Evidence of a synthetic origin of sars-cov-2

This tweet thread does a good job challenging the preprint, and links to other critiques as well: https://twitter.com/acritschristoph/status/1583486403416969216?s=61&t=YOCvcxH0MRJpSkc3Zg0-0A


Turns out the evidence for a synthetic origin isn’t good enough. Next!

And you can tell from the writing alone that it’s really, really bad:

“SARS-CoV-2 is a large, RNA virus with over 30,000 base pairs (A’s, T’s, G’s and C’s) in its genome.”

@Giltil, can you identify the falsehood in this sentence? Hint: it’s taught in secondary schools these days.


I also found this twitter thread.


The correlation between creationist beliefs and other forms of pseudoscience, conspiracies, and quackery is endlessly fascinating to me. It’s a microcosm of a broader phenomenon that explains so much about the world today.


In my day (apparently in the distant past) a preprint was a manuscript that had been accepted by a journal but not yet completely edited. Was this thing ever accepted anywhere?

If so, not anywhere we’ve heard of.

To your point about preprints, eLife requires them as a condition of acceptance.

I did a double take on that.
First: Who would explain ‘base pairs’ like that in a publication?
Second: The thing you asked Gil to ID. I won’t spoil your fun by saying it.


I have a bunch of articles in pre-print. I’ve even started typing some of them!


Oof. That is bad. (Like @CrisprCAS9, I won’t spoil your fun by pointing out the error. Let Gil figure it out.) But, I guess that’s because it’s a pre-print and not a peer-reviewed article yet. Presumably this is just a typo and would have been caught in peer review, right?

You are missing the mark here for 1) I am not creationist and 2) the preprint figured out in this post is not pseudoscience. Of course, the authors may turn out to be wrong, and they acknowledge it, but being eventually falsified doesn’t render an hypothesis unscientific, does it? Note also that to label anyone who expresses scepticism about the mainstream narrative as conspiratorial is anti-science.

To be fair to @Giltil, this error (and other more egregious ones, such as talking about genes being alternatively spliced) can be found in may science-related blogs (including some that are well-regarded - I won’t name names, but this laziness pervades the medium).

I would be interested in @Giltil’s take on the other discussions cited here.


Yes, I can. But note that the error appears in the substack piece dedicated for a lay audience, not the preprint. So there is no need for your quarrel here.

Peer review is for more substantial issues, and this doesn’t seem to be a typo. If I was asked to review it, I would have rejected it in about 5 minutes.

One doesn’t review things that basic (wrong or right) in the primary literature. That says to me that this was aimed at laypeople and was never intended to be published as a scientific paper.

Great. What is it?


No, many other things render it unscientific. Can you spot any of them?

You are anti-science not because you express skepticism, but because you express zero skepticism about conclusions you wish to be true.

We know where COVID pandemic originated: From infected livestock at the Wuhan seafood market. This is no longer in serious dispute. But since when does that stop conspiracy theorists?

Pandemic start point is Wuhan seafood market, according to new studies : Goats and Soda : NPR

Correct, but as one can’t prove a negative, we can’t say for sure how it got into the market. That being said, this phony paper is ludicrous.

The paper itself is full of howlers, in addition to being based on objectively false assumptions.

Here’s one of many examples:

Making such a large DNA sequence requires assembly of smaller DNA fragments to create the larger, full-length viral genome. Assembly of larger DNA sequences from smaller segments can be accomplished efficiently using restriction enzymes that cut outside the enzymes’ recognition sequence, cleaving fragments of DNA and leaving unique 3-4 nucleotide overhangs with unique sticky ends permitting reliable reassembly of the fragments of DNA in the correct order (Fig 1).

The authors haven’t looked into modern assembly methods. Either they haven’t heard of, or are concealing that they have heard of, Gibson assembly, which would leave no restriction-site fingerprints.

Even more telling, Gibson assembly has been used to assemble a MERS-CoV cDNA, but the authors conveniently didn’t cite that paper, falsifying their pretense of having performed a comprehensive search.

1 Like

If your comment wasn’t approved, either it isn’t contributing to a positive discussion or I can’t determine what it is contributing, if anything. If I have to think very hard about whether or not a comment should be approved, it won’t be approved.

The lab leak theory is based almost entirely on the (admittedly eyebrow raising) coincidence that the outbreak originated in a city with a large scale viral research lab. But that would be nothing compared to the odds against a lab leak being traced to the specific stall in the market that had previously been pointed to as a risk for zoonosis.