An evolutionary biologist wrote an op-ed published by The LA Times on Wednesday asserting the COVID-19 pandemic did not originate in a lab leak, as the Energy Department and FBI officials currently claim.
Worobey asserts he “remains open to any and all evidence supporting a laboratory origin of the pandemic,” but says, “so far, we have no such evidence.”
The evolutionary biologist writes:
As a scientist who has led or contributed to several peer-reviewed studies that tell a very different story, I’ve looked on with amazement at the growing divide between what the science shows and what much of the public — and a minority of the intelligence community — believe. But I’ve also watched with understanding for those who still suspect a lab leak because I started there myself.
Worobey says although he knew intelligence officials were doing their research, he “set about his own.”
President Joe Biden’s administration “announced a 90-day intelligence community review of the pandemic’s origins” two weeks after Science published a letter by Worobey “and several other scientists arguing that lab leak hypotheses must not be prematurely dismissed, he says.
USA Today reports:
While there’s no ‘smoking gun,’ experts called by Congressional Republicans at the first national-level hearing into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic say the United States should continue investigating whether a Chinese lab accidentally released the COVID-19 infection.
“The letter dramatically shifted the debate about where COVID came from,” Worobey asserts.
A scientist’s job is to kick the tires of a hypothesis — to try to falsify it. I tabled all my other research to try to falsify the hypothesis that the pandemic began at one of those markets, the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where many of the earliest known COVID patients worked.
Worobey says he and his fellow scientists “found that the earliest known COVID cases lived much closer to and more centered around the Huanan market than could be explained by chance.” He continued, “Crucially, this was true even of patients who reported that they hadn’t worked at the market, shopped there or knowingly been in contact with anyone who did.”
He and the scientists proved by “using cellphone-based mobility data” that “the Huanan market is an exceedingly unlikely location for the world’s first large cluster of COVID cases unless it was also where the virus emerged.”
He continued, “There are hundreds if not thousands of other places where hypothetical lab leak cases could have initiated human-to-human transmission — bars, restaurants, schools, shopping malls — some with a hundred times the traffic of the Huanan market. Even one such event at Huanan is deeply improbable; fold in the strong evidence for two lineages emerging at the market, and the link to the wildlife trade is unavoidable.”
We should instead be asking: What is the chance that a big Chinese city like Wuhan would have a lab doing the kind of research that has come under suspicion? The answer is, the vast majority of the biggest cities in China have labs involved in such research. If COVID had emerged in, say, Beijing, there would be no fewer than four such labs facing suspicion.
He writes, “there is no credible, peer-reviewed research pointing to a lab leak. Had the evidence gone in the other direction, I’d be reporting that. But it hasn’t.”
According to USA Today, Dr. Paul Auwaerter with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said, “We may never know conclusively where the COVID-19 pandemic originated — making claims that cannot be supported sufficiently by available data fuels confusion and mistrust.
He continued, “But we can still learn valuable information from these investigations. And ultimately, we should use that information to prevent outbreaks and pandemics with environmental or human-based origins to avoid loss of life and severe societal disruption.”
The LA Times’ full report is available at this link (subscription required). USA Today’s report is here.