Posted On: Thursday - May 13th 2021 8:41PM MST
In Topics:   China  Science  Kung Flu Stupidity
Note: This stuff is interrupting the natural flow of the stupidity analysis on this site. However, after reading 600-odd comments under Ron Unz's latest piece of speculation and then getting into the Nicholas Wade article, I feel the need to stay on the topic of the origin of the Kung Flu today. Note also, that the title of the previous post referred to Ann Coulter, but I got into Mr. Wade's article more than she did and more than her column.
"Lets's go down to the lab, and see what's on the slab."
The article I just finished reading, Origin of Covid — Following the Clues published on May 2nd by Nicholas Wade, is a mostly-non-technical discussion in which the author maintains that the COVID-19 virus originated in a certain virology lab in Wuhan, China. This is as opposed to a natural origin, meaning that the virus evolved in steps from being contagious in, and harmful to, bats to being contagious in, and harmful to humans.
First of all, in regards to the Ron Unz "Fort Detrick!!" anti-Americans theory, Mr. Unz brought up Mr. Wade's paper early on in his article (linked-to above) to bolster his position. No, it bolsters only 1/2 of his position - no, the virus didn't come from the "wet markets", the paper claims. OK, but while it does that, a whole lot of the discussion is about the specific Wuhan lab, how the research got funded and accomplished there, the purposefully much lower levels of safety used for this experimentation on a virus this dangerous, and specifics of the head researcher, one Dr. Shi Zheng-li aka “Bat Lady”. (No, Dr.. Shi has neither the rear end nor the furin cleavage that Bat Woman has - she is Bat Lady - so no, errr, human interest story here....) Though he gives the 3rd option of the DIRECT transfer of this virus from bats to humans, the author comes up with arguments against that too, so Nicholas Wade's main point is that this Kung Flu came out of the Level-4-capable Wuhan Institute of Biology. I don't know how Mr. Unz missed this point - was he skimming again?
Peak Stupidity left off in the previous post at the discussion of the reduced level of safety at this lab, using level 2 procedures to save on hassle, for the creation of a dangerous virus that should have been done under level 4 procedures. Let me go to Mr. Wade's 4 arguments for the lab-creation of this Coronavirus vs. a natural progression from animals. The 1st 2 are non-technical, but the 2nd 2 do require some scientific* thinking. I will use his headings:
1) The place of origin:
This is the simplest argument. The author notes that the type of bats that are usually implicated in these new viruses that come out live in caves in Yunnan province, 1,500 miles from Wuhan. They don't travel far. Yet the outbreak was in the city of Wuhan, right where the lab doing this research was. There's that common sense thing again... BTW, the researchers, including Dr. Shi herself, would go to these bat caves (OK, no more Batman/Batwoman/Robin jokes, for now) themselves and gather batshit** (guano) for the research. Miners in these caves have gotten ill and died in the past. This direct contact is discussed in that "3rd option" portion of the article after these 4 points.
2) Natural history and evolution:
Herein, Mr. Wade explains that the normal evolution of viruses from being ones that affect animals to ones that affect humans involves a number of steps. The changes in the virus from one step to the next can be observed. It's like detective work, from what I gather from the author's discussion.
For SARS-1, there were a total of 20 changes (from mutations) in the virus seen, showing the evolution. This strains of this latest virus seen in Wuhan in humans "showed limited genetic diversity".
3) The furin cleavage site
OK, no jokes this time. The definition:
The furin cleavage site is a minute part of the virus’s anatomy but one that exerts great influence on its infectivity. It sits in the middle of the SARS2 spike protein. It also lies at the heart of the puzzle of where the virus came from.OK, but this is unusual:
Viruses have all kinds of clever tricks, so why does the furin cleavage site stand out? Because of all known SARS-related beta-coronaviruses, only SARS2 possesses a furin cleavage site. All the other viruses have their S2 unit cleaved at a different site and by a different mechanism.Then the author explains that this furin cleavage would be formed not from the mutation process but from the recombination process. But:
Beta-coronaviruses will only combine with other beta-coronaviruses but can acquire, by recombination, almost any genetic element present in the collective genomic pool. What they cannot acquire is an element the pool does not possess. And no known SARS-related beta-coronavirus, the class to which SARS2 belongs, possesses a furin cleavage site.There's more, if you're up for it.
4) A Question of Codons:
Here's where you need to go back to high school bio class ... or not. Chemistry is not to understand here really, only arithmetic. There are 4 kinds of "DNA unit" formed in groups of 3, to specify the amino acid to be placed(?). Yet there are only 20 amino acids in DNA. These 64 combinations can make specify one of the 20 amino acids in various ways then. The thing is, different species' DNA uses more of one combination than another to do this. Mr. Wade says that this COVID-19 virus has it's amino acids specified more by the same combinations of DNA units as humans do than would be expected. This is his proof or conjecture that this virus didn't slowly evolve but was created directly in the lab to affect humans.
All that said, let me get away from the science and more into the poltics. Nowhere in the paper, or even my previous common-sense thoughts in the matter, is it said/thought that this virus was created to kill people. It was created to do experiments that could help in a future pandemic by helping in the formulation of a vaccine. However, isn't this putting the cart before the horse? The risk seems so much bigger than any reward, and Mr. Wade agrees completely:
The benefits of the research in preventing future epidemics have so far been nil, the risks vast. If research on the SARS1 and MERS viruses could only be done at the BSL3 safety level, it was surely illogical to allow any work with novel coronaviruses at the lesser level of BSL2. Whether or not SARS2 escaped from a lab, virologists around the world have been playing with fire.Unlike Mr. Unz's theory, Mr. Wade's paper does not ascribe the creation of the Kung Flu in that Wuhan Virology lab to nefarious purposes. His conclusion is very much what my common sense had told me ***. The Chinese are not particularly quality or safety concious. Mr. Wade's relating that this dangerous research, meant to be done with level-4 safety, was done with level-2 safety for convenience is a good demonstration of this.
Additionally, Mr. Wade's paper demonstrates the 2nd part of my common sensical conclusion, also having to do with Chinese characteristics, or at least that of modern Chinese society. Face it, nobody wants to lose face or own up honestly to mistakes there. Mr. Wade describes this in one of his 4 points in the political section, near the end of this paper:
China’s central authorities did not generate SARS2 but they sure did their utmost to conceal the nature of the tragedy and China’s responsibility for it. They suppressed all records at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and closed down its virus databases. They released a trickle of information, much of which may have been outright false or designed to misdirect and mislead. They did their best to manipulate the WHO’s inquiry into the virus’s origins, and led the commission’s members on a fruitless run-around. So far they have proved far more interested in deflecting blame than in taking the steps necessary to prevent a second pandemic.Well, readers, I may add another post tomorrow, as Nicholas Wade's political conclusion is pretty interesting too. Here's hoping you all aren't sick of reading this "origins of the Kung Flu" stuff. I will agree right away with anyone who says "Who cares?! It's the PanicFest, stupid!" Yes, indeed, the use of this virus that is so far from the Black Death 2.0 as to be laughable to introduce previously-unheard-of Police State measures and to enable a year-long-and-running Infotainment PanicFest is the BIG STORY here.
I'm just writing these recent posts because the otherwise honorable and lucid Ron Unz has been kind of a dick about this one, going down a rabbit hole based on the claims of one commenter on his blog (believe it or not!) and because I hate that anti-all-things-American attitude of his and a lot of others'. It's fairly interesting too, but not enough to beat out 100 other flavors of stupidity we could be posting about.
Note: For those somewhat more technically inclined, commenter Late-2-the-Party give a link to the NerdHasPower site with this article from back in mid-March of '20. I say "somewhat technically inclined" because this material really has no higher math in it. Biology is a pretty descriptive science, rather than quantitative, so, other than looking a a piece of DNA sequence, I think a non-virologist could get through this, were he so inclined. I'm not, sorry to say.
[UPDATED 05/18] Just added a quick comment about, and link to, a more technical and fundamental paper supporting man-made origin of the Kung Flu.
* The author says "think back to high school", but I'll be damned if that did it for me. However, you don't need the chemistry to understand what he's getting at.
** Some say Dr. Shi is just plain batshit crazy, but, well, I thought I'd finished the bat jokes, but, nah...
*** Admittedly, I have figured it could be the natural evolution seen before OR the Wuhan lab leak, with about equal preference, as I didn't know any of this molecular biology that Nicholas Wade discusses.