Wuhan Lab Leak: It’s Not A “Theory”


Op-Ed

by Thomas L. Knapp

Was SARS-COV-2 — the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic — created (or at least weaponized by being made transmissible to and between humans) in a Chinese research lab? Was it then leaked, accidentally or intentionally, from that lab into the human population? It’s impossible to overstate the explosive potential of a provable “yes” answer to those two questions.

Seventeen months into the news cycle surrounding those questions (they were first publicly hinted at in a tweet on January 5, 2020), they’re still putting off lots of heat and very little light. And that’s likely to remain the case, because the “Wuhan Lab Leak theory” is not a theory.

A theory has to be objectively testable such that if it’s false it can be PROVEN false. Otherwise, it’s just a hypothesis.

If my car keys go missing, I can hypothesize that little green faeries (who have the power to fool security cameras) took them in the middle of the night, then forgot to put them back after taking my car out for a joyride, filling the gas tank back up, parking it back where they found it, and rolling back the odometer.

My hypothesis “explains” the missing car keys. But it can’t be falsified. If I find the keys in my jacket pocket, well, the faeries obviously put them there, dummy!

Many “conspiracy theories” are just hypotheses which continuously change to accommodate any evidence that might disprove them.

No, I’m not saying the “Wuhan Lab Leak” hypothesis is a wild-eyed “conspiracy theory.” But it’s also not likely testable or falsifiable.

For one thing, the Chinese regime, while notable for many things, is not notable for its likely willingness to let western investigators poke around Wuhan at will, actively assisting those investigators in determining whether it accidentally or intentionally killed  millions of human beings and cratered the global economy.

For another, the regimes urging such an investigation have a long record of lying about pretty much everything (does “Saddam has WMD” ring any bells? How about “the NSA doesn’t spy on Americans?”), and have already spent a good deal of time setting  China up as their latest  “adversary.” It’s hard to imagine any situation in which those who WANT to believe in — or stand to gain political power from selling — the “Wuhan Lab Leak” hypothesis would concede that they were mistaken.

It’s a hypothesis, not a theory, and it’s likely to stay that way. When dealing with hypotheses, our best analytical tool is Occam’s Razor. Simple version: The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is the likeliest.

Which explanation requires fewer assumptions?

That, like most human infectious diseases (60% according to the US Centers for Disease Control), SARS-COV-2 jumped from animals to humans via random mutation?

Or that, unlike (almost — the 2001 anthrax attacks may be an exception) any other past disease, SARS-COV-2 was weaponized in a lab and released into the human population?

Occam tells us to choose Door Number One. And good sense tells us to stop obsessing over questions we cannot hope to provably answer.

 

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


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Sue

One wonders if we had not gotten rid of the US virus researcher in China would our response to the virus would have been more successful.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-china-cdc-exclusiv/exclusive-u-s-axed-cdc-expert-job-in-china-months-before-virus-outbreak-idUSKBN21910S

Keith Kizz

I’d like to make two points,

  1. The bat the virus naturally occurred several hundred (if not thousand) miles from Wuhan.
  2. The virus first appeared in a city that had a bat virus laboratory in it.

Does ‘common sense’ lead to the possibility that a human to human transmitted virus made its way hundreds (thousands?) of miles, to the very city that had a laboratory actively studying the virus, to present itself or is it more believable that a weaponized version of the virus escaped the lab?

I can only pray that a leak was accidental but I do not see it above the possibility of the CCR to have purposely released it willing to infect thousands of their own citizens in an opportunity to disrupt the world economy to their benefit.

I know that how the CCR dealt with the virus lead to a, preventable, world wide pandemic.

Michael A...

Right. Never trust Chinese Communists. Never Trust American Liberals.

pedro gutierrez

Dr. Steven Quay’s (of Tucker Carlson interview fame) two papers, ‘Where Did the 2019 Coronavirus Pandemic Begin and How Did it Spread?’ (https://zenodo.org/record/4119263), and Bayesian Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 Origin’ version 3 March 29, 2021 ( https://zenodo.org/record/4642956)  are two of the first scientific papers intended support lab leak hypothesis.  In a nutshell, Quay holds that the first victims of Covid-19 went to a hospital close to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, so the coronavirus leaked from that lab. Personally I say, the genome of Covid-19 remains the best evidence of laboratory origin of Covid-19. The grandparent and great grandparent coronaviruses of Covid-19, such as BtKy72 collected in Kenya in 2007 by the Atlanta CDC, but not isolated and sequenced by them until April 2019, and then only incompletely. See Atlanta CDC paper, ‘Complete Genome Sequence of a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus from Kenyan Bats’, by Ying Tao and Suxiang Tong. Covid-19 great grandparent coronaviruses BtKy72 and BM48-31 (Bulgaria-Drosten) were in the same Atlanta CDC laboratory in prepandemic April 2019. Of course, only coincidentally.

pedro gutierrez

Correction from the author of the post above. I did not mean to use the words “great grandfather” in the post above. I meant to say, “Covid-19 and bat coronaviruses BtKy72 and BM48-31 probably shared a common ancestor”, probably diverging hundreds of years ago (if not more recently using cell passage in a laboratory). The fact still remains that in the Atlanta CDC article named above, they state the BtKy72 coronavirus “complete genome” could not be done in April 2019, “because of lack of RNA from fecal matter in bat swabs”. But “the complete genome” for BtKy72 was filed with NCBI (www.ncbi.com) on Feb. 5, 2020. BtKy72 and BM48-31 stand in critical positions in Covid-19 evolutionary history.