contracted a virus like the one that causes SARS and were quarantined at his hospital. He and other doctors were summoned by police on Jan. 1 and reprimanded for spreading rumors about SARS-like cases appearing in Wuhan hospitals. Li later died of covid-19.

    .

    On Feb. 17, the CDC [a Chinese government agency] published a revelatory official bulletin for December, which showed 104 cases confirmed by laboratory test, 37 of them clinically diagnosed. This was a drastically different picture from the 27 cases the government had first reported to the public for that month.

    But in making its report, the CDC likely overstepped its authority. On Feb. 25, the National Health Commission imposed a gag order on the CDC, demanding that it not publish papers “until the epidemic is under control,” that it must get approval from above for any new research, and no one in the CDC could share information about the epidemic, or samples. On March 3, a much wider, confidential notice was issued by the State Council — a gag order on all research and data in China on the pandemic.

    .

    The WHO team, led by food safety expert Peter Ben Embarek, wanted to know: Were there any earlier cases, say in October or November, that might offer clues to how the pandemic began? In response, the Chinese scientists conducted a search of 233 health institutions in Wuhan, examining 76,253 records of respiratory conditions in the fall of 2019. Only 92 cases were considered possible, but all were excluded after review by the Chinese experts or retrospective testing. The Chinese apparently did not provide original raw data, methods or any independent means for corroboration by the WHO team of these results. The final report concluded that “it is considered unlikely that any substantial transmission” was occurring in October and November.

    The joint mission was contentious. Dr. Embarek later said that China had brought heavy pressure on the researchers to not make any mention of a possible laboratory leak as the origin. Eventually, Chinese scientists relented to a statement that such a leak was “extremely unlikely.” But they had provided the visiting WHO team no way to verify such a conclusion. Dr. Embarek also said, after leaving China, that the virus “was circulating widely in Wuhan in December,” suggesting the official 174 cases were only the tip of the iceberg and the virus could have infected 1,000 or more people that month.

    What more do you need to accept that the CCP was covering it up, whether or not it was a lab leak? The only question is whether they were covering up a lab leak or covering up a zoonotic transfer at the wet market.

  120. says

    Either there wasn’t a lab leak, and the CCP is trying to cover up anything that might (wrongly) implicate them…

    Well, the lab-leak claims are, at best, unsupported, and you said yourself that the CCP can always be counted on to lie through their teeth about everything, as totalitarian regimes are known to do. So yes, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to suspect.

  121. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Final one for now: But seriously, it looks like your position is “Oh yea, the CCP was covering up the wet market zoonotic transfer. That’s not crankish. However, the idea that the CCP was covering up a lab leak? Crank!”

  122. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Well, the lab-leak claims are, at best, unsupported

    So too is the wet market zoonotic transfer. We have maybe 100 to 1 prior probability that it’s a zoonotic transfer as opposed to some accident of human medicine practice, and we have very interesting circumstantial evidence favoring the accident of human medicine practice, specifically: the location of the Wuhan lab working on coronaviruses and the relative lack of other such labs around the world, and the 3 sick researchers with COVID-like symptoms at the start of the outbreak who also worked at the Wuhan lab, and knowledge that the Wuhan lab was doing work to make coronaviruses that were more infectious to humans. You have to weight that circumstantial evidence against the 100 to 1 prior. As far as I’m aware right now, there is no other relevant trustworthy evidence which has not been irrevocably tainted by the CCP.

  123. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Also, Gerrard, whose words are in your scare-quotes @130? They’re not mine. Seriously, what the fuck’s wrong with you?

    It’s called mockery. I’m mocking you.

  124. says

    Oh yea, the CCP was covering up the wet market zoonotic transfer. That’s not crankish. However, the idea that the CCP was covering up a lab leak? Crank!

    Dude, you’ve flat-out claimed the CCP lie about damn near everything — so why would you not accept that they might have lied about zoontic transfer at that wet market?

    Once again: “the CCP lies about stuff” doesn’t count as “evidence” for any accusation.

  125. John Morales says

    In passing, it’s been decades now that people who know about this stuff have been warning of the rapidly-increasing risk of zoonotic transmissions due to climate change.

    (Mozzies, too)

  126. Jazzlet says

    John Morales @#140
    Yup I learned about it, and about the probability of a major pandemic roughly every hundred years I think first at school, but certainly at university back in the early 1980s and it wasn’t new or contentious then.

  127. says

    …we have very interesting circumstantial evidence favoring the accident of human medicine practice, specifically: the location of the Wuhan lab working on coronaviruses and the relative lack of other such labs around the world…

    First, what the fuck do you mean by that silly vague phrase “relative lack?” There’s PLENTY of other such labs around the world, you dimwit. And second, lotharloo @130 already addressed that “funny coincidence,” and your only response was “yabbut the evil Chinese might have covered other cases up!”

    …and the 3 sick researchers with COVID-like symptoms at the start of the outbreak who also worked at the Wuhan lab…

    You’re repeating a claim that’s already been refuted several times on this thread alone. Most of the initial cases were clustered around the wet market, not the lab; and the mere fact that people who worked at the lab got sick, isn’t evidence that they got their disease from inside the lab.

    You can’t prove shit, and you have no credibility, so why don’t you just SHUT THE FUCK UP AND MOVE ON ALREADY? Maybe because you don’t WANT to move on…?

  128. says

    In passing, it’s been decades now that people who know about this stuff have been warning of the rapidly-increasing risk of zoonotic transmissions due to climate change.

    Funny thing, the people trying to push this lab-leak story, and discount the zoontic transmission story, just happen to be the party who’ve been tying themselves in knots trying to deny that global warming is real. Wow, what an amazing coincidence that probably isn’t!

  129. lotharloo says

    @gerrardtheclown:

    But there is plenty of evidence. I’ve cited it. Such as the three sick researchers which contradicts the prior CCP narrative

    Yeah three researchers out of tens of researchers and possibly hundreds of employees catching cold a month before the pandemic is a sign of cover up. Fucking clown.

    Fuck off Gerrard, you have written at least 50 posts on this thread and roughly a third of all the comments. Nobody wants to read your drivel. Seek help.

  130. lotharloo says

    More from the clown:

    The Reality: “There is no evidence, either in published or unpublished works, that WIV had any virus that was remotely related to sars-cov-1 viruses.

    The clown: “So, they hadn’t published any results yet, and the CCP hid any pre-prints and any earlier work.”

    100% Crack logic, I mean after all, if the lack of evidence doesn’t prove a cover up, what does? srsly

  131. lotharloo says

    Ok the above should be cov-2 virus. They only had cov-1, but of course we know that’s because Chineeze guvimment did cuve4 up, leik Twooo Monthrlz before the demic!!!!!!!!!! How else u splain 3 sick ppl? It’s all cover up, I telz u.

  132. raven says

    From Lotharloo:

    @gerrardtheclown:

    But there is plenty of evidence. I’ve cited it. Such as the three sick researchers which contradicts the prior CCP narrative,

    This is apparently a lie.
    Orac, among others points this out.

    .1. There is no source for those 3 researchers from WIV who supposedly got sick in late 2019.
    It is from an “American Intelligence source” who don’t give their source. It is an anonymous source and could well be just something made up to make the Chinese government look bad. It originally appeared in…the Wall Street Journal, an unreliable far right wingnut newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch the Fox news owner.

    .2. Those 3 researchers who supposedly got Covid-19 in 2019 are still very much alive. You can talk to them right now.
    They deny that they were ever sick and were ever in the hospital.

    This means that the claim that “3 WIV scientists were sick and patients zero in 2019” is unproven at best and probably a lie.

    .3. Orac points out a huge contradiction with that claim. “I also cited Michael Hiltzik, who quite reasonably pointed out:

    Virologists point out, moreover, that it would be unlikely for COVID to affect only three people seriously enough to warrant hospital care without infecting hundreds of others in the lab or their households. The other victims might have had milder symptoms, but an outbreak of that magnitude would have been difficult to keep under wraps.

    The virus, apparently, is exactly as transmissible at every time point as lab leak conspiracy theorists need it to be, no more and no less.”

    Those 3 researchers supposedly had a novel, highly transmissable and lethal virus and somehow never managed to infect the Wuhan Institute of Virology, their families, and the local hospitals. This isn’t what you expect from patients 0, 1, and 2.

    .4. All of the known early cases of Covid-19 virus do cluster.
    They cluster around the Wuhan Seafood Market where they were selling a variety of live mammals. They don’t cluster around WIV which is quite a ways away.

    The 3 sick scientists claim is from unreliable sources, not confirmed, denied, and not very plausible.
    It isn’t evidence for anything much less a lab leak of Covid-19 virus.

  133. raven says

    Science magazine, a source far more reliable than the Wall Street Journal, shreds the 3 sick scientists claim. It is just a lie.

    Here is the full article from Science, 2023.
    It’s a bit long for a comment but it shreds the 3 sick scientists claim so I’ll copy the whole thing.

    ‘Ridiculous,’ says Chinese scientist accused of being pandemic’s patient zero

    Ben Hu denies he was sick in late 2019, or that his coronavirus work led to COVID-19, and newly declassified U.S. intelligence doesn’t substantiate allegations against him
    23 JUN 20236:35 PM ET BYJON COHEN

    A scientist at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) who has recently faced media allegations that he was the first person with COVID-19 and his research on coronaviruses sparked the pandemic strongly denies that he was ill in late 2019 or that his work had any link to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, a newly released U.S. report of declassified information on COVID-19’s origin, from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), fails to name him or substantiate that any WIV scientists had the initial cases of COVID-19.

    “The recent news about so-called ‘patient zero’ in WIV are absolutely rumors and ridiculous,” Ben Hu emailed Science in his first public response to the charges, which have been attributed to anonymous former and current U.S. Department of State officials. A WIV colleague who has also been named as one of the first COVID-19 cases denies the accusation as well.

    Hu and two of his WIV colleagues were thrown into the furious COVID-19 origin debate on 13 June when an online newsletter called Public said the three scientists developed COVID-19 in November 2019. That was prior to the outbreak becoming public when a cluster of cases at the end of December 2019 surfaced in people linked to a Wuhan marketplace. Public’s report was quickly embraced by a camp that argues COVID-19 came from a virus stored, and possibly manipulated, at WIV, rather than from infected animal hosts, perhaps being sold at the Wuhan market. A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article on 20 June that said it had “confirmed” the allegations against the three, without referring to any public evidence or named sources with direct knowledge, fueled the flames even more. Social media and other publications spread the charges—and the scientists’ names.

    Public’s account came just before the 18 June deadline for a law enacted on 20 March that required ODNI to declassify documents about the origin of COVID-19 within 90 days. The law specifically asked for the names and other details of any sick WIV researchers before the Wuhan outbreak surfaced. The deadline passed without any response from ODNI, but today it released its declassified information, hours after an initial version of this story was published. ODNI’s report does not substantiate Public’s or WSJ’s accounts in any major way. It says that some at WIV were ill in the fall of 2019 with “symptoms consistent with but not diagnostic of COVID-19.” But it doesn’t identify the three scientists and it further states, “We have no indications that any of these researchers were hospitalized because of the symptoms consistent with COVID-19.”

    Hu and the two other WIV scientists named in media reports, Yu Ping and Zhu Yan, conducted research in the lab of Shi Zhengli, who long has collected and studied bat coronaviruses. Shi has been at the center of pandemic origin debates because of the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 could have leaked from her lab’s samples of natural viruses or is a genetically engineered virus created as part of what critics have branded as “gain-of-function” experiments—research that makes pathogens with pandemic potential more harmful or transmissible. Former President Donald Trump repeatedly blamed the pandemic on the leak of a virus from WIV, and a few days before his administration left, the Department of State issued a fact sheet that said, without offering any proof, it had “reason to believe that several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019.”

    In a COVID-19 origin assessment that ODNI made public on 29 October 2021, it gave little credence to the claim that sick researchers at the lab had the first SARS-CoV-2 infections. It said four intelligence agencies and the National Intelligence Council favored a natural origin of the virus and its spillover from animals to humans but with “low confidence,” whereas one intelligence agency, reported at the time to be FBI, had “moderate confidence” in the lab-leak hypothesis, and three were undecided.

    The new ODNI report echoes the earlier one in many ways, and says the COVID-19 origin debate remains unresolved. “All agencies continue to assess that both a natural and laboratory-associated origin remain plausible hypotheses to explain the first human infection,” it says. The declassification report does confirm a story by WSJ that the Department of Energy had moved from being undecided on COVID-19 origin to favoring a lab leak. ODNI now says, “The Department of Energy and the Federal Bureau of Investigation assess that a laboratory-associated incident was the most likely cause of the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2, although for different reasons.”

    Yet ODNI continues to assert the evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was modified by researchers is weak, challenging the many lab-leak theories in which WIV scientists allegedly manipulated a precursor coronavirus to make it more dangerous. ODNI states, “Almost all IC agencies assess that SARS-CoV-2 was not genetically engineered. Most agencies assess that SARS-CoV-2 was not laboratory-adapted; some are unable to make a determination. All IC agencies assess that SARS-CoV-2 was not developed as a biological weapon.”

    As for Hu, he categorically denies having anything to do with the origin of SARS-CoV-2. “I did not get sick in autumn 2019, and did not have COVID-19-like symptoms at that time,” Hu wrote. “My colleagues and I tested for SARS-CoV-2 antibody in early March 2020 and we were all negative.”

    Yu emailed Science that the charges are “fake news” and similarly insisted there was no basis for the allegations. “In autumn 2019, I was neither sick nor had any symptoms related to COVID-19,” Yu wrote. Zhu did not reply to email requests for comment.

    Hu is an appealing suspect for lab-leak proponents because he was a lead author on a 2017 paper in PLOS Pathogens describing an experiment that created chimeric viruses by combining genes for surface proteins from bat coronaviruses that would not grow in cultures with the genome of one that did. This paper has received intense scrutiny because it was partially funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and, lab-leak proponents insist, led to a gain of function in the cultured virus. NIH officials have strongly denied this and noted that the chimeric viruses created were not closely related to SARS-CoV-2. Hu says he never worked with live viruses in that experiment or any others done in Shi’s lab. “My work in the lab was mainly genome characterization and evolutionary analysis of viruses,” Hu wrote.

    Yu, who was not a co-author of the PLOS Pathogens study, also denied being involved with live virus experiments. “I like bioinformatics and I mainly engage in gene sequencing and data analysis in the laboratory,” she wrote.

    Shi backs up the accounts of her colleagues. She wrote in an email that Hu, Yu, and Zhu “worked on genome sequencing based on extract RNA and never worked on live virus.” Everyone in her lab she said received a COVID-19 antibody test on 3 March 2020 and no one had evidence of having been infected. “All the allegations about the lab-associated accident of COVID-19 are wrong,” Shi wrote. “The prevalence of lab-leak conspiracy is harmful for us to get further funding to continue our research on zoonosis, which is the major threat to the public health in the future.”

    Shi has made similar statements in the past, but lab-leak proponents have discounted them, saying she and China have a clear reason to lie if work at WIV led to the pandemic. They stress that WIV has refused requests to allow outside investigators to conduct an independent review of lab notebooks and the like, and to make public a bat coronavirus database it removed from the internet. Lab-leak proponents have been pinning their hopes on the possibility that the ODNI declassification would provide evidence that would back up at least one of the many, often conflicting allegations against WIV.

    The bill that led to the law to declassify ODNI documents was crafted by Senator Josh Hawley (R–MO), who in 2020 introduced a different bill, the Justice for Victims of Coronavirus Act, that would allow Americans to sue the Chinese government, which he asserted was guilty of “waging a global propaganda offensive to deflect attention away from its mishandling of the COVID-19 outbreak and create unfounded accounts of the origins of the virus.” That bill died without getting to a full vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate, but Republicans in the House of Representatives continue to hold hearings focused on the lab-leak theory and whether NIH helped fund research that led to COVID-19.

    Shi and her supporters have stressed that no evidence exists that her lab has isolated a virus from bats that resembles SARS-CoV-2 or a virus close enough to have served as a precursor that could have been altered into the pandemic cause. In contrast, researchers have published reports, including peer-reviewed papers in Science, that provide evidence supporting the hypothesis that the virus made a jump from animals sold at the marketplace: The market was the epicenter of the early outbreak, two separate lineages of the virus surfaced at the market within weeks of each other, and genetic evidence proves that, despite denials from the Chinese government for more than a year, market vendors sold illegal wildlife that are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 at the time the human cluster surfaced.

    Flo Débarre, one of the scientists who analyzed genetic evidence from the Wuhan market, says she is aghast that so many media outlets have passed along the accusations against the three WIV scientists. “I find it shameful that these scientists are denied any presumption of innocence, their names being thrown in the media arena without any consideration for them, without any actual evidence backing the claim,” says Débarre, who is at CNRS, the French national research agency. She says she was originally “very open” to the lab-leak theory but now finds a natural origin more likely and has combated lab-leak proponents online. Débarre posted a Twitter thread that recounts in detail the history of the “sick” WIV lab worker theory.

    In what may disappoint many following the COVID-19 origin issue, ODNI does not identify which scientists or other investigators made the various assessments for its intelligence units, or what their specific reasoning or evidence is. And some Republicans in Congress were livid about the brevity of ODNI’s report, in which a title page, table of contents, executive summary, and an appendix of definitions took up half of its 10 pages. Senator Mike Braun (R–IN) tweeted, “The COVID-19 Origin Act calls for a full declassification, not Cliffs Notes to cover for Dr. Fauci and protect China. The report released today by the @ODNIgov is totally insufficient.” And the House’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R–WA) issued a statement saying, “This Friday night ‘news’ dump of a mere 10-page summary is a slap in the face of Americans who deserve full transparency about what information the government possess regarding the origins of COVID-19.”

    In its new report, ODNI says some additional information on COVID-19’s origin is being provided to Congress in a classified annex to protect the intelligence community’s sources and methods. But, it adds, “the information contained in the annex is consistent with the unclassified assessments.”

  134. lotharloo says

    @raven:

    Yes, you are absolutely right. The “3 sick researchers” claim is unverified which confirm it is a cover up by the Chinese. And why do they deny that they were sick? I guess because the chinese government has threatened them to cover it up. But how come there are no reports of clusters of sick people which should have been there if the virus was running rampant? You guessed it, more cover up by the chinese!!!!!

  135. says

    It’s amazing that the evidence that COVID was intentionally engineered is so obvious that non-molecular biologists can see it, but the qualified scientists can’t.

  136. raven says

    This is the tl;dr version of the article from Science I just posted.
    I know it is long and many won’t read it.
    It is basically beating a dead horse anyway. The real world discarded this claim years ago.

    .1. “Ben Hu denies he was sick in late 2019, or that his coronavirus work led to COVID-19, and newly declassified U.S. intelligence doesn’t substantiate allegations against him.”

    .2. “A Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article on 20 June that said it had “confirmed” the allegations against the three, without referring to any public evidence or named sources with direct knowledge, ”
    This is a lie. The WSJ might have claimed they confirmed it, but it is obvious they didn’t and couldn’t. US Intelligence agencies couldn’t even confirm it.

    .3. ” ODNI’s (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) report does not substantiate Public’s or WSJ’s accounts in any major way. ”

    .4. “As for Hu, he categorically denies having anything to do with the origin of SARS-CoV-2. “I did not get sick in autumn 2019, and did not have COVID-19-like symptoms at that time,” Hu wrote. “My colleagues and I tested for SARS-CoV-2 antibody in early March 2020 and we were all negative.”

    These 3 scientists who were supposedly sick with a novel, highly transmissable virus, one that can be lethal or permanently disabling, seem to be remarkably healthy.
    They deny that they were at death’s door in a hospital in 2019.
    They should be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

    There is no such proof.
    There isn’t even a real source for the claim. It’s anonymous all the way down.

    The 3 sick scientists claim has so many holes in it as to be worthless. It’s most likely a lie.

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