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At City Journal: Review of book attempting to scuff out the lab leak theory re COVID-19

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Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus

The book is Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus, by David Quammen (Simon & Schuster, 469 pp., $29.99). Quammen admits to friendships that almost certainly get in the way of his judgment:

In the three years or so since Covid-19 appeared, it has become increasingly clear, despite the protestations of virologists who do this kind of work, that the causative virus was probably the result of genetic manipulation in a lab. In other words, it is not a natural virus that spilled into humans from some wild animal host, but one that escaped from the Chinese laboratory in which it was being souped up as part of a high-risk scheme to predict future epidemics.

The case that Covid originated in a lab is not yet proven, but as circumstantial evidence goes, it’s pretty good. Few people appreciate quite how compelling this case is (see the outline below) because science journalists who work for the mainstream press have, by and large, failed to present it in full to their readers…

A particularly egregious example of this asymmetry is David Quammen’s Breathless. Quammen is a well-regarded and widely published writer about viruses and natural history, but he has grown too close to his sources, as many science writers do. He fails to consider the possibility that scientists can be swayed by the same monetary or careerist motives that drive lesser mortals. The lab at Wuhan, where researchers were manipulating Covid-type viruses, received funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Could Francis Collins and Anthony Fauci, the NIH’s senior officials, have had any possible motive for suppressing their experts’ initial conclusion that the Covid virus was probably artificial? Could that explain why they apparently told no one else in government about their experts’ findings and excluded from their discussions then-CDC director Robert R. Redfield, who believed from the start that the virus was a lab escapee? Quammen does not think to raise such impolite questions.

Nicholas Wade, “Friends in Viral Places” at City Journal (October 21. 2022)

Too close to his sources? Just the man for the job then!

File under: Why you’d be crazy to “trust science.”

You may also wish to read: Why did the New York Times discredit the lab leak theory? The Times led the way in zealously discrediting the quite reasonable COVID-19 lab leak theory. But what underlay its zeal?

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