When feeling into the quantum field of multiple worlds, I find it difficult to not fall down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories. One thing I do to stay grounded is pay attention to the classical facts that are continually present in the universe I’m in. I also acknowledge that due to the infinite nature of parallel worlds, almost all conspiracy theories are true in at least one reality. I don’t ask myself then whether a conspiracy theory is true or not. Instead, I ask myself how close it is to me – to my current classical reality. I also underweight conspiracy theories that I sense are being promoted for reasons other than reporting the truth.
As an example, consider the recent research paper which was preprinted on bioRxiv on Jan. 31, 2020 (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/2020.01.30.927871) entitled Uncanny similarity of unique inserts in the 2019-nCoV spike protein to HIV-1 gp120 and Gag. This paper was retracted only a few days later. Some comments about it …
The paper, from academic institutions in New Delhi, India, was critical and alarming, if true. Except that it wasn’t.
In other words, the sequence overlap is not actually uncanny, and there is no big scoop here. The group in India fell prey to some of the pitfalls of bioinformatics research.
and factcheck.org also debunked the research article as a baseless conspiracy theory:
Several online stories inaccurately claim that the new coronavirus contains HIV “insertions” and shows signs of being created in a lab. But there is no evidence that the new virus was bioengineered, and every indication it came from an animal.
and ChinaDaily.com.cn article Coronavirus conspiracy debunked by Wuhan researcher:
A scientist from the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has debunked a recent conspiracy which claimed the novel coronavirus was manufactured and escaped from the institute’s most advanced biocontainment facility.
Shi Zhengli, a researcher from the institute, said on her social media on Sunday the virus was the result of “nature punishing the uncivilized habits and customs of humans”, and she is willing to “bet my life that [the outbreak] has nothing to do with the lab.”
Shi was the leading scientist who made the discovery the novel coronavirus can enter cells through ACE2 receptors and may have originated from bats.
Her comments came after Indian scientists recently published a non-peer reviewed paper suggesting scientists had artificially inserted genes from the HIV virus into the coronavirus, thus making it susceptible to anti-HIV treatments.
The paper was immediately panned by experts around the world and retracted from biology journal server bioRxiv on Sunday.
In a Twitter post commenting on the paper, David Liu, a chemistry professor from Harvard University, said: “The mere claim that such short inserts support nCoV origins ‘unlikely to be fortuitous in nature’ is already highly suspect.”
“This is a classic case of searching for lost keys only under a lamppost,” he said. “A fearful world does not need to fuel conspiracy theories with bad analyses.”
The last quote about searching for lost keys only under a lamppost is one I especially like. I’ve often told that joke. However, I’ve also learned that I can find my lost keys specifically by looking for them “under a lamppost”. I don’t end up finding them there, but the act of looking for them there seems to removed the lamppost as a possibility and once I’ve checked enough lampposts, then I can often look in the grass between the lampposts and find them.
After withdrawing the paper preprint, one of the authors commented:
While we appreciate the criticisms and comments provided by scientific colleagues at BioRxiv forum and elsewhere, the story has been differently interpreted and shared by social media and news platforms.
We have positively received all criticisms and comments. To avoid further misinterpretation and confusions world-over, we have decided to withdraw the current version of the preprint.
But just when you think everyone is in the same universe, evidence of interference between two sets of universes – one natural virus and one man-made virus – is still seen. The Taiwan News reports Chinese military news agency discloses 2019-nCoV was product of lab: Guide Wengui:
As conspiracies about the origin of the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) surface in recent weeks, exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui (郭文貴) said on Tuesday (Feb. 4) that Chinese military news network Xilu claimed the virus was engineered by the United States, which is strangely at odds with what Chinese health authorities have said.
@DrEricDing has some ideas on threader journalling his trip down the rabbit hole – with references!
At this point, the origin of 2019-nCoV is still in a superposition of states (wild and man-made), at least for most of the people on the planet.