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Why the Wuhan lab leak theory shouldn't be dismissed (usatoday.com)
1167 points by ruaraidh 26 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 985 comments

This is a great article explaining why a lab leak should always be a suspect. The alternative theory is that a virus traveled on its own (via bats or other animals) from bat caves 900km away to Wuhan where there are 2 labs researching bats. One of the labs is lesser known but is right next to the seafood market and the hospital where the outbreak was first known. [1]

This article points out that a lab outbreak could have happened in the United States and many places in the world. We need to avoid demonizing China over this if we want to ever find out the truth and learn how to prevent another pandemic outbreak.

[1] https://web.archive.org/web/20200214144447/https://www.resea...

An eerily prescient quote from a paper[0] published in 2015, two of the authors of which are with Wuhan Institute of Virology:

> Understanding the bat origin of human coronaviruses is helpful for the prediction and prevention of another pandemic emergence in the future.

China has clearly contributed valuable research into bat coronaviruses. They had all the motivation to look into these after the first deadly SARS. I think it’s silly to presume CCP engineered a virus as part of some warfare strategy, or even to vilify/sanction them for a lab leak if it indeed was the cause (mistakes happen). However, CCP’s resistance to a proper thorough study of the origins of COVID is IMO not exactly appropriate.

Active research was taking place in the vicinity of suspected ground zero. Lab escapes happen—there are well-documented cases of the original SARS virus leaking from a lab in Beijing in 2004 (killing at least one person). Why was this time such a scenario discarded as so ridiculously impossible at first, and is still considered “extremely unlikely”? Is it politics?

[0] https://virologyj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12985-...

> However, CCP’s resistance to a proper thorough study of the origins of COVID is IMO not exactly appropriate.

It is, in fact, highly suspect. I’m not at all positive that it indeed leaked from a lab in Wuhan, but the fact they won’t let an independent investigation anywhere near it makes me lean more strongly towards that as a possibility.

The description of the last investigation into the origins of the virus felt more like a ‘guided tour’.

I think many bureaucrats everywhere view the press as an annoyance, but in places where they're used be being able to push the press around, pushing the press around becomes standard operating procedure even when there's nothing in particular to hide. Also, without a free press, nobody is incentivized short-term to dig deeper if a cursory investigation doesn't turn anything up. The end result is predictable stonewalling if a cursory investigation came up with nothing, even if the officials are pretty sure they have nothing to hide. (Also, due to incentives, it's harder for officials to be certain they really have nothing to hide.)

Having been in Hong Kong for just under a decade, I've seen several cases of bureaucrats making tone-deaf statements partly because they aren't used to dealing with a free(-ish) press. I have journalist friends, and I wish the relationship with the press were different, but bullying the press is less a sign of a cover-up when officials aren't used to dealing with a free press.

Or, you know, we may just be talking about a paranoid autocracy with an obsession for controlling information?

This is a government that bans talking about multiple periods of the country's history.

For that very reason, we cannot accept their narrative at face value. We certainly don't have enough information to confidently eliminate the lab escape theory. The media has largely suggested that the lab escape theory has been disproved.

If you ask a liar a question, and they lie, then the strongest conclusion isn't that you asked the right question -- it's that they're a liar.

China stonewalls pretty much every attempt by the international community to interfere with their internal control.

So this is more "business as usual" than "Clouseau found the smoking gun."

The smoking gun is that labs in Wuhan were studying different coronaviruses in bats at the time the virus emerged. One of those labs was right near the seafood market which had one of the first documented outbreaks.

It's all circumstantial evidence of course, but that's really all you're going to get with a country like China. We can be damn well sure that they would never admit to the virus originating from a lab leak. To me, this is the clearest and most likely source of the outbreak.

> The smoking gun is that labs in Wuhan were studying different coronaviruses in bats at the time the virus emerged.

As far as I know, those labs always study coronaviruses in bats -- it's a large part of what they do. That makes it less of a suspicious coincidence than your way of putting it implies.

By which I don't mean it didn't happen. There's just not enough information one way or the other.

If anything, it makes it inevitable. The probability of a coronavirus from a bat eventually escaping a lab that regularly studies coronaviruses in bats almost certainly approaches 100% over time.

Also, it's not like they can actually find out what happened now, a year later. Not without a time-machine or perfect recordings showing some sort of ridiculously straightforward sequence of events. E.g. They find a recording showing a bat biting someone in a lab and that person hiding it and then later showing him touching fish at the market. Come on, who thinks it'd be that easy?

What they'd most likely output is a "report" with "findings" that "point to" or "suggest" certain things like bad protocols or insecure procedures or disconnected safety sensors etc. Hardly evidence, and not really actionable even if they were allowed to get there and eventually publish it.

This is the same kind of crap as with the "election" report in the US. They couldn't find hard-evidence because despite this being 2020, camera's aren't everywhere, evidence isn't readily available, and not everyone is keep ridiculous-level audit logs and collating as much info as we want. All they eventually put in their report were discrepancies, not-installed windows updates, internet-connected machines, etc. No smoking gun, and understandably so because even if it did happen, there is no easy and straightforward way to prove it.

> What they'd most likely output is a "report" with "findings" that "point to" or "suggest" certain things like bad protocols or insecure procedures or disconnected safety sensors etc. Hardly evidence, and not really actionable even if they were allowed to get there and eventually publish it

The WHO team wasn't even allowed near the labs, much less enter it. They got a very curated tour of Wuhan (which isn't surprising).

Can a smoking gun really be circumstantial?

Being a little bit pedantic here, but isn't all evidence, for something that can't be proven mathematically or definitionally, circumstantial?

This article, and some top comments, are shifting the narrative to how we must not "demonize" China, and must work to deal with lab leaks in future, in effect, presuming the assumption that China is unequivocally to blame, covering it with the mere color of reasonableness and fairness. So with such careful narrative massaging, we get to hold onto our desire to pretend China is 100% to blame, but frame it reasonably.

This sort of bias, or propaganda, or narrative massaging, under the guise of reasonableness, and non-demoization is pernicious.

These sentiments are like, we can frame our China-blaming as reasonable, via pretending the assumption[0], so under the guise of "not demonizing China", "giving credit were due but still holding to account" we can hold onto our excuse to blame China, we can pretend the assumption that China is unequivocally to blame.

Bullshit. Unhelpful, bs. If you want to pretend that you are doing this under the guise of actually discovering the cause, you can to satisfy your own need to pretend that, but it's dishonest, and not actually helpful to discovering the cause.

Blaming the enemy of the day for the pestilence of the season is as old as the hills, and makes boring, and biased, history. And makes you all propagating such cant, useful idiots, manipulated puppets.

Also, how is everyone forgetting the childhood lesson that the one so eager to point the finger of blame is often the one with something to hide, so desperate to deflect suspicion away from themselves?

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affirming_the_consequent

Could you please define "right near" ? Are we talking about the lab ~10km away ?

Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention (WHCDC) is 300 m from the market.

Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), with the more highly classified work, is 14 km away, but linked to the PLA Hospital, WHCDC and seafood market on Line 2 of the Wuhan metro:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/coronavirus-and-the-laboratorie... (contains link to google maps)



Would there be any entity that would travel between the two labs?

The idea it spread via the seafood market has been largely debunked even by CCP and WHO -- there were cases before those occurred, there were no traces found there, etc...

And many initial cases having no connection to the market

On the other side we have a dying super power with a carot as president tgat proclaims the opposite is true.

Both sides cant be taken at face value.

It can be pride over shame of incompetence maybe ? the wuhan labs are said to be lacking in standard safety biohazard practices.. so investigating may reveal that.

You gotta remember the culture, and that everything in China is political. You can't just say "oops" and learn the lessons.

Any investigations will have the goal not of finding the truth, but of minimising damage to the political powers that control it.

> Any investigations will have the goal not of finding the truth, but of minimising damage to the political powers that control it.

This seems sufficient to explain why China wouldn't be interested in a foreign investigation into their labs.

That's not a cultural thing, it's a universal human/organizational thing.

Every time when there's a question about China's bad behaviour, someone will point out that it happens everywhere.

Yes, but in a vastly different degree, China goes to an extreme of making it political and look good.

In US, most leaks don't look good. Sure, US tries to make some problems look good, but they don't try very hard (or there's more balance in how an issue is investigated with multiple different parties).

That is true, but the difference is the lack of accountability, which is cultural/societal/political - there are virtually no external forces to counter a potentially dishonest official narrative.

A one party state means that there is no pressure from political opponents (political battles inside the party will never trump the party itself). And there is no pressure from journalists - China has the worst score for press freedom [1] (bar Eritreaa, Turkmenistan and North Korea) with a downward trend over the last decade. If there's no one to hold your feet to the fire, there's little incentive to self-incriminate.

[1] https://rsf.org/en/china

In theory that might be true, and it's the way they teach it in American civics class.

In practice, Xi went on an 'anti-corruption campaign' that purged all his political enemies from power as his first initiative. The exact opposite of what your theory predicts, and actually a stronger cyclical purge than our typical repubs->dems->repubs one.

The campaign was a unique event in decades of party history and the Wikipedia page for the campaign lists 4 different theories for political motives. I'm not sure you can view it as a sign of a culture of healthy accountability.


The point remains that they have politics. It's not some lockstep monolith.

As far as which culture has more healthy accountability.. plenty of corruption to go around on all sides, the comparison would be pretty nuanced.

I'd say that China has a lot more low-level corruption, as a bigger % of their economy, what with large swaths of the country being pretty third-world, but also more accountability for senior people who fuck up badly. They executed a baby food exec who poisoned kids, while nobody saw a day in jail for poisoning the city of Flint. Rick Snyder probably has a nice lobbyist job.

Or, look at Covid -- the mayor of Wuhan and governor of Hubei were sacked over their poor initial handling. Is NY gonna elect a Republican over it? TX elect a Democrat? No way in either case. Maybe we have less accountability in some ways specifically due to the 2-party system's polarization. Arguably Trump lost over it, but the guy literally got covid, right before the election, after downplaying it for 6 months and still got the 2nd most votes in history.

I think it is probably more accurate to say that they have "factionalism," rather than "politics." China has had a one-party system with strikingly low participation (~6% of national population) for the past seven decades.

They have politics, but (in the absence of parties) not partisanship in the narrow sense. Elections and parties aren't politics, they are just key mechanisms of politics in liberal democratic states.

>Or, look at Covid -- the mayor of Wuhan and governor of Hubei were sacked over their poor initial handling. Is NY gonna elect a Republican over it? TX elect a Democrat?

I mean, whoever they replace the mayor of Wuhan and governor of Hubei with will certainly still be members of the Chinese Communist Party. NY and TX might not flip their governing parties, but I'd be much more willing to assure you that the process of choosing their replacements will be more transparent than that for Wuhan and Hubei.

They won't flip parties and no incumbent is ever at serious risk of a primary challenge. You can call it transparent I guess but it's also a foregone conclusion.

Not sure I like how transparency plays out currently in the US: "well, he's a moron but at least he's not republican/democrat"

It’s certainly widespread but the cultural component is important to how strong the reaction is. China certainly isn’t alone in having it but the political stakes are a powerful amplifier.

I don't know about China, but the whole science around COVID seems to have a really strong cultural component that before was totally unfamiliar to me.

When looking at some German Epidemiologist blog I found something like: "Next thing on the list is to proof that government measures worked"

I would have expected something like: "I'm looking at data - and want to find out what helps"

The cultural component is just flavor.

Who suffered consequences for getting Iraq wrong, or the financial crisis? Fortune passes everywhere.

Okay, think about that one a bit: in the U.S., power shifted peacefully and a bunch of Republicans left the Bush administration to the private sector and academia because we have a strong tradition of not pursuing political opponents. That is not true of China’s system and not having separate power hierarchies means that you can’t just say, pull a Katrina, and fail upwards into a well-paid private job with no impact on your family. Nobody’s kids are being banned from going to Yale because their dad was publicly shown as incompetent or dishonest. The more that isn’t true, the more it’s unsurprising to see people have the instinct to reach for political damage control when the problem is still raging.

yeah I agree that political context acts as an amplifier.. every country have it's own flavor but China like USSR is still fond of secrecy and murder..

but what the motivations of us scientists like Peter Daszak who were single handedly responsible for suppressing lab leak theory.

It wasn't the ccp, it was Peter Daszak and co.

If hypothetically a novel virus caused a global pandemic originated within the US they certainly would say the magic words "national security" and refuse to cooperate and take a hardline against whistleblowers if one of their government labs was suspected. The US Government has a pattern of slapping top secret on their mistakes because people getting rightfully mad at them would be "bad for national security".

It is fucked up and not but governments are reflexively secretive so I don't think it says much about China. A superpower or nation-with-delusion-of-superpowerdom would refuse to disclose something like that regardless unless forced by internal political pressure - meaning there isn't anything to read in. They would likely rationalize resistance as "going transparent because enough of the world thinks this opens up rumormongering as a form of intelligence!".

I uh, don’t see anything in this article except fluff? It basically says ‘researchers were in wuhan’.

The original I read had such helpful statements as ‘the chinese government insisted that every outside researcher was accompanies by a chinese partner’, ‘the government took days to procure the data, and when they finally did, a lot was missing’ and ‘a visit to x was denied for unclear reasons’.

I’m sorry, I’m vaguely remembering these, so they may not be 100% accurate.

Then the western researchers made one gloriously ambiguous statement while still in China, and turned about after they left the country.

Also an interesting thing - the WIV used to put all their virus sequences in a publically available database. Around autumn 2019 they took it down they said because people were trying to hack it. I think it's still confidential even to the WHO. I mean if they were worried about hackers they could just publish a copy of the data.

Is there a source for this? My Google-fu isn't turning up anything.

> It emerged last week that the team had not even asked to see the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s online database, locked since September 2019 and taken down altogether in the spring of 2020. That database is known to contain 22,000 samples, mostly of viruses, 16,000 of them from bats. These include eight viruses very closely related to the virus causing the pandemic but whose genome sequences have not been published. They were collected in 2015 from a disused mineshaft, a thousand miles away, where in 2012 six men fell ill with a disease very like Covid.


Except that it was (allegedly) a whole load of BS https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evHFsNSMTLM

Fair points about the one year delay etc., and the initial WHO response. The Chinese government is hardly renowned for transparency. I was just replying to a claim that the investigation hadn't been allowed anywhere near the lab: they did get a cursory visit after a one year delay.

You have to keep in mind laowhy86 isn't exactly know to be impartial

How so? Be specific.

I make no moral judgement about impartiality. Work out the implications yourself.

I make no comment about the content of the video linked in GGP's post.

That being said, the following is publicly known (but unverified by me) and quite apt to affect impartiality (whether under his control or not, whether consciously or not):

1. He was persecuted in China by the authorities and barely escaped with the posessions on his body.

2. He is currently under attack by brigades and agents of the persons he is critical of. The attacks follow standard psychological warfare patterns, including death threats to himself and the family.

Additionally, some speculation from me:

3. He has no journalistic training, both his business partner and his peers in the wider YT/Patreon business don't have either, and to me it seems both content producer and audience have come to a shared understanding that the shows are primarily entertainment and should not be held to the same rigour of journalistic integrity one would expect from e.g. a traditional print periodical. Adv Media's income entirely depends on YT/Patreon, and employing sensationalism – which results in uneven amplification of the reported reality – brings in more money. I haven't seen a completely sober/dry video.

Have you seen their older videos? They had to hold back any criticism, and everything was mostly peachy. Now, the gloves are off, and they do have an ax to grind, unquestionably. However, just because they have to respond to tons of wumaos and tankies doesn't mean what they say isn't true. Furthermore, they do not pretend to be journalists, so I don't think this criticism has integrity.

Their experiences living in China line up with mine. I haven't seen an instance of them compromising their integrity.

You have not understood me well. I did not say that I think "what they say isn't true". I did not say that I think they "pretend to be journalists". You interpret things into my post and attempt to refute that are not there, which is a shame because I took great deliberation to formulate it precisely the way it is. The topic under discussion is impartiality, not integrity! Be mindful of the difference.

> Have you seen their older videos?

I am subscribed since late 2016.

> Their experiences living in China line up with mine.


I see, I agree. I don't think it's a particularly insightful observation to say they are impartial- they have a very clear voice. When I hear someone labelled impartial, I assume that's an attempt to discredit their character.

He says the second WIV job ad is something like help we need someone to deal with a virus emergency. That's not at all what it actually said.

Can you read Chinese, or is that what you read somewhere? I don't remember, so I'll go back and check that sometime.

They had English translations of the job ads in I think The Sun of all places.

eg https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/job-ad-experts-bats...

My impression was that "lab escape" was conflated with "deliberate release" by conspiracy types early on, and once that took hold it became impossible to talk rationally about the accidental escape hypothesis.

What I saw was the opposite: proponents of "came from a lab" were generally clear about distinguishing whether they meant "escape" or "release", while anyone trying to discredit them were the ones conflating the two - by starting with the ambiguous phrase "came from a lab", ignoring the rest of the argument, and then debunking "created + deliberate release".

Maybe people in general don't know about any "good" reasons to keep viruses in labs (eg research for new vaccines), and would reinterpret anything they heard as "intentionally released" or "bioweapon".

So I wonder if, even if trying to be clear about any virus escape probably having been an accident, maybe somewhat many people still would have interpreted it differently (as if it was intentional), and that type of "news" gets more attention, spreads faster, right.

Some of the debunking relied on the analysis showing that it wasn't the result of Gain of Function research. Whereas an accident could certainly be a release of a natural sample they were originally working on.

The original article that our thread here is about cites a Wuhan researchers relief that the wild virus is not genetically close to anythibg they had in their lab. That's a complete contrast to what you are speculating.

My impression is that China and China influenced corporate press in the US conflated "lab escape" with "deliberate release" so as to be able to demonize anyone who was asking serious questions. This is a pretty standard propaganda move, pretend the accuser said something that is adjacent to the real accusation but also relatively absurd, then argue against that. Never address the serious accusation.

Another example of this happening is the corporate press conflating "lab created" with "gene editing" instead of using the broader interpretation which would include things like "gain of function research" (much more likely). This allowed China and the WHO to explicitly claim they did not create the virus (by gene editing) while cautiously never really addressing whether it was created via gain of function research.

What do you call a cabal of American newspapers, tech companies (policing social media), and politicians (attacking Trump/conservatives) simultaneously conflating the two theories (malicious artificial virus versus leak of natural virus), attacking anyone suggesting an accidental lab leak aggressively, and censoring discussion of the same? It isn’t just “China influenced corporate press”. It’s the entirety of the left and left-leaning institutions (news, tech) that voluntarily participated in this mass gaslighting.

People often stir up fears of foreign influence but in the last few years it really has seemed like the biggest sources of inorganic influence and “propaganda” has been domestic.

There has been a massive, concerted effort by the PRC to deflect culpability. I'm a long time china observer/sinophile, and Chinese social media was abuzz with conspiracy theories that the virus was released by the US military before all the nonsense conspiracies started in the States. In review, China has accused the USA, Japan, Italy, Korea, and probably some others I'm forgetting for releasing the virus.

> conflating the two theories (malicious artificial virus versus leak of natural virus)

I have certainly been puzzled by this, for example in a Washington Post article. By conflating the two, lab escape became a "fringe conspiracy theory" rather than a hypothesis that should be investigated.

It seemed like sloppy journalism at best.

The people who work at these institutions were often educated in the best universities in the country. And yet they speak in lockstep fashion in this "sloppy" manner. I think you give them too much credit.

> My impression was that "lab escape" was conflated with "deliberate release" by conspiracy types early on

No, the conflating was done by the media and this is exactly how I know it’s actually the most probable theory. The same thing happened for other few big "accidents", where the media/government were prompt to demonize a particular option and push a less convincing one.

Conspiracy theorists are always going to weave conspiracy theories, though. That doesn't absolve the media or the rest of us from being the adults in the room.

Yes but when when people consistently bring up the mostly unfalsifiable theory that is most associated with conspiracy theories it's basically impossible to separate the conspiracy theorists from everyone else, and sadly much more productive to just not engage.

Wait people can't debunk dumdum conspiracy theories? sad

There's an evolutionary theory of conspiracy theories (that I just made up) that they self-select for plausible unfalsifiability. If a theory has a weakness can be proven incorrect, people will eventually patch it with an ephemeral insinuation that "you know what happened here" and move on.

But some things make no sense at all. The most populated country on the planet - a vast, vast population across the area almost as big as the US - has been inexplicably reporting almost zero infections since like March 10, 2020 (way before any vaccines) while the rest of the world (except small and isolated regions), the richest and presumably the most advanced societies still can't get their shit together, are still FUDdding over the upcoming Nth wave and locking down again (see EU today). How???

When the Chinese GOVT says "stay at home", you-better-stay-at-home. That's the difference with the EU, and don't let me start on the US.

Australia, NZ and many countries in Asia did just fine. You just need a government that has its shit together and a populace that complies with the government. When you're missing one or both of those elements of course you're going to have problems with a pandemic.

So both China's government and 1.4B populace have their shit together, fully solved at ~0 infections pre-vaccine for one full year now, but the US, the EU, the newly non-EU UK, and (to a lesser extent) Japan all failed miserably?

It's not so much about having their shit together as having a terrifying autocratic government of the kind the UK government are still pretending (unconvincingly) they don't dream of emulating.

Also there may well be areas of China where the virus never reached. I gather internal travel isn't massively widespread, and the severity of the lockdowns they imposed exceeded anything seen in the US or UK.

I haven't compared the severity of lockdowns or intensity of travel in China and other countries. I've never been to China. But, I've read that it's a very complex society with tons of different ethnic groups, massive inequality, massive migration waves back to the cities and forth, massive problems like tuberculosis rate 20x the TB rate in the States, so saying how they just lock every single human down seems like a bit of an oversimplification to me. But what do i know.

There is no silver bullet here - China is not exactly your friendly democracy.

Also beware that there are reports of China having started vaccinations long before safety and efficacy results.

The flipside of exponential growth is exponential fall: In the best case if you can eliminate all social contact for 5-14 days the virus is essentially gone. But very few Western democracies are able to agree on super strict lockdowns, and if they do, they need their neighbouring countries to follow.

The difference is that the US, EU and UK are highly individualistic democracies, where governments are really weak at enforcing anything. It's no surprise that they suck at handling disease compared to societies with effective authoritarian governance.

Individuals who don't care exist everywhere, but in China government can force them to do the right thing. In the West it can't do that easily. I guess it's the price of individual freedoms.

Do you even remember the early responses from these countries? If you do that does not sound that unlikely

I remember China had uncontrolled community spread for about a month and a half before even admitting there was a new virus, let alone taking action (earliest confirmed case was backtracked to mid-November).

After china finally admitted it and spoke out warnings, america did not admit its dangerious for months to come, some european countries basically run the same shit campaign. Splitting society more than anything else in recent history

If you disobey the CCP, you won't stay around for long. Also they have ironclad grip on the press, so it's no surprise that they are reporting zero cases. Not to put a tinfoil hat on, but it's not exactly like the Soviet Union, and China in the past, haven't been known for prettyfing their news.

It took NYC, which is much richer than any part of China, 100 years to build the Second Avenue subway line, whereas China can build several new subway systems every decade.

Wealth doesn’t necessarily translate to organizational agility.

Some sick people had the doors to their homes welded shut by the government in China so that they wouldn't spread COVID.

Not just sick people. Videos showed how this was done on entire apartment buildings, if you happened to live in one you’re out of luck even if you didn’t get infected.

FWIW my office works closely with an office in Nanjing. They've all been back in the office for ages (and we can see the conference room on the video call). If they were having outbreaks like the rest of the world, there would be bodies piling up like mad. They tried to hide the bodies back in Jan / Feb 2020 and failed, so I don't think they're hiding bodies now. Which means there aren't any bodies; which means their lockdown must have actually been effective at containing the virus.

The rest of us could have done what Taiwan did, and almost entirely avoided becoming infected. Or we could have done what China did -- clamp down hard for three weeks and then go back to normal.

A lot of the area is countryside and is to large extent ignored. Read articles on one-child policy, which was mostly followed in large cities only and resulted in millions of “extra” children growing up essentially outside of the system with no access to healthcare or education.

It seems plausible that infection stats from deep country are not faithfully reported or even collected. That said, what they did do is really complicate domestic travel, which means infections stay contained as a result.

With this logic you can criminalize all of Chinese success...how convenient...

Absolve, no. Explain... maybe.

That's been my impression too fwiw. There's now a large segment of people who are primed to immediately accept the conspiracy theory over the Hanlon's Razor principle:

"Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity (or accident)".

Sure. We could also invoke Occam's Razor.

The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

A coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan China miles away from a Virology Lab that studies coronavirus and has in the past exercised gain of function research on cornoviruses specifically with novel lung ACE2 bind may have had a lab accident and a live virus broke out if the lab.

The problem is the media labeling common sense as conspiracy and conflating the two.

Exactly. If there were an Anthrax outbreak in Ft. Detrick, MD, everyone would be immediately assuming the lab was involved. Wuhan is the Ft. Detrick of Coronaviruses.

I wrote this on 2020-01-24 (when that speculation was fairly new), and wonder why that sort of simple statistical argument has rarely been made explicit:

It certainly is an interesting coincidence that the only lab in China that can deal with it happens to be in Wuhan. The question is, how big of a coincidence. If the disease hit a random person randomly uniformly anywhere in China, the probability that it would have happened in Wuhan is a bit less than 1% (as there are about 10+m people in Wuhan, and 1400+m people in China).

If you think it might have struck randomly any city above a million people in China uniformly, it’s also roundabout 1% (as there are about 100 of those).

So this is by no means proof that something fishy happened, but it is significant enough to warrant investigation.

If you assume that this could only have happened in a city with, say, more than 5m people, Wuhan is one of about 15 to 20 of those (so we're just above the "usual" 5% significance threshold).

Still, an independent investigation of that lab seems warranted. Of course it’s China, so unlikely to happen...

(I must say that I think the comment has stood the test of time, so far.)


If this was an attack it would be similar to being locked in a crowded elevator, getting into a fight with another passenger, and deciding to throw a hand grenade at your enemy instead of taking any other approach.

Many countries have shown they are stupid/shortsighted enough to do this, history makes this very clear.

Study the actions of SAIMR in Africa and their plot to drive Africans to extinction using the AIDS virus and fake vaccines, purely for the sake of controlling African resources...that was the UK/US/SA/etc... govts and IA at work...they even assassinated a UN secretary general in the process.

I wish man/nation-states/intelligence-agencies were as wise as you assume but history says no.

That's kind of my point. Your examples still show planning into the selection of the attack vector and preparing for its effects... even if this is some 4D-chess to move the US off of the global supply chain, there are cheaper ways (and better germs) to do it.

Interesting that UK/US/SA always the "bad" actor in your posts? Axe to grind? Couldn't this just as easily be construed as a 4D-chess move by China/Russia/SeaLand/MoonPeople to weaken the US economy since pandemic conditions naturally favor governments that can enforce stricter lockdowns? At the end of the day this type of speculation is a waste of time without substantiation.

I can't ascribe specific motives to the actors but it is clear (has been clear for the past century) that large western economies/powers know exactly what they will lose with China rising.

>Interesting that UK/US/SA always the "bad" actor in your posts? Axe to grind?

China doesn't have a history of attacking Africans (ref. to my earlier example) or foreign countries in general for that matter...I specify this group (UK/US/SA/etc...) because they have a long history of putting economic interests over human life (especially foreign/indigenous life), continue to show that propensity to this day (zero sum mentality), and have deployed bioweapons around the world at various points over the centuries, in most cases, specifically for economic reasons.

History says the shoe fits...not too long ago the US was testing bioweapons on their own unaware domestic population, older Californians are aware of this history.

There were two incidents at that facility. The first led to a building being condemned.

The second was a more nebulous investigation into the yet unsolved 2001 anthrax attacks.


Yup, though to nitpick, Occam's Razor actually says that the explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely the correct one. Subtle but important difference. Otherwise, /agree, especially with the media being confused.

Why do people rush to differentiate, e.g, the diffs bt correlation and causation, but never question Occam's razor (I'm officially leading the charge to cease its capitalization), which isn't science, isn't a law, but merely a design principle.

It's been treated as an irrefutable endpoint at best and as a spell at worst. I find it a convenient false authority for lazy thinking.

Consider a statement like: "an expressive programming language is necessary to manage a resource distribution system such as a food production, processing, and delivery system." One could quote Occam and say "nah let's hunt and gather," but how is that consistent with our values? Ergo, Occam's quote is a selectively applied false authority. We need to use our heads and put it to bed!

I invoked Occam's Razor when I wondered what was more likely: that it was spread via a wet market or escaped from a lab with biosecurity protocols staffed by professionals?

Of course I still don't know and my ideas regarding the latter have changed because of this article but I'm now pretty sure that I don't have enough information to invoke Occam's Razor in any kind of insightful or effective way.

When the virus broke out there was an early paper, later retracted, which tried to link the virus with engineered HIV carrier strains.

Undoubtedly after looking at the sequences of that paper, there were some alignments, but how they were structured doesn't point to being engineered, but rather of co-infection, which did not match the conclusions of the paper.

What they do actually indicate might even be more politically inflammatory. That the virus evolved out of a recombination event in an HIV infected person infected with a SARS-like virus, and repackaged as a new SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Or conflated with that by people using it as a straw man to debunk more likely scenarios, your pick.

It happens in the comments here still, and not necessarily a malice. A kneejerk reaction to any claim amplified by the former administration, even if it's "the sky is blue". Same reason many otherwise sane folks mourned Soleimani.

Nobody was mourning Soleimani. This is a ridiculous straw man. Soleimani's assassination was problematic on a number of fronts, and people were right to criticize it.

Plenty were mourning Soleimani, and Twitter just couldn't shut up for a while about how the world is on the way to WW3 over this. It however turned out to be perhaps the most useful FP action of that administration.

If there was a lab leak.. The resistance to independent investigation, the disappearing of doctors who reported on this early on and such makes them just as guilty as if it was done on purpose.

At this juncture maliciousness or negligence is just splitting hairs. How they handled the negligence might as well have been malicious.

Indeed. The virus itself may not have been weaponized, but the aftermath most certainly was.

Don't sanction for the mistake, sanction for the nontransparency.

> Don't sanction for the mistake, sanction for the nontransparency.

Sanction the CPC for non-transparency and their constant lies to their and the world's population. Demand liability.

It's not eerily prescient at all. It has been known a long time and the subject of much research that viruses jumping from bats to humans is one of the most likely, and most dangerous sources of new infectious diseases in humans.

> [...] China has clearly contributed valuable research into bat coronaviruses. They had all the motivation to look into these after the first deadly SARS. I think it’s silly to presume CCP engineered a virus as part of some warfare strategy, or even to vilify/sanction them for a lab leak if it indeed was the cause (mistakes happen). [...]

Maybe it‘s just me, but I do not have enough trust in humans that they will say „hey shit happens, do just better next time“. I mean, we are pretty good today in blaming others just so someone gets blamed.

Its not inappropriate. They know they are dealing with characters in the US govt who have a track record of cooking up stories about Aluminium tubes and WMDs to push the herd in whatever direction they want.

My naive reasoning on why China didn’t create COVID-19 with the intention of using it is that I suspect (unburdened by education or the thought process) that engineering a virus is as difficult as coming up with a vaccine or treatment. If you are developing some kind of super virus to shut down the world economy and then immunize your own people to take advantage of the situation, wouldn’t you have the cure ready to go?

Now, an unintentional leak would be theoretically possible with these initial intentions but then wouldn’t China still have a leg up on developing treatments? If so, wouldn’t we have seen that in their vaccine development?

Of course you this is all uneducated speculation. Quite possible that engineering a deadly and very infectious virus is easier than creating a cure or a vaccine by orders of magnitude.

From what I read, it’s only about researchers looking to publish something interesting rather than some complicated planned CCP plans.

It’s rather simple to do the so called ’gain of function’, you let the virus have it’s run with bat cells and add lots of human cells in petri with them. Because there is no immune system, the virus have not much to stop it. Slowly it adapt to human cells, you can change the type of cells so it can adapt to other receptors and so on. Those articles where published before the whole crisis erupted.

While there's some use to gain of function studies (they give us what genetic markers to look for for particularly human-adapted pathogens), researchers have been concerned about laboratory accidents for a long time. Like, it was a keynote talk at a conference I was at in 2008, which estimated a GoF study had an expected number of deaths of, IIRC, 1500. Every one - obviously in the form of a long-tailed but highly consequential outcome.

One of the keys there is that's not uniquely Chinese as a problem. Those researchers were talking about American labs.

Thanks, that makes a lot of sense.

It's not about creating a virus from scratch, but taking an existing virus and performing gain-of-function research to select for certain things (like transmissibility).

Also doesn't necessarily have to be that, maybe the guy who went in the cave to collect samples got sick on the way home. Or maybe some guy harvesting guano for his farm got sick on the way home. The only thing we know for sure is we'll probably never know, and also that the CCP is sketchy

I'll not conclude anything, but I will say that engineering a virus is an order of magnitude easier than a vaccine.

It's a pure mapping problem. There are thousands of known viruses that affect humans. But most viruses don't have thousands of vaccines.

Additionally, there are constraints. The only contraint on a virus is that is needs to reproduce, and cause harm. Any kind of harm will do, and any kind of spreading is fine. But the vaccine needs to not hurt the person (at least, don't hurt them worse than the virus would).

Even if both processes involved similar techniques, the constraints on virus production are more favorable to the researcher than vaccine production.

To get back to whether China or any nation would intentionally create a biological weapon, however...: most industrialized countries realized a long time ago that bioweapons tends to be a bad strategy. Most western countries stopped their bioweapons programs back in the 70s for the simple reason that there was no reasonable use-case for a bioweapon that isn't done better by simply bombing something (or more recently-hacking their infrastructure). Bioweapons are strategically useful for small nations, and terrorist groups.

> But the vaccine needs to not hurt the person

People underappreciate just how complicated and time-consuming this is.

Immune systems are terrifying things, on trigger alert (they have to be!), and you have to tickle it just right without making everything explode.

an immediate immunization of your population would drive to a raise of suspicion and if someone found china guilty of that, would mean a world war against them.

Given how many people died of the virus VS how many would die in a world war that seems like a highly illogical course of action.

Pearl Harbour killed 2,403 Americans [0].

We're at 500,000 now with the virus, I think?

That's more Americans than have been killed in all the 20th Century wars combined [1].



By that sort of reasoning, when a nation rolls tanks into your borders, you should just let them do it because more people would die if you fight back.

If a nation actually did that (release a bioweapon and pre-immunize their own citizens)... well World War is probably overselling it, but I could certainly imagine contained conflicts, sinking of cargo vessels, shooting down of planes, targeted assassinations... etc. It's very likely that every nation would have highly vested interests in making sure that whoever authorized that weapon was removed from this planet.

> Quite possible that engineering a deadly and very infectious virus is easier than creating a cure or a vaccine by orders of magnitude.

"Moderna designed its coronavirus vaccine in 2 days" was a headline I saw. And it's been approved by the FDA. So that seems demonstrably false.

Multiple companies have come up with a vaccine by now, too.

To be fair, "designing" a vaccine is not the same as testing it to show that it is acceptably safe and effective in humans. That said, the time from design to deployment was amazingly short.

I know my argument is not solid at all. But you seeing a headline that is demonstrably not what we are even talking about does not convince me. If it took two days to create a cure and manufacture a billion doses we would be all fine now. Clearly nobody had a leg up on anyone in the race to a vaccine otherwise someone would have come out with “we have the vaccine and all the doses ready to go” in mid 2020.

China is demonized not because of an accident (if it was one). Even if it's confirmed that a lab accident was the cause, China holds the blame for hiding the truth, telling the world it's all okay, and arresting people that dared to speak out (even causing their deaths). No matter what was the origin, China is responsible for the outbreak.

Btw, I don't think we can ever find out the truth. It's been over a year, and China has all the time to clean up and conceal every piece of evidence. The WHO scientific team's visit to Wuhan is no difference to investigating a murder scene a year after the event, with the murderer living in it all that time. Nothing but a joke.

I couldn't agree more. There is so much evidence of China suppressing information I don't understand how so many people dismiss their role in spreading the virus beyond their borders.

They had a choice to make: country-wide lockdown and travel ban or lie about it and make it spread worldwide. The former would leave their economy in a disadvantaged state while the latter would level the playing field for the rest of the world and give China opportunity to even earn some dough in the process (PTE sales). Now, this may be a cynical view but so are China's leaders. If you're someone who strongly believes this scenario could not have transpired, you're just naive.

China did a harder lockdown than any other country has done. Right from the beginning. Took an immense toll to its economy, right from the beginning. A WHO team was there investigating and gathering information on public health from the beginning.

I'm sorry, but in this case, China is the country who told the rest of the world what to do and the west, with its superiority mentality over the east, ignored it and got a while year economy down the drain.

In my book, conspiracies will always make their way to those who want to believe them.

China pissed and moaned when the WHO was considering recommending banning Chinese air traffic in precaution. Then swiftly banned Western air traffic when the shoe was on the other foot.

Many such examples exist. China did not lead by example, at all. What a strange take.

The CCP didn't do it right from the beginning. It took them almost two months to even acknowledge the virus was spreading between humans and was dangerous.

All they did was try to downplay it and cover it up, until it had spread not only throughout China, but the rest of the world. That's despite having systems in place for exactly the purpose of catching viruses like covid-19 early and quickly.

It's a great example of why ineffective bureaucracy, combined with a bad system of governance and a culture where saving face is hugely important, is harmful to humanity.

Yeah, and the US took it almost 2 more month to do the same, so no difference here...

Which western doctors were arrested for raising awareness about covid?

I like how china's over the top, authoritarian measures, sometimes including sealing people in their homes physically, is idolized by people in the west.

We could have double the death rate and I still wouldn't concede this. And I wear a mask, wife and I wfh. Kid is still at home.

Please don’t wear your wife

Seems the same behaviour with any other country. Can you name just one that would behave different? So this is no accusation but just business as usual.

Besides, why at all trying to blame anyone on this? It's a natural disaster that could happen to anyone anywhere. The real culprit is, that as long as the wealthy don't try to vaccinate everyone in this world as quickly as possible, the virus still has potential to mutate to sth. where current vaccines don't protect against ..

Which other governments arrested & jailed people for reporting on the outbreak?


Minor nitpick, but it would be more accurate to use CCP in place of China in this comment.

> No matter what was the origin, China is responsible for the outbreak.

Even if thats the case its still the shitty response in the west, ignoring any chinese advice, that made this a global thing.

>a lab outbreak could have happened in the United States and many places in the world.

not that outbreak. US stopped doing that GoF research and funded it in those Wuhan labs instead - basically like any other outsourcing of environmentally dangerous manufacturing/etc. to China. My pet conspiracy theory is that as part of that GoF the virus was tested on humans there - say some prisoners happily volunteering for a couple weeks break from hard labor to spend it in a nice hospital with a "flu".

And if the virus had totally natural - accidental freak of Nature - origin, why would you give 4 year prison to a journalist who was covering the beginning of the pandemic in Wuhan?


The suppression of any information is totally in-line with some deep f&ck-up and/or government potentially looking very bad if real picture sees the light of day. Even Chernobyl wasn't suppressed to that degree.

> And if the virus had totally natural - accidental freak of Nature - origin, why would you give 4 year prison to a journalist who was covering the beginning of the pandemic in Wuhan?

I really wouldn't attach that much meaning to the prison sentence handed out. It is entirely in line with the CCP's behavior in the past. They strongly repress any information or people they perceive as causing them to lose face or look bad.

Not saying this is a conspiracy, but it does make it easier to forcefully cover up a conspiracy if they always react harshly to even small "infractions".

US lab shut down temporarily due to inadequate waste sterilization. They were infecting monkeys with ebola? https://wjla.com/news/local/cdc-shut-down-army-germ-lab-heal...

There is no requirement that bats be transported to Wuhan. It's close to a known bat virus, and that's all we know. There are local bats in Wuhan, needless to say. Other species can easily be involved. The truth is that there is nothing particularly surprising about the way this virus evolved. Fundamentally this is a pandemic like any other. They happen in some species or another every year.

And that, more than anything else, is why we should be suspicious of "exotic" theories like human intervention. It's an extraordinary claim, and it requires extraordinary proof. You seem to be arguing the opposite, when Occam is clear that we should be betting on natural evolution.

It's not just that the closest known virus is a bat virus. The closest known virus, RaTG13 was discovered in a cave in Yunnan, and brought to Wuhan by WIV researchers where it was sequenced, and probably other experiments done on it. WIV has also changed its story twice about the history of RaTG13, first, the date of first sequencing (They initially claimed 2020, and then changed their story to 2018), and second, they did not disclose for months that it was in fact the same virus as BtCoV/4991, which they had previously published a partial sequence of.

Transportation by lab personnel is the only way that RaTG13 is known to have come to Wuhan. Any animal transport is possible but only speculative. This entirely flips what should be the assumed scenario vis a vis Occam's razor.

Is it Occam's razor?

The Bayesian probability suggests the odds that it would evolve by chance AND first become an issue right next to one of the top three bat virus research centers in the world are pretty slim.

It would be like a new mosquito disease first being an issue in human population next the CDC headquarters in Atlanta instead of somewhere in Africa of South America. Sure - there are mosquitos everywhere - but the chance that a new disease would start in Atlanta are very slim.

To me another simple explanation is that the disease was first identified near the labs because it is a lab that deals with viruses. I may be mistaken, but I recall it as one of the top ones in the world that virologists from around the world go to.

Also waste water samples from Spain and Italy show COVID-19 much earlier than reported in Wuhan.

Spain, March 2019, 1 sample https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-spain-...

Italy, 18. December 2019 https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSL8N2DW1YK

Plus COVID-19 positie blood samples in France from Nov/Dec 2019. That alone is reason for me to believe that the Wuhan lab has nothing to do with it. It just so happened that Wuhan was the first major outbreak.

That being said, I don't know how the origin would help us right now. We have working vaccines. So the solution is to push vaccinations as fast as possible. The origin of the virus isn't that important right now.

1 sample isn't conclusive enough to form an opinion, lab contamination is more likely. It's embarrassing they even released that information without further analysis.

Exactly - people may very well be mixing up cause and effect.

It could be that a precursor was already spreading prior to the major outbreak but only detected when it hit Wuhan because so many coronavirus experts were concentrated in that area.

If I were to build a bat virus research center... i'd put it close to where bats are. So these aren't independent.

But your point is still a good one

Bats are everywhere.

The specific bats that host the ancestor of COVID-19 are quite a bit far away from those labs. The disease was first noticed near the labs.

Looking at the mechanics of the thing¹, I'd put a lab leak on similar odds of some village near the bats being infected and spreading it from there.

1 - I know nothing of their policy and competence to judge those.

> The specific bats that host the ancestor of COVID-19 are quite a bit far away from those labs.

This is wildly misstating the science. That bat virus is a relative, not an "ancestor". And it's not known to be limited to those "specific, far away" bats, that's merely where it was documented. Believe it or not we don't routinely test every animal species for an exhaustive catalogue of virus variants. It's just shotgun science.

And as it happens there was a close relative to covid found on the same continent in a species group that exists in a broad continuum basically everywhere. A bat-to-bat transmission to Wuhan is a bleedingly obvious hypothesis.

And yet we have to talk about all this Andromeda Strain nonsense anyway, based largely on jingoist US politics.

There are Covid cases in Europe from November and December 2019. Just saying.

One should also note that being detected and actually starting somewhere are two different things.

"Has this been causing small, stochastically limited outbreaks for some time before we picked it up?" is a question that has dogged several recent outbreaks.

> The Bayesian probability suggests the odds that it would evolve by chance

lol care to share those numbers

It is exotic to claim that the virus was engineered by humans, but that is not what this article (or myself) are claiming. Just that there is a lab outbreak.

Researchers have gone to a particular region of China and otherwise gone to great effort to find these particular bat viruses. I agree it is possible that they could be ignorant of the fact that the virus is in their own backyard. But it must a lower probability event that people got infected by such city bats given that we already know for certain the labs were transporting the bat viruses directly. Additionally, I would be surprised if they have not been testing nearby bats for such viruses since the outbreak happened. If they got a match it would be highly publicized.

> But it must a lower probability event that people got infected by such city bats

There have been examples of bats excrement contaminating fruits on fields as a transmission chain. Accounting for these, often undiscovered, interactions is extremely difficult in terms of probability.

> we already know for certain the labs were transporting the bat viruses directly

In research from 5+ years ago, research which warned exactly about the fact how the virus already had overcome critical barriers to infect human cells [0]. A very plausible interpretation here can also be that said research was a warning about things to come, and is now mistaken as the original cause for it.

[0] https://www.nature.com/news/engineered-bat-virus-stirs-debat...

I suspect that it may have been "bred." That is, engineered in the same way that dog breeds are engineered, which isn't so exotic.

> In 2015, an international team including two scientists from the institute [Wuhan Institute of Virology] published successful research on whether a bat coronavirus could be made to infect HeLa. The team engineered a hybrid virus, combining a bat coronavirus with a SARS virus that had been adapted to grow in mice and mimic human disease. The hybrid virus was able to infect human cells.[11][12]


One of the sources for that part is: "A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence" [0]

The other source is a nature news article [1] which has by now following disclaimer:

> Editors’ note, March 2020: We are aware that this story is being used as the basis for unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered. There is no evidence that this is true; scientists believe that an animal is the most likely source of the coronavirus.

It also states at the end:

> Without the experiments, says Baric, the SHC014 virus would still be seen as not a threat. Previously, scientists had believed, on the basis of molecular modelling and other studies, that it should not be able to infect human cells. The latest work shows that the virus has already overcome critical barriers, such as being able to latch onto human receptors and efficiently infect human airway cells, he says. “I don't think you can ignore that.” He plans to do further studies with the virus in non-human primates, which may yield data more relevant to humans.

So it might just as well be that these experiments warned us about that potential, and now that it actually happened, some people interpret the original warning as the cause.

[0] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4797993/

[1] https://www.nature.com/news/engineered-bat-virus-stirs-debat...

Right. There is a very reasonable explanation for the work they were doing. They were trying to modify existing non harmful viruses, to determine if it could evolve into a harmful virus. In order to do this, they created a harmful virus. As long as the biocontainment is perfect, this is potentially useful research.

Unfortunately, SARS-CoV-2 is a very contagious virus, so it's hard to contain. A lot of ink has been spilled about the Wuhan BSL-4 lab, but these viruses were only considered to be a BSL-3 pathogen, and were handled in Baric's lab at UNC in their BSL-3. I would assume that they would also have been handled at the WIV's BSL-3. There had been reports of biocontainment lapses at the WIV, and there have been a number of lab escapes of various pathogens including SARS at other Chinese labs.

The fact that they didn't find an intermediate host after more than a year of search should tell you something.

As someone who has colleagues who work in exactly this, it's not particularly surprising. Viral ecology is hard.

It tells you that that kind of analysis is extraordinarily difficult. How many documented three+ species viral evolution paths can you cite from the literature?

It took nearly a century to somewhat establish the geographical origin of the Spanish flu and even these results are still a bit controversial to this day [0].

The reality is that epidemiology is not a straight forward nor simple field of research, finding concrete and solid answers is usually way more difficult than most people assume when they want answers to point fingers.

[0] https://academic.oup.com/emph/article/2019/1/18/5298310

what I'm saying is that until the closest relative to SARS-CoV-2 is known to be exactly the same virus that was researched in Wuhan institute of virology, it's obvious that lab leak should be number 1 hypothesis. That wouldn't be so, if covid started in Beijing or Nanjing. Or if Wuhan wouldn't be home to one of the two BSL–4 labs in China. And the only lab to my mind that investigated SARS-CoV-2 closest known relative before the outbreak. But since all those facts are true, I really have a hard time considering other hypotheses.

SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in Wuhan, but it's not that clear that it's where it originated. The genetic divergence between RaTG13 and SARS-CoV-2 is explained with about 20 years of natural evolution, which puts the common ancestor somewhere in late 2000s, and given that bats migrate, the ancestor occurred potentially anywhere in Eurasia or even Africa.

Post-hoc analysis of waste water and patient samples in Europe shows that it was circulating in Europe by mid-late 2019, way before the patient 0 in Wuhan.

So the leak hypothesis, while feasible, would have to address why the virus was seemingly abroad before it became a problem in Wuhan itself.

Of course it's a reasonable hypothesis, but putting it as number 1 is kind of reframing the whole picture.

"Post-hoc analysis of waste water and patient samples in Europe shows that it was circulating in Europe by mid-late 2019, way before the patient 0 in Wuhan."

now this is what's called a conspiracy theory.

> ROME (Reuters) - The new coronavirus was circulating in Italy in September 2019, a study by the National Cancer Institute (INT) of the Italian city of Milan shows, signaling that it might have spread beyond China earlier than thought.


It is plausible that the virus was spread before recognized and treated as a global pandemic. Few flights were banned for months. Chinese tourists were in Italy up until the lockdowns.

But very often this "appeared outside China" is deflection and falsely invoked. Mind you that Reuters write: "it might have spread beyond China earlier than thought". Not: It came from Italy to China, and only became problematic in Wuhan. Every time China is reluctantly forced to move back the timeline on its patient 0, it starts pushing a narrative of COVID outside of China just a few months before their patient 0. It is a tiring use of an obvious and plausible bait-and-switch.

We already knew that Western expats and their relations in Wuhan got viral pneumonia in November 2019, while by January 2020, China did not consider it wise to inform the world of human-to-human transmission.

> We already knew that Western expats and their relations in Wuhan got viral pneumonia in November 2019, while by January 2020, China did not consider it wise to inform the world of human-to-human transmission.

We now know about viral pneumonia in November 2019, but hindsight is a very comfortable position to judge from.

Going from that to establishing that by January 2020 China should know everything about the virus and disease is reaching quite a bit.

That whole argument reminds me way too much of that propaganda narrative by Fox citing a WHO tweet [0] about one preliminary Chinese investigation not finding evidence for H2H, in that particular investigation, to turn that around into: "WHO and China say there is no H2H!".

But a lack of evidence in one particular investigation is not the same as claiming there's no H2H.

H2H isn't just some binary thing, it's a spectrum of vectors that take time and effort to properly establish, that's why all the official recommendations from the WHO at the time was to treat this as very H2H.

[0] https://twitter.com/who/status/1217043229427761152?lang=en

It was not hindsight. Those expats were interviewed ("locked in Wuhan") and broke the "official" timeline.

In my mind, it can not be excused that China either: did not know about H2H, when the West, as an outsider, was well aware of the raging crisis. Or worse, it did know, but tried to stall. I am not giving China the benefit of incompetence, so in my mind, it is worse.

I did not say: China claimed there is no H2H. I said: China did not thought it was wise to inform of H2H. I agree that these are different, and that Fox pushed a narrative there.

It takes time to establish patient 0, and find epidemiological explanations. But they had doctors falling severely sick at start of December! That should ring a bell about H2H!

> official recommendations from the WHO at the time was to treat this as very H2H

No, WHO sat in China's lap, and tweeted out your quote tweet: No strong evidence for H2H. We had to trust that China could keep this internal, without outside help, but they completely botched one of the basic things to figure out. WHO official messaging was: Do not wear masks, only wear one if you are ill, when China was already buying up protective equipment en masse.

> It was not hindsight. Those expats were interviewed ("locked in Wuhan") and broke the "official" timeline.

Do you have anything concrete on that? Because right now I'm drawing a blank what you are even trying to allude to.

But for additional context I should point out that in November 2019 China also recorded an outbreak of the pneumonic plague [0], something that gets conflated a lot with the COVID-19 narrative.

> I said: China did not thought it was wise to inform of H2H. I agree that these are different, and that Fox pushed a narrative there.

How is it different when you are pretty much exactly pushing the Fox narrative there? You stipulate that China knew about H2H in January and allegedly had it well established but didn't share it with the rest of the world, where is your actual evidence for that?

Sounds a lot like that whole Taiwan e-mail to WHO mess where Taiwan claimed to have warned the WHO about H2H, when the actual e-mail didn't say anything like that.

> But they had doctors falling severely sick at start of December! That should ring a bell about H2H!

"Ringing bells" is not the same as having solid and established H2H vectors. Which, as I mentioned before, is not something that's binary. Something isn't just "H2H or not", there are different vectors and different gradients, establishing them is not easy, that's why even one year after the fact we still struggle to fully map out transmission routes and vectors.

You can't hand-wave such a complicated problem away when it persists to this day.

> No, WHO sat in China's lap, and tweeted out your quote tweet: No strong evidence for H2H.

This is 100% the Fox news interpretation. The WHO tweet was about that one particular Chinese investigation, all it said how that particular investigation didn't yield evidence.

Which is not the same as saying "there is no H2H", interpreting it like that is misinterpreting very concise language on purpose while ignoring literally every other release from the WHO at the time. Case in point: Here are the WHO interim guidance for laboratory testing of human suspect cases of NCoV infection from 10 January 2020 [1].

Read trough them and you will realize that the WHO was and is very vocal about respiratory transmission and how to best prevent it. That's only one out of the many WHO releases at the time that warn about the very real, but yet having to be established with actual evidence, H2H nature of the virus.

> Do not wear masks, only wear one if you are ill, when China was already buying up protective equipment en masse.

This is once again completely wrong, WHO messaging was to prioritize masks for at risk groups and HCWs due to the massive mask shortages at the time. Case in point: Here are the WHO's interim guidance on use of masks from 29 January 2020 [2]

It's astounding that over one year after the fact this kind of misinformation is still circulated, out of all the places here on HN.

The reality is that the WHO was a bit slow to react for one simple reason: They have become way more reluctant about "crying wolf" after the 2009 pandemic didn't turn into the deadly thing they feared it would. Which back then resulted in wide-spread criticism of the WHO for allegedly being "alarmist" when the multi-million death toll didn't actually materialize.

Trying to turn this into "WHO in pocket of China!" is just trying to tie this whole narrative into the current US foreign policy context of antagonizing China. That's also why US officials were among the first [3] to globally spread conspiracy theories about this being an engineered Chinese bio-weapon escaped from a lab.

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/nov/18/china-records-...

[1] https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/330374/WHO-...

[2] https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/documents/advice-on-...

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/17/business/media/coronaviru...

> This is once again completely wrong, WHO messaging was to prioritize masks

A tale of two billboards:



> bit slow to react for one simple reason: They have become way more reluctant about "crying wolf" after the 2009 pandemic didn't turn into the deadly thing they feared it would.

That is not the simple reason you think it is. It is the WHO, who should prioritize world health above all, not worry about "crying wolf" when every graph with heavily underreported numbers showed that COVID was going to crash Swine Flu and leave it as nothing but a memory. But they were slow to react, due to politics.

When the CDC was confronted with an outbreak of Hantavirus in 1993, they found some relations to Indian tribes, and news media picked up on that. This lead to panic and fear of Indian tribes. They learned lessons there that they now implementing.

> This is 100% the Fox news interpretation

Just because US media is ugly, showtime, broken, and partisan, does not give you the right to beat down anything when it happens to align with one of your hated "news" channels. But perhaps CNBC is more to your liking: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/02/china-delayed-releasing-coro...

Yes, there is a logical difference between: "China knew masks would help. China communicated that masks would not help, but started hoarding protective equipment" and "China knew masks would help. China communicated nothing about that to the WHO or the world, but started hoarded protective equipment."

We saw that unwillingness to communicate with masks and H2H. (The doctors who treated the doctors who fell ill in start of December, treating pneumonia patients, started falling ill mid-end December, can you not hear the bell toll?). We saw blatant lying when China was fighting interdomestic flight of 5 million people from Wuhan, threatening to nail them on the pillars of shame for eternity, while actively instructing the WHO to say there was zero reason to ban flights from China. This was repeated every meeting, alongside the "decreasing window to act", up until having to call a pandemic (all technical qualifications were already there, this was not WHO acting rapidly and decisively). Mike Ryan was far from happy with the pressures applied on the WHO.

Not talking about the expats, as I realized there are some things too dangerous to speculate about. You can ignore that.

> > This is once again completely wrong, WHO messaging was to prioritize masks

> A tale of two billboards:

And? Many countries had the progression of "only health workers" to "only health workers and people with symptoms" to "everyone" according to the available supply, even though many others skipped the mid step.

> But very often this "appeared outside China" is deflection and falsely invoked. Mind you that Reuters write: "it might have spread beyond China earlier than thought". [...] We already knew that Western expats and their relations in Wuhan got viral pneumonia in November 2019

Let's backtrack a bit.

First patient in France confirmed to be in late December 2019[0].

Retrospective wastewater analysis in Brazil shows the virus was present from November 2019 onwards, 3 months before their first reported case.[1]

Further down the line we have SARS-CoV-2's RdRP specific antibodies found during retrospective testing of samples of 111 (of 959) healthy volunteers of a lung cancer study in Italy[1]; samples taken in October 2019, meaning they got infected at least at some point in September 2019, 4-5 months before the first detected case. These antibodies also target RaTG13's RdRP, given that this protein is identical in both.

Even further down the line, and widely interpretable, we have the Barcelona case:

> "Coronavirus traces found in March 2019 sewage sample, Spanish study shows. The discovery of virus genome presence so early in Spain, if confirmed, would imply the disease may have appeared much earlier than the scientific community thought." [2]

The paper is here [3]. The fact that IP2/IP4 fragments of the RdRP gene are perfect match means that at least a virus very similar to SARS-CoV-2 (and RaTG13, its closest relative) was present in Spain back in March 2019.

It's not conclusive, as other markers tested negative, but it's also true that these other markers tend to degrade faster (for example, N1 marker wasn't detectable in May 25 2020, despite the pandemic ongoing). But this fact also rules out a case of sample contamination, because then N1 would have been detectable. It's also remarkable that the positive sample is from 2 weeks after the World Mobile Congress, leading to a self-contained outbreak hypothesis.

Now take all that information and combine it with the fact that no trace of SARS-CoV-2 has been found on any sample from Wuhan before December 1st, 2019.

While there's high probability that SARS-CoV-2 appeared within Chinese borders, mainly because the closest viral relatives have been known to live there (or Japan and South East Asia, if you ignore RaTG13), it's still highly speculative.

What is clear is that everything points in the direction of Wuhan, and the Huanan Seafood Market in particular, being just the first detected superspreading event, and the WIV was the reason why it was detected first, rather than the source of the virus itself.

[0] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-france...

[1] https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200701/SARS-CoV-2-circul...

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-italy-tim...

[3] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-spain-...

[4] https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.06.13.20129627v...

Interesting, thanks. Lots of information there, and this should all be investigation better.

Find and concrete answers is especially hard when the investigated actively hides and deflects.

Occam might say there's a bat coronavirus appeared in Wuhan, now where's the nearest source of bat coronaviruses?

I'm not sure that's terribly extraordinary and exotic.

>The truth is that there is nothing particularly surprising about the way this virus evolved.

I beg to differ. How many pandemic causing viruses have their ground zero right outside an instition that for the last decade has been cranking out study after study derived from GoF research? A place that also was receiving information from American university researchers on how to develop chimeric mutations? Which just happened to share genetic material with strains known to have been researched for bioweapon applications? All at the same time as an uptick in censorship of academic papers.

There's coincidence, and then there's coincidence. I don't think anyone was out to make the darn thing, or intentionally release it. When I see a bunch of virology going on, and a pandemic starts up next door, I'm not looking 1000 miles away for the source.

It’s probably important to point out that a “lab leak” is a result of human-clumsiness or similar, and not the sci-fi movie bad guys engineering a virus. A lot of the non-HN crowd don’t get the difference.

I get what you're saying, but it seems slightly more nuanced. From my understanding WIV did do gain of function research. e.g. purposefully make virus' more deadly or infectious to study them.

Definitely not a super villain at least I hope/highly doubt the intention was a weapon (you could surely create a better weapon?).

I'm not judging the value of that research, it does sound valuable but maybe not more so than the (small?) risk of an accident.

There is also reporting WIV was doing top secret research for CCP military.

So bad guys depends on your worldview.



Every BSL-certified lab should be doing gain of function research.

If leaks are a problem, then certifications should be better enforced.

Burying our head in the sand and waiting for nature to kill us is a losing move.

"Should" is a pretty strong statement. GoF studies, like social media-based disease surveillance, are one of those things that has a compelling "Just So" story justifying its existence, but has yet to show that it actually does what it's supposed to do.

Also, the alternative is not burying our head in the sand. It's monitoring and studying nature, instead of forcing the issue in a lab, and investing in infrastructure and capacity that work against a broad range of pathogen threats.

What can be done, will be done.

Eventually, computational biological modeling is going to be good enough for mutation exploration purposes. From the papers I've seen during this pandemic, it largely already is.

At that point, it becomes straightforward (not easy, but not unknown) to share and realize those modeled organisms.

But at some point, we don't know what we don't know. And putting strains into biological models is important.

Investing in infrastructure and capability against a broad range of threats is important too. mRNA-based rapid vaccine platforms (and especially lipid encapsulation) will probably win a Nobel in a few years, and thank god we've spent the last 30+ years working on them.

>Every BSL-certified lab should be doing gain of function research.

Its far from settled that the benefits of gain of function research outweigh the benefits. This is a debate that has raged among the scientific community for years (a debate which would over if it was discovered that COVID came from a lab involved in gain of function research).

I don't know enough to say if GOF has provided enough 'value' but I do know that there is no way china, the US military, etc would allow a 3rd party to inspect their labs lol.

The article of this post talks a lot about how we do have inspections in the US, and that the inspectors are often the same department as the lab!

To be better it seems like we need some damn strong consequences & a regulatory power that can't be overruled.

That would certainly be the most likely kind of lab-based hypothesis. Especially considering the overt flouting of rules people engage in for other kinds of animal research, in the rush to compete for results and publications.

But it would still result in heads rolling and a constant stream of embarrassing revelations. Consider the Fukushima investigation. Every revelation of bad process and ignored warnings is another news cycle with everyone outraged at them. "Bad luck" is something you are not forgiven for if there's any negligence to point at.

Yeah, but the effect of this “human-clumsiness” is millions dead... it’s not a simple matter to excuse such clumsiness if this is in fact a lab leak.

I agree. Personally I’ve not dismissed this possibility at all. But as it stands, it’s just a hypothesis with suggestive information, but nothing concrete. There are verified wrongs to criticize them for right now, and can be a starting point for remediation, rather than drum up hate and criticism of mere hypothetical wrongs. (And of course, one such example of a verifiable wrong could be proof of Chinese institutions destroying evidence of the disease’s origin...)

The problem is that discussing this hypothesis in any form is often labeled as "offensive" and "racist". The generally accepted theory even in the West is the lab leak was somehow disproved. It's always baffled me, because the only way you could really disprove the lab leak theory would be by finding the original source of the virus.

Instead, the media often attempts to disprove the lab leak by pointing out that COVID-19 differs from the viruses that were being worked on in the Wuhan Lab. But that in itself implies that China is being transparent. To the contrary, we know that China would take every measure to obfuscate the lab leak if they believed it was the origin of the virus.

The lab leak theory originally came from netizens in China, and then it gained traction in the West. There was some sketchy stuff going on at the WIV, personnel disappearing from their website, etc. Regarding the accusations of racism, it's really annoying to be someone somewhat in the know after living in China having my firsthand experience discounted because it doesn't line up with the SJW perspective. I really like China. However, if I say that sanitary conditions there are abhorrent, it seems like pointing that out here gets me in trouble. It's just really frustrating seeing lots of people regurgitate what they've read or seen on tv from shoddy or biased reporting.

You’re exaggerating. I’ve seen plenty of valid and serious coverage of this from big outlets (NPR, Economist) explaining the plausibility of the scenario, not “disproving” in any manner. Which “the media” are you referring to?

I’ve also seen plenty of valid conversations about this on various web forums where it didn’t come to name calling.

I’ve also seen plenty of aggressive and disingenuous arguments by angry people, who proclaim their suspicions are true facts instead of probability assessments, and then perch their discussions on the assumed truth of those suspicions.

The lack of concrete evidence wasn't an accident. The CCP deliberately prevented it's collection.

>We need to avoid demonizing China over this if we want to ever find out the truth and learn how to prevent another pandemic outbreak.

But China knew about the virus in 2019 and kept it quiet. They silenced scientists. China is complicit in this pandemic and should pay reparations.

Exactly. Frankly, I'm tired of this tip-toed attitude - there hasn't been any sort of consequences suffered or imposed on the Chinese government for how they surreptitiously dealt with the virus, initially.

I'm not condoning or advocating conspiracy theories, but where they are wrong, they should be penalised.

Based on your logic, should US political leaders face repercussions or be penalized for their mishandling of the virus?

Yes, absolutely. Leaders who knew about it (many senators, trump, etc) and did nothing are criminally liable for deaths.

Trump was not reelected, and COVID was probably the biggest reason for that.

The Chinese government also started limiting domestic flights in January 2020 but allowed foreign flights out until late March 2020 (https://english.alarabiya.net/features/2020/04/09/Coronaviru...). That seems like they were containing damage that affected them but were happy to risk the rest of the world. I’m not sure if this was an economic decision or something more malicious but it doesn’t matter - how are they not held accountable for this obvious export of the virus?

Meanwhile in the US, hysterical partisans attacked Trump for correctly naming the virus along with its origin. This resulted in a societal unwillingness to direct blame at the Chinese government for all their numerous missteps, starting with suppression of early reports of a new pneumonia like illness in late 2019. How many deaths could have been avoided with just the most basic level of transparency and responsibility?

> Meanwhile in the US, hysterical partisans attacked Trump for correctly naming the virus along with its origin

He spent months doing nothing in preparation, and denying there was an issue then when it turned out there was an actual problem decided it was all China's fault ... even though they had it largely under control by that point. That's why people were "hysterical" - he saw it coming, did nothing and refused to take any responsibility, but blamed someone else. He wasn't trying to accurately identify the source of the virus, he was trying to save his own skin.

Sure it's frustrating that we only found out in (I think) December that it was spreading human-to-human, and it'd be good to see some actual investigation from China. But Trump's finger-pointing was all just desperate attempt to save face and deflect from his own poor management and nothing more. Your question should be rephrased "How many deaths could have been avoided with just the most basic level of competency?" and directed at Donald Trump and his administration.

CCCP party li(n)e

Could you elaborate? I don’t really know what you’re suggesting so I can’t provide a response.

> But China knew about the virus in 2019 and kept it quiet.

I don't think it would have mattered. We had documentaries such as The Lockdown [1] in the end of February 2020, yet still most Western countries spent much of March 2020 still debating whether they should react somehow or not.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XU9FVqwO4TM

Wuhan virus won't be on scale of Sars, says Chinese top expert Zhong Nanshan


This is the truth. We don't have evidence that the virus came from a lab (how could we when China refused investigation?), but we have evidence that the whistleblowers were arrested. Some are dead and some aren't seen again. Are we not supposed to blame this regime?

I feel like only one thing matters. If regular people find out that gain of function research (or something similar) resulted in a lab leak that killed millions of people, then regular people will demand this kind of research stop.

None of the people most qualified to speak on this issue want their funding cut or the research to stop.

This article points out that a lab outbreak could have happened in the United States and many places in the world.

In general, yes. In this case, no so much.

The feart that it could happen here is why the USA restricted gain of function research in 2014. And only reopened it in 2017 with stricter safety controls.

If China had made the same policy decisions, would COVID-19 have become much less likely? That's an important question to answer. Whether or not it DID happen that way, as a planet we need a more consistent way to evaluate such risks.

An alternative hypothesis is that a human was infected near the bat caves, then traveled to Wuhan and spread it to other humans and animals at the seafood market. There's no specific evidence for that, but we can't rule it out either.

Roll a dice representing all the locations of possible human bat interactions. How many of those land next to research labs that study this.

That's not the correct calculation because you've selected the research lab hypothesis post-facto. The correct calculation is to roll a dice representing all the locations of possible human bat interactions and see how many of those land next to some landmark that you can form some sort of conspiracy about.

You may be misunderstanding expert opinion in prior elicitation. Many labs in the last century have had lab leaks. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_accidents_and_incide...

And if you add all the sane hypotheses to the equation, how many would that be? 2?

The only thing that evolves faster than this virus are the conspiracy theory memes[1] that the internet collectively weaves from circumstantial evidence where more and more compelling narratives become more and more widely shared. I'd wager that 100% of pandemics, regardless of origin, will have some compelling conspiracy attached to them. Compelling conspiracy theories is what the internet manufactures, particularly in the absence of direct evidence of anything.


How many wet markets are in a city of 11 million people?

The seafood markets sell bats and other wild animals as well. When they butcher the bats, dogs eat the leftovers then someone else eats the dog. Plenty of ways for the virus to mutate.


probably wouldn't link to the daily mail tbh, they produce so much garbage it's impossible to just take any story they write at face value

> This article points out that a lab outbreak could have happened in the United States and many places in the world. We need to avoid demonizing China over this if we want to ever find out the truth and learn how to prevent another pandemic outbreak.

Then why hide information and prevent world-wide collaboration then?

imagine if this happened in the USA and they prevented any international investigations or collaboration... and instead just started to blame other countries. Then a long time later allow people in who they choose and basically tell them what happened and call that a investigation.

Because there is no culture of transparency in China.

No need to demonize China, or better said, the Chinese Communist Party. They already behave in ways that are the envy of actual mythological demons.

Social scoring, mass surveillance, the Great Firewall, forced labor, harvesting organs from healthy people, Uyghur genocide, Falun gong murders, Tiananmen square massacre...

And actively trying to cover up every crisis, torturing and murdering anyone who speaks up. From environmental disasters to COVID-19 to party corruption.

> The alternative theory is [...]

So there are only two alternatives, and we just need to compare which sounds more likely? Or could it be that you exclude about a million other alternatives here, while also ignoring that just a little bit more information about context often makes unlikely scenarios more likely and vice versa?

Not arguing any of the theories here, just looking at the approach. The first task might not be to make assumptions, but to understand the situation better.

> We need to avoid demonizing China over this if we want to ever find out the truth

Or China can start to be more honest if it does not want to be demonized.

We need to demonize China for all the things they have done to keep it secret in the early days and even upto now, not that the original leak did happen if at all we ever find out about it.

> avoid demonizing China

China is actively engaging in genocide and nobody wants to even speak up about it because "cultural differences". I think we should much rather be scared of running even more cover for them, than less cover for them. They already have enough people white knighting for them.

Western companies are demonizing the west for profit, and running cover for china for profit, just another example of how capitalism always wins.

All of this is sickening and it needs to stop now.

Yes, let’s agree not to demonize the country committing genocide against uighurs or they might throw us in camps next.

It's really ludicrous that anyone gets conspiratorial about the CCP spreading a bioweapon that originates in their own country. They snuck military scientists into the US to tap into coronavirus research. The most simple litmus test I can think of is if China led the race for a vaccine, but they didn't.

People really need to stop and think, because next time that lab could be in your country. With icebergs and permafrost melting, you can bet there's going to be more pandemics in the pipeline. This really isn't a time for people's crass and nihilistic takes on foreign governments, science, or even your own government. When you leave room for people and systems to screw up, then things get better; if you're hypercritical then all you incentivise is the burying of evidence and lies.

Bioweapon is not the same as an accidental lab leak of a virus altered to accelerate research.

The latter is highly likely, the former is ludicrous.

Regardless, the CCP were clearly hiding something.

we had a issues with the CCP few years back, they shipped deadly viruses out to the Wuhan lab.

"We have a researcher who was removed by the RCMP from the highest security laboratory that Canada has for reasons that government is unwilling to disclose. The intelligence remains secret. But what we know is that before she was removed, she sent one of the deadliest viruses on Earth, and multiple varieties of it to maximize the genetic diversity and maximize what experimenters in China could do with it, to a laboratory in China that does dangerous gain of function experiments. And that has links to the Chinese military."

i doubt their narrative because they where not transparent and kept making up conspiracy theories that it came from the US, then it was Italy, frozen fish etc etc all the while preventing any international investigations.. We also know labs do leak and even China had many leaks in the past including SARS and other viruses so its not unbelievable to think it was just a accident and if they where doing gain of function we need to know and we need to figure out a plan and have better systems in place to prevent leaks.

> We need to avoid demonizing China over this if we want to ever find out the truth and learn how to prevent another pandemic outbreak.

I think it was western scientists like Peter Daszak who suppressed lab leak theory in fear that their research will be demonized forever.

It wasn't CCP who called everyone consipiracy theorists it was Peter Daszak and co [1]. I don't understand how he can be the WHO investigator of his own lab [2].

1. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/947620

2. https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4119101

People are demonizing the CCP because they refuse to allow a thorough investigation.

Also they lied Wuhan virus won't be on scale of Sars, says Chinese top expert Zhong Nanshan https://archive.is/O5PhV#selection-895.0-924.7

We will never know the truth to the extent that China would admit this.

It’s obvious in hindsight that what you say is likely true, but there is no feasible political route for the CCP to take blame, as their lives would be at stake due to unrest.

WHO should sequence all the Virus DNAs from that lab in 2015-2019 compare that with all the Covid sequences.

I can’t find the link but the virus they took from sick miners to study and what is now called covid-19 were 95-99% the same. A fellow did their masters thesis on it in 2016 or so

Couple of clarifications. (The fact that the term 'Mojiang' does not show up in the comments yet is telling about where awareness currently is on the topic).

1. RaTG13 came from the copper mine in Mojiang in 2013. (The TG in RaTG13 refers to TongGuan, a township in Mojiang, all per Shi Zhengli's accounting of the sequence's provenance).

2. Prior to which and also in 2013, six miners in this same Mojiang mine came down deftly ill with a respiratory illness. Three of them died from their illness.

3. One report on their cases says they had IgM antibodies to SARS. Another report says they had IgG.

4. There's been no data to support Shi Zhengli's assertion that they died of a fungal infection. (That said, independent of her account, there is a background precedent that there have been examples of people who have had strong fungal infections from exposure to bat guano in certain caves).

5. Shi Zhengli's team returned to the same Mojiang cave again and again to sample for viruses from the mine's bats and rodents. (Goal for this and the broad purpose of her teams' research is to demonstrate for pandemic prevention purposes which viruses are evolutionarily close enough to be able to hop to humans).

https://twitter.com/Ayjchan/status/1279755695382986757?s=20 (Starting-point source for the above: Broad Institute genomics postdoc Alina Chan)

Multiple coronaviruses gathered from this mine remain unpublished, despite a year into the pandemic and an entire WHO-convened study group to Wuhan. https://twitter.com/jbloom_lab/status/1372383456081027076?s=... (source: Bloom Lab of Fred Hutch Institute)

If you're interested in learning more, I would highly recommend following members of the Washington Post-cited DRASTIC team.


The DRASTIC folks, some of them postdocs themselves, have been at this for a year, gathering & archiving evidence like the case reports described above (that unsurprisingly typically become scrubbed from the source after getting brought to light).

The twitter hashtag #DRASTIC is a reasonable place to start.

The WHO won't recognize Taiwan. I highly doubt they will do that.

Of course not. You could not take the goods from China, and want to make them take the responsibility of investigation just like re-education camps in Xinjiang. Although there are some people or photos pointing out the issues.

It's lack of motivation for us to boycott the China. They are too far away from our live. We may take it serious until the nuclear submarine appearing offshore.

We don't know the New Appeasement would come out with real peace or WWIII. The deaths caused by CoVid are already more than the number of American killed in WWII.

The discussion is good, but we are not ready to face the issues come up with China. It's helpful for the labs in other countries to have new SOP. However, the problem is still there.

There is no difference between WHO and China. For this problem, I don't think WHO would give any help. We would never know the true. IMHO, we shouldn't dismiss the possibility of leak, but sadly we could only dismiss it.

just a year ago on HN, we cannot openly speculate or discuss the viruses origins without first getting a barrage of downvotes, today it seems the tides are changing, it's not just WHO integrity or credibility is at stake, our entire future is

imagine another lab-virus just as contagious but one with higher infant mortality, we'd be extinct!!

Indeed. All sorts of accidents happen at biological labs. https://globalbiodefense.com/2019/09/21/explosion-confirmed-...

SARS was also first discovered ~1000 km from those caves, so it's not that far fetched. That said the proximity of the lab is very suspicious.

I'm afraid we'll never know the truth though, China would never admit it was a lab leak.

Moral of the story: governments around the world need to stop fucking around with potentially deadly viruses


This comment is a noticeable step into nationalistic flamewar. Please don't do that in HN comments. That way lies hell, and we're trying for a different sort of discussion here.


Taking a step back, does he not at least bring up some valid points?

The CCP did bar scientists from early investigation and has gone to considerable lengths to suppress national news outlets from properly reporting on the issue at hand.

This does at least deserve some criticism.

Of course. The issue is simply that it needs to happen within the site guidelines, for example this one: "Comments should get more thoughtful and substantive, not less, as a topic gets more divisive." (https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html)

Commenters here need to learn the difference between posting in the flamewar style and having curious conversation. The issue is not the topic—it's which mode people's nervous systems are functioning in as they discuss it. Here is what to watch for:

(1) One mode is battle mode, in which people use grandiose, aggressive rhetoric to try to defeat an enemy, and take any opportunity they can to twist what the other side says to gain an advantage...

(2) ... and the other is curiosity mode, in which people explore together to find the truth and are interested in what each other are actually saying, thinking, and feeling.

(3) You can tell which mode you're in by sensing into your level of activation while posting. If you're not sure about it yet, or if you're feeling agitated, slow down before posting, set an intention to observe your own state, and it will soon become clear.

Another way of explaining this is the distinction between reflexive and reflective responses: https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&sor.... Reflexive responses are lightning fast, associated with high activation, and oriented towards threat assessment and defense. They come from the fight-or-flight layer that we're all dealing with in ourselves. They're also highly repetitive, because they basically come from cache—that's why we're able to generate them so quickly. The reflexive system is not about responding to or creating anything new. It's there for survival and to prevent the recurrence of past painful experiences.

Reflective responses are slow, come from the drive to explore and learn, and have to do with new responses to new information—which take time to come together. They lead to conversations and outcomes that aren't simply replays of past reactions. They aren't primarily about past traumas and threat defense. In order to function this way, the nervous system needs a certain baseline of safety. One way to get there is simply to wait until the initial wave of reactiveness subsides, and then look around and orient to what's specifically new and interesting in the present situation.

Empathy comes into this too, because the ability to put oneself in the other person's position, instead of quickly scanning their comment for weaknesses to exploit, is a complex process that requires the slower cognitive systems to come online.

Wow, this is def the next level of what you have been getting at with posting and moderation. Making me think deeply about my consumption and interaction here on yet another axis; my best posts are my most highly edited so why not edit first?

You always make me think, dang. Criticisms by me and others aside, thanks for doing your job.

Excellent comment. Bookmarking this & stealing for future references. Thanks Dang for such insightful comments. It’s refreshing.

Admiring your efforts as an admin to maintain a civil discourse. I wish the remaining handful of scientists who dismiss lab-associated escape pathways as unworthy of investigation would be so civil: https://twitter.com/BlockedVirology

Particularly the mudslinging ('It's plausible she can't assemble them [referring to a Broad Institute genomicist supporting investigation into both lab-leak & zoonosis], but that's because of a lack of expertise'): https://twitter.com/K_G_Andersen/status/1373027946684837893?...

Dang, this entire site has slid in the past 2 years. This is hardly an isolated incident.

I barely even open it now as a result.

It was just the same two years ago.


I try not to lose sleep over properties of HN that are true of the world at large. We can't expect to be immune from macro trends.


The truth hurts. China released a deadly virus into the world. It tried to cover it up. It tried to blackmail Australia. It is extorting Africa.

China and the Chinese people must accept their responsibility for this catastrophe. They must let the rest of the world, in the guise of the UN, come in and sort out how much of this crime was intentional and how much incompetence.

China must be held accountable. It should pay reparations. It should be forced to suspend any and all biomedical research until it can provably meet western safety standards.

Are you aware that you're posting in exactly the flamewar style that we're asking people not to? I realize that this is a high-emotion, high-activation topic, but there are certain principles here that everyone needs to respect. That is what the site guidelines are for.

A comment like this one (and worse, "we need to shame China and the Chinese people" – https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26548441 - I can't believe that anyone who has been here over 10 years would post something that horrible to HN) takes us deeper into the hell that we're trying to stay out of. I'm not going to ban you for these, because if I imagine myself into your position, my guess is that simply re-reading what you posted, once you've cooled down, will be punishment enough. But if you would please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and take the intended spirit of the site more to heart, we'd be grateful.

Yes, I'm sorry for being incendiary. However, I think shame and guilt are excellent tools for getting a culture on track. Better than war, anyway.

In my view that vector points directly toward war. The only difference is magnitude, not direction.

> a backwards culture

If you continue to post slurs, we're going to have to ban you. I don't want to ban you, but you can't do this here. Please don't do it again.

Thank you for showing more restraint than I did. I'm sorry for being incendiary, I did not mean to use any slurs. I've removed what I thought might be construed as slurs from my comments. I won't post further on this topic. Thank you for shaming me, I feel guilty and will do better.

I was trying to avoid shaming you, but I'm sure I could have done a better job of that, especially because I'm posting from a position of authority and that magnifies such effects by a million times.

One of my teachers once told me "I did a Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford and I learned just one thing from it: that punishment is not good for learning." Hopefully we can get to a state where there's less punishment and more learning. I think examples are good for learning, so I hope you can stop feeling guilty and just take it as an example.

It’s the regime that’s the problem not the culture

Thanks for illustrating so well the flamewar mode dang just mentionned.

--"The truth hurts"

You are just accusing people of refusing to see "the truth" which may be true but is not a argument about the validity of your thesis. That common rethoric. That also preemptively invalidates any counter-argument to your thesis because you know we're just deceived out of (fill in what you want).

-- "China released a deadly virus into the world."

China is not just one person. Even the Chinese gov is too big an entity to be given a single will and agency. This kind of abstraction is fine for everyday talk but must be discarded whenever you try to have an intelligent debate about something. --" the Chinese people must accept their responsibility" Wow, like if I am working as a coal miner in remote China I must be held accountable by "my" poor control of high tech labs? Come on I live in a "democracy" that has conducted nuclear trials in the Pacific nearby living places which I was totally against. Do I need to be held responsible?

-- "this crime"

Plain flamewar mode

--" it can provably meet western safety standards"

Did you even read the article?!

It’s quite possible that it’s a pangolin virus. Guess what trafficked in Chinese wet markets?

Pangolins were an early suspect, but Alina Chan discovered that the multiple pangolin papers were all from the same batch of smuggled pangolins. This makes it much more likely that the pangolins were infected by something else, in the same way that housecats get infected by their human owners.


Because of this, Nature has placed an editor's note on their pangolin paper:

> 11 November 2020 Editor's Note: Readers are alerted that concerns have been raised about the identity of the pangolin samples reported in this paper and their relationship to previously published pangolin samples. Appropriate editorial action will be taken once this matter is resolved.


No one is seriously proposing pangolins anymore, not even Daszak and the Chinese. The proximal host for MERS (camels) was identified in a little over a year, and for the original SARS (palm civets) in a little less. For SARS-CoV-2, despite the much greater effort, we're still waiting.

Apparently the Pangolin thing is looking less likely: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-0771-4

The earliest cases has no known link to the wet market. That's an old hypothesis.

July 2019 - USAMRIID Fort Detrick shuts down due to a virus leak.

August 2019 - "Vape flu" appears in the US.

October 2019 - World Military Games in Wuhan, 300 US military men and women attend.

November 2019 - SAR-COV2 appears in Wuhan.

Let's not discount this sequence of events as well.

> August 2019 - "Vape flu" appears in the US.

Wasn't this discovered to be due to contaminated vape fluid, not anything contagious?

My recollection is it was caused by Vitamin E being added to increase the potency.

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