The Covid-19 lab leak theory is a story of armed uncertainty –

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The Covid-19 lab leak theory is a story of armed uncertainty – fr


Does it all mean, like Washington Post fact checkers and le journal Wall Street columnists have written that the laboratory leak hypothesis has gained “credibility”?

Or, let me ask you again: if the virus that causes Covid-19 did not pass from animals to humans, where did it come from?

Was it an animal virus that scientists collected for study and then accidentally released? Worse, have scientists done so-called gain-of-function research on a natural virus, making it more likely to generalize and then release it accidentally? Or worse yet, did they try to make a bioweapon that accidentally came out? The worst: did they intentionally Release a biological weapon?

The most true answer is: Probably not, but maybe. And that is the real problem here. The evidence has not changed since the spring of 2020. This evidence was still incomplete and may never be complete. History and science suggest animal jumping is much more likely than lab leak / cover-up. So now what we’re talking about is how people frame their opinions around the lousy evidence we have.

Except that not all frames are the same. You see, in real time, the sometimes ugly and confusing search for a better answer – to achieve international accountability and scientific clarity. But you also witness the fabrication of uncertainty. Some people who talk about a lab leak don’t want an answer. They want to amplify and in some cases even create, for essentially commercial reasons, doubt. Because then they can take advantage of that doubt – in leaders, in scientists, in the process – to hold or strengthen power. It worked so well that even the presidents and heads of national institutes to have reply.

The scientists who wrote this letter in La science don’t think the lab leak hypothesis has become more (or less) likely since last spring. The evidence has not changed. As some of them have said the New York Times, they hesitated to speak out as Trumpists fanned anti-Chinese sentiment, but they would still like to make virology labs (and the world) safer.

But more writers have come on board. People with relevant expertise took the floor; so people without it – people just ask questions on social networks, in magazine articles, on Medium. These little impressions, the circumstantial coincidences, the first strangely vehement denials … Somethingis not it? Is not it ?

When scientists say “We are not completely sure”, they mean that their analysis of an event or result includes a statistical possibility that they are wrong. They never go 100 percent. Sometimes they think they could be worse than others. It is the world of confidence intervals, of mathematical models and curves, of the principles of uncertainty. But non-scientists hear “We’re not totally sure” like “So you mean there’s a chance? This is the insane interstitial space between scientific – say statistical – uncertainty and the meaning of normal human uncertainty. This is where “just ask questions [wink] ” Lives.

It’s a subtle difference. When Tony Fauci says he would like to be more certain, for example, he probably means that, yes, all other things being equal, it’s better to know than not to know, especially if that’s how the winds blow. policies.

But when political actors like right-wing senators and television commentators talk about this uncertainty, this doubt, they try to put a crowbar in this gap in understanding and open it up. They always imply that the Chinese government is doing something devious here, something belligerent – and that even scientists think it is possible. Because if they seem to have the backing of science, they can use that power elsewhere. They can slam shoes on the tables over the Biden administration’s inaction and the Chinese scheming to distract from their lies about the election, the attempts to curtail voting rights, the insurgency of January 6, on efforts to vaccinate the world against the disease they claim to want to better understand.

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