by Ian Birrell
Tuesday, 6
July 2021
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20:22

Why won’t The Lancet admit it was wrong?

The journal is doubling down on its rejection of the lab leak hypothesis
by Ian Birrell
Credit: Hector Retamal/AFP/ Getty

Someone needs to tell The Lancet the most basic tenet of crisis management: when in a hole, stop digging. Instead, this world-renowned medical journal seems determined to keep shredding its reputation, in tandem with a group of experts ignorant to the damage they have caused the scientific community as they have stifled debate regarding the pandemic’s origins.

Early last year, just as the world was starting to grapple with the trauma of Covid, The Lancet published a highly-controversial statement in support of Chinese scientists, attacking “conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin” and praising Beijing’s “rapid, open and transparent sharing of data”.

Clearly this was absurd given China’s cover-up, silencing of doctors and deletion of key data. But the statement, signed by 27 prominent experts, played a key role in shutting down suggestions the pandemic might have started with a lab incident, rather than spilling over naturally from animals. Scandalously, we later learned it was covertly drafted by British scientist Peter Daszak, £300,000-a-year president of Eco-Health Alliance charity and long-term partner of researchers at Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Despite the global furore, Daszak’s gang has gone back into battle with a follow-up statement, as I revealed they were planning to do 10 days ago. Even the headline on The Lancet article — Science, not speculation, is essential to determine how SARS-CoV-2 reached humans — seems designed to gaslight their critics, given their previous stance.

This latest statement is more nuanced but again disingenuous. It claims “the strongest clue” is that the virus evolved in nature, while saying suggestions of a lab leak “remain without scientifically validated evidence”. Yet there is zero firm evidence for natural spillover, and significant circumstantial evidence to raise suspicions of a lab incident. Besides, any leak could have involved a virus sampled from nature.

Other scientists, such as Alina Chan from the Broad Institute, have pointed out also that none of the linked articles claiming to support their claims actually provides any evidence of how SARS-CoV-2 might have naturally emerged in Wuhan.

Laughably, the article excuses Daszak’s incredible role in the World Health Organisation mission to probe the origins by saying this was done “as an independent expert in a private capacity” — as though he would have disregarded his personal, professional and financial ties to Wuhan scientists carrying out risky experiments in labs with known safety concerns.

The statement even dares argue it is “time to turn down the heat of the rhetoric and turn up the light of scientific inquiry” when no one has been more forceful in pushing the idea that a possible lab leak was “baloney” and a “conspiracy theory” than Daszak.

Once again, regrettably, The Lancet has failed to detail all the conflicts of interest of these signatories such as a trio with recent or current Eco-Health affiliations. It is a shame also to see Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, and two of his colleagues tarnishing one of science’s finest brands by adding their names again.

Yet the most significant aspect of this latest stunt are that three of the more distinguished signatories of the first statement opted not to sign the follow-up. The reason is simple: they symbolise how this debate has shifted in recent months despite the best efforts of Daszak and his allies. 

Thus the microbiologist Peter Palese is missing after saying he believes a “thorough investigation about the origin of the Covid-19 virus is needed” since “a lot of disturbing information has surfaced since the Lancet letter I signed”.

Also noticeable by his absence is Bernard Roizman, a celebrated virologist at the University of Chicago. “I’m convinced that what happened is the virus was brought to a lab, they started to work with it and some sloppy individual brought it out,” he recently told the Wall Street Journal.

Roizman, who has four honorary professorships from Chinese universities, added that the authorities “can’t admit they did something so stupid”. Whether he turns out to be right or wrong, Beijing is far from alone in its inability to confess big mistakes.

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George Glashan
George Glashan
10 months ago

Why won’t The Lancet admit it was wrong?
Greed or corruption, the why is the least interesting question.
How is scientific review going to be conducted in future in light of this corruption ?
What scientific innovations have been stifled by these compromised journals / institutions?
Who are all those involved and which wall should we be lining them up against?
these are the important questions to ask

Last edited 10 months ago by George Glashan
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
10 months ago

The Lancet also had to retract a HQL paper which was badly flawed. People still quote this paper, not knowing it was hooey. At what stage is this medical (political?) journal going to be completely discredited?

Last edited 10 months ago by Lesley van Reenen
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
10 months ago

This pales in importance to the real issue, the RESPONSE to the release of the virus. Lockdown and money printing.

UNHERD Refuses to do any story at all on the economic results of the Global response, why is that? My guess is that that direction leads to utter destruction of any Media which begins to document the $, how many, where they went, to who they went, What they originated from, and WHY (which we know is ‘The New World Order’)

The basis of Journalism “Who, What, When, Where, How and Why” is forbidden on this Financial Topic.

OK, so (40 ?) Trillion global covid response spent as debt. Global debt $300,000,000,000,000, three hundred Trillion (Bloomberg financial) Now interest rates must be kept Zero and Inflation positive to inflate it away as taxes will never touch this amount.

The incredible money, Fiscal (M2 doubled in USA!) and Monetary, means it went to the very wealthy, who then had to put it somewhere, so inflated stock (equities) prices (so the P/E, ratios are crazy! and will yield VERY low dividends now) and Bond prices dropped, so give very low interest, and inflation is high, so savings are being destroyed – Inflation high, bonds and dividends way down…. savings are GONE, for the foreseeable future for the normal people.

Hard assets inflated so housing ladder now too high to get on, because when interests go up the house prices CRASH. (you may be on a 3.0% fixed 30 year mortgage, but your house may lose 33% of its value if the interest goes up 2 %, so you will be UPSIDE-DOWN, and all gets really weird – NO Winners but the wealthy and the few who get out of the appreciating assets at the top, and back in at the coming bottom…..sounds like stagflation….

But its even weirder than that… Tech is taking the physical jobs by automation, and the office jobs by software, so that is very DEFLATIONARY, and that may mean deflation (the great depression) according to some, which means Stimulus money has to be printed on and on (debt is unrepayable in deflation) = UBI, = MMT, to create inflation, but how can that work when production is Global and consumption is not uniform at all? It cannot….

OK, so anyway, the entire economic paradigm is altered, and no one will talk about it… why? The Devos Gang are meeting in ‘Sun Vally’ Idaho just now, to figure put your future, and it may be a wild one, may not be great…..Covid response was Political/Economic, Not for Health. sorry to write so much but the world is going nuts…..

J Bryant
J Bryant
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I’m not as eloquent as you, Sanford, but I share your concerns about the economy. It very much has a feel of the emperor’s new clothes, aka let’s all stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything’s ok.
But even if we were to wise up, what are we to do? America is now so divided it seems incapable of coming together behind any set of policies let alone a fundamental restructuring of our economic life which is what I think it will take to address inequality without just throwing money at the problem.
We’d have to overhaul our immigration policy to limit the influx of low-skilled immigrants. We’d have to invest in apprenticeship schemes and vocational paths for people who don’t want to spend $100k on a useless degree. We’d need a massive revision of our economic, industrial and trading policies in favor of the average American worker. Can you see any of that happening at this moment in time?
So far as Unherd goes, I’m honestly puzzled by the fact they almost completely ignore economic issues. Perhaps it’s because most of their established contributors focus on the culture wars and UK politics. Maybe it’s too much trouble or expense to bring a couple of economists on board.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Amen-the economic issues are going to effect us all , ultimately, far more than the health effects have. And what is the point of only being able to get clear about some aspects of contemporary life if we cant get more clear about the underpinnings of that life IE having a roof over one’s head, food, some income and relative safety etc. UNHERD needs someone knowledgeable of economics to guide this search cos there is A LOT of conflicting info out there. At the moment all we have is Sanford and he is not even being paid for that role. He might be overly pessimistic and even a little paranoid BUT HOW WOULD WE KNOW ?? If Sanford IS correct then we probably should be burying lots of small silver coins under our houses in prep for the crash – or will the money printers be able steer the planet out of this situation. I for one would like lots more info/guidance please !!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
10 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I’m not sure why this entirely different subject is being discussed rather than the topic in question, which is interesting enough I would have thought.

It’s true that Unherd doesn’t so far much focus on economic issues, it would need some new contributors with an interesting angle on this.

Last edited 10 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Jon Redman
Jon Redman
10 months ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I don’t really disagree with you but I would make one comment about house values and mortgage rates. A point little noted about low interest rates is that they enable you to pay off the principal very fast. After five years at 2% you repay 17% of the amount borrowed. If you buy, prices flatline for five years and then crash 17%, you’re unscathed. Yes you’re out the mortgage repayments but you’d have been out the rent otherwise so it balances out.
At 12% interest you’d have spent 2.5x more on mortgage repayments than in the 2% but you’d have paid off only 4% of the loan. A 17% price fall would leave you totally marooned.
Expensive as it is, buying is still the best thing to do.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
10 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

That’s why the money people are collecting as many real assets as possible. Trading paper for assembled bricks seems to have merit.

Ludo Roessen
Ludo Roessen
10 months ago

If you think ‘the scientific method’ is prevailing in the scientific community you could not be more wrong about that. In every discipline there are several factions working against one another… all funding related and some of course new ideas which are not acceptable… despite the evidence…

Alka Hughes-Hallett
Alka Hughes-Hallett
10 months ago

Such a BIG event has happened affecting the WHOLE world.
Even for the minutest of crimes or wrong doings there are enquiries, investigations and outrage. How is the journalism on this SO quiet ? This is a crime of several millenniums against humanity. To accidentally or wilfully release a biological germ into society CANNOT be punished by a slap on the hand! Oops , we screwed up!! WOW . The world came to a stand still because of this little mistake.
Furthermore, oops we wrote that this was only natural ! Oops we have no way of knowing since the country of its origin is not cooperating.

There has not been a time (historical) that I’ve heard of that the world has come to such a stand still. Can some one point to a virus spreading every where in the WORLD at this speed with such an effect? Is this just a natural virus that is causing havoc because now the world is so interconnected ? The speed of of the spread, the hysteria, the lockdowns, is it all just a chain of bad outcomes? Has nature truly jumped out of the blue at us ? Can viruses evolve naturally with such speed? It defies my logic but I am not qualified to make an assessment . It certainly needs journalists to probe further.

Last edited 10 months ago by Alka Hughes-Hallett
Diana Durham
Diana Durham
10 months ago

great article and update – thank you

Stephen Rose
Stephen Rose
10 months ago

It would appear that enormous financial and reputational capital is at stake, which may necessitate a cover up. The silencing would go beyond China, to scientific research in related fields throughout the world, whose funding may be in jeapody if continuing the practice of developing potentially dangerous viruses is exposed as too risky.A field Professor Dansak is foremost in, as I understand it.
Indeed I’m sure that many scientists are afraid that science itself may suffer from reputational damage if such a programme to develop a lethal virus was underway somewhere in the world, with the tacit approval of a senior scientific pan-world body, even if such a virus was used as a modelling tool to better understand virology. I can see how it might be considered that the greater good would be best served by obverscating the origins of Covid. It is easy to appeal to the greater good, when it coincides with your own interests. Those scientists that dissent may find a frosty reception.
The cost financially to most of us is eye watering and an existential angst is giving way to ever more extreme political expression. Not helped by political leaders whose lack of substance adds to a sense that nobody is at the wheel, or perhaps we are in a self driving car, with its own idea of destination. I
Why people aren’t panicking is probably because it’s all too enormous to grasp, maybe that false stability may engender a little real stability, I’m blowing soap bubbles here as I have no expertise in the area of economics or science.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
10 months ago

The Lancet messed up before when it ‘got into bed’ with the Eat Foundation. I’m not by any stretch, a conspiracy theorist (given that most of the alleged conspiracies are hiding in plain sight). However given all the connections between the various bits of the WEF, the WHO & the same elites popping up in each group I can see why some people make links.

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
10 months ago

The simple answer is that The Lancet has become religious. Certain beliefs have become matters of faith. Where’s Richard Dawkin when we need him?