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Science has become a cartel There's a reason the medical establishment dismissed the lab leak theory

Bat soup anyone? Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

Bat soup anyone? Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)


May 21, 2021   7 mins

The idea that SARS-CoV-2 was engineered in a laboratory, and then escaped accidentally, always had a certain plausibility. The virus first appeared in Wuhan, China, where there is a laboratory that conducts research on bat coronaviruses — one of only a handful in the world to do so. Yet this possibility was dismissed quite forcefully and from the beginning of the outbreak by prominent virologists.

Now that same lab-leak hypothesis appears to be on the verge of acceptance as the most likely. Such reversals happen; it is the nature of science. In an emergency, it is understandable that a research community might commit to one theory over another, even if prematurely, in order to focus its intellectual energies and resources. Surely that’s what happened here.

But there may be more to the story. On 2 May, the veteran science reporter Nicolas Wade published a long, detailed account of the career of the lab-leak hypothesis. His reporting appears to have triggered a cascade of defections, not simply from a consensus that no longer holds, but from a fake consensus that is no longer enforceable.

Now 18 scientists have signed a letter in the journal Science with the title “Investigate the origins of COVID-19”. The New York Times notes that “Many of the signers have not spoken out before.” “Speaking out” is an odd locution to use in a scientific context; one expects to find it in a story about a whistle blower. If, during the Covid fiasco, scientists have not felt free to speak their minds, then we have a serious problem that goes beyond the immediate emergency of the pandemic. Regardless of how the question of the virus’s origins is ultimately decided, we need to understand how the political drama surrounding the science played out if we are to learn anything from this pandemic and reduce the likelihood of future ones.

 

By now the reader will have heard of “gain of function” research and the hazards it poses. A large number of scientists came together in July 2014 as the Cambridge Working Group to urge that “Experiments involving the creation of potential pandemic pathogens should be curtailed until there has been a quantitative, objective and credible assessment of the risks, potential benefits, and opportunities for risk mitigation, as well as comparison against safer experimental approaches.” Later in 2014, the Obama administration issued a moratorium on this type of research, partly in response to some “bio-safety incidents” that occurred at federal research facilities.

But before the ban went into effect, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) funded some gain-of-function research which, through an intermediary nonprofit and subcontracting arrangement, came to be conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The moratorium was lifted during the Trump administration, apparently at the urging of Anthony Fauci, and a 2019 renewal of the 2014 research grant did include gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses. SARS-CoV-2 exhibits biological signatures consistent with the plan of research laid out in the grant.

Doing such research requires extreme safety precautions, and these make it very cumbersome to do the work. You have to wear what is essentially a space suit, and every task is burdened with procedures that slow the work down dramatically. Meanwhile, scientists are competing with one another to publish first.

As Wade notes, researchers have an incentive to carry the work out under less restrictive safety standards, and therefore to downplay the risks when applying for grants. And indeed the work at Wuhan was not conducted at the highest safety standard. In this, there may have been a subtle form of collusion. There is no need to posit a conspiracy, one need only take note of the shared incentives. It is other members of the guild who conduct the review process that decides the allocation of research funds; they are unlikely to insist upon more stringent safety standards — which would have to apply to themselves as well. Research communities have internal competition, but also collective interests.

Wade points out that the “consensus” that Covid must have an entirely natural origin was established by two early pronouncements, one in The Lancet in February 2020 and the other in Nature Medicine in March 2020. These were op-eds, not scientific papers. Both spoke with certainty about matters which it was impossible to be certain about. Wade writes: “It later turned out that the Lancet letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Dr Daszak’s organisation funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If the SARS2 virus had indeed escaped from research he funded, Dr. Daszak would be potentially culpable. This acute conflict of interest was not declared to the Lancet’s readers. To the contrary, the letter concluded, “We declare no competing interests.”

In other words, the guy who was orchestrating research on bat coronaviruses at the lab in Wuhan corralled other scientists, with similar professional interests, into making a declaration to the effect that anyone who mentions the (obvious) possibility that the pandemic (which started in Wuhan) might have a connection to this research could only be doing so with bad intentions. This seems a bit thuggish.

The yawning gap between the actual state of knowledge at the time and the confidence displayed in the two letters should have been obvious to anyone in the field of virology. And indeed, there were scientists from outside the guild, but in fields adjacent enough to speak competently, who said as much. The Lancet  and Nature Medicine letters were in fact anti-scientific in spirit and intent. Yet the pronouncements had the effect of shutting down inquiry that was not only legitimate, but urgently needed.

Wade notes that “in today’s universities speech can be very costly. Careers can be destroyed for stepping out of line. Any virologist who challenges the community’s declared view risks having his next grant application turned down by the panel of fellow virologists that advises the government grant distribution agency.”

This is consistent with everything we know from the sociology of science. With the centralisation and bureaucratisation of scientific funding, defection from a well-institutionalised consensus is even more costly now than it was when Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. He showed that it is almost always from outside a research community that challenges arise. Progress happens when a prevailing scientific consensus is revealed to rest on the loyalties and intellectual affinities of an established research milieu, and not simply on correspondence with reality.

Something is left unexplained in the consensus view, and to focus on this lacuna is to be an outsider. Reliably, such challenges are fought tooth and nail by the research empire built on the encrusted consensus. The scientific paradigm they are invested in is typically superseded only when the scientists sitting atop the institutional hierarchy literally die, or retire. It is not “anti-science” to acknowledge this. Rather, the point is that one has to keep in mind that scientists are human beings first.

That much is old news. But in the catastrophe of the Covid pandemic, something novel and disturbing comes into view. A peculiar form of intellectual intimidation has become prominent in public life in general, and science has not been spared. The letter in The Lancet stated, “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin.”

The invocation of “conspiracy theory” has become a reflex by which incumbents in many domains seek to arrest criticism. They have had to do a lot of this over the last 10 years, as the internet has broken the knowledge monopolies by which institutional credibility is maintained.

As I wrote in a previous essay, policy challenges from outsiders presented through fact and argument, offering some picture of what is going on in the world that is rival to the prevailing one, are not answered in kind, but are met rather with denunciation that is highly moralised. Epistemic threats to institutional authority are resolved into moral conflicts between good people and bad people.

What is significant is how effective the early, pre-emptive declarations of scientific consensus in The Lancet and Nature Medicine were in garnering media enforcement of public opinion on the matter. The “fact checkers” of PolitiFact used these statements to shut down any discussion of the lab leak hypothesis. In effect, it appears the scientists who were signatories to the two letters may have been acting as a classic research cartel. Such behaviour is common enough in science. But because of the political environment, they were able to use the magic words “conspiracy theory” to trigger a wider epistemic immune reaction in high-prestige opinion.

Because this reaction had achieved a kind of automaticity during the Trump years, the guild of virologists could deploy it for their own purposes, directing establishmentarian ire against a perfectly reasonable course of inquiry. At the risk of understatement, such inquiry would have brought unwelcome attention to the US-funded virus work in Wuhan in particular, and gain of function research in general.

As the evolutionary biologist turned cultural critic Bret Weinstein (who specialises in bats, as it happens) has pointed out, the resulting moratorium on pursuing the lab leak hypothesis may have been quite consequential, as an engineered virus behaves differently from a naturally evolved one, and this has implications for how it can best be fought.

Since April 2020, he has been insisting that a possible lab origin for the virus be kept on the table. Notably, his avenue of communication is his YouTube channel. Likewise, Nicholas Wade’s powerful and widely circulated article appeared, not in any national outlet, but on the blog site Medium. (It has since been republished by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, not an organisation within the orbit of virology or public health.) Only now has “the nation’s newspaper of record” and other organs of acceptable opinion been dragged into acknowledging what may be the most important story of the pandemic.

The logic of the surrounding political frame for these events is painfully simple. 1. Donald Trump publicly floated the idea that Covid may have had its origin in a Chinese lab. 2. It was therefore a point of conviction for all those who believe in science that such a hypothesis could only be a conspiracy theory, probably rooted in “Sinophobia”.

The letter in Science calling for an investigation concludes by rejecting “anti-Asian sentiment”. Clearly, this was thought necessary. When the lab leak hypothesis has been mentioned at all in the legacy press, the “conspiracy theory” has often been juxtaposed with reporting on anti-Asian hate crimes, thereby subsuming an urgent scientific question to the Trump-era morality play.

Journalism suffered a general intellectual collapse during the Trump administration, as many have noted on the Left and Right alike. The moral grandeur of #Resistance appears to have been so intoxicating to those who felt the mantle of Saving Democracy settle on their shoulders that the workaday demands of journalistic diligence and sceptical curiosity seemed paltry. The great imperative was to keep underlining the divide between good people and bad people. What we have learned is that a Manichaean atmosphere of moral sorting is intimidating, and therefore provides the perfect cover for “informal pacts of mutual protection,” to borrow a phrase from Martin Gurri.

Liberalism began as a doctrine of political scepticism directed at rulers, based on the truism that power corrupts, and always adopts a virtuous pose. In time, this gave rise to a complementary form of journalism that was basically adversarial towards the politicians it reported on. If we want to revive the spirit of liberalism and adapt it to a technocratic era, it will require a similarly sceptical form of science journalism, based on the recognition that appeals to Science have become the basic idiom for the exercise of authority.


Matthew B Crawford writes the substack Archedelia


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J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

The distinguished chemist, Michael Levitt was massively criticized for his early assertions that the virus did not spread exponentially and that the final death toll would be much less than predicted by Ferguson. He is now exiled to Twitter where he and others continue to systematically analyze the covid infection/death numbers globally. I wonder if and when he’ll be allowed to publish this analysis in a peer-reviewed journal.
Early sceptics such as professors Jay Battacharya and John Ioannidis were similarly savaged for questioning the covid mortality rate and the need for national lockdowns. These people are not cranks and only tenure has saved them from the wrath of the censors. Younger scientists dare not follow their lead.
I’m deeply depressed at the current culture within science. Pretty soon researchers will apply for grants and state their results in advance and ask if those are acceptable to the funding agency.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

It is worth remembering that Michael Levitt was writing at a time when nobody knew much, and that he was basically backing his own intuition, rather than any detailed analysis of data (I read him). That is normal enough in general scientific debate, and the intuition of a Nobel prize winner does deserve a respectful hearing. For measures that determine whether thousands of people live or die it is far from enough. If and when he presents a proper analysis, backed by data in the normal way, one would asume it could get published.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

What did you think of Ferguson’s detailed analysis of data?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Scenario modeling. You put in reasonable assumptions about the virus and see what it gets you. Gupta did the same, with other assumptions, and published models showing how the pandemic was already played out a year ago and the UK was close to herd immunity. Ferguson got a lot closer than Gupta did, and her politics may have played a part in which assumptions she chose to test, but I do not knock her, any more than I knock Ferguson. In the absence of reliable data you check what various assumptions will give you, you judge how likely the various assumptions are, and you use the whole to give you an idea of what the risks are and what policies you should chose between.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I am not asking for a comparison (where you could pick any other person’s model – wink), I simply asked what you thought of Fergusons’s detailed analysis which of course triggered lockdowns, the efficacy of which have been debunked.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Well, in brief. His assumptions were to a large extent taken from other people’s work, and were, as far as I know, reasonable. His modelling has been shown to work as intended. He predicted that a lot of people would die, but with quite intense social distancing (etc.) we could avoid overloading the NHS. We took the measures, a lot of people died, but the NHS was not overloaded. In short, I think his analysis was pretty good.

As for the lockdowns, my guess is still that they were the right decision, not just at the time but in hindsight – they should just have been quicker and stricter. I do not think we will know the score for sure till we understand the virus fully – maybe in another ten years? Meanwhile you have a lot of work to do if you want to to convince me that the efficacy of lockdowns has already been ‘debunked’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Lesley van Reenen
LV
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Florida vs California? Sweden? South Africa – second wave. There are many more. Looking at data of epidemic waves incorporating lockdown timing.

Rasmus Fogh
RF
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Well, it is clearly not simple, I’ll give you that. But then, I could give you some simple examples the other way (Denmark v. Sweden?). Cherry-picking is easy. What you actually need to know is in a specific country, at a specific time, what would have hapened if the country had, or had not, done a lockdown?

The theory is kind of a no-brainer – if you want fewer people to get sick, you limit the number of contacts where the virus could be passed. It would be strange if that did not work. Was there not something about nobody getting the flu, this year, because of all the precautions? In practice it depends on what people actually do, with or without lockdown, how the virus spreads, how well you can keep it up, … comparisons depend on age structure, health, social contact patterns, … Which is why I’ll admit that, theory notwithstanding, it is not exactly proved what the best approach is. But it would take some solid work to convince me that lockdowns are proven useless, and I do not think there is any yet – in either direction.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Given that the virus cannot be totally eliminated, lockdowns are nothing more than putting a bandaid on a leaking dam. All the lockdowns can do is flatten the curve somewhat but the area under the curve remains the same.
The true theory about lockdowns was that these would be maintained and temporarily reduce spread while we waited to be saved by the vaccines!
Unfortunately there is no correlation between the curves for daily deaths/million and the onset of lockdowns, masking or any other measure.
As the saying goes: a virus will virus.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

All the lockdowns can do is flatten the curve somewhat but the area under the curve remains the same.
True up to a point (the advent of vaccines and improved treatments mean the area diminishes the more we flatten it), but isn’t a central idea of lockdowns to prevent health services being overwhelmed?

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

So if the supermarket ran out of bread we should all agree to do without food to ‘stop them being overwhelmed’? This argument never made sense-what do they do in a war situation?

Ian Perkins
IP
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

If people in your country are or were starving because of lockdowns, that’s reason to criticise your government’s implementation of the lockdown. It doesn’t affect the aim, to flatten the curve. Most people accept many inconveniences, such as blackouts and rationing, in war situations.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

They didn’t expect ( in Britain) to starve in the wartime & they could still see their GP and go to hospital if necessary.Are we saying that if Britain went to war now , that to ‘stop hospitals being overwhelmed’ we would need to close down even more things than we have done this year? I never knew patients in hospitals were valued that highly , what a shame they didn’t tell us when my husband was left on a trolly for 10 hours and subsequently had a heart attack-and that was on a quiet day long before they had to cope with this virus.Even allowing for differences in population the NHS is massively larger than 1939-1945 , yet theatres, cinemas , shops etc stayed open then. Keep calm & carry on was the motto.

Ian Perkins
IP
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Have Brits been starving during COVID lockdowns? If not, your “if the supermarket ran out of bread we should all agree to do without food” seems to be purely hypothetical, designed to over-dramatise the inconvenience.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

I don’t have a wide circle of aquaintances but I do know two people who are going to die of cancer because it was not ‘convenient’ for the NHS to deal with it last year

Tom Fox
Tom Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

That is a bad situation, but almost a hundred and thirty thousand of us have died in a little over a year from covid-19 and many more would have died without the control measures. To be honest, I actually doubt that you know two people who are now dying of cancer BECAUSE of NHS delays. A huge number of us die every year of cancer anyway not because of delays, but because the disease is intractable. As our population lives ever longer lives, cancer is becoming more and more likely to be the thing which puts us in the ground..

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

However the 130,000 are all in the same age range ie 80 .Is this amount on top usual people who depart every year -as ‘for one born every minute’ the opposite is true or are you indulging in double counting-did basically noone else die of anything else?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
2 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

The fixation on fatalities obscures the main problem for governments. If Covid just killed all its victims within a few days it would be tragic but manageable. In reality, it can take many weeks, or even months, before seriously ill patients either die or recover. This means very large amounts of healthcare resources are expended on the dying as well as on the survivors. And there are a large number of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s who have been hospitalised.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago

Even if that were true we still live to be alive & live our own lives not just to be bodies who are well or safe. Is the government to step in to stop adults doing everything they consider unsafe? Also who gave the government all these powers? Do we think they should be like the greek legends who look down and move around the people below?

Lee Jones
Lee Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

It seems somewhat of a cop out to base your argument on the assumption that the Kathleen Carr is a liar. When such accusations are made they call into question the veracity of your own argument, which might of course be based on your accepted assumption that people who disagree with you must be liars. Although I will admit that ad hominem fallacies do seem to be considered credible and honourable amongst a certain sort of contributor; sadly.

David Torol
David Torol
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

The mental, emotional and economic damage inflicted by barberic lockdowns equate with crimes against humanity.

villagecryer
OB
villagecryer
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

The lockdown theory was spawned from a 2006 junior high science fair project of a 14 year-old girl in New Mexico, Laura M. Glass, and her modeling father, which won a third place prize. It has shown the efficacy one would expect and the damage to society it’s critics predicted.

Last edited 2 years ago by villagecryer
kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago
Reply to  villagecryer

I’m afraid people have been educated not to think. Even if the person giving the orders is shown to be doing the exact opposite to the order themselves , there are still people who will still want to obey-it makes them feel safe.So last year as a supposed health measure we were told how often we could leave our homes , we were restricted in what we could purchase-yet the same law inforcers sided with one particular political group & still educated people think this was all for our own good.

Andrew Fisher
AF
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

A key issue here is that the term lockdown, which we bandy around, does not have a specific agreed meaning nor represent a specific package of measures. Many measures were introduced in many countries but all with the intention of reducing the amount of social contact. This included Sweden by the way.

And of course it matters a great deal, given the potential rate of growth of infection, what the time lags are before the measures are introduced, especially since we might expect to see an increase in travel, shopping, going to the pub etc before restrictions are introduced.

Scepticism about the government’s response, and fair interrogation of the evolving evidence is all well and good. However very often our resident ‘sceptics’ are in reality ‘covid-deniers’. They continue to greatly downplay the seriousness of the pandemic and exhibit a fatalistic, possibly libertarian, attitude to any measures taken to prevent deaths and /or basically say that it doesn’t matter too much how many people die as they are old in any case.

For example, it is not just lockdowns: they typically decry other policy responses. Quarantine has been known about since medieval times. Or an effective track and trace scheme, which is possible as Taiwan and Korea showed, even though we got ours wrong.

UK 120,000 deaths, Taiwan 15, Denmark about 2,500. That’s a heck of a difference, not really explained by ‘viruses will be viruses’. I used to lean somewhat to the ‘lockdown sceptic’ school, but it seems to me now that the mainstream view, which correctly predicted a second and third wave, had it more right than the critics.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Lynn Copeland
Lynn Copeland
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

The presence of certain health markers go a lot further to explain outcomes than the severity of lockdown measures do. This virus is less indiscriminate than many; something that’s not being faced head on. Nothing to do with the value of lives, but everything to do with coming to terms with real consequences, whether that be the vulnerability of ageing or the risks of particular “lifestyle” behaviours. Of course, some younger and apparently healthy people have been hit hard as well, and while I know this can’t all be explained away, I’m sure stress has an impact here, along with the undeniable reality that sometimes things happen for reasons we can’t see or understand. There has been almost no appropriate relative risk assessment or context throughout.

David Torol
DT
David Torol
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

The 120000 number is a liberally used fraudulent paradigm. Anyone expiring 28 to 60 days from the usage of a false PCR test is attributed to Covid. This calls for Nürnberg II tribunals.

Tom Fox
TF
Tom Fox
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

This theory fails when you introduce effective vaccination programmes. The population under the curve is taken away and lockdowns or other control measures to limit spread, prevent the catastrophe of medical services becoming overwhelmed. Nobody thinks the pain is insignificant, but it has worked in the UK.

David Torol
David Torol
2 years ago
Reply to  Tom Fox

If this is what one calls working I want nothing to do with such results and consequences

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Furthermore, mutations are based on TIME. The longer we “flattened the curve”, the longer time accessible for mutations, rather than a quick fix of getting the most people sick (aged under 50, protect the others) possible, in order to speed up immunity, instead of slowing it down.
ALL actions taken during these 15 months were contrary to all the previous pandemic and emergency planning. Governments responded to populist fear porn, generated by media whose agendas are owned by Big Pharma, the government response is a populist one, politicians can thrive on populism.
Democracy was NEVER meant to be populist, it was always supposed to be measured, in order to keep fickle minds at an arm’s length.

Rasmus Fogh
RF
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

No. Mutations are based on the number of cases, whether they happen fast or slow. Each virus particle has about the same chance of mutating.

Trishia A
TA
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

That is simply false, all other things being equal, if it spreads fast, it extinguishes fast, and mutations don’t have TIME to happen.

David Torol
DT
David Torol
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Sorry. Barbaric lockdowns are crimes against humanity and were all planned out well before the event. Shades of Wannasee?

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Look at the US states. There is NO correlation between intensity of lockdowns/mandates with cases or deaths. None.
There is a near-perfect correlation between intensity of lockdowns and economic displacement, however. The most severe lockdowns had by far the worst economic declines.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

Why would you expect a simple correlation? All other things being equal, you would get more and more severe lockdown, the more cases you had to start with. I am afraid it is too complex for back-of-the-envelope arguments.

Nick Faulks
Nick Faulks
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

These are not back-of -the-envelope arguments. Comparisons of similar US states show no evidence for the efficacy of lockdowns, however you slice and dice them. It just isn’t there.

David Torol
David Torol
2 years ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

There are zero justifications for barbaric lockdowns just as there were zero justifications for Polish ghettos

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Yes, let’s ignore the facts and just wish it away. Lockdowns did not necessarily start when the most cases occurred: see California which locked down early and often and fared no better than average.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

@Nick Faulks, Terry M
It is too complex for amateurs to fight out, as far as I am concerned. If it is that simple, why not just do the statistics, write it up, and publish it in Nature?

steveroylance2012
SR
steveroylance2012
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

missing the point again , its the case studies and reporting deaths that is the problem , i assume you have seen the notes issued out by the CDC in 2019 – very strange how they were instructing the medical profession on how to report cases and deaths before the Covid virus actually appeared /leaked from the Wuhan lab

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago

I’m not sure what exactly you’re getting at, but isn’t it very much part of the CDC’s job to oversee or advise on the reporting of cases and deaths, with or without a pandemic?

Lynn Copeland
LC
Lynn Copeland
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Unfortunately, political decisions have not consistently been based on this much logic. I’m in an area that’s been in yet another lockdown (no schools, no stores, limited mobility) There has been one death in four weeks and an active case count ranging from 26-32, all in a region bigger than most European countries. And bets are on that the lockdown will be extended further. Oh, and the total Covid-19 death count here for the past 14 months is 63. I’m in complete agreement on the complexity of the challenge, but I would say that fear and politicking have been the main influences on the severity of responses, not the actual threat.
The greatest issue of complexity isn’t actually around determining whether or not lives were saved, and if so, by how much. That will prove to be child’s play in comparison to measuring the lives lost and destroyed and diminished through the lockdown measures themselves. This would be an entirely different discussion (globally) if there was even a hint of recognition shown for the resultant devastating degree and range of collateral harm.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Lynn Copeland

Sounds reasonable.
Can you share which country, or continent, you live in?

Lynn Copeland
Lynn Copeland
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I’m in Canada; in north-western Ontario, which has the huge advantage of low population density, and lots of fresh air.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

Trump last year said he was told by Australian intelligence that the virus was man-made. As the media , helped by people like Fauci (, remember the bleach episode where a man apparently drank fish cleaner?)-this was easily dismissed as just him rambling. As you say Republican states like Florida that have stayed open seem to be doing fine, Democrat states that stayed shut not very well.

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
2 years ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

1/ Ah the world famous Australian intelligence service?
2/ If you look at economic performance of countries rather than US states (the population of the US is about 1/25th of the population of the world, so its too small to be a representative sample), you see that S Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, etc are all doing better than the US, Europe, etc. Those who have kept the virus under control by having consistent policies of virus repression are doing better economically.

steveroylance2012
steveroylance2012
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

education and look for safer more effective strategies…..

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr. Fogh–
[I]t would take some solid work to convince me that lockdowns are proven useless, and I do not think there is any yet – in either direction.

I don’t disagree with you, but… Is such “solid work” even possible? Isn’t all data selection “cherry picking” to some extent in a soft science like epidemiology?

Whose job is it to do the “solid work? Those who say lockdowns worked? Or those who debunk the idea? It seems to me that the burden of evidence lies with the former, especially if lockdowns are to become the first political action for any future epidemic.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

Why should the burden of proof lie with one side only? I hope you are not saying that we should take your views as correct by default. Epidemiology may not be easy, but surely it is not impossible, and if people start with the data rather than their politics (whatever they are) maybe they can increase our knowledge

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr. Fogh–
The burden of evidence should lie with the side that proposes an action, such as lockdowns.

Whether or not the past lockdowns were justified by their results is of historical interest only, but if they are ever to be considered again, there should be evidence to support them.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

And as the saying goes, if one want to erase charter rights, one should demonstrably prove that the lockdowns work. That line was most certainly not reached.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well then even though I could deep dive into comparisons, why not simply debate the case of South Africa second wave with me. No comparison to another country. No hard lockdown. No vaccines. Only one restriction that could have made a difference which was no bars and nightclubs open, which was immediately negated by the fact that the majority of the population travel packed like sardines into minibus taxis shouting at each other mostly without masks. Still the curve did what the curve had to do… plummeted.

Jim McNeillie
Jim McNeillie
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The lockdowns were justified by the fallacy of asymptomatic transmission, which was a flat Earth hypothesis labelled as “following the science”.
If the locking down had any effect (aside from the obvious damage to economy and public health) it was to transfer the greatest infection exposure to shut-ins and “front-liners” who were unable to stay home, while symptomatic, due to lack of household support, precarious employment or lack of sick pay.

Trishia A
TA
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim McNeillie

All the asymptomatic-fascists need to be taken down from their pedestals.
Transmission stats–within a home setting:
-Asym/Presymptomatic: 7/1000
-Symptomatic: 200/1000
If mask-fascists had an once of logic in their brain, it’s specifically at home with family they should have worn their masks!

Last edited 2 years ago by Trishia A
Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

There is no mystery about the differential death tolls in Scandinavia. They are explained by population distribution pattern and the Dry Tinder analogy.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

Maybe. And maybe not. There may well be other, better explanations. But then, that is the point: We cannot just pick two states or countries, compare the numbers, and jump to our favourite conclusion. We need some detailed understanding – no matter how strongly we are convinced that we are right.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Every comparison is specific to the comparison. One might not be able to make a dry tinder analogy comparing South and North Dakota, but one may be able to make habitation density conclusions comparing Republican districts compared to Democrat districts. There are dozens of factors that drive contagion. No comparison will include all factors, it’s not cherry picking, it’s understanding that the reality is different in different places.

David Torol
DT
David Torol
2 years ago

I have answered that above. For me he is equivalent of a murdering tdchnocrat who knew exactly what he was doing and has done for the past 20 years. A perfect example of the banality of evil. My view

steveroylance2012
steveroylance2012
2 years ago

wrong as usual

David Torol
David Torol
2 years ago

Ferguson is a paid modeler who writes trash for those that pay him just as A. Eichmann facilitated logistics for his paymasters. Ferguson has a history of doing this. He deserves the same fate as Herr Eichmann although the latter was far more intelligent.

Dave Coulson
Dave Coulson
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

That’s just wrong. Levitt’s writing was a review of Speigelhalter’s article around the Diamond Princess data.
Not just intuition, actual analysis.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Coulson

Did some Googling to refresh my memory. This link is damning and links on to a lot of failed optimistic predictions by Levitt – but, in fairness, the writer is too strongly anti-Levitt to take on trust.

The Unherd interview reminded me. Levitt basically took the COVID death curve from various places, fitted it to a likely-looking function, noted it tapered off, and concluded that COVID was self-limiting and would die out fairly quickly. He had no idea why this would be so, but speculated about pre-existing immunity or huge numbers of asymptomatic infections (neither of which has been confirmed now, a year later). It seems to me that the mere existince of a second wave of infections, in any country anywhere, would be enough to disprove this theory. Now, as a preliminary exploration of an interesting body of data this is just fine. But if you do not understand the underlying mechanisms, just fitting a curve and extrapolating into the future is a recipe for failure – as many an amateur stockmarket analyst has discovered. Nothing but a great faith in his own unsupported judgement – and the respect you get as a Nobel prize winner – would justify putting this level of analysis to the public.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Lynn Copeland
LC
Lynn Copeland
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

It may not make much difference in the accuracy of Levitt’s predictions, but unprecedented human interventions are likely to have had influence on at least the shape of the curves, if not on the total numbers. I will follow up with more review before commenting further, but it seems to be an often overlooked variable, and one that doesn’t only result in positive outcomes.

Ernest DuBrul
ED
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr. Fogh–
As you surely know, Levitt’s mathematical analysis was published, albeit in MedRxiv as an unreviewed preprint. And Levitt continued to expand his analysis and make his findings available. One of the magnificent things about the internet!

I’ve always thought that Levitt, Bhattacharya, Ioanidis, and the rest of the “contrarians” were ignored for the reasons suggested in the above essay — they questioned the guiding paradigm and, of course, they refused to blame the whole mess on Donald Trump.

But it was also more than that. Since the guiding paradigm was incredibly weak with little research to support it, in their questioning the guiding paradigm, the “contrarians” were actually questioning the entire field of epidemiology itself, a field that has shown itself to be one step away from Feynman’s Cargo Cult Science.

The major part of their paradigm questioning was its insistence that disciplines other than epidemiology should have equal input into all policy decisions — kineticists like Levitt and Isaac Ben Israel, economists, educators, logistics specialists, etc. — because all have knowledge that is equal to, if not better than, the guiding paradigm of epidemiology.

The fact that scientists and journals in more substantial fields of biomedical science than epidemiology rallied to the support of the normal epidemiology makes me wonder if they did not recognize that most of the science establishment itself is built on a weak foundation, so they responded biblically (“…[W]hatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”).

Might not this approach also be what is happening with climate science and its predictions? With all of the “woke” causes that depend to some extent on “the science”?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Rasmus Fogh
RF
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

Since the guiding paradigm was incredibly weak with little research to support it

Are you saying that no one, epidemiologists included, knew much about SARS-COV2 at the beginning (true), or that the entire field of epidemiology is rubbish (controversial)?
And are you saying that economists, logisticians, etc. have important input into political decisions just like epidemiolgists (uncontroversial), or that economists know as much about disease propagation as epidemiologists do (controversial). Or just that economists felt that the decisions should be taken on the basis of economic, and not medical considerations?

My guess would be that people from other scientific fields rallied to the support of people who stuck to the normal rules for scientific evidence gathering, evaluation, and argument, and turned their backs on people who did not. That may not be the only thing involved – there was indeed a strong political divide between pro- and anti-lockdown groups, and people were hit for giving succour to the enemy. Ioannides is still publishing, though, and his latest paper looks convincing enough that it would take an expert to dispute it. We shall see where it comes down.

Ernest DuBrul
ED
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr. Fogh–
1) Not the entire field, but much of the field of epidemiology is rubbish. Why? it’s a relatively new field with very little core knowledge. It has very little opportunity to do controlled experimentation. It has few standards for its practioners.

2) Decisions about political actions should have involved equal inputs from more than epidemiologists — kineticists of all kinds, economists, educators, social psychologists, a variety of physicians, business executives. Only then could a political actor have a more complete view of how his actions might impinge on society. There was more to Covid than the death toll.

3) People from other fields of biomedical science probably know very little of epidemiology. But implying that Ioannidis, Bhattacharya, Gupta, Atlas, Kulldorff, and others do not “stick to the normal rules for scientific evidence gathering, evaluation, and argument” was a cardinal sin against science and, to my mind at the time, discredited those who made that implication. The “impliers” were the ones who were “anti-science” and acting on their politics alone.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

Michael Levitt clearly did not stick to the rules. Gupta and Ioannides did, AFAIK, at least in their scientific publications. By the time we get to the Barrington declaration, we are arguably outside science and into politics. As for decision input, it is up to the politicians to ask for the input they need – and one country that clearly delegated their decisions to the health bureacracy was, ironically, Sweden.

Ernest DuBrul
ED
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr. Fogh–
Aside from not being a published, legitimized epidemiologist, in fact, being a total medical sciences outsider, how did Professor Levitt “not stick to the rules”?

Do you actually believe that all other central governments of the Western countries did not delegate all their Covid decisions to the health bureaucracy? After all, it was “the science” that was guiding them — not “the scientists” nor “the overall knowledge” nor “the effects on society”.

Here in the States, the only government official I saw who openly discussed all aspects of the epidemic with his advisers and his citizenry (on YouTube, no less, so the entire state could understand his actions) was Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis. Everybody else had a pubic health yes-man or yes-woman, usually just a conduit for the CDC.

And though it is the politicians’ responsibility to ask for input, it is the scientists’ responsibility to say: “We don’t know. This is also bigger than just deaths and we can not authoritatively speak to the other issues, of which there are many.”

Pure arrogance on the part of most scientists over the last year!

Last edited 2 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

The Danish prime minister took an explicitly political decision, went against her health bureaucracy – and introduced border closures and locksowns, which the health bureaucracy thought unnecessary. She based that on scientific opinion, of course, but she decided for herself which sources to consult, and which risks to take. Meanwhile the Swedes left their health bureaucracy in charge.

Let each stick to his expertise. Scientists should not moonlight as politicians but provide the best science they can and try to be honest about the limits (since scientists on both sides tend to be overconfident in their results, you need to listen to several). And politicians should not make scientific guesses but consult and weigh their sources and take responsibility for deciding, without trying to pass the buck to ‘the science’.

Don Butler
DB
Don Butler
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

“it is the scientists’ responsibility to say: “We don’t know.”

Bingo! That’s pretty much all that needs to be said. So many would rather tell a “noble lie” than simply say they don’t know. Hence, credibility is lost when it is most needed. But here hubris does not merely bring down the tragic hero, but the rest of us as well.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Don Butler

Scientist do tend to overonfidence in their ideas, yes (including Levitt and Tegnell, by the way). But a better way forward might be to try to put some uncertainty estimates on our best try, rather than just stepping back and leaving the field to those who might know even less.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

You make a very good analogy with Feynman’s Cargo Cult. It really is that, doing whatever, and interpreting results that way. It’s similar to some ape-to-human studies of behaviours. We see something, therefore it must have that cause. The sciences have been gravely degraded over the past 20 or 30 years, and Charles Murray may have stated it correctly, in that there are simply too many university diplomas happening, drawing down standards, and forcing ever more prostitution to corporate funding behaviours.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Respectfully, I disagree.
As early as March 2020 Levitt had analyzed the covid infection and mortality rates from the cruise liner The Diamond Princess and published his key results on Medium. Here’s the link.
https://medium.com/@michael.levitt/the-excess-burden-of-death-from-coronavirus-covid-19-is-closer-to-a-month-than-to-a-year-83fca74455b4
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert epidemiologist. I, like everyone else, must sift through the numerous on-line articles discussing covid death rates, infection rates, etc and do my best to make sense of it. But so far as I can tell, Levitt and notably Bhattacharya were basically correct last spring in their estimates of true covid infection mortality rates. It wasn’t intuition but solid science that led them to these conclusions.

Rasmus Fogh
RF
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

So, Levitt picks the Diamond Princess data, and Imperial concentrated on Wuhan. At worst the choice is arbitrary, on both sides. More realistically, a single 700-person group sounds like a damn small sample, nowhere near enough for such far-reaching conclusion let alone the cocksure delivery.. Solid science would require looking at all the data, and rather more of it (as for instance Ioannides does in his 2021 paper). Besides, the lack of detail and the inflammatory wording “The western world has been encouraged by their lack responsibility to commit suicide …” is enough to disqualify this link as a reliable source. This is rabble-rousing, not science. There may be more convincing publications elsewhere, of course.

Ernest DuBrul
ED
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr. Fogh–
No, The Diamond Princess analysis was not arbitrary. The Diamond Princess was and still is the closest one could get to a controlled experiment, controlled by luck as it were.

And, of course, medium.com is an opinion platform, not a platform for reporting scientific results, so one need not expect much detail and less inflammatory wording, wording that was mild compared to the words being thrown at Professor Levitt and other contrarians. It was also the platform on which David Spiegelhalter published his analysis to which Professor Levitt was responding.

In any case, was Professor Levitt wrong to write what you quote? I would say ‘No” — the Western World was encouraged by most epidemiological scientists’ lack of responsibility (I might consider “self-centered arrogance” instead of “lack of responsibility”) coupled with uncontrolled media and academic errors to commit suicide for an excess burden of death of one month. It will be up to historians to determine how great the economic, educational, medical, and social suicide was.

All of which avoids the question: Whose analysis was correct? Spiegelhalters’ or Levitt’s?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

If you have something better than ‘medium.com’ that would indeed be the thing to look at.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr. Fogh–
Perhaps that question would be better addressed to David Spiegelhalter who published the original article on medium.com to which Professor Levitt replied. (https://medium.com/wintoncentre/how-much-normal-risk-does-covid-represent-4539118e1196)

Last edited 2 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

Spiegelhalter gave a fairly simple and checkable calculation, based on data from the group at Imperial college – and linked to the Imperial college report. Levitt is arguing against the data from Imperial, not Spiegelhalter, and needs to give the same degree of detail, referencing, etc. as the group he is arguing against. The Levitt article is manifestly not up to the job.

If you want to see how it needs to be done, try Ioannides. The Imperial College data used a infection fatality rate estimare of 0.9% (0.4-1.4%, best that could be done back then). Ioannides, with much more data available and a careful detailed analysis, get 0-3-0.4% IFR for Europe and North America (which is the relevant area for deciding UK policy). His headline figure is 0.15%, but that is a global average including much younger third world populations (and somewhat less reliable third world data). So, if Ioannides claims that the original Imperial estimate was 2.5 times too high, we need to take that seriously unless and until an equally authoritative paper says something else. When Levitt claims that the Imperial figure was12 time too high, we can just ignore him.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Mr. Fogh–
How does this work for you?
https://medium.com/@heatherrenkel/in-response-to-stephen-spiegelhalters-comment-dr-7f9f55a2c076

I think this is something science is going to have to adjust to in the future — scientists “publishing” their hypotheses, experiments, and results on their own and having their work “reviewed” by crowdsourcing. This is probably the future of those weak sciences that have a lot of political relevance, e.g., epidemiology, environmental science, climate science, and the like.
Thank you for the link to the Ioannidis, et al. paper. It is unfortunate that he was not listened to as a major voice of sanity last year.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

Badly. He still uses the one case of the Diamond Princess as his only starting point. He also seems to assume that the epicemic had already run through the Wuhan population and that a very large proportion of people had been infected, and blithely ends by saying “this suggests that around 3 000 000 people in Wuhan have been infected”. This is pure speculation – intuition, if you like.

If this is ‘the future of science’, then the science of the future will about as useful as a newspaper astrology column.

J Bryant
JB
J Bryant
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I agree that Levitt is a poor communicator and somewhat naïve. He was also a bit cocksure early in the pandemic. He is not a gifted communicator and tends to ramble in interviews.
That said his conclusions were correct. The Diamond Princess was an almost ideal situation in which to evaluate parameters such as transmissibility and infection mortality rate. It was several hundred mostly old (therefore vulnerable) people in an enclosed environment with the virus for several weeks.
And why did he publish on Medium? Because he was shut out of the mainstream science journals and news outlets as a ‘crank.’ That’s exactly what happened to the science journalist Nicholas Wade and his report on the evidence for the coronavirus originating in the virology lab at Wuhan, as reported in Unherd this week. Wade was treated as a pariah and Medium was one of few options available to publish his findings. Now, at long last, the mainstream media are forced to pick up this story.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I have yet to see that his conclusions were correct. His estimates of infection fatality rates – delivered with great indignatation and certainty – were only a quarter of Ioanides later and much better supported estimates – never mind what other scientists might have to say. His claim that the COVID epidemics went through the population in the first wave, burnt out by theselves, and need not trouble us further would seem to be thorough disproved, nay ‘debunked’, by the various second waves.

As for the journal, who cares? Wade was thoroughly convincing even on a private blog, because he had a well-supported story and presented it in a credible manner. If Levitt had had anything similarly convincing he could either have found a journal (likely, at this point, for a Nobel prize winner), or could have put the detailed story on the web in full and challenged his colleagues to pick it apart. As it is, his Medium post is so thin that even an amateur like me can see the weak points.

jvirgin jvirgin
JF
jvirgin jvirgin
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I agree the amount of data from the Diamond Princess was rather small though interestingly it seems to have stacked up quite well over time. For sure though I think most reasonable people would consider data from that source more reliable than that from Wuhan.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago

3000 is not “small”, it was an excellent sample size, of mostly seniors, and a confined and controlled environment. It was the perfect sample, and THAT is why the data 15 months later confirms that data.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

Diamond Princess is certainly an interesting data set, no disagreement there. But what exactly is it that ‘the data’ are confirming now fifteen months later? Levitts infection fatality rates? His theories about COVID being self-limiting? And can you point me to a place where it is shown what ‘the data’, are now confirming, so I can form an opinion about it? I might even accept that you have a point – if only I could find out exactly which point you are trying to make.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Actually, Imperial did not ‘concentrate on Wuhan’. The Imperial data are based on Verity et al., who included data from Wuhan and the Diamond Princess both. Imperial simply had more data.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

That’s just not true. The death trends we know today are the exact same death trends in Lombardi which were published early on.
The criticisms of lockdowns and universal masking of the healthy were also long-standing conventional knowledge.
A lot of people make excuses for “we didn’t know”, but other than biochemechanics, mRNA engineering, there’s been no new knowledge in the past 12 months.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Trishia A

The amount of data on death rates, transmission, spread in then[population have increased enormously over the past year.

I found a couple of ‘Lombardi et al. on Google, but none of them seemed relevant. Could you give a link, or a unique reference?

Nick Faulks
NF
Nick Faulks
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Your final point is already factual. More than a decade ago, a highly respected scientist requesting funds for the investigation of climate change reported that he had been “outbid” by another group predicting a faster rise in global temperatures.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
2 years ago
Reply to  Nick Faulks

Its not surprising how, with a few changes, this article could have been written about climate change.

steveroylance2012
steveroylance2012
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I share the share concerns with science now

S Roylance

Mike Bell
MB
Mike Bell
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You say: “ Pretty soon researchers will apply for grants and state their results in advance and ask if those are acceptable to the funding agency.”
The scary thing is: this is the norm in the post-modernist social-science community already. The empirical sciences have at least had the general intention of using evidence.
If the natural science go the same way as ‘critical’ theory departments, it will mark the beginning of the end of the progress we have achieved over the last 300 years.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
2 years ago

And the author is quite right of course about how describing a scientist presenting a considered opinion as ‘speaking out’ , as if fear of speaking the truth had somehow previously prevented it, hints at something rather off about the whole way information/policy related to COVID has been dealt with. Never mind a bit off, sinister even.

steveroylance2012
steveroylance2012
2 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

exactly Seb… a lot of threads are missing this point, well said

Johnny Sutherland
JS
Johnny Sutherland
2 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Its not just COVID its anything that goes against the agenda.

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
2 years ago

The bald facts. A world wide pandemic started 400m from one of the only institutions in the world conducting dangerous experiments with the same rare class of virus.
This causes the deaths of millions of people.
The virology profession successfully shut down any discussion of the most important global event of the last decade.
For a year, professional journalists failed to properly investigate the obvious likelihood that the virus leaked from the institution. In fact, they often demonised anyone who raises this possibility.
Even pieces like the one above fail to ask the most urgent questions

  1. How are we going reign in the activities of global science so this global catastrophe never happens again?
  2. How can we get journalists to start performing their essential social role once again?
Last edited 2 years ago by Cassian Young
Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

Yes, you ask two of the great questions of our time. Even now, the gain-of-function scientists are trying to get another 1.2 billion to carry on with this type of research. And that’s nothing compared to the trillions that scientists have been getting for pushing the climate change racket. (Full disclosure, I myself have earned enough from this particular racket to have bought a small fleet of Teslas).
As for the journalists there is simply no hope when it comes to the MSM. Even if they wanted to perform journalism instead of activism they wouldn’t have the first clue of how to go about it. This is why the moral and intellectual collapse of the BBC is so tragic. They do at least have the funds to do proper journalism, but instead they squander that money on thousands of journalistic frauds and countless hours of garbage ‘entertainment’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Fraser Bailey
Andrew Harvey
AH
Andrew Harvey
2 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

The liberal urban elites that make up 99% of journalists have been preaching the joys of globalization for the past half century. Do you really think they’re going to acknowledge the 3+ million (and counting) deaths caused by their pet project?

Johann Strauss
JS
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

Perhaps both virologists and journalists should understand the application of one of the first rules of science: Occam’s Razor. It is self-evident that this virus originated from a leak in the Wuhan lab. Most likely accidental and such accidental leaks are quite common even in the US at USAMRIID.
Incidentally, everybody in Wuhan knew that the virus originated from the lab.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

And it was precisely because these leaks are so common that the Obama administration banned gain-of-function research in the US. They also banned the funding of this research, but apparently Fauci found a way around this.

Cassian Young
Cassian Young
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Framing plays a role here.
Is it “millions killed by leak at Chinese facility” or “millions killed by reckless virology profession” or “millions killed by research funded by national hero, Dr Fauci”?
Journalists seemed to acted to prevent what they saw as problematic framing by shutting the debate down. They should have reframed the question.

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

A key problem is that Dr Fauci, who is the figurehead for Covid knowledge here in the US, was instrumental in establishing the Wuhan facility AND in supplying funds for THIS VERY RESEARCH. Gain of function research is outlawed in the US, and Fauci’s first attempt to get funds to send to Wuhan to support this work (outside the US) was denied. But the law has a clause that says in the event of a ‘national security’ event this could be put aside. Fauci got his waiver, sent the $$ to Wuhan, and the rest is history.
Is it any wonder that Fauci has done an incredible pretzel-like contortion to downplay the Wuhan lab? Even using the Covid name rather than Chinese Flu, or Wuhan Plague?
PS. Fauci is the highest paid person in the US government.

michael harris
MH
michael harris
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

It wasn’t even a lot of money that went to the Wuhan lab. But it was enough. And it was US government money.
Why does Fauci swear by masks, even to the extent of advising two masks better than one?
Guilt!

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

I fear #2 is a lost cause. The profession has, by choice, don’t perhaps irreparable harm to itself. Journalism has been replaced by activism, with “reporters” openly rooting for or against various people and issues. A great power of the media – which is too often overlooked – is deciding what to cover, not just how to cover it. In the US, national media have almost ignored the non-stop rioting in places like Portland or Seattle. Oh, there is the occasional piece, but it’s framed in the usual “justice” Orwell-speak.

Fraser Bailey
FB
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

You are right. We will not see any significant return to real journalism in our lifetimes. And anyone who does practice real journalism will be taken out by Big Tech. I have just watched some horrific footage of ABC ‘journalists’ coaching #metoo accusers to make accusations that were later disproved.
The media is now utterly evil and utterly beyond repair – just look at the whole BBC/Bashir/Diana thing. And that was over 25 years ago, so just imagine how much worse it is now.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

A world wide pandemic started 400m from one of the only institutions in the world conducting dangerous experiments with the same rare class of virus.

I think the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and Prevention is a few hundred metres from the Huanan market. It may or may not have been engaging in experiments with bat coronaviruses, unlike the considerably more distant Wuhan Institute for Virology.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Perkins
Cassian Young
Cassian Young
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Thanks, the Wuhan Institute for Virology seems to be 4km away. The point still holds I think.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

Thanks, and I agree. I wonder why at least two readers have given my comment the thumbs-down. If they think the Wuhan CDC was conducting gain of function research with coronaviruses, or if they dispute the geography of these two labs, why don’t they present some evidence?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Perkins
Lynn Copeland
Lynn Copeland
2 years ago
Reply to  Cassian Young

I agree; these origin discussions always seem to stop short of where they need to go to have real value. As for journalists, I remember witnessing “journalism” as theatre in 1991, and haven’t found most of it credible since then. When journalists are soliciting the opinions of other journalists on important topics, something is really off. I don’t think that the institution can be resurrected; let’s hope for and support those creating alternative formats and displaying even an iota of innate curiosity about truth.

Cassian Young
CY
Cassian Young
2 years ago
Reply to  Lynn Copeland

Yes. I recommend reading Glenn Greenwald on Substack. I don’t agree with his politics, but he has collected a huge number of incidents in which most US TV stations sold stories that were completely untrue and were later entirely disproved. Some are shocking.

Prashant Kotak
PK
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

The same phenomenon could be observed from the medical, pharmaceutical and biological scientific community in the EU countries regarding vaccines when the AstraZenaca arrived. Pretty much no one was willing to put their head above the parapet contradicting the EU narrative, when the EU politicians and Macron and Merkel strated trashing the AZ vaccine, essentially for political reasons.

To me, it looks like the EU has somehow created a structural dependence on an entire scientific community, who are therefore unwilling to risk careers by challenging politicians when they spout clear nonsense about scientific and medical matters, making for poorer quality science.

Seb Dakin
Seb Dakin
2 years ago

I’ve posted this link before to the article that this one refers to. After reading it, it is very hard indeed to see any other explanation as anywhere near as credible as that the virus came from that Wuhan lab.
https://thebulletin.org/2021/05/the-origin-of-covid-did-people-or-nature-open-pandoras-box-at-wuhan/
It is a must-read I think, and Nicholas Wade has done all of us a great favour.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Keep posting it.

Lynn Copeland
Lynn Copeland
2 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Yes, and if it’s true (which I also expect it to be), then it would also be a factor in all of the peculiarities in the way it behaves, and the unintuitive methods of effective treatment. The lack of curiosity on this topic astounds me.

chantellesuzanneoliver
chantellesuzanneoliver
2 years ago
Reply to  Seb Dakin

Wade is famous for writing a book that supports white supremacy. Why do none of the interviews and articles contextualize it this way and ask him if he thinks there is a biologically determinant reason for China to be the site of the leak. Further, the Weinstein brothers are hacks. I am a physics editor married to a physicist and they are pure conspiracy theory.

Rasmus Fogh
RF
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Maybe – but if you read Wades article it comes across as consistent and convincing, and his data should be easy to cross-check. I would love to see a refutation based on analysis of the data – that would show a lot about how reliable it was. But if you cannot do that, linking him to a politically incorrect book is really not enough to dismiss him.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I note that Wade says towards the end of the article :
“Neither the natural emergence nor the lab escape hypothesis can yet be ruled out. There is still no direct evidence for either. So no definitive conclusion can be reached.”
I think he has been a bit selective in some of his evidence
a) “You would need a longstanding population of bats in frequent proximity with an intermediate host, which in turn must often cross paths with people”
There is an extensive, well established food chain originating in domestic wildlife animal farms in Southern China (including Yunnan where these coronaviruses of interest were first spotted).
These are mixed domestic / wild animal farms breeding civets, bamboo rats, coypu, water rats, ferret badgers and racoon dogs (to mention a few). These are the same animals that were infected during the SARS outbreak notably ferret badgers, civets and raccoon dogs.
These farms generally have dense populations of animals and are not biosecure. Swaps occur between farms. The animals are sold alive because they are deemed fresher that way. Animals that are left unsold at the end of the day go straight to restaurants at night. (See BBC Radio 4 Inside Science 11.02.2021)
b) Humanised mice and passaging. Passaging cannot guarantee an outcome of viral evolution. The life cycle of a virus and infection efficiency depend on more than just receptor binding, and adaptation to 1 type of receptor may come at the expense of reduced ability to spread to other cells, reduced shedding, reduced pathogenisity
There are 3 transgenic mouse models. Two of these were developed in 2007. When infected these mice develop a very nasty encepahalitis – not a feature of Covid (thankfully) and only rarely pneumonia. The third model wasn’t developed until 2020.
Experimental virology wisdom : Monkeys exaggerate, mice lie and cells give fake news.
c) “All the other viruses have their S2 unit cleaved at a different site and by a different mechanism”
From : “Furin cleavage sites naturally occur in corona viruses” Yiran Wu January 2021
Furin cleavage sites are common in Betacoronavirus
Furin cleavage sites also occur in other genera of coronavirus
The analysis exhibited furin cleavage sites at spike S1/S2 occurred independently several times in coronaviruses. Consequently, natural occurrence of the site in SARS-CoV-2 is highly possible.
d) “So how did SARS2 acquire a pair of arginine codons that are favored by human cells but not by coronaviruses? ” 
Through blind chance as calculated by Xia in “Domains and functions of spike protein in Sars Cov 2 in the context of vaccine design”
e) “For the lab escape scenario, the double CGG codon is no surprise. The human-preferred codon is routinely used in labs”  
But how would they know where to put it to have a useful effect ?
I have other questions but its late.

Last edited 2 years ago by Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Thanks, that really helped. It was interesting to see some published counterarguments to Wade, and anyway you clearly know what you are talking about. Wade still has a point, I’d say, based on the lack of specific evidence for natural transmission, the still unchallenged evidence about gain-of-function research taking place in Wuhan, and the lack of cooperation from the Chinese. I shall reduce my belief in his theory, though. From 60% to 30% maybe?

jvirgin jvirgin
jvirgin jvirgin
2 years ago

If this is the case how come Wade was a staff writer for the NY Times? He still gets published there.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago

As a biologist working in paleontology, I agree that his theories on IQ based on genes rather than geographicy and migratory histories is wrong. However, declaring those wrong required demonstration, and counter-argumentation, not just ad hominem. Hopefully, any persons countering this article will do so based on content, not ad hominem.

F Mcallister
F Mcallister
2 years ago

A refutation of his arguments instead of going off topic and regurgitating Woke, Guardian reading talking points about ‘Conspiracy theories’, and ‘Muh, White Supremacy’ is probably more likely to persuade people with enquiring minds.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
2 years ago

Wade is famous for writing a book that supports white supremacy.

It is pretty safe to assume you are lying though.

Sidney Falco
Sidney Falco
2 years ago

TDS applies equally to HCL – only of interest because of the apparent lack of spread of Covid in malarial countries taking it as a prophylactic.
I seem to remember The Lancet published a tendentious study about its efficacy as well.
There’s no money to be made in an out of patent drug that costs pennies, especially not one championed by Trump.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Sidney Falco

There’s no money to be made in an out of patent drug that costs pennies
You seem to be implying hydroxychloroqine was found to be ineffective for financial reasons. How, then, do you explain the same medical authorities endorsing dexamethasone, also cheap and off-patent?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Dexamethasone is not a silver bullet drug against Covid…. it is one of a cocktail of drugs given to patients. HCL was considered very beneficial early onset and potentially prophylactically. It was squashed early on. I am more familiar with the efficacy of another cheap drug which cannot be named, which is found to have both anti-viral and anti-inflammatory effects and has had excellent reviews in two different meta-analyses. It is used prophylactically, early onset and for hospitalised patients. The WHO published a substantially flawed meta-analysis of the drug and advised against using it. These meta-analyses are available for viewing on YouTube if you are interested.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
LV
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Dexa is used as one of a cocktail of meds given…. it has not been hailed as one of the silver bullet meds.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago

HCQ didn’t do much for its most prominent advocate, so at the very least it’s not that much of a silver bullet.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

In fact he recovered in days. I wonder what your point is?

Sidney Falco
Sidney Falco
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Perkins

Whataboutery.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Sidney Falco

Your original comment said, “There’s no money to be made in an out of patent drug that costs pennies,” so “What about dexamethasone?” seems an entirely appropriate response. If one has been approved and the other has not, maybe profits and patents are not the reason.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Perkins
andrew harrison
AH
andrew harrison
2 years ago

Perhaps we can start to question the veracity of of much of the climate change ,global warming, extreme weather science as we seem to be making many bad decisions based on bad science

Sam
S
Sam
2 years ago

Did you listen to Hidden Forces as well? One of the most informative climate change discussions I’ve heard

Neil Wilson
Neil Wilson
2 years ago

Never forget Feynman’s maxim
“Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts”
Eighteen months after all this started and we still don’t have solid experimental evidence for the dictats in place – despite all the money and resources in the world and innumerable opportunities to test the null hypothesis. Masks in schools being a case in point.
Why?

Last edited 2 years ago by Neil Wilson
Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
2 years ago
Reply to  Neil Wilson

Simples. The media say something must be done and this is something.

Barry Coombes
Barry Coombes
2 years ago

“Something must be done” have to be some of the most dangerous words ever.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Neil Wilson

Mr. Wilson–
Why? Probably because it is close to impossible to obtain real, experimental evidence in epidemiology. The fiction is that epidemiology is an experiment-based, natural science when most of it is really a social science, fiddling with statistics.

And then there is this from James D. Watson: One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Carlos Danger
CD
Carlos Danger
2 years ago
Reply to  Ernest DuBrul

Another good James Watson quote: “There is only one science, physics: everything else is social work.”

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago

Thank you Mr. Crawford and Unherd.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago

Yes, along with Talk Radio and Bret Weinstein, UnHerd has been among the few to challenge the scientific, political and media consensus, conspiracy and cover-up. That said, it has been many years since any of us believe a word that the politicians or the MSM uttered.

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Try reason.com

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Mr. Bailey–
I always found the American Institute for Economic Research (https://www.aier.org) to be an honest and well-sourced commentator on all things Covid.

Mike Boosh
Mike Boosh
2 years ago

Yup TDS made any objective view of this impossible. The view “if Trump said it it must be wrong” is prevalent. Remember how back in march last year he wanted to shut the borders and this was apparently an insane and evil thing to do? If we’d done that in the UK how different would the last year have been?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

Now that there’s a vaccine for Covid, they really should come up with one for TDS, not least because it is far more damaging to the world than Covid.

David Hartlin
David Hartlin
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Wouldn’t work, the TDS disease is both chronic and acute.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  David Hartlin

It’s also rather batty.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

I think the idea it did not come from or via a lab predated Trump’s pronouncements on that particular topic.

Trishia A
TA
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Boosh

And sadly, he was right about a few things along the way.

Vikram Sharma
VS
Vikram Sharma
2 years ago

The peer review process, for all its strengths, also has a major weakness. If none of the reviewers is sceptical enough of the prevailing consensus or brave enough to challenge it, new ideas, especially ones that go against the current orthodoxies, don’t get published/funded.
mechanisms to promote radical thinking have been stifled and need to be actively promoted. Surely not beyond the reach of science?

Neil Wilson
Neil Wilson
2 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

The peer review process has no strengths in the modern world. There are no peers sufficiently disinterested but knowledgeable enough for it to work. People involved are either colleagues or competitors.
It is time to stop relying upon it and shift the Gold Standard to replication from published method.
Otherwise the Groupthink will intensify and continue.

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Neil Wilson

Peer Review is supposed to include skeptics or at least neutral observers in order to get informed criticism. It’s not the system that is wrong, it’s the behaviors of reviewers who have become politicized. Reviewers are all volunteers – no remuneration – so this attracts certain types, sometimes with lots of time on their hands, and very few industrial scientists (at least in my area of chemistry). Also, the sheer number of publications that must be reviewed makes proper reviewing an overwhelming challenge. That’s an Editors problem – they might put limits on the number of papers that can come from a specific institution or research group.
Be careful not to chuck out the baby with the bathwater. What you get is likely to be much worse.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
2 years ago
Reply to  Terry M

Peer Review is supposed to include skeptics or at least neutral observers 

It is indeed. Tell me where you get them when disagreeing with what you’re reviewing will get you cancelled?

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago

Peer review is usually done anonymously, so only the editor knows the reviewer. So unless the editor is outing the reviewer, cancellation is not possible.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Neil Wilson

Hear Hear. “peer” has basically become cronyism. The Lancet used to be reputable and look what it’s become.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Vikram Sharma

Mr. Sharma–
Hear! Hear!

However, the situation is not totally bleak. The rise of preprint sites like medRXiv, open access sites like PLOS, and even self-publication on Twitter and elsewhere on the ‘Net provide places for radical new hypotheses and their supporting experimental results to be published. The only drawback is that, correctly, these modes of publication usually carry no academic standing toward tenure and promotion.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ernest DuBrul
Judy Englander
JE
Judy Englander
2 years ago

Excellent article. But no mention of the role of WHO in all of this? An organisation allegedly under the thrall of China whose ‘investigation’ gave the Wuhan Institute a clean bill of health.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

Am I the first to come up with WHOhan?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Was I the first to come up with WURS, or WUhan Respiratory Syndrome?

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 years ago

“A peculiar form of intellectual intimidation has become prominent in public life in general, and science has not been spared”
Early in the pandemic (March 2020) I started questioning the official narrative and inquiring alterantive hypotheses with my friends in facebook. Then soon enough an acquaintance of mine that happens to be editor of Nature Magazine started attacking me relentlessly and trying to ridicule me. We had been post-docs in material physics together so I was hoping for some constructive criticims. Instead, all I got were attacks. I understood right there that if an editor on Nature already had made up his mind about what was true and what wasn’t there would be no hope of having discenting articles published in top journals. And hence, an “expert” world-view would go unchallenged.

Terry M
Terry M
2 years ago
Reply to  Fran Martinez

Nature is largely political ‘science’.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 years ago

Without skepticism, there can be no science. Instead, we’re left with scientism, a curious combination of the appeal to authority fallacy and religion.

Andrew Frame
Andrew Frame
2 years ago

I was annoyed when the BBC Reality Check, early in the pandemic, said that it was a “myth” that the virus had originated anywhere other than from animals/bats. Whilst accepting this was the likely source, I believed other sources should not be dismissed so easily. My takeaway was that this was clearly a narrative the BBC “wished to push”. The question was why?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Frame

The BBC has been pushing all manner of false and malign narratives for some decades. In this particular instance TDS would have been a factor, although it wouldn’t surprise to learn that the BBC gets money from the Chinese, one way or another, just as they got money from the EU.

Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Frame

Most narratives tend to come down to power and money. The power aspect is evident through all the mandates, fantasies about the “passport,” forced closures of businesses, etc. And where there is power, money is not far behind.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Frame

Their “unbiased” view of Trump?

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Frame

Mr. Frame–
Why?

People want certainty so media give them a certain narrative. It does not serve those scientists nor the media’s not politicians’ purposes to say, as true science should have said, “We really don’t know. There is no strong evidence to say anything, so we’re just guessing. It will be a while until we have any good evidence, so until then this is what you might do.”

MagentaPen 07mm
M0
MagentaPen 07mm
2 years ago

The scientific method and the behaviors described in this essay don’t overlap much at all. So, it’s not the kind of science I practiced and the kind of science that led to, say, the invention of vaccines. I don’t think most people, however agree with me and when they say or post signs that they “believe in science” they’re talking about trusting experts which is a facet of science that is important but only works if the scientists are free to practice the scientific method. In the US at least, the funding system destroyed or maybe extremely diluted those scientists. I don’t know the solution, but one thing to try is to destroy the US federal science granting system. Hard to do.

MagentaPen 07mm
MagentaPen 07mm
2 years ago

In the US, I think the funding boom post WWII was a blessing at first. But it’s bloomed out of control to present-day, where federally-funded science has turned into centrally-planned discovery, which is very ineffective. This is explained well by chemist-turned-philosopher Michael Polanyi. I read his book maybe 15 years ago and one point is a scathing rebuke of the idea of centrally-planned scientific discovery. Like I said, I don’t know the solution, but I’m in favor of a short-term band-aid of at least stopping the increase of funding into these federal programs that fund mist scientists in the USA.

Johnny Sutherland
JS
Johnny Sutherland
2 years ago

You missed out that trusting experts only works if those “experts” really have in-depth knowledge of their supposed field of expertise.

Trishia A
TA
Trishia A
2 years ago

I was doing research in biology in the 90s, and already government funds had dried up, and professors were having to prostitute themselves out to corporations to get science funding. My lab worked on the effects of pesticides on frogs, and was partially funded by Monsanto, so you KNOW what the published results looked like, and which results were being shelved.

Ed Paice
Ed Paice
2 years ago

I cannot understand why the publishers of The Lancet have stuck with Richard Horton for so long. He seems to have destroyed utterly the publication’s reputation for objectivity and the highest standards.

Greg Maland
Greg Maland
2 years ago

Isn’t it obvious now, that on any controversial issue, the discussion will inevitably be reduced to the righteous, establishment view, and the repugnant, conspiratorial view, both of which have a clear political left-right alignment? The nuanced, curious, open-minded person, who perhaps is not certain what is right or true despite being more informed than most people, is likely to remain silent, because his/her views will inevitably be hated by all the vocal players in the social media realm, and there is now little reason to take risks in public, unless one wants to become a martyr. Raising thoughtful questions is always evidence of supporting the “wrong” side.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

Now maybe a few more people will get it through their skulls that “science” doesn’t speak, doesn’t act and doesn’t even exist outside of the people who practise it. There is no living, discrete, dispassionate demi-god called “science” walking the earth. There are only men and women called “scientists”. When you “follow the science”, you’re just choosing which prejudice to follow.

Ernest DuBrul
Ernest DuBrul
2 years ago

Mr. MacGabhann–
Well said!

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago

Thank you for this important article. As far back as 2001, when I was studying virology, my then professor stated bluntly in one of our lectures that China was a biological hazard because of its growing technological ability to genetically engineer viruses and because it lacked adequate safety and containment policies. He mentioned that China would become a leader in the field because research could be done there that would not be allowed in any sane country. How right he has seemingly turned out to be.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

A note for people who have only read the article and have not watched the video…. the video is a must watch.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago

Indeed. It’s very reasonably and clearly presented, making it clear there’s no direct and conclusive proof for either natural origins or a lab leak, but that the latter seems more likely in the light of what we do know.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
2 years ago

Journalism suffered a general intellectual collapse during the Trump administration, as many have noted on the Left and Right alike.
The very few on the left – and let’s be honest about that much, it’s very few – who have noticed, have found themselves excommunicated from the tribe. The site Substack is full of old-school liberals who are appalled by the state of the industry. That they have had to find a new home on Substack screams volumes about the lack of self-awareness among the bulk of their brethren.

alistair pope
alistair pope
2 years ago

Professor Peter Ridd worked at James Cook University in Queensland for 30 years, but was sacked for drawing attention to dodgy science at his own university (that was drawing in $M’s in research grants).
As Orwell noted, speaking the truth in a culture of deceipt can be revolutionary – and can set you free (read: ‘unemployed’)

Last edited 2 years ago by alistair pope
Tom Fox
TF
Tom Fox
2 years ago

Just reading the comments here, I’m quite surprised that most are about our annoyance at lock downs, when the article reveals the pretty devastating news, that the virus which caused this massive world catastrophe was very probably invented in a lab in China, the work funded by an American funding body, and that authoritative scientific voices sought to suppress the most likely cause of all our woes, by calling it a conspiracy theory….. THAT is what I’d have thought the comments would be about, but not the dozens which are currently at the top of this page. Strange.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

It is a built-in dilemma in science: We need to be open enough to new ideas that conflict with current thinking, in order to be able to advance. But we also need to trust established thinking enough to actually make use of what we know. Otherwise it is all a waste of time.

This is a good article, but it concentrates on only half the story. If “conspiracy theory” has become a reflex answer, it is because the internet is full of people with wild claims, little that anyone else would accept as solid evidence, and the central argument, again without much evidence, that anyone who does not agree is a shill for the establishment. Conspiracy theorists, in short. These pages, too, brim over with people who dismiss modern medicine wholesale, claim it is A FACT that PCR tests are rubbish – and are remarkably reluctant to point to evidence, or even explain exactly what they mean. Meanwhile the field of science knows, through long and embarrassing experience, how easy it is to see a correlation in limited data, become convinced, and aggressively push your unsubstantiated bandwagon to colleagues, policymakers, and the general public.

Trump is a special case. You will surely agree that he did not push the lab-leak theory because he had made a penetrating analysis of the available data – but because it was politically and personally convenient for him to whip up anti-Chinese feeling and distract attention from the idea of taking measures against the pandemic. He has form that way. As the atheists say, ‘what is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence’. In fact this is a perfect example of the “form of journalism that was basically adversarial towards the politicians it reported on“. Rather than extending this attitude to science journalism – easy, but destructive – we need the much more difficult work to make reasoned judgements in each individual case. As Nicolas Wade has done.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

‘Trump is a special case. You will surely agree that he did not push the lab-leak theory because he had made a penetrating analysis of the available data – but because it was politically and personally convenient for him to whip up anti-Chinese feeling and distract attention from the idea of taking measures against the pandemic.’
Alternatlvely, perhaps he instinctively grasped over a year ago that the lab-leak was highly plausible, as I did. Trump has been proved correct on most things, which of course is why the media and the politicians hate him so much. He shows them up for vile and incompetent frauds that they tend to be.

Rasmus Fogh
RF
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Once we are taking decisions by instinct there is nothing left to discuss – it is your faith against mine. How on earth could anyone develop an instinctual grasp on how bat viruses develop into pandemics? But just for information, what has Trump been proved correct on? And how has it ben ‘proved’? Is it not just a case that his ‘instincts’ happen to match with yours?

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Well it’s a combination of instinct and logic. Once you know that pretty much the only lab practicing gain-of-function research on labs in is Wuhan, then it becomes extremely plausible that the virus leaked from the lab.
This combination of instinct and logic was shared by the respected and incorruptible Bret Weinstein, a scientist whose speciality is bats.
The plot thickens, of course when you know that the weasel-like Dr Fauci had arranged for the illegal funding of this research.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Your ‘combination of instinct and logic’ is exactly what I call ‘jumping to conclusions from spurious coincidences‘ insufficient evidence. A year ago I’d have said that the lab leak hypothesis had maybe 7% probability, possible but too unlikely to give prominence, and that there was no reason not to trust Dr. Fauci. Having read Wade’s article I’d give the lab leak hypothesis maybe 60% probability now, odds-on but far from certain, and I would say that Fauci had a serious conflict of interest on the origin of the virus, though I would still trust him on health advice.
I’d still say that the lab leak was not the most likely hypothesis at the start, and that it made much more sense to take ‘natural origin’ as a working hypothesis and concentrate on fighting the pandemic instead of getting into a slanging match with China. What makes the difference is Wade’s accumulated (and calmly presented) evidence. And a key part of the evidence is that no one has found any confirmation of the natural origin hypothesis in a year of looking, as well as China’s refusal to give access and insisting on werid alternatives like ‘frozen food’.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

I agree that the natural or wet market hypothesis seemed most likely initially. And I certainly believed it.
But the Chinese themselves killed the wet market hypothesis pretty sharpish, and we knew in April/May last year about the gain-of-function research taking place at the Virology Institute. Thus the lab-leak hypotheses has been the most likely explanation for a year.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Well, I did not know a year ago, but undoubtedly (most of?) the data has been available for a while.It is certainly weird (and slightly worrying) that even now thre is no mainstream media discussion of these data.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

You didn’t because you didn’t put 2 and 2 together. I can assure you that the Chinese in Wuhan knew exactly as a Chinese scientist colleague of mine was there for the Chinese New Year and managed to get back to the US just before the travel ban came into effect.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

We knew the gain of function research the year before. The wet-market was only plausible for a very brief period until we made the connection to the security breaches reported the previous year.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Your first sentence shows that you failed to apply Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is generally the correct one. The simplest explanation for the origin of the virus is a leak from the Wuhan lab which was conducting gain-of-function research on bat corona viruses. They literally had a collection of thousands of bat corona viruses there. By way of contrast, the wet market in Wuhan didn’t even sell bats. That market was hundreds of miles away. And finally, i believe the index case was a worker from the Wuhan lab – not 100% sure on that one though.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Occam’s razor ony applies when you are comparing two equally convincing explanations that explain the same data (and you have the data). Until then it is enough to say that coincidences can happen, and people often jump to them.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Actually no. Occam’s razor relates to always choosing the simplest explanation. To give you an example: let us say you have some sort of decay curve which can be fit to a single exponential. Obviously you can also fit it equally well to a multi-exponential, but there is no reason to do so with the data at hand since a single exponential accounts for the data.
In this instance, you have a lab working on bat coronaviruses and engaged in gain-of-function research, funded indirectly by the NIH and NIAID (headed by Collins and Fauci, respectively). Isn’t the simplest explanation that SARS-CoV2 originated from the Wuhan lab. In addition you have a furin cleavage site within the spike protein which is known to enhance infectivity by facilitating fusion with the host cell membrane, and no other coronavirus has such a site. Just put 2 and 2 together. If 2+2 = 4, you have your answer. If your a post-modernist and believe that 2 + 2 = 5 is an equally good answer, so be it.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

According to Wikipedia, WIlliam of Occam introduced Occams razor to defend the idea of divine miracles. He (correctly) held that this gave much simpler explanations for many phenomena than the alternative.
Occams razor is an all-other-things-being-equal explanation. As regards the lab leak theory it was the less likely at the start, and it the most likely now based on the available evidence, not because it is the simplest.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

The only reason the wet-market was on the map at all is because over the last 3-4 years, futurists and transhumanists and Big Pharma and vegetarian lobbies have been pushing extremely hard against wet-markets, pushing zoonotic fear porn about wet-markets, that was in reality not evidence-based. Humanity has been living contiguously with live and dead animals for millennia. Wet-markets are not a contributor zoonotic illnesses, it’s the penetration of humans into deeper and deeper wild spaces that pushes zoonotic diseases.
But fear-mongering on the topic was raging and so when December 2019 rolled around, activists jumped onto that explanation, and it gripped the media, but the actual evidence points more strongly to the Wuhan lab right next-door.

michael harris
MH
michael harris
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Nicholas Wade said (or perhaps it was the ‘unherd’ writer who introduced his material) that Occam’s razor could in the case of covid apply in one of two ways.
The virus appeared in Wuhan. There was a virus research lab in Wuhan engaging in GOF studies.
Or. SARS originated through the sale of civet cats for eating in a wet market in China. So covid came from another animal vector (seemingly not by way of a wet market).
Nicholas Wade looked at both these ‘likely’ theories and presents material which strongly suggests that laboratory origin is the ‘favourite’.
Along the way of his research he also uncovered dishonesty and/or laziness in the scientific establishment (certainly in that part of it which deals with infectious disease).
He is owed a great debt of gratitude.

Last edited 2 years ago by michael harris
Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

i believe the index case was a worker from the Wuhan lab – not 100% sure on that one though.
I think the identity of the index case is still shrouded in mystery.

Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

So you’ve gone from 7% probability to 60%, but Trump was jumping to spurious conclusions. It’s no sin to agree with him on something. You may recall that while he was pointing at China, Dems were pushing for high attendance at Chinese New Years events on both coasts and calling him xenophobic.

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

How do you make the calculations of 7% and 60%?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Alex Camm

I did not calculate it – it is just a totally arbitrary way of saying how likely I believe this is. Not sure anyone could calculate numbers for this kind of thing, and even if they could their input would be highly uncertain.
My apologies if it came across as showing off – all I can say in my defence is that this is actually how I described it to myself long before i wrote it.

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Johnny Sutherland
JS
Johnny Sutherland
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Fauci had a serious conflict of interest on the origin of the virus, though I would still trust him on health advice.

Good oh – so you’ll never shake hands again?

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Dr Fauci had arranged for the illegal funding of this research? It appears a clause in the law, a loophole if you like, was used, but does that make it illegal?

Johann Strauss
JS
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Instinct, intuition and street smarts are absolutely critical, especially in the pursuit and practice of science.
And as far as Trump and the Wuhan lab is concerned, I suspect he also had quite a bit of data from the US intelligence services.

Fred Dibnah
Fred Dibnah
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Unless you have a deep knowledge of an area in question, then in disputes between hypothese/theories it is a case of which experts do you believe and what makes most sense to you.
About 9 months to a year ago there was an article on here which addressed the issue of a man made virus vs natural source. It said the senior Chinese authorities simply did not know. I believe this.
I suspect they feared the worst, as they built 2 hospitals in Wuhan as fast as they could. And their lockdown was almost as severe as it could be. I think this should have been a red flag to governments around the world, but most including our British government ignored it.

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Fred Dibnah

Back in February 2020 was the time for hard border closures except to returning citizens, hard quarantine for all returning citizens, and hard quarantine of symptomatic people.
That was the time to put in place sick paid leave, so that the sick would stay home, and the healthy could live on normally.
Instead, our governments did nothing until the virus too a good hold in each country, then spent billions and trillions to pay to shut down the economy, all the while FAILING TO PAY FOR THE SICK TO STAY HOME.
They should all go to jail.

Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Some coincidences are incredible. Even a numpty like Trump can work out that if Bat Virus experiments are going on in a Chinese Lab which has know laxed biosecurity and there is a viral outbreak of Bat virus nearby in a area of the country that does not have many Bats, that the Virus came from the Lab. Of all the places in all the world. It is obviously a Duck.

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul Goodman
michael harris
MH
michael harris
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Goodman

Gosh, Paul. If Trump is a numpty (and he may be; I’ve not met him) what does that make his ragtag army of opponents?

Trishia A
Trishia A
2 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It’s not just that a lab leak was highly plausible, there had been in the year previous security warnings about the poor protocols at that lab, and the virus does not correspond to anything found in nature. In the early days, to anyone paying attention to the scientific literature, a lab leak was by far the most likely hypothesis. It’s too bad Trump went there, as had it not been the case, others would have! TDS is a terrible behaviour on the part of my leftist brethren.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

People can as usual use some discernment. Conspiracy theories have been around for decades and people weigh them up and go ‘possible’, vs ‘lunacy’. What we are witnessing is an avalanche of credible people with credible positions and theories being accused of conspiracies.

michael harris
michael harris
2 years ago

One trouble, Lesley, with accusations of conspiracy theories is this.
Do the accusers mean that those they ridicule are conspiring together?
Or that they believe, ridiculously, in a conspiracy?
Or both?
Most likely the accusers don’t want to engage in serious argument. It’s like ‘I feel’ instead of ‘I think’. They seek to head off discussion at the pass.

Sam
Sam
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Martin Gurri specifically addresses your point. We need to find new ways to sort the wheat from the chaffe. Clearly the great crowdsourced intellect of the internet can be very wise, and also unbelievably stupid.
What we ought not to do is say, it’s all conspiracy theory! And be done with it.
We need new systems, new norms, new structures to sort the good and useful from the bad and based on nothing.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

These pages, too, brim over with people who dismiss modern medicine wholesale, claim it is A FACT that PCR tests are rubbish – and are remarkably reluctant to point to evidence, or even explain exactly what they mean.

Would you care to share the data that lead to that conclusion, because, honestly, I’m just not seeing it? As this site is “brim over” with deniers of modern medicine, surely you could point to one comment on this page that does that?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

I had in mind the debate on posts like this one,. Particularly commentators like Matt Coffey and Kay Bush, but they are hardly unique.

Johann Strauss
JS
Johann Strauss
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

By the way, the PCR test is not 100%, and the way in which it was being applied with 35-40 cycles was not the way it was intended to be applied. 30 cycles tops is reliable. After that, no way. Too many errors creep in. Further, the PCR test is so sensitive that it’s very prone to contamination. It’s one thing using PCR in a controlled lab environment, and quite another to do millions of tests. Indeed, I would argue that a significant amount of panic was induced as a result of inappropriate testing.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Again: The COVID PCR test, as actually applied, gives as little as 0.1% positives in a population where there is very little COVID. That puts the false positive rate at less than 0.1%. I’d call that pretty damn good.
The test is very sensitive indeed, and could be vulnerable to contamination. Whether that is a problem or not depends on what you are looking for, what the likely contaminants are and whether they are found in practice, and how you interpret the results. If you can point to an actual problem where too high cycle counts can be shown to give incorrect data in COVID tests I would love to hear about it – as would health authorities worldwide.

Eleanoŕ Pitt
Eleanoŕ Pitt
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Try and find some papers or interviews with Dr Clare Craig about this, she’s an expert. As is Dr Mike Yeadon.