Lab Leak Hypothesis, Fauci emails, Outdoor protests and COVID

I’m going to discuss the hypothesis that the SARS-2 virus arose from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. While I will attempt to avoid being overtly political, and the topic of the pandemic should not be political at all, we all know that many topics have taken on an unfortunate political tone and discussing them at all can become “problematic”. So I’m going to be problematic. In fact, F@¢3b00k may remove my post, so I’ll link to my blog page in a separate post. 

You are free to disagree with my conclusions, but keep it civil.  I retain the right to delete comments that don’t advance the discussion in a productive way.

Lab Leak Hypothesis: Since the beginning of the pandemic, rumors were swirling about the lab leak hypothesis.  Also from the beginning, the idea was often discussed as if it were obviously a crazy conspiracy theory.  I always thought it sounded plausible, and actually came to think it was likely by last summer.  I didn’t write about it because I couldn’t prove it.  It still can’t really be proven, but there is some evidence pointing toward the idea.

Please note:  I do NOT currently see any evidence that the Chinese Communist Party intentionally released the virus as a form of bi0w∑@pon.  I currently believe the release was accidental.

Until just a few weeks ago, the idea was basically forbidden to be taken seriously in polite society and would get you banished from F@¢3b00k, YouTube or Google. This changed suddenly when the Wall Street Journal published a story on the topic.  Mysteriously, this made the dam burst, and now media from all over the political spectrum are taking the story seriously. 

What evidence exists for the WIV being the source of SARS-2? Several pieces of circumstantial evidence and a few pieces of scientific evidence suggests a lab origin.

  • The first patients appeared in Wuhan China, the home of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). The lab conducts research into bat coronavirus, close cousins of the SARS-2 virus. The wet market often blamed for the outbreak is about 300 yards from the WIV.
  • Public records surveyed by Matthew Tye suggest that in late November, the lab posted a call for new employees for work on a dangerous new virus.  Around the same time, a scientist at the lab, Huang Yan Ling, went missing. Her information was removed from the lab’s website.  As of this writing, she had not yet publicly reappeared. Many suspect she is dead.

    Tye used to reside in China, is married to a Chinese woman, and posts under the name Laowhy86.  He is very critical of the Chinese Communist Party for several reasons, but not of the Chinese people generally.
  • The WIV had been doing experiments with “Gain of Function” research in which virus are given the ability to infect human cells in order to study them in a system relevant to humans.  This practice is very controversial even among scientists, with many believing they are too dangerous to be done. The director of the WIV coronavirus program, Dr. Zhengli-Li Shi, co-wrote articles featuring this research (more on this later).

    Funding by the US for gain of function studies were banned in 2014, but at least partially restored in 2017. The NIH may have actually indirectly paid for the research that was done at the WIV.  Tony Fauci himself may have indirectly approved this research.
  • A paper was published by Andersen et al claiming that the virus was natural.  However, the paper includes a sequence comparison showing a feature called a “polybasic cleavage site” that exists in SARS-2 but not in closely related coronaviruses.  Similar sites exist in the most infectious Flu viruses, including the 1918 virus. Since this site does not appear in closely related coronaviruses, many speculate that this site is evidence of laboratory manipulation. More on this paper later.
From Andersen et al. The polybasic sequence is shown in green.

Dr. Chris Martenson gives a breakdown of this evidence in a YouTube video:

It is nearly obvious to many, including me, that an investigation into the origins of the virus is warranted, including data, documents, logs, and protocols from the WIV.  The Chinese government has strenuously objected to any investigation.  As of this moment, no serious on-site investigation has been performed.

Fauci Emails: A few days ago, Buzzfeed released the results for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for emails to and from Tony Fauci regarding the pandemic. Since then, journalists and others have been combing through the emails looking for interesting tidbits.  And they have found some.

An exchange between Fauci and a group of other scientists and public officials occurred between January 31st and February 4th.

On January 31st, Kristian Andersen wrote to Tony Fauci. His comments include, “The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered.” and “Eddie, Bob, Mike, and myself all find the genome inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”

On February 1st, a group including Andersen and Fauci had a conference call discussing the issue.  The details of the call are not available. 

On February 4th, members of the same groups discussed wording of a paper to be submitted. The paper is the same one I mentioned in number 4 above, and argues that the virus had a natural source.  4 of the 5 authors on the paper were on the February 1st conference call.  The paper was submitted for publication on February 9th, just over a week after Andersen’s comments to Fauci on January 31st.  Remember, the paper argues that the virus had a natural source, but the January 31st email suggests that several authors believed it was engineered.

I personally read this paper last year, and it convinced me, at least for a few months, that the virus was natural.  It’s amazing and personally offensive to me that the authors duped me and many others. 

Dr. Chris Martenson has a video regarding this email chain.

I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that while science is an extremely useful tool for learning about the natural world, it cannot answer the main questions of life.  Philosophical tools are needed for that.  In fact, science depends on philosophical ideas to work.  Science depends on scientists being honest and transparent when they write!  To publish material that is knowingly false is scientific fraud, and can be extremely damaging.  In the scientific arena, authors who commit fraud are often publicly shamed, can be restricted from publication, and lose funding.

In a separate February 5th email to a friend, Dr. Fauci said “Masks are really for infected people to prevent them from spreading infection to people who are not infected rather than protecting uninfected people from acquiring infection. The typical mask you buy in the drug store is not really effective in keeping out virus, which is small enough to pass through material. It might, however, provide some slight benefit in keep out gross droplets if someone coughs or sneezes on you.”

Of course, Fauci’s statements on masks have been inconsistent.  At times he’s said:

We don’t need masks
We should have them but can’t because the medical community needs them
We should be required to wear them
We should wear 2 masks

As you know, my position is that good masks (N95s, KN95s, KF94s, and some homemade masks) are very useful in indoor settings, but are not necessary outdoors, except in crowds.  I’ve also said that surgical masks, neck gators, and bandanas are nearly useless against an aerosolized virus. Fauci’s February 5th email is difficult to interpret, but I think it’s consistent with my position.  When he says that masks don’t work, he’s talking about the very common masks that people wear, blue surgical masks and other loose fitting masks. Needless to say, the February 5th email will surely add to the confusion regarding Dr. Fauci’s position on masks.

_________________________
Update, June 16:
In an interview on MSNBC posted on June 9th, 2021, Fauci was discussing the recent criticism of him. In the interview, he stated that “…attacks on me quite frankly are attacks on science.”
and “You’re really attacking not only Dr. Anthony Fauci, you are attacking science.”

It is inappropriate for a leader to equate him or herself with a country, business, church, or practice like science*. When they do this, they are trying to protect themselves by borrowing the loyalty and good will people have for those things and applying it to themselves. The loyalty and good will people have for science is not owed to Tony Fauci or any individual scientist. A scientist only gets to claim “science” when they are practicing science. What is at issue is whether Fauci has actually been practicing science in regards to the issue of the connection between SARS-2 and the WIV. He doesn’t get to just claim this. He needs to provide evidence to support his view. As stated in my post on science, a scientist must provide evidence for their view, not just call you anti-science.

*Napoleon, in a speech to the French Senate in 1814, said “I am the State.”
_____________________________

Collins on Gain of Function research.  Hugh Hewitt recently interviewed Francis Collins, the current director of the NIH.  I have been a big fan of Collins.  However, in the interview, Collins seems to argue that collaborating on gain of function projects with researchers in China is a good idea. Frankly, with the increased belligerence of the Chinese government for many of its neighbors in recent years, I find Collins comments disturbing.

Podcast episode “We are Indebted to those Who Volunteered for the Vaccine Trials”.  Search “Hewitt Collins” in podcast software.

Outdoor protests and COVID: Since I’m already in deep trouble today, I might as well pile on.  A paper published in November of 2020 compared the number of Black Lives Matter protests to increases in COVID cases in the cities involved.  The paper argues that there was a statistically significant but still small number of COVID cases arising from the Black Lives Matter protests.  This gives more evidence that outdoor spread of COVID is minimal, even in large groups.  Of course this also suggests that anti-lockdown protests were also unlikely to generate large numbers of new cases.

Don’t fear, but be smart,
Erik

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