[ExI] Misattribution was no subject

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Thu Apr 16 22:23:27 UTC 2020

<spike at rainier66.com> wrote:

> If I am conflated with another, I don't mind a bit if the person with whom I
am conflated is either you or Robert Kennedy.  Or Rafal, or Adrian, or a
number of our other gentlemanly hipsters.

> Someone, I thought it was Robert, wrote a comment which worries me.  It was
about creating a virus in the lab.  That person (Robert or you, I think it
was Robert) commented that this technology was beyond the current state of
the art but is conceivable in 5 to 10 years.

That was me.

? This is scarcely comforting, for my notion is that any technology which is 5
to 10 years away might happen unexpectedly.  Technology does stuff like
that.  My formative years were misspent in proximity to the space program,
where that whole stunt of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely
was a technology that feels like it was ripped from the 1990s and plunked
down in the 1960s, an achievement which still feels 30 years ahead of its

> So it is really out of the question that this happened 5 to 10 years ahead
of schedule?

It's really out of the question.

I don't work in this field, but I have followed it closely since the
late 50s.  I still read _Science_ where the cutting edge progress is

> That some prole figured out how to somehow splice bat DNA and
pangolin DNA into a virus,

You seriously misunderstand the story.  First, splicing genetic
material is something the scientists in the field figured out decades
ago.  Second, pangolin DNA was *not* involved.   It's also an RNA
virus, not DNA.  A pangolin _coronavirus_ sequence was a very close
match to COVID-19, much closer than bat viruses.  Coronaviruses
circulate in bats, but they infect many other mammals, including four
that cause colds in humans plus the original SARS and MERS.  COVID-19
is the 7th one to infect people.

The original SARS seems to have been a bat virus that infected civet
cats.  They passed it on to humans.  For MERS the intermediate host is

> and the lab safety protocol was inadequate and
she somehow caught it and gave it to others?

This is more likely than someone designing COVID-19, but still
extremely unlikely.

> Or that it evolved somehow in
a bat and the bat was fed to a soup-devourer, who then gave it to others?

COVID-19 did not come directly from a bat.  Plus cooking would
eliminate the virus.

> Both of those horrifying scenarios feel plausible to me, and considering
that both the virus research lab and the bat soup purveyor were within
walking distance of each other suggests to me one of those two scenarios has
the ring of truth.

Fake news.  There is no reason to think someone was weaponizing a
pangolin coronavirus.  Far, far more likely this was a random natural
spillover event.

I know humans crave a story to account for random events, but your
speculations are not consistent with the science and can be ruled out
on those grounds.

Designing COVID-19 from the ground up or even starting with SARS is
what I was talking about as being beyond the state of the art.


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