[conspire] (forw) Re: [skeptic] The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora???s box at Wuhan?
rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue May 25 20:41:23 PDT 2021
Quoting Akkana Peck (akkana at shallowsky.com):
> I'm definitely not a virologist and I haven't been following closely
> enough to have an informed opinion on the source of the virus. But
> I saw a very useful timeline/summary in the Washington Post today
> that shows how expert opinion gradually seems to be changing:
I'm a bit wary of the claim that "expert opinion gradually seems to be
changing". Glenn Kessler, WashPo fact checker, refers to a lot of
things said by a number of people, but almost none of those are experts
in any relevant sense --s and, actually, just about the only ones who
actually are, a group of prominent scientists who wrote a May 14t letter
to _Science_, merly said that some theories of accidental release from a
lab "remain viable" and that both leading groups of theories ought to be
taken seriously and investigated with independent oversight.
Likewise, WHO's Secretary General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is either
an expert or (more likely) has access to advice from them, and all he's
quoted as saying is that he doesn't _rule out_ a lab-leak scenario.
The fact that Kessler is impressed with Nicholas Wade's piece and
considers it "a strong case for the lab-leak theory" is a bit troubling.
Remember, Wade doesn't merely assert that SARS-CoV-2 _leaked_ from a
lab, but also that it was _created_ in a lab and that the scientists and
the Trump administration and the mainstream press then covered that up.
On the "made in the lab" angle Kessler is particularly impressed by
Wade having focussed on "the furin cleavage site, which increases viral
infectivity for human cells", and quotes a virologist (David Baltimore,
former president of CalTech) as a smoking gun for the virus having an
Here is what James Duehr had to say about that:
2.3) And if it were created in a lab, SARS-CoV-2 would have been
engineered by an idiot.
This one’s my favorite, because it shows how batshit crazy nature is.
Only nature could have made something so ridiculously stupid and
strange. So poorly inefficient and yet somehow still effective.
There are parts of SARS-CoV-2 that are really _really_ bad at their job.
That if I were designing a virus intended to infect and hurt humans,
that I would never add. That we’ve never seen before. That only makes
sense to have evolved in nature.
For example, SARS-CoV-2 has something called a “polybasic cleavage site”
(a place the virus needs to be cut in order to infect cells properly) (47).
SARS-CoV-2 has one of these that is really horribly designed, such that
it isn’t as easily “recognized” or cut by the best molecular scissors
inside your body (called “proteases”) (48,49,50). There are WAY better
cleavage sites that any reasonably intelligent virologist could have
used. It’s ridiculous.
SARS-CoV-2 has the Ford Focus of cleavage sites. It works, but do you
really want it to? (16,51,52,53)
Whereas we have identified all sorts of excellently beautiful Rolls
Royces out there in nature (54,55,56,57,58,59). We even know how to
make some really good ones in Avian Influenza that are MacLarens on
If any real virologist worth jack had designed this thing, they would
have used a MacLaren... Not the dinky crap that SARS-CoV-2 actually
is. It could be so much higher pathogenicity!
Likewise, the receptor binding domain of SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein (the
part of the virus that helps it attach to our cells before it enters)
is really _“promiscuous.”_
It binds to ACE2 (a thing on our cells), but it also binds ACE2 from
ferrets, cats, orangutans, and chimpanzees. And these are pretty damn
diverse ACE2 receptors (62,63). And it looks like this part of the virus
that binds all these things may have come from a virus that infects
pangolins (64). So, in order to bind all of those and transmit more
readily, SARS-CoV-2 had to develop a very promiscuous and, actually
somewhat unstable, spike protein (65,66). This is something pretty novel
to us, and probably no one would have guessed it would even work.
Why would any mad scientist make a receptor that can bind all these
other random species? When all they presumably wanted to do is make a
good anti-human bioweapon??
Why would they make it _less stable_ than SARS-CoV-1? Why would they
make it so crappy?
The most likely answer is that they didn’t make it. _Nature did._
It takes extra steps, extra work, and frankly I’m surprised it even
works at all. Something like this would require a virus that had seen
many different species. Like it would have if it had circulated in the
wild, in nature, where many different animals (with many different ACE2
receptors) coexist! More on that in [Q4].
Okay Jim, then if that’s true, how did this random cleavage site show up
in a virus, outta nowhere?
Well, pedantic commenter, we actually know this can happen! We’ve seen
it happen in chickens with Avian Influenza (67)! So, it’s really not a
stretch to say it happened in SARS-CoV-2. In bats or another animal we
haven’t yet identified. We know polybasic cleavage sites can develop
quickly, even though the overall number of mutations can take much
In order to agree with all of the above, and still believe SARS-CoV-2
had been engineered in a lab, you’d have to believe in a vast cabal of
world powers all working together to kill lots of people and silence
many others. Just to hide how elaborate a project it would need to be
to engineer it considering all of the above. To deal with the many
different labs that might know about it, or the many different companies
you’d have to purchase supplies from. To overcome the basic challenges
of making it “work” in the lab. I heavily doubt thatsuch a thing could
exist when we can’t even run the CIA or White House without hundreds of
leaks every year. When we know where pretty much all the nuclear sites
in North Korea are and what China is doing to its most vulnerable
How could they keep this big project secret when all of those other
things are so easily uncovered?
Have you ever tried to manage a project with like 10 people on it? It’s
hard. A project with this many moving parts and this many people,
working flawlessly, while also remaining completely secret?
It’s just not very likely. But that’s just what they want you to
believe, isn’t it?
I recognize this genetic modification bit is probably the one most
people are worried about. And I also recognize it’s a lot of stuff to
get through, and it’s difficult to wrap our heads around. If what I’ve
said above isn’t enough, here are some other resources where you can
hear from other experts who are similarly interested in helping us all
understand these complex and convoluted ideas: (1 2 3 4)
I’m also happy to discuss any of the points I’ve made in this
discussion with anyone who’s interested. In the end, _I think we both
want similar things:_ to figure out how this pandemic started and to
find a way to end it. I got into virology because I find viruses
_fascinating_ and I wanted to develop drugs and tools to help cure
their diseases. Right now, I’m making my way through medical school
because I want to use that knowledge to help people like you.
I firmly believe that sharing my knowledge is one way I can help. So,
let’s have a conversation.
Once again, just to stress, there is a conceptual difference between
"lab leak" hypotheses and "made in a lab" ones, with the latter being an
extreme subcase of the former. I am focussing, here, on "made in lab"
hypotheses, and what James Duehr said about the alleged smoking-gun
nature of the furin (polybasic) cleavage site as supposedly proving an
artificial origing _because_ WashPo fact-checker Kessler is claiming to
be impressed by Nicholas Wade's _Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists_
article claiming exactly that.
If that's a "strong case", I wonder what Mr. Kessler thinks is a weak
So, yes, it's a timeline. Yes, it got published in _WashPo_. I'm not
at all sure it muc reflects "expert opinion", and (given the Nicholas
Wade goofiness), I have my doubts about Kessler's ability to identify
In fairness, his piece didn't claim the sundry people quoted --
reporters, national security bureaucrats -- were experts. It just
quoted them. Oh, and near the end of the piece, Walter Ian Lipkin,
epidemiologist at Columbia University, is merely said to have changed
his mind from a March 2020 letter in _Nature Medicine_ he'd co-signed
saying lab release was "implausible". No longer entirely "implausible"
is not a techtonic shift in view.
> It'll be interesting to see if any really compelling evidence
> eventually surfaces to point to a clear answer. I don't think I've
> seen anything really convincing yet, but I'm glad there are people
> still investigating.
James Duehr's latest FAQ revision (version 18) is, sadly, just over a
year old, which I hadn't really noticed until just now. (Time flies
when you're hunkering down and hoping the world doesn't blow up
further.) That's a _very_ long time in current terms. I wonder what
he'll say when/if he puts out version 19.
He is: https://www.reddit.com/user/_Shibboleth_
Speaking of that, one of Kessler's main points in the timeline was:
But in recent months the idea that it emerged from the Wuhan Institute
of Virology (WIV) — once dismissed as a ridiculous conspiracy theory —
has gained new credence.
How and why did this happen? For one, efforts to discover a natural
source of the virus have failed.
On Reddit, Duehr responds to the _same_ allegation, as posted by someone
ROGER_CHOCS: Yes but we also have to consider that current research
cannot find where this strain came from, where as after sars they
located the wet market location within 8 months or something.
So the intelligence is aligning with other findings. As we whittle down
the possibilities it seems more likely this was accidentally passed to a
worker and then transmission happened once they got to the hospital.
However, there is still absolutely 0 evidence to suggest this current
strain of covid was bioengineered.
DUEHR: To me, it is not at all surprising that it has taken this
long. It took 20 years to find Ebola in bats in the wild. You're also a
little off about the 2003 SARS, it took more like 1 and a half years to
find it in civet cats, and then it took 3 total years to connect it to
is a comment where I answer this exact same question detailing the
process that led to the discovery of the SARS-1 and MERS origins, and
why they are very very different situations compared to SARS-CoV-2.
There are two main differences that were in favor of finding the origin
in those two cases:
1. High penetrance (meaning most everybody who got the virus got sick)
2. Low case counts (making it easier to trace back to patient zero)
Importantly, China hasn't allowed in international investigators to do
that kind of sampling. As far as I can tell, no one is actually looking
at the moment. Maybe internal Chinese scientists? But still very
unclear. The way the Chinese government has locked down this work
and restricted the movements of Shi Zheng-li and other scientists in
China, I doubt anyone is looking at the moment.
And here is a comment
(https://np.reddit.com/r/OutOfTheLoop/comments/nf5u92/whats_going_on_with_the_covid19_was_made_in_a_lab/gym83ps/) where I describe the 20-odd years it
took to figure out the most proximal origin of the 1976 Ebola outbreak.
And here is one
where I describe the technological advancements that will probably
make this a much faster process than 2 decades like Ebola.
Even so, it still can't happen overnight, not when China isn't even
allowing people to start looking.
So, once again, Glenn Kessler trots out someting claimed to be pivotal
-- that a natural reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 hasn't been found in a year
of looking, but an actual virologist (Duehr) points out that this isn't
a long search at all.
Sorting Duehr's Reddit comments in reverse date order turns up lots of
enlightening things, and I just can't chew up more time repeating them,
so I'll just pass along the link for anyone interested:
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