A Covid origin conspiracy?

Nicholas Wade is the prominent science writer who worked at the New York Times for 30 years, the last 20 as science and health editor. His long May 2021 Medium essay examined the origin of Covid. The best critique I can find of Wade’s Medium essay is this Medika response.

Now Wade returns to the subject in a City Journal column examining the recently disclosed emails that seem to lend credit to the lab-leak origin theory. His column opens this way:

From almost the moment the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the city of Wuhan, the medical-research establishment in Washington and London insisted that the virus had emerged naturally. Only conspiracy theorists, they said, would give credence to the idea that the virus had escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Now a string of unearthed emails—the most recent being a batch viewed by the House Oversight and Reform Committee and referred to in its January 11, 2022 letter—is making it seem increasingly likely that there was, in fact, a conspiracy, its aim being to suppress the notion that the virus had emerged from research funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), headed by Anthony Fauci. The latest emails don’t prove such a conspiracy, but they make it more plausible, for two reasons: because the expert virologists therein present such a strong case for thinking that the virus had lab-made features and because of the wholly political reaction to this bombshell on the part of Francis Collins, then-director of the National Institutes of Health.

Wade presents a narrative that leaves the question of origin open and seeks to remit its resolution (via congressional request) to “scientists free of outside pressures or conflicts to reassess the probable origin of a virus that has now killed some 5 million people worldwide.” Such a reassessment of the probable origin of the virus itself seems to me improbable. I am afraid that we will have to rely on circumstantial evidence and common sense to come to our own conclusion.

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