New York Times, May 27, 2021, Carl Zimmer, et al.
Scientists Don’t Want to Ignore the ‘Lab Leak’ Theory, Despite No New Evidence
Many scientists welcomed President Biden’s call for a more rigorous investigation of a virus lab in Wuhan, China, though they said the so-called lab leak theory was still unlikely.
On the heels of President Biden’s abrupt order to U.S. intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, many scientists reacted positively, reflecting their push in recent weeks for more information about the work of a virus lab in Wuhan, China. But they cautioned against expecting an answer in the three-month time frame of the president’s request.
After long steering clear of the debate, some influential scientists have lately become more open to expressing uncertainties about the origins of the virus. If the two most vocal poles of the argument are natural spillover vs. laboratory leak, these new voices have added a third point of view: a resounding undecided.
“In the beginning, there was a lot of pressure against speaking up, because it was tied to conspiracies and Trump supporters,” said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University. “There was very little rational discussion going on in the beginning.”
Virologists still largely lean toward the theory that infected animals — perhaps a bat, or another animal raised for food — spread the virus to humans outside of a lab. There is no direct evidence for the “lab leak” theory that Chinese researchers isolated the virus, which then infected a lab worker.