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Bill Maher invites guests to talk about The "lab" origins of SARS-CoV-2 - aka "The coronavirus"

Nesslig20

Active Member
Something different for a change. I was just messing around Youtube to pass the boredom of lockdown, and then I saw a short clip from Real Time with Bill Maher. While I often like a lot of the stuff from his show, mostly from the comedy, I am still very wary since Bill Maher has a record of fucking up the science, particularly on pathology and vaccines. Then I looked at the title of the video more closely...then sighed...face palmed...and prepared for the worst before watching the video.


He brought on guests to entertain the idea that the coronavirus [the specific name is SARS-CoV-2, but writing that every time is bodersome] responsible for the pandemic that began almost a year ago came from a lab. This isn't a new idea that has been floating around the internet. Potholer54 did a great video on that subject, which I highly recommend.

1. The people
Before I go into the stuff they say, I want to cover the background the guests. The people that Bill Maher brought on are Bret Weinstein, an evolutionary theorist and biologist, and his wife Heather Heying, an evolutionary biologist. Although I extensively study evolutionary biology (both from my education and just curious to keeping tabs on the literature) I have never heard of these people before. Perhaps I just didn't came across their work by my own fault, but it turns out they are really obscure. Only Weinstein has a wikipedia page, and most of the "career section" doesn't mention much about his career as a scientist. It's mostly about some political controversy he got into. Perhaps that is the fault of wikipedia for only focusing on the spicy stories, not on the boring scientific work, but even then...Weinstein has only 4 publications and Heying has 5 publications. Not to imply that their work is bad, however none of their work is related to viruses, let alone the coronavirus...let alone ones that support the claims they espouse about it being made in a lab. How did Bill Maher find these guys to talk about the coronavirus? I started to think it wasn't their scientific background that Bill found attractive. Or perhaps it was the other way around, they contacted Bill Maher. I don't know.

Then I started to dig deeper and it got even weirder. I found out that Weinstein and Heying have their own personal websites, named after themselves. What it says on these sites is really bizarre. I know this is often a creationist talking point, but it is almost like they view evolution as like a religion (of, to put it more softly, a life style).
Weinstein: If humanity continues down our current path, we will not survive. There are too many of us consuming too much, our technology is too powerful, and we are all hooked together in one global system. Our fates are now linked and we will thrive or perish together. We got into this predicament through an evolutionary process--All of the problems that we face are actually symptoms of a process that has no name. [...] The enemy that has no name is not a nation, an organization or a religion. It is not a corporation or an industry. It is not an economic system or an ideology. It is a way of living on the earth that evolved, and if we are to change it, we must take evolution from autopilot and into our own hands. We must come together to create the future we wish to inhabit.
Heying: I am an evolutionary biologist. I apply the tool kit of evolutionary theory to problems large and small, some seemingly intractable, some possibly trivial—what to eat, how to teach and parent and be an upstanding citizen, what to avoid, and what to seek.

Before I found all that out, I made some commentary on twitter about what was said in the video. I also hoped that more knowledgeable individuals could comment on this, like Potholer54. It turns out, look in the comments on the his video, other people have also asked him about this. Potholer's responses is pretty spot on.
Potholer54: I don't get my science from TV chat shows. It all seems very vague. If and when they decide to show their evidence in the form of a scientific paper, which will then get properly reviewed by qualified scientists rather than a TV chat show host, I'll be very interested to read it.

I wonder why he hasn't submitted his evidence for publication, where it would get critiqued and responded to by experts, instead of giving his opinion to an amateur on a podcast.

anyone can opine about the origin of viruses. Even you or I, with no knowledge of the subject, are free to go on a chat show and give our opinions about where SARS-Cov-2 came from. But that is not the same as giving correct information and having that information fact-checked. That's why we have the scientific literature. It ensures that evidence and research are the basis for scientific conclusions rather than personal beliefs and opinions. I am sure Bret Weinstein is a very intelligent man, and he has a lot of firm opinions, but if he wants to show that SARS-Cov-2 has been engineered then he needs to find the evidence for that and present it to a scientific journal where it can be peer-reviewed, rather than give his opinion on a chat show where nothing is fact-checked.

you don't need to be a 'crank' to shape your opinions according to your ideological or religious beliefs. The story of the first woman coming from a rib and having a conversation with a snake is certainly interesting, and many scientists believe it and are far from being 'cranks,' but their beliefs wouldn't stand up to much scrutiny if submitted to a peer-reviewed scientific journal. From what I've seen of Bret Weinstein's Twitter page, his main interest seems to be politics and his libertarian beliefs, so it's not surprising he wants people to believe that governments are capable of infringing on our personal liberty and engineering viruses. That doesn't make him a crank, it just makes him very human. In my experience, most people will shape their opinions to put their beliefs in a favourable light.

2. The claims
Alright..now on what was said during that talk with Bill Maher. Bill begins by saying:
"it would almost be a conspiracy theory to think it didn't start in a lab"
Wow...Bill...that's a solid "No U" right there. Then Weinstein begins by stating that he was 90% certain the virus came from a lab and then starts complaining about the term "conspiracy theory". How it is used against his claims of the virus being man made in a lab to "make it go away". And now he is able to talk about it out loud without being stigmatized. Ironically, this is a common talking point among conspiracy theorist. The conspiracy theory conspiracy. And it aligns with one of the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking is the "persecuted victim".
"Conspiracy theorists perceive and present themselves as the victim of organized persecution. At the same time, they see themselves as brave antagonists taking on the villainous conspirators. Conspiratorial thinking involves a self-perception of simultaneously being a victim and a hero."
Then Heying says she wants to consider "all possibilities", but before we could dive into the evidence, Bill Maher pulls the conversation away from the origin of the virus to the vaccine in a really bizarre and incoherent string of statements that. He says he first wanted the mRNA vaccine since it's new, then he heard that one of the guests wants the old way of receiving a piece of the virus, and then Bill asks:
Wait...if it came from a lab, do I really want a piece in me? Is there something different in a lab made virus then the natural one that would make a vaccine different than the ones we had for decades against viruses that occur in nature?
This is just nonsensical. All vaccines are lab made, and whether or not the virus in question is made in a lab or natural is irrelevant to the vaccine. To me, Bill Maher is asking leading questions, which don't make any sense, just to cast doubt on the safety of the vaccine. Clearly stemming from his anti-vaccine bias that he has frequently shown in the past, like I mentioned at the beginning.

Weinstein begins to answer the question by saying that since you have history with the family of adenoviruses, but not with the family of betacoronaviruses from which SARS-CoV-2 comes from, hence the the unexpected consequences of vaccines against adenovirus vaccines is much less likely to be dramatic compared to vaccines with lipid nanoparticles (that's in the coronavirus vaccine).

I am lost. The family of the virus doesn't really matter to the unexpected consequences of the lipid nanoparticles. Also, I looked up about betacoronaviruses, and it turns out he is just wrong. They aren't even a family, its a genus. But even so, we do have extensive contact with them, OC43 and HKU1 causing a good fraction of the common cold. But then Weinstein pulls a 180. He explains that the vaccine is equivalent, since it gives you the same protein as it would with a traditional vaccine. He could have skipped the first part and got right to this. This was a really weird roller coaster.

After some speculation by Maher about how the virus "got out", the guests start to talk about the controversy of studying viruses in a lab with "gain-of-function" research, where viruses are studied in a lab to see how they evolve to become more transmissible or virulent. Then Weinstein says
"what is really conspicuous about this virus is that it had both tricks, infect and spread in humans right from the get go with no explanation"
First, how does he know that this was right from the get go? The virus could have had one trick and gained the other before we detected it. And even if it did had both tricks, that doesn't mean it is lab made. And Heying says
that the virus does exactly what you expect a lab made virus to do, but not natural viruses, become more virulent and pathogenic.
I tried to look up whether the new variants are more virulent (more lethal), but they don't seem to be. They are more infectious, they spread more easily which could end up causing more overall deaths. However, there are many, natural viruses that are way more virulent. Ebola, small pox, and the Spanish Flu (within range).
1612372892804.png
Does she think those were lab made as well?

Then finally Weinstein lists the reasons why he thinks it is lab made:
1. First, things that were intentional like infectivity of human cells...like the fact it infects humans is evidence that it was made in the lab. That is just question begging.
2. Second, extra capacities like the furin cleavage site that is unique to the new virus. The new cleavage site is interesting, you can see about that here and here. But there isn't any reason to think that this novelty can only occur in the lab. And there reasons to think it occurred naturally. But even if this site was "unexplained", unexplained doesn't mean explained by lab-work (or aliens, or God).

He mentions other characteristics of the virus as evidence for the lab origin hypothesis like
3. how it's unnatural that it infects so many different tissues in the body. This is otherwise known as high viral tropism, which isn't unique to the SARS-CoV-2, like The zika virus as high tropism. And even if it was, I don't see how this would indicate a lab origin.
4. Finally, the last thing he says is pretty mind boggling
"It does not seem to transmit outdoors nearly at all. Most animals live outdoors, so to see a virus adapted to indoor transmission is conspicuous."
Think for a moment. Bats are the likely suspect as the natural resevoir of the virus. Where do bats often live in close contact to each other in high numbers? In caves. I rest my case.

3. Like a moth to a light
Naturally, by putting this all on twitter, I attracted some attention. One guy started to talk about the russian collusion and trump 2016 election fraud, but I just ignored him. Another guy really was like going into defence on behalf of Weinstein. His arguments were bad because he had little time to explain them fully. And he linked a podcast he had with a guy named Yuri Deigin who has (co)authored 2 pieces to claim that the virus comes from the lab, or "the lab origins cannot be disproven at the very least". This guy is interesting. Under the podcast there is a link to his blog post that takes 1 hour to read. For the publications, he has corroborated with Rosanna Segreto, who also has published her own solo papers. Again, this is very weird. Yuri Deigin is apparently fixated on the biological process of ageing or "gerontology", focusing mainly on the epigenetics of it. But he is more of a blogger on that rather than an active researcher on that topic. Looking at his credentials, he has a BSc in computer science and math, and whent to University Business School. He is a CEO of "Youtherium" that aims to "cure ageing" and Gero Discovery (with a similar goal). Ambitious, but what does he have knowledge on the coronavirus. Nothing much. Even in the podcast, he admits that he isn't a biologists by any stretch, just someone who can look at genetic patterns and blast ssequences. I have learned genomics and bioinformatics professionally in college and university. This doesn't sound very impressive. Well, what about his corroberator, Rosanna Segreto. She is a mycologist.

This is so weird. A bunch of obscure people whose scientific credentials have little do to with each other, nor with the subject of the coronavirus, are all making these claims in public. Only Deigin and Segreto put out some extensive work, but I don't have yet the time to really dig into this. Maybe some time later (or may be someone else here on the forum can take a look at it).

I have had an extensive twitter conversation with the one person who notified me about the podcast, and he slowly but surely went down the conspiracy thinking rabbit hole. When I showed that his own source contradicted his own claims, he says that his won sources were lying. Another trait of conspiratorial thinking "overriding suspicion". When I challenged him to back up this claim that they were lying, he shifted to (not verbatim)
"well, I am not saying they are Lying. they could be lying. Where is YOUR claim they are not lying...do you always trust the Chinese government then?"
Yeah, I didn't put up with that BS. And when I asked him to show evidence for the claim that the coronavirus is a lab leak, he cited the fact that there is a lab researching coronaviruses close to the area where the pandemic coronavirus was first detected. Yet another trait of conspiratorial thinking "Re-interpreting Randomness". And it isn't really random that a reserach lab studying the type of viruses (related to the previous SARS epidemic) sampled from the surrounding area, would be studying the viruses related to the current pandemic coronavirus that came from the same area.

He also points out that the closest virus to SARS-CoV-2 was studied in that lab, that being RaTG13, discovered in 2013 that is 96.2% identical regarding to the whole genome. And again, his own source said that this virus wasn't even isolated and cultured in the lab. He then began speculating about why they didn't culture the virus. "Why is that" he asked. Then I pointed out that the explained is in his own source. They used all the samples to sequence the genome so any living virus was just gone. And the sequence they obtained wasn't very similar to the previous epidemic SARS virus so they weren't motivted to isolate it either for further research. After I explained this, he went in full denial. This is the part that he dismissed from his own source, that they were lying. And then he started a diatribe about how suspicious it was that the researcher explained that they didn't culture or isolate the RaTG13 virus, even though the question wasn't even about whether it was cultivated. (not verbatim)
So why would the researcher clarify that they didn't culture the virus when they weren't asked about whether they did or didn't?? mmmmh...(strokes chin)
But even if they didn't ask, they could have just mentioned that they didn't culture it as a side not for whatever reason. He is just being extremely paranoid. Although, it turns out that they were asked whether they isolated this virus (which requires cultivation). So, he was wrong about that too.

Lastly, he cited the fact that since this virus is only 4% different, it is evidence for it being an ancestor. But anyone familiar with genetic similarities measured in percentages does not entail any ancestral/descendend relatedness. It is way more likely that it is a cousin-cousin relationship and that's what the scientists also conclude, as other research shows this isn't an ancestor looking at the sequence alone. The sequences are publically availalbe, so he has no little grounds to say that this sequence is a lie as well.

This conversation eventually went nowhere. Eventually he backed off and changed his position to essentially this:
"well, It is not conclusive. of course. All I am saying that they COULD be lying and that it COULD be from the lab? Do you have any evidence against it? Can you name any better theories"
Yeah, same old same old. JAQing-off and burden shifting.

So, that's all I wanted to share.
Again, perhaps I will go deeper into the stuff from Deigin and Segreto if I have the time.
And maybe one of you can also comment about it and other stuff on Bill Maher's show.
 
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Sparhafoc

Well-Known Member
I appreciate where you've gone with the rest of your summation, and it's one of the reasons I stopped watching Maher years ago, but when it comes to this:

If humanity continues down our current path, we will not survive. There are too many of us consuming too much, our technology is too powerful, and we are all hooked together in one global system. Our fates are now linked and we will thrive or perish together. We got into this predicament through an evolutionary process--All of the problems that we face are actually symptoms of a process that has no name. [...] The enemy that has no name is not a nation, an organization or a religion. It is not a corporation or an industry. It is not an economic system or an ideology. It is a way of living on the earth that evolved, and if we are to change it, we must take evolution from autopilot and into our own hands. We must come together to create the future we wish to inhabit.

My automatic assumption there is that he's talking about the fundamental drive to acquire as many resources as possible, which in general evolutionary contexts is not harmful, or is at worst harmful only for a narrow ecological niche or temporary environmental context, i.e. Malthusian. But in a species like ourselves with the ability to acquire resources on an industrial scale from all ecological niches and environmental contexts simultaneously, that same drive is now unarguably harmful but because we are the beneficiaries, the process is harming everything else much more potently and noticeably than it's harming us - for now. Because it doesn't directly affect us yet, we keep going until it's no longer questionable that our profligacy is responsible, but by that point the damage done may be reversible.

Perhaps I am the one reading too much into it, but that's the kind of idea I assumed he was talking about.


Is there something different in a lab made virus then the natural one that would make a vaccine different than the ones we had for decades against viruses that occur in nature?

This is just stunningly stupid from anyone with even basic scientific literacy - am evolutionary biologist is quite probably not the expert you'd want to be turning to when discussing viruses and their pathologies, but one would assume that a PhD in any field of Biology would be able to point out to a TV host why this is just nonsensical.
 

Nesslig20

Active Member

Someone else did a review on this.

Although, I disagree with him saying that the "lab-leak hypothesis" is a "legit" hypothesis, not a conspiracy theory. To me, it hits almost if not all of the hallmarks of a conspiracy theory.

He also shows a paper that he says "they break it down pretty convincingly as to why we should still consider the lab origin hypothesis".
Though, there are many other papers that says otherwise.


 
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Sparhafoc

Well-Known Member
Definitively, it is a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories that lacked any credibility whatsoever wouldn't be very successful conspiracy theories. To me, that means the idea that covid19 is artificial should be tested, but not lent a shred of credulity until there's good reason to lend it credence, i.e. when evidence supplants wilful speculation.
 

We are Borg

Administrator
Staff member
Covid is tested if it was created in a lab, the conclusion was it was not created. Covid has a low indicator for being deadly and for spreading.

 
Covid19 was created in a lab. Using "Gain of Function". In China. Where Chinese scientists were working in conjunction with an organization lead by Dr. Fauci(NIH) to do bat-coronavirus research. China hid some if it's GOF experiments, presumably for nefarious purposes . It's time for people to finally take the blinders off and face the reality of the age of bio weaponry we are now living in, which the entire world seems greatly unprepared for.

 

Sparhafoc

Well-Known Member
Covid19 was created in a lab. Using "Gain of Function". In China. Where Chinese scientists were working in conjunction with an organization lead by Dr. Fauci(NIH) to do bat-coronavirus research. China hid some if it's GOF experiments, presumably for nefarious purposes . It's time for people to finally take the blinders off and face the reality of the age of bio weaponry we are now living in, which the entire world seems greatly unprepared for.


You need to dramatically raise your evaluation of evidence because what you've presented above is pure close-minded assertion absent any justification whatsoever. It reads like bigotry, just so you know.
 

Sparhafoc

Well-Known Member
Incidentally, how many independent studies have there been which showed that covid19 is not artificial, but rather simply a normal, naturally occurring mutation of a previously existing virus?

I can remember 4 separate studies from a year ago, but I'll bet there have been more since.

How is it that people who wish to believe in something which necessarily must be empirical in nature don't seek to inform themselves before doing so, worse, actively attempt to promulgate their close-minded assertionism?
 

Sparhafoc

Well-Known Member
https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30418-9/fulltext

The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins. We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin. Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens... Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus. We support the call from the Director-General of WHO to promote scientific evidence and unity over misinformation and conjecture.
 

Sparhafoc

Well-Known Member
It does exist in sociological and linguistic parlance, but I may be stretching the standard usage a little (ironically).

One dichotomy in our methods of defining knowledge is prescriptivism/descriptivism.

Prescriptivists say that established rules control how we define, categorize and order knowledge, descriptivists defer to the way knowledge is actually used. This is clearest when talking semantics as there are formal existing grammatical rules we can employ to achieve an ordered definition; and there is the way the general populace uses language, less ordered but yet unarguably real. Both have utility, both are valid.

Assertionism then is the sadly all too familiar act of simply declaring that something is so without bothering to attain either standard of justification.

"Covid19 was created in a lab" is a very simple sentence to write - 6 words just strung together. But the act of putting those words together into that framework requires a damn sight more work than just the act of writing the sentence for it to be justified. The declaration itself is insufficient, and even in the age of morons like Trump touting their wilfully speculative bullshit as fact, we must always demand people put their money where their mouth is.

Assertionism fails foundationally every time - the mere act of stating something does not validate it. The mere act of one person lending a belief undue credence does not validate it nor can they expect other people to take their declarations as gospel. Assertions are worth a ha'penny jizz, and are just as unsuited at being flung around in public.
 
Incidentally, how many independent studies have there been which showed that covid19 is not artificial, but rather simply a normal, naturally occurring mutation of a previously existing virus?

I can remember 4 separate studies from a year ago, but I'll bet there have been more since.
The answer is none. There is currently no test that can be done to show whether or not Covid19 formed naturally or was directly mutated in a lab.

Every paper referenced in your link is either; based on outdated information, dependent on analysis made by Wuhan laboratory scientists who absolve themselves from any wrong doing or fails to consider that RaTG13 was stored in a lab in Wuhan, where genetic experiments involving viruses were being done. There is nothing on this site which does what it claims to do, which is allow one to "overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife" The simplest answer still seems to be that it was manipulated and escaped from a lab in Wuhan.

Some of the most important work your site references is critiqued here https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bies.202000240

Not sure where your remarks about bigotry come from. A third of my living family members are Chinese actually. They are hardworking and kind people who came to the US to flee the horrors imposed on them by thier government. So please everyone spare your fake social justice warrior attempts of trying to gain some kind some kind of moral-high ground with me concerning this matter. We love each other just as much we love our own blood relatives. One of them has just recently died from lung cancer and he was like my uncle for the last 25 years. His name was Peng. He was a funny guy. He used to get a kick out of pretending to read Chinese newspapers, even though he couldnt read Chinese.


 

*SD*

Administrator
Staff member
The answer is none. There is currently no test that can be done to show whether or not Covid19 formed naturally or was directly mutated in a lab.
Wot? You want a study proving that it wasn't formed in a lab? What are you talking about? Covid-19 is (rather obviously) a strain of coronavirus, which as far as I can discern is a natural mutation and umbrella term for many viruses which no one would bat an eyelid at. Your posts are a bit confusing.
 

he_who_is_nobody

Well-Known Member
"Covid19 was created in a lab" is a very simple sentence to write - 6 words just strung together. But the act of putting those words together into that framework requires a damn sight more work than just the act of writing the sentence for it to be justified. The declaration itself is insufficient, and even in the age of morons like Trump touting their wilfully speculative bullshit as fact, we must always demand people put their money where their mouth is.
Another way to say this, "A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots."
Assertionism fails foundationally every time - the mere act of stating something does not validate it. The mere act of one person lending a belief undue credence does not validate it nor can they expect other people to take their declarations as gospel. Assertions are worth a ha'penny jizz, and are just as unsuited at being flung around in public.
Another way to say this, "Claims made without evidence can and will be dismissed without evidence."
 
Wot? You want a study proving that it wasn't formed in a lab? What are you talking about? Covid-19 is (rather obviously) a strain of coronavirus, which as far as I can discern is a natural mutation and umbrella term for many viruses which no one would bat an eyelid at. Your posts are a bit confusing.
Ok, I see now how I am being confusing. I sort of went a bit overboard in my original post here because I was a bit emotional from just having an argument elsewhere about this virus when I posted it. I apologize.
 

Sparhafoc

Well-Known Member
The answer is none. There is currently no test that can be done to show whether or not Covid19 formed naturally or was directly mutated in a lab.

Every paper referenced in your link is either; based on outdated information, dependent on analysis made by Wuhan laboratory scientists who absolve themselves from any wrong doing or fails to consider that RaTG13 was stored in a lab in Wuhan, where genetic experiments involving viruses were being done. There is nothing on this site which does what it claims to do, which is allow one to "overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife" The simplest answer still seems to be that it was manipulated and escaped from a lab in Wuhan.

Some of the most important work your site references is critiqued here https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bies.202000240

Not sure where your remarks about bigotry come from. A third of my living family members are Chinese actually. They are hardworking and kind people who came to the US to flee the horrors imposed on them by thier government. So please everyone spare your fake social justice warrior attempts of trying to gain some kind some kind of moral-high ground with me concerning this matter. We love each other just as much we love our own blood relatives. One of them has just recently died from lung cancer and he was like my uncle for the last 25 years. His name was Peng. He was a funny guy. He used to get a kick out of pretending to read Chinese newspapers, even though he couldnt read Chinese.


There's a fundamental flaw in your thinking here.

What you're attempting to do is to disqualify evidence that counters your position, but you're not in possession of so much as a smidgen of evidence to support your position.

In any form of logic, you can hypothesize anything at all you like, but if you are unable to provide support for the contention, then the null hypothesis is all that remains.

So at present, you really have no justified reason whatsoever to suspect that the virus was artificially manufactured.

I can provide a precise object example here.

I assert that Covid19 was made by aliens and dispersed over China in an interstellar experiment.

No study proves my contention wrong, therefore it's valid.

You are unable to rule out my assertion by any means, so does that then indicate that the assertion I have formulated has any worth?

If you find yourself inclined to say yes, then think of all the other increasingly absurd assertions I can make, none of which will have any more to it than my ability to use my imagination and formulate a syntactically correct sentence, but each assertion you will then be required to lend the same degree of acceptance to if you are being consistent, and that would be that you cannot prove it's not true.

That's the logical equivalent of falling down a well.

What you need to be doing is showing why your contention is worth the electronic paper it's written on. This is just non-negotiable if you wish to convince me of anything.

Do you have any evidence at all to support your position?

If you do not, then I suggest you need to engage in some introspection and question why it is you have lent undue credence to such a position.

If I may be slightly uncharitable here, perhaps it's the same faulty reasoning that lets you lend belief to other alleged quantities for which there is a glaring absence of evidence justifying that belief.
 

We are Borg

Administrator
Staff member
Covid was not man made, so not developed in a lab, what you can argue is that covid escaped the lab while researching it. If it was introduced in the population by eating jungle food then we as humanity need stricter rules. If it escaped a lab while researching it well i hope that China is looking at containment protocols to prevent this again.


Two studies found in a few min with Google.
 

Nesslig20

Active Member
Every paper referenced in your link is either; based on outdated information, dependent on analysis made by Wuhan laboratory scientists who absolve themselves from any wrong doing or fails to consider that RaTG13 was stored in a lab in Wuhan
I mentioned in my first post that RaTG13 wasn't stored in a lab. It was sequenced, but no live virus was kept.
but...of course, they could be lying...dun dun duuuuun.

Some of the most important work your site references is critiqued here https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/bies.202000240
I mentioned the authors of this paper in the first post of this thread, these people aren't event experts on this. Not even remotely.
...Yuri Deigin who has (co)authored 2 pieces to claim that the virus comes from the lab, or "the lab origins cannot be disproven at the very least"...he has corroborated with Rosanna Segreto, who also has published her own solo papers.

Yuri Deigin is apparently fixated on the biological process of ageing or "gerontology", focusing mainly on the epigenetics of it. But he is more of a blogger on that rather than an active researcher on that topic. Looking at his credentials, he has a BSc in computer science and math, and whent to University Business School. He is a CEO of "Youtherium" that aims to "cure ageing" and Gero Discovery (with a similar goal). Ambitious, but what does he have knowledge on the coronavirus? Nothing much. Even in the podcast, he admits that he isn't a biologists by any stretch, just someone who can look at genetic patterns and blast ssequences. I have learned genomics and bioinformatics professionally in college and university. This doesn't sound very impressive.

Well, what about his corroberator, Rosanna Segreto? She is a mycologist.

This is so weird. A bunch of obscure people whose scientific credentials have little do to with each other, nor with the subject of the coronavirus, are all making these claims in public.

Second, their arguments appear to be bunk, which is outlined in the papers that I shared in my second post.

Naturally occurring indels in multiple coronavirus spikes

Proponents of theories for the unnatural origin of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) have asserted that the 12 nucleotide insert in the spike gene, which results in acquisition of a furin cleavage site in spike, may have arisen by laboratory manipulation (Relman, 2020; Segreto and Deigin, 2020; Seyran et al., 2020; Sirotkin and Sirotkin, 2020). Here, we compile evidence demonstrating that insertion/deletion (indel) events at the S1/S2 and S2’ protease cleavage sites of the spike precursors are commonly occurring natural features of coronavirus evolution. We also identify heretofore undescribed similarities in the S1/S2 and S2’ cleavage sites of multiple diverse coronavirus spikes that provide further evidence against a laboratory origin of SARS-CoV-2.

Spike protein mutations in novel SARS-CoV-2 ‘variants of concern’ commonly occur in or near indels

Comparison of the spike protein sequence of RmYN02 with those of other sarbecoviruses demonstrates that indel region 8 at the S1/S2 junction is highly variable (Zhou et al., 2020). Insertion or deletion events in or near the furin cleavage site are a frequent occurrence during coronavirus evolution (Garry and Gallaher, 2020). Hence, analyses suggesting that the evolutionary origins of the RmYN02 S1/S2 cleavage site can be revealed by a simple nucleotide alignment (Segreto and Deigin, 2020) are overly simplistic. The current analysis shows that indel regions 1, 6 and 7, like indel region 8, are complex. These four evolutionarily volatile regions have been subjected to more than one and possibly several insertion or deletion events during sarbecovirus evolution, which cannot be defined by superficial analyses of the underlying nucleotide sequence.

But the most comprehensive breakdown that addresses the claims of Deigin and Segreto is the paper "There is no evidence of SARS‐CoV‐2 laboratory origin: Response to Segreto and Deigin".

Segreto and Deigin claim that SARS-CoV-2 is an artificial chimeric construction from a backbone of RaTG13‐like CoV and receptor binding domain (RBD) of a pangolin MP789‐like CoV, followed by serial cell or animal passage. The paper breaks down this claim into 7 arguments:

1. Genetic divergence and mutation bias
The genomes of SARS-CoV-2 and RaTG13 share only 96.2% similarity, which puts the estimated time divergence between 1948 and 1982. This makes sense if they are distant cousins and the ancestors to SARS-CoV-2 were circulating in a wild reservoir. If the RaTG13 genome was used to create SARS-CoV-2 in a lab, it must've been passed through cell cultures or live animals. Based on the mutation rate of these viruses exhibit while grown in cell culture, it would require more than 15 years to accumulate 3.8% genetic differences in the lab. RaTG13 accumulating 3.8% difference between 2013 (when it was discovered) and 2019 seems very unlikely. A potential counterargument could be made which suggests that the 3.8% divergence was the result of artificial meddling with the mutation rate. However, not only has this technique never been used to enhance coronavirus adaption, such techniques produce certain mutational biases that are simply not observed in SARS-CoV-2. Instead, the relative frequencies of SNPs that distinguishes SARS-CoV-2 from RaTG13 is similar to the ones that separate SARS-CoV from Rs4231 (see figure below), which is more consistent with a natural origin.
1617724222502.png
Relative frequencies of different single nucleotide substitutions, which distinguish SARS‐CoV‐2 (red) and SARS‐CoV (blue) from their bat relatives (RaTG13 and Rs4231, respectively).[7] Differences across substitution frequencies are not significant, as assessed with Pearson's chi‐squared test (p = 0.12)

2. The receptor binding domain of pangolin coronavirus
As said before, Segreto and Deigin claim that the receptor binding domain (RBD) of pangolin coronavirus MP789 was used to create the RBD of SARS-CoV-2. They support this by noting that
“the MP789 pangolin strain isolated from Guangdong (GD) pangolins has an almost identical RBD to that of SARS‐CoV‐2″.
However, this claim is only accurate when you align the amino acid sequences. The nucleotide sequences on the other hand are only 86.6% identical, similar to the difference between the RBD sequences of SARS-CoV-2 and RaTG13 (85.2%), and much lower than the overall genomic similarity (96.2%). And again, the mutation rate are such that it also would require years of cultivation to accumulate the substittions in the RBD, which is even more unlikely with MP789 since it was discovered in 2019. Directed mutagenesis also could not account for these differences, since most of the substitutions are synonymous. Hence, the RBD of pangolin coronavirus MP790 could not have been used to create SARS-CoV-2 either.

3. Recombination
Segreto and Deigin argue in favor of the artificial origin of SARS‐CoV‐2 because of the low probability of natural recombination between RaTG13‐ and MP789‐ related strains in pangolins,
“considering the low population density of pangolins and the scarce presence of CoVs in their natural populations”.
However, many related strains of the pangolin coronavirus have been discovered in bats. Thus, such recombination events did not need to occur in pangolins for SARS‐CoV‐2 to emerge. Instead, they could happen in bats, followed by a transmission of the resulted virus to a new host. Segreto and Deigin state
“the most surprising observation was that RaTG13, unlike SARS‐CoV‐2, is unable to bind ACE2 in R. macrotis bats, a close relative of RaTG13's purported host, R. affinis (whose ACE2 receptor has not yet been tested)”.
But the ACE2 receptor of R. affinis bats can effectively bind and mediate the entry of both RaTG13 and SARS‐CoV‐2 viruses. Thus, the recombination may have occurred in horseshoe bats. Notably, many recombination events occured between SARS‐like bat coronaviruses presumably involved in the emergence of SARS‐CoV in 2002. Finally, recent analysis showed that the RBD of RaTG13, not SARS‐CoV‐2, is the result of recombination, and that RBDs of SARS‐CoV‐2 and pangolin MP789 are the original variant. This claim is supported by the fact that genetic divergence between MP789 and SARS‐CoV‐2 is similar throughout most of the S‐protein gene, while in the case of recombination at the RBD site one would expect higher similarity in this fragment. This finding also supports bat origin of SARS‐CoV‐2, further weakening the hypothesis of its artificial chimeric construction.

4. Restriction site within the 12nt furin cleavage insertion
In the S-protein sequence, SARS-CoV-2 uniquely has a 12 nucleotide insertion forming a furin cleavage site that is important for the virus's ability to infect human cells. Within this site, there is a FauI restriction site (a motif that is recognized by a specific restriction enzyme). The Segreto and Deigin claim that this restriction is evidence for the artificial origin of SARS‐CoV‐2, because it
“could allow using restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) techniques for cloning or screening for mutations, as the new furin site is prone to deletions in vitro”.
However, the presence of a restriction site, even within the furin cleavage site, is not evidence of artificial origin. These occur naturally, and the prevenlance of restriction sites in the genomes of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses is rather high. Specifically, the 500 nucleotide region surrounding the particular restriction site discussed by Segreto and Deigin includes 287 restriction sites on 180 different loci (see figure below)
1617729076533.png
500‐nucleotide sequence map around the furin cleavage site with some of the restriction sites corresponding to commercially available restriction enzymes. Sites cleaved with blunt, 5′‐extended and 3′‐extended ends are shown in red, blue, and green, respectively
On average, each third nucleotide within this region may be cut by some restriction enzme. This makes the probability of finding at least on restriction site within the 12nt insertion in the furin cleage site about 99.5%. Hence, this observation is not really suprising when you think abou it. The presence of this restriction site within the 12nt insertion cannot be considered as evidence for an artificial origin of SARS-SoV-2. The argument made by Segerto and Deigin commits the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, wherein random events are (re)interpreted in a post hoc manner to be evidence of some cause or inent.

5. The origin of the furin cleavage site itself
Segreto and Deigin claim that:
“The insertion of the furin cleavage site in SARS‐CoV‐2 is not in frame with the rest of the sequence, when compared with the MP789 and the RaTG13 sequences. Therefore, it is possible to exclude that such an insertion could have originated by polymerase slippage or by releasing and repriming, because insertion mutations generated by these mechanisms have been postulated to maintain the reading frame of the viral sequence”.
But, the insertion in question is 12 nucleotides long...a multiplication of 3...which maintains the ancestral reading frame of the S-protein gene. Secondly, polymerase slippage or releasing and repriming can produce insertions that are not in frame with the rest of the sequence and split codoins into two parts. These are known among influenca viruses, which is ironically demonstrat in a paper that is referenced in an article of Steinhauer, which Segreto and Deigin cite as an argument against the possibility of such an event. Lastly, the insertion mutatation can come about via other means, besides the ones described by Segreto and Deigin. In short, there is no evidence that suggests the 12 nucleotide insertion of SARS-CoV-2 was introduced artificially as opposed to a natural mechanism.

6. Missing viruses and parsimony
The artificial orgin scenario assumes that the Wuhan institute of Virology used two unkown and unpublished viruses for constructing SARS-CoV-2. This is less parsimonious than a scenario wherein a naturally evolved SARS-CoV-2 escaped from the lab, becase in the latter the presence of only one unknown virus is required, while the former scenario requires the existence of two uknown viruses in the same lab at the same time (one RaTG13 relative and MP789 relative). Also considering the fact that coronaviruses are common among bat populations where recombinations are very frequent, relative to laboratories, and the existence of a more parsimoneious hypothesis of SARS-CoV-2 origin which does not require the recombination at all, the hypothesis of an artificial origin between two unknown viruses seems unlikely and violates the principle of Occam's razor.

7. A trivial point
At the end of their paper, Segreto and Deigin say
“genetic manipulation of SARS‐CoV‐2 may have been carried out in any laboratory in the world with access to the backbone sequence and the necessary equipment and it would not leave any trace. Modern technologies based on synthetic genetics platforms allow the reconstruction of viruses based on their genomic sequence, without the need of a natural isolate”.
But this applies to literally any new virus. As the authors of the rebuttal paper points out
Why focus only on SARS‐CoV‐2, when “the genetic structure of H1N1/09 does not rule out a laboratory origin” would be another great title?

To summarise:
...the hypothesis of artificial creation of SARS‐CoV‐2 proposed by Segreto and Deigin is not supported by evidence. Additionally, it does not agree with a number of findings based on genetic analysis of SARS‐CoV‐2 and its relatives. The scenario of chimeric virus combined from RaTG13 and MP789 strains seems incompatible with the high genetic divergence between these coronaviruses and SARS‐CoV‐2. The scenario of SARS‐CoV‐2 synthesis from two still unpublished viruses is not amenable to a test of falsification, as a formal hypothesis should be; furthermore, it does not seem to be likely, given the much higher prevalence of unknown coronaviruses and recombination events in the wild. Moreover, Segreto's and Deigin's hypothesis is significantly weakened by a recent analysis of S‐protein gene divergence suggesting that the most likely explanation for SARS‐CoV‐2 origin doesn't require recombination at all, neither in nature, nor in the lab.
 
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