Lines of Communication between Scientists

«So it’s hopeless?» asked Zhu Tao.
«Not hopeless,» Guo Ming corrected. «Just hard. If this becomes a negotiation by diplomats, it will never be resolved. We need to keep this among scientists. Space agency to space agency. I’ll get a translator and call NASA’s administrator. We’ll work out an agreement, then present it to our governments as a fait accompli.»
«The Martian» by Andy Weir (2013)

During the first months of the Covid pandemic, there was a correspondence letter published in The Lancet. In it the authors (incl. a well-known German doctor) asserted that the virus had to come from nature (wildlife, «overwhelmingly conclude»), not from a lab.

They wrote a second letter about a year later (July 17, 2021) again stressing this point:

«We believe the strongest clue from new, credible, and peer-reviewed evidence in the scientific literature 3–6 is that the virus evolved in nature, while suggestions of a laboratory-leak source of the pandemic remain without scientifically validated evidence that directly supports it in peer-reviewed scientific journals.7,8»

Personally, I am skeptical about that assertion. Lab leak seems much more likely. And hey, the lab leak hypothesis did gain in credence for a while, even though official interest seems to have vanished again.

But why would respected scientists write such a letter (twice), if the lab leak hypothesis were likely?

Sure, there are potential conflicts of interests. Whether it’s recognition, money (direct or indirect via grants, or even being able to qualify for grants) — there are many reasons why someone would write something. Hell, even I might be «sponsored» to write this text (I’m not, for those using ad blockers, I don’t even run ads).

But there is also at least one understandable concern for writing such letters: To keep the line of communication open.

After all, when dealing with a potentially dangerous virus — or future epidemics — you need a (mostly) free exchange of data. And if the blame game starts too early, nations shut up and people die.

From that perspective asserting that the Chinese scientists (or Chinese politicians) are not at fault might increase the probability that we find out more about a virus. If the Chinese were actually giving accurate data (I find their quick «success» against the virus a bit suspicious).

And sure, there might be side-benefits, not only from the Chinese. I guess some US-American politicians and scientists are all too happy when the lab leak hypothesis is laid to rest. I’d be too, if I had delegated dangerous research to another country.

Hmm, BTW, the Natalie Winters Epoch Times interview might be interesting.