That's never to legitimize violence, or score political points, but maybe to get us a bit closer to what sparked the pandemic.
The virus wasn’t tampered with. Th lab in Wuhan is “GAIN OF FUNCTION” testing.
read it again. Gain of function means nudging viral samples so they gain functions on their own without human gene editing or modification that can easily be traced.
Why now? Why not 5 years ago? The animal markets have always been there.
This argument is bootless. Viral mutations and spread happen according to anomalous diffusion statistics that are inherently chaotic at outset.
For those who do not know what chaotic means, it is extremely sensitive to initial conditions. Most of which are actually unknowns. Risk is always there, but details are never initially predictable.
That is why you have infrequent intermittent epidemics like Spanish Flu, or more recently SARS, and not constant evolution of new crossover viruses.
It seems that crossovers happen more on the timescale of decades than mere years. (Though I’m excluding crossovers of unviable infections that don’t go anywhere, of course).
None of the above argues against the lab escape theory. As the OP details it’s possible. Just your specific line of reasoning here oversimplifies, hence the downvotes.
What really makes me think though is the way China is being uncooperative. You'd think if they were innocent they wouldn't need to limit access to data and prevent investigation of the Wuhan lab. Maybe that's just in their nature as a totalitarian regime, but it's not doing them any favors here.
This reminds me exactly of the same kind of arguments made about Saddam Hussein when it came to WMDs before 2003.
It turned out that Hussein was playing to the domestic audience, not the USA. It made sense to him to stand up to the weapons inspections for domestic political consumption. Everyone in the USA, including the CIA thought he MUST have been actually hiding something, but he wasn't, it was all just bluster.
Similarly here, its likely all for domestic consumption. They just don't want to admit it came from China, period. They've been pushing the idea that it was spreading like wildfire in Italy in Sept/Oct 2019 (via some scientific article that never should have been published). They're happy to make the argument entirely about the lab leak theory because then they can rely on the scientific community to debunk that -- and then all that remains for domestic consumption is their ideas that it came to China in imported food.
And here's the kicker which is that if this doesn't make sense to you, it doesn't have to. They don't give one sloppy fuck about what you think. They care about what 1.4 billion Chinese people think. If you're convinced it is a lab leak they just don't care and that works fine for them. They can debunk that internally and push the idea that China is the victim.
And the zoontic theory doesn't help them as much, then they have to explain why it happened again after SARS-1 in 2003, and they might have to actually do something about a lot of the animal farming practices in China, and could lose face for domestic political consumption. Bunker mentality is better for authoritarian regimes than self-reflection about mistakes.
(See also Jose Mourinho's player management style)
A bunch of Americans angry about the lab leak theory works fine for them, that just enhances the bunker mentality for their own domestic consumption.
And they're more worried about domestic politics now and spinning propaganda than they are about preventing the next pandemic.
Is it really though? Is that then not a "shit happens" case? No one seems to be particularly angry at how SARS started, or Ebola in Africa etc. It just seems understood that often humans and animals mingle closely together, and then yes, bad things happen, but it's just part of doing business.
Anyway China is implying already that this is what's going on, so I can't see what they would have to lose by confirming it.
People get Big Mad at China over the lab leak theory.
I'm quite annoyed at China over deflecting investigation of the zoonotic origins because we're risking SARS-3 more or less.
But the people yelling about the lab leak hypothesis are also useful idiots in deflecting investigation of the zoonotic origins, so I'm equally annoyed at them.
It wasn't a lab leak. We aren't going to do anything about it. Something like it will probably happen again.
I'm just stockpiling some nice N95s once the prices crash in a year or three. The human race, in general, is too collectively stupid and too easily manipulated to stop this from happening again (and everyone in this thread is part of the problem).
[ And yes, everyone in this thread angry at the CCP I view as equally as bad as the CCP in being useless at preventing learning anything that'll prevent a future pandemic. A pox on both your houses. ]
If you believe that a lab accident is so unlikely as to not be worth investigating further, then your position is rapidly becoming as fringe as the opposite was four months ago--you disagree here with Tedros, Redfield, Baltimore, Baric, any quote I've seen anywhere from the intelligence community, and many other big names. But if that's your sincere belief, why wouldn't you push for a forensic investigation of natural origin (e.g., allowing scientists not permanently under the CCP's physical control to collect samples from agricultural sites, and ship them out under seal for testing outside China)?
Finally, just for my curiosity: Do you agree with the consensus that the 1977 flu pandemic (which killed ~700k people) was probably a lab accident? Or do you think that one was definitely natural too?
They may even know definitively where it came from, whether it was a lab with lax safety practices or from reckless agriculture. And they can fix either or both of those things, quietly, while still pushing the narrative internally that the virus didn't come from China at all.
It sure would be nice to know what happened, though, both for the sake of human knowledge and to inform similar research (or agriculture, or whatever else might have caused this) outside China. I don't what it's possible to learn given the delay and CCP's obstruction, but it seems defeatist not to try.
I'm not qualified to make conclusions one way or the other, but it feels to me like this calculation would weight heavily toward a lab leak. To a layman's eyes, it feels a bit like we've got a lung cancer patient who just so happened to be a pack-a-day smoker, and everyone's searching furiously for any explanation that isn't the cigarettes.
- YES. And they give lab leak theory over 80% likelihood
As global pandemic is complex issue where are many bolts and knobs. However, it still would be usefull why engine blowed up, not just why pilots acted badly during crash
> We have done bat virus surveillance in Hubei Province for many years, but have not found that bats in Wuhan or even the wider Hubei Province carry any coronaviruses that are closely related to SARS-CoV-2. I don't think the spillover from bats to humans occurred in Wuhan or in Hubei Province.
The WIV's program to sample novel SARS-like viruses from nature and manipulate them in the lab was the biggest in the world. The only other group that comes close is Ralph Baric's, and Baric has joined the letter in Science calling for further investigation of the origin:
Never talk to the police
Where is the animal population that harbored the virus?
We've seen this happen before and we know there was no lab leak involved.
Being open enough to understand what is actual is the cooperation.
We won't know until someone forces open those records, I guess.
The article this article is about (Nick Wade's article) is built around the opposite claim, that there actually is by now quite a lot of evidence and it supports the lab leak theory. And in particular, there is no evidence of natural animal-to-human transmission that could balance out the preponderance of evidence on the other side.
Reason magazine wrote about this letter and circumstantial evidence that has been piling up in support of exploring the lab leak hypothesis further: https://reason.com/2021/05/12/did-covid-19-leak-from-a-wuhan...
Seems that cov2 was going to jump to humans eventually, given the state of the wet markets.
My question is, so what? China is not going to ever agree nor allow an investigation. They will deny any allegations.
So it there is no evidence for human tinkering with the virus what can be done?
I mean, we have account of alive human organs harvest, slave labour, forced assimilation of minorities... nothing was done
1. There was no evidence
2. The conspiracies going around in early days prompting the response was that China manufactured the virus as a weapons and/or released it on purpose.
3. There was no evidence
People were reading the WHO reports as information was coming in and they were talking about no transmission outside familial groups and saying "Ahah! The WHO is in China's pocket, they were lying about the virus!" or "They are incompetent and don't know what they are doing!". Zero understanding that the reports were pretty much just raw information and analysis on what was known at the time.
This was just over a year ago peeps, but people were forgetting like 2 months on haha.
If it was reasonable for SARS to naturally jump from bats to humans, why couldn’t COVID, too?
Unfortunately due to China's stonewalling there is no way to prove anything beyond doubt. However, the balance of probabilities at this point says that the WIV was doing GOF research on these sorts of viruses and one escaped. One reason to believe this is likely is that they apparently were not working at especially high biosafety levels. Just ordinary lab coats and gloves.
In fact the opposite is true. If it had emerged in any other century, Covid would barely even be on anyone’s radar.
Surely you can't be serious. I mean, I think we would have noticed. In fact, it would have been on a lot of people's radar. They definitely would have noticed in India, Italy & Brazil.
I mean, are comments like this hyperbolic, and I'm just not in on the joke?
1957-1958 H2N2 pandemic
- 1.1 million deaths worldwide (0.04% of world population of 2.9 billion)
- 116,000 deaths in the US (0.07% of US population of 174.9 million)
1968 H3N2 pandemic
- 1 million deaths worldwide (0.03% of world population of 3.5 billion)
- 100,000 deaths in the US (0.05% of US population of 200 million)
Covid pandemic (so far)
- 3.39 million deaths worldwide (0.04% of world population of 7.9 billion)
- 586,000 deaths in the US (0.18% of US population of 330 million)
Another way to look at this is overall mortality levels. In the UK, which has a reasonably high death rate, COVID raised overall mortality (per million) to around the level it was in the year 2000. Nobody was worried about that mortality level at the time, it was normal. Nor has anyone really noticed or commented on the general improvements in mortality since then. In Sweden age-adjusted mortality went back all the way to 2012 levels, and that with quite minor restrictions.
This is suggestive that we perceive the impact as large because it tends to be phrased in terms of deviation from a 5-year model baseline, and because of the general expectations created by enormous 'expert' predictions. Having sacrificed so much via such extreme measures, people need to view it as an extreme event to justify a worldview of 'experts are generally honest and correct' (which can be seen in this article as a very, very strong prevailing world view at the NYT!)
They were sufficiently worried to increase cigarette taxes, ban advertising, educate the population to stop smoking.
There are interesting points in this thread, about how well we would respond to confirmation that the pandemic was triggered by a lab leak, so I'm not saying that there would be a good outcome from knowing it was a lab leak, rather that even if we never know the truth, it would probably be a better thing for the future of our civilisation it was a lab leak, rather than the first significant event in accelerating sequence of naturally generated pandemics. These are not the only two options of course, but that was the ambiguously stated meaning of my comments
EDIT: Just to get in front of the responses that are already popping up, this isn't an endorsement of a coverup. It is just recognition that if a coverup did occur and was revealed that wouldn't be "great news".
For persons of Asian appearance, living in physical proximity to persons of lower than average intelligence, it's dangerous news, unfortunately.
For humanity, yes, for the CCP, not so much.
Unfortunately the WHO's credibility is trained here. In the early days of the pandemic the WHO bent over backwards not to upset China. More to the point, it took China's denials on face value.
So it's more than a year after the pandemic started before the WHO investigators got any sort of access to investigate (which, incidentally is not a good look for neither China or the WHO).
But here are two demonstrable and known shortcomings of the WHo investigation:
1. In 2019 there was a database of coronaviruses that China had. In late 2019 it was taken offline. Super-weird timing. By itself that doesn't prove anything but the WHO hasn't investigated it. Did they ask? If not, why not?
2. Wuhan labs do investigate coronaviruses. The WHO has never been given access to what coronaviruses they have.
It is weird that 1-1.5 years later we're still unsure of the origin (unlike, say, SARS or MErS).
Oh and, for the record, I don't believe for a second this virus was in any way engineered.
You know it was once a conspiracy theory to say the Earth wasn't flat. And it was once considered blasphemy to say putting leeches on your body didn't help an illness.
There's a reason why the term "conspiracy theory" is thrown around by the media so much...it's because they know a certain subset of people have been socially conditioned to bypass critical thinking if the term has any association with the underlying topic.
How is questioning and discussing things worse than blindly believing what you're told? Even when what you're told has no backing by science or logic when compared to the associated "conspiracy theory"? (for example, covid began by someone eating a bat-burger vs. the "conspiracy theory" that the Wuhan lab, with public documents showing funding signed off by Fauci, was experimenting with super-viruses, and one of the workers in close proximity caught the virus.) I'll never understand this.
Archimedes knew the Earth was a sphere. You can tell the surface of the Earth is curved by the fact that the body of a ship disappears from view before its mast.
I am not convinced that they exist in nearly the kinds of numbers that folks like to suggest.
In the 3rd century BCE, it is documented that the Egyptians calculated the circumference of the Earth to a relatively high degree of accuracy .
The Earth not being flat wasn't so much a "conspiracy theory" but a challenge to medieval Christian doctrine. It just doesn't fit the modern definition of a "conspiracy theory". The essential part of a conspiracy theory is that a powerful and covert group is responsible for something not appearing as it seems.
Common examples: faked Moon landings, UFOs (as aliens, including Roswell and other such incidents), the JFK assassination (done by the CIA or whoever) or the Holocaust didn't happen.
They all tend to revolve around some Big Lie (a fact exploited by Goebbels and others) and it tends to play into human psychology that there's some grand plan or there's something you, as a believer, know that other people don't. We now live in a time that has validated people raising how they feel to having the same weight as science, demonstrable evidence and reason. So now we have people believing in stolen elections, QAnon, Covid-19 being fake and the like.
So what you're doing is attempting to conflate the term conspiracy theory by applying it to a situation any reasonable person knows as being obvious ("the Earth isn't flat") and I have to wonder why. What other belief are you trying to validate?
Since you mentioned the election, how does science, demonstrable evidence and reason play into the fact that the people labeled "conspiracy theorists" were refused all of this....and the fact that no one can prove Biden won any more than they can prove Trump didn't lose?
> The Earth not being flat wasn't so much a "conspiracy theory" but a challenge to medieval Christian doctrine.
You're changing the scope of the argument. You now give credence to the then "conspiracy theorist" because you acknowledge the foresight they had (at the time) to see larger fundamental truths while living within a world of shifting power dynamics. I would certainly say this was done in the face of a "powerful and covert group responsible for something not appearing as it seems".
Early last year (2020), whole Chinese internet social media was looking for "黄燕玲" - a missing researcher in Wuhan lab. She disappeared around Oct/Nov 2019. Chinese social media suspected she was patient-0. The messages showed up multiple times in my wechat feeds for couple days. They all got taken down a few days later.
Government officials still claimed she was alive but was not able to produce any proof.
If WHO really want to investigate, they just need ask :
If "黄燕玲" worked for Wuhan lab? Where is she now? Where is her families, friends, co-workers? Can we talk to any of them?
There are some claims (debatable?) that bat coronavirus studies were conducted at the WHCDC lab. There is more information about the laboratory locations and biosafety concerns in this report: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/350887648_3_WUHAN_L... (written by members of the drastic project; I'm not sure how much of this information is substantiated by other sources but at least the maps appear to be reasonably accurate).
It's particularly bad as a thought-terminating cliche because so much of what defines the label is aesthetic: when figures or institutions in the cultural mainstream speculate wildly, the term is never used (guess how many outlets covered Hillary Clinton's description of Tulsi Gabbard & Jill Stein as "Russian assets" as a "conspiracy theory").
Every theory can be considered with the same tools, parametrized by fundamental factors like how far it is from your current model of the world, what the implications are, etc etc. I freely admit that I've never looked into Flat Earth arguments enough to thoroughly debunk them, but a combination of 1) the amount of things I'd need to change in my model of the world for it to be true and 2) the minimal impact on my life if it were mean that I don't really care to look into it. I can apply the exact same process to every other bit of constructed knowledge, without needing to hand off my critical thinking ability to lizard-brain pattern-matching and mood affiliation like "conspiracy theory".
It's okay, you're among open-minded people here!
FWIW, I think we should stop couching any critical examination of the received theory as if we're defending Heliocentrism in front of the Inquisition.
The evidence for gain-of-function lab leak is at this point entirely circumstantial, but that at least is evidence, not just speculation (or, worse, blind zealotry flying in the face of evidence). It's not a water-tight theory, but it's not ludicrous.
What we need is an investigation that follows those circumstantial leads and uncovers the truth. The CCP being the strongly authoritarian regime that is, often immune to impolitic truths, this may be politically impossible. But we shouldn't waver in at least discussing what could be true, even if the hypothesis ends up proven false.
The American government would certainly "spin" and use propaganda, but at least in America people are free to discuss hypotheses without fear of being officially censored or sent to a penal camp and/or firing squad. There has been a worrying wave of private censorship in America over the past decade or so, but it is not (directly) enforced by the government.
Also, let's not act like there's moral equivalence between the CCP and the US government, as deeply flawed as the latter is (and I am a major critic of my government). Recently, the CCP regime launched its "Long March" rocket, and subsequently lost control of the booster. By dumb luck, the booster landed in the ocean and didn't harm anyone, but no one in the CCP regime bothered to make safety contingency plans. Few in the West realize this, but the CCP regime also launches rockets over populated areas, and its rockets or boosters have even destroyed Chinese villages before.
In America, these things would be unthinkable.
All this is documented in a graduate thesis by a student from a local college in 2013.
TIL. Thank you.
edit: although now that I think of it, I suppose a "typo" distance is something of a weighted Levenshtein
It needn't have been a conspiracy; it's plausible that it was accidental, or even if intentional, the work of a single disgruntled individual.
If it was a lab escape, the most likely scenario is that the virus is from a bat sample. It's even possible that, if it's a lab leak, the person who leaked it doesn't even know that they leaked it, and is actively reassuringly themself with the wet market theory.
We have so used to calling "conspiracy theories" anything that deviates the official narrative, we don't even notice what it means anymore...
Does ‘selection’ constitutes engineering in your vocabulary. And if yes, then why don’t you believe that this virus was carefully selected during the gain of function research?
I also don't understand why you say so vehemently that you don't believe it was engineered. Gain of function experiments are something they do in these labs!
This implies multiple high ranking officials and organizations conspired to hide information and cover up evidence. We have a word for this: conspiracy theory.
Americans tend to equate the word "conspiracy theory" with being crazy or ridiculous, but that is not always the case. Many conspiracy theories turn out to be true. Look at the recent Pentagon disclosures on UFOs for instance. Or look at any of the plans the CIA had in the 50s-60s which turned out to be true: MKULTRA, COINTELPRO, Operation Mockingbird, etc. These were "conspiracy" theories that turned out true.
Why? Assigning a prior probability of zero to anything is a recipe for disaster, it means you can never change your belief.
Looks like you had enough of an open mind to hear some of the arguments in favor of this one, and it increased your posterior probability somewhat, so I guess “like zero” is your way of saying “close to zero but not zero”.
Have you tried giving other conspiracy theories a chance? I think you’ll find mixed results.
And would it be worth questioning if any other recent topics labeled as "conspiracy theories" may in fact also be true?
If the lab leak theory turns out to be true, I'll admit I was wrong about my intuition. It's not impossible, but it's extremely unlikely. We've had literally thousands of new virus strains evolve in the past century of viral research and like three known "lab leaks". As has been repeated ad nausum, there is absolutely nothing surprising about SARS-CoV-2's structure or relatives or evolution and no reason to doubt that like every other pandemic this is a naturally evolved pathogen.
Now tell me why people keep INSISTING that this must be true absent evidence, and explain what you'll do when (as with basically every conspiracy theory) it turns out that there never really was any real evidence.
 Or don't. We all know why. The lab leak theory casts a convenient boogieman in the part of the villain, and distracts from fingerpointing aimed at parties closer to home who could have reacted well to the pandemic but chose not to. It "makes it all someone else's fault", so there's no surprise why it's so popular.
In fact, if you read any research that had been published by the WIV on coronoaviruses pre-2020 they all start by talking about expeditions to collect bat droppings 1500 miles away.
It started in Wuhan spontaneously. There are no intermediary COVID19 infections in a migration trail of any kind from those bat reservoirs in Yunnan to Hubei.
Can you cite a few other diseases where the evolution was traced back in multiple species across that kind of distance? Where did ebola come from? MERS? At best you get the immediate host, or as with covid a somewhat close relative.
You're demanding proof that simply doesn't exist for any other disease and then citing the absence of that impossible proof as evidence for your conspiracy theory that has even less evidence in support.
I mean, fine, we only have that one bat in Yunaan. OK. Fair point. You have zero samples from that lab.
This is a paper from 2018 where they went into caves in southern China and took 1000+ samples of droppings from bats back to Wuhan and found new strains of coronaviruses.
If they did this in late 2019 of course they wouldn't have published that after a (theoretical) leak...an absence of a sample means nothing. In fact, if anything the fact they didn't publish a similar report is more telling.
If you look at pre Covid-19 reports on bat coronoaviruses in China you'll see the large majority of such bats are in Southern China - very far away from Wuhan.
Twisting "absence of evidence" into "evidence" by alleging a coverup is a classic conspiracy theory tactic. You're literally arguing for a conspiracy by asserting the conspiracy as a prior.
If you are doing a Bayesian analysis on if a suspect committed a crime at 2:00 AM and they told you they were sleeping then - does this tell you any new information?
I would say without outside evidence it shouldn't update your probability on the subject. If they truly were sleeping they are going to say they were sleeping. If they were committing the act they are going to say they were sleeping.
Saying "the fact the suspect said they were sleeping at 2:00 AM is what they would say if they were committing the act" is not the same as saying "the fact that the suspect said they were sleeping at 2:00 AM is proof they committed the act"
The smallpox virus escaped three times from labs in England in the 1960’s and 1970’s, causing 80 cases and 3 deaths. Dangerous viruses have leaked out of labs almost every year since. Coming to more recent times, the SARS1 virus has proved a true escape artist, leaking from laboratories in Singapore, Taiwan, and no less than four times from the Chinese National Institute of Virology in Beijing.
As another example, the most recent outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the UK was traced quickly to a lab that had kept samples of the first one.
I'm saying that if you take any strain of any human disease anywhere, and ask the question "is this a naturally evolved pathogen or was it cultured in a lab?", Darwin wins by a factor of like ten thousand. Yet... somehow no one thinks that's a relevant fact?
Moreover, the ways lab leaks happen don't depend on where the virus came from originally.
The fact it appears to be an insertion if it came from a mutation is also highly unlikely.
These are, in fact, remarkable characteristics taking into account the proximity to an institute where this type of work took place, staffed by researchers who have done it multiple times in the decades leading up to the pandemic, who had funding for doing similar work at the time, who started acting oddly at the time, which caused such a stir that all related research was tightly perception managed by the state.
I cannot say as in my life it has been the case that with such smoke as that, there has not been a vigorous exothermic reaction to be near.
My common sense info is that a super-virus popped up right down the street from a lab designed to create super-viruses(funding signed off by Fauci, and much historic public info/discussion exists about what type of work was being done at the Wuhan lab), China disappeared the lab people, and biggest red-flag of all is that the corrupt propaganda media (CNN, MSNBC, Business Insider, etc) is trying to rub it in everyone's face that the lab story isn't true.
Next line of discussion is how much jail time Fauci should get for enabling blatant malpractice while setting himself up to make a fortune.
The answer is right in the article, at the very end: the virus was found in 6% of samples taken from the market, with most of the virus-positive samples found in areas that had wildlife in it.
That's not "no evidence" at all. I would rate it as slightly -- but only slightly -- more compelling than the circumstantial evidence pointing to a lab leak.
Was this shown to be false?
This concept should be familiar to those in tech already: https://codeascraft.com/2012/05/22/blameless-postmortems/
I disagree that it is less actionable. I am a former scientist. Proper handling of lab waste etc. is infinitely easier than having the whole world lock down, wear masks, and rapidly develop mRNA vaccines to try and put the genie back in the bottle.
Sure, but safety requires everyone be perfect about their handling 100% of the time. If a mistake happens, just once, with the wrong lab materials, that's it. And humans will always make mistakes, no matter how bulletproof we think the process is.
Except another very recent one was also a lab accident. So, no, not every single previous one was, and 2 of last 3 will have been from labs.
These thing's aren't being made in labs, they're being stored there but the actual reality is this: none of the countries being so interested in this have any ability to influence the country's these things happen in.
So your effective response protocol may as well just blackbox the problem: "there is a new novel virus, how do we respond?"
No one's going to be invading China to drop napalm on biological research facilities they've collectively decided without the CCP's involvement are "risky".
> The reemergence was probably an accidental release from a laboratory source in the setting of waning population immunity to H1 and N1 antigens
So the statement above that "every single previous one [pandemic] in history" was of natural origin is probably false. The 1977 flu killed about 700k people worldwide, less than SARS-CoV-2 but more than a typical flu season.
To emphasize, humanity doesn't have the technology to invent viruses de novo. A lab-manipulated virus is always going to be derived from a naturally-evolved virus, whether that's in simple ways (like storage in a freezer for 27 years) or complex ones (like genetic engineering). The question is the causality--if a pandemic was caused by the actions of scientists, then if not for those actions, those thousands/millions of people would still be alive.
Second, why would we need to invade China? The USA was literally funding this research, so couldn't we just stop doing that?
If SARS-CoV-2 arose from a lab accident, then China certainly deserves special blame for the coverup. But before that, this wasn't a political topic--it was an obscure academic debate between a small subset of virologists who wanted to perform certain risky experiments, and other academics who thought that risk was unacceptable. It's quite possible that the CCP is currently wishing they'd blamed the whole thing on a rogue, American-funded researcher early on. If they had, then it's quite possible that narrative would have stuck--it would be stupider than what most people seem to believe now, but not by much.
Finally, the indifference you express above is bizarre to me. Do you believe the same thing about Chernobyl, that it's better for us to devote all our resources to improving treatment for cancer (which will also occur naturally, with or without nuclear meltdowns) and none to preventing meltdowns? If not, how is this different?
Haven’t more people died from SARS-Cov-2 than nuclear weapons, why we can’t have international conventions and inspections on dangerous virological research?
- The population was much less densely gathered
- The world population was roughly half what it is today
- There was much less air travel
- Testing was much worse
- Statistics about mortality were much less evenly gathered
There are worse things than lockdown.
Mistakes seem to happen despite just about any amount of preventative measures in our world.
This incident has cost millions of lives and possibly undone decades of progress on reducing poverty worldwide. It is worth pursuing multiple angles in parallel.
Put it this way, if the cause of the worldwide pandemic was because it leaked from a lab then you should fix the lab.
Earlier in the pandemic I saw a focus on the risks of "wet markets" for zoonotic transmission; although that hasn't panned out so far as a theory for COVID-19, if wet markets present a significant risk of creating pandemics (note: if! I don't know they do), we should evaluate possible restrictions and regulations on them.
More recently I've seen discussions of "gain of function" research on bat coronaviruses, and allegations that some dangerous research on coronaviruses was being carried out in BSL-2 laboratories. Regardless of whether COVID-19 was the result of a lab leak (or whether we ever prove it was), if some specific of research presents a significant risk of creating pandemics (again, if!), we should evaluate possible restrictions and regulations on them too.
Pandemics are, I think, inevitable; it would be foolish to ignore trying to prepare for the next one. But the chance of a pandemic is very possibly not set in stone; it would be equally foolish to ignore trying to bring that risk down. And I categorically reject the argument we need to pick one or the other to focus on; I think we can focus on every step of the chain.
Instead, we would do much better to improve our tools for handling these issues by looking at successful and unsuccessful containment protocols, failed attempts to distribute a vaccine quickly enough etc.
> Potentially ignoring the fact that there will be unknown or covert actors ignoring all of these safeties.
I don't mean this as negatively as it sounds, but I literally don't understand the argument you're making here. It feels like it's of the form:
"Because <bad actor> might do <bad thing>, there's no point trying to encourage anyone from not doing <bad thing>."
Is that...right? Because if so, do you also feel like police forces and laws against murder and assault are a distraction from medical research devoted to savings the lives of people wounded in violent crimes?
I think it's reasonable to suggest that "setting houses on fire less often" or "banning setting other people's houses on fire" or "mandating more fire safe construction" are all complementary strategies to "getting better at extinguishing house fire".
Whenever there is a trend of similar talking points on a hot topic it makes me wonder how much of that is influence from outside groups.
If there's specific reason to believe that comments here are somehow being manipulated, that's different and you should email email@example.com so we can look into it. (That's in the site guidelines as well.) But the overwhelming majority of the time, there's zero suggestion of any such thing, other than people disagreeing, which is evidence of nothing but that the topic is divisive.
I've posted hundreds if not thousands of explanations of this over many years at this point: https://hn.algolia.com/?sort=byDate&dateRange=all&type=comme....
You will not find a sane engineer on the planet who says "we don't need to find the root cause, we just need to move ON and move FORWARD". Such nonsense is the domain of politicians.
A nested conspiracy theory is just what we need for some more political polarization in the USA. Score!
So yes, if you stand up and claim that there was rampant voter fraud that changed the outcome of the election, you are at best misinformed, and at worst lying.
I wouldn't even call this voter fraud stuff "conspiracy theories". It's gaslighting and destabilizing propaganda by an administration that failed to get reelected.
Do you deny as stated by many news agencies that the CIA stated or leaked that Russian agents impacted the 2016 election? What about the 2020 election? Is the CIA lying? Did Russian agents or other hackers just sit that one out?
There is so much evidence of election fraud and odd irregularities throughout the United States … the question is whether there was enough of it to impact the results. Arizona came down to 0.3% of the vote and Georgia was razor thin as well. States like these are decided by how votes are counted in a single county (Fulton and Maricopa in these cases) due to the high population concentration in a region of the state. Questioning the results (regardless of which political party) is not lying especially given the thin margins; it is healthy for democracy and gives more confidence in future election results.
That's it, right there. And then when cornered like the lying rats they are, they will claim "people are saying", "a lot of people feel", and "we're just asking questions." No, sorry. I thought the rightwing in the US was the ones don't care what people are saying, how they feel about things, because facts are facts? Oh, and I also thought it was part of the responsibility of being an elected political leader to tell the damn truth and not just "ask questions".
1. Stop doing GoF research
2. Better lab containment processes
Oh the absurdity.
As applied to this situation, it doesn't really matter. The Chinese government has a vested interest in any investigation being labeled inconclusive. Whether it was a lab leak or a result of unhealthy agricultural practices, China doesn't want egg on its face. They'll do everything in their power (which is a lot) to avoid having the finger definitively pointed at them.
Don't miss that the entire gravity of this line of questioning is that if COVID19 did escape from the lab, our entire response to a lab leak would be different and save lives then a zoonotic emergence scenario.
Understanding the root cause is a logical way to do that.
I think the saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" applies.
But it keeps happening and maybe labs working with such viruses need much more careful procedures or shouldn’t perform risky gain of function research for example.
Part of this has resolved itself since every piece of information is no longer being evaluated on whether it helps or hurts Trump.
from a legal/international relations perspective, absolutely not
if this was a preventable bio-research accident rather than an act of God or Nature, there are huge ramifications for China's place in and relation to the world
at this point I wouldn't be shocked if it was an accidental leak or an intentional leak by the Chinese, an intentional leak by the US or even an intentional leak by another country to provoke US/China tensions
a forest of mirrors
First, I don't see how is this racist. Second, this is not rumor, there are Chinese articles about how some lab members were punished.
The author lost credibility here.
People speculate China is concealing malicious intent and such is indicated these two facts (and many others).
I'd like to address these. I think that some people are misjudging why it might be in China's interests to not reveal an origin, nor a candidate natural virus, even if it had concluded its internal investigation and discovered definitive answers, even if those answers exculpated China of any mal intent. I'm not saying they're doing this, just offering another perspective with context and strategic reasoning.
As China has engaged with the world in the last 15 years, it has founds its soft power advances rebuffed, obstructed and aggressively countered, even as its international institutional standing, economic power and strategic dominance (at least in APAC/MEA) has grown. Mainstream Western presses run night and day printing stories to support "China bogeyman" narrative staples like "China virus", "China debt trap diplomacy", "China oppression", "Foreign influence", "Xinjiang genocide", "HK freedom fighters" to name a few currently popular ones.
Faced with this hostile international media environment what can China do? Domestically it must counteract and throw words-of-kind back, and diplomatically it has leant into the same. These are expected and required responses.
But the strange thing is, while it looks to be on the back foot, and while it may not be the sort of positive, glowing, appreciative and respectful international press coverage China might have dreamt of in its recent path of rapid growth, given that foreign presses and their audiences display an appetite for these stories, China might actually be serving its own interests by simply feeding those appetites and fanning the flames.
This sounds crazy. Why would China want the foreign press to gorge itself on anti-China stories and go off its rocker on "China bad"-conspiracy theories. Why would it be in China's interests for people of other countries to receive this "biased education" about China? Why would China, if it had evidence, arguments, platforms and means to counter these narratives, not run its own operations night and day to paint a different picture?
I think there are a couple of advantages of what I'm proposing is a deliberate strategy, and there are certainly opportunities for China in the current hostile international media environment.
1. Controlled opposition. Once the "rabid dog Western press" has found its preferred China-hate narrative, it seems quite happy to continue munching on that big juicy bone and not letting it go. China could try to "prize the bone from the mouth", but that will likely reinforce the rabid dog's grip, no? Maybe a better strategy is to simply keep feeding the dog similar tasty tidbits and not reveal the "tasty bone" is actually rancid and expired (dog may not care, but hey), at least for now. In this way China achieves a measure of control of the anti-China stories. In this way China deftly turns the Western's presses preferred appetite (and by some it's perceived "strength") into a vulnerability.
2a. Domestic mileage and protection. Chinese people might come across Western anti-China articles, which will only increase their proud nationalism and support any narratives the central government might want to launch about how biased and anti-China the western countries are. This incredible power actually insulates the central government from any foreign criticism, and weakens the ability of "foreign adversaries" to dislodge the Chinese government from their people (an likely impossible goal anyway, but many wedges have attempted to be inserted, no doubt to the amusement of regular Chinese who see foreigners trying to get Chinese to hate Chinese as a fool's errand), because its so easy to dismiss the chorus of Western critics by how unhinged and hypocritical they are. The risk for China here is that it can insulate itself from internal legitimate critics, by the feintest association with "crazy" foreign ideas. So it will need to balance that insulation with practicality.
2b. Useful distraction. The loader and crazier the Western press and commentariat seems, the more China can allow such insanity to pierce its information control for useful effect. Bad press from provincial officials cramping the central government's recent achievements style? A dash of "China hate" from the foreign press is sure to refocus netizen's attention and bring people together in solidarity against external opposition. Again, the risk with this is China utilizes this massive power (of foreign hatred) too liberally to tune out of useful internal dissent. Given it's rapid progress and stellar achievements I don't think it seriously risks a lack of introspection, but the louder the Western "evil CCP" commentariat grows, the bigger this power grows, and so the bigger the risk that China might go overboard in using this domestically.
3. Future reveal payoffs. Just say China was manipulating foreign presses into printing anti-China narratives, but had bulletproof evidence against the claims (such as endless video evidence, investigations and interviews with people in Xinjiang, or legal arguments and foreign influence proof in HK, or a closest relative natural virus that originated in Italy in 2018), why would it hold off on providing that right now? Probably because the reasons above are so compelling and useful. China is interested in domestic narrative shaping and information control, and successfully achieves these objectives through many means. The above possibilities are useful tools that assist in this. But there's another reason. A sort of "kill shot" to end the credibility of the Western press and paint China itself as "unfairly and racistly persecuted victim" (not altogether inaccurate). Say China brought out information (but didn't reveal it had been sitting on it) to decisively end many of the anti-China claims, it would be able to constantly play that up to convince Westerners they can't trust their own "free press". A pretty strong card to have, particularly as soft-power will become more important as China's influence ability grows. But not a card you'd need to play right now, not only because you'd miss out on the above. China can bide its time and watch the West score own-goals and commit unforced errors in its media game against China, that it can dredge up later to reveal Western incompetence and bias.
4. Catalysis for change. Say some place in China or some policy was an issue for the central government, but it was having a hard time cultivating the domestic momentum and provincial political will required for a successful change, what could it do? How could it utilize the current "winds of chaos" to assist it in its own goals? What if the West was directly inciting HK violence (or not involved, doesn't matter here), and China knew, and allowed that to occur, until the time was right (and the justification big enough) for it to step in and change the law? Without every firing a single shot (itself), or ever sending in the troops (to do anything but clean up the roadway after people had departed). Guiding the winds of Western obsession and hate into the sails of a ship China is steering, could be a useful strategy for particularly challenging issues. All that Western press fanned those flames, blew those winds, puffed those sails --- to sail that ship right into China's harbor. Pretty deft "covert" or "paradoxical" soft power. I think many of these issues are simply useful for reasons 1 - 3, but what other targets might be good candidates for this strategy? Xinjiang strategy needs a change, but is resisted by the elements who benefitted from version 1.1? Maybe. Need to send more people and money to build up naval supremacy in reefs and islands? Get the West to escalate its anti-rhetoric to show China how scared they are of that, and against China doing that, to lend support to it seeming like a good thing to do to counter Western projection, in that case. GZ or SZ having issues with provincial leaders, their cliques and ambitions? Seed some "political oppression" stories in the Western press to create a chaos and a grassroots movement for less central intervention, allow the movement to catch fire, then tie it to the South's irresponsible leadership (and relative economic liberalism and Western links, for good measure) and use that to oust the provincial leaders as incompetent and complicit. It's hard to think about these hypothetical candidates, but I'm sure there's many opportunities. Probably the flames of Western narratives can be used in some manner or another as part of larger strategies.
As China's control and stability (and success) increases, its ability to deploy these strategies will diminish. But now seems like a good time and many opportunities, as the West eagerly lurches from one "China-hate" to the next. One risk is the West might wise up to this, and start trying to "counter manipulate" China, by feigning outrage at a non-issue or trying to force a Chinese concession by successfully cultivating an irrational populist narrative in a Chinese area that's to drive a change that's against Chinese interests. Time will tell if the West develops this strategic narrative sophistication. They've been on top for so long, they may have grown soft and uncritical, while China has had to grow clever in the hostile climate it found itself emerging in internationally. Of the West, in this, perhaps it's like Bane says, "Victory has defeated them." In the soft power sense, in these aspects, I think that's partly true.
We detached this comment from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27190749.
There are a number of things at play here that stoke up distrust, mainly due to China's current national structure. The world won't get China's cooperation on this, and there will be no smoking gun evidence one way or the other. But we can stop and think about it rationally.
In fact, someone already has, and I recommend reading it if you haven't already, putting the lab leak theory to rest: https://old.reddit.com/r/science/comments/gk6y95/covid19_did...
So what's going on with China then? Well first off, they're an autocratic nation, which makes them EXTREMELY sensitive to criticism and dissent. An autocratic nation deals with criticism by dismissing it, dodging it, blocking it, and crushing it. You're not going to get cooperation on something negative like a pandemic outbreak because they don't know where it came from either, and it's better for them to just block everyone than to allow any potential negativity to stick to them. Again, this behavior is nothing new for autocratic nations.
Secondly, they're an up-and-comer nation. They've finally reached the big leagues (again), and that means that they expect big league treatment. It means that they can push back against anyone they choose and punish those who step on their toes. They've been doing this for years now, buying or bullying compliance like their more established brethren from smaller nations and organizations, even to the point of cowing the WHO (who, for the record, have always deferred somewhat to the powerful because they have no actual teeth and would lose access to that nation otherwise).
Third, they have a legacy to uphold as the Kingdom of Heaven. Xi's mission for the nation is a moral one to once again become the shining beacon of civilization, the center of the Earth. For a nation on such a mission, minor things like a pandemic are merely a distraction that could potentially be used by the other nations to disrupt their sacred task of purifying their people and seating themselves at their rightful place as THE representatives of humanity's best.
So no, the lab leak theory holds no water. And no, there will be no investigation. And unless you want to invade China or something equally drastic, that's how things will stand.
Actually as soon as you went to "Chinese national character" you already did that. For god's sake please let's avoid $anyone's "national character" on this site. That's a fast track to hell.
We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27191023.
At the core this isn't really about this or that nation anyway; it's about human nature and how we respond to pressure based on our power. This is how humans will behave in a contentious political world, and why the distrust is and will continue to run high for years or even decades as the new political world order sorts itself out. One might even say "interesting times". Nationalist countries will always be oversensitive, up-and-comers will try out their new strength, and egocentric leaders will steer their countries in twisted directions based on idealized past glories and fables. Thus my final paragraph in the parent.
The "legacy to uphold as the Kingdom of Heaven" is China's past glory being used by its egocentric leader, similar to Trump's MAGA, or Bolsonero or Erdoğan or Putin or Duda or any of the egocentric leaders who've gained power due to fear and uncertainty in today's turbulent world.
9.5 Arrest of Lab Animal Seller
From the same ECNS article in the previous section:
We are looking for contributors who can read Mandarin to help us find and translate the original article from The Paper that details the arrest of the ’top academician’.
Medical staff and experts have long been asking for better regulation and supervision of biological research institutes in China, but with mixed results.
A top academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering earned 10.17 million yuan ($1.46 million) by illegally selling off lab animals and experimental milk, according to a report in the Shanghai-based The Paper.
Li Ning, a leading expert at transgenic technologies at China Agricultural University, was sentenced to 12 years in prison on January 2 for grafting 37.56 million yuan.
Author’s Note: "Li Ning" and the "top academician" appear to be two different people. Li Ning was sentenced to prison for allegedly embezzling research grant funds.
The academician’s arrest shows that the regulations concerning lab safety were either too lacking or not properly enforced and enable a bad actor to put many others in danger for their own profit. The new biosafety rules were likely put in place to rectify these deficiencies.
If a "top academician" was selling lab animals at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, could a worker at the WIV or WHCDC have been doing the same thing? Why not?
Could one of these lab animals have been sold to the Huanan Seafood Market?
The "it's common" may be overstated, but it is not unprecedented.
Revealing it all at once would cause economic and social chaos. The racist assaults alone would be horrendous. Not to mention the political and economic consiquences.
It's no coincidence that the Uygar genocide is being talked about now despite going on for several years.
Ralph Baric invented modern coronavirology. He was Zhengli Shi's mentor, and published frequently with her in the past. He signed Jesse Bloom's and Alina Chan's letter in Science calling for further investigation of the origins of SARS-CoV-2:
As to the specific tweet that you've linked, David Baltimore seems to disagree:
> “When I first saw the furin cleavage site in the viral sequence, with its arginine codons, I said to my wife it was the smoking gun for the origin of the virus,” said David Baltimore, an eminent virologist and former president of CalTech.
My own impression is that the FCS points only weakly towards lab origin (and other evidence, like the origin city, lack of intermediate host, and pre-adaptation to humans is much more significant), but I'm not the one with the Nobel prize. But my point is that if you choose experts by almost any metric other than Twitter follower count, you'll see a very different picture.
I read the Science article; the way it was drafted doesn't really specifically rule any particular thing out however. It's just calling for a further investigation, and says that both hypotheses remain "viable", which is an extremely low bar in science.
Combing Jasnah's thread with another by Andersen (https://twitter.com/K_G_Andersen/status/1391507230848032772), it paints a picture that any explicit engineering seems a bit far fetched. I have yet to seen any specific responses to these critiques of lab engineered FCN site hypothesis. Instead, I see mountains of people who are not in a position to critically evaluate these claims. Science is both an institution and a process, and not everyone is equally qualified to evaluate the evidence.
> But, “the letter suggests a false equivalence between the lab escape and natural origin scenarios,” he said. “To this day, no credible evidence has been presented to support the lab leak hypothesis, which remains grounded in speculation.”
Dr. Shi too (though she obviously can't deviate from the CCP's position without putting herself in physical danger):
> The chief scientist for emerging disease at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Shi Zhengli, said in an email that the letter’s suspicions were misplaced and would damage the world’s ability to respond to pandemics. “It’s definitely not acceptable,” Shi said of the group’s call to see her lab’s records. "Who can provide an evidence that does not exist?"
The controversy isn't "people who don't think lab origin merits further investigation" vs. "people who don't think natural origin merits further investigation". It's between people who think lab origin is so unlikely that no further investigation of that possibility is necessary (like Andersen and Rasmussen, along with the CCP), vs. people who think both possibilities are sufficiently likely that further investigation of both is required (like Chan, Bloom, Baric, Tedros, Redfield, etc.), as expressed in that letter. I'm obviously with the latter group. For example, I believe we should push China to release more records from the WIV, but I also believe we should keep sampling animals looking for a natural intermediate host. If you study the evidence yourself then I believe you will agree.
As I noted above, as best I can tell the FCS is mostly a distraction--interesting, but not determinative either way. (Although again, a Nobel prize winner seems to disagree with me.) I'm much more convinced by the origin city and distinctive nature of the WIV's work sampling novel viruses from nature, by the lack of an intermediate host, by China's removal of access to the WIV's database of viral genomes in September 2019, by their blocking reporters from the mine where RaTG13 was discovered, and other such non-genomic evidence. This evidence is also much easier to judge without advanced scientific background.
ETA: And for emphasis, "no genetic engineering" also doesn't imply "no lab origin". For example, it's entirely possible that SARS-CoV-2 is a naturally-evolved virus accidentally released by the WIV. They routinely sampled remote, virus-rich bat caves that no other human would enter, with nothing more than a surgical mask and nitrile gloves. They could easily have brought a virus back to Wuhan and released it before even sequencing it, whether in a lab accident there or in a researcher who became infected in the field. I urge you to research and understand this yourself, instead of deferring to strawmen set up by virologists with little distinction beyond their Twitter following.
ETA2: And note that Andersen and Rasmussen both now claim to support further investigation, but prior to the Science letter they did not. They also seem to support it only in the abstract, and to shout down any calls for specific actions (e.g., pushing China to release the WIV's virus database). This is a long story; please try to understand it in detail, and don't take any isolated claim from any side at face value.
I have a PhD in bioinformatics, and yet I know that my personal expertise (and ability to consume) information about viral engineering is limited. I therefore have to rely on experts, and make a substantial effort to tune my priors to ensure I'm listening to the right sources. A single medium blog from a reporter without any editorial supervision is not an adequate substitute. When I have questions about how to adjust my priors for this subject, I have been in communication with colleagues whose expertise and knowledge are qualified to answer questions. And from all of this, there has been a general consensus from these scientists that while they cannot specifically rule out lab origin hypothesis, there does not even begin to approximate the amount of evidence we need in order to "prove" it. Remember in science we are trying to make claims that are by nature testable- if you cannot test a hypothesis, it's then just pure speculation.
If you want to waste your mental effort on "doing your own research" and making baseless speculation, fine, waste your time. Go off the deep end and find amusement of the sort of baseless conspiracy theory folks that appear on Joe Rogan. But do not for a moment bring baseless speculation into the realm of science. Too many people have spent too much time to waste it on people who cannot intellectually appreciate the differences between testable scientific hypothesis and a baseless speculative claim.
For a specific example, the WIV had a database of viral genomes, available on the public Internet. There was also a private, password-protected section. That entire database went offline in September 2019, and hasn't come back. The WIV has cited "hacking attempts" as the reason.
Do you find that reason credible? Do you believe that the contents of that database should be obtained and publicly disclosed, for open scientific review? If yes, then you share your desired policy action with the "baseless conspiracy folks". If no, then you share it with the CCP.
And since you say "priors": knowing that a pandemic emerged but nothing else, what's your prior that it emerged due to lab activity? I assume you're aware that the 1977 flu pandemic was probably a lab escape, and depending how you count we've had perhaps a dozen pandemics in the last fifty years; so I don't see how you can claim less than ~5%. That's far from negligible, so what evidence takes you from there to dismissing it as "baseless speculation"? It can't be the novelty of the pathogen, since a distinctive part of the WIV's research was specifically their collection of novel pathogens from nature (about 900 miles away, to be clear; Wuhan wasn't in an expected natural spillover zone).
Edit: Removed claim about Chinese new year
Would the USA have been any more open if an American government lab was suspected as the source of an outbreak? Especially under the former administration which outright lied to the American people about the severity of the pandemic.
A USA TODAY Network investigation reveals that hundreds of lab mistakes, safety violations and near-miss incidents have occurred in biological laboratories coast to coast in recent years, putting scientists, their colleagues and sometimes even the public at risk.
Oversight of biological research labs is fragmented, often secretive and largely self-policing, the investigation found. And even when research facilities commit the most egregious safety or security breaches — as more than 100 labs have — federal regulators keep their names secret.
Is that what will happen if someone confirms the lab leak theory?
We just tighten bio security in labs and off we go, back to normal?
Don’t make me laugh.
This isn’t about science any more, it’s about playing the blame game and deflecting responsibility for a massive public health disaster by an administration that lacked competence to deal with it.
It would be economically catastrophic for China to admit any evidence that implicated them.
So... given the overwhelming cost of releasing evidence, what the hell benefit is there from pinpointing blame?
Restore trust? It’ll only cost you trillions of dollars in blame and finger pointing... yeah right.
That is never going to happen.
So... we’ll never know.
Attempts to resolve this haven’t convinced me that the effort is not better spent trying resolve the current situation, rather than blame someone else for it.
Am I missing something?
Seriously, given how plausible either animal or lab leak scenarios are, we are required to address both to prevent future pandemics.
How does knowing one way or another help?