Why Do Mass Media Keep Propagating Unproven Speculation about Coronavirus Origins?

Could the coronavirus that caused the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic evolve naturally?  Based on what is publicly known at this time, it probably could, but there is no scientific evidence that it actually has.  As of today, no animal has been found to carry the coronavirus that infected Chinese individuals in Wuhan with COVID-19 in the fall of 2019.  Yet the mass media and their so-called "fact-checkers" keep propagating the unproven speculation that the virus did not leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as if it were some kind of "settled science."

A Washington Post article titled "State Department releases cable that launched claims that coronavirus escaped from Chinese lab" is a recent example of this kind of sustained propaganda.  It downplays the fact that, as reported by the State Department in 2018, the personnel at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were not properly trained to safely handle live samples of contagious coronaviruses.  It ignores the fact that bio-safety concerns about the Institute's equipment and operations had been raised in the past by international experts (e.g., here [1]).  It does not even mention that the Institute did have the capability, in terms of technology and personnel, to genetically engineer mutations of the existing coronaviruses in order to make them more contagious, and that research in that direction was actually carried on there.  Above all, the said article fails to indicate that, following the first signs of the outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese authorities systematically destroyed or removed virtually all the evidence that could possibly implicate the Institute as the actual origin of the pandemic.

The burden of proof

Modern scientific knowledge is supposed to be based on publicly available, credible, and practically verifiable evidence, as opposed to pure speculation or secret knowledge alone.  Although scientists may be unable to actually prove, in the formal-logical sense, the theories they propose, at least some evidence that supports such theories must exist in order for them to be accepted as viable descriptions of reality.

The "official" theory of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the virus evolved naturally in certain animals from which, sometime in 2019, it became zoonotic — that is, jumped on humans.  Unfortunately, at this time, no single animal has been found that carried the very virus at the time of such zoonotic event.  Although scientists were able to explain, in purely theoretical and speculative terms, how similar strains of the coronavirus that were found in Chinese bats could naturally evolve outside humans to become the Wuhan coronavirus, there is zero scientific evidence that this actually did happen.  It may also be possible that some strain of coronavirus jumped on humans without causing observable symptoms that would distinguish the infection caused by it from other infections and later evolved into the strain that caused the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is no evidence that such scenario took place, and no renowned scientist seems to entertain such a possibility.

As a result, there is no publicly available, credible, and practically verifiable evidence that the Wuhan coronavirus that sparked the current pandemic evolved naturally, as opposed to being engineered or enhanced in a laboratory, possibly as a recombination (sometimes referred to as a chimera or a hybrid) of some naturally occurring virus or viruses.  This makes the "official" version of the theory of origin of the Wuhan virus pandemic unproven speculation.  Calling such theory science is unjustified by the modern scientific methodology of cognition.

Those who claim otherwise have a burden to prove their claims.  As of now, they have not done so.

Invalid inference from ignorance

Not surprisingly, taking into account Chinese authorities' well orchestrated destruction and removal of virtually all evidence that could implicate the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or any other Chinese virology lab in the area, as the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no publicly known facts that would prove the theory of laboratory origin of the disease.  Under these circumstances, rejecting the thesis that the disease did originate form a Chinese lab just because there is no evidence that would prove otherwise is not just an invalid inference.  It is a clear attempt to deceive the public into believing that the thesis of the "natural" origin of the disease is "scientific" or otherwise "rational" when it is neither.  The evidence may not exist, but it is a result of the coordinated cover-up campaign by the Chinese authorities so that the scientists outside China may never know what did happen in the Institute in the fall of 2019.  The said lack of knowledge does not constitute any scientific or rational basis to support the speculation that the pandemic emerged "naturally" and did not originate in a virology lab.

An example of valid inference from ignorance

As I have indicated, above, no single animal has been found that carried the Wuhan coronavirus at the time of the outbreak of the pandemic.  In other words, there is no scientific evidence that such an animal exists.  If it doesn't, then the official theory is false, and the theory that the outbreak did occur as a result of an accident in a lab becomes the only rational and serious explanation.  This makes the theory of the "natural" origin of the COVID-19 pandemic less likely than the laboratory origin of it.

One needs to keep in mind that even if such an animal did exist, it would not invalidate the theory of the laboratory origin, as the actual first infection of humans with COVID-19 could have happened in the Wuhan Institute of Virology even if all the coronaviruses they had there were "natural" as opposed to engineered or artificially enhanced.

Conclusions

Scientifically speaking, the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic that killed 600,000 and wreaked havoc to world economy has not been determined.

By relentlessly propagating the unproven speculation that the Wuhan coronavirus that sparked it evolved "naturally," mass media and their so-called "fact-checkers" proved to be the carriers of widespread and well orchestrated propaganda, a potent tool with which to deceive the public for the political gain of the group that controls it.

[1] This version is preceded by the Nature's Editors note of March 2020 warning the readers against interpreting the article as supporting the "unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered."

Mark Andrew Dwyer's recent columns are posted here and here.  Links to his other commentaries can be found here.

Could the coronavirus that caused the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic evolve naturally?  Based on what is publicly known at this time, it probably could, but there is no scientific evidence that it actually has.  As of today, no animal has been found to carry the coronavirus that infected Chinese individuals in Wuhan with COVID-19 in the fall of 2019.  Yet the mass media and their so-called "fact-checkers" keep propagating the unproven speculation that the virus did not leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, as if it were some kind of "settled science."

A Washington Post article titled "State Department releases cable that launched claims that coronavirus escaped from Chinese lab" is a recent example of this kind of sustained propaganda.  It downplays the fact that, as reported by the State Department in 2018, the personnel at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were not properly trained to safely handle live samples of contagious coronaviruses.  It ignores the fact that bio-safety concerns about the Institute's equipment and operations had been raised in the past by international experts (e.g., here [1]).  It does not even mention that the Institute did have the capability, in terms of technology and personnel, to genetically engineer mutations of the existing coronaviruses in order to make them more contagious, and that research in that direction was actually carried on there.  Above all, the said article fails to indicate that, following the first signs of the outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese authorities systematically destroyed or removed virtually all the evidence that could possibly implicate the Institute as the actual origin of the pandemic.

The burden of proof

Modern scientific knowledge is supposed to be based on publicly available, credible, and practically verifiable evidence, as opposed to pure speculation or secret knowledge alone.  Although scientists may be unable to actually prove, in the formal-logical sense, the theories they propose, at least some evidence that supports such theories must exist in order for them to be accepted as viable descriptions of reality.

The "official" theory of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the virus evolved naturally in certain animals from which, sometime in 2019, it became zoonotic — that is, jumped on humans.  Unfortunately, at this time, no single animal has been found that carried the very virus at the time of such zoonotic event.  Although scientists were able to explain, in purely theoretical and speculative terms, how similar strains of the coronavirus that were found in Chinese bats could naturally evolve outside humans to become the Wuhan coronavirus, there is zero scientific evidence that this actually did happen.  It may also be possible that some strain of coronavirus jumped on humans without causing observable symptoms that would distinguish the infection caused by it from other infections and later evolved into the strain that caused the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is no evidence that such scenario took place, and no renowned scientist seems to entertain such a possibility.

As a result, there is no publicly available, credible, and practically verifiable evidence that the Wuhan coronavirus that sparked the current pandemic evolved naturally, as opposed to being engineered or enhanced in a laboratory, possibly as a recombination (sometimes referred to as a chimera or a hybrid) of some naturally occurring virus or viruses.  This makes the "official" version of the theory of origin of the Wuhan virus pandemic unproven speculation.  Calling such theory science is unjustified by the modern scientific methodology of cognition.

Those who claim otherwise have a burden to prove their claims.  As of now, they have not done so.

Invalid inference from ignorance

Not surprisingly, taking into account Chinese authorities' well orchestrated destruction and removal of virtually all evidence that could implicate the Wuhan Institute of Virology, or any other Chinese virology lab in the area, as the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no publicly known facts that would prove the theory of laboratory origin of the disease.  Under these circumstances, rejecting the thesis that the disease did originate form a Chinese lab just because there is no evidence that would prove otherwise is not just an invalid inference.  It is a clear attempt to deceive the public into believing that the thesis of the "natural" origin of the disease is "scientific" or otherwise "rational" when it is neither.  The evidence may not exist, but it is a result of the coordinated cover-up campaign by the Chinese authorities so that the scientists outside China may never know what did happen in the Institute in the fall of 2019.  The said lack of knowledge does not constitute any scientific or rational basis to support the speculation that the pandemic emerged "naturally" and did not originate in a virology lab.

An example of valid inference from ignorance

As I have indicated, above, no single animal has been found that carried the Wuhan coronavirus at the time of the outbreak of the pandemic.  In other words, there is no scientific evidence that such an animal exists.  If it doesn't, then the official theory is false, and the theory that the outbreak did occur as a result of an accident in a lab becomes the only rational and serious explanation.  This makes the theory of the "natural" origin of the COVID-19 pandemic less likely than the laboratory origin of it.

One needs to keep in mind that even if such an animal did exist, it would not invalidate the theory of the laboratory origin, as the actual first infection of humans with COVID-19 could have happened in the Wuhan Institute of Virology even if all the coronaviruses they had there were "natural" as opposed to engineered or artificially enhanced.

Conclusions

Scientifically speaking, the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic that killed 600,000 and wreaked havoc to world economy has not been determined.

By relentlessly propagating the unproven speculation that the Wuhan coronavirus that sparked it evolved "naturally," mass media and their so-called "fact-checkers" proved to be the carriers of widespread and well orchestrated propaganda, a potent tool with which to deceive the public for the political gain of the group that controls it.

[1] This version is preceded by the Nature's Editors note of March 2020 warning the readers against interpreting the article as supporting the "unverified theories that the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 was engineered."

Mark Andrew Dwyer's recent columns are posted here and here.  Links to his other commentaries can be found here.