Mar 1Liked by Jonathan M. Katz

Excellent explanation of this whole thing, and wonderful takedown of all the nonsense. This is the clearest article about this issue I've seen.

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Mar 2Liked by Jonathan M. Katz

You, sir, are the real deal. A journalist with respect for the truth, wherever it leads. Bravo, again! And thank you. Excellent reporting.

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Mar 18Liked by Jonathan M. Katz

Hey - this guy must read The Racket! (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-evidence-supports-animal-origin-of-covid-virus-through-raccoon-dogs/)

From interview with Joel Wertheim, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, San Diego, posted on Scientific American website, 17 Mar 2023:

Q: Can you address whether there is any evidence at all for the lab-leak hypothesis—at least, for the “good faith” version that views such a leak as some kind of accident?

A: The problem with the good faith version of a lab-leak hypothesis is that there isn’t a single one. There is a scientist who gets infected in the field, the scientist who gets infected in the lab by a virus that has yet to be described, the serial passage or gain-of-function weaponization—I mean, every single one of these lab-leak hypotheses are mutually incompatible with each other.

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Mar 4Liked by Jonathan M. Katz

Well said! It's maddening, there's no consistency to any of it!

We have the house GOP report saying the virus leaked in September and spread around the world by October. The house senate report saying October to November. In 2021, the WSJ reported with high confidence that 3 lab workers got sick in November, which doesn't even matter if the virus had already circled the world by October. Now the WSJ is reporting that the DoE also thinks it leaked, but probably in December, from a different lab. And, for the icing on the cake, the reporter for both those 2 WSJ articles was the same guy who announced Iraq has weapons of mass destruction:


The lab creation theories themselves are just as varied. Some say covid is a bat virus with a furin cleavage site added, or it’s a chimera combining bat and pangolin viruses, or it was created synthetically by stitching together multiple segments of RNA, or it was created by serial passaging in ferrets, or by serial passaging in transgenic mice, or by serial passaging in cells, or it has HIV genes inserted, or it was developed as a self-spreading vaccine against other coronaviruses, or that Moderna patented the virus 3 years before the pandemic. There’s also a theory that it was a natural virus harvested in a mineshaft back in 2012, in which case it doesn’t need gain of function research, because it was already 50% fatal. There’s even a theory that it was made in a US lab and released in China.

We've got this game where lab leak supporters complain how badly censored and silenced they are, despite the story being in every newspaper, podcast, and TV show. One newcomer to the lab leak field, Andrew Huff, says that the government tried so hard to stop him from publishing his book that they shined laser pointers into his windows and flew “mosquito sized drones” inside his house to spy on him.

While I’m not sure whether or not mosquito sized drones exist, I do wonder why the government can’t just use those to fly around the Wuhan lab and gather information, so that all the reports could agree on details.

Did the lab leak happen? I think probably not:


But I'd be happy to re-evaluate if anyone could stick to any one story and make it testable.

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Mar 3Liked by Jonathan M. Katz

Thank you so much for this discussion. Something that doesn't get asked often enough about various (usually right-leaning) conspiracy theories is "What is your actual theory?" They're almost invariably a blend of mutually-contradictory claims without any single coherent, logical, testable narrative.

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I think the annoyance among Nate Silver and others is not that they're convinced the origin of Covid-19 was released from a lab, but that many in the media acted like the idea was preposterous, and inherently racist. I personally have no idea if Covid-19 was released from a lab, was designed by humans, or 100% natural. I do think knowing where it came from is worth understanding and investigating. I also don't trust the Chinese Communist Party to be honest or truthful about the origin of the virus (no more than the US federal government would be honest had THEY made the mistake).

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I agree, @Benjamin and @Adam. Assigning the origin of SARS-COVID19 is a fool's game without any practical upshot. And even if it were a military weapon, why unleash it on your own people? Even if true, what is the US supposed to do about it. This "controversy" is an inconsequential sideshow to attract eyeballs and I hope this is the last time you write about it. You have so many other insights to offer.

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What a mess of confusion and posturing over the last three years.

And also, who cares where it came from. You can't change the past at this point, right? Only look to the future and the next, even worse pandemic that we are all distracted from trying to avoid! 😂

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This article seems written to reinforce a narrative that people called Lab Leakers are nuts. Most of these folks just objected to the certainty imposed that this virus had a natural origin and wanted better explanations before declaring case closed..

What got everybody riled up about the DOE report is that it's another data point that a lab-involved virus origin is a real possibility. What the author fails to talk about was that for 2 years, any talk of a lab leak was branded a kooky Trumpster conspiracy theory that had no merit whatsoever. This was the approach of most virologists, Dem politicians, & the press. Well that was bullshit. No mention in his article of how Fauci & Collins worked in secret to deep-six the LL hypothesis; no mention of Peter Daszak behind the scene coordination of his Lancet "we stand together" letter branding the lab leak hypothesis a conspiracy. A better article would have been a discussion of all of the misdeeds of these pro-natural origin people & their motivations for acting as they did.

This certainty and suppression of any talk of a lab leak is what most reasonable people like Alina Chan & Matt Ridley objected to. Most do not state that a lab leak absolutely had to be the virus origin because at this time, there is no way to know. All data, including the often cited Worobey/Pekar papers claimed as dispositive, are consistent with either a lab-involved or a wet-market involved origin. Most just say they don't know & we need to investigate further. This is hard to do as China isn't sharing much and lies a lot.

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"OK, so then, what are we even arguing here?"

Among other things, we're arguing that the immediate within-platform censorship of banning any discussion of this topic from several major social media platforms was wildly inappropriate given that there are many credentialed virologists and other subject-matter experts who have repeatedly said that it's plausible that the virus escaped a lab. We know it's plausible because, among other things, experts have been ringing the alarm bell literally for decades that a major lab leak epidemic was coming if nothing was done to systematically improve lab security and containment procedures. Now that the lab leak idea has been politicized, people who are angrily denying the possibility that it could be a lab leak are in effect acting as useful idiots for those corporations and institutions who run virology labs, who don't want to pay to upgrade their facilities. Lab safety practices have become polarized along culture war lines and the left, bizarrely, is obstructing efforts to improve those practices by accident through their rabid dismissal of the lab leak.

I think the lab leak theory is only plausible. But it certainly IS plausible. And if it weren't for culture war, most people would be perfectly willing to say "either of these two major theories are plausible, we don't know which is correct right now, and we may never know." Why would that be threatening?

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“The samples taken from the surfaces on the area where the animals were housed tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.” – How did these samples get to scientists if the market was sanitized by Chinese authorities? Seems magical that all of a sudden a mysterious cage with a sample was produced by Chinese authorities to give to scientists. And it just happens to promote the interests of the Chinese government.

For previous outbreaks in China, how fast do they normally discover the originating creature? Seems there would be extra motivation to find this creature immediately considering the impact on the world. Three years down the line, still no smoking gun? Is that unusual?

Is the Chinese government always this secretive and sensitive in the way they handle these types of investigations into viruses? Are they acting differently this time?

What about the unusual characteristics of this virus?

(unusual trait) – Both contagious and deadly from the onset

(unusual trait) – Respiratory virus that attacks other parts of the body

(unusual trait) – For a naturally emerging virus, it is highly contagious inside but not outside

COVID-19 has all these unusual characteristics combined. Seems unlikely.

In terms of incentives, it seems that the Chinese government, American scientists, American media, Fauci/Collins, definitely want this to be a naturally emerging virus. We will all look like fools if it ends up being a lab leak. And if you think about it, if the media and Fauci had alerted the public that there was a decent chance this was a lab leak in January or February 2020, Americans would have taken more aggressive and urgent action to lockdown sooner. This would have saved New York city from being the COVID hub of the world and would have probably saved tens of thousands of American lives, probably more. Who would be held responsible?

I’m open to this being a naturally emerging virus, but the circumstantial evidence and behavior of the key players involved stinks. We already know that Fauci was warned really early on from his own staff that this could be a lab leak and he wanted media notions of a lab leak theory to be squashed. We know that Lancet published an influential article of support for the naturally emerging theory without the author of the article acknowledging his clear conflicts of interest. We know the “fact checkers” of the media clowned the lab leak theory without any real evidence to support the debunking. In the early days of the pandemic, interested parties worked hard to denounce the lab leak theory without evidence. That’s not ethical science nor ethical media coverage. That’s propaganda. Straight from the Chinese government playbook.

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Actually, as I see it, there IS a theory, but because China isn't Haiti, it's a lot harder for people to get data points for that theory, whether confirmatory or disconfirmatory. Jonathan also doesn't discuss the Senate committee minority report by Richard Burr as ranking member, reported by ProPublica last year and NOT refuted, despite the attacks on it. https://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2022/10/coronavirus-week-125-lab-leak-theory.html

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It was a US-based lab leak.

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Great work! Many thanks.

China raised the alarm about Covid because China was the only country looking for it, having spent billions on a 70,000-node detection network after SARS, in 2013.

Western countries, you may recall, seemed to NOT be looking for it, and the US went so far as to ban testing for it until the Spring of 2020.

But we now know that Covid was endemic in Northern Europe and the United States by mid-2019.

The CDC even certified that the world's first Covid death occurred in Kansas, a week before the first such Chinese death.

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Well done. Finally, a sane article on the subject. Conspiracy theories get part of their plausibility by being many inconsistent theories in one story, and this is a prime example.

For every epidemic, there is a conspiracy origin story that develops, and it is always bullshit.

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No, not Wuhan, Hong Kong. Just as a thought experiment it is plausible the virus was being adapted to be a less deadly but highly contagious agent to be released amongst the demonstrators but perhaps it escaped the lab before perfected Again, not saying I think this to be the case but answering your question as to why a country might use pathogens against its own population.

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