This blog does not usually indulge in current affairs, nor is the author interested in crazy conspiracy theories. The devastation caused by Covid-19 will affect several generations into the future, in both human and financial terms. We all have an interest in discovering how it happened, what caused it. There are no original ideas of my own in this article: I simply want to share my reading with you, as it is very compelling indeed.
From the earliest days, we were reassured that the jump from animals to humans was a natural event. A well publicised statement in The Lancet (19 February 2020) was a key factor in that public reassurance. It was signed by multiple scientists, but we now know the key signatory and organiser of the letter had a vested interest in averting the public’s gaze from the lab-leak theory. (Which is a scandal in itself.) But there was always one key question for me, even before much was written on the subject. One of the world’s very few high-security specialist coronavirus laboratories is situated just a few hundred metres away from the Wuhan market where – they told us – the first outbreak started. So one thing has always been a mystery to me.
Why did the specialist scientists from this laboratory not swoop down to investigate the market immediately, discover who was ‘Patient Zero’ and show us exactly how a particular infected pangolin had been eaten by that person, and that was the very animal bitten by a an infected bat (or whatever) explained to us in layman’s terms?
The pandemic began during the US presidency of a man generally regarded as a dangerous idiot, whose criminal negligence during a public health crisis was demonstrated at every turn. Every statement he made about Covid-19 was either wrong, misinformed, or intentionally dangerous. I will not ennumerate the list: everyone is familiar with it. So, the conviction arose that whatever he said, the opposite must be true.
Since a US president with zero credibility was the only political leader alleging the Wuhan laboratory was the source of the pandemic, and US scientific experts said this idea was ridiculous, was this a clever way of distracting most critical thinkers from giving the idea any further thought?
While coping with the confinements, the real life-threatening dangers, and the loss of contact with friends and family over this past year, I have often come back to the first question. Since – quite frankly – I have been disgusted with the way the Chinese treat animals, it was easy to make the link with the way that nation exploits the people of the developing world by a cruel and devastating plunder of donkeys, which are a main form of transport for the poorest. (There is plenty of material written about this, and I will not go into it here.)
If the Chinese exploited wild animals in food markets in a way that was hazardous for their health and put the rest of us in danger, that did not surprise me. So, it was quite easy to accept the proposition that the disgusting Chinese exploitation of the animal world – for food and for quack medicines – was to blame for the unleashing of Covid-19 on all of us. (You can read into that whatever ‘racist’ bias you want to heap upon me, but I simply explain why it was easy for me to fall for the Wuhan ‘wet market’ theory of the origins of the outbreak.)
Maybe it was similarly easy for many more to fall for it for these reasons. But were we gullible?
How come it took eighteen months, from the moment the public were first told about the existence of a high-security bio laboratory in Wuhan, for it to emerge that their Coronavirus work is funded by the United States? It is not surprising – now this fact has finally emerged – that many people feel there has been a very significant cover-up.
At the moment, these three questions are the most significant ones to me. I am not at all scientifically minded and I know what areas of life I should avoid getting involved with; that applies also to conspiracy theories, which I used to find simply boring (when it was David Icke saying ‘The world is run by lizards from outer space’) but now find pathologically dangerous when I see intelligent people now becoming corrupted by mad stuff they have been fed on social media (‘The Pope is part of a globalist communist conspiracy.’)
So the difficulty is one of avoiding the nutcases and conspiracy mongers, while at the same time trying to make sense of the causes of the pandemic which has turned my life upside down, and the lives of everyone I know; and at the same time regarding government statements (and to some extent the media) with a healthy and necessary scepticim.
Towards some answers:
1. Thomas Frank’s Guardian article, “If the Wuhan lab-leak hypothesis is true, expect a political earthquake.”
The Guardian’s US columnist Thomas Frank wrote (1 June 2021) “My own complacency on the matter was dynamited by the lab-leak essay that ran in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists earlier this month; a few weeks later everyone from Doctor Fauci to President Biden is acknowledging that the lab-accident hypothesis might have some merit. We don’t know the real answer yet, and we probably will never know, but this is the moment to anticipate what such a finding might ultimately mean. What if this crazy story turns out to be true?“
2. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article
I followed Frank’s link (above) to the article by Nicholas Wade in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?“ (5 May 2021) He writes, “By the end of this article, you may have learned a lot about the molecular biology of viruses. I will try to keep this process as painless as possible. But the science cannot be avoided because for now, and probably for a long time hence, it offers the only sure thread through the maze.”
Here was someone who could put the whole thing in layman’s terms at last! Crucially, he also pointed out that the famous letter in The Lancet (which I referenced above) could not have possibly been definitive at that time, and was compromised: the letter had been organized and drafted by Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance of New York. Daszak’s organization funded coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. If the SARS2 virus had indeed escaped from research he funded, Daszak would be potentially culpable. To the contrary, the letter concluded, “We declare no competing interests.”
Then Wade explores the links between Wuhan and the USA:
“Researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, led by China’s leading expert on bat viruses, Shi Zheng-li or “Bat Lady,” mounted frequent expeditions to the bat-infested caves of Yunnan in southern China and collected around a hundred different bat coronaviruses.
“Shi then teamed up with Ralph S. Baric, an eminent coronavirus researcher at the University of North Carolina. Their work focused on enhancing the ability of bat viruses to attack humans so as to “examine the emergence potential (that is, the potential to infect humans) of circulating bat CoVs [coronaviruses].” In pursuit of this aim, in November 2015 they created a novel virus by taking the backbone of the SARS1 virus and replacing its spike protein with one from a bat virus (known as SHC014-CoV). This manufactured virus was able to infect the cells of the human airway, at least when tested against a lab culture of such cells.”
Wade explains the sequence of events and the connections with the USA very clearly, and the concluding paragraph about the likeliehood of a lab-leak is here:
“It’s documented that researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were doing gain-of-function experiments designed to make coronaviruses infect human cells and humanized mice. This is exactly the kind of experiment from which a SARS2-like virus could have emerged. The researchers were not vaccinated against the viruses under study, and they were working in the minimal safety conditions of a BSL2 laboratory. So escape of a virus would not be at all surprising. In all of China, the pandemic broke out on the doorstep of the Wuhan institute. The virus was already well adapted to humans, as expected for a virus grown in humanized mice. It possessed an unusual enhancement, a furin cleavage site, which is not possessed by any other known SARS-related beta-coronavirus, and this site included a double arginine codon also unknown among beta-coronaviruses. What more evidence could you want, aside from the presently unobtainable lab records documenting SARS2’s creation?”
3. Vanity Fair article
After the above reading last week, I also chanced upon an interview with Katherine Eban author of a Vanity Fair article (3 June 2021) about the lab-leak theory: “Throughout 2020, the notion that the novel coronavirus leaked from a lab was off-limits. Those who dared to push for transparency say toxic politics and hidden agendas kept us in the dark.”
It is a long piece and it needs to be read in full. Also, her link to the article by Nicholas Wade explaining the furin cleavage site (in the virus) needs to be followed, as this contains the full explanation: “When I first saw the furin cleavage site in the viral sequence, with its arginine codons, I said to my wife it was the smoking gun for the origin of the virus,” said David Baltimore, an eminent virologist and former president of CalTech. “These features make a powerful challenge to the idea of a natural origin for SARS2,” he said.
4. D.R.A.S.T.I.C. Research
Katherine Eban’s article, in turn led me to look at the work of D.R.A.S.T.I.C. Research (Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19). This is really where you will find the full story, going back to 2012. This is really worth looking at – if you want to know why our lives have been turned upside down – and what it looks like so far is simply this: there are two competing theories about the origin of Covid-19 pandemic, the natural ‘jump’ theory and the ‘lab-escape’ theory. Where critical assessment differs from conspiracy is that we don’t proclaim the science is decided until there is complete proof, and it is clear that there are many vested interests blocking the discovery of the truth. However, this is looking like a very high probability at the moment…