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Covid meta-origins

May 4, 2023

I didn’t post anything when a sample from Wuhan’s market was found to contain both Covid-19 and raccoon dog DNA, for the simple reason that it really wasn’t much in the way of evidence, except for what we already knew. David Wallace-Wells ponders why the media gave that finding so much undeserved attention.

One factor he doesn’t mention is that many people simply have no practice thinking in the way of science. Most of the writing on this issue is done by political pundits who avoided every science course they could when going through school, who never stepped inside a lab professionally, who know as much about science as I do about African languages, yet who write as if they had some insight.

He points out one of the important aspects of peer review, referencing an earlier study:

Last year, for instance, when a group of scientists — including several who worked on the raccoon-dog report — published a preprint analysis of the concentration of SARS-CoV-2 cases at the Huanan market, it was similarly hailed as a major breakthrough pointing to an animal origin from a market spillover. But when the paper passed through peer review and was finally published, nearly all of its emphatic language had been stripped out and replaced with more cautious claims, including a statement about the limitations of the study.

And he recognizes that we may not find the answer. As I did, when I last posted on this. We won’t know Covid-19’s origin until we uncover its precursor, or viruses so close to the precursor they point to where its precursor was.

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