Whom can we trust?

I’m no expert on virology, but I have a pretty good bullshit detector. You won’t see this blog promoting theories that the CIA killed Kennedy, or that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered, or that the government is hiding UFOs in a secret airplane hanger, or that vaccines cause autism, or that GMOs and cell phones cause cancer.

One way of spotting a phony conspiracy theory is that the proponents engage in an endless whack-a-mole, putting forth one unverifiable hypothesis after another—often mutually inconsistent. They are “just asking questions”.

Over the past few months, one side of the Covid origin debate has been claiming that the US intelligence services would soon release evidence that lab workers had Covid-19 in November 2019. These same people claimed that there was evidence of a safety emergency at the Wuhan lab in the fall of 2019.

Note that these were not just theories about what happened, they were claims about the evidence that would soon be released. Even respected press outlets like the WSJ, The Times, and Reason were swept up in the hysteria.

I recently came across a podcast with Eddie Holmes, made immediately before the report was released. He was aware of rumors regarding what was in the report, but was skeptical. He predicted that the expected evidence would not materialize. (Start around 21:30, if you wish to save time.)

Again, this was not only a claim about what happened in 2019, it was a prediction about what evidence would be disclosed.

In the end, our intelligence services found no evidence that any lab workers had Covid. They found no evidence of any emergency in the fall of 2019 (a point I made here months ago.) There is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was genetically modified in the lab.

Here’s a suggestion. When you discover that certain media outlets have been lying to you, stop trusting them. After Fox News admits under oath that they’ve been making up lies to please their audience, just stop watching.

And when you are fed mutually inconsistent conspiracy theories, don’t assume that “the evidence is adding up”. There cannot have been a cover-up in September 2019 for an outbreak that affected lab workers in November 2019.

PS. The LA Times is one of the few papers to have provided sane coverage of this issue:

The lab-leak conspiracists were certain that the report would validate their contentions, for which there has never been any valid scientific evidence. 

Instead it did just the opposite.

PPS. The Telegraph is also worth reading:

But it is not just the overall assessment, largely unchanged, that has startled the horses. The report, as the law under which it was published requires, also makes plain where intelligence does not exist – and this contradicts much of what has been briefed to newspapers, including the Wall St Journal and The Sunday Times over the last few years. 

PPPS. An even better article appears at MSNBC, where they point out that the recent shift of opinion toward lab leak at the Department of Energy is based on a theory that the virus came from the CDC, not the WIV. If so, then I would have been right about virtually all the issues raised in this dispute. If the CDC theory were true, then nearly 100% of the evidence cited by lab leakers over the past three years would have been false.

They also make a point that should interest Tyler Cowen:

As Worobey told The Associated Press for a story published in February, “The scientific literature contains essentially nothing but original research articles that support a natural origin of this virus pandemic.”

On the other hand, the lab leak theory is built not on hard evidence, but on circumstantial stuff. It’s a theory based wholly on questions, not actual findings.

For example, lab leakers ask, if Covid was natural in origin, why haven’t scientists yet discovered the exact animal from which the virus crossed into humans?

Forgive me but, so what that they haven’t? As a January article in Slate pointed out, “It took 29 years to definitively identify the source of Ebola, 26 years for HIV/AIDS, and 15 years for SARS.” So the lack of an identifiable source, especially this soon, does not suggest  a lab leak.

Tyler’s been telling Doomsters on the AI issue to start publishing scientific papers. (In fairness, the lab leakers have published a few very low quality items.)

PPPPS. Jonathan Katz also has an excellent piece:

I am sympathetic to that worldview because in many ways I share it. I’ve lived it — having personally caught the CDC, WHO, United Nations — and U.S. government — covering up their agency and complicity in a deadly epidemic. But in that case, I had positive, material evidence to go on, including the findings of public health experts and epidemiologists. By contrast, all the lab leak has going for it — and I really mean all it has going for it — is negative inference: that we can all sense that China is covering something up. And they are! But that means nothing — the current Chinese government covers up everything, always, as a matter of course. They covered up the wildlife trade and anything that might lead to a market origin as well. (Beijing’s preferred conspiracy theory is that the U.S. cooked up the virus in a bioweapons lab at Fort Detrick, Maryland.)

For nigh on three years now, we have all been entertaining a theory that was plausible on its face but has never had a lick of evidence beyond the merest supposition to back it up. We asked the spies, and the spies came back with nothing. Maybe some secret evidence is still out there. Maybe the journalists, bloggers, and anonymous (dare I say Deep State) sources who have gotten this story wrong over and over again will, in the end, find a way to make their case. But, for now, I think it’s time to end this. The lab leakers tried. They failed. On to the next thing.



41 Responses to “Whom can we trust?”

  1. Gravatar of Joel Joel
    1. July 2023 at 10:30

    I’d give the lab leak theory a 50-50 probability — it either happened or it didn’t, and from my perspective there is no solid evidence one way or the other. If people had adopted this view, then I think it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but the many efforts over the past several years to suppress the lab leak theory have given it legs.

    Obviously, the CCP completely resisted carrying out an internationally transparent investigation into the origin of COVID-19, and if it did happen by lab leak, we would never hear about it. Of course, that doesn’t make the lab leak theory true.

    What is more repellent is that some non-Chinese scientists early on secretly organized scientific groups to argue against the lab leak theory while not disclosing their own ties to the Wuhan lab or virus research. It’s plausible they did so simply to avoid embarrassment or head off increased regulation of their area of research, but they never received the public shaming and sanctions they deserved for this lack of integrity. This feeds belief in the lab leak theory.

    It was also shameful that certain views on COVID origin, vaccines, lockdowns, etc. were censored and suppressed in news and social media. Again, it is plausible this happened not due to some grand conspiracy but rather out of hubristic confidence in a particular understanding of science and public policy combined with political/ideological affiliation. This, too, feeds belief in the lab leak theory.

    What should have happened was a public and open discussion of the merits of all theories of COVID origin, and what should happen now is the shaming and sanctioning of those who prevented a public and open discussion from happening. Since this is not happening, I find arguments to refute the lab leak theory somewhat distasteful even though I am not a proponent of that theory.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. July 2023 at 10:49

    Joel, Try using Google. Over the past three years, you’ll find hundreds of articles in the MSM speculating about the possibility of lab leak.

    “I find arguments to refute the lab leak theory somewhat distasteful”

    I find dishonest argument to be somewhat distasteful, and the lab leakers have engaged in lots of dishonest arguments.

  3. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    1. July 2023 at 11:34

    Sumner doesn’t keep up with the news it seems. His word salad above, full of PS and PPS and who knows what, is a mess of old news. Below is the new news.

    Note further Sumner dismisses the new news (yet to be released) before he even reads it, a sign of a closed mind. Further “CDC” is the Chinese CDC not the US, and it’s based in Wuhan. Wuhan WIV is de facto the same as Wuhan CDC for purposes of lab leak. Sumner also falsely implies that it took many years to find the “intermediate host” of Ebola, but in fact primates were suspected early on. In fact, it’s not 100% proven Ebola came from primates even today, just 99% certain.


    MSN from a few days ago: “Beijing has been accused of ordering scientists to destroy all early coronavirus samples from their labs in an apparent effort to cover up the initial outbreak of COVID-19. The Chinese government ordered scientists on January 3, 2020, to hand over all COVID-19 lab samples, according to a secret memo that has just been unveiled. The order was made just two days before China shut down the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market, a wet market connected to multiple early cases of COVID-19.”

    WSJ from 6/21/23 : “6/21/23 A prominent scientist who worked on coronavirus projects funded by the U.S. government is one of three Chinese researchers who became sick with an unspecified illness during the initial outbreak of Covid-19, according to current and former U.S. officials.”

  4. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    1. July 2023 at 11:38

    @Joel – you theory of ‘failure to be transparent is evidence of guilt’ is sound, it’s actually enshrined in legal evidence as proof of guilt (flight from a crime is a factor in determining guilt), and as such clearly shows CCP/WIV/CDC is guilty of a cover up of a lab leak. The problem is in this forum our host has agreed that the CCP is secretive by nature so evidence of a ‘cover-up’ proves nothing, as that’s just they way the authoritative Chinese roll.

  5. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    1. July 2023 at 12:08

    @myself- I meant to say Ebola’s intermediate host is bats, not monkeys, here’s a National Geo article (July 2015): (“As for the reservoir host of Ebola—if you have heard that fruit bats again are the answer, you’ve heard supposition misrepresented as fact. Despite arduous efforts by some intrepid scientists, Ebola virus has never been tracked to its source in the wild…. early 1996, with the support of the World Health Organization, returned. His primary task was to look for the reservoir host, searching the same ecosystem where the outbreak had begun at the same time of year. “Already by that stage,” he told me, “bats were on my mind.”). The National Geo article says he reason it’s taken so long to identify the intermediate host for Ebola is lack of money. No such lack of money is present for Covid-19, where, unlike for every other virus, an intermediate host has been found (or probably found)

  6. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    1. July 2023 at 12:14

    @myself – also I was thinking of HIV and chimps when I said “99%”, see: (med paper, Sharp et al, 2011) “HIV-1 has long been suspected to be of chimpanzee origin (Gao et al. 1999); however, until recently, the perceived lack of a chimpanzee reservoir left the source of HIV-1 open to question” – and note it’s not 100% certain about the source of HIV even until as of 2011.

  7. Gravatar of David S David S
    1. July 2023 at 13:51

    Can we hold you to the promise of not mentioning Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on this blog? If he makes a statement about monetary policy (unlikely) will you deal with that over at Econlog please?

  8. Gravatar of Solon of the East Solon of the East
    1. July 2023 at 15:17

    I wonder how many wet markets there are across China.

    But the one wet market, where the coronavirus 19 started, was in Wuhan. A stone’s throw from the lab doing gain of function research on bat coronaviruses.

    Under a government that is opaque and oppressive.

    Who knows, but I would put the odds at ten-to-one lab leak. Maybe 20.

  9. Gravatar of RAD RAD
    1. July 2023 at 19:16

    [Eddie Holmes] was aware of rumors regarding what was in the report, but was skeptical. He predicted that the expected evidence would not materialize.

    Eddie Holmes not only has an inside track on the evidence surrounding the origins question, he understands that this growing body of evidence is incompatible with Patient Zero WIV workers, especially the Lineage A and B data.

    Holmes et al have been exceptional throughout this never ending blame game, IMO. Lab-Leak proponents, not so much.

  10. Gravatar of Sara Sara
    1. July 2023 at 23:03

    There is evidence that vaccines cause autism. If you had read RFK Jr’s books instead of old movies and Buck’s games you would see a list of cited studies. You could then peruse those studies.

    I don’t think anyone on this blog suggested the CIA is hiding UFO’s, but the CIA has been known to abuse their power, such as spying on American citizens, which is not the purpose of the organization. The CIA’s top brass are also “woke” which means they are far left radicals willing to do just about anything to create their one party dystopia. When DHS creates a pyramid of white supremacy and at the bottom there are “Christians” and “republicans” that’s a danger to the republic. People should be concerned about these agencies, especially if they are created to “protect us”, and of course they should continue to ask questions.

  11. Gravatar of Edward Edward
    2. July 2023 at 02:46

    I think over 400 scientists have requested that 5G undergo further testing for electromagnetic radiation safety.

    Re. autism and vaccines. Look at the studies below.

    1. A study published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology has shown that giving the Hepatitis B vaccine to newborn baby boys could triple the risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder compared to boys who were not vaccinated as neonates. The research was conducted at Stony Brook University Medical Center, NY.

    2. A study published in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry by researchers at the Neural Dynamics Group, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of British Columbia determined that Aluminum, a highly neurotoxic metal and the most commonly used vaccine adjuvant may be a significant contributing factor to the rising prevalence of ASD in the Western World. They showed that the correlation between ASD prevalence and the Aluminum adjuvant exposure appears to be the highest at 3-4 months of age. The studies also show that children from countries with the highest ASD appear to have a much higher exposure to Aluminum from vaccines. The study points out that several prominent milestones of brain development coincide with major vaccination periods for infants. These include the onset of synaptogenesis (birth), maximal growth velocity of the hippocampus and the onset of amygdala maturation. Furthermore, major developmental transition in many bio-behavioural symptoms such as sleep, temperature regulation, respiration and brain wave patterns, all of which are regulated by the neuroendocrine network. Many of these aspects of brain function are known to be impaired in autism, such as sleeping and brain wave patterns.

    According to the FDA, vaccines represent a special category of drugs as they are generally given to healthy individuals. Further according to the FDA, “this places significant emphasis on their vaccine safety”. While the FDA does set an upper limit for Aluminum in vaccines at no more that 850/mg/dose, it is important to note that this amount was selected empirically from data showing that Aluminum in such amounts enhanced the antigenicity of the vaccine, rather than from existing safety. Given that the scientific evidence appears to indicate that vaccine safety is not as firmly established as often believed, it would seem ill advised to exclude paediatric vaccinations as a possible cause of adverse long-term neurodevelopment outcomes , including those associated with autism.

    3. A study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues by the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of New York shows how researchers suspect one or more environmental triggers are needed to develop autism, regardless of whether individuals have a genetic predisposition or not. They determined that one of those triggers might be the “battery of vaccinations that young children receive.” Researchers found a positive and statistically significant relationship between autism and vaccinations. They determined that the higher the proportion of children receiving recommended vaccinations, the higher the prevalence of autism. A 1 % increase in vaccination was associated with an additional 680 children having autism. The results suggest that vaccines may be linked to autism and encourages more in depth study before continually administering these vaccines.

    4. A study published in the Journal of Toxicology by the Department of Neurosurgery at The Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston has shown that ASD is a disorder caused by a problem in brain development. They looked at B-cells and their sensitivity levels to thimerosal, a commonly used additive in many vaccines. They determined that ASD patients have a heightened sensitivity to thimerosal which would restrict cell proliferation that is typically found after vaccination. The research shows that individuals who have this hypersensitivity to thimerosal could make them highly susceptible to toxins like thimerosal, and that individuals with a mild mitochondrial defect may be affected by thimerosal. The fact that ASD patients’ B cells exhibit hypersensitivity to thimerosal tells us something.

    5. A study published in the Journal of Biomedical Sciences determined that the autoimmunity to the central nervous system may play a causal role in autism. Researchers discovered that because many autistic children harbour elevated levels of measles antibodies, they should conduct a serological study of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and myelin basic protein (MBP) autoantibodies. They used serum samples of 125 autistic children and 92 controlled children. Their analysis showed a significant increase in the level of MMR antibodies in autistic children. The study concludes that the autistic children had an inappropriate or abnormal antibody response to MMR. The study determined that autism could be a result from an atypical measles infection that produces neurological symptoms in some children. The source of this virus could be a variant of MV, or it could be the MMR vaccine.

    6. Study published in the Annals of Clinical Psychiatry suggests that Autism is likely triggered by a virus, and that measles virus (MV and/or MMR vaccine) might be a very good candidate. It supports the hypothesis that a virus-dincued autoimmune response may play a causal role in autism.

    7. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that an increased vulnerability to oxidative stress and decreased capacity for methylation may contribute to the development and clinical manifestation of autism. It’s well known that viral infections cause increased oxidative stress. Research suggests that metals, including those found in many vaccines are directly involved in increasing oxidative stress.

    8. A study published by the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Northeastern University, Boston determined that a novel growth factor signalling pathway that regulates methionine synthase(MS) activity and thereby modulates methylation reactions. The potent inhibition of this pathway by ethanol, lead, mercury, aluminum and thimerosal suggests that it may be an important target of neurodevelopmental toxins. You can read more about this here, and here. You can read more about the MS/autism link here

    9. A study published in the Journal of Child Neurology examined the question of what is leading to the apparent increase in autism. They expressed that if there is any link between autism and mercury, it is crucial that the first reports of the question are not falsely stating that no link occurs. Researchers determined that a significant relation does exist between the blood levels of mercury and the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder.

    10. A study published in the Journal of Child Neurology noted that autistic spectrum disorders can be associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. Researchers determined that children who have mitochondrial-related dysfunctional cellular energy metabolism might be more prone to undergo autistic regression between 18 and 30 months of age if they also have infections or immunizations at the same time.

    11. A study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital at the Centre for Morphometric Analysis by the department of Paediatric Neurology illustrates how autistic brains have a growth spurt shortly after birth and then slow in growth a few short years later. Researchers have determined that neuroinflammation appears to be present in autistic brain tissue from childhood through adulthood. The study excerpt reads:

    Oxidative stress, brain inflammation and microgliosis have been much documented in association with toxic exposures including various heavy metals. The awareness that the brain as well as medical conditions of children with autism may be conditioned by chronic biomedical abnormalities such as inflammation opens the possibility that meaningful biomedical interventions may be possible well past the window of maximal neuroplasticity in early childhood because the basis for assuming that all deficits can be attributed to fixed early developmental alterations in net.

    12, A study conducted by the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Arkansas determined that thimerosal-induced cytotoxicity was associated with the depletion of intracellular glutathione (GSH) in both cell lines. The study outlines how many vaccines have been neurotoxic, especially to the developing brain. Depletion of GSH is commonly associated with autism. Although thimerosal has been removed from most children’s vaccines, it is still present in flu vaccines given to pregnant women, the elderly and to children in developing countries.

    13. A study published in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) determined that elevation in peripheral oxidative stress is consistent with, and may contribute to more severe functional impairments in the ASD group. We know that oxidative stress is triggered by heavy metals, like the ones contained in multiple vaccines.

    14. A study conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Center by the Department of Family and Community Medicine determined that for each 1,000 Ib of environmentally released mercury, there was a 43% increase in the rate of special education services and a 61% increase in the rate of autism. Researchers emphasized that further research was needed regarding the association between environmentally released mercury and developmental disorders such as autism.

    15. A study published in the International Journal of Toxicology determined that in light of the biological plausibility of mercury’s role in neurodevelopment disorders, the present study provides further insight into one possible mechanism by which early mercury exposures could increase the risk of autism.

    16. A study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health determined that mercury exposure can induce immune, sensory, neurological, motor and behavioural dysfunctions similar to traits defining or associated with ASDs. Based upon differential diagnoses, 8 of 9 patients examined were exposed to significant mercury from Thimerosal-containing vaccine preparations during their fetal/infant developmental periods. These previously normal developing children suffered mercury encephalopathies that manifested with clinical symptoms consistent with regressive ASDs. Evidence for mercury intoxication should be considered in the differential diagnosis as contributing to some regressive ASDs.

    17. A study published by the US National Library of Medicine conducted by the University of Texas Health Science Centre suspected that persistent low-dose exposures to various environmental toxicants including mercury, that occur during critical windows of neural development among genetically susceptible children, may increase the risk for developmental disorders such as autism.

    18. A study conducted by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine showed that Macaques are commonly used in pre-clinical vaccine safety testing. Collective Evolution does not support animals testing, we feel there is a large amount of evidence and research that already indicated the links to vaccines in which some animals have been used to illustrate. The objective of this study was to compare early infant cognition and behaviour with amygdala size and opioid binding in rhesus macaques receiving the recommended childhood vaccines. The animal model, which examines for the first time, behavioural, functional and neuromorphometric consequences of the childhood vaccine regimen, mimics certain neurological abnormalities of autism. These findings raise important safety issues while providing a potential model for examining aspects of causation and disease pathogenesis in acquired disorders of behaviour and development.

    19. A study conducted by The George Washington University School of Public Health from the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics determined that significantly increased rate ratios were observed for autism and autism spectrum disorders as a result of exposure to mercury from Thimerosal-containing vaccines.

    20. A study published in the journal Cell Biology and Toxicology by Kinki University in Osaka, Japan determined that in combination with the brain pathology observed in patients diagnosed with autism, the present study helps to support the possible biological plausibility for how low-dose exposure to mercury from thimerosal-containing vaccines may be associated with autism.

    21. A study published by the journal Lab Medicine determined that vaccinations may be one of the triggers for autism. Researchers discovered that substantial data demonstrates immune abnormality in many autistic children consistent with impaired resistance to infection, activation of inflammatory responses and autoimmunity. Impaired resistance may predispose to vaccine injury in autism.

    22. A study published in the journal Neurochemical Research determined that since excessive accumulation of extracellular glutamate is linked with excitotoxicity, data implies that neonatal exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines might induce excitotoxic brain injuries, leading to neurodevelopmental disorders.

    But let’s just ignore these studies, because Sumner says it’s a conspiracy. Saying something is a conspiracy is meaningless. Argue the merits of the study….if you can.


    It’s also worth noting that RFK Jr, who was with his father when he died, also believes the CIA was involved. Jackie thought the same.

    Calling people conspiracy theorists is just a way to marginalize and silence them.

  12. Gravatar of Ricardo Ricardo
    2. July 2023 at 02:52

    You don’t have a good bullshit detector. The bullshit, much like the old tobacco studies, is coming from Pharma.


  13. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    2. July 2023 at 06:38

    I’ll make the point again that serious thinkers will care far less about whether this was a lab leak versus the usual case of a pathogen that evolved to jump from animals to humans, and far more about how to prevent the next pandemic.

    I also again point out that many of those pushing the lab leak conspiracy theory didn’t seem to take Covid-19 all that seriously, so what are you really complaining about?

    Again, whether lab leak or failure to properly regulate wet markets, the Chinse government bears responsibility if one of those two origins are true. They have incentives not to let it happen again, as no politicians wants to deal with a pandemic.

  14. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    2. July 2023 at 06:41


    Why would you find anything RFK Jr. says compelling versus the vast majority of physicians who recommend a large number of vaccines for every American?

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. July 2023 at 08:16

    Ray, And so the game of whack-a-mole continues . . .

  16. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    2. July 2023 at 11:38

    Well, I’ll concede one thing: As Joel says, if China covers up everything, then it is hard to put definitive odds on anything. However, as Solon of the East points out it never passed the smell test that a pandemic emerges within a few miles of a lab doing gain of function research on the same virus.

    Would you blame a hypothetical ebola pandemic in Atlanta on MTG voters eating roadkill?

    There’s also scientific evidence that the virus was engineered, e.g. the furin cleave site, which incidentally is something the Wuhan Lab began splicing into SARS-Coronaviruses during 2019. Yes, there are papers arguing it could have emerged naturally, but “could have” is a long way from any sort of probabilistic analysis.

    Then there are specific claims, e.g., IIRC Mike Pompeo claiming the lab shut down for two weeks in October 2019. No cell traffic, no cars. No one has ever rebutted that claim, nor elaborated on the dates and motives.

    One of the extremely serious errors in Sumner’s analysis is the assumption the spooks are on our side. They are not. They want this to go any as much as the scientists, and the Chinese. If it was a lab leak, no one has clean hands, global prestige is at stake, and scientific funding will be subject to serious oversight.

    The absolutely insufferable intelligence agencies insist on using phrasing like “consistent with” precisely because they don’t want anyone to get ahead of their information control with more thoughtful analysis.

  17. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    2. July 2023 at 11:44

    SS: “Ray, And so the game of whack-a-mole continues . . .” – who’s playing the game? You? All your replies are indirection and ad hominem. And look at your commentators. Ever since I stopped posting here…

  18. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    2. July 2023 at 11:45

    Oh, and one of the problems the “Wet Market Conspiracy Theorists” have is that the virus had gone global by the end of December, especially in places like Paris and Milan. The timing matches a patient zero in October or early November, not at the wet market in December.

    This is yet another tricky area as a lot of retrospective antibody studies are corrupted for any number of reasons, including non-specific antibody results. But any theory needs to at least be consistent with the whole body of evidence.

  19. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    2. July 2023 at 11:51

    When do these kind of things ever get “settled”. COVID origin is out of my intellectual capabilities. It’s also outside Scott’s intellectual abilities. As a whole science is failing at a lot of these things to ever settle them. Engineering where a rocket either flies or crashes we’ve done much better at.

    I’m reminded that something everyone accepted – lead = bad. Has had recent science significantly debunking that lead in everything made people dumb and violent. It seems like nothing every reproduces or replicates anymore. Realizing that everything seems to be unproven narrative makes more more informed than mosts. COVID origins I have significant faith will never be proven unless some scientific insider comes out some day.

  20. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    2. July 2023 at 11:52

    Also didn’t MSNBC have to admit it was just opinion and not news which you cited as a prime source.

  21. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    2. July 2023 at 11:55

    CIA killed Kennedy, or that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered, or that the government is hiding UFOs in a secret airplane hanger

    Fascinating that you put these three ‘conspiracies’ together because:
    1- Some believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was a CIA asset
    2- Some believe that Jeffrey Epstein was a CIA asset (explains the lack of leaks, and the prison cameras mysteriously turning off)
    3- The secret UFOs is thought to be “preventive misinformation” to distract people from gov’t crimes. As in “Joe’s a crook, Covid’s an accident, and… LOOK! SPACE ALIENS!”

    Notice how the least plausible one, the secret UFO’s conspiracy theory, is the one sourced to IC actors. Rubio is the latest to be sucked in by his super secret special national security briefing on space aliens.

    Also notice how the the space alien conspiracy is basically a rip-off of the movie script for Independence Day while the initial Covid coverage was a rip-off of the movie script for Contagion right down to the people randomly collapsing in the streets.

  22. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. July 2023 at 12:58

    Steve, I love how the lab leakers tell us that the intelligence services are about to drop some bombshells, and when they don’t they whine about cover-ups.

    You said:

    “IIRC Mike Pompeo claiming the lab shut down for two weeks in October 2019.”

    Explain to me why anyone would wish to explore theories put forth by a known pathological liar like Mike Pompeo? What’s his track record on this story? Please stop citing him if you wish to be taken seriously.

    “There’s also scientific evidence that the virus was engineered, e.g. the furin cleave site”

    That’s been discredited.

    “Fascinating that you put these three ‘conspiracies’ together”

    Yes, you are just full of fascinating ideas.

    Sean, You said:

    “which you cited as a prime source”

    Huh? I cited an opinion piece at MSNBC.

  23. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    2. July 2023 at 13:06


    — 43 year old Amirouche Hammar (young, low odds of pneumonia, probably other cases)
    — hospitalized December 27, 2019 with Covid pneumonia
    — had NOT traveled abroad
    — wife worked at supermarket near Charles de Gaulle airport

    Subtract TWO incubation periods in Paris and you’re back to the first week of December. Subtract another incubation period for a traveler from Wuhan and you’re back to late November.

    Covid DID NOT start at a wet market in December.

    The theory needs to match the data. Covid was not typically serious in people of Amirouche Hammar’s age so there were likely dozens of cases in France alone by the third week of December.

  24. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    2. July 2023 at 21:18

    It’s very surreal looking at old news stories of Covid.

    Here’s a story from Seattle on January 21, 2020 announcing the first confirmed case of Covid in the USA in a traveler returning from Wuhan.


    At the beginning of the broadcast, they state that the virus “has killed 9 and sickened 400 in China” and at the end they say that the virus is linked to a large food market. Again, JANUARY 21. Governor Jay Inslee said he agrees with the CDC that the risk is low.

    Now there’s a major problem. With a doubling period of 5 days, the best fit for the number of infections is:
    Oct-31-19 1 infection
    Nov-30-19 64 infections
    Dec-31-19 4k infections
    Jan-31-20 256k infections

    The 256k number is remarkable close to retrospective analysis of infections in Wuhan, which means the likely number at the time of this broadcast was ~64,000 infections NOT 400.

    We now know that several cities including Paris, Milan and Tehran were likely seeded in December. Probably Seattle and San Francisco, too.

    We also should know that the Huanan Seafood market was likely 1-2% of the concurrent infections in China at that time; China was off by a factor of 100x-200x in reporting accurate infection counts prior to the Wuhan lockdown.

    This is the problem with a novel virus with a 5% hospitalization rate and a 0.4% ifr, and a long incubation period: a massive discrepancy between official case counts a likely actual infection rates.

    Finally, recall the the stock market surged in February 2020, buoyed by rapidly falling global case counts (thanks Wuhan!) and an extrapolation that the outbreak was behind us.

  25. Gravatar of Solon of the East Solon of the East
    3. July 2023 at 01:58

    Number of wet markets in China 2016-2022


    Jun 20, 2566 BE — In 2022, the number of wet markets in China amounted to 44,768, growing significantly from the previous year. The number of wet markets in …


    Jeez, I would have thought a few thousand.

    So, more than 40,000 wet-markets in China and the one wet market where a novel bat coronavirus C19 was introduced was a stone’s throw from the Wuhan lab in which gain-of-function research was being done..on bat coronaviruses.

    I said the odds are 10-to-1 for lab leak, or maybe 20-to-1.

    Now I think even higher higher odds. Maybe 50-to-1.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    3. July 2023 at 08:00

    Steve and Solon, A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.
    You guys are in way over your head.

    The virus crossed over to humans in November 2019, probably in the Wuhan animal market, which is vastly larger than the other markets you cite.

    Solon’s comment is like say the Tiananmen protests were no big deal because China has 20,000 riots every year.

    The stock market rose because investors (wrongly) assumed that the rest of the world would control Covid as effectively as the Chinese did (until Omicron). We chose not to.

  27. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    3. July 2023 at 09:45

    Scott’s interlocutors could benefit from a course in basic probability theory. The arguments being put forth actually support the likelihood that Covid-19 originated in a wet market in Wuhan.

  28. Gravatar of Solon of the East Solon of the East
    3. July 2023 at 16:34

    The Wuhan wet market was “vastly larger” than all the other 44,000-odd wet markets in China?

    I can imagine there were many small wet markets in the many small towns of China.

    But by China standards, Wuhan is just the ninth-largest city.

    Moreover, if there are 100 small wet markets, but when aggregated, equal in size to the Wuhan market…why would you expect the Wuhan to be the source of C19 virus, as opposed to one of the 100 small wet markets?

    China has a population of 1.2 billion, and Wuhan about 12 million. If wet markets are evenly distributed across the county by population, maybe 100-to-one odds Wuhan would be the source of wet market introduction.

    Actually, that strikes me as about right. 100 to one.

    It sure seems like a long-shot that the Wuhan novel coronavirus would emerge in the one wet market that bordered on a lab wherein gain-of-function research was being done on bat coronaviruses.

    In addition, it has become public that lab leaks do happen.

  29. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    4. July 2023 at 03:09

    China had 5 Covid cases in December, all in wet market

    China had 400 Covid cases in January, per Jan 21 propaganda

    But Wuhan had 800,000 cases after the lockdown, because whatever.


    The province has accounted for the majority of infections and deaths in China, with 67,801 cases and 3,160 fatalities reported as of Monday.

    Incidentally, this is a 5% CFR which freaked out the West. But if you assume a 0.4% IFR, then 3160/0.004 implied ~800,000 infections in Wuhan.

    If you believe all these infections happened after the lockdown, then you are too dumb to gain admittance to Bentley.

    The “Wet Market Conspiracy Theory” is completely discredited by the 100x underreporting of Covid by China. Why not blame Carrefour at Charles de Gaulle for infecting Wuhan?

  30. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    4. July 2023 at 03:23

    The virus crossed over to humans in November 2019, probably in the Wuhan animal market

    Again this is an evidence-free assertion. Just because a 65 year old got hospitalized in mid-December doesn’t mean virus started there in mid-December.

    It’s important for everyone to realize that the “Wet Market Conspiracy Theory” has ZERO evidence, it is an article of religious faith among big-government faithful.

    If the community spread began in early to mid November, and a small pocket emerged at the wet market in December, that tells us nothing. What about the other 99% of cases? Well, we don’t know.

  31. Gravatar of RAD RAD
    5. July 2023 at 01:45

    Steve said:

    It’s important for everyone to realize that the “Wet Market Conspiracy Theory” has ZERO evidence, it is an article of religious faith among big-government faithful.

    The best overview of the relevant evidence, with images and links, remains Kristian Andersen’s unrolled Twitter thread Huanan market origin. The overview is broken up into seven core sections:

    1️⃣ Precedent
    2️⃣ Clustering of hospitalizations, cases, deaths
    3️⃣ Not a superspreading event
    4️⃣ Two introductions
    5️⃣ Susceptible animals sold
    6️⃣ Clustering where animals were sold
    7️⃣ Animal-associated objects

    Section 1️⃣ Precedent is important for a novel virus like SARS-CoV-2 since lab-leaks have only occurred with well known viruses. The upstream events necessary for a previously unsequenced coronavirus, that has never been isolated and cultured in a lab setting, is unprecedented and extremely unlikely. Moreover, there is no plausible lab-leak scenario that fits the existing data, especially the genomic epidemiology evidence with the Lineage A and B strains. Large sets of nearly-full genomic sequences coupled with timestamped geospatial patient data is a little more than “ZERO evidence”.

    You have presented a single piece of evidence that doesn’t fit the market spillover hypothesis, the Amirouche Hammar 2019-12-27 hospitalization in Paris for pneumonia that later tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The skeptic in me wants to challenge this as an outlier easily explained by a contaminated sample or an administrative mixup. Nonetheless, this sample is deserving of additional scrutiny and scientific analysis such as the more recently published metagenomic tests that concluded that one of the positive Huanan environmental samples contained significant Raccoon Dog DNA.

    You have jumped to conclusions based on inaccurate presumptions about the epidemiology of this pandemic. One of the key findings of the UK challenge trial was that the incubation period is two days, like the flu. Early peak viral loads that occur around the time of symptom onset is a key characteristic of Covid. It is highly unlikely, IMO, that the Dec 27th Paris case is Covid but, even if it proves to be true, it is still possible with the market spillover of a virus with a two-day incubation period. YMMV.

  32. Gravatar of Student Student
    5. July 2023 at 18:31

    No amount of evidence is going to convince a conspiracy theorist to abandon a conspiracy they want to believe.

    There was a point where the lab leak hypothesis almost hit 50/50 odds…. But that has long since passed. The odds are now on the low single digits. It’s not worth even paying much attention to anymore.

  33. Gravatar of Student Student
    5. July 2023 at 18:38

    The prior for natural origins was always strong. Two of the last 3 deadly pandemics were likely caused by corona viruses that naturally emerged (the Russian flu is still debatable but the evidence is growing that is was caused by a corona virus). In the last 20 years, novel Corona viruses have caused emerged naturally and caused deadly epidemics with one them being a global pandemic.

    When SARS 3 emerges by 2035 or so, the lab leakers will still be pushing their super low probability theory.

  34. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    5. July 2023 at 20:42

    @Student – you still post here? Waste of time. You act knowledgeable about biotech so do you know about the 1977 virus incident? If not, you’re dismissed. Google screen scrape to either educate you or jog your memory: “Lab leak is the biggest suspect in 1977 flu pandemic. But it took 3 decades to gain currency. The 1977 pandemic — called the ‘Russian Flu’ — was caused by the Human influenza H1N1 virus [escaping from a biotech lab in China]”

    FYI as to your “single digits” prediction market argument, that’s not how science is done. You sound as dumb as those Baptists who “vote” about how implausible events in the Bible happened.

  35. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    5. July 2023 at 21:00

    Michael, They need much more than probability theory.

    Solon, Viruses cross over frequently in the countryside, these pandemics are more likely to take hold in large cities.

    Steve, You are confusing known cases with actual cases. Obviously they weren’t looking in December 2019—they didn’t even know Covid existed.

    RAD and Student—nice to get some rational people over here.

    Ray, You said:

    “The 1977 pandemic — called the ‘Russian Flu’ — was caused by the Human influenza H1N1 virus [escaping from a biotech lab in China]”

    Great—more conspiracy theories! BTW, China had no biotech industry in 1977.

  36. Gravatar of Student Student
    5. July 2023 at 21:14

    I was referring to the 1889 pandemic.

  37. Gravatar of Student Student
    5. July 2023 at 21:16

    Ray.. you still mad bro?

  38. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    6. July 2023 at 09:48

    I would believe Scott significantly more if he had not a) been so extremely firm on his thesis from the start. He only discredited the opposing thesis from the start for dubious reasons and he never gave it fair consideration. And if b) Tyler Cowen had the same opinion as Scott. And if c) the elephant in the room were clearly named, which is that we have hardly any broad research and data on the subject because CCP China still blocks most of the data, and thus they block most of the research that would exist if we had free data and free research. It’s hard to read anything out of the few data that we have, except what some people want to see.

    There really is only one key sentence in the MSNBC opinion piece: “Given China’s lack of transparency — which is a big reason we’re still arguing about the origin of Covid…!” This is how most articles are structured. If the elephant in the room is named at all, then only in one or two sentences, as if it were the most normal thing in the world that we still have no transparency.

    Release the data, and if there was no lableak, release the data all the more. Let researchers around the world do as much research in China as they want to, and as they have been allowed during other pandemics in other countries. Then there would be much more confidence about the results.

  39. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. July 2023 at 21:29

    Christian, It’s pretty obvious that China won’t release the data, and I’m fairly confident that I know why.

    “He only discredited the opposing thesis from the start for dubious reasons and he never gave it fair consideration.”

    This is lazy reasoning that you’d never be able to back up by citing any of my previous posts. Whenever I expressed skepticism about a specific lab leak claim, later events showed that my skepticism was justified. So now I’m being condemned for being correct?

  40. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    7. July 2023 at 18:50

    Christian, Are you aware of the sorts of people who have been pushing the lab leak theory to the Republicans in Congress?


  41. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    11. July 2023 at 20:07

    @SS: the 1977 lab leak is not “conspiracy theory” and it was researched partly by the Chinese, though it happened on USSR soil. Google and read about it, first hit: “Lab leak is the biggest suspect in 1977 flu pandemic. But it took 3 decades to gain currency”. Bye.

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