Origins of covid

Gain of function research, zoonosis, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and truth over tribe

When the pandemic first spread beyond China there was a straightforward message from scientific elites: the virus came from a wild animal accidentally spilling over into humans, and any suggestion it might have instead been manipulated in a lab and then escaped was a quasi-racist conspiracy theory. However, as the years have gone on this has been shown to have been, at best, wildly premature. We now know there is plenty of evidence which actually points away from an evolutionary coincidence and towards human error in a virology lab. The exact question of covid’s origins remains unresolved, and is probably unknowable, but the way the debate has fluctuated and been managed since January 2020 is both fascinating and concerning. How have virologists been genetically tweaking existing animal coronaviruses, and is it safe? Why did the scientific establishment close ranks to shut down questions about lab leaks and research in Wuhan? And how can Christians uphold the value of truth-telling, no matter the geopolitical consequences, in this era of febrile culture war?

  • This New Yorker article is an excellent investigation into the debate over the origins of covid
  • This New York magazine investigation from January 2021 was one of the first mainstream sceptical accounts of zoonosis to appear
  • This British Medical Journal article covers the way lab leak theory went from crackpot fringe conspiracy theory to serious possibility
  • The original February 2020 statement discounting a lab leak in The Lancet
  • This Unherd piece explores the leaked private messages between scientists as they pulled together the influential Nature article which resoundingly dismissed the lab leak theory

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