I realise that for many the workings of a laboratory could seem very foreign and mysterious, ranging from mythical through to threatening depending on your leanings and predispositions to conspiracy theories.
Few of us have a background in infectious disease, and it is always – for any of us – easy to take for granted the basic understanding that we have on how things ‘work’ without stopping to think that others with zero experience have no understanding to even begin to consider whether a certain viewpoint has any validity at all or whether it is entirely far-fetched.
(In saying that I am reminded of the advertisement that used to be on radio for air conditioner servicing where they suggested other less reputable service providers might suggest extra work on the basis of the fictitious “fuball montechnic activity that could get into your beanbags, and stuff” – you get the idea – a bit like me looking under the bonnet of a car.)
I watched PM Morrison’s Friday afternoon press conference and saw that he was keen to continue the innuendo on the origins of COVID-19, no doubt to distract from his own inadequate response still 18 months into the pandemic and with an outbreak in NSW, threatening to take off, inadequately addressed due to conservative ideology opposed to strong measures (the exact same tactics employed by Trump for all of the same reasons).
I strongly doubt that Morrison even really understands what he is saying. Moreover I doubt he even cares whether he knows exactly what he is saying as it is irrelevant for his political purpose.
So I am going to spell out exactly what is being said by anybody who intimates that we can somehow know in short order how this pandemic began, in part insinuating a cover-up by the laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), because the only way that we would be able to know immediately would be if somebody stepped forward to ‘tell the truth’ (i.e. it was already known). I’ll explain the ‘why’ of that part last.
Now as I said in my previous article, I do not believe that there is anything to tell, not because I am especially fond of the Chinese national leadership, nor just because I count the leader of that laboratory to be a friend, but because of events that transpired early in the pandemic.
Therefore I think that the chances that the virus came from this laboratory is very (extremely, exceedingly) low, and the reasoning is really quite simple and is readily apparent to anybody who has worked in experimental science in infectious disease.
I am going to explain it as plainly as I can.
If the virus was not cultured in the laboratory – i.e. grown in cells in flasks in laboratories outside from live animals – then the only source for it to escape from the laboratory would be from live animals that were brought in for experiments. This lab has developed general diagnostic tests for coronaviruses, which is how they have surveyed and detected a broad range of coronaviruses from bats (including tracking down the population of bats from which SARS likely originated). Note also those tests do not involve culturing live virus (it is the same type of PCR tests that are being used everywhere to detect COVID-19 now). And seeing as infection experiments should be done with healthy animals, and they would not want any new animals spreading diseases to their other stocks of animals, then it is certain that any live bats coming into their facility would be tested rapidly to ensure they are free from coronaviruses, probably while they are quarantined.
I, myself, have never worked with bats, but these principles hold when investigating any pathogen-host relationship.
In other words, there is an extremely low chance (essentially no chance) that the virus was ever in the laboratory without them knowing it.
Therefore, any suggestion that the virus came from the laboratory is an insinuation that there has been a cover-up.
Any ‘scientific study’ by an international group looking at laboratory records, etc, is, by definition, not really research but a forensic investigation looking for evidence of a cover-up. Thus requests to look at their records would be met with a degree of incredulity as it would be interpreted as them not being believed or trusted.
It should be readily apparent that that these ‘studies’ go well beyond a reasonable audit of accountability, especially when there is a desire to investigate the health records of staff.
Now, finally, the reason it is highly unlikely that anybody already knows from where the virus came is based on past experiences. It took 15 years for this same group at the WIV to work out where SARS came from by painstakingly surveying lots of bat populations along with many other similar studies within China and throughout the world. Of course they could only make educated guesses at how the virus got from those bats into humans, but they did find that people living near these caves displayed antibodies to this group of viruses suggesting exposure throughout their lives.
In all of my posts I have included links to these papers but I can see (in my site logs) that nobody has ever followed the links to the original sources. Can I appeal to readers to do that now, and especially read the section “Animal Origin And Evolutions of SARS-CoV”, skimming over the scientific jargon and acronyms to just read the words in between? If you do that you will realise that this paper, published just one year before the COVID-19 pandemic, and 16 years after the SARS event, says that after 15 years of intensive research they have failed to find the ‘progenitor’ of the virus (essentially the original virus that caused the outbreak), though that is unsurprising because these viruses mix up the genetics with other similar viruses all of the time, but they had found a cave holding a population of bats where there are viruses containing all of the ingredients to come together to make the SARS virus; that they knew that people first infected with the virus handled animals especially at a market and that animals in the area had antibodies to the virus so had been exposed; that the animals that passed it on to humans was civet cats; and while they know the virus was spreading amongst civet cats in the market, they still do not know whether the civets originally were infected by bats near that cave (or another cave with all of the ingredients to make the original virus) before coming to the market or whether another mammal was infected first and the first civet(s) became infected by this other animal from contamination most likely with their faeces.
Think through all of that for a second and then think about how ridiculous it is and almost like a petulant child to be protesting “I want to know where this virus came from now!” Also consider just how much work these researcher have done already to inform them on these types of viruses.
Perhaps this is why the Chinese are open to considering whether the virus came in with imported meat products – because they have already surveyed so many bat populations in their search for the source of SARS that they consider it possible to have come from further afield?
Of course there is scientific interest in finding the source of the COVID-19 in the wild, but we already know that there are certain to be very many pathogens that represent a significant risk to humans residing in animal reservoirs.
We have known for a long time that viruses from the wild present a serious risk!
Herein lies the most interesting angle that should be picked up on by Australian press if they want to give balanced coverage.
Dr. Shi Zhengli’s group has been warning that spillovers of pandemic viruses was likely to occur as humans continued to encroach on and destroy more natural habitat thereby increasing the interaction of humans and domesticated animals with broader ranges of wildlife pathogens. It is there in that passage that above I asked the reader to consider:
Given the prevalence and great genetic diversity of bat SARSr-CoVs, their close coexistence and the frequent recombination of the coronaviruses, it is expected that novel variants will emerge in the future“Origin and evolution of pathogenic coronaviruses”, Jie Cui, Fang Li & Zheng-Li Shi, Nature Reviews Microbiology volume 17, pages181–192 (2019)
With PM Morrison’s record on the environment, is he ready to support measures to reduce habitat destruction and human impacts on ecosystems to reduce the risk of pathogen spillovers?
Finally, if anybody wonders why I feel motivated to write this article, I simply detest inauthenticity, or plain old BS. There is more than enough of a record of events on these pages to carry out an audit of accountability on PM Morrison’s inept performance through the pandemic.
Please note, also, that I am well aware that there are politicians the world over that engage in similar tactics, and though I give none a free pass, naturally I concentrate most on my own national anti-leader.
What really gets to me, though, is the gullibility of the public which the likes of Morrison (Trump, Xi, Putin, etc) harness to their political advantage. It is the public’s inclination to believe what they want or at least what their ingrained biases lead them to attach onto; along with a history of outsourcing their thinking to media channels which have increasingly become polarised, narrow, and aggressive towards other viewpoints.
No doubt Morrison wants all Australian residents in lockdown right now, with minds naturally wondering to how they came to be in this circumstance once again, to foment their anger towards a foreign foe rather than towards him and his Government’s ineptitude.
As I said above, these master manipulators care little about what is fact or even what is reasonable as it only matters to them what they can ‘sell’ to influence the electorate. Then again, I often imagine what the really smart manipulators in the shadows pulling their strings think of their unprecedented ability to convince large swathes of the public of increasingly strange “ideas” – or fake news – through their puppets and communication channels. Surely the absurdity of material spread by QAnon and other radical groups is not lost to these faceless ‘men’. The power inherent in such a capacity was recognised 250 years ago by Voltaire:
Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is injust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. If the God‐given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God‐given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.
I cannot help but think that these puppeteers must receive an extra surge of power, a trace of electrical current zip along their spine alike ‘the quickening’, when they hear one of their puppets repeat their absurdities with patent sincerity, as when Trump suggested injection of bleach be assessed as a cure for COVID-19.
Your job, dear reader, is to ensure you do not lose your head, and the only way to do that is to keep an open mind. But remember…
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© Copyright Brett Edgerton 2021