Saturday, May 29, 2021

Burying the Wuhan lab leak hypothesis

Here is another example of scientists politicizing an issue of large public interest.

A Nature/SciAm article reports:

Calls to investigate Chinese laboratories have reached a fever pitch in the United States, as Republican leaders allege that the coronavirus causing the pandemic was leaked from one, and as some scientists argue that this ‘lab leak’ hypothesis requires a thorough, independent inquiry. But for many researchers, the tone of the growing demands is unsettling. ...

Others worry that the rhetoric around an alleged lab leak has grown so toxic that it’s fuelling online bullying of scientists ...

The debate over the lab-leak hypothesis has been rumbling since last year. But it has grown louder in the past month ...

Even if the letter in Science was well intentioned, its authors should have thought more about how it would feed into the divisive political environment surrounding this issue, says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. ...

Rasmussen says, “This debate has moved so far from the evidence that I don’t know if we can dial it back.” ...

The United States has since requested that the WHO conduct a "transparent, science-based" phase 2 origins study, and US President Joe Biden announced that he has asked the US intelligence community, in addition to its national labs, to "press China to participate" in an investigation.

Apparently there is a lot of evidence for the Wuhan lab leak hypothesis, but we may never know for sure.

Because Republicans have demanded an investigation, a lot of Democrat scientists have resisted, arguing that no credence should be given to Pres. Trump's lies.

Here is another example. For decades, computer scientists and others have been warning that our elections are insecure and must be fixed. A prominent such article was just published:

Elections must be constructed and conducted such that everyone (all of the winning and losing candidates, as well as those who have supported them) can, with extremely high confidence, rationally believe the results reflect the will of the voters. ... As computer scientists, we must bear responsibility for warning about election vulnerabilities and proposing solutions,
Of course election integrity has been politicized, and they have to disavow being Trump supporters. As a blogger notes:
The letter is well written, but ... They say in the letter:
However, notwithstanding these serious concerns, we have never claimed that technical vulnerabilities have actually been exploited to alter the outcome of any US election.
This seems to be a problem. How do you get people to look both ways when crossing the street, when you have also basically asserted: “No one has ever been hit by a car when crossing the street.”
Just as we don't know the source of the Wuhan virus, we don't know who would have won a properly conducted 2020 election. And we may never know.

Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News, the highest rates cable TV news show, now regularly devotes segments to the politicization of science. Last night he discussed papers being retracted for political reasons, Biden administration appointments of incompetent political hacks to top-level scientific posts, physicians being forced to give harmful medical treatments, physicians fired for accusations of being transphobic, CDC employees not following official advice, and false and alarmist climate science.

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