SARS-CoV-2: conspiracy theories and politics

If SARS-CoV-2 had first emerged in Des Moines, Iowa would anyone be claiming it leaked from a lab? That’s the question that keeps going through my head.


I assume your question is rhetorical and the implied answer is no, no one would think it leaked from a lab.
How partisan! Why would they not think so?
What if the suggestion that it “may” have leaked from a lab had first come from Biden. That is the question that keeps going through my head.

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Why was their [there] immediate suspicion of a lab leak when the infections started in Wuhan, China?

who is the “their” that you are referring to?

The people claiming that SARS-CoV-2 leaked out of a lab.

Added in edit: actually, I mixed up my homophones. Should be “there”.

Let’s not go there. What this question needs is not more politicization. It is entirely possible the same suspicions could have been raised no matter where it was first found, and there are always some cohort of people who could find it politically convenient to suggest their opposition are somehow to blame or otherwise culpable in some way.

And, what has changed in a year that makes the lab leak seem possible (plausible)(I don’t know if there is a real difference between these words)
A different president? Can that really be the reason? If a lab leak is on the table today it sure seems to this non-scientist it should have been on the table a year ago.

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Possible and plausible are different things. It’s possible to win the lottery, but it is implausible that 5 of us here in this thread are lottery winners.

A lab leak is on the table in the same way that cops framing a suspect is always on the table. What many of us object to is that the lab leak theory is given way more credence than the evidence permits.

To depoliticize this a bit, I could see the same types of questions being raised if the virus emerged in a US city that housed a viral research center (e.g. the CDC in Atlanta). In all of these discussions, it seems to me that the primary driving force is that there happens to be a viral research institute in Wuhan.

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There needs to be a clear distinction made between claiming that it ‘did’ leak out of the lab and it ‘could have’ leaked out of the lab.
I don’t believe there were many making the first claim. The ones making the second were routinely sneered at as ‘conspiracy theorists’ ) as if that label would be enough to dismiss anything they said).
Why was it newsworthy in May of 2021 that, ‘Biden orders probe into origins of coronavirus’ meaning lab leak is on the table?
I can’t see anything but partisanship at play. How about you? How do you make sense of the year + delay for the Biden announcement to seem reasonable?

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They were conspiracy theorists because their claims were based on unsubstantiated conspiracies.

It was newsworthy because of how politicized the topic has become.

Politics definitely played a part in Biden playing up an investigation into a possible lab leak.

Rather give some party (not necessarily political) a pass? How is that just? How does it help avoid the same mistake from happening over and over? If there is wrongdoing doing how is there cleansing. How are slandered people exonerated?
As I said to T_aquaticus, If a lab leak is on the table today it sure seems to this non-scientist it should have been on the table a year ago.


The lab leak theory has always been on the table. Where many of us differ is the plausibility of the lab leak theory.


Why are you asking me? I am not. I don’t think anyone here is.

I’m not at all certain it wasn’t on the table a year ago.

One possibility I can think of, about what could have changed is that rather than the idea being just another in a long line of sort of off-the-cuff conjectures by some politician(china this, china that) that are very plausible to have been uttered in an attempt do deflect attention away from (say)badly handling the pandemic and create a conveniently distracting scapegoat, at least now we are hearing from people with relevant qualifications who are giving scientific arguments for the plausibility of a lab-leak-scenario.

It is also possible that as the pandemic has progressed over the last year, evidence has been collected and analyzed both by the scientific community and maybe various intelligence agencies that have raised the plausibility of the scenario.

And then there’s of course the role of media and journalists in fanning whatever flames they can find. So another factor here is basically just media opportunism.

Heck, there’s even the factor that some people who were supporters of ousted politicians are drawing extra attention to the question now partly in an attempt to satisfy themselves there is (they pray) finally some justification for their sycophancy for the ousted politician. “See, the criminal narcissist I used to support was at least right when he said this, so that means I don’t have to feel as embarrassed for how blindly I supported a criminal narcissist”.

Probably some combination of all these help explain why the idea gives the appearance of being taken more seriously today, or at least takes up more media space than it did a year ago.

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The label should be virtually dropped from all meaningful discourse. It carries a ton of opprobrium that your dismissal doesn’t admit to. Think about it. Nearly every crime involving more than one criminal actor is a conspiracy. The actors conspire together.
We’ve uncritically called all that suggested a lab leak ‘conspiracy theorist’. If it turns out that it was in fact a lab leak, will these people remain conspiracy theorists, or then will those that have applied the label been wrong, or maybe themselves have been conspiracy theorists?

Who politicized it?
Is it not still being politicized? It sure seems to be here. And you’ve really avoided the question. Maybe it was poorly asked. What changed in the course of the year. Why didn’t Biden as joe senator or joe public ask for the probe a year earlier?

Can you be a bit more specific on what you mean? How did politics play a part?
Sorry that my comments take a while to come through. For some reason, my comments need to be run by a moderator for approval.

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No, it shouldn’t be dropped. If people are pushing unsubstantiated conspiracies then they should be labelled as such. That is true in all meaningful discourse.

I haven’t.

It’s the evidence that matters. If their claims of conspiracy lack evidence then it is put in the conspiracy theorist folder. When there is evidence we can look at it again.

The politics of the lab theory has gained steam. That’s been the biggest change I have seen. On the science and evidence front, the lab leak theory has been dealt some serious blows. The WHO investigation has already come and gone, and they didn’t find evidence for a lab leak. No one has found any evidence that SARS-CoV-2 was ever propagated in the Wuhan lab, nor any evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 strain was ever manipulated in the lab. There’s no evidence that the virus ever existed in the lab prior to the first breakout epidemics. People have looked, and found no evidence.
On top of that, there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is the product of human manipulation.

I remember when there was an Ebola outbreak a few years back, and there were some conspiracy theorists claiming Obama was behind the whole thing. That never gained traction even though the natural source of Ebola is still not known. So why has the lab leak theory gained traction in the case of SARS-CoV-2?

Added in edit: Interestingly, one of the WHO investigators shares my opinion.

If there was a lab in Des Moines doing research on bat viruses, I suspect there would have been. But the claims would likely have been coming from different people.

To be clear, I think it was entirely appropriate to worry about a lab leak when the pandemic first emerged in a city in which such a lab was located. And Shi Zhengli has said it was one of the first things she attempted to rule out. Which she did.

After that point, the claim became a conspiracy theory rather than a reasonable hypothesis.


We may very well be able to agree here. I’d like to have more clarity though.
If you’ll allow me, let me ask a few quick questions to clarify.
You say,

For clarification what is required for you to label someone a conspiracy theorist?

Hey Faizal,
This story should be familiar to you (being in Canada).
Justin Trudeau declared his innocence from the beginning.
He said, “The allegations in the Globe story, this morning, are false.”
You can see him say exactly that if you click on the video link and linger through the commercial.

I’d bet you don’t believe him.
Do you see the parallel I’m trying to make? Or the clarification I’m after.
Trudeau ruled out the veracity of the story in the Globe. Aren’t all that think Trudeau lied and did in fact “press Wilson-Raybould” therefore conspiracy theorists (following the logic you laid out)? I think I am applying your scheme as you have described it, but I’ll chance that you are uncomfortable with the implication?

Edited added material:
Faizal your comment,
To be clear, I think it was entirely appropriate to worry about a lab leak when the pandemic first emerged in a city in which such a lab was located. And Shi Zhengli has said it was one of the first things she attempted to rule out. Which she did.
After that point, the claim became a conspiracy theory rather than a reasonable hypothesis.
Now changed to insert the Trudeau affair in similar words,
To be clear, I think it was entirely appropriate to worry Trudeau had pressured Jody Wilson-Raybould when JWR was first demoted. And since Justin Trudeau’s denial, his interference has been clearly ruled out.
After that point, the claim (that Trudeau interfered) became a conspiracy theory rather than a reasonable hypothesis.
I’m pretty sure that you don’t concur with the above statement. There must be something else at play.

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But I just quoted you as wishing to “Let’s not go there.”

I’m of the impression that anyone who suggest such a possibility was labeled a conspiracy theorist.

Are you saying that I ‘just have the impression’ the idea is being taken more seriously? Hmm. Really?

I disagree. ‘Conspiracy theory’ isn’t a term that is used for every theory about a conspiracy; it applies to explanations in terms of shadowy forces that most people don’t recognize. What’s being hypothesized here is simply a government coverup, which involves a perfectly obvious, genuinely powerful group, and is something that governments do quite often to hide facts that embarrass them. The government in question exerts unusually strong control over scientists, so the theory does not strike me as inherently implausible.