More Recent Comments

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Real scientists discuss the lab leak conspiracy theory

Here's an interesting video where the hosts of "This Week in Virology" (Vincent Racaniello, Rich Condit, and Kathy Spindler) discuss the origin of COVID-19 with three scientists who were on the WHO investigation committee that visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology a few months ago (Peter Daszak, Thea Kølsen Fischer, and Marion Koopmans). If you've fallen for the lab leak conspiracy theory then you need to watch the entire video. The rest of you might want to skip to 50 minutes where they discuss the lab leak accusation and relate how they interviewed the scientists at WIV.

The WHO scientists want to emphasize three things: (1) it is extremely unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 was being studied at WIV so it couldn't have escaped from there; (2) there is no evidence to support the lab leak conspiracy theory but if any evidence shows up they are perfectly willing to investigate; (3) it's very likely that SARS-CoV-2 originated naturally in the wild and all efforts should be focused on the most likely scenario and not on an extremely unlikely scenario.

After the interview is over, the three hosts talk about the lab leak conspiracy theory. You should hear what they have to say about Nicholas Wade and his failure to understand the furin cleavage site (1:10 minutes)! And they have lots to say about everything else in the Wade article. Everyone needs to watch that discussion if you are really interested in science and not half-baked conspriacy theories.

The next video is an interview with Robert Garry, a virologist at Tulane University in New Orleans. His area of expertise is emerging infectious viruses. Listen to Garry and the hosts discuss the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was present in the Wuhan Institure of Virology and released acidentally to start the pandemic (starting at 15 mins). It's good to hear real experts debunk the conspiracy theory.


Jedgardee said...

Larry. I'm not a scientist, real or otherwise, but you're missing the point here. There is a debate to be had with this and the problem is the suppression of that debate rather than what the conclusion turns out to be. I become suspicious when anyone deals with a dissenting view by dismissing it as a conspiricy theory. Sure there are lots about, but play the ball not the man. I'd also content that Dalgleish and Sorensen very much qualify as 'real' scientists, so why don't you pick apart what they have to say.

Unknown said...

The matter has been addressed. (See above?) The media keeps bringing it up because it gets views, but investigations and analysis by qualified experts is convincing. It is a waste of time to constantly play 'whack a mole' with every unfounded scenario that arises.
Ask yourself, "Why do you think there is a debate to be had, if you know it has been investigated by (as you say) real scientists?"

Neil Taylor said...

I think this report is a good primer on the issue.
My take is that two issues are being conflated. A truly ridiculous conspiracy that the virus was bioengineered as a weapon, and a now far more reasonable theory that Shi Zhengli was working on a virus that had sickened people in Yunnan and poor biohazard protocols caused sickness of staff members of the WVI in November 2019. It is always difficult as mischief makers will fabricate things on the internet but it looks to me like Shi Zhengli and others at the WVI were publishing things about this but then it was covered up and disappears behind the Great Firewall of China. I can remember radio interviews with Shi Zhengli in the early days of the crisis saying how relieved she was the genetic sequence of Sars-cov2 did not match with the viruses her group were working on. There now seems to be legitimate evidence this was not true and prior to this issue becoming hugely political they were publishing in Chinese sources about such work. As that work has come to light it is now scrubbed out. The CCP has multiple reasons not to be open about this, and I no longer thing Shi Zhengli is an honest source of information which considering he career as an academic is very sad.

Neil Taylor said...

Curse my fat thumbs ...
That should end:
I no longer think Shi Zhengli is an honest source of information which considering her career as an academic is very sad.

Larry Moran said...


There are two things you have to keep in mind if you want to have a serious discussion with me or anyone else.

1. It IS a conspircay theory. The only way the accusations can be kept alive is to assume that the scientists at WIV are lying and covering up what they are accused of.

2. There is no evidence to support the claim that the scientists at WIV were working with SARS-CoV-2 before the pandemic started.

Real scientists do not accuse other scientists of lying unless they have actual evidence to back up their accusations.

Larry Moran said...

Neil Taylor says,

"There now seems to be legitimate evidence this was not true ..."

Really? What is the "legitimate evidence" that the scientists at WIV were working with SARS-CoV-2 before the pandemic? I'm not aware of any such evidence and neither are any of the experts virologists in the YouTube videos. Do you have some secret source of information that we don't know about or are you counting unsubstantiated speculations and rumors as "legitimate evidence?"

Also, how do you account for the fact that all the people who actually know and work with the scientists at WIV say that they are honest people? Don't character witnesses count for anything when you are making unfounded accusations of lying and covering up?

Do you often make serious unfounded accusations against people and then accuse everyone who vouches for their integrity of being part of a coverup?

Larry Moran said...

Who are you and how well do you know Shi Zengli? How well do you know all those other scientists who know her and trust her?

Neil Taylor said...

I have no personal standing, but I can read Chinese and the links in the News Week article. I haven't said they were studying SARS-Cov2 - that is too simplistic, but I am saying WVI was studying SARS like viruses from Yunnan:
These links are all from the News Week link above.
Exactly what has happened to these viruses and how they might have (naturally) evolved in the last few years isn't clear, and I'm not able to simply dismiss that there is no connection, I don't think Shi Zhengli has been an honest communicator, and to be frank Peter Daszak hasn't helped himself either by anonymously organising letters while insisting "This statement will not have the EcoHealth Alliance logo on it and will not be identifiable as coming from any one organization or person". That isn't honest communication. What is your opinion on the News Week article?

DJAdams said...

Larry, the evidence is clear that daszak and his colleagues from EcoHealth were lying when they stated that they had no competing interests in regards to their --by daszak's own admission-- political piece/letter in the Lancet.

Second, there are ample data being generated to show that the scientists at WIV and others such as daszak are not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Here is but one source from a data scientist at the Bank of New Zealand who has along with a group of independent scientists/researchers been doing exhaustive research on the lab-leak theory.

So unless you're willing to consider all the evidence and keep an open mind, a curious mind, which is the hallmark of a great scientist, you're just playing in the sandbox.

DJAdams said...

Maybe with an open mind, you might want to start here.

Morris said...

Pox on all opinions. I can be fairly confident that none of the commenters have access to relevant data but many (most) comments imply high confidence. Given that and human nature predisposition to pursue our own ends by twisting data we can only make comparative statements. So scientists' statements obviously are (much) less misleading than that of the media who profit by deliberate hype. Who knew? Does that render statements from science accurate? History says no.
I found the video tedious, the speakers do not have good speaking skills, the format was not organized and much too long for the information delivered.
One bit of info new to me was that the Phase I of the meetings consisted only of Q&As and the answers were accepted as stated without possibility of further digging. Lab procedures do not seem to have been reviewed. In short it did not seem to be an audit and this should not be surprising. Does the preliminary group statement accurately reflect the findings? I don’t know as my info came from the media.

DJAdams said...

I'm sure there are lots of people who were "known and trusted" and then turned out to be not so trustworthy. that we didn't know as well as we thought we did. Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein...the list is endless.

I'm sure colleagues of Andrew Wakefield would have said they knew and trusted him. You know like colleagues at the Lancet when they published his research.

Oh and Mandeep Mehra and colleagues when the Lancet also published their "definitive" paper on hydroxychloroquine. You remember the one that was retracted not two weeks later because of its obviously faked data that somehow managed to make it through the trusted and known peer-review process.

The opinions of others are not evidence. They're hearsay, literally hearsay. For someone such as you, who claims to value science, to defer to hearsay is shake one's head laughable.

Larry Moran said...


I’m done with you. I can’t have a rational discussion with someone who thinks like you do.

DJAdams said...

"You're done" with someone who challenges the irrationality of your arguments? Okay.

dean said...

""You're done" with someone who challenges the irrationality of your arguments?"

There is nothing irrational in Larry's comments. Your dislike of facts in favor of your preferred fantastical and unsupported conspiracy, on the other hand...

João said...

Larry, did you read this by Jerry Coyne?

DJAdams said...

Hmmm, let's see now. Larry argues that Shi and her colleagues couldn't possibly have lied because people know them and trust them. That's hearsay. Do I need to quote the definition? Guess, I do. "information received from other people which cannot be substantiated; rumour." Whether I think someone is trustworthy or not is rumour unless evidence is provided to support it. Larry has simply argued Shi et al couldn't possibly have done the deed, couldn't possibly have lied, misled, etc, etc, because he and others trust them. If someone said this in a court of law they'd be laughed out of the room.

Has evidence been provided that Shi, daznak et al have not been telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Yes, go look above at the links and evidence I and others provide above. Or did you not bother? Because it might burst your bubble?

It's magical thinking to think that one can post a video by daszak et al and expect it to be taken seriously given his central role in a possible lab link theory.

Similarly, you still haven't addressed daszak lying on the lancet letter about having no conflicts of interest.

Conflict of interest doesn't just mean you have a conflict of interest. It also includes the perception of conflict. You know the type of information taught to every researcher over and over again. Conflicts of Interest 101.

daszak's statement is either willful deception or profound ignorance and unprofessionalism when it comes to basic research protocols. So which is it?

Larry Moran said...

Yes, and I posted about it on Facebook under "Jerry Coyne drinks the Kool Aid."

I've decided to create a post where we can rebut the Newsweek article that he fell for hook-line-and-sinker. Stay tuned.

Morris said...

If we have enough evidence but do not have actual experimental proof we can say that some hypothesis is more likely than some other. But we cannot say it us true until we do have such proof.
Claiming certainty (very high confidence) before proof reveals something about the proponent but not much about the substance. Are we interested in the mood of the proponent? Some humility may be advisable.
Of course I am pontificating and knowingly (regret I can't make it humorous).

Graham Jones said...

Looking forward to that, Larry. You've probably seen this, but in case not:
Novel Henipa-like Virus, Mojiang Paramyxovirus, in Rats, China, 2012

"In June 2012, in Mojiang Hani Autonomous County, Yunnan Province, China, severe pneumonia without a known cause was diagnosed in 3 persons who had been working in an abandoned mine; all 3 patients died. Half a year later, we investigated the presence of novel zoonotic pathogens in natural hosts in this cave.
Our study showed the presence of a rodent-origin, henipa-like virus, MojV, in China."

Also reported here
A New Killer Virus in China?

DJAdams said...


I guess you and Larry know more than the scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. You might have heard of it.

"A report on the origins of Covid-19 by a U.S. government national laboratory concluded that the hypothesis claiming the virus leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation, according to people familiar with the classified document."

Neil Taylor said...

I think the BBC Radio 4 programme Inside Science covered this issue pretty well without name calling.
I think the programme can be listened to worldwide.

Morris said...

Thanks for the link but it does not work. My question remains whether the reports of findings from the first visit are in fact accurate.
From the video discussion it seems to me that no evidence of the virus escaping from the laboratory but that the finding is preliminary and further work is needed. Am correct in that assumption or can someone here educate me?
My impression of the reaction to those initial findings is no question the Chinese are guilty (of something) from Fox and like and 'conspiracy' from the other side.

CrocodileChuck said...

Who said it came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology?

Anonymous said...

You’re going to have to do better than a broken twitter link.