COVID-19 Origin Debate
I’ve been asked by many to comment on the SARS-CoV-2 origin debate and new Wall Street Journal article. And, honestly, I don’t want to touch this topic with a 10-foot pole. But, I will leave you with a few thoughts:
The origin of COVID-19 is an ongoing scientific debate. Scientific consensus has not settled. We can all agree that the Wuhan market was an amplification event (i.e. super spreader), but I don’t think we will ever know how it got there because we’ve missed the window of opportunity for critical data. Disproving the lab leak will be close to impossible. This is a tragedy, but I look forward to seeing the ongoing science we can muster.
Transparency is key, and I don’t like how things have to be “leaked” to be known.
The debate is another example of false dichotomies. In reality, opinions range on a scale from “natural spillover” to “lab leak.” Perspectives fall somewhere within the spectrum of probabilities. I lean more towards natural spillover, but I’m certainly not 100%. (I’m a ~70% given some evidence released last year.) I think everyone should recognize where they land on this spectrum and why. Also recognize there are conflicts of interest all over the place.
Many initially dismissed lab spillover because of the original messenger (Trump) and because it was wrapped up in other conspiracy theories, like being a Chinese bio-weapon. (The claim that the virus was engineered is clearly debunked. There’s scientific evidence that it wasn’t an intentional event.) I admit that privately I initially dismissed the idea of a lab leak because of these reasons, which I constantly self-reflect on. As a scientist, I can do better with this noise. We all can. And, we must.
Underlying all of this is that there is the possibility of a lab leak, and a possibility of a natural spillover, and a possibility of intentional lab leaks. We need to address all of these to ensure a safer future. I’m afraid we’re losing sight of this.
I’ve been spending the past few days with Dr. Rivers eating tacos, enjoying happy hour, and processing whatever the hell we’ve been through the past three years. During this time, she wrote the following balanced piece on this topic that I think is worth everyone’s time (see below).
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