Are prestigious scientific journals acting as useful idiots in Beijing?

The Lancet’s February 2020 statement made the discussion of whether the virus originated from a laboratory accident off-limits, and the Lancet failed to clarify that Dasak, the main author of the statement, had interests in China (Reuters)

A few months ago, the hypothesis of a lab leak of the New Coronavirus was a taboo subject. But the situation has suddenly changed, why? Stéphane Foucart, a journalist for the French newspaper Le Monde, points the finger at some of the leading scientific journals in Europe and the United States in his article “New Coronavirus and the idiocy of being useful to Beijing”.

The author says that everyone has noticed the reversal of the discourse over the past few weeks, and that the claim that the new coronavirus came from a laboratory accident, which had almost disappeared from public opinion, has now made a powerful comeback, adding a legitimacy that was unprecedented until now. So much so that some people seem to be under the mistaken impression that the verdict is in: the New Coronavirus unfortunately came from an accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research.

After a year of almost certainty and scientific consensus on the hypothesis that the new coronavirus is naturally transmitted by animals, it has now been relegated to a common hypothesis, and although there are still many who maintain the view that it is naturally transmitted, they need to come up with scientific arguments to support their hypothesis.

The article questions what has happened. The fact is that today, as a year ago, there is no conclusive evidence that the new coronavirus is the result of a laboratory leak, but what has turned the tide is a two-page article co-authored by 18 scientists and published in the May 13 issue of the American journal Science, which essentially says that we must take all hypotheses involving natural transmission and laboratory leaks seriously until we have enough evidence.

The question that needs to be asked is why it took 18 months before such a statement by scientists was published. This incident also highlights the power of prestigious scientific journals such as Nature, Science, Lancet, and so on. They frame or qualify or determine that certain issues can enrich the scientific discussion in society, they decide to raise certain issues and close the door to others.

In fact, this is what happened when journalist Ian Birrell asked in the online magazine UnHerd whether those prestigious scientific publications had ever acted as Beijing’s “useful idiots”. The former deputy editor of The Independent pointed out that the leading scientific journals left huge pages of storytelling for the natural spread of the virus, even if they did not do so because they had solid and credible evidence.

For months, scientists and researchers believed the scientific discussion was open, but hypotheses about laboratory leaks were systematically discarded until the journal ‘Science’ embraced them on May 13.

The asymmetry was sometimes so severe that on February 19, 2020, ‘The Lancet’ published a short letter from 27 scientists “firmly condemning the conspiracy theory that the new coronavirus did not come from nature”, ruling out the possibility that the new coronavirus originated from a laboratory leak. Since then, the discussion of whether the virus originated from a laboratory accident has been off-limits. Under the ‘Lancet’ shelter, the text message of these few lines produced a misdirection and everything was conclusive, but other scientists pointed out that the statement was misrepresented. Because it is like telling the scientific community what kind of questions they should and should not ask, and this is completely contrary to the spirit of scientific research.

To be sure, the publishers of leading scientific journals are not complicit in clogging up scientific debate, they are simply influenced by bias. 2013, Naomi Oreskes, a professor at Harvard University who studies the history of science, Keynyn Brysse, a professor at the University of Alberta in Canada, and others wrote in a study on climate that the fundamental value of scientific rationality leads to a non-conscious bias against dramatic The basic value of scientific rationality leads to a non-conscious bias against dramatic outcomes, which in this case should mean outcomes that can disturb economic, political or social equilibrium. Laboratory accidents are certainly more dramatic than natural transmission.

The problem goes beyond this: according to the disclosed material, the text message published by The Lancet in February 2020 was not written by the first author, and the main author of the statement, who had interests in China and signed his name in fourth place to avoid suspicion of being the first author, has now been proven to be the first author of the statement. According to emails obtained by the NGO USRTK under the U.S. Information Management Act, the real author of the statement, the first author, is Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance. Peter Daszak, the president of the EcoHealth Alliance, is the first author of the statement, but his name is listed after a list of authors. Daszak’s health alliance is also the funding agency for the Wuhan Institute of Virus research on the bat virus.

Daszak did not mention the existence of any interest in the statement on whether there was an interest, a statement that is clearly problematic, at least for Daszak as a sponsor and a contributor. Le Monde and several media outlets have stressed that this is unethical, but the ‘Lancet’ has not clarified it.

That’s not all, as a Chinese government document revealed by the Associated Press states that all research on the new coronavirus in China must be politically censored before it is made public, adding that any violation of this new rule, which will be enforced from February 2020, will be “severely punished”.

According to the Le Monde article, scientific journals must require scientists to declare whether their research has been subject to various forms of outside interference before publishing their findings. Did some funding agencies or companies participate in developing the framework for the research? Did they read or revise the first draft? Did they play a role in determining the publication of certain findings? By failing to ask these questions about research on new coronaviruses from Chinese laboratories, scientific publishers are aiding the normalization (normalization) of the Chinese regime, which brings us back to the uncomfortable question raised by Ian Birrell earlier.