Friday, February 28, 2020

Conspiracy "Theories" Come From "Gain of Function" Facts


slate |  Responsible outlets have covered the conspiracy theories, attempting to debunk them. But even some experts don’t seem immune here. One rejected the idea of the virus being a biological weapon and praised the Wuhan Institute of Virology as a “world-class research institution that does world-class research” to the Washington Post at the end of January. Less than a month later, he was tweeting sympathetically about a New York Post opinion piece claiming the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19, had escaped from the same lab. 

These kinds of conspiracy theories thrive on our fear of the uncertain, on our tendency to demand absolute proof that something is not the case—and it’s difficult to prove something 100 percent false. Even scientists can get sucked into this: During the Ebola outbreak, a colleague and I tried to address concerns about ebolavirus “becoming airborne,” a theory based on the argument that because no one could prove it absolutely couldn’t happen, we should act as if it was happening.