I don’t enjoy being wrong, but if you search my blog you will find a number of posts about me, being wrong. This one is most likely such a one.
But I am not sure if it is.
The point is, there’s a story about COVID-19 that has been developing for quite some time and by now it has gained so much traction – and is beginning to sound plausible – that my initial and very dismissive reaction to it requires a connection.
I’ll point you to my post “Dealing with the conspiracies” where I covered research into the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and quoted someone concluding that it was incredibly unlikely that the genome was engineered.
But, actually, what they were arguing was that it was unlikely that it had been engineered by a specific design by humans and thereby implying that this covered all kinds of engineering.
All talk about how the virus originated quickly fell into a narrative about bats, possibly pangolins, wet food markets and random evolution. All other suggestions was labeled conspiracy theories. Also by me.
Except, the handwaving above doesn’t work.
Modern wheat isn’t engineered by specific design, it is engineered by breeding. And gain of function research is a recognised scientific method to study past pandemics and predict future ones.
As I said, there’s a story about COVID-19 that has been developing for some time and it is one that I labeled a conspiracy theory: Maybe, just maybe, the COVID-19 pandemic originated in a lab in Wuhan.
Nicholas Wade has produced a very long article laying out the different possibilities for the virus’ origin:
Natural emergence was the media’s preferred theory until around February 2021 and the visit by a World Health Organization commission to China. The commission’s composition and access were heavily controlled by the Chinese authorities. Its members, who included the ubiquitous Dr. Daszak, kept asserting before, during and after their visit that lab escape was extremely unlikely. But this was not quite the propaganda victory the Chinese authorities may have been hoping for. What became clear was that the Chinese had no evidence to offer the commission in support of the natural emergence theory.
This was surprising because both the SARS1 and MERS viruses had left copious traces in the environment. The intermediary host species of SARS1 was identified within four months of the epidemic’s outbreak, and the host of MERS within nine months.
Yet some 15 months after the SARS2 pandemic began, and a presumably intensive search, Chinese researchers had failed to find either the original bat population, or the intermediate species to which SARS2 might have jumped, or any serological evidence that any Chinese population, including that of Wuhan, had ever been exposed to the virus prior to December 2019. Natural emergence remained a conjecture which, however plausible to begin with, had gained not a shred of supporting evidence in over a year.
And as long as that remains the case, it’s logical to pay serious attention to the alternative conjecture, that SARS2 escaped from a lab.
— Nicholas Wade, “Origin of Covid — Following the Clues“
Wade goes on to show that the Wuhan lab, partly funded by the government of USA, was working on creating new coronaviruses, with new spike proteins, to better prepare the world for possible epidemics. That just before the COVID-19 outbreak one of the American researchers said “and we have now found, you know, after 6 or 7 years of doing this, over 100 new sars-related coronaviruses, very close to SARS […] Some of them get into human cells in the lab, some of them can cause SARS disease in humanized mice models and are untreatable with therapeutic monoclonals and you can’t vaccinate against them with a vaccine. So, these are a clear and present danger“. And that the safety arrangements at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were insufficient.
We don’t know what happened, yet. Clearly the Chinese government isn’t being helpful, but neither is the American. The so-called “lab-leak theory” is gaining supporters but why did we not believe it in the beginning?
I have seen the lab-leak theory on social media for a long time and until recently, it was often marked with “this is probably disinformation” by the platforms. Just as I would have.
I may be too focused on when I’m wrong but as I’ve said many times, it’s through understanding why we are wrong that we can do better. In connection with COVID-19 I’ve been wrong many times and two of the many reasons I’ve wrong is that I was willfully too optimistic and I was too trusting of authorities. When I try to make future predictions on COVID-19 I am trying to adjust for that.