The report in the Wall Street Journal about Wuhan lab workers going to the hospital in November 2019 is coming under scrutiny, and, at least by some smart people, found wanting.
I think it’s important to clarify that we don’t know if the coronavirus originated in, and escaped from, the Wuhan Institute of Virology. It can’t be proven. It can’t be disproven. The problem, as I see it, is that many people back in the spring of 2020 said any suggestion of lab escape was a “conspiracy theory.” This is what I believed back then, because the consensus was so overwhelming and we all have only so many hours in a day to “do our own research.” Here are several examples of that consensus. Tom Cotton, the Arkansas senator, came in for especially intense criticism. A Washington Post headline back in February 2020, when all of this was very new, said, “Tom Cotton keeps repeating a conspiracy theory that was already debunked.” But it hadn’t been debunked! It still hasn’t. And if you go back and look at what Cotton was saying, it doesn’t sound totally unreasonable.
Now, very serious scientists say, “We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data.” That’s more or less what Cotton was saying more than a year ago, and he was pilloried.
It’s frustrating, for me, as a news consumer, that every single issue has to be weaponized and politicized, and in such a sloppy way. Not that Cotton is innocent on that front, but come on!
And some people are saying, “So what? What difference does it make if it escaped from a lab?” It’s important to know the truth for its own sake. And perhaps to interrogate what happened so it doesn’t happen again. I also think that the Chinese government, and the U.S. government (also involved), and the global virology community should be held accountable for any mistakes they made. Maybe they made none, and the virus did in fact jump from bats to humans, or whatever the latest natural theory is. But we should find out. And the ranks upon ranks of people who lined up to discredit anyone who suggested it may have been otherwise, without evidence, and with fake certainty, should be made to feel embarrassed.
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“ABSURDITY, n. A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.” — Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
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And as someone who has lived in China, you absolutely cannot put a cover-up past the Chinese government. I would go so far as to say that a cover-up should be expected. Anyone who purchased anything the Chinese government was saying in the early days was naive.