“Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” – “Dr. Ian Malcolm”, Jurassic Park
How we respond to crises often tells us a lot about the motivations of the parties involved in making public policy solutions. For instance, Donald Trump chose a federalist-style response to Covid-19 that allowed localities to target policy in a manner that best suited local constituents. It would be disingenuous to suggest that there was no personal motivation involved in his decision and that at least, in part, his administration’s response was built around protecting the record economy that he had built.
Similarly, his opponents focused primarily on driving the fear that would keep voters home, destroying the economy, and justifying mass mail-in balloting on a national scale. Perhaps this provides clues to an ulterior motivation by policymakers within the scientific community who stifled debates about Covid-19’s origins?
Early in the pandemic, many curious observers noted the first cases’ proximity to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (“WIV”) in Wuhan, China. Official voices made a concerted effort to discount this proximity and deflect to a likely natural origin of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. They insisted that the first cases originated in bats consumed in traditional Chinese dishes that were sold at the public market down the street from the WIV. The media and scientific bodies quickly squelched any insistence otherwise about the virus’s origins. Yet, in hindsight, these responses seem a matter of obfuscation.
One of the first papers to publish on the origin of Sars-CoV-2 was The proximal origin of Sars-Cov-2, published in Nature Medicine in March of 2020. The paper’s authors asserted that the virus’s genome pointed to a natural and not a lab manipulated origin.
Following its publication, the press and government bodies quickly moved to promote its thesis and squelch any contentions to the contrary. For the most part, no dissenting voices were heard within the US media complex. Any allusions to alternative theories were chalked up to conspiracy. Considering we were in the throes of preparing for the virus to proliferate in America, there was very little time to debate the issue. Given the general public’s inexperience in virology, they couldn’t be expected to decipher the paper’s assertions anyway.
Not long after this paper was published, a Duke-trained Ph.D. pathologist named Christopher Martenson published a video response. In his video, Martenson highlights an article from a Russian epigeneticist named Yuri Deigin. On April 22, 2020, Yuri Deigin self-published an article on medium.com titled Lab-made? Sars-CoV-2 Genealogy Through the Lens of Gain of Function Research. It is this article that Martenson walks the viewer through and he explains how the Nature Medicine article on the origin of Sars-CoV-2 actually debunks itself on several occasions.
Primary among Deigin’s assertions is the fact that there are no cataloged close genetic relatives to Sars-CoV-2 in whole, but there are disparate identical relatives in parts. This suggests a recombination event rather than mutations over time.
Of note is one specific site on the virus, which is the spike protein. On the protein, there is something called a polybasic furin cleavage site insertion, which the Nature Medicine paper suggests has an unknown purpose. Deigin points out that not only is the purpose known to scientists but also that it would serve to enhance the virus’s binding capability to the human ACE2 receptor. In laymen’s terms, inserting this polybasic furin cleavage site would allow a bat coronavirus to bind more effectively to a human cell.
In his article, Deigin highlights that not only have scientists manipulated these bat coronaviruses in the recent past but also that the Wuhan Institute of Virology specialized in this skill and, in the years preceding Covid-19, published numerous times about creating successful coronavirus chimeras or hybrids. This process is known as Gain of Function research, which sees scientists intentionally pass viruses through a cell in order to combine them with other viruses.
Through this process of recombineering, viruses gain bits of genetic material from other viruses that give them new abilities. What’s more, the United States taxpayer has funded this specific research at the WIV via National Institute of Health grants to an organization called the EcoHealth Alliance, something that even Newsweek magazine had to concede.
When government scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Francis Collins of the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) faced accusations of funding Gain of Function research (previously banned in the United States), their initial reaction was to issue blanket denials. When called before the Senate, Dr. Fauci has consistently denied the nature of the NIH’s research as Gain of Function. More recently, the NIH has confirmed the Gain of Function nature of the grants to the EcoHealth Alliance, and Dr. Francis Collins has resigned from his position as Director of the NIH.
So, did Sars-CoV-2 come out of the WIV or from a public market across the street? It is doubtful whether the public will ever have a definitive answer on this but, under Occam’s Razor, the most plausible explanation is, at a minimum, a lab leak at the WIV. Even the authors of the Nature Medicine paper cited above noted this in their private communications with the NIH.
The fact that the part of policymakers funding this type of research violently deflected this contention suggests a good bit of CYA has been involved. Freedom of Information Act releases highlight how involved parties communicated to steer the public messaging around Covid-19 and to promote a natural origin theory. If the lab leak theory were to be proven true, parties within both the United States as well as China would prove culpable.
When it comes to public policy around Covid-19, the establishment has opted for a paternalistic response that says “don’t ask questions.” This lack of transparency and deference to top-down dictates are a few in a series of blunders that have irreparably damaged trust for many on public policy issues.
For those who are skeptically inclined, they can only wonder at the complete lack of intellectual curiosity the general public has shown about Covid-19’s origins. They have unquestioningly adopted the official policy prescriptions on all things Covid, no matter how many times the official policymakers have shifted to diametrically opposite positions from those they first held. As we approach two years of this disease in the wild, can we now have the intellectual curiosity to question how it is we’ve arrived here? Intellectual honesty demands it.