A brief retrospective on the origin of the Wuhan, China Coronavirus

New York Times Apr 16, 2020

There are 3 claims I've read:

  1. The virus originated in a lab.
  2. China has a bio-weapons program.
  3. China made the Wuhan, China Coronavirus.

There's no evidence for #3. At least, none that I've seen that suggests that it was laboratory made.

Now, #2 makes sense to me. Any modern superpower would have to have a bio-weapons program of some kind. But, honestly, it's not that important given #3 being very, very unlikely.

Now, #1 is the most common theory as far as I can tell (Washington Post, Archive). It was something that Sen. Tom Cotton suggested in February. Here's the title of the article in the New York Times (also known as the Toilet Paper): Senator Tom Cotton Repeats Fringe Theory of Coronavirus Origins (Archive).

What's the fringe theory?

Speaking on Fox News, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, raised the possibility that the virus had originated in a high-security biochemical lab in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak.

Well, that would make sense. There's no evidence for it, especially at that time, but, seriously, a biochemical lab in the city? One where the bats from the SARS colony were taken? (Nature) Let's keep going.

“We don’t have evidence that this disease originated there,” the senator said, “but because of China’s duplicity and dishonesty from the beginning, we need to at least ask the question to see what the evidence says, and China right now is not giving evidence on that question at all.”

That makes sense and seems perfectly reasonable. So, how did the New York Slimes react?

The idea of the coronavirus as an escaped weapon has been carried through international news outlets like the British tabloid The Daily Mail and The Washington Times, which suggested that the virus was being developed as part of China’s biowarfare program.

Right, but, that's conflating claims #2 and #3. They claim it could have been released as part of a bio-weapons program. But, not that it was made in a lab. There's a key distinction. But, what does that have to do with Sen. Cotton?

Although much remains unknown about the coronavirus, experts generally dismiss the idea that it was created by human hands. Scientists who have studied the coronavirus say it resembles SARS and other viruses that come from bats. While contagious, so far it appears to largely threaten the lives of older people with chronic health issues, making it a less-than-effective bioweapon.

What? First, I'd hate to see an effective bio-weapon. Second, that's not what he said. That's a strawman. In fact, in the article is a tweet by Sen. Cotton:

There's no debunking evidence I see in the article at all. Nothing. But, here's another article debunking it from BusinessInsider (Archive).

Cotton's theory has already been thoroughly debunked by multiple scientists.
"There's absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of this virus that indicates the virus was engineered," Richard Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, told The Washington Post Sunday.
"The possibility this was a deliberately released bioweapon can be firmly excluded."

Except. THAT'S NOT WHAT HE SAID.

Vipin Narang, associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also told The Post it was "a skip in logic to say it's a bioweapon" or claim China "developed and intentionally deployed, or even unintentionally deployed" the virus.

THAT'S NOT WHAT HE CLAIMED.

"I don't think it's particularly helpful, and it's borderline irresponsible to — and it's without evidence, so at this point it's a conspiracy theory — peddle it," he told the newspaper.

No, you know what irresponsible is: lying about what people say.

Zero Hedge, a popular financial blog, was permanently suspended from Twitter in January for peddling the same theory as Cotton.

So, Zero Hedge was permanently suspended for being right too early?

Anyway, Sen. Cotton was most likely right. His wording was precise and hard to misunderstand. The New York Times, BusinessInsider, and multiple professors can't read or comprehend ideas.

Two notes:

  1. I've been wondering for a while if many in the news have to be stupid ever since that Mara Gay math problem.
  2. Does debunked conspiracy theory mean true, now?