A few months ago, it was speculated that SARS-CoV-2 (a coronavirus that causes COVID-19) was manufactured in a Chinese biological weapons laboratory. This is not true, but after Hong Kong scientists published papers, conspiracy theories aroused new interest.
For many reasons, this conspiracy theory is particularly tempting. First of all, China is a secret, authoritarian country, and it would not be surprising if the government had formulated a biological weapons program. Second, China has suppressed research on the origin of the coronavirus. Third, SARS-CoV-2 is indeed strange to respiratory viruses because it has the ability to spread throughout the body and damage other organs. Combined, many people saw the conspiracy.
However, circumstantial evidence did not do this. The coronavirus can spread to people naturally, or, if a Chinese laboratory is involved, the virus may be being studied by researchers and accidentally infected one of them. (This can explain why China wants to cover up the origin of the virus; if it escapes from the laboratory, Chinese scientists will appear incompetent.) There is simply not enough reason to believe that malicious forces are at work. An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence, and the “artificial virus”
Genetics shows why coronaviruses evolved rather than man-made
In March, a group of scientists published the genome sequence data of SARS-CoV-2 in a prestigious journal Natural medicine. The main argument for why it is not a human virus is that the spike protein (which binds to the human cell receptor called ACE2) proved to be suboptimal to the receptor. Although it does bind tightly, computer simulations show that other sequences are more suitable for binding. This proves that the virus is man-made, because it is probably the bioengineer who chooses different spike protein gene sequences.
Red mark in new preprinted paper
A new preprint paper (which means it has not been peer-reviewed or published in a journal) claims that SARS-CoV-2 is genetically engineered. It provides data and reasoning that sounds reasonable. (Technical aspects are beyond the scope of this article.) The gist of this article is that the author believes that the genome displays “suspicious” sequences that suggest manipulation.
There is a problem with this argument. The most direct explanation of “suspicious” genetic characteristics is natural recombination with other coronaviruses. Just like the flu, if two different coronaviruses infect the same animal (or human) at the same time, they can exchange gene sequences. As a result, a new virus with a completely unique genetic sequence popped up. Then, like everything else, the virus has undergone natural selection. If the genetic sequence helps the virus spread, then the virus will be selected through evolutionary power. Papers in July 2020 science That’s exactly what it said.
Another major problem with preprinted papers is that the authors went out and fought out, alleging the censorship of scientific journals and accusing people of different opinions of conflicts of interest. This is not the serious attitude shown by scientists in literature. Unless there is an absolute reason to believe it, it is always assumed that another team of scientists acted in good faith but reached the wrong conclusion.
Finally, as others have pointed out, the author of the preprint is part of an organization called the “Rule of Law Society”, which is not a scientific organization. It is also associated with some rather unpleasant characters. This does not mean that the author is wrong, but it raises sufficient doubts about its credibility. The established mission of the institute is: “Exposure the widespread corruption, obstruction, illegality, barbarism, false imprisonment, excessive sentence, harassment and inhumane behavior in China’s political, legal, commercial and financial systems.” Good, but we may Such organizations should not be trusted for objective scientific analysis.
Trouble with preprinted paper
In a rapidly changing world, the scientific method is advancing at the pace of a snail. In order to keep up with the changing times, many scientists are now publishing papers online without any peer review. The benefit is that this can quickly distribute important information at times like now (ie, the COVID pandemic). The downside is that it makes a lot of trash make international headlines and plunges us into a frantic catch-up.