How Did The COVID-19 Pandemic Actually Start? (w/ Alina Chan)


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Today's guest is molecular biologist Dr. Alina Chan, a fellow at the Broad Institute and co-author of Viral: The Search for the Origin of Covid-19. She has been one of the most prominent commentators on the origins of COVID-19 and has attracted controversy for encouraging more serious consideration of the possibility that the pandemic began through an accident at a virology lab. She has been credited for changing the discussion about the issue and causing scientists and the media to pay more attention to the possibility of a lab accident than they were previously. In this episode we discuss:

- The various possible ways the pandemic could have begun and why "lab leak" and "natural origin" can be somewhat misleading terms

- How the politicization of the debate has gotten in the way of having a serious discussion about the facts, since the right is committed to the lab hypothesis and the left does not want to consider a hypothesis that the right is so committed to

- What the actual evidence we currently have is (not much)

- How investigations into COVID-19's origins have been compromised

- What the stakes of finding the truth are, and how people's worldviews and narratives are threatened by conclusions they don't like

- What a "lab accident" would look like and why it could easily come from well-intentioned research intending to stop pandemics, rather than nefarious attempts to manufacture a bioweapon

The articles in the Los Angeles Times and Science suggesting that the virus is unlikely to have been released from a lab are here and here. Nathan's own article on the origins of COVID-19 is here.

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