Suddenly, there’s been a great deal of concern over the media being too certain that COVID-19 didn’t emerge from a lab in Wuhan. But I’m not sure why this is supposed to be such a big deal. First of all, while we should entertain all possibilities, the presumption that the virus occurred naturally remains sound:
We deserve an exhaustive accounting of all the coronavirus research that was going on in Wuhan and all the strains we were working with. Let the investigation go wherever it takes us. But honestly, this is probably a horse rather than a zebra.— Lindsay Beyerstein (@beyerstein) May 25, 2021
As far as I can tell:
- The media overstated the certainty of the scientific community that the virus originated from a zoonosis, in part because of the Trumpian conspiracy theorizing trying to blame China for his own massive fuck-ups. And…sure. The media has made far more consequential mistakes over the past five years, but sure.
- There is no actual affirmative evidence for the “lab leak” hypothesis.
- There are no material policy consequences if the “lab leak” hypothesis is true.
- The increase in violence against Asian-Americans should compel people to be very careful about getting ahead of the evidence.
- We will probably never actually know for certain the source of the virus.
So follow the evidence wherever it leads, but I just don’t think this is a very important story, and the burden of proof remains squarely on the “lab leak” theory.