I think we have a problem when we talk about the lab leak theory. There is not one. The original theory was a full-out conspiracy: China had developed it as a biological weapon and then they released it on the world to harm us.
Now the same people who pushed that conspiracy theory want us to believe that the notion that the virus may have leaked from a lab proves them correct. Well, it doesn’t.
So let’s look at the theories here. The Chinese government:
- Created a biological weapon that they knowingly released to the world.
- Created a biological weapon that they accidentally released to the world.
- Was doing work on viruses that was accidentally released to the world.
The first one is absolutely ridiculous. If the Chinese government wanted to release a biological weapon on the world, they wouldn’t do it to their own people much less to the people right outside the lab where they created it.
The second one is less ridiculous but still absurd. This is a really inefficient biological weapon. But more important there’s absolutely no evidence that this virus was created as a biological weapon. This is pure conjecture.
So this leaves us with the third possibility. Scientists were studying this virus and it got out of the lab. This kind of thing does happen. And we should be concerned about this regardless of whether or not it happened in this instance.
Lab safety is an important issue. I’ve heard people suggest things like locating these labs far away from populated areas and requiring quarantine periods for travel from the facilities.
But note that this is never been a concern of the loudest voices regarding the lab leak theory. The number one concern of these proponents is simply to blame China. Implicit in this is to exonerate the Trump administration.
(Note the absurdity here: as though the source of the virus justifies a terrible response. New Zealand was attacked as much as the United States and yet they did a good job of managing the pandemic. No origin story justifies the terrible governmental response to COVID-19.)
What bugs me about all this is not that Republican apologists are weaponizing it. What bugs me is that liberals are so quick to jump on board. They are so concerned about being seen as anti-science that they jump to the other side of this issue. And then they criticize the left for dismissing this theory in the first place.
In addition to this unfortunate tendency of liberals to attack their own side, there are major problems here. The first is that most people on the left always said that it was possible that COVID-19 came from a lab leak.
Second we still have no actual evidence that it was a lab leak. We are in exactly the same position we were a year ago. It’s possible it was a leak but it still looks unlikely.
The truth is if we get ironclad evidence that this was a naturally occurring virus, the usual suspects will never accept it. And decades from now, we will continue to hear about how the Chinese government released the virus to get rid of the Trump presidency.
Note that this would never happen if the sides were reversed. Conservatives never take the very possibility that they might have been wrong to turn on themselves. In fact, conservatives rarely take ironclad evidence that they were wrong to criticize themselves.
What actually happened was that there was no reason to believe that the source of COVID-19 was a lab leak so it was generally ignored. The theory was used on Facebook and other places to push absurd conspiracy theories. And a year later, we have liberal-ish commentators attacking the left.
That’s almost as absurd as the conservative conspiracy theories.