SARS-CoV-2's 'Proximal Origins' is sweeping, but not conclusive: A WMD perspective, for context
The revered paper fails middle-school threat assessment questions
*Note — My current focus is researching COVID-19’s origins, as part of the D.R.A.S.T.I.C. team of scientists, journalists & researchers. Recent news: D.R.A.S.T.I.C.’s research forms a large portion of the basis for investigations begun by the US Senate, House & National Institutes of Health. Recent appearances and/or discussion on 60 Minutes, The Joe Rogan Exp., Fox News, JRE [again], Bill Maher, CNN
In 2012, Fauci (GOF debate public commentary) said Americans deserved an open, public debate on the merits of GOF research. That’s a great idea - and it’s time is now.
[note-all research referenced here can be found on my full list project on ResearchGate]
I’ll preface this piece by stating that my intent is not to paint SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 as the result of offensive biological weapons program; it if is man-made by any measure, it’s far more likely to have been released by accident. My goal is simply to apply basic CBRN/WMD threat-assessment concepts to the unknown origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Since it’s important to focus on the basic assertions made within the The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2, currently considered the standard publication for laying out the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19, I’m going to organize this article quite differently than my first instinct drove me to fit together a rough draft. Therefore, I’ve put most of my explanatory thoughts, details about my background and a somewhat more detailed disclaimer at the end.
I’ve also refrained from my typical practice of including anywhere from 30-100 in-text links; having taught and written CBRN/WMD curriculum for various audiences and read more than 900 COVID-19 related scientific research articles, I’m going to save some time and hope readers will see my M.A. in history and ResearchGate origins research project with 387 sources [downloadable in Excel, with links], as evidence that I rely on credible sources.
A Basic breakdown of incredibly presumptuous conclusions from a single letter
Many D.R.A.S.T.I.C. scientists have eviscerated this paper on a genetic level, but I’ll try to avoid as much jargon as possible.
There are three primary arguments used by the authors to dismiss a lab-origin for COVID-19. They are:
1. SARS-CoV-2 appears to be optimized for binding to the human receptor ACE2
2. Computational analyses predict that the interaction is not ideal
3. There’s no evidence of any previously-used backbone [base for genetic engineering]
And that’s basically it. Let’s consider each in turn.
1. SARS-CoV-2 appears to be optimized for binding to the human receptor ACE2:
-The argument is that the virus became a pandemic after already being ‘optimized’ for human immune systems. How does a virus optimize to a human immune system after jumping from an animal? Trial & Error evolution, like everything else.
a) Except this would mean evidence of trial and error in the human/animal population of Wuhan, of which zero evidence exists, which is stunningly unlikely given the statistical odds of 70,000 human samples all testing negative prior to the outbreak.
b) Also, viruses don’t jump to humans having already evolved a stunningly high matching ability to human immune systems; they must [again] evolve inside humans. Instead, only after several months did the virus begin showing 1 of the 5 estimated mutations that could increase human infectivity - after millions of infections.
c) Perhaps most importantly, this article was written long before any evidence existed that could’ve substantiated or disproven its claims, in fact, it was published only 38 days after the first full genome, and 11 days after the genome of its closest known relative.
**Here’s the breakdown of argument 2:**
2. “Computational analyses predict that the interaction is not ideal and that the RBD sequence is different from those shown in SARS-CoV to be optimal for receptor binding. Thus, the high-affinity binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human ACE2 is most likely the result of natural selection on a human or human-like ACE2 that permits another optimal binding solution to arise. This is strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is not the product of purposeful manipulation.”
-The authors knew when writing this statement that infecting & re-infecting animals to quickly adapt the virus [known as passaging] is a way of pushing evolution without directly tweaking a viruses’ genome. If a virus was subjected to this process enough times, the result could be efficient enough to look natural to a computer analysis-especially one designed to look for unlikely mutations. One of the virologists who was specifically told to refrain from putting his name to this or to two other letters [Ralph Baric of UNC] had invented a method known as ‘No see um’ that can solve the ‘leaving evidence’ problem. This is a stunning lie-by-omission.
3. There’s no evidence of any previously-used backbone [base for genetic engineering].
By far, this was the most ridiculous assertion. It was so obvious that I’m still surprised it was added at all - much less that no journal editor or reader publicly wrote to point it out. I went back to other examples of scientists developing new dangerous technologies, and I didn’t see any evidence them publicizing their research beforehand.
Yes, it was from the top of my head, but you get the idea. Surprisingly, scientists investigating new and dangerous technologies [especially ones banned by international law] don’t typically publish research that could provide a competitive advantage. Why would 5 highly accomplished virologists use a lack of evidence to defend the only BSL-4 lab in a communist police state
- that they knew had pioneered CoV infectivity research
- had the expertise/experience necessary to grow chimaeric viruses
- and had the world’s largest collection of coronaviruses to pull unpublished ‘backbones’ from?
The most likely answer is that some of those scientists had been told by Dr. Fauci & others, 14 days earlier at an emergency meeting on Feb. 3rd, 2020, to silence speculation that COVID-19 was the result of GOF studies at the Wuhan Institute of Virology [see the Prometheus & Pandora series of articles on this blog].
Just a hunch.
The background stuff I skipped:
Why would I bother, and why would I feel comfortable offering up my thoughts under the pretext that they are informed? To put it succinctly:
1) The assertions made within the The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2, currently considered the standard publication for laying out the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19, have rarely been challenged despite the letter’s obviously presumptuous conclusions.
2) As a career active-duty Marine, the typical functions of my day-to-day MOS [job] in CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear defense] were focused on mitigating the effects of enemy or circumstantial WMD attacks or hazards. The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan, following the wake of a devastating tsunami, is a recent example of a ‘hazard’ [which many of my fellow Marines responded to]. However, I spent 8 years working within the Department of State, overseeing the CBRN threats/response program for our thousands of Marines guarding US embassies and consulates around the globe. I also served as an instructor at our primary CBRN school, mostly teaching officers [including Army warrant officers], and finally as the curriculum developer re-writing the courses. Further experience with threat modeling of all WMD types occurred at the Defense Nuclear Weapons School and during other activities involving Dugway Proving Ground & elements of the Edgewood Chemical/Biological Center.
My goal is not provide a professional technical analysis, as I am not a microbiologist or chemist. Nor do I believe that any experience of mine hints any at any offensive biological research being conducted by the US [prohibited by Nixon since 1969 and the BWC more recently]; to be honest, my guess is that any number of technologies are more promising and effective in future combat than basic biological weapons, but I don’t believe any technology under suspicion in relation to SARS-CoV-2 rises to a hypothetical, futuristic level.
PS - Here are images of emails [only a portion would fit in this document] showing the deliberation following a meeting with Dr. Fauci & others; the topic was damage control once some scientists began to question suspicious aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 genome. The meeting took place on 2/3/20; the ‘Proximal Origin’ paper above first appeared on 2/17 on virological.org