Fauci has a lot of explaining to do and a simple Darwinian test for the origin of coronavirus

New emails make clear Dr. Anthony Fauci and his boss, Dr. Francis Collins, knew precisely why coronavirus probably originated in a lab, but quickly covered it up in the name of “science and international harmony.”  The complete turn around has never been explained because the virus fails a simple test known since Darwin.

When the lab-leak leak theory of the origins of coronavirus suddenly became respectable last year, I wrote a post on the subject, describing how scientists who analyzed the genome found it difficult, if not impossible, to explain by evolution.  I wrote at the time, “Why do I find their analysis of the genome more plausible?  Because natural evolution must by necessity work in a step-by-step fashion.  Genes rarely, if ever, mutate in sequence all at once.”  Of course, I’m not a “real card carrying” expert as Dr. Anthony Fauci might say, but I’m familiar with the basics of Charles Darwin.  In On the Origin of Species itself, the great naturalist considered potential flaws in his theory, that is the things some future scientist might discover that could disprove it.  Unlike many scientists today, he confronted these ideas directly, writing “That many and grave objections may be advanced against the theory of descent with modification through natural selection, I do not deny.”  One of the ways his theory could be proven false was to identify an organism that couldn’t be explained by the step-by-step process of natural selection.  As he described it, “Natural selection can act only by the preservation and accumulation of infinitesimally small inherited modifications” and “As natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations, it can produce no great or sudden modification; it can act only by very short and slow steps.”

For over 150 years, scientists have sought such a creature and have yet to find it.  In this fashion, the emergence of coronavirus and how it originated can be seen as something of a test of Darwin’s theory.  Does this new virus conform to the step-by-step principle of natural selection?  When On the Origin of Species was published, scientists could only examine the physical aspects of an organism, what they refer to as its phenotype.  Today, we can go deeper into the organism’s genotype, that is the coding that guides the construction of the creature in the first place.  Because the phenotype is largely determined by the genotype, the genotype is also subject to the limitations of the theory of natural selection.  It must also accumulate changes one at a time. The coronavirus’s specific genome was first made publicly available over two years ago.  At the time, it seemed to me an easy proposition to analyze the genome and look for sequences that couldn’t readily be explained by step-by-step mutations.  The United States and other governments around the world have spent millions of dollars studying coronavirus genomes over the past decade.  It should be a simple process to compare the new virus to those we have on file and analyze the differences.  If the differences were large, it would be a powerful indicator of human manipulation.  If they were small, it would be just as powerful an indicator of the natural origin theory.  There are even statistical analyses of the relative rates of mutations that could be applied to give you a percentage likelihood of each.

Therefore, I found it very surprising, perhaps even illuminating, that there was almost no discussion of this in either expert circles or the mainstream media in early 2020.  Instead, the experts essentially declared the virus originated naturally, likely transferred from a bat, and discussions of its potential manipulation by humans in a lab were nothing more than conspiracy theories.  I do not use the phrase “essentially declared” lightly:  The sad fact has always been that proponents of the natural origins theory have never actually provided any evidence that was the case.  The “real card carrying” experts, to use Dr. Fauci’s phrase, said it must be so and the media went along with no skepticism.  They did this even though the flaws in their thinking were obvious from the very start:  No one embracing the natural origin theory even attempted to identify the actual source of the virus.  Rather, the seminal paper on the subject, touted by Dr. Fauci in April 2020, “The proximal origins of SARS-CoV-2,” simply dodged this inconvenient fact, noting “Although no animal coronavirus has been identified that is sufficiently similar to have served as the direct progenitor of SARS-CoV-2, the diversity of coronaviruses in bats and other species is massively undersampled.”

This, however, is a strawman argument, one that intentionally introduces a topic that is irrelevant, even if you set aside the fact that we’ve sampled and analyzed thousands of viruses, often at US taxpayer expense.  The pertinent question has never been about the overall, either worldwide or even China-wide, diversity of coronaviruses.  The natural origins theory has always been predicated on a much smaller, more targeted sample size:  The coronaviruses that may have been present at the wet market in Wuhan where the outbreak first occurred.  Whether or not there might be some virus hidden deep in some cave in China somewhere is not a pertinent question.  Incredibly, the proximal origins paper acknowledged this fact, saying “Malayan pangolins (Manis javanica) illegally imported into Guangdong province contain coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2,” but “Neither the bat betacoronaviruses nor the pangolin betacoronaviruses sampled thus far have polybasic cleavage sites.”  After, they proceeded to completely disregard the implications of their own statements, prompting many people to wonder why that would be the case.

Finally, we’re starting to learn more about precisely what was happening behind the scenes during this critical period, thanks to new reporting from Fox News.  This reporting builds on previous evidence from Freedom of Information Act Requests. We know that the nature of the coronavirus genome and whether or not it could have arisen naturally was discussed by Dr. Fauci as early as late January 2020.  The good doctor spoke to several scientists after receiving an email from Dr. Kristian Andersen detailing their belief that the virus must have been manipulated in a lab.  Dr. Anderson wrote specifically that the “genome is inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”  In other words, it fails the Darwinian test outlined above.  The new emails reveal another scientist that participated in the phone call with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins on February 1, 2021, spells out precisely why.  They also reveal that Dr. Collins was as closely involved in these discussions as Dr. Fauci. Regarding the genome itself, Robert F. Garry of Tulane University detailed specifically what part of the appeared manipulated.  He wrote, “I really can’t think of a plausible natural scenario where you get from the bat virus or one very similar to it to nCoV where you insert exactly 4 amino acids 12 nucleotides that all have to be added at the exact same time to gain this function – that and you don’t change any other amino acids in S2?  I just can’t figure out how this gets accomplished in nature…of course, in the lab it would be easy to generate the perfect 12 base insert that you wanted.”

To this day, no one involved in the conference call has explained how they ultimately reconciled this with the natural origins theory.  Neither have Dr. Fauci, Dr. Collins, or any other expert who has supported the natural origins theory.  Instead, they completely disregarded it and proceeded to cover it up, working in concert over the next several months.  A day after the initial conference call, Dr. Collins claimed that embracing the lab-leak theory could cause harm to “science and international harmony” and distract researchers.  “The voices of conspiracy will quickly dominate, doing great potential harm to science and international harmony,” he wrote on February 2, 2020.  A consensus was almost immediately reached among these “real card carrying” experts that the lab origin theory would be avoided in the future because it might add “fuel to the conspiracists.”  Four days later, five of the researchers on the call published preliminary findings claiming the natural origin theory was most likely, completely abandoning their prior positions without any explanation or new evidence.  Dr. Kristian Andersen who originally said the genome was inconsistent with evolution and Dr. Robert Garry who explained why were among them, ultimately going on to publish the proximal origins paper in March 2020.

It was early in the pandemic, however, and the lab-leak theory remained something discussed as a possible explanation.  Behind the scenes, Dr. Collins and Dr. Fauci discussed how to stop it once and for all.  “Wondering if there is something NIH can do to help put down this very destructive conspiracy,” Dr. Collins emailed Dr. Fauci on April 16.  “I would not do anything about this right now,” he replied the next day. “It is a shiny object that will go away in time.”  Then, he promptly went out and endorsed the proximal origins paper at a press conference, failing to disclose his own involvement with the authors.  He also failed to disclose that two of the authors received millions of dollars in grants around the same time.  The public announcement that Dr. Kristian Andersen was part of $17 million in NIH funding to establish a new Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases didn’t come until August 27, 2020, but the grant was finalized in April based on recent reporting.  Call me a cynic if you will, but it’s very hard to reconcile a timeline where “card carrying experts” who initially endorsed the lab-leak theory suddenly changed their position at the prompting of Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins, and then received substantial grants as anything other than a quid pro quo, especially as none of them have publicly explained themselves or faced anything like tough questioning on the matter.

Together, all of this prompts two questions:  First, why would Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins want to suppress and ultimately cover up the lab leak theory?  The answer to that isn’t entirely clear, but two things are apparent.  Both have repeatedly denied funding the sort of research that would result in a chimera virus, usually referred to as “gain-of-function,” but records obtained by The Intercept and other sources suggest they did exactly that.  Peter Daszak who heads the group EcoHealth Alliance also received a grant from the NIH around the same time as the other players, and EcoHealth Alliance was the primary means by which US tax-payer dollars ended up funding risky research in China, prompting suggestions of another pay off.  The realization that the United States was in part responsible for coronavirus would certainly damage both men’s reputations.  On a broader level, however, there is a consensus among the political, media, and business establishment that China is the next great free market frontier and global power.  There is a borderline fetish in those circles to protect China at all costs, evident in the behavior of everything from the NBA to big technology companies.  We should not underestimate the inertia of this fetish as an important factor in the decision making of either Dr. Fauci or Dr. Collins.

The second question is why does any of this matter now?  The events described here occurred almost two years ago, what’s the point at this point?  Who cares where it came from?  The truth, of course, always matters, both in terms of how to prevent a future pandemic and our policy towards China, not to mention any reparations for causing millions of deaths worldwide and then lying about it.  This was no polite intellectual debate either:  People who supported the lab-leak theory were publicly smeared, targeted by Dr. Fauci and Dr. Collins, and branded kooky conspiracy theorists.  If there is to be any hope of justice in this world, their reputation matters to fair minded people.  Further, Dr. Collins has since stepped down from the NIH, but Dr. Fauci remains a key figure in our ongoing response to the pandemic.  Recently, the FDA revoked the temporary emergency authorization for two monoclonal antibody treatments, claiming they are ineffective against the Omicron variant.  Why should we trust that decision if “real card carrying” experts in government conspired to cover up the real origins of the virus?  If a person is willing to lie about something as serious as where the pandemic came from, why not treatments?  I mentioned the concept of institutional inertia earlier:  Is there any doubt that the inertia from the experts is in favor of vaccines over treatments?

Ultimately, this is looking more and more like the biggest cover up in recorded human history.  The origins of the most deadly virus in a century lied about and manipulated by members of the US government.  The truth should matter more than anything, and yet as far as I can tell Fox News is the only major outlet covering these new developments.  That alone should tell you how little the mainstream media is interested in speaking truth to power.

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