“The Truth Floats”

The Wuhan Lab Leak conspiracy theory has gotten recent boosting thanks to the publication of a sensationalized piece in the New York Times. (Donald Trump and I agree about one thing, which is that the NYT is a failing wreck) [nyt]

The observation that “the truth floats” is from Rich Condit at the end of the episode. There are so many ways that one can apply that, but in this case the idea is that any further evidence is going to support a zoonotic outbreak, because that’s what all the actual evidence points to, whereas there is no way that evidence for a lab leak is going to be forthcoming. Good point.

Since they knew it was going to be a hot topic, the TWiV team rendered down a version of the entire episode to just the parts dealing with the lab leak conspiracy theory. It is [TWiV]

To me, the most devastating point that the TWiV team make is simply that the Wuhan outbreak looks exactly like every other zoonotic outbreak we’ve ever seen before, and we’ve seen plenty of those. Meanwhile, the lab leaks (which have also occurred) also have a distinctive look, which is absent here [Reston Virus]. For one thing there were two strains of a virus at the Wuhan market, which would mean that two hypothetical superspreader leaks would have had to happen simultaneously, or it was a plot. As soon as you go down that path, you have to assume more and more people did more and more covert operations in order to achieve a result that is easily explained as just another zoonotic outbreak. Done. I found that was a really interesting thought to noodle along – what is entailed in the expansion of hypotheticals as soon as one shifts from a possibly plausible theory of an accident, to a deliberate operation? I used to argue with conspiracy theorists about the Kennedy assassination, and came up with the idea that conspiracies magnify the number of moving parts in the theory, while application of facts reduce them. Then, there is also the problem that conspiracies need to be kept secret or eventually someone spills the beans – and the more moving parts there are in the conspiracy, the more beans there are to spill.

If you know a conspiracy theorist who is getting all excited about the NYT article, feel free to send them to the TWiV episode. It’s solid about the science and fairly gentle about how the NYT author cherry picks facts that don’t line up with the conspiracy theory.

According to PZ [phary] Orac has also jumped into the ring.



  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    “the truth floats”

    Is that a term left over from the witch hunting days?

  2. seachange says

    Dude in the LR corner keeps on bringing a gaggle of nerds back on track. :)

    This video isn’t concise enough to work on the folks I have met who suck on the NYT’s filthy disease raddled dick.

  3. Jazzlet says

    I got taught about the inevitability of ‘the next pandemic’ back in Biology O level, so when I was fifteen or so back in the seventies. Biologists knew it would happen, although of course not exactly when, just that we’ve had one roughly every hundred years since records began, and most are scratching their heads at the lab leak conspiracy. It complicates without any evidence.

  4. Jazzlet says

    What is disturbing to my mind is that we have probably sped up the rate at which pandemics will happen, the next one will be sooner than a hundred years, yet there has been widespread disinformation aimed at making any future pandemic harder to manage. Sheer hubris on the part of the disinformers to assume that they will be ok, their wealth and position will protect them, because it won’t.

  5. dangerousbeans says

    yep, if this current H5N1 strain takes off the immediate mitigation measures we have would not be politically feasible: lockdowns, masks, telling people not to go out and cough on people. It’s not looking good

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