Comments

  1. says

    It’s not “nutty” nonsense, it’s MALICIOUS nonsense. It is, and always was, deliberately crafted and tailored both to pander to anti-Asian bigotry and to deflect attention and blame away from our own “leaders'” disgraceful incompetence and corruption.

  2. bcw bcw says

    So, it’s psychologically satisfying for some editor at the NY Times with his poli-sci or journalism degree to put the thumb on the scale to support the “lab leak” hypothesis because it’s scary to accept that nature and evolution are out to get us with ever evolving diseases so that the best we can do about is to be ready to act quickly to minimize the deaths; versus saying “those evil scientists who flunked me in ‘physics for poets’ have transgressed into domains forbidden to them (Jurassic park etc) and we need to stomp them down.

  3. numerobis says

    I can’t believe this nutty nonsense keeps going on and on.

    You’ve been debunking creationists for how long and you have trouble believing in the infinite wisdom of the crowds?

  4. says

    The biggest problem is that these ignorant gits have no idea what a “lab leak” might look like, how it might occur, how it might be detected/prevented… or what complete lockdown to deal with foreseeable “leaks” would do to research for useful things. That’s primarily because none of these commentators have ever been in a lab above the freshman-general-education-course level… or maybe they’ve substituted reading something written by Michael Crichton hackcoughphhhhhhhhhhhhhhhht for actually visiting a laboratory that handles even well-understood large-scale biological materials.

    Far more likely would be containment failure during an attempt at industrial espionage… which most likely would have been by us, not those people in China.

  5. Matt G says

    Aryamsn@7- The podcast did a great job covering that sham article.

    Jaws@6- What someone SHOULD do is model what a lab leak scenario WOULD look like. They touched on it in the TWIV episode.

  6. chrislawson says

    A lab leak was never the most parsimonious hypothesis. It was vaguely plausible (or at least not readily refutable) for the first 2-4 weeks after the outbreak was detected. Since then the weight of evidence has been strongly against it and has only gotten stronger with every subsequent finding. With what we know now, a lab leak is extremely unlikely to be the source of COVID-19. The best that can be said for it is that it hasn’t been definitively disproven, but that’s really the microbiological equivalent of Last Thursdayism. Basically the lab leak story is only plausible if one’s need to believe in conspiracies overwhelms all other thought processes.

  7. raven says

    I can’t believe this nutty nonsense keeps going on and on.

    Nonsense ideas never seem to completely die.

    The Flat Earth theory is not only still around but it has had a revival in the 21st century.
    Geocentrism, the theory that the sun revolves around the earth, is accepted by 20% of the US population. Which means they can’t diagram the solar system, a task I learned in the first grade.

    There are also still Germ Theory deniers around, who don’t believe microscopic pathogens can cause diseases.
    They were surprisingly common during the Covid-19 virus pandemic and there was a lot of overlap with the antivaxxers.
    Many of them ended up dying of a viral disease that they didn’t believe existed. Their friends and relatives then accused the hospitals of murdering the patients for money.

    People will literally die rather than give up their contrafactual beliefs.

    Right offhand, I can’t think of any nutty nonsense ideas that have completely died.

  8. chrislawson says

    MattG@8 — Plenty of people with virology expertise have described what we should expect with a lab leak and how it does not match the evidence, but it has largely gone unreported outside the scientific literature. This is not purely theoretical. There have been many documented biohazard lab leaks so we have real-world knowledge of them, just as we have real-world knowledge of epidemics that started without the help of a lab. There was even a confirmed COVID-19 lab leak in Taiwan in 2021, although fortunately only one research assistant was infected.

    The NYT, of course, doesn’t give a damn about any of this and can’t even be bothered reporting on it.

  9. John Morales says

    raven,

    Right offhand, I can’t think of any nutty nonsense ideas that have completely died.

    Well, of course.

    If the idea itself had completely died, you would be entirely unaware of it unless you yourself originated it anew.

    (That’s a tautology, IOW)

  10. raven says

    A long time ago in the early 2000s, I used to have to deal with HIV/AIDS denialists.

    This was the theory that the HIV virus didn’t exist and didn’t cause AIDS.
    It was a widespread theory with a lot of very vocal leaders including at one time, the president of South Africa.
    The leaders at least were immune to any sort of data or evidence.

    It is still around but no longer very important for two reasons.
    .1. All the HIV/AIDS denialists that were HIV+ died…of AIDS.
    It was eerie watching them claim to be perfectly healthy and then die of typical end stage AIDS conditions.
    .2. Around that time, the HIV drugs became highly effective and readily available. It turned HIV into a manageable disease rather than a death sentence.

    There was no longer any advantage is pretending the HIV virus didn’t exist.
    That was and is a theory that can very literally kill you.

    I remember one of the key leaders in the US was a woman named Christine M.. I’ll redact the last name as she is long dead but has survivors.
    She was HIV+ and managed to infect her newborn daughter perinatally by not taking any precautions whatsoever. Her daughter died of AIDS at age 3.
    It didn’t change Christine’s mind at all and she was healthy right up until she died…of AIDS.

  11. Akira MacKenzie says

    It’s like I said in the Rufo article, facts, demonstrability, and logic are no match for motivated reasoning, paranoia, and a hatred of intelligence. As long as these people are allowed to spew their nonsense without consequences, you can never win.

  12. lotharloo says

    She was HIV+ and managed to infect her newborn daughter perinatally by not taking any precautions whatsoever. Her daughter died of AIDS at age 3.
    It didn’t change Christine’s mind at all and she was healthy right up until she died…of AIDS.

    God we humans are so fucking stupid. That’s so terrible.

  13. KG says

    The biggest problem is that these ignorant gits have no idea what a “lab leak” might look like, how it might occur, how it might be detected/prevented… or what complete lockdown to deal with foreseeable “leaks” would do to research for useful things. – Jaws@6

    Well one feature it would probably have is starting near a lab or labs working on infectious agents derived from the same type of host as that causing the disease in question. And if Covid was somehow a result of a lab’s work (which does not, of course, imply that it was deliberately produced, or that the lab knows that it resulted from their work), you would need some very “useful things” to come out of such work to balance the devastating harm caused by the Covid pandemic.

  14. mordred says

    Raven@14: That reminds me how just last year my former GP honestly told me that HIV was just invented because “the Americans” had to present something after all the AIDS research they did.

    Don’t know if he already believed that when he was still working or if he has only been drifting into the conspiracy world since he retired. He still seems as hostile as when he was active towards alt-med in general, though.

  15. says

    And if Covid was somehow a result of a lab’s work (which does not, of course, imply that it was deliberately produced, or that the lab knows that it resulted from their work), you would need some very “useful things” to come out of such work to balance the devastating harm caused by the Covid pandemic.

    Or else…what? Economic sanctions? Nuke the site from orbit?

  16. robro says

    I regretted watching Rebecca’s very good presentation because I spent much my walk yesterday afternoon yelling at DF Green. In my head, but yelling at her none the less.

  17. christoph says

    @ Raven, # 14: I heard the same assertion, that AIDs wasn’t caused by HIV. What confused me was that (to my knowledge) they didn’t propose an alternate cause. I did read an article by Terry Crews (who should have known better) hypothesizing that AIDs was caused by an immune system reaction to sperm cells that somehow entered the bloodstream. (SMH, WTF…)

  18. Walter Solomon says

    raven @14

    I remember one of the key leaders in the US was a woman named Christine M.. I’ll redact the last name as she is long dead but has survivors.

    You already provided more than enough information for anyone to find out her last name and biography in seconds if they wanted. Anyway, “denial” isn’t a river in Egypt as they say. She really had a bad case of it.

  19. says

    christoph @22: Come to think of it, I can easily see some hate-preacher making up a story like that, both to deny germ theory (which lots of religious bigots have hated since day one) and to blame gay men for AIDS in the most lurid and disgusting way possible. I mean, “sexually transmitted viruses cause AIDS” doesn’t sound nearly as scary and gross as “sperm cells getting into your blood from doing icky gay stuff causes AIDS!”

  20. mordred says

    christoph@22: I dimly remember the claim that AIDS was caused by certain recreational drugs allegedly used by gay men.

    Another claim I heard was that AIDS patients actually get sick and die because of the anitiviral drugs that doctors give them without cause because big pharma makes money that way.

  21. says

    The biggest problem is that these ignorant gits have no idea what a “lab leak” might look like…

    Yeah, none of those allegations are at all specific or grounded in any actual knowledge of what goes on in such labs. But an even bigger problem (IMO at least) is that said ignorant gits also have no idea what a COVERUP of a lab leak might look like. I’m sure there would at least be an unexplained spike in hospital visits, with most or all of the unusual patients dying because none of the standard treatments work. That would disrupt a lot of people’s normal routines, and be noticed by a lot of other people. And I’m also sure those US intelligence agencies that cranks like GOTS love to cite would have picked up on such an incident, no matter what those evil inscrutable Chinese commies did about it.

    So even if there was a coverup, we’d have more evidence of it than “yabbut they COULD have covered it up!”

  22. seachange says

    @ christoph #22

    You (and all the respondents in this thread) should read Susan Sonntag’s AIDS as Metaphor. You should also read (a good English translation of) Albert Camus’s The Plague. Sonntag also wrote Cancer as Metaphor (the cancer one was first and published in 1978, there was no AIDS) and Illness as Metaphor, be because people really don’t get it and insist on not getting it with their entire lives so she had to repeat herself. And The Plague was written eighty years ago in 1947 before any hantavirus or ebola.

    Both of these speak strongly both to the fuckers saying this lableak shit or everything about COVID 19 but also about how ineffective all-your response to this nonsense is. Sorry it’s not possible to relay the gist of these in a blog Comment post, just read them, they’re in the library.

    I was in the thick of it volunteering for the AIDS Service Center (of All Saints Pasadena, this Episcopal church has many service centers, some Christians do that sort of thing, weird huh?). It was the first place for succor of any kind on the west coast of the United States (Gay Men’s Health Crisis was in New York City).

    Gay men are much more likely to smoke, take drugs, eat poorly, party excessively, use weird chemicals to beef up their muscles but harm their immune system, use weird chemicals to relax those same muscles which chemicals are shown to kill you, be homeless, have no job, and fuck around so much that they acquire/generate antibiotic-resistant STIs. I met many of these dying men, and talked to them when nobody else would talk to a diseased pariah.

    Nobody at All Saints was using ‘you are gay so God says you should die’. But the sufferers, my interlocutors, donators, and the helpers all proposed all of the things in the above paragraphs as to why.

    My parents were Chiropractors and they subscribed to the Wellness Letter that first identified GRID. I read that article when it first came out. The reason GRID was a rare catch is because the treated population was dying and suffering at a higher rate than the normal poverty-stricken rate which it self wasn’t interesting (because This is America and because if you engage in any of the above behaviors in order to survive capitalism, capitalism is going to make life hard for you). It was odd for a medical doctor to think outside of received wisdom and make a masterful catch like this.

  23. jimmyfromdelaware says

    The origins of Covid is far from settled science. I will never understand why people politicized Covid and freedom of speech issues. Below are links from a declassified assessment and this is the money line:

    “After examining all available intelligence reporting and other information, though, the IC remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19. All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident”

    https://www.intelligence.gov/assets/documents/702%20Documents/declassified/Declassified-Assessment-on-COVID-19-Origins.pdf

    Also don’t forget our wonderful government spread anti-vax misinformation:

    https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-covid-propaganda/

  24. says

    You call that a “money line?!” That’s just mealy-mouthed waffling. First they say they’re “divided” on the “most likely origin of COVID-19;” then they just say both hypotheses are “plausible” — which is a different question from “likely.” Way to avoid making a choice, guys! Heckuva job!

    The only excuse I can think of for such waffling is that since this is a “declassified assessment,” there’s probably more definitive information and assertions that can’t be made public because they’re based on still-classified information about how/who/where they got their information from. Intelligence agencies often have such constraints: some information can never be revealed — and sometimes never acted on — because doing so would tell an adversary who/where they’d got the information from; and then they’d lose a valuable source.

    Another, less valid excuse is that they’re afraid of offending a certain faction in Congress who have the ability to interfere with their funding.

  25. says

    The origins of Covid is far from settled science.

    It’s as “settled” as it really needs to be. The greatest preponderance of evidence points to a virus jumping from animal to human in that wet market in Wuhan; and such a zoontic jump is also one of the most likely origins of our next pandemic; so waving a bloody shirt and blaming China this late in the game serves no purpose except to distract us from more immediate and relevant issues.

  26. jack lecou says

    I must have missed the memo where the US intelligence community was appointed official arbiters of what is and isn’t settled science.

    I suppose it might be one thing if these supposed “findings” from intelligence agencies were more definitive. A “high confidence” conclusion of a lab leak from one of them might actually be worth paying attention to, even if the details behind that confidence were classified. It would suggest the existence of solid information the rest of us aren’t necessarily privy to.

    But that’s certainly not what we’re seeing.

    Option two would be these agencies simply keeping mum, which would be the sensible move if they had nothing to say. Even if explicitly asked for an opinion (by, e.g., Congress), they could simply say (truthfully) that they had no special expertise or insight.

    Also not what we’re seeing.

    What we’re seeing is option 3, where they don’t have anything to say, but they’re also not staying quiet. That’s a weird combination. And it suggests there’s some other motive for speaking up and trying to keep the issue live, something which has nothing to do with trying to get at the truth of COVID-19’s origin. The obvious candidate being the evident interest among certain political factions to maintain an artificially high level of antagonism with China, although there might be other candidates as well.

    In short, I’d take these “intelligence” pronouncements with a pretty big grain of salt.

  27. jimmyfromdelaware says

    Folks – if you refuse to consider Covid origin and immediately use juvenile put downs on those who disagree…you are no different than a trumpster right winger.

    Some people made good arguments for zoological; but most are an embarrassment.

    As more and more gets out about the Covid response – the federal government did so many illegal and misleading things. Efforts at the time to point that out; was labeled misinformation. It is bad science to have a top down Soviet Union style Covid response when those who question the narrative are banished. But at least in the good old USA they just lose jobs and careers – not a one way ticket to Siberia.

    Also – the Covid shot does hurt people; possibly a lot but it’s too early to tell. If people dismiss what the NIH says, then they proved my point.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37626783/

  28. says

    Folks – if you refuse to consider Covid origin and immediately use juvenile put downs…

    Who here is “refusing to consider Covid origin?”

    Some people made good arguments for zoological; but most are an embarrassment.

    How so?

    Also – the Covid shot does hurt people; possibly a lot but it’s too early to tell.

    Oh please — we’re coming up on FOUR YEARS of experience with the non-quack-invented COVID vaccine, and the harm we’ve seen is nowhere near as bad, or as likely, as that of COVID. That’s well past “too early to tell.”

  29. jimmyfromdelaware says

    No sense trying to have a dialog since you ignored NIH finding that I linked that the vax is pathological.

    This is the kind of bullshit I was referring to. You ignore things that don’t agree with you then make sweeping generalizations.

    “The biggest problem is that these ignorant gits have no idea what a “lab leak” might look like, how it might occur, how it might be detected/prevented… or what complete lockdown to deal with foreseeable “leaks” would do to research for useful things. That’s primarily because none of these commentators have ever been in a lab above the freshman-general-education-course level… or maybe they’ve substituted reading something written by Michael Crichton hackcoughphhhhhhhhhhhhhhhht”

    I wonder how many, if any, the people in this thread have regular conversations with people they disagree with?

  30. says

    No sense trying to have a dialog since you ignored NIH finding that I linked that the vax is pathological.

    First, there’s more than one “the vax,” in the US alone, and their effectiveness has not been rated the same. The Russians, Chinese and Iranians have also developed vaccines of their own. So which “the vax” are you referring to?

    And second, the article you cite says: “Sadly, unprecedented high rates of adverse events have overshadowed the benefits.” Which is a pretty bold claim, given that would likely mean a mass die-off of vaccinated people that NO ONE, not even those dastardly inscrutable Chinese Communists, could cover up. Care to quote something more specific in that paper showing serious adverse reactions that I, for one, have yet to see mentioned in mainstream news?

    You ignore things that don’t agree with you then make sweeping generalizations.

    You mean, like the people claiming a lab leak who have never offered anything more specific than “there was a lab leak and the Chinese are lying about it and covering up all the evidence!”?

  31. jack lecou says

    By Atuin’s might hindquarters, let’s back up a little here. What does the vaccine have to do with a lab leak?

    Like, let’s suppose the vaccine is the worst kind of poison you could possibly take. It’s not. But let’s pretend. How would that in any way suggest that the virus originated in a lab?

    Hint: it wouldn’t. Unless the intimation is supposed to be literally, “the Illuminati made both of them”, then these things have nothing to do with each other.

  32. says

    What does the vaccine have to do with a lab leak?

    Nothing — someone’s changing the subject. Just like all the lab-leak talk is a ginormous change of subject from Trump’s disgraceful response to COVID. So I guess now we’ll talk about “the vax” until — SQUIRREL!!!

  33. anat says

    jimmyfromdelaware, you know what really harms people? Getting long COVID. And every time one gets COVID can be the time that triggers long COVID. That is why it is important to keep getting vaccinated, and I wish I could get vaccinated at least twice a year. Also important to have good ventilation and air filtration. And yes, wear masks in crowded indoor places. I still wear mine, and will probably never stop.

  34. tacitus says

    @jimmyfromdelaware: If people dismiss what the NIH says, then they proved my point.

    No sense trying to have a dialog since you ignored NIH finding that I linked that the vax is pathological.

    Jesus Christ, if you can’t even figure out that the paper (which is just a review, not original science) was written by a bunch of Australians who have nothing to do with the NIH, then why should we take anything you say seriously?

    The review article has nothing to do with the NIH at all. The authors paid to have it published in the open access journal “Biomedicines” published by MDPI, a private company based in Basel, Switzerland. There are no “NIH findings” here.

    Apparently, someone checked a sample of their references and some of them link to opinion pieces, not data sources. And other references don’t back up what they say in the review. Not a good sign that this is a good faith effort.

    Go away. Your antivaxx nonsense doesn’t work here.

  35. tacitus says

    Oh dear, it gets much worse.

    One of the authors of that “review”, Astrid Lefringhausen, published a paper with this little gem in it in 2022:

    It is truly disturbing that treatments recommended by doctors in America, some of them having successfully treated COVID-19 patients, including very sick patients, have not been investigated in Australia. These treatments are mainly based on vitamins, zinc and zinc ionophores, such as ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine. The recommendation is to treat as early as possible. Scientific papers support the use of ivermectin according to Bryant et al. [62]. They found moderate to strong evidence that ivermectin can reduce COVID-19 deaths while being safe and inexpensive. The same was found for hydroxychloroquine in a review by McCullough et al, which also stated that a reduction of mortality strongly depends on an early start of the treatment. Hydroxychloroquine has been registered in the US since 1955 and has a well-characterized safety profile.

    Many of the greatest antivaxx hits is one paragraph.

    And wouldn’t you know it. Lefringhausen is on the board of directors of the Children’s Health Defense organization, and to quote Wikipedia, they are “an American 501(c)(3) nonprofit activist group mainly known for anti-vaccine disinformation, and which has been called one of the main sources of misinformation on vaccines.”

    So fuck off, Jimmy. Stop wasting everyone’s time.

  36. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    It’s not “nutty” nonsense, it’s MALICIOUS nonsense. It is, and always was, deliberately crafted and tailored both to pander to anti-Asian bigotry and to deflect attention and blame away from our own “leaders’” disgraceful incompetence and corruption.

    And yet, one of the primary reasons why I keep talking about it is to start assigning more blame on our own disgraceful leaders like Dr Fauci, and I don’t really blame the Chinese in particular. I doubt that their bio-safety protocols were worse than or especially worse than some other equally-rated bio-safety labs around the world. I don’t do this to assign blame to the Chinese. I do this to call into question the highly dangerous experiments that are being done so that we might start regulating them much more highly (e.g. have stronger rules in place to prevent this work from being done at BSL-2 such as what proposed and done at the Wuhan Institute of Virology), and also have a discussion about whether we should simple ban this kind of dangerous research outright. At a minimum, I’m of the opinion that we should outright ban research that involves taking viruses that could reasonably be expected to make them more pathogenic or more contagious in humans.

  37. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Sorry, addendum:
    Oh but no, Raging Bee, please tell me what I actually believe, because apparently you know so much better than me what I believe. /s

    You’re being no better than anyone on the right who does anything as long as it “pwns the libs”.

    You have apparently decided that anyone who pushes this idea is a pro-Trump Republican hatemonger, and yet you’re unwilling to face the reality that this includes basically the whole US intelligence apparatus under Biden. You’re the actual conspiracy theorist because you seemingly assign such ridiculous motives to the whole of the US intelligence apparatus.

  38. John Morales says

    … our own disgraceful leaders like Dr Fauci …

    You can’t presume your conspiracy theory is true in order to claim lifelong expert Dr Fauci is “disgraceful”.

    You also gotta remember Dr Fauci was trying to get the Trump administration to listen to reason the whole time.

    You know, there’s a classic meme involving him during those days; the Dr. Anthony Fauci Face Palm.

    Anyway, it’s pretty much on the nose that you malign him based on presuming your conclusion as a premise.

    Tsk.

  39. says

    And yet, one of the primary reasons why I keep talking about it is to start assigning more blame on our own disgraceful leaders like Dr Fauci…

    Bullshit. Fauci is neither “disgraceful” nor a “leader.” The people whose bigoted accusations you’re parroting were the actual leaders at the time, and they’re using those accusations to become leaders again.

    …and I don’t really blame the Chinese in particular.

    God’s balls, you’re a fucking liar. You dragged out the last thread on this subject past the 200 mark with relentless repeated accusations of Chinese perfidy, just to give yourself an excuse for clinging to a diversionary scapegoating claim with no supporting evidence (and to tar Dr. Fauci as an “enemy collaborator”). The only way you can pretend you “don’t really blame the Chinese in particular” is if you don’t really believe what you’ve been saying about them.

    …you’re unwilling to face the reality that this includes basically the whole US intelligence apparatus under Biden.

    Now you’re waffling again: is it “the entire intelligence apparatus” or “two specific agencies” or “two out of three analysts” or…what? You’ve changed your tune on this to many times to still have any credibility left. Not to mention that you’ve also been waffling about what, specifically, “the entire intelligence apparatus” actually say.

    At a minimum, I’m of the opinion that we should outright ban research that involves taking viruses that could reasonably be expected to make them more pathogenic or more contagious in humans.

    In other words, you want to ban research regarding any virus that might be dangerous. GO FUCK YOURSELF.

  40. jimmyfromdelaware says

    Okay folks – I am done trying to have a reasonable conversation with you. I am just gobsmacked that you use the same bullshit tactics that right wingers do to Impugn the sources you disagree with.

    You folks are exhibiting the same exact bias that christians and strident right wingers have. Case in point the malicious reaction you folks have on lab leak. Your smug level is off the charts with tenuous data supporting your claim. If you folks are still defending Fauci you seriously need to read a book on his AIDS response. Top down Soviet style medicine was a disaster during the AIDS crisis and again during Covid.

    Stop politicizing science!

  41. jack lecou says

    Your smug level is off the charts with tenuous data supporting your claim.

    Says the guy trying to pass off Australian anti-vax bullshit as official findings from the NIH. It is but to laugh.

    Stick the flounce, friend.

  42. says

    jimmy: That article is behind a paywall — but just before the “subscribe or sign in” pop-up came up, I managed to see the words “low confidence” in the first paragraph. But hey, if you want to either cite a more accessible page or paste a direct quote before sticking that flounce, go ahead…we’ll wait…

  43. jack lecou says

    …behind a paywall…

    I’m apparently not at my quota (NYT is pretty useless these days), so I can see it. And it’s about what you’d expect: a brainless transcription of the DOE’s report on the virus origin from a year and a half ago (Feb 2023).

    I’m sure the original DOE report can be googled up, but IIRC it’s pretty threadbare. And of course, it should be put in context with other assessments by US agencies. Believe it or not, Gerard’s link
    to the Director of National Intelligence summary actually has a helpful overview:

    The National Intelligence Council and four other IC [intelligence community] agencies assess that the initial human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was caused by natural exposure to an infected animal that carried SARS-CoV-2 or a close progenitor, a virus that probably would be more than 99 percent similar to SARSCoV-2.
    • 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.
    • The Central Intelligence Agency and another agency remain unable to determine the precise origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, as both hypotheses rely on significant assumptions or face challenges with conflicting reporting.
    • 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.

    The DOE is hanging out there in the second bullet, in disagreement with every other agency (including the FBI, since they don’t have the same reasoning).

    (And while we’re at it, I think the broad agreement on the bolded bits in the last bullet is worth noting. Even the agencies which do find some support for a “leak” nevertheless think it’s just an accidental release of wild-caught virus, not “gain of function” or genetic engineering gone amok. It’s weird how Gerrard and others will approvingly link to these reports to claim that such and such an agency thinks it was “a leak”, but then conveniently ignore the specifics of that finding in order to continue to push scaremongering about GoF experiments, etc.)

  44. says

    Top down Soviet style medicine was a disaster during the AIDS crisis and again during Covid.

    Please give specific examples of “Top down Soviet style medicine.”

  45. says

    So in addition to one or two intelligence agencies, we now have TWO COMEDIANS insinuating a lab leak. Well, that clinches it then… /eyeroll

  46. jimmyfromdelaware says

    —-> Raging Bee

    If you can’t understand how this pandemic was managed top down with any descent silenced…You are being obtuse or willfully ignorant.

    I can’t help you.

  47. says

    Another fun factoid about intelligence agencies: they’re likely to have at least some implicit bias that leads them to at least remember allegations of any sort of potential national security threat, like a novel contagious disease getting out of a foreign government’s labs. It is, in fact, THEIR JOB to be paranoid about such things. If it’s physically possible, then they have to at least be aware of the allegations, rate their credibility, and have the beginnings of a plan in place in case the allegations turn out to be more than just wild bullshit claims. Even if they all agree that all the evidence points to an accidental jump in a public market, it’s just not their job to deal with such events (in the US, that would be USDA’s job, not the FBI’s); so they’ll still continue to focus on the government lab, because that’s more within the scope of their job. So if the preponderance of evidence points to a zoonotic jump in a wet-market, then DOE’s and FBI’s talk about the “plausibility” of a lab leak aren’t really relevant as a counter-argument.

  48. says

    jimmy: what, exactly, do you mean by “managed top down?” Isn’t that what governments and leaders are supposed to do with such emergencies? Do you consider that bad, or do you mean something else by those words?

  49. jack lecou says

    (From the record so far, my guess is something along the lines of, “the mean old top down fedrill gubmint tried to tell me it was bad to suckle on tubes of horse de-wormer”.)

  50. jack lecou says

    So in addition to one or two intelligence agencies, we now have TWO COMEDIANS insinuating a lab leak. Well, that clinches it then… /eyeroll

    And from three years ago, too. I’m sure we’ll get a considered and rational opinion based on all the facts over the due course of time, and not just the impeccable logic of “that’s just a little too weird don’t you think?”

    Oh wait. Scratch that. Watched the video.

    Pop quiz for “Team Feelings”:

    Q1. What exactly are the odds of a natural coronavirus spillover event in South/Central China?

    Hint: High. Like, really high. There may be well in excess of 1 of these per year.

    We know this in part because some of the other research WIV has been involved in is surveying for the presence of novel bat coronavirus antibodies in, for example, villagers living near bat caves where samples were collected. Many villagers do have antibodies, indicating past infections and spillovers. This is common, and spillovers are evidently happening all the time.

    Most of them are obviously sub-critical (and sub-clinical). Spillover in small, low density populations (like those villages), and/or of viruses that aren’t especially infectious, tend to fizzle out quickly and (relatively) harmlessly. Indeed, simulations show that even the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2, in a highly populated city, usually fizzles out (more than 2/3 of the time). So, thankfully, exponential takeoff following these spillovers, like that which happened in Wuhan, isn’t the norm.

    Yet, anyway.

    Q2. If the odds of a natural spillover occurring in a city with characteristics Q (population density, economic activity, transportation links to likely source vectors, etc.) are N, what are the odds of a natural spillover occurring in a city with approximately the same Q, but also a coronavirus lab?

    Hint: those odds don’t go down just because there’s a lab there.

    Q3. Given 1 and 2, how hard do you think we need to dig for a an alternative explanation if a natural pandemic spillover appears to have occurred?

    Hint: not very hard.

    I would grant you that in a city with a lab, the probability of a lab leak origin is only ~0, as opposed to exactly 0 everywhere else, but it’s still not actually high. Meanwhile, the probability of a natural spillover will still be unchanged: high as hell. The relative probability is very low compared to natural origin. Contra Jon, not anywhere near “most likely” caused by the lab.

    Basically, we know with some certainty that mother nature is out there tossing lit matches and firecrackers and stuff out on the ground on a regular basis. Probably has been for thousands of year. Most of them fizzle out before they can do much damage. But we keep adding more and more dry tinder (people). When a fire does inevitably break out, we’re usually not going to need to look too hard for the cause.

    Sure it’s possible the latest fire started because the local fire marshall carelessly tossed out a cigarette — more likely than in a town without a fire marshall — but unless you’ve got extremely hard evidence for that, it’s not a very good null hypothesis. Particularly when all the physical evidence keeps being stubbornly consistent with it being one of mother nature’s matches out in the woods. And no, the fire marshall acting prickly and withdrawn when you accuse her of irresponsible smoking and demand to read all her emails does not actually count as evidence that she did it.

  51. John Morales says

    jimmyfromdelaware:

    John Morales – what is your comment about this?

    “Lab Leak Most Likely Caused Pandemic, Energy Dept. Says”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/26/us/politics/china-lab-leak-coronavirus-pandemic.html

    It is an older New York Times article claiming “Some officials briefed on the intelligence said that it was relatively weak and that the Energy Department’s conclusion was made with “low confidence,” suggesting its level of certainty was not high. While the department shared the information with other agencies, none of them changed their conclusions, officials said.”

    That’s my comment. Good to know the Energy Department is on the case, though.
    Apparently, it impressed you.

    More relevantly, are you aware of what a low confidence assessment entails?
    Here’s a source you clearly trust: https://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/02/washington/02intelbox.html

    How Quality of Intelligence Is Defined

    “High confidence” generally indicates our judgments are based on high-quality information and/or the nature of the issue makes it possible to render a solid judgment.

    “Moderate confidence” generally means the information is interpreted in various ways, we have alternative views, or the information is credible and plausible but not corroborated sufficiently to warrant a higher level of confidence.

    “Low confidence” generally means the information is scant, questionable, or very fragmented and it is difficult to make solid analytic inferences, or we have significant concerns or problems with the sources.”

  52. KG says

    If the odds of a natural spillover occurring in a city with characteristics Q (population density, economic activity, transportation links to likely source vectors, etc.) are N, what are the odds of a natural spillover occurring in a city with approximately the same Q, but also a coronavirus lab?

    Hint: those odds don’t go down just because there’s a lab there. – jack lecou@64

    This is just fucking stupid, because it’s obviously the wrong question. In the first place, if the pandemic began with an animal brought for sale in a wet market, that is not a “natural spillover”. AFAIK, no-one has posited that it began because an infected bat flew over Wuhan and sneezed or shat. But setting that aside, the right question is “If a pandemic caused by a bat coronavirus was going to begin in a wet market from an animal brought there for sale, what is the probability it would be the wet market in one of the tiny number of cities where there were labs working on bat coronaviruses? (The only other one in China, as far as I can discover, is in Hong Kong, but wet markets are numerous. Try putting “bat” + “coronavirus” + “China” in Google Scholar or similar, looking for papers published before 2020. When I looked, every fucking one had at least one author from WIV.)

  53. KG says

    Alos, lab leaks are not that rare. There were two lab leaks of SARS-1 in China alone.

  54. John Morales says

    KG, so, a plausibility argument, as you see it.

    (I mean, “what are the odds?!” is something very rarely said, right?)

  55. says

    …the right question is “If a pandemic caused by a bat coronavirus was going to begin in a wet market from an animal brought there for sale, what is the probability it would be the wet market in one of the tiny number of cities where there were labs working on bat coronaviruses?

    God’s death, this question has already been asked and answered MANY times, including at least twice in the previous thread on this subject. And the answer is, the probability is very high indeed, lab or no lab. Wuhan is a BIG city, in the center of an agrarian region, which means it’s a major agricultural business hub, which includes lots of trade in farm animals, which means lots of humans getting close to such animals every day, which means plenty of opportunities for any sort of virus to jump from animals to humans. Seriously, at the very least read jack lecou’s comment #64, if not all his other comments on this and the previous thread — he’s already answered that question, more than once. Viruses are known to jump from animals to humans ALL THE TIME.

    Also (as others have pointed out already), you’re getting your cause-and-effect link backwards: the viruses aren’t in Wuhan because there’s a lab there; the lab is there because that’s where the viruses are that they need to study.

  56. says

    Oh, and there’s also bat caves in the Wuhan region, and humans living near the bat caves. And humans have got viruses from bats before too — it’s a fairly regular occurrence.

  57. KG says

    plenty of opportunities for any sort of virus to jump from animals to humans. RagingBee@69

    Or vice versa. We know that happens too, because it has, on a Danish fur farm. And we know sample collectors from the labs repeatedly went into bat caves and took samples of blood and feces – because that was an essential part of their research. We don’t know that any of the animals brought to the wet market had ever been in a bat cave, or kept near bat caves and in places accessible to bats. Nor do we know this of any of the people who brought them there or had contact with them in the market. So the only susceptible hosts for SARS-CoV-2 spending a lot of time in Wuhan who we know to routinely go into bat caves are the sample collectors from the two labs; and only they and other lab staff do we know to have close contact with bats. There should be investigations into whether any of the traders routinely go into bat caves, or keep their animals in places readily accessible to bats. Are such investigations going on? Or have they already been done and reported? Not that I’ve heard. It would surprise me if they had, because the Chinese authorities don’t want to admit that the origin of the virus was even in China at all.

    Moreover, the sample collectors, other lab staff, and as many as possible of the traders and customers at the market (and animals being brought for sale to that market, if it is still open and selling a range of animals), should be screened for antibodies to other bat coronaviruses. Results would not be conclusive, but if for example it was found that traders attending the Wuhan market did routinely have such antibodies, or that animals brought to such markets routinely did so, and sample collectors and other lab staff didn’t, or at least had no more such antibodies than the traders and customers, that would be evidence against a lab leak. To the best of my knowledge (I apologise that I can’t read the whole thread now, I need to get to bed, but I’ll come back to it) no such work has been attempted.

  58. KG says

    Oh, and there’s also bat caves in the Wuhan region, and humans living near the bat caves. And humans have got viruses from bats before too — it’s a fairly regular occurrence. – RagingBee@70

    Sources? Do we know people in the Wuhan area have got viruses from bats? How frequently?

  59. says

    We don’t know that any of the animals brought to the wet market had ever been in a bat cave, or kept near bat caves and in places accessible to bats.

    Do we know that COVID-19 could only have come from bats? I haven’t heard that assertion from anyone. And even if it’s true, it’s still both possible and very likely that bats could have had contact with farm animals near their habitats (IMO most likely when bats came out at night, or when bats took up residence in barns); and then the animals could have carried the virus from bats to the market.

    So the only susceptible hosts for SARS-CoV-2 spending a lot of time in Wuhan who we know to routinely go into bat caves are the sample collectors from the two labs; and only they and other lab staff do we know to have close contact with bats.

    Are you claiming there was a leak FROM the lab? Or are you claiming the virus jumped from bats to humans in the wild? Because the latter can’t be called a “lab leak” just because the humans who caught it happened to work at the lab. And if you want to claim the virus got out of the lab after being brought to the lab, then you still have to deal with the fact that the earliest known cases of COVID-19 were clustered around the wet market, not the effing lab.

    Sources? Do we know people in the Wuhan area have got viruses from bats? How frequently?

    Read lecou’s comments, and maybe others, on this and the earlier thread (something you probably should have done before adding your own). Also, it’s not that unusual for humans to live close enough to bat habitats to see them when they come out at night. Hell, I’ve seen bats in the DC area, and I even had one fly into my house! (I’m glad I didn’t still have cats then.)

  60. jack lecou says

    This is just fucking stupid, because it’s obviously the wrong question. In the first place, if the pandemic began with an animal brought for sale in a wet market, that is not a “natural spillover”.

    Incorrect. A host animal being caught and brought to market carrying a virus which has evolved to a point where it can cross-infect humans would practically be the canonical “natural” spillover: the “naturalness” refers to how and where the capability to cross the species barrier evolves in the virus, not to the particular activity the host creatures were up to when it happened. Heck, you could kidnap some bats, put them on a rocket, and blast them up to a high tech, completely artificial space habitat. If they give your astronauts a disease, that’s still a natural spillover.

    I would even argue your own favored scenario — a researcher catching a whiff of the wrong guano sample at some point and infecting themselves — is itself more properly defined as “natural crossover”. In that scenario the virus clearly evolved naturally to the point where it can infect humans. It doesn’t really much matter whether or not the first poor sod to happen across it was a guy with a PhD instead of a local mushroom collector. (The biggest difference between the two is mostly in the the likelihood it would happen that way: there will be always millions of times as many encounters betweeI suppose n wild-evolved viruses and “civilians” as with researchers, even if there were hundreds of times as researchers out there as there actually are.)

    “Natural” is slightly more arguable if extensive evolution occurred because of the conditions of the market (or some similar place, like a mink farm). And that is something to consider — conditions in wet markets are ideal for higher than normal levels of cross-infection and recombination. Even so, that’s still pretty “natural-ish” — it’s not actually anything that couldn’t also occur entirely naturally in the right circumstances[1]. There’s a qualitative difference between accelerated evolution due to a conveniently host-rich environment and the kind of stuff that would be going on in a modern genetics lab.

    Anyway, wherever you draw the line, you can’t define away all human participation in the process as “unnatural”. Close interaction between humans and animals is fundamental.

    “If a pandemic caused by a bat coronavirus was going to begin in a wet market from an animal brought there for sale, what is the probability it would be the wet market in one of the tiny number of cities where there were labs working on bat coronaviruses?

    That’s just a statistical thinking error, precisely the one I was trying to point out.

    The presence or absence of a lab DOES NOT CHANGE the probability that a natural bat coronavirus spillover will happen in any given city. So the probability that such a spillover will happen in Wuhan is exactly the same as the probability that such a spillover will happen in, say, Changsha, or any other similarly situated city (modulo some slight adjustments for things like population size and number of rail connections).

    Take 200 M&Ms. Make sure only one of them is red. Now write the name of different Chinese cities on them, put them in a bag, and draw one out at random. What are the odds it will be Wuhan? 1 in 200. What are the odds it will be Changsha? 1 in 200. What are the odds it will be Nanning? 1 in 200. Etc.

    The answer to “what are the chances that I drew this particular M&M rather than one of the others” is always 1 in 200, no matter which M&M you draw in the end, or which color it ends up being.

    If you do happen to draw the red one, you can’t go back and reason post facto that there must have been something funny about the odds. You can’t ask, “What are the chances I’d draw one of the tiny number of red ones?” The question is simply not well founded. The chance of drawing the red one was 1 in 200, same as any of the others.

    Now, that said, I think the question you might want to ask is something more like “what are the odds it was natural GIVEN that there is a virus lab in the city[2] where the outbreak happened?”

    This is at least a slightly more well-formed question. It’s a sensible way to formulate the intuition that somehow we should suspect a lab leak at least a little bit, since it’s there.

    The trouble is, putting any hard number to that is pretty hard. In order to work out an accurate estimate of even just the lab leak probability half of that, you’d have to know a whole lot more than we do about, for example, the inner workings of the lab.

    And that lack of detail brings up a deeper problem: there’s something missing from the “given”. It actually needs (at least) another clause: “given that there is a virus lab, and given that the virus lab had a copy of the virus.” Because just like the chances of a lab leak in in a city without a lab is 0, the chances of a leaking from a lab that doesn’t have that virus is zero. We know the former, we don’t know the latter.

    IME, lab leakers tend to bypass these problems by…assuming this was a lab leak. Why not? It’s just obvious, innit? It’s a big coverup, innit? And thus, with that one simple trick, the remaining probabilities can be worked out very easily, QED.

    But…that’s not the way anything works. So those of us with more than two brain cells to rub together are left back where we started: not enough info to run the number. It seems like this might not be a very helpful formulation to actually get a useful answer…

    Luckily, nobody is actually forcing us to try to answer the question from pure statistics. Three years on, we have a bunch of other facts, particularly info gleaned from the virus sequences, the distribution of the early cases, DNA swabbing at the wet market, etc.

    And all of that keeps turning up results that make it easier and easier to say it really, really looks like a spillover at the wet market, even if the “possible” post-it on “lab leak?” can’t be removed completely yet.

    -—-
    [1] One of WIV’s favorite caves in Kunming was selected for exactly this reason – there are multiple species of bat in close sharing the same habitat in close quarters. It’s an incubator for cross infection and recombination.

    [2] This is itself kind of a problematic formulation. This outbreak didn’t really start “in the city of Wuhan” at all, did it?

    I mean, it was inside the Wuhan city limits, sure. But that’s actually a very large area. The earliest cases are in a specific part of Wuhan: the part around the wet market. Meanwhile the WIV, is in a different part of Wuhan, nearly 20km away and on the other side of the river. These two parts of Wuhan are “the same place” only in the sense that, say, Soho and Newark are. From 5,000 miles away they might seem pretty close, but…they really aren’t.

    Imagine a virus broke out in Newark. Would we be quick to suspect a lab at NYU, simply because that whole general area is “New York City”? I doubt it. Particularly if all the first cases were clustered around Newark, with none in Lower Manhattan. Wouldn’t that pattern be weird enough to cause us to look for a more proximate source not centered at NYU?

    And yet that’s exactly the pattern we see with Wuhan. And the pattern we see lab leakers ignoring. Put another way: if the virus came from WIV, “what are the odds” that all the first cases are ~20km away? Not high. I think “in the same city” is probably doing too way much work there.

    (If being somewhere in the same 210,000 sq km city is “close enough” even though we have more specific data, what’s stopping us from widening the post hoc cone of “what are the odds” even further? What about nearby cities that are 10 or 20 minutes away by train? That’s closer than WIV and the market are by car. Or cities that are stopovers along travel routes frequented by WIV personnel? How many degrees of separation are enough before we decide there’s not a correlation?)

  61. jack lecou says

    up into the lab in the period

    Alos, lab leaks are not that rare. There were two lab leaks of SARS-1 in China alone.

    Sure. Lab leaks can happen.

    SARS-1 had been seen before, because it spilled over naturally. That’s how it got sampled into the lab to be in a position to be leaked in the first place. And we knew more or less right away that it was a lab leak, because the genome matched what was in the lab.

    What’s being proposed for the COVID lab leak is a very different kind of scenario where a previously unidentified virus crosses over into humans for the first time. A lab-caused novel spillover. That’s actually extraordinarily rare — possibly only one instance, ever, and that was related to the early production of live vaccines, which has very different risk profile to a BSL certified pathogen lab.

    That introduces a lot of extra tricky probabilities. Your hypothetical novel virus has to mutate into a form capable of infecting humans and then 1) be sampled by researchers, 2) leak, and 3) achieve an exponential take-up in the local population. Furthermore, all of this has to happen BEFORE, 1) a random civilian stumbles into the same virus circulating in the wild and initiates the inevitable natural spillover event, 2) you actually sequence the sequence and publish it in a public database.

    All of that timing and coincidence is actually kind of a tall order.

    The early lab leak theories get around much of this by positing that it wasn’t actually wild virus on the verge of spillover, but a one-off lab creation — gain of function, humanized mice, etc. Problem is, these have fallen out of favor, even with the lab-leak crew, as the bio-molecular evidence increasingly comes in: CoV-2’s evolution looks natural, and closer and closer relatives are being found in the wild.

  62. jack lecou says

    So the only susceptible hosts for SARS-CoV-2 spending a lot of time in Wuhan who we know to routinely go into bat caves are the sample collectors from the two labs; and only they and other lab staff do we know to have close contact with bats.

    Please.
    – There are 14 million people in Wuhan, like a dozen fast rail lines, and who knows how many roads.
    – Bats, bat caves (and barns, industrial buildings, trees…) are all over Southern and Central China
    – Lots of people in the region are in contact with bats (and guano, etc.) for economic, recreational, or incidental purposes. More than close enough to get sick, and the contact is becoming closer and more frequent as urbanization and deforestation proceed apace

    So even if we’re arbitrarily limiting ourselves to a direct bat-to-human model without some other intermediate host, there are about a million ways it might have entered the city without help from a sample collector. Just because we don’t actually know the name of every mushroom collector or lumber truck driver or whatever doesn’t make this less true.

    We could start with the fact that bats themselves are sometimes sold at wet markets.

  63. rorschach says

    Bats carrying SARS viruses were not found closer to 1500km away from Wuhan. So our theory here is that Mister Miyagi the farmer went to some cave 1500km away to bring back bats to sell at the Wuhan wet market? This is what I said to Rebecca, at what point do Skeptics realise that Occam’s razor applies to everyone?

  64. jack lecou says

    Bats carrying SARS viruses were not found closer to 1500km away from Wuhan.

    You are misinformed.[1]

    For example, here is a study from 2006 which sampled bats from all over China. Two out of the seven sites sampled in Hubei province had infected bats. It doesn’t look like the paper shows exactly where the sampled sites in Hubei were in relation to Wuhan, but anywhere in Hubei would certainly have to be a lot closer than 1500km.

    Interestingly, 2/7 is actually a higher rate than Yunan, where only 1/6 sites were positive. Yunan being where WIV does most of their fieldwork.

    And (I hope I don’t need to point this out, but…) “7” is not an exhaustive count of all the possible bat roosts in Hubei province. It’s just an arbitrary sample of caves that happened to be convenient for visits by this one study.

    We also can’t say that the other 5 are actually coronavirus free, especially on a permanent basis. This wasn’t an extensive or long term study: they made single visits, and swabbed an average of about 10 individual bats at each site. It’s entirely possible the 11th bat would have been positive, or that another visit to the same site a month later wouldn’t have detected something.

    One of the reasons bats make such good reservoirs for all kinds of viruses is that they have quirky immune systems. A given bat might be infected, infection free for awhile, then catch the same virus back a month or two later. They seem to be able to get the same virus over and over again, while not being especially negatively affected by the infections. Thus viruses can thus sort of slosh continuously back and forth, within or between colonies, evolving and changing with every re-infection.

    This is an interesting study of coronavirus in bats in Northern Germany which discusses more of the details of what is known about the mechanics of coronavirus circulation in bat colonies, including how it’s more common in some types of individuals over others, and a tracked incidence of cross-colony spillover. They find a background infection rate of about 10%.

    -—
    [1] 1500km is very close to the distance between Wuhan and Kunming, where a couple WIV’s main sample sites is located. It sounds like you’re under the misapprehension that these caves in Yunan are therefore the only sites where bat coronavirus has been detected. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    You might also be under the impression that bat coronavirus is extensively surveilled in the wild, and that maybe there is a government agency or someone out there keeping track of all the bat populations, and checking them regularly for viruses. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Everything we know about the prevalence of bat coronaviruses comes from a few tiny handful of studies like the ones I linked above, where a small research group scrapes together some grant money and checks a few caves. There is no comprehensive or ongoing surveillance.

  65. jack lecou says

    Bats carrying SARS viruses were not found closer to 1500km away from Wuhan.

    Sorry – I just realized you said specifically SARS viruses, not coronaviruses.

    But that’s not true either. One of the original papers linking bats to the SARS outbreak found closely related “SARS-like” coronaviruses in bats all over China, including Hubei province.

    Not that it would be particularly relevant anyway. If it were the case that no bats had yet been found in Hubei with viruses closely related to SARS, that would suggest limited sampling, not that they didn’t exist, or that some kind of magical barrier that keeps particular kinds of coronavirus out of Hubei bat populations.

  66. KG says

    Are you claiming there was a leak FROM the lab? Or are you claiming the virus jumped from bats to humans in the wild? Because the latter can’t be called a “lab leak” just because the humans who caught it happened to work at the lab. And if you want to claim the virus got out of the lab after being brought to the lab, then you still have to deal with the fact that the earliest known cases of COVID-19 were clustered around the wet market, not the effing lab. – RagingBee@73

    First, I note that you, jack lecou and Rebecca Watson all ignore the fact that there are two labs in Wuhan that were working with bats and bat coronaviruses. The second one, the Wuhan branch of the the Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), is much closer to the wet market than WIV – just a few hundred meters. Second, as I’ve said in other threads, I think the most likely way one of the labs is (unknowingly) responsible for the outbreak is from a sample collector becoming infected while working in a bat cave and then infecting people or other susceptible animals at the wet market, meaning the virus never had to enter the lab at all. Now if you want to call this “natural spillover”, fine, it would be a natural spillover which would not have happened without the involvement of a lab. There are in fact reports that sample collectors from the CCDC sometimes did their work without wearing proper protective gear – it must indeed be pretty hellish to go into such places and work while encumbered with hot and awkward PPE.

    Nothing jack lecou says contradicts my statement that the only known susceptible hosts for SARS-CoV-2 located in Wuhan and known to enter bat caves and have close contact with bats are employees of the two labs. To ignore this or claim it is irrelevant becaue other people might have done so, and there are other possibilities for the initial human or non-bat infection, is simply obfuscation.

    There is good evidence the wet market was an early focus of the pandemic. What we don’t know is how the virus got there. I’ve suggested research that could alter the assessment of probabilities, but no-one has claimed such research has been done, or commented on it at all – rather, there is simply a determined campaign, here as elsewhere, to shout down any suggestion the labs might have been in any way involved, which routinely fails to distinguish between claims the virus was developed as a bioweapon, claims it was modified for benign purposes in the lab, and claims that it was not modified but nonetheless one of the labs was involved in the start of the pandemic (and we can further distinguish at least in the latter case between scenarios in which the Chinese authorities know more than they have let on, and scenarios in which they don’t). This campaign started very early, with Peter Daszak coordinating a letter to The Lancet in February 2020, denouncing any suggestion of possible lab involvement as “conspiracy theories”, without revealing that he had a close connection to WIV – that was, at the very least, unwise. (The Lancet published an addendum in which he listed his cooperation with Chinese researchers in June 2021, more than a year later.)

    I was completely unimpressed by Rebecca’s video, not only because she ignored the fact that there are two relevant labs in Wuhan, but because the whole thing made the implicit assumption that because vile individuals have weaponised claims of lab involvement against science or in the service of anti-Chinese racism, that somehow means there can have been none, or at any rate, everyone should say there can have been none. As for including video of Margerie Taylor Greene harrassing Anthony Fauci about something completely unconnected with Covid – pffft. And one more point I’ve made here and which has been studiously ignored is that nothing the Chinese authorities say on the matter (or any other) should be accepted at face value, because we know that they lie systematically and persecute anyone (and thier families) who does not toe the official line, and they don’t accept that the virus originated in China at all, instead floating nonsense about imported frozen food packaging or nefarious American plots to develop the virus and smuggle it into China. They have been, throughout, thoroughly obstructive – which probably means we will never know the full truth.

  67. says

    I think the most likely way one of the labs is (unknowingly) responsible for the outbreak is from a sample collector becoming infected while working in a bat cave and then infecting people or other susceptible animals at the wet market, meaning the virus never had to enter the lab at all. Now if you want to call this “natural spillover”, fine, it would be a natural spillover which would not have happened without the involvement of a lab.

    I’m noticing your choice of words that I’ve bolded: you’re describing the most plausible way to blame the lab, not the most likely cause of the outbreak.

  68. says

    …there is simply a determined campaign, here as elsewhere, to shout down any suggestion the labs might have been in any way involved…

    Those “suggestions,” as you call them, are themselves part of an even more determined campaign to shout down any talk of Donald Trump’s disgraceful and disastrous response to the pandemic. As I’ve said before, Trump’s handling of the pandemic was denial, minimization (“it’ll all be over in a few weeks”, etc.), openly saying the plague should be let loose because it would kill Democrats first, the quinine stuff, ivermectin, some loony pro-Trump quack from Africa, the Great Barrington Declaration, etc. etc.; and now that the same disgraceful failed huckster is running for re-election, they’re drumming up all this China-bashing and Fauci-bashing to distract everyone’s attention from those failures. And you and your “suggestions” are part of that campaign. How does it feel to be such a tool?

    Remember: there’s an election coming up, and it’s Trump, NOT Xi Jinping, who’s running for office. The lab leak theory is lacking in evidence, it doesn’t help to blame China at this late date anyway (what are gonna do, impeach Xi?), and it’s Trump’s actions, not China’s, that are relevant and most desperately need our attention today.

  69. says

    This campaign started very early, with Peter Daszak coordinating a letter to The Lancet in February 2020, denouncing any suggestion of possible lab involvement as “conspiracy theories”…

    February 2020 may have been a bit early for us to have any good evidence to blame the lab. So maybe the “suggestions” he was denouncing really WERE “conspiracy theories” (or worse). I notice you don’t specify which “suggestions” he was denouncing.

    And one more point I’ve made here and which has been studiously ignored is that nothing the Chinese authorities say on the matter (or any other) should be accepted at face value, because we know that they lie systematically…

    First, you, like Gerrard, are flat-out lying when you say we’ve “ignored” this point. In fact, several commenters have discussed Chinese censorship actions (real or alleged) at some length. Did you even read those comments before posting your own?

    And second, “we know they lie systematically” doesn’t count as evidence supporting ANY theory of where COVID-19 really came from. It’s just an excuse to believe the worst of the Chinese, regardless of any actual known facts, evidence or lack thereof. Yellow Peril 3.0.

  70. Jazzlet says

    KG what you seem to be ignoring is that SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t have to have transferred from a bat straight to a human, given how many other animals it infects it is likely that there was initial transfer to populations of one of the wild animals sold for meat in the market like raccoon dogs. The likely bat sources share environments more closely and regularly with at least some of the populations of animals hunted for meat than they do with humans. Given the close contact environment of the market it would then be highly likely that humans would get infected. We know that there were likely two spillover events from the fact that there were two lineages from the very first round of patient testing, before there was time for distinct lineages to have developed in infected humans.

    TL;DR You need to account for the fact that there were two lineages of SAR-CoV-2 in different patients from the time the first patients were tested.

  71. jack lecou says

    First, I note that you, jack lecou and Rebecca Watson all ignore the fact that there are two labs in Wuhan that were working with bats and bat coronaviruses. The second one, the Wuhan branch of the the Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC), is much closer to the wet market than WIV – just a few hundred meters.

    That’s a lie. I’m well aware of the second lab. I’ve mentioned it a number of times. Like I’ve said before, there are similar facilities, doing similar work, all over China.

    But what I’ve also said is that you can’t have it both ways. Either an outbreak in Wuhan is a special coincidence — because it’s (near) the location of one of the few facilities working with coronavirus — or there’s no coincidence at all, because nearly every major city or province has a lab doing similar work with bats and other disease vectors, and a natural outbreak virtually anywhere could be construed as an “improbable coincidence” with the same bad thinking as is used with Wuhan.

    Now if you want to call this “natural spillover”, fine, it would be a natural spillover which would not have happened without the involvement of a lab.

    Incorrect. In your version of the “lab-leak” hypothesis, the virus isn’t created by the lab. That means we’re assuming a natural virus is circulating in wild bat populations, one which has already evolved to a form which is infectious and highly virulent in humans.

    That is, your are postulating that essentially mature SARS-CoV-2 is floating around out there, utterly uncontained, and on the very cusp of natural spillover: embers of infection smoldering in caves and sheds and trees all around our little islands of human civilization, just waiting to touch a piece of human tinder and burst into flame.

    As I’ve stated before, given that, it is certainly possible, albeit unlikely, that some researcher had the dubious honor of being the first human to catch and spread that virus. But that would merely make him the first. It wouldn’t make the lab responsible in any way. The fact would remain that embers were already lit. If the researcher hadn’t been there, it would only be a matter of weeks or months — maybe even days — before someone else would have stumbled into it instead. Maybe more than one person.

    (Indeed the evidence suggests that, as was the case with other zoonotic spillovers in the past, multiple spillovers occurred over a relatively short span of time as soon as the virus reached a form where it was possible. This is supported by the presence of at least two distinct genetic lineages in the pandemic form, and epidemiological simulations which suggest that many individual sub-critical spillovers were likely before the outbreak kicked off. There may have been many such, perhaps usually confined to smaller towns or villages. Your bat researcher can’t have been responsible forall of them.)

    Nothing jack lecou says contradicts my statement that the only known susceptible hosts for SARS-CoV-2 located in Wuhan and known to enter bat caves and have close contact with bats are employees of the two labs. To ignore this or claim it is irrelevant becaue other people might have done so, and there are other possibilities for the initial human or non-bat infection, is simply obfuscation.

    This is just willful blindness. You’re making “known” do way too much work there.

    We don’t “know” exactly which bedouin came into contact with which camels which came into contact with which bat to transmit MERS, or where exactly all of that happened. We don’t “know” exactly which civet came into contact with what bat where in order to bring SARS into Guangdong. We don’t even know how many times those thing happened — as with COVID, they may have happened multiple times[1].

    Nevertheless, even without “knowing” that, we can be quite confident that something along those lines happened in these cases, even if the names, occupations, and location of the participants remains murky. Certainly, the ability for coronaviruses to spill over from bats is an established scenario. It’s a thing that happens, without the aid of any scientists going into caves and sticking q-tips into bat butts. (The rapid fire emergence of (at least) two new deadly human diseases this way is why more scientists started going into caves and sticking q-tips into bat butts in the first place.)

    So what we DO know is:
    – that there is a virtual ocean of disease-carrying bat species inhabiting virtually every corner of China that isn’t simply desert, most definitely including Hubei and the Wuhan environs
    – that currents of various coronaviruses are in continuous circulation through that ocean, mutating and recombining into new forms
    – that regular Chinese people come into contact with both bats and/or animals who have had contact with bats all the time, and (when such tests have been performed) often possess antibodies demonstrating not only contact, but past infection with spilled over viruses
    – that the total exposure accumulated via a couple of visits a year by a handful of researchers are a drop in the ocean compared to the chances for exposure received on a weekly basis by even a single a farmer feeding his pigs in a bat-infested outbuilding.
    – that in Hubei alone, there are millions of farmers and outbuildings like that, not to mention loggers, trappers, miners, hikers, spelunkers, etc. routinely working in or visiting areas occupied by bats (or other potential host animals having contact with bats)

    It’s true we don’t “know” much in the way of individual detail about all those billions of exposures, but only because they are such utterly routine events that nobody ever bothers to document them.

    What you are doing here is the equivalent of taking a news clip of a public figure stumbling on a loose carpet or something, and insisting that this is the only “known” instance of anyone stumbling on a loose carpet, thus nobody can suggest tripping on carpet as a possible way that someone less famous might have fallen on their face. It’s truly desperate special pleading.

    I’ve suggested research that could alter the assessment of probabilities, but no-one has claimed such research has been done, or commented on it at all

    There’s nothing to comment on. A study testing villagers in the Wuhan vicinity for other coronavirus antibodies would be very welcome (and maybe it already exists) but the results are unlikely to be very surprising — there’s no reason to expect they won’t be the same as in other regions where humans and bats cohabitate.

    It would also be good (or would have been good, in the first few months of 2020) to, for example, extensively survey bats and other wildlife around Wuhan, to see if any reservoirs of close SARS-CoV-2 cousins might still persist there and be could coaxed into revealing themselves, and thus suggest a more proximate ancestor and origin point.

    But I don’t see the current Chinese government being in any hurry to do or allow any of the above any time soon. Or at least not to release the results if they do. We will probably have to satisfy ourselves with less direct clues. Clues which nevertheless point firmly toward a natural origin.

    …. rather, there is simply a determined campaign, here as elsewhere, to shout down any suggestion the labs might have been in any way involved, which routinely fails to distinguish between claims the virus was developed as a bioweapon, claims it was modified for benign purposes in the lab, and claims that it was not modified but nonetheless one of the labs was involved in the start of the pandemic

    This is a lie.

    What gets shut down is the “lab leak” theory: the suggestion that a lab is the most likely source of the virus (or even the only possible one).

    AFAICT, absolutely no one denies that a leak of some kind is a possibility, just that it was always an unlikely one, and has only grown more so as more research has come in. If it were left at that, everything would be fine, and there would be no argument or controversy.

    But “lab leak” theorists take it much further, insisting that it must have leaked from the lab, that’s there just too much of a coincidence for a lab to be in the city where the outbreak occurred, that there is so much “circumstantial evidence” of a conspiracy, or that, for example, “no other vector is ‘known'”.

    It’s also not the “debunkers” who conflate all those different scenarios, but the lab leak crowd themselves. Equivocation between a variety of different theories been a characteristic to the phenomenon from the beginning. In part because a key feature of this and similar conspiracy theories is a “motte and bailey” style of argumentation, where an extreme claim (bioweapons / deliberate) can be, at least for the duration of an argument, walked back to a less extreme one (GoF research / accidental release) or even to a superficially reasonable one (wild virus / accidental infection). It’s common for people like GerrardOfTitanServer (a lab-leak loon who posts here) to simply mush “evidence” for any or all of these into a single pile, even when the support provided for one scenario necessarily contradicts another — much like your own tendency to equivocate between a leak from WIV and a leak from the CCDC.

    I think it’s understandable that the debunking often responds in kind, lumping all this bullshit together, though I myself try to be careful to distinguish, particularly to point out the self-defeating contradictions.

    This campaign started very early, with Peter Daszak coordinating a letter to The Lancet in February 2020, denouncing any suggestion of possible lab involvement as “conspiracy theories”, without revealing that he had a close connection to WIV – that was, at the very least, unwise. (The Lancet published an addendum in which he listed his cooperation with Chinese researchers in June 2021, more than a year later.)

    It’s like you just can’t help yourself — you’re literally proving him right, by suggesting a conspiracy. There isn’t a “campaign” that begun with that letter, it was just a letter. I don’t know what Peter Daszak’s reasons were for leaving for off such a disclosure (in some ways, it could have strengthened his case), but regardless, it was still just one letter. It has nothing at all to do with the thousands of other virologists, scientists, and critical thinkers who don’t know Peter Daszak from Adam, and are united only by independently finding the “lab leak” theories — and the torrent of absolute sewage arguments and “evidence” cited in their support — transparently conspiratorial, and incredibly unconvincing.

    And one more point I’ve made here and which has been studiously ignored is that nothing the Chinese authorities say on the matter (or any other) should be accepted at face value, because we know that they lie systematically and persecute anyone (and thier families) who does not toe the official line, and they don’t accept that the virus originated in China at all,

    Another lie. Please point to a single instance of anyone assuming that Chinese authorities are telling the truth. I certainly haven’t seen it.

    What I see instead, over and over, is skeptics of the lab leak theory pointing out that Chinese authorities are indeed unreliable, which actually means that they can’t be relied upon. Therefore we can’t simply take the opposite of what they say as revealed truth either. (They’re cagey about the WIV, they’re also cagey about the wet market. There’s no conclusion to draw from that other than that, as you say, they clearly don’t want it to be from anywhere in China.)

    …which probably means we will never know the full truth.

    Which is the case with almost anything. There are no perfectly spherical cows, and nature is messy. There are still many uncertainties about the origins of the likes of MERS, SARS, or, going back further, HIV, too.

    But that’s not the same thing as knowing nothing. There’s really not that much mystery about the origin of COVID unless you try really hard to make one.

    -—–
    [1] MERS almost certainly did. It doesn’t spread well human-to-human, so each infection was likely a distinct spillover of mature virus. If encounters between camels, bats and humans are difficult or rare, it’s hard to explain the thousands of independent spillover events which occurred. And I’m not sure there are enough bat researchers in the whole world to have managed that. Clearly, in reality, there are circumstances where such exposures are not especially rare at all.

  72. jack lecou says

    So our theory here is that Mister Miyagi the farmer went to some cave 1500km away to bring back bats to sell at the Wuhan wet market? This is what I said to Rebecca, at what point do Skeptics realise that Occam’s razor applies to everyone?

    While I’m here: I hope I’ve provided some evidence that bats and the viruses of concern certainly do circulate very close to Wuhan. However, I don’t want to give the impression that an animal around Wuhan is the only possible source. Wet markets in particular introduce a lot of variables: they sell local animals, but also animals from very far away indeed. Animals in these markets, at least the rarer and more valuable ones, are sourced from all over Asia.

    How do they get there? Well, we’re meant to consider this “Mister Miyagi the farmer” scenario to be faintly ridiculous: “Who’s going to make a round trip to some cave 1500km away. Haha.” But of course that’s not the way anything works, and people in China wouldn’t make a round trip to a distant supplier any more than Mister Bezos personally picks up all the junk for his market.

    More likely, Mister Yang, a vendor in Wuhan, will see he’s low on stock and pick up the phone to Mister Sok, an animal dealer who sources wildlife from forests in Cambodia. Mister Yang places his order, and Mister Sok crates up some ferret-badgers, or civets, or pangolins, or who knows what and puts it on the next plane or truck bound for central China. (Maybe there are also some middlemen, smugglers, livestock pens, etc. involved along the way, and perhaps Yang and Sok never speak directly. Either way, the result is the same: Cambodian wildlife for sale on the floor of a Wuhan market. This is a supply chain like any other.)

  73. StevoR says

    @77. rorschach :

    Bats carrying SARS viruses were not found closer to 1500km away from Wuhan. So our theory here is that Mister Miyagi the farmer went to some cave 1500km away to bring back bats to sell at the Wuhan wet market? This is what I said to Rebecca, at what point do Skeptics realise that Occam’s razor applies to everyone?

    I’d say Occam’s Razor here suggests the wet market natural evolution is the simplest and best answer to the question of how SARS Cov2 originated.

  74. says

    Have a care there, jack, implicating job-creating entrepreneurs in this pandemic strays dangerously close to heresy. You may find yourself answering to the Chicago School Inquisition!

  75. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Do we know that COVID-19 could only have come from bats? I haven’t heard that assertion from anyone. And even if it’s true, it’s still both possible and very likely that bats could have had contact with farm animals near their habitats (IMO most likely when bats came out at night, or when bats took up residence in barns); and then the animals could have carried the virus from bats to the market.

    This ad hoc hypothesis drastically lowers the plausibility of the Huanan wet market zoonotic transfer model.

    Remember: there’s an election coming up, and it’s Trump, NOT Xi Jinping, who’s running for office. The lab leak theory is lacking in evidence, it doesn’t help to blame China at this late date anyway (what are gonna do, impeach Xi?), and it’s Trump’s actions, not China’s, that are relevant and most desperately need our attention today.

    Naked “appeal to consequences” fallacy. This attitude right here is a principal reason why I’m continuing this fight. The truth deserves to come to light, regardless of whether it is convenient or not.

    But “lab leak” theorists take it much further, insisting that it must have leaked from the lab

    Strawman. KG and I are not doing it. There is no “(absolute) certainty” here. Just a lying strawmanning person like you and Raging Bee. Deal with what we actually say instead of what some other opponent says.

    It’s true we don’t “know” much in the way of individual detail about all those billions of exposures, but only because they are such utterly routine events that nobody ever bothers to document them.

    The point is that this supposedly highly infectious person or animal didn’t infect anyone else along the journey, and only started infecting people supposedly at the Huanan wet market. That’s an unlikely ad hoc hypothesis. It lowers the overall chances of the zoonotic wet market crossover hypothesis.

    Anyway, wherever you draw the line, you can’t define away all human participation in the process as “unnatural”. Close interaction between humans and animals is fundamental.
    […]
    It wouldn’t make the lab responsible in any way.

    There is a difference. The lab would be responsible. In this scenario, the crossover happened as the direct result of intentional practice of human medicine, and we can have discussions about whether we should be doing those specific practices, e.g. seeking out dangerous viruses to bring them back to a lab to make them even more dangerous.

    much like your own tendency to equivocate between a leak from WIV and a leak from the CCDC.

    You’re trying to control the framing of the narrative. I refuse. The narrative that I am following, which you are again strawmanning, is that I am concerned about the human practice of medicine whereby researchers proactively look for animal populations that might have viruses that are dangerous to humans (which alone is dangerous), then bring them back to the lab (which makes it more dangerous) to make them even more dangerous to humans (which makes it even more dangerous). I have concerns about every step along the way, and I am still of the opinion that this kind of research should be banned. That is the framing of the discussion that I am having. You are welcome to have a conversion with me instead of the strawman in your head.

    The fact would remain that embers were already lit. If the researcher hadn’t been there, it would only be a matter of weeks or months — maybe even days — before someone else would have stumbled into it instead. Maybe more than one person.

    You don’t know that. You can’t know that. Your next paragraph (omitted) notwithstanding.

    The earliest cases are in a specific part of Wuhan: the part around the wet market.
    […]
    And the pattern we see lab leakers ignoring.

    We don’t know that. We have evidence that the CCP hid data on some of the earliest COVID infected persons. Ex: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/30/science/coronavirus-sequences-lab-leak.html

    You’re ignoring the evidence that Dr Ben Hu and two other researchers got sick in September, and Dr Shi thought that this was important to lie about because she did lie about it.

    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/the-lab-leak-theory-inside-the-fight-to-uncover-covid-19s-origins
    https://www.dni.gov/files/ODNI/documents/assessments/Report-on-Potential-Links-Between-the-Wuhan-Institute-of-Virology-and-the-Origins-of-COVID-19-20230623.pdf
    https://nypost.com/2023/06/13/wuhan-scientists-were-the-first-to-contract-covid-19-report/

    Furthermore, there was a panic at the Wuhan lab out bio-security in November.
    https://www.propublica.org/article/senate-report-covid-19-origin-wuhan-lab

    Patents were filed by a Dr. Zhou Yusen, a researcher at the the Wuhan Institute, on 24 Feb 2020 for applications for a vaccine to COVID. It would have taken at least 3 months to do that work. Thus this work was started on or before November 2019.
    https://www.propublica.org/article/senate-report-covid-19-origin-wuhan-lab
    https://www.thetimes.com/uk/article/inside-wuhan-lab-covid-pandemic-china-america-qhjwwwvm0

    Tangent: Dr Zhou Yusen also died about three months later, purportedly by “falling” off the Wuhan Institute roof. (There are good sources of a mysterious death and that the CCP has tried to scrub the internet of many details about Dr Zhou Yusen. There are less reliable sources for the spceific claim that he “fell” off the Wuhan Institute roof.)

    You’re just being a gullible CCP shill who is ignoring the hard evidence that we have that the CCP did indeed cover up some of the earliest COVID cases, and pretending that we don’t have other lines of evidence that leads us to the conclusion of a lab leak.

    Another lie. Please point to a single instance of anyone assuming that Chinese authorities are telling the truth. I certainly haven’t seen it.

    You. Right above, by assuming that the first cases were indeed clustered around the wet market.

    What’s being proposed for the COVID lab leak is a very different kind of scenario where a previously unidentified virus crosses over into humans for the first time. A lab-caused novel spillover. That’s actually extraordinarily rare — possibly only one instance, ever, and that was related to the early production of live vaccines, which has very different risk profile to a BSL certified pathogen lab.

    Oh go fuck yourself. Most of the experiments at the Wuhan Institute Of Virology were carried out at BSL-2, which is similar to a Dentist’s office. No full respirators. Just cloth masks and/or face shields. We know this. Your statement implies that their work was done entirely at BSL-3 or BSL-4, which we know to be wrong. Those precautions would be (and are) very ineffective against COVID.

    It has nothing at all to do with the thousands of other virologists, scientists, and critical thinkers who don’t know Peter Daszak from Adam, and are united only by independently finding the “lab leak” theories

    Citations please that there are a “thousand virologists” who are publishing papers or coming out strongly against the theory. This is not climate change. You are drastically overplaying any sort of scientific consensus.

  76. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    Reminder that jack lecou is lying in another way. He sometimes pretends that the lab leak is plausible (like in this thread), and other times denies it as extremely improbable (like in the other thread).
    https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2024/06/11/let-the-lab-leak-conspiracy-theory-die-already/comment-page-1/

    […] and doesn’t really even look especially possible to produce using known laboratory techniques.

    He’s just a confirmed liar on many points. He might as well be a crank for the purposes of this discussion because he is so dogmatically wed to his preconceived conclusions; he can’t even see the basic fundamental errors that he’s making, e.g. “knowing” that the first cases clustered around the wet market because the CCP said so without realizing that he’s relying on the testimony of the CCP which could have been easily altered, and moreover, we had evidence that it was altered. See: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/30/science/coronavirus-sequences-lab-leak.html

    I expect that no apologies or admissions of error will be forthcoming, but I will be generous in advance and try to return to some modicum of respect if he apologizes.

  77. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    PS: We have also several lines of testimony and evidence that the Wuhan Institute was not meeting the requirements of BSL ratings due to inadequate training, lack of equipment, etc., which makes jack lecou argument even more egregious.

  78. John Morales says

    Reminder that jack lecou is lying in another way. He sometimes pretends that the lab leak is plausible (like in this thread), and other times denies it as extremely improbable (like in the other thread).

    You’re playing language-games, and equivocating on terminology.

    Here, for you: https://knowledgeworks.org/resources/tool-exploring-plausible-probable-possible-preferred-futures/

    The future is not a fixed point, and in fact there are many types of futures. When we think about a range of futures, we can organize them into four categories:

    🞰 Plausible futures: Possibilities that could happen given the bounds of uncertainty
    🞰 Probable futures: Scenarios and possibilities that are likely to happen
    🞰 Possible futures: The widest range of scenarios, including all possibilities
    🞰 Preferred future: The vision we have for possibilities we want to see come true

  79. John Morales says

    [that was the first hit, obs, and the complement of the set of those elements also exists]

  80. John Morales says

    Um.

    OK, how’s this: it is possible for something to be both plausible and yet improbable.

    Those terms are not synonymous, though they are not fully independent, either.

    There is no contradiction there, and most certainly no lie.

    cf. my #65 for more context

  81. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    I read a different meaning in context.

    […] and doesn’t really even look especially possible to produce using known laboratory techniques.

    In context, that’s a stronger claim than the mere word that you took out of context.

  82. GerrardOfTitanServer says

    jack lecou
    Might appreciate this. From one of the versions of the DEFUSE proposal.

    https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/USGS-DEFUSE-2021-006245-Combined-Records_Redacted.pdf

    Tissue culture
    adaptations sometimes introduce a furin cleavage site which can direct entry processes, usually
    by cleaving S at positions 757 and 900 in S2 of other CoV, but not SARS 66 . For SARS-CoV, a
    variety of key cleavage sites in S have also been identified and we will analyze all SARSr-CoV S
    gene sequences for appropriately conserved proteolytic cleavage sites in S2 and for the
    presence of potential furin cleavage sites69,70 . SARSr-CoV S with mismatches in proteolytic
    cleavage sites can be activated by exogenous trypsin or cathepsin L. Where clear mismatches
    occur, we will introduce the appropriate human-specific cleavage sites and evaluate growth
    potential in Vero cells and HAE cultures. In SARS-CoV, we will ablate several of these sites based
    on pseudotyped particle studies and evaluate the impact of select SARSr-CoV S changes on virus
    replication and pathogenesis (e.g. R667, R678, R797). We will also review deep sequence data
    for low abundant high risk SARSr-CoV that encode functional proteolytic cleavage sites, and if
    so, introduce these changes into the appropriate high abundant, low risk parental strain.

    Just saying.

  83. says

    Reminder that jack lecou is lying in another way. He sometimes pretends that the lab leak is plausible (like in this thread), and other times denies it as extremely improbable (like in the other thread).

    You’re the one who’s lying, you stupid sack of shit, not jack. An event can be both “plausible” (as in, not physically impossible), and extremely improbable (as in, well…extremely improbable relative to other possible causes or outcomes).

  84. says

    Naked “appeal to consequences” fallacy.

    God’s death, are you really that insane, or that much of a flaming hypocrite? Are you saying you get to talk about one set of consequences, but I don’t get to talk about another?

    Oh wait, you’re not really talking about any particular consequences — you’re just demanding a ban on important scientific research based on ABSOLUTELY NOTHING but vague unfounded accusations about events in a lab that you can’t really be sure about anyway. And you somehow think that’s more important than the very real and observable consequences we’ve been seeing since 2017?

    GO FUCK YOURSELF, you lying hypocritical sack of shit.

  85. jack lecou says

    The point is that this supposedly highly infectious person or animal didn’t infect anyone else along the journey, and only started infecting people supposedly at the Huanan wet market. That’s an unlikely ad hoc hypothesis. It lowers the overall chances of the zoonotic wet market crossover hypothesis.

    Incorrect. There’s no assumption that nothing else was infected along the way. It’s likely that there were many subcritical infections along the way — at some farm or source village, for example. Given it’s transmission characteristics, about 2/3 of COVID infections are predicted to fizzle out with a couple or small handful of transmissions, without reaching a takeoff point. Given the conditions in the wet market, it’s likely the infection spread to other animals once it got there, which would have drastically multiplied its interaction cross section with humans.

    Besides, the same logic applies to a lab worker: we’d expect a cluster of early infections linked to one of the labs, which doesn’t exist (maybe that’s because of a conspiracy — either way, it doesn’t exist). There’s a cluster around the market, which is near one of the labs, but this is not just about geographical proximity — at least some of them also need to have some connection to the lab: a visit to the hospital there, a family member who works there, etc. They don’t, instead they have those connections to the wet market.

    There is a difference. The lab would be responsible. In this scenario, the crossover happened as the direct result of intentional practice of human medicine, and we can have discussions about whether we should be doing those specific practices, e.g. seeking out dangerous viruses to bring them back to a lab to make them even more dangerous.

    No. You keep missing the point.

    The crossover happens because the virus evolved to a point where it could. Since in this scenario, that evolution occurred in the wild, without human intervention, then by definition the lab had nothing to do with it. If the first human to catch it was a researcher, so what? Someone else would just have caught it a month later. Because there was live virus, uncontained, spreading through bats and animal populations, in a region densely populated with humans.

    If the abstract picture doesn’t help you understand, let’s take a concrete example.

    Let’s suppose Ted the bat sample collector WAS “responsible” for this outbreak. On October 20th, 2019 he went out to a cave near Kunming where nascent SARS-CoV-2 virus was living, and it was a hot day, so he didn’t wear his mask or whatever, and a cute little bat sneezed right in his face while he was poking it with a Q-tip. The next day, Ted took the train back to HQ in Wuhan, and the rest is history.

    Fine.

    So now, in an alternate universe, research like that was banned in 2010. Ted got a degree in finance instead, and has never even been to a bat cave. The lab he used to work in studies tick diseases instead.

    Since Ted isn’t there to get sneezed on in October, maybe a couple months pass in our alternate universe. Say, February or March 2020.

    Now a housewife in a little farming village in Laos is dusting some fresh mouse droppings out of her cupboards. A few days later, she has a light fever and a cough. Nothing that slows her down much. Later that week, her husband is also not feeling well, but has to travel into the city for a meeting of his farming collective. In addition to the meeting, he visits a local market, does some work at an internet cafe, etc. An agricultural buyer who attended the farm meeting flies back home to Bangkok.

    That same week, an animal trapper somewhere in the south of Yunnan catches a batch of racoon-dogs, and ships them to a market in Chongqing.

    At the same time, a mink farm in the mountains somewhere — where workers have been a little sick often and on for weeks — packs up a shipment of animals and sends it to a live market in Fuzhou.

    Two weeks later, the world is hearing about an outbreak of a new SARS-like pneumonia in Vientiane, or Bangkok, or Chongqing, or Fuzhou, or…

    And you’ve got the same damn pandemic, a couple months later, except with no labs or researchers to blame. Again, it doesn’t really matter who gets it first, what matters is that the disease evolved.

    Because once one of these viruses evolves to a point where it will infect a given species, like, say, humans, THEY WILL. These are not somehow unpopulated areas that are hundreds of miles from anything, where we’d be perfectly safe if only these meddlesome researchers didn’t go out there. Of course not. For one, this is not, in general, a sparsely populated region — even if the exact point where a given virus first evolves is remote, the bats migrate. Sooner or later — likely sooner — that virus line will end up somewhere next to humans just the same. And humans are regularly catching these viruses, apparently in normal activity — they don’t actually need to go into caves or anything.

    That’s what’s so terrifying about this reservoir of disease in bats, a reservoir that we still have a lot to learn about. You could ban all research and these viruses can and will continue to spill over. The only difference is we would have even less hope of detecting, preventing or fighting them.

    And again, we have a lot to learn, but it’s actually thought that novel bat coronaviruses have been evolving and spilling over, particularly from the very diverse and productive SE Asian reservoir, every decade or so (if not more often) for thousands of years. It is basically a powerful, continent-scale natural incubator for recombination, rapid evolution, and long distance spread.

    The fatality and contagiousness of any given variant, well, varies. And, before the modern age, most of those spillovers likely remained isolated in a small rural communities. But now we have paved roads, and rail lines, and big cities, and more people than ever pushing into previously undeveloped areas. All those small, isolated rural communities in intimate contact with local bat and animal populations are still in intimate contact with those disease vectors, it’s just that they’re now rapidly becoming a lot less small, a lot less isolated, and a lot more numerous.

    So the rate of spillover is increasing. And the distance a contagious variant can spread once it spills over is now global.

    Putting your head in the sand is not going to change that.

    You’re trying to control the framing of the narrative. I refuse. The narrative that I am following, which you are again strawmanning, is that I am concerned about the human practice of medicine whereby researchers proactively look for animal populations that might have viruses that are dangerous to humans (which alone is dangerous), then bring them back to the lab (which makes it more dangerous) to make them even more dangerous to humans (which makes it even more dangerous). I have concerns about every step along the way, and I am still of the opinion that this kind of research should be banned. That is the framing of the discussion that I am having. You are welcome to have a conversion with me instead of the strawman in your head.

    So, first of all, that has nothing to do with the words you’re responding to. I wasn’t “framing the narrative”, I was pointing out (yet again) that a leak from the WIV lab and a leak from the CCDC lab are actually distinct hypotheses. Evidence (well, “evidence”) for one is not only NOT necessarily evidence for the other, it might actually contradict it. So you can’t just interchange them at will. That’s not a “narrative”, you twit, it’s just how logic works.

    That aside, this is an idiotic framing.

    Sticking your head in the sand is not going to make the danger go away. Quite the opposite.

    Even if this outbreak was somehow the direct result of research work (and wouldn’t have happened without it — even less likely), the last one wasn’t, and the next one probably won’t be. What’s dangerous is the ocean of potentially pathogenic coronaviruses evolving out there the sub-tropical regions of Asia.

    And of course, there’s not a single piece of hard evidence that it was a result of research work. All the hard evidence points to a natural origin. Like all the other novel coronavirus outbreaks.

    I do agree that an ongoing discussion about the best safety practices while studying this problem is absolutely a thing that should happen. But in fact, it’s a thing that does happen. Already. It’s just that it’s a discussion which is conducted by professional scientists who understand the issues, and, where appropriate elected officials. Not randos on the internet who get all their science “facts” from Vanity Fair.

    You don’t know that. You can’t know that. Your next paragraph (omitted) notwithstanding.

    Can’t know what? That the virus was out there? That’s the whole scenario: the researcher has to catch the virus from somewhere. A bat had it before the researcher, ipso facto, the virus is loose in the wild. A virus we know spreads easily, and this is only a partial list, to bats, to humans, to rodents, to mustelids, to cats, to deer, and even back and forth between most of the above.

    Are you just hoping that once a virus like that evolves, nobody is ever going to stumble into it? What’s your proposal exactly? Entirely depopulating Asia south of Shanghai?

    We don’t know that. We have evidence that the CCP hid data on some of the earliest COVID infected persons.

    You say that. And then you link to an article about researchers (not the “CCP”) having some kind of miscommunication about sequences from March, sequences which were later re-uploaded.

    Hello?

    You’re ignoring the evidence that Dr Ben Hu and two other researchers got sick in September, and Dr Shi thought that this was important to lie about because she did lie about it.

    Provide some evidence that anyone was sick with Covid, or that anyone lied.

    Furthermore, there was a panic at the Wuhan lab out bio-security in November.

    You haven’t provided any evidence for that.

    Patents were filed by a Dr. Zhou Yusen, a researcher at the the Wuhan Institute, on 24 Feb 2020 for applications for a vaccine to COVID. It would have taken at least 3 months to do that work. Thus this work was started on or before November 2019.

    This assessment comes from Vanity Fair, and “Senate Researchers”, AKA, Toy Reid, a known fabricator. Neither of those sources are remotely trustworthy.

    If you’ve got something trustworthy and peer-reviewed that backs this theory up, let’s see it.

    You’re just being a gullible CCP shill who is ignoring the hard evidence that we have that the CCP did indeed cover up some of the earliest COVID cases, and pretending that we don’t have other lines of evidence that leads us to the conclusion of a lab leak.

    You evidently don’t know what “hard evidence” means. What you’ve got is a bunch of rumors, ambiguities, possible mixups, “well, it could have been routine site maintenance, but what if it wasn’t” type speculation, and, frequently, outright misrepresentations and spin from not-actually-disinterested parties like Toy Reid and DRASTIC.

    I’m sure it all makes perfect sense to you if you “want to believe”. All that ambiguity and innuendo “adds up” in your head to a solid case. In reality, however, it simply is not. AFAICT, there is not actually single piece of hard evidence even for an organized cover-up, let alone what exactly might have been covered up. (I’m fully prepared to believe the CCP could and would circle the wagons on general principles, regardless of whether anything actually happened. But I see scant evidence of even that, at least early on. Everything you’ve pointed to before December is ridiculous tea-leaf reading, everything after is adequately explained by the chaos and disorganization from dealing with the pandemic crisis.)

    Oh go fuck yourself. Most of the experiments at the Wuhan Institute Of Virology were carried out at BSL-2, which is similar to a Dentist’s office. No full respirators. Just cloth masks and/or face shields. We know this. Your statement implies that their work was done entirely at BSL-3 or BSL-4, which we know to be wrong. Those precautions would be (and are) very ineffective against COVID.

    This has nothing to do with the point I was making.

    Even BSL-2 is categorically different from early live vaccine work. At the end of the day, nobody at a lab studying novel pathogens is going to take their work product and inject thousands of people with it, which is the only documented way a previously non-human virus has ever been introduced to us via a lab. And AFAIK, every other “lab leak” is some existing human pathogens: a sample of SARS, or anthrax, etc.

    You and KG keep dodging the details of how a NOVEL virus could result from research activity. In principle, this is plausible if the hypothesis is that the lab created the virus in the first place. Initially, it would exist ONLY in the lab, and nobody elsewhere would be able to get it first, only the workers in the lab.

    But if the virus evolves in the wild, as KG proposes, there is a probability issue which significantly reduces the likelihood, even though this scenario otherwise conforms to the evidence better than “made in the lab”. The problem is it becomes a race: who is going to encounter it first? One of the hundreds of millions of people living and working in the region, or one of a dozen or two researchers?

    And if the proposal is that it actually gets sampled and makes it all the way back to the lab, the race isn’t even over yet: to fit the observable facts in the COVID scenario, it’s going to have to leak, and spread to the community before anything is publicly documented or published. It requires tight timing, and a lot of coincidence. Possible? Sure. But we don’t have any particular reason to think it’s necessary, so it remains a very low probability as compared to some other hapless nobody from among the millions of non-scientists wandering around in the path a virus which is, by assumption, floating around in bats and other animals already.

    Reminder that jack lecou is lying in another way. He sometimes pretends that the lab leak is plausible (like in this thread), and other times denies it as extremely improbable (like in the other thread).

    You really are an idiot, aren’t you?

    Plausible simply means “not impossible”. Actually, maybe slightly less than that, because “possible” can be a stronger statement than “plausible”. “Plausible” is more like “believable”. It applies to very fuzzy, speculative scenarios, and usually comes with caveats about certain assumptions holding true, like, “It’s plausible the bank robbers escaped that way, if they got the safe open in less than two minutes, and had tools to remove that manhole cover…”

    So no, you moron, those two things are not contradictory in any way. Some lab leak scenarios are plausible, as in, not impossible, if certain conditions lined up just so. And all of them are improbable given the evidence we have so far.

    Might appreciate this. From one of the versions of the DEFUSE proposal.

    I’ve already read that, obviously, since unlike some here, I actually read the source material.

    What is it exactly that you think that says?

  86. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Um, RB. You haven’t been here very long, have you?

    Also, I read that as a final warning, not a banhammer blow, tentatively.

    (PZ is not usually mealy-mouthed)

  87. John Morales says

    [OT + meta]

    Gotta say, jack lecou has impressed me.

    Not quite to the level of Josh the geologist back in Titanoboa days of yore, but close enough.

    Same category.

    I am impressed.

    (Shame I can’t nominate them, these days. Ahem. ‘Cos, worthy IMO)

  88. StevoR says

    @ ^ John Morales : Cheers! Wasn’t sure if you might’ve been referring to a seperate blog or thread here.

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