Scientists Had Political Motives for Dismissing Wuhan Lab-Based Covid Origin

(p. A17) On March 17, 2020, the journal Nature Medicine published a paper by five scientists, “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2,” that dismissed “any type of laboratory based scenario” for the origin of the pandemic. It was cited by thousands of news outlets to claim that the virus emerged naturally. But Slack messages and emails subpoenaed and released by the House Oversight Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic suggest that some of the authors didn’t believe their own conclusions. Before, during and even after the publication of their paper, they worried privately that Covid-19 was caused by a laboratory escape, perhaps even of a genetically engineered virus.

. . .

On April 16, a month after publication, Mr. Andersen wrote that “I’m still not fully convinced that no culture was involved” and “we also can’t fully rule out engineering”—i.e., that the virus not only was released from the lab but had been genetically manipulated there. He worried about the Wuhan lab’s research on live SARS-like viruses from bats at low biosafety levels: “it’s definitely concerning work, no question about it.”

So why did they publish a paper denying that laboratory origin was plausible? The answer may lie in their messages. In early February 2020, Mr. Rambaut wrote: “Given the s— show that would happen if anyone serious accused the Chinese of even accidental release, my feeling is we should say that given there is no evidence of a specifically engineered virus, we cannot possibly distinguish between natural evolution and escape so we are content to ascribing it to natural processes.”

Mr. Andersen replied: “I totally agree that that’s a very reasonable conclusion. Although I hate when politics is injected into science—but it’s impossible not to.”

. . .

To adjust the conclusions in a scientific paper for political reasons isn’t part of the scientific process. The world was misled with serious consequences.

For the full commentary, see:

Matt Ridley and Alina Chan. “The Covid Lab-Leak Deception.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, July 27, 2023): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 26, 2023, and has the same title as the print version.)

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