Stephen King’s most enduringly popular novel remains “The Stand,” a 1978 vision of a post-apocalyptic world that begins with lab technicians behaving badly in a bioweapons facility. Through a series of clumsy missteps and a bit of bad luck they inadvertently allow a “superflu” pathogen to be unleashed, by way of a frightened guard, that very nearly depopulates the world. King’s book goes on to cause this rump of humanity (all of whom are Americans, of course) to coalesce in two separate cities, one composed of good guys, the other of bad guys, and, voila!, Armageddon is just another two or three hundred pages away!
It is a chilling scenario, lent a bit of verisimilitude these days by Vladimir Putin’s recent binary bioweapons attack on a former Russian agent living in England. But it didn’t happen that way this time. The novel coronavirus is not a novel by Stephen King, and COVID-19 really did originate in the filthy, deplorable, disgusting meat markets of Wuhan, China, exactly as advertised, and not in some arcane black-ops back alley bioweapons lab. We know this for a fact.
And there I would leave it were it not for the ridiculous narrative gaining traction in social media that the novel coronavirus COVID-19 was created deliberately by a Russian or American or Chinese lab, depending on what moron is espousing which stupid theory. But before I proceed to explain why it isn’t so, permit me to say a word or two about conspiracy theories in general.
When a claim that contradicts conventional scientific wisdom, or the expertise of the majority of trained and qualified people who actually know what they are talking about, involves sinister forces of a mysterious nature involving hundreds (or thousands, or tens of thousands) of people possessing the uncanny, supernatural ability to keep a dark secret en masse without a single slip up or leaked email, is espoused by someone on the internet — typically a person of zero qualifications, no imagination and spurious grammatical skills — that is what we mean by a “conspiracy theory.”
It is important that you remember that the burden of proof for such conspiracy theories always (and I do mean ALWAYS) rests with the claimant, 100% of the time. You are under no moral or forensic or logical obligation to refute their claims — ever. And you are free to dismiss their claims without justification, out of hand, with due contempt. Or as Christopher Hitchens put it, “What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”
The only reason I’m bothering with this particular claim is it, like COVID-19, has gone viral and is doing a lot of damage, including killing people. We need to get mad and stop listening to this contemptible nonsense. We don’t have time for this kind of crap and we really don’t need the armchair ignorance-poisoned idiots who spread it.
I’m also bringing this to your attention now because it’s only a matter of time before the child-raping moron temporarily usurping the Oval Office will probably, sooner or later, attach himself virus-like to one of these idiot theories, in an attempt to blame the “deep state” for his own ineptitude at handling the current crisis. Forewarned is forearmed.
The answer comes to us from a scholarly article (“The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2,” Nature Medicine, March 17, 2020), in which the authors write, “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.” The reason? “If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness.” In other words, the genetic blueprint for COVID-19 wouldn’t work to start a global pandemic in the first place.
The reason for this is SARS-CoV-2 is very closely related to SARS-CoV, the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which spread across the world two decades ago. But computer simulations suggest that the present mutations in SARS-CoV-2 are poor candidates for binding to human cells. In other words, if some evil genius scientist was going to deliberately engineer a pathogen to start a global pandemic to infect the world, they wouldn’t use this particular bug to do it, just as a team wanting to develop a car to race in the Indianapolis 500 wouldn’t start with a model (e.g., SARS-CoV) that has wheels on it and then proceed to remove those wheels (e.g., SARS-CoV-2). It simply makes no sense.
That SARS-CoV-2 was successful at all at binding to human cells in the lungs comes as a complete shock to scientists and their computer models. It was an example of how nature sometimes outsmarts science. Or, in the words of Jurassic Park’s Dr. Ian Malcolm, “Life found a way.”
If you look at conspiracy theorists long enough you’ll notice that they frequently require that their villains be at once preternaturally brilliant and staggeringly stupid. To get it to work they will smash their square peg with a hammer until it really does fit in their precious little round hole. They will continue to demand that you answer the question, “who benefits?” And if they can ask the question in Latin, so much the better. So don’t be surprised when (not if) they reject the above scientific fact out of hand. Therefore, do yourselves a favor, practice social distancing from such people, keep at least a hundred feet away from them and frequently scrub your hands of their silly ideas with the soap and water of science and reason. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.