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i don't understand why the so-called "lab leak theory" of origin for sars-cov2 is treated as some sort of conspiracy theory. it is completely plausible, and things like this have happened in the past (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sverdlovsk_anthrax_leak), not due to malice but due to incompetence.





Pretty much everyone involved stands to lose from it proving to be true that a lab leak occurred. China looks bad, the CDC/US looks bad, researchers look bad, EcoHealth Alliance looks bad[1], the lancelet looks bad.[2] Heck even politifact and factcheck.org reported the idea as debunked for the first year or so, and Facebook for around the same time took down content with that angle.[3] It would also likely result in a backlash against interest in GOF research in general.

The only group that stands to benefit are those who benefit by making those groups look bad, who will also unfortunately exaggerate their claims for greater effect.

[1]https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1656

[2]https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6...

[3]https://www.politico.com/news/2021/05/26/facebook-ban-covid-...


I was with you up to here:

>The only group that stands to benefit are those who benefit by making those groups look bad

I mean, collectively as humans we stand to benefit from knowing what happened so we can make more informed cost benefit decisions in the future about conducting risky research (if that's what happened).

There's going to be quite a bit more externalizing risk while "privatizing" (even if it's nation states) gains in the future with bio-engineering, so these conversations should be had.


I want to disagree with you and say it doesn’t matter, but you’re definitely right hiding bad situations is in the playbook of the authoritarian and should have no place in our society.

It matters in the same way that understanding why a plane crashed matters. If you can't figure out why a plane crashed then you can't improve flight safety much.

This is a helpful apolitical perspective. We need to improve social safety. But the pandemic is different in scope. It's not that the plane crashed. Rather, our technology "may have" allowed us to accidentally make a pandemic. It's as if no plane crash had ever occurred before, and now we made one happen. If we understand what really happened, we might see this event as bringing us into a new era in our evolution. The fact that we can imagine this to be the case even while firmly denying it to be what happened it's a firm sign that the times have changed.

That’s because it’s a mechanical device owned by a single large international company.

You can’t “engineer away” a virus.

The airplane analogy only makes sense of you say the result of investigation is to apply international sanctions against countries who continue to manufacture unsafe aircraft and fly them domestically…

…but, you have a) arguably no business telling them what to do in their own country and b) how are you even going to know, since those aircraft never visit your country?

Ie. yeah, great concept, but it’s so disparate from what we’re actually talking about it’s meaningless in this context.

It won’t fix things, or make things better knowing where it came from.

The only wins will be ideological.


By figuring out how it leaked, you can fix gaps in lab safety processes.

>You can’t “engineer away” a virus.

If the virus is caused by risky research, you can stop doing risky research.

>arguably no business telling them what to do in their own country

Aren't there international standards for dealing with viruses? Also, some of the research in the Wuhan lab was funded by the US. So the US did have business telling them what to do in some cases regardless of international standards.


We have always been at war with Eurasia

*Eastasia.

> I mean, collectively as humans we stand to benefit from knowing what happened so we can make more informed cost benefit decisions in the future about conducting risky research (if that's what happened).

You're not wrong, but I think what you're missing is that the risky research was funded (in part) by the us federal government, and no one voted for that in the first place. So even if we were all enlightened, what could we change? So many people still don't even know that there was a lab studying coronaviruses in wuhan.


People voted for it indirectly and if they knew that the virus originated because of that (I’m not saying it did, I have no idea) it would allow them to pressure politicians in insuring it never happens again.

They voted for it via representative democracy. If it comes out that there was a leak and politicians still want to fund this kind of thing, then they'll get less votes.

You could highlight all the research being conducted in future so more stakeholders can weigh in on the risks. You can raise the requirements for conducting such research, or in extreme cases prevent it from being done. The assumption that “nothing can be done” has to be the worst approach, given the multitude of alternatives. Simply trying increases the odds that improvements are found.

Nobody votes for most things in a representative democracy. I don't think you'd be surprised to know that bad press is effective at changing behavior.

The notable exception is Donald Trump, whose superpower is that shame causes him to double down. He's the kryptonite for a representative democracy. Just because of that, I'll never understand why people voted him in.


Transparency is the most important tool in becoming a better society.

I definitely agree that there's good reason to know what actually happened, if for nothing else for the sake of long term trust in institutions. Instead of group, something more like organizations and institutions with the ability to investigate and hold people accountable would probably be more accurate.

That's such a diffuse benefit that you'd need to compare it to other things that benefit literally everyone alive - for example, the environment which sustains our existence - to determine how effective a motivator that is.

It's not looking great.


> I mean, collectively as humans we stand to benefit from knowing what happened so we can make more informed cost benefit decisions in the future about conducting risky research (if that's what happened).

I really don't think so. Knowing what actually happened makes no difference. What is important is knowing what problems exist and what can possibly happen as a consequence of them.


>"I really don't think so. Knowing what actually happened makes no difference. What is important is knowing what problems exist and what can possibly happen as a consequence of them."

Doing a root cause analysis is useful, because it provides you with information about certain modes of failure and their causes. Ignoring past failures, and using a 'tabula rasa' approach will deprive decision-makers of valuable information, and lead to repeating past errors.


This is a spot on description. It's also the sad truth of why our institutions are decaying.

They have become heavily biased towards self-preservation over function.


The real question is why self-preservation cannot best be obtained through functioning.

because organizations are made up of people and people are imperfect. Eventually someone is bound to screw up large enough to put an organization's survival at risk. And the natural response by other members to try and suppress knowledge to ensure survival. That of course just makes things worse.

Isn't that because there is insufficient jeopardy for covering up a mistake?

Good leaders are merciful to sins confessed and decisive towards sins discovered.

People don’t like to change and a lot of the time for institutions to continue existing they need a radical shift in their approach or outlook.

What looks bad is having millions of people die and not learning how to prevent it in future. This should be a blameless post-mortem. Shit went wrong, this is how we fix it. Truth and reconciliation, not hide-behind-feels. The people who want to apportion blame grow stronger from all this cat and mouse.

Not easy to achieve though.

If one or more parties are "responsible" then public sentiment (amplified by social media) will bring the pitchforks.

That translates to political support and basically guarantees the election or increased support for certain types of politicians and response, which in turn will impact diplomacy.

It would take some supreme social engineering to get society at large to accept the idea of a blameless post mortem. It's really not part of the broader cultural lexicon. Even companies struggle and they are much smaller and simpler systems.

Responsibility and liability are intrinsically linked in the public mind.


and why shouldn't the responsible be liable?

Reparations are OK for some things, but not for causing worldwide pandemics?


Governments likely have it in form of top-secret intelligence reports for top decision makers.

Politifact and factcheck get plenty of things wrong so I wouldn't say "heck even" to that. These websites are a joke.

I agree they leave a lot to be desired, but they're both at least perceived as somewhat reliable and trustworthy - factcheck is used by Facebook for example. I'm sure lots of people have pointed to those sites as proof, unfortunately.

> The only group that stands to benefit are those who benefit by making those groups look bad, who will also unfortunately exaggerate their claims for greater effect.

Does this also hold for Root Cause Analysis?


Assuming there was a lab leak, the root cause to me would seem to be organizations overestimating the benefit from GOF research compared to the risks. Why that happened is a bit harder to answer. A couple potential explanations are a leak was actually a one in a million chance (this seems unlikely given past issues)[1], there is some extreme benefit we just haven't seen yet (also seems somewhat unlikely) or organizations are likely to accept risks if it means everyone gets to keep their jobs and grants keep coming in.

How to fix that problem is difficult, as gain of function research is complicated and obscure enough to be off the radar of most people until something goes wrong, so questioning scientific orthodoxy is somewhat impossible for the average person. I'm not sure what can be done about it, other than those with respectable credentials advocating for transparency and and regular people maintaining a healthy sense of curiosity.

[1]https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=837679


If nobody can benefit from truth being public - there is no truth.

>It would also likely result in a backlash against interest in GOF research in general.

If general GOF research caused this pandemic, then maybe there should be a backlash against it. Lot's of science doesn't happen because it's too dangerous to human lives, even if the theoretical benefits outweigh the costs.


The other problem is the damage they have done to the institutions and the publics trust. Even if it's a natural event they all have to go. Who can trust them to tell the truth the next time. They have burned those bridges.

The only group that benefits are those who want to know the truth, and that is dangerous cause the truth will make the liars look bad? I mean, no offense but that sounds like something a sociopath would say.

A couple reasons, from the perspective of an infectious disease epidemiologist who isn't particularly a fan of Gain of Function studies:

1) "The lab leak theory" is actually a collection of theories, from the fairly reasonable possibility of an accidental release as part of a lab accident down to a engineered Chinese bioweapon. What any individual means by "lab leak" tends to be whatever is serving their political purposes as the time, and they borrow evidence from each other in a way that's really flawed, etc.

2) There's a lot of personal attacks built into the evidence - whether or not Ralph Baric is a likable guy, for example, fed into a lot of whether or not his lab was "involved".

3) A lot of the advocates for the lab leak hypothesis don't come from epidemiology/public health/virology, but from the intelligence community, the tech world, etc. who tended to reach for "Oh, it's obviously this..." and who reacted poorly to the idea that it might not be that simple and straightforward. Both sides of that exchange burned a lot of good will with each other early on enough that the engagement has, I think, spiraled somewhere not particularly productive.

4) It got coopted by crackpots and conspiracy theorists, as well as those interested in abdicating their own role in the pandemic.

5) The biggest reason, in my mind, is that it is a "fast" solution that gets a lot of press, and for which the alternative explanation - the one that has been true for the last two coronavirus outbreaks - is something that will take the better part of decades to resolve, if it ever does. It's also by and large not relevant for the current state of the pandemic. That creates the sense that there's a whole mountain of evidence behind it, when in reality it's a theory that is going to be rather difficult and expensive to falsify, one way or the other.


The people smart enough to conduct investigations into this know that the only outcomes will be harsher restrictions on lab research stateside without much consequences for China, and thus they are unmotivated.

This is the unfortunate truth on the psychological side. There is simply no motivation to push the lab leak theory for those scientists involved. Not for the chinese because that would be their death sentence and not for the outside world because funding and restrictions will get a lot harsher. On the other side everyone can live with the other theories because they imply more research funding and no one has to die for political reasons.

> Not for the chinese because that would be their death sentence

I don't believe it would affect "the Chinese" at all, other than spending time to ladle out a new dose of conditioning for their own public.


Maybe they meant the death sentence for the team of scientists working on coronavirus research at the Wuhan virology lab, that surely must have had to make some kind of statement to the Chinese state if it did exist. I’m sure they have the greatest interest to leave the rest of the country and world in the dark.

Well, but we certainly need to do something about this. SARS-CoV-2 is relatively mild compared to other potential lab leaks.

It has nothing to do with taking an anti China stance, as this has happened elsewhere.

It would also be advisable to investigate the early stages of the pandemic as clearly many parties were deliberately hiding information. This led to avoidable casualties and, ultimately, the whole pandemic might have been possible to contain.


>"It has nothing to do with taking an anti China stance, as this has happened elsewhere."

This is a classic collective action problem, not some nationalistic thing (though some will believe or pretend it is). Each specific lab wants relatively lax rules and no consequences for failures, but everyone else needs higher standards.


We should have leashed very short both politicians and virologists after this disaster, but the blame game has been shifted very skillfully at every point, from anybody worrying about a pandemic, to anybody not worrying about it, to your neighbor who wears the mask wrong, to three guys in the middle of desert who didn't take the vaccine, while nobody with power ever answers about anything.

As an example, notice how much scrutiny Aaron Rodgers or Joe Rogan received, compared with the fact that we've kept the US/Canadian border closed to car traffic while allowing flights in. What seems like an incoherent policy that affects millions gets next to zero attention. But what Joe Rogan does to his own body, now that we should all get the details and a full explanation about.

Because there is a whole contingent of people who take the argument in bad faith for xenophobic reasons and there is not a lot of solid evidence in this case to argue in good faith beyond "theoretically possible."

Whether unsavory people believe in something has zero bearing on whether it's true.

Unfortunately, the unsavory people don't live in a vacuum separate from us. If it ends up being true, then it's true, and whomever is President at the time will do what they can do. If it ends up being false, however, the people (generally Asian Americans) who have been maimed, or killed by those unsavory people in the meanwhile don't get an undo. Continued discussion with no new real evidence, like the situation with Hillary Clinton's emails, is propaganda, pure and simple.

I dunno, I always though the lab leak theory was less racist than laying blame at the feet of the dietary habits of low-income chinese.

It's almost as if everyone has forgotten that the wet market/eating strange things hypothesis was concocted by the Chinese government.

You guys should see the propaganda du jour- the Chinese government claims covid comes from deer in North America.


Which was also based on equal amounts of flaky evidence guided by the people that didn't want to associate themselves to the acting President at the time and his party. These people left truth behind, butchered science, eroded trust and sacrificed their integrity. In tough times, our leadership didn't stand up for the truth.

I think the society would be far better off if we completely cut out politics and make it super boring. Relentless push to put behind this tribal warfare and serve the truth, however uncomfortable it may be.

Lex Fridman's interview with the NIH director was eye-opening. They're acting like children. Of course, you can't see how unpopular it was because Youtube has hidden the dislikes. The cocktail of Big Tech + ruling party is equally as scary to me as Trumpism.


So you’re saying we should hide the truth because if we don’t people may get hurt?

That's sort of covered by the second half, though

>and there is not a lot of solid evidence in this case to argue in good faith beyond "theoretically possible."

Also, bad faith arguments tend to be posited on the fact that they are incorrect. Otherwise they would just be arguments.


It bears on the signal-to-noise ratio.

And hiding something because it's believed by bad people is going to make those bad people look like heroes when they turn out to have been right in this particular instance.

If the goal is to make racists look good, that's a great plan.

Personally I rate the plausibility of a lab leak at over 90%. Quick back of the envelope: there is one such lab in China, where there are about 100 cities with over 1 million inhabitants. The probability that a pandemic randomly appeared in any one of them is therefore 1%, or put another way, there is a 99% probability that it appeared in Wuhan because of a link to the lab. There has been no new information in the past two years to change that assessment.


Well, there's not much evidence for it. And, honestly, there's arguably an aspect of wishful thinking to it. "This was the result of a leak" is much less scary than "this just showed up", because in the leak scenario, the next one probably _could_ be stopped through better procedures, whereas the entirely natural scenario... well, there are some precautions that can be taken, but good luck preventing exiting new viruses from showing up from time to time.

Closest known relatives of virus behind COVID-19 found in Laos

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-02596-2

The NIAID claimed that it didn't fund research into BANAL-52 and similar. "the closest known relatives of SARS-CoV-2 . . . were not studied under the EcoHealth Alliance grant"

https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/coronavirus-ba...

However, that was recently revealed to be extremely unlikely, since bat coronavirus samples were in fact collected from Laos, where BANAL-52 was located. Even more suspiciously, the Laos genetic samples disappeared from the WIV database in late 2019.

https://wap.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/wu...


So what's the harm in accepting it was a lab leak? You might end up with better procedures?

That depends on what you decide to do about it.

1) I've seen people call for a ban on research at all on BSL-3+ pathogens.

2) If you "accept that it was a lab leak" you are implicitly accepting that it was not a natural event - which is going to cause you to focus more on long-tailed, low-probability events like lab leaks, and less on zoonotic transmission events.

Which if you're wrong would be a serious problem.


Better for whom? Certainly not for the labs. It's far better for the labs to draw their own conclusions from the leak, privately, at their own pace. Also, there's a significant financial disincentive: funding for gain of function research will be severely impacted by recognizing the lab leak as the most plausible explanation.

Right now I'd conclude that you can accidentally release things from labs with virtually no consequences. Just make sure that a similar virus exists naturally somewhere on the same continent, don't share any internal records, don't let your staff talk to the press, and you have plausible deniability.

> there's not much evidence for it

The fact that the first(?) major outbreak was in a city with a major virus research lab that researches coronaviruses is pretty strong circumstantial evidence. China's "nothing to see here" handling of it was also suspicious.


> ...good luck preventing exiting new viruses from showing up from time to time.

But even with a "natural origin," there are things that could be done. I've heard it said that the real Chinese cover-up in that scenario is the widespread trading of wild animals (with one wild animal vendor even travelling from Wuhan to other markets which China had insisted only sold frozen food and kitchenware).

https://news.yahoo.com/virologist-suggests-coronavirus-origi...

You still have the same problem in the end: a "lack of transparency" (if not downright dishonesty) from the Chinese government. And also, an obvious avenue for reforming the dangers that helped spread the 2020 pandemic -- which is not being explored because of difficulties in even establishing the facts of the initial outbreak.

I honestly don't know why this idea -- this possibility, this scenario -- isn't getting equal consideration.


Marburg (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1967_Marburg_virus_outbreak_in...) is another notable lab leak.

Might be a better match in some ways as it was a previously unknown pathogen, from a previously unknown family of viruses, isolated only after several lab workers got sick.


https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC416634/

“ The World Health Organization has confirmed that breaches of safety procedures on at least two occasions at one of Beijing's top virology laboratories were the probable cause of the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) there last month, which infected nine people, one of whom died.”

It even happened with a coronavirus in China before!


NYT treating it like a conspiracy theory is consistent with their editorial deference to official government narratives.

NYT and others denied the lab leak theory because Trump put them in an impossible position by constantly stirring up racial tensions regarding COVID. His actions led to real violence against Asian Americans and promoting the lab leak would have furthered it.

It’s a conversation we could have easily had with proper leadership. The first thing Bush did after 9/11 was go on TV and essentially say to everyone: “hey, don’t be racist towards Muslim Americans because of this attack; they are fellow Americans and have nothing to do with this” and it was effective.


I don't know how to think about this article https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/10/nih-admits-funding-r...

It looks bad


Also the emails saying things like "this could do to virology what chernobyl did to nuclear science".

They know their cushy careers and research grants are gone if they normalize the lab leak.


> They know their cushy careers and research grants are gone if they normalize the lab leak.

These sorts of comments on HN are always fascinating to me.

Scientific researchers make $20K/yr for 6 years of their 20s, often working 60 hour - 80 hour weeks. If they are successful, around the age of 30 they will then make between $40K and $60K in a temporary, term-limited position (post-doc). This might repeat several times -- each more stressful than the last -- until they land a permanent job. Still working like dogs the whole time, btw. That final permanent job, which very few will ever actually get, probably pays between $60K and $100K. A very lucky few among the lucky few might make up to $200K by the time they turn 40, but most will never surpass $150K in their lives.

My undergrad mentees all make $160K+ as 22 year olds, often get to $300K pretty quickly, and will max out in the >$500K range some time in their 30s.

Software folks accusing life scientists of getting fat off of research grant money is really something else.


I've often found that when people take a "follow the money, man" position on an argument, they are not in fact following the money. e.g., the arguments I used to see against anthropogenic global warming based on essentially the same idea you're pushing back on -- that it was a fraud perpetrated by climate scientists so they'd keep raking in the donations and grants. When I inquired as to why "follow the money" wouldn't in fact suggest far greater skepticism of oil companies in the debate, I never got much of a response.

This.

In the lab where I did my postdoc, the folks who went on to work for Amazon, Rackspace and Facebook are doing way better than those of us who went to work for universities, the CDC, etc. monetarily.

I have, what is for an academic a great job, and it pales in comparison to what I could make if I retooled for industry.


Heck, I left academia for industry and ended up publishing fewer, but better and more cited papers. It was the first time I was finally given freedom to explore an idea, significant capital, and management support for my ideas (thank you bill c, alan e and urs h).

I'm 10 years closer to retirement as well, able to own a house in the bay area, etc etc. However, I'm quite aware few who go into industry were given the level of research freedom I was.


Your analysis should start with the people who got the final permanent job, as those are the ones whose careers are at risk. And your comparison of a "cushy career" should be compared to the median American, who earns $36K, not the extreme outliers you mentor. $60K to $100K for high-status intellectual work is something most people would cling onto.

People in academia are smart enough, they made that choice voluntarily and nobody held a gun to their head.

It's a voluntary trade-off for lower pay to work in the field you want.

There is a difference between churning out code you really hate for 500k/yr, and doing what you are interested in for 80/10/150k. The vast majority people in software aren't aching to reinvent the wheel, but in a new js framework every year, they just do it for the money.

Research grant money is still money, even if the academics decide to take a trade-off others don't.

How would you like to NEVER receive grant money again? Gonna bite the hand that feeds you?


Fauci is the highest-paid US government employee. That's even ignoring the fact that he will make tens of millions of dollars after he ceases to be a government employee. The previous head of the FDA, Gottlieb is with Pfizer already. The guy who replaced him, Stephen Hahn, is with Moderna now. I find it bizzarre how people instantly forgot how profoundly evil US Big Pharma was considered even a couple of years ago. These people will let diabetics die for a buck, and yet I'm now supposed to treat them as the second coming of Jesus, and pretend they can do no wrong.

And I can guarantee you Daszak and a bunch of other hangers on make a lot more than "20K". In fact 20K might not be enough to get him out of bed in the morning.


I think part of the push back from the lab leak theory is that it's often accompanied by lab created and leaked. I'm far from an expert, but from what I understand, there are 0 signs it was lab created. Now isolated from the wild in a lab and then leaked is still considered possible, but they just don't know.

It never really was. Reasonable conversations were being had, just not on polarized platforms. People's knee-jerk reactions to downvoting and "cancelling" every thing that mentioned it, in good faith or bad, last year was a direct response to the powers-that-were choosing the "China did it (maybe on purpose)" narrative to misdirect peoples anger and frustration.

If those same people would have said things like "obviously, it's _possible_ it was leaked from a lab, we're going to work on finding that out and let you know what we find as we do. In the mean time, here's what we're going to do about the immediate problems we're facing..." and ended it there, there wouldn't have been any backlash. That's what going on now, and that's why this post (good or bad, I can't say, I can't access it) wasn't flagged into oblivion the second it hit the front page.


When one slightly orange tinted guy can effectively ban discussion of any topic on all platforms by vaguely mentioning it, the problem is not that guy, it is everybody else.

> It never really was. Reasonable conversations were being had, just not on polarized platforms

Does "polarized platforms" include the Washington Post, the New York Times, and The Lancet?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/media/the-media-cal...


Add to this how fabricated the "wet-market" theory just feels. Perhaps it may be a viable theory, but it smells like such BS, the kind of bad-but-effective theory you know you could get away with thanks to classic "ooh weird foreigner food racism." No one's going to stop to ask, uh, why NOW?

Malice is also completely plausible. Biowarfare is like chemical and nuclear warfare, it's not new, it has been used before, and it probably will be used again.

Hanlon's Razor says, never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

In this case, the malice explanation demands stupidity because it was released in their own city. Not sure what Hanlon would say about that.


Not to mention the stupidity of developing what would surely be the least useful bioweapon in history (most people of fighting age get mild and brief symptoms or no symptoms, but it's infectious enough to get back to your own population and kill similar proportions of your own vulnerable before you figure out how to deal with it)

The topic was what is plausible.

> In this case, the malice explanation demands stupidity because it was released in their own city.

Lenin said that "if for the sake of Communism it is necessary for us to destroy 9/10ths of the people, we must not hesitate". Tito killed 1% of his country's population. Stalin killed or starved 20 million. Mao killed or starved 60 million. Pol Pot killed or starved 25% of his country's population.


I don't understand why lab leak isn't, like, the first or most important investigative line. It's just a matter of asking and checking - thoroughly - every person and every machine involved with the lab in that timeframe. After all, "the disease is the same name as the lab!" [1]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSfejgwbDQ8


iirc it is because it heavily implicates both Peter Daszak, who was the head of the UN investigation of the Lab Leak theory, who orchestrated the Lancet letter denouncing the Lab Leak theory, who has now been shown to have conducted gain of function research on bat coronaviruses at the WIV, and Fauci who provided funding for this through Daszak's EcoHeath Alliance and NHAID after there was some sort of restriction on that kind of research stateside. On top of that China is completely uncooperative with the effort and wouldn't provide any evidence to implicate themselves.

Presumably people are being more careful now. Would like to see some sort of news or legislation about this but I’m sure it’s unlikely.

And what kind of legislation would tickle your fancy? Intentional release is already legislated against. How do you legislate the prevention of accidents? Are you specifically talking about disclosure? I can get on board with that, but I'd be shocked if there's not already legislation around that.

Now, the crux, whatever legislation you come up with, how does that apply to a foreign country?


Well for starters, the reason a lot of this research was pushed to China was congress had grown tired of finding ways to punish the CDC for lab leaks and mistakes here in the US. It was only recently that the CDC had been allowed to restart a lot of its more dangerous research. So how about the US stop funding dangerous research regardless of where it is at?

Either the lab leak was true and this was a self-inflicted wound, or it was highly suspicious and uselessly dangerous research, as it didn't help us stop the pandemic.


But in very weird round about way, it did allow us to see that mRNA technology is viable. So, happy little accident? Apologies to Bob.

I used to think Mission:Impossible 2 was ridiculous, now it's one of my favorites.

I know basically nothing about foreign policy at all, but just in the "tombert thought experiment" land I'm going to give my "asshole opinion" [1].

-----------

> Now, the crux, whatever legislation you come up with, how does that apply to a foreign country?

Conceivably couldn't we do some kind of trade agreement/embargo on countries that don't follow a minimum level of disclosure/safety protocol? E.g. if country A is shown to have covered up a massive lab leak, we impose some kind of tariff on them for N days.

Obviously there are no easy solutions to problems like this, but I think that would be the place I start, because obviously US law doesn't really apply to places outside of the US; the only thing we could do (at least the only thing that I could think of) that's even close to punitive enforcement would be to apply leverage.

[1] "Opinions are like assholes; everyone's got one and most of them stink"


>Conceivably couldn't we do some kind of trade agreement/embargo

Imagine, if you will, a scenario where one country is manufacturing such a large percentage of products so that an embargo would cause massive disruptions to pretty much everyone everywhere. Now imagine that country being the suspect in a situation where the punishment is that very embargo. What do you do?


> And what kind of legislation would tickle your fancy? Intentional release is already legislated against. How do you legislate the prevention of accidents?

That's a ridiculous line of reasoning: legislation helps mitigate accidents all the time.

Pilots don't want their bird to fall out of the sky, and yet legislation around pilot training, practices and certification limited the number of accidents.


> Presumably people are being more careful now

Probably so, but just like hollywood and guns.


The pushback on the lab leak theory happens because proponents of the lab leak theory are pushing that theory in bad faith. If there's a lab leak, then they can excuse mis-handling of the USA COVID response.

What about the mishandling that occurred elsewhere in the world? Trump was only president of America.

What about it? The excuse-seekers aren't looking to wave away Sweden's mishandling, for example.

Because political ideals. The left treats this as a conspiracy because:

(1) Trump initially blamed COVID on China and the ethos of the left is that Trump isn't ever allowed to be right, and "resist" means unconditionally doing the opposite. So once Trump said it, half the country unplugged their brains.

(2) It's no fun to blame a lab in Wuhan when the left could instead blame DeSantis/Republicans/Unvaxxed.

(3) The US is kinda wimpy about a real fight over this, regardless of who is in office. Xi would tell Biden (or whoever) to pound sand if the US ever really tried investigating this and seeking some sort of retribution. Again, the path of least resistance is to stick one's head in the sand and find a convenient scapegoat like Joe Rogan or whatever.

(4) Too many people have already definitively declared it impossible so they're pot committed to their position even if it's wrong, no different than mask efficacy (zero). There have been a couple issues where one side went all-in so there's no reversal or even slight walking back because the repetitional risk is too high.


it's too bad this was downvoted because it's probably the best explanation.

I'm not totally sure about 3, my guess is that we have collected far more useful intelligence that our agencies have released, but nothing sufficient to make a geopolitical claim about China, and the cost of being wrong with such an accusation is huge.


I'm pretty sure there was a conspiracy. Not a conspiracy to create a pandemic, but a conspiracy to hide an accident due to incompetence. Not all conspiracies are myths, just consider Watergate: there was a conspiracy to hide Nixon's shenanigans. The only difference is that one happened in a dictatorship while the other happened in a democracy with a free press.

Oh I agree, at a bare minimum there's nothing even remotely wacky about the lab leak theory. I'm just explaining why half the country has counterintuitively decided to brand it as lunatic fringe conspiracy rather than it being self-evidently plausible if not likely.

Well I'm guessing that because of your political ideals you're committed to the wrong position that masks are ineffective so studies like this won't convince you, https://www.bmj.com/content/375/bmj-2021-068302

You pretty much nailed it. The left is so deranged in their hatred, they can't consider that this explanation isn't just plausible, but very likely.

The irony in this statement is palpable. You're so obviously ready to confirm your priors that you'll actively go out of your way to avoid other plausible explanations.

I'm a democrat and I definitely think a lot of left-leaning scientists really made themselves look like idiots by saying that claiming China had a lab leak was "racist". It was always a reasonable (IE, not impossible or even extremely unlikely) hypothesis, and only some of the people who suggested it were doing so out of racial hatred for China.

Also the U.S. Army lost control of some anthrax in 2001: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_anthrax_attacks

that whole saga was so fascinating. the culprit ended up (likely) being one of the scientists involved, with the motive of justifying funding into anthrax research. because of the incredibly low mutation rate of anthrax, they couldn't identify the strain by DNA testing.

they had to do new science to fingerprint strains based on the quantities of different populations in the samples vs. the bottles - an investigation the culprit himself was involved in. as they uncovered the flask responsible and the very limited number of people who could get their hands on it, the attacker killed himself.


Not only it is plausible, it's very very likely. What are the odds that a lab that works on gain of function of Corona viruses is the exact place where the epidemic started?

The "exact place" the epidemic was discovered is in Wuhan, which is also where the lab is. That's a correlation, and clearly worth investigating, but it's not in and of itself proof.

I was originally dismissive of the "lab leak hypothesis", in no small part because of how quickly it got caught up in politics. I'm less so now, but I do think it's important to remember that when we ask "how likely is it that a novel coronavirus epidemic would start in a city that also has a laboratory working with novel coronaviruses and it just be a coincidence," the answer may be "not very" if the city with the laboratory is the size of, say, Frederick, Maryland (78,000), but "maybe more than you think" if it's the size of New York City (8.8M).

The lab leak idea bears further investigation, but "authorities have been too dismissive of that" shouldn't lead us to assume "well, it was obviously a lab leak."


Also: how many laboratories working with novel coronaviruses are there in the world? How concentrated are they?

I don’t know the answer, but it could well be that a significant fraction of the population of China (or the USA) lives in a city with such a lab, making it not too unlikely that the first patient will be found in such a city.


Wikipedia has a list of all the biosafety level 4 facilities.

The answer is around 30 active sites that deal with threats as serious as the Wuhan facility. Of those, less than half work on viruses, and even fewer do GOF work.

So not that many.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biosafety_level#Biosafety_leve...

EDIT: and to address your implication, China has 2 such facilities, Wuhan and Harbin (a metro area of 10mn)


One note:

"Where the epidemic was first detected" and "Where the epidemic started" are not the same thing.

Especially given the relative prevalence of mild disease in COVID-19 cases.


It's plausible, sure, but it'll never be proven, especially at this distance.

I think to some extent our media has developed an attitude towards inconvenient ideas that they are conspiracies. They can't discuss stuff like that without emphasizing how totally not true they are. I am not saying it is or isn't true but that the media will tend to suggest inconvenient stuff is not true.

It is trope-y enough to lend some suspicion. That is most conspiracy theories are about some sort of "reassuring" narrative that it takes evil people who you already expect to create big problems. As opposed to the world being a chaotic uncontrolled and uncontrollable place. That isn't hard disproof of course but it is a resemblance to other conspiracy theories.

The lab leak theor(y/ies) (is a/ are) "the hoofprints may have come from zebras" sort of situation - possible but not the most likely in absense of other evidence.


Because it's almost inherently conspiracy fodder, true or not.

It tickles the part of human psychology that looks for threat agents, rather than just threats.

Lots of us here on the more analytical side might have trouble understanding that fully, especially if we relate to Fauci's early 2020 statements which more or less amount to "it doesn't really matter which plausible origin turns out to be the case, either way the task in front of us is to figure out how to mitigate the damage and address the virus."

It could have been a lab leak. It could have been (and now looks more likely to have been [0][1]) natural spillover from increasing contact with zoonotic reservoirs. What's the difference?

The answer to that question on a practical level is re-thinking safety protocols for related research (and perhaps a conversation about the risks of conducting viral research vs the risks of viral ignorance).

On a less practical level, though, the answer is that it prompts inhabiting a narrative where they key issue is human threat agents.

The irony is that many of the people who choose that as the most important thing to pay attention seem slower to consider how human threat agents might use that narrative.

[0] https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/11/18/coronavirus... [1] https://www.science.org/content/article/why-many-scientists-...


Imagine if a policeman was saying the same thing about a crime; why investigate, finding the culprit is only conspiracy fodder, let's only take care of the victims.

Not investigating, and hiding the truth is what gives room for conspiracies to grow.

Also how can we better understand and prevent pandemics whithout understanding where they come from. Wasn't the coronavirus research lab founded on that premise?


I don't find the parallel good. Trying to invent a better one, I thought I'd say the coronavirus situation is IMO more like a question of whether, say, some particular volcano's explosion was natural, or human-induced.

As such, one can either focus on generally being more prepared against volcano explosions, or focus on trying to find a person among volcano researchers and tourists who may have done something to tickle the volcano to explode.

I mean, it's sure also not a perfect analogy; but how I see it, focusing on preparedness and handling of a situation that does happen naturally from time to time for sure, sounds to me like a sensible choice to focus effort into. With that said, totally, if there's some possibility it might have been human-induced, it makes sense to try and track and prevent it in the future; thing is, me personally, and I would risk theorizing that also many other people, am strongly afraid of such approach too quickly and too easily turning into a witch-hunt, anti-XYZ propaganda, and stirring hate by unscrupulous people - with scapegoating seemingly socially much easier to turn towards, than tiresome and "boring" epidemologic preparedness and discipline.


A better analogy is a forest fire - perhaps a human triggered it, maybe it was lightening. Whichever caused this specific fire, you cannot build a fire prevention strategy solely around stopping people lighting fires.

> Because it's almost inherently conspiracy fodder, true or not.

No it's not! Reasonably minded persons consider this entirely plausible.

The way the conversation is being actively steered away from this topic is concerning.

> It could have been a lab leak. It could have been (and now looks more likely to have been [0][1]) natural spillover from increasing contact with zoonotic reservoirs. What's the difference?

There's a huge difference. Each scenario has different lessons to learn, culpability, etc.


> No it's not! Reasonably minded persons consider this entirely plausible.

I didn't say it was implausible. In fact, I have at least one sentence in my comment that acknowledges it is plausible to entertain. It doesn't appear to be plausible as a conclusion (see the two articles I linked, which do include sources who initially wanted to explore the lab leak theory), but it was plausible enough as a hypothesis.

What I said is that even if it is the truth, it evokes conspiracy-oriented thinking in a specific way, and elaborated on the dynamic.

> Each scenario has different lessons to learn, culpability, etc.

"Culpability" -- thank you for reinforcing my point about human threat agents. And also regarding "lessons to learn", or as I put it, managing risks in viral research vs the risks of not doing viral research... which of course is a conversation that goes on anyway.


I have to agree. The desperation to “blame China” seems to be driven by people with fantasies about going to war with China. Not even economic war with China beyond current tensions is possible without completely wrecking the economy in ways that will take all of us but the Bezos of the world down. Very little of this seems grounded in reality or good faith desire to know the truth of the matter.

>There's a huge difference. Each scenario has different lessons to learn, culpability, etc.

Perspective matters. Yes, learning to not have it happen again is an ideal thing. However, from Fauci's point of view at the time and his role, the how/why absolutely didn't matter as he stated.


> ...the so-called "lab leak theory" of origin for sars-cov2

That isn't what this article is about.

I thought the article actually did a real public service by moving the discussion beyond whether Covid did or didn't emerge from the Wuhan market. Because either way, it's much much more important to say, "how could we, in the future, prevent the scenario of a lab leak from happening."

It keeps the discussion focused on what's important.


We can’t talk about the lab leak theory for the same reason a third of the country refuses to get vaccinated: it became a politicized issue somewhere along the way, at which point people’s brains turn off and their emotions and tribalism take over.

Because people get polarized and are incapable of nuance.

It's important to remember what some of the lab leak theories have said:

- that it is a engineered bioweapon

- that it is genetically altered to contain parts of HIV

- that it was intentionally released during the 2019 military games

Once in a camp it is difficult to accept nuance.


Yeah… all hypotheses are “completely plausible” until they’re not.

Plausibility is a starting point, not an answer.


no, the set of all hypotheses taken together form a distribution (determined by the prior probability). For example, if you proposed that space aliens delivered COVID to us, I would say that is lower probability than any lab leak because we have zero evidence for space aliens, and it's certainly not required to explain anything about COVID that we've observed.

Sorry to grand-stand a bit, but I think the narrative is missing the point of the 'lab leak theory'.

The 'lab leak' is actually a bit of a misnomer. What they really mean is that it was created/modified/bred intentionally, versus just being discovered in some bat cave or whatever.

It's not the leaking per se that is what worries people--it's the idea that this has a human-created origin. It's an experiment or weapon which was accidentally leaked to the world.


Everyone I've seen discussing it treats it as possible. The "conspiracy theory" part comes in when people claim or speak as if it's proven when it absolutely is not. There is no smoking gun evidence for it, but it can't be ruled out either.

That in itself is kind of scary though. It means a lab leak could happen silently and we may never correctly attribute it.


There are some thoughts you just aren’t allowed to think, lest you be labeled a trump-supporting nazi racist.

>i don't understand why the so-called "lab leak theory" of origin for sars-cov2 is treated as some sort of conspiracy theory. it is completely plausible, and things like this have happened in the past (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sverdlovsk_anthrax_leak), not due to malice but due to incompetence.

It's remarkable how quickly they settled on bats and everything but this was misinformation that would get you banned from various american tech companies.

It's also remarkable how quickly they moved to shutdown many discussions. The lab leak only months earlier from Canada where a chinese national shipped viruses to wuhan. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/chinese-researcher-e...

There's no evidence of coronavirus being involved at all with the canadian lady, but they sure did call it conspiracy theory and shutdown talks quick.

Throw this in context of a pissing match with China and Canada. https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/26/china/meng-wanzhou-china-arri... and China in return arresting and putting Canada diplomats on death row.

I think lots of answers came along from fauci's emails. All of these are not coincidences and China is probably not the source of covid. Hence why there was such a quick reaction to blame china.

Blame Canada!


> where a chinese national shipped viruses to wuhan

No where in the linked article does it say that Dr. Xiangguo Qiu shipped viruses to Wuhan.

NMLs lips have been sealed and there was never a reason given why they were dismissed. Going as far as saying that they were shipping viruses to wuhan is baseless speculation.

A more recent article from CBC had more up to date details than the article you linked: https://www.google.ca/amp/s/www.cbc.ca/amp/1.6090188


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I don’t think so. Not that I believe it’s impossible it originated in China from a lab accident, I think you should have proof before claiming that but okay. But when people started claiming it came from China they weren’t doing so off of hard evidence or being rational. They were doing so because of xenophobia and nationalist pride and it’s just easier to blame these problems on an other than it is to believe shit happens.

Now this year there have been more scientific minded people who have proposed a pretty rational set of circumstances that it could have came from China, but

1. These circumstances are not proven and are little more than a hunch of what could be, and

2. The type of people who push the “Chinavirus” rhetoric aren’t those same scientific minds thinking rationally and instead they’ve had their opinion slightly verified by more recent understanding (again, slightly, because there is no proof.)


> But when people started claiming it came from China they weren’t doing so off of hard evidence or being rational.

Here is the NIH director being asked uncomfortable questions and being completely irrational: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRZE-SJShkE

This comment summarizes it better than I can:

> I'm curious why Dr. Collins believes so strongly that a lab leak was unlikely, that is his reasoning, given that he states SARS had leaked on at least a couple different occasions resulting in some deaths, yet was quickly contained. The non-answer to this question, or his reference to an investigation into the intermediary, which he admits has not yet been found and will take much time, are insufficient to address the elephant in the room. It's frustrating hearing "trust the experts and bureaucracy" when throughout the interview so many instances of incompetence and failure exist in history. The question needs to be asked regarding gain of function and yet Mr. Collins is more concerned about the reputation of the scientific community. Both are important, but how can we have a public conversation without probing Senators like Rand Paul? "Public" conversations within the scientific community are referenced by Dr. Collins as well as the achievements of the Human Genome Project, but I don't understand how he can be so defensive of public figures' reputations. Again, how are we to have conversations and trust when the bureaucrats and scientific community don't communicate answers to these huge problems! Excuse us, Mr. Collins, but we just had a major pandemic and this current version of SARS was not contained and you can say you wish China were more forthcoming, but perhaps those three instances of gain of function research in the flu versus your woeful insufficient in my opinion defense of a natural gain of function and leak in the case of SARS covid-2, at least deserves some respectful, humble conversation. Labeling Senators as playing politics is not helpful since, in regards to Dr. Paul, what alternative to asking questions do you propose to serve the public interest? (This is coming from someone who read Dr. Collins book "DNA The Language of Life" having enjoyed this book as one of the best on the topic of science and faith.)

I am sure the Director of NIH didn't get to this position with incompetence. Good men are being turned into a hot mess. I would still trust NIH but they really need to clean up. I want to hold CDC and NIH more accountable than say some lunatic saying "China virus" on Parlor.


> I'm curious why Dr. Collins believes so strongly that a lab leak was unlikely, that is his reasoning, given that he states SARS had leaked on at least a couple different occasions resulting in some deaths, yet was quickly contained.

“A known, widely researched pathogen was present in a lab” and “a brand new, unknown pathogen was present in a lab” are vastly different scenarios.


Coronavirus research has been going on for a decade at the Wuhan Lab. They sent a staff of half a dozen people to a bat cave in 2013. Dr. Zhengli was a coronavirus researcher there. See [1] for in-depth history of Wuhan Lab.

[1] https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/06/the-lab-leak-theory-...


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Who's the bottom tier of society?

It’s like religion in the ancient days. When a plague or earthquake hit people didn’t understand (didn’t want to understand) that these are the effects of a giant mechanical system and not the fault of anyone. The ancients created gods to justify these things, modern people blame the great other.

If you were French in the 1890s you’d love to blame any societal tragedy on Germans, if you were German in the 20s you’d be blaming France, etc.


Yeah. There are still plenty of people in modern times that want a singular scapegoat for an accident. And even people who think natural disasters are a result of god punishing us for allowing people to be homosexual

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Wouldn't the type of heated rhetoric you used be part of why it is difficult to talk about?

Fine, referring to them as "stupiderati" was over the line. But generally, it is the people who hear "lab leak" and immediately jump to the conclusion that it was 100% deliberate that make it difficult to talk about.

Because it's completely untestable and short of someone "admitting" it we will never know for sure.

So whether you believe it or not depends entirely on you're prejudices. I'm prejudiced not to but others may feed differently.

And it makes absolutely no difference at all. You still need a vaccine, you still need lockdowns and quarantines and to manage your healthcare. And we should all be taking action on China whether it's incompetence (around food hygiene) or incompetence (around bio hazard management).

This is why I hate the whole Lab Leak thing. It's people "straining out a knat and swallowing a camel". It's a distraction and it unnecessarily complicates messaging and discussion that can be pretty vital.


It absolutely makes a difference, because we need to stop this from happening again. We can't just accept that labs are going to continue to release dangerous viruses and then just deal with the effects every time.

The issue here is China. My evidence for this is that this keeps happening in China (SARS etc).

So if it's lab leak, the problem isn't the US or Russia or Butan doing lab work. It's China doing lab work insecurely.

And if it's a food hygiene thing, it's not a world food hygiene thing, it's a Chinese food hygiene thing.

So the action here is to sanction the fuck out of China. And that is true whether it's lab leaked or zoonotic or any other unimaginable source.


Uh... are you forgetting about a thing called H1N1? Granted, it wasn't as dangerous as COVID, but that originated in the good ol' US of A. I wouldn't be so quick to jump to harsh ideas just for the sake of it - this could have happened in any country really - all you need is human interaction with animals and enough time.

> Because it's completely untestable and short of someone "admitting" it we will never know for sure.

What a weird assertion.

It would be perfectly testable in any democratic country. Set up an independent commission, give access to the lab's complete files, perform a lot of tests on samples held there. That's exactly what would happen. Opposition parties would be demonstrating non stop demanding answers.

Instead this is China, a communist dictatorship with, on top of that, a strong culture of never losing face. It's only untestable because of that, not for epistemological reasons.


So it's testable, but only if we overthrow the CCP, make China a functional democracy, change Chinese culture to encourage openness, seize the records before they destroy them (which them might already have) and if we can't find those records or they say nothing incriminating, we accept tthat they're innocent because abcence of evidence is evidence of abcense?

Sounds untestable to me...


In the context of a scientific hypothesis, "untestable" means that it can't be tested, not that someone doesn't want it to be tested. The fact that someone really really really doesn't want it to be tested does not make it untestable. It makes it untested but eminently testable.

For the same reason we were influenced to used COVID-19 as a name rather the presumed geographical place of origin as is traditionally done.

There are lots of “traditionally done” things that turn out not to be great. There are some good examples of the issues with naming viruses geographically in this article.

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/28/us/disease-outbreaks-coronavi...


Your article says absolutely nothing about the geographical naming causing the prejudice against minorities and it doesn't make sense that the place of origin, which is of public notoriety, would either be forgotten or is the cause of the prejudice anyway.

It is Hacker News trope really, more and more evidence mounts that it was indeed - a lab leak, there has been lengthy research reports from journalists on this matter, but Hacker News remains in doubt. Which is strange, one kind of expects Hackers to weight everything and see if theory withholds scrutiny.

Same thing happens with that ultrasound attack against US diplomates in Cuba, Hacker news users claim it was just grasshopers while more and more evidence mounts it was a Russian attack.


> more and more evidence mounts that it was indeed - a lab leak

Perhaps you mean "less and less evidence"?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/11/18/coronavirus...

https://www.science.org/content/article/why-many-scientists-...



If you read the links I've posted, you'll note at least two things about them:

1) They include observation from figures who started open to the idea that the lab leak hypothesis was plausible enough to explore, but have concluded that it's unlikely (and explain why)

2) They are more recent


If you read links you've posted, you'll note that the BSL4 lab in Wuhan, China is ruled out only. Did they rule out «Vector» BSL4 lab in Novosibirsk, RF?

Why would you link older articles as though they're part of a trend, when the person you responded to had more recent information to share?

Most of the people pushing the lab leak hypothesis have the specific goal of fomenting anti China sentiment. Trump ignored covid despite the extensive advice of experts and then tried to distract from his failure by trying to foment war with China. This argument is an extension of that.

What Trump believes or uses for his political gain does not magically become incorrect by virtue of being believed or used by Trump. I don't think you're trying to suggest anything as silly as that, but still worth explicitly pointing out.

Trumpian tempests should remain in a teapot of their own, and lab leak theory should be discussed on its own merit. Xenophobia innuendos and "but Trump" dog whistles are unhelpful in sussing out the truth.


> What Trump believes or uses for his political gain does not magically become incorrect by virtue of being believed or used by Trump.

OTOH, I will tell you that I definitely look at what my daughter says with a far more critical eye than I do what my son says, because my daughter has a track record of lying and my son does not.


Probably more so trying to distract from the fact he’s over $200m in debt to the CCP. Wouldn’t want anybody looking too deeply into that.

If I had to guess, it's something along these lines (again I'm just guessing, these are general social sentiments that I observed over the past 2 years):

1. Trump mismanaged the pandemic, this resulted in cognitive dissonance amongst his supporters. (they like him but their brain doesn't like the feeling that it was wrong)

2. A 'convenient' explanation to avoid this dissonance is COVID is a Chinese bio-weapon. They (big bad China) released COVID to make Trump look bad and to kill Americans.

3. Liberals, seeing through this, push back on this generally unsubstantiated claim (at the time and potentially even now) that COVID is a bio-weapon. In the eyes of most, Liberals have taken the side of 'COVID is a natural random mutation, not a lab leak'.

4. Now whether or not it's a lab leak or natural is a political game, where your team wins depending on where the facts finally lie (or if you can manufacture enough support for your 'side').

5. See: Rand Paul v Fauci in various senate hearings about gain-of-function research and funding for a Wuhan lab & generally liberals trying not to talk about it because it would be another example of them 'lying' in the eyes of conservatives (think 'masks don't help' but alllll over again).


This seems like a pretty good take to me. As an American who cares a lot about having compelling reasons for my beliefs and opinions, it's so fucking exhausting.

Lately, I've been getting more comfortable with just saying "I don't know" for the latest controversial topic. It's not great for making small talk though.


Spot on. Nearly everything these days gets shoehorned into the insane US culture war, including the origins of Covid.

I don't buy this, obviously not an unbiased sample, but most individual liberals I know are on board with it being a lab leak. Can't necessarily say that about 'liberal leadership class' in the US, though.

I've read that most US/western scientists in the field immediately thought that COVID19 was likely a lab leak, and were dumbfounded by the Daszak et al. letter in Science denouncing any discussion of same as unfounded racism.

(GP here) I generally agree with this. It's why I wrote 'in the eyes of most'. IMO liberals are bad at defining their own opinions in the court of public opinion, and often are viewed as !Conservative, even if their views are more nuanced.

Nobody associates it with a conspiracy theory just because it gets mentioned. That happens because the people most aggressively pushing it online often make that association themselves. In between demands for expensive new investigations, they often veer off into talk of Dasczak is part of a vast gain-of-function underground and Fauci is helping them cover it up, and Big Pharma is pushing vaccines because they can't make a profit from ivermectin, and something something about discouraging masks at the start of the pandemic, and mask/vaccine mandates are somehow part of a plot to destroy America, and so on ad nauseam. Seen plenty of it right here. Such people might be a small minority of the people who think we should look more closely at virus research standards, but they're an incredibly visible minority and their stridency causes the whole issue to be framed in conspiracy-theory terms.

What? Unless I'm mistaken, There is no GOF underground with Dasczak, it's very above ground (to be clear, the NIH didn't fund GOF on SARS-Cov2, just on... adjacent viruses). Don't know if Fauci is covering it up, but he certainly hasn't stepped forward to condemn Dasczak, even though the NIH already has condemned EcoHealthAllicance.

It's also kind of insane that Dasczak was a lead signatory to the "this is not a lab leak" opinion piece without disclosing a MAJOR conflict of interest. He should have stayed out of it.


If you don't think a lot of people died early on in the US because the Surgeon General went on TV and said masks were basically useless for the average person, with every talk/news show running pieces about how you'd just touch a doorknob then your eye, and thus are more likely to get infected by wearing a mask, then you either can't remember what happened or are ideologically driven.

But that's totally irrelevant to where the virus came from, unless you're arguing that there's a massive global conspiracy.

I was just pointing out that in his etc etc ad nausea example, at least one point the people he disagreed with were making was right. And they’re partially right about the vaccine motivations which is to make money. Ivermectin doesn’t need big pharma to make it look bad, but if ivermectin worked it wouldn’t be a big change from historical norms for large corporate competition to downplay it. It’s not some weird conspiracy theory to say big pharmaceutical companies have done shady stuff and broken laws to push their drugs.

Has a virus ever leaked from a lab whose existence (or ability to transmit along humans) had not previously been known? Surely the vast majority of new human-infecting viruses have been novel mutations that happened naturally.

By cherry-picking that particular lab leak, you're making it look like this only happens in 'other' countries. Plenty of lab leaks have happened right here in the US.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_laboratory_biosecurity...


If the lab leak was real, covering it up to the extent they did requires a literal conspiracy (not to mention hypothetical function gain research). In the absence of concrete evidence, it is quite literally a conspiracy theory.

Hypothetical function gain research?

You mean the literal proposal to put furin cleavage sites on coronavirus collected in the wild, filed for a grant in 2018, which was rejected for being too dangerous. Also, SARS-Cov-2 is the only beta coronavirus with a furin cleavage site. And if you have ever been anywhere near academic grant process, you'll know that you use a previous grant to do the next grant work, as preliminary results.

So tell me it is just a coincidence that just after writing this grant proposal in 2018 to take coronavirus in the wild and putting furin cleavage sites on them, the first beta coronavirus with a furin cleavage site turns up in the same place right next to the lab, right after they moved their sister BSL-2 lab.


The Soviets successfully covered up a lab leak for multiple decades even after independent investigations: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sverdlovsk_anthrax_leak

There is no evidence of animal host transmission either. Does it make it literally a conspiracy theory too?

Do you believe animals literally conspired to transmit to humans?

I believe what you're describing is rather "the coordinated malevolent animal transmission theory".


What does it even supposed to mean? The lab theory is not that humans conspired to spread the virus, but it happened due to negligence. What's happening then is a cover-up, not a conspiracy.

Cover-up is the default mode of handling failure in an aspiring Communist state. When a major accident happens that can be covered up, it will be covered up.

The above mentioned Sverdlovsk outbreak was presented as natural as well: the official culprit was cough a wet market nearby cough. Took 13 years and the dissolution of USSR to admit the cover-up.


I mean... if you think the animals actually maliciously conspired I suppose

Do you really suppose the lab theory is Wuhan virologists conspiring to spread the virus?

I'm under the impression that the viral precursor they were expecting to find in animal populations has not been found (and that if it were a natural occurrence it would have been found) and that at least one researcher at the Wuhan lab had previously proposed gain of function research like this before. I'm sure stranger coincidences have happened but with that in mind I think its fair to elevate a lab leak theory from 'premature/purely political in intent' to 'reasonable'.

There is nothing wrong with literally conspiracy theories when literal conspiracies are likely.

The problem with literal conspiracies is that the probability of public disclosure increases exponentially with the number of people who are "in" on the conspiracy. This is why a priori one typically assigns low likelihood to them (especially if they require a large number of conspirators).

>i don't understand why the so-called "lab leak theory" of origin for sars-cov2 is treated as some sort of conspiracy theory.

Because wildlife->human is a lot more plausible than that. Consider for instance a novel mutation that arises from [0], transmitted to humans and is coincidentally discovered near a lab that was researching this disease. Would that also be considered a 'lab leak'?

https://www.wbur.org/npr/1054224204/how-sars-cov-2-in-americ...


Lab leak doesn't mean modified virus, and yeah those types of bats don't exist anywhere near Wuhan except inside that lab.



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