The problem with being a moderate is that you get bashed by people on both sides, depending on where the momentum is at that given moment.
More than a year ago, I said we should consider the lab leak hypothesis, regardless of how likely, not just natural origins #OriginsOfCovid

The natural origins crowd called me a conspiracy theorist, misinformation-spreader, attention-seeker, outsider with no proper expertise.
This year, I still have the same position: we should consider the lab leak hypothesis, not just natural origins.

Now the lab origins crowd calls me disingenuous, a coward, an apologist, misinformation-spreader, attention-seeker, an insider with ties to gain of function research.
I've done a lot of listening to people on both sides, whose perspectives have been colored by their past experiences.

On the one hand, you've got many scientists and journalists who are hyper-wary of giving oxygen to harmful mis/disinformation, potentially leading to violence.
OTOH, you've got a lot of non-scientists, some scientists, and even some anti-scientists who have lost trust in experts or leaders. Anyone who tries to even give experts the benefit of the doubt gets trampled underfoot in a campaign to dethrone the "elite" experts.
What is absolutely essential is the space to disagree safely.

Once mud-slinging, bullying, threats, stalking, violence happen, there's no more civil discourse.

Part of that is understanding consequences of our tweets. It's a lesson I've reflected on regularly in the past year.
I always feel that I can do more to reduce threats aimed at people I disagree with on twitter. Even if they've bullied or slandered me, the last thing I want is to be responsible in some way for endangering real people.

People with spouses, children, parents, family.
I've on two accounts deleted tweets that I was told had resulted in the endangerment of people I don't have positive feelings for. The first tweet didn't name anyone, and the 2nd was a RT of their own tweet.

But I understood that they were receiving threats of violence.
There've also been situations where I try to have a reasonable discussion with someone I disagree with, and then a crowd shows up and starts degrading me or the other person.

This is purely destructive, a form of bullying, and a very unfortunate feature of social media.
All that results from this sort of behavior is each side characterizing each other as uncivilized, uninformed, violent individuals, and then mutually accusing each other of trying to exaggerate and profit from victimhood.

It doesn't result in mutual understanding or progress.
My hands (my tweets) are not clean. I'm sure I've made many mistakes, and some of my tweets have led to the harassment of other people.

But I do take the time to think about that responsibility regularly, if I'm putting people in actual danger, and I do what I can to stop that.

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More from @Ayjchan

8 Jun
I promised an analysis of This Week in Virology x Bob Garry on #OriginsOfCovid but was stunned by recent events, e.g., the lead, most vocal author of Proximal Origin @NatureMedicine correspondence article deleting half of his tweets and then his account.
I'll do it now, after spending a large amount of time reassuring (rebutting) people that I'm not a Canadian-Chinese-US NIH-suck-up scientist-spy with connections to the billionaire class.

S = scientific arguments
NS = non-scientific arguments
Garry says the 1st Proximal Origin draft was completed Feb 1.

SARS2 (Covid-19) genome was released Jan 11.

By Feb 1, they did not yet have access to RaTG13 (the closest genome match still) or the pangolin coronaviruses... unless we get more FOIA'ed emails to show otherwise.
Read 24 tweets
8 Jun
I'm very happy to share that I will be co-authoring a book on the #OriginsOfCovid with @mattwridley - coming this November!

When Matt asked me to collaborate on Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19, I knew that we had to write this book.
I've done an insane amount of tweeting this past year (more than 10,000 tweets) and co-authored 2 articles with Matt in the @WSJ and @Telegraph

But, a friend told me that these would all be lost & scattered with time.

If you write a book (a very good one), it can become canon.
I know that there will be possibly dozens of books on the #OriginsOfCovid - many on the politics & management of the pandemic in different countries (especially the US and China), and several very focused on persuading us that this virus definitely has natural origins.
Read 5 tweets
6 Jun
I’m going to make a long thread later today going through natural origin arguments recently presented on TWiV and the Washington Post. But before that, I think the responsible thing to do is to explain what virology is.

What do virus researchers do? Why is this work important?
With the lab leak hypothesis #OriginsOfCovid now being considered seriously, there’s been some new concerns or fears about what virus researchers / virologists are doing in the lab and why they grow and study viruses in the first place.
I’d say that, in my experience, very few virologists are engaged in dual use research. Most of the virologists working on pathogens are sincerely just trying to understand the biology of the virus, build models of the infection, and find ways to treat patients.
Read 12 tweets
5 Jun
Another balanced analysis of the lab leak theory. In @Slate by @RebeccaSohn2

People are going to find that I prefer to amplify articles that give careful consideration to both natural and lab hypotheses.…
Some scientists & journalists are rushing to say "but the lab leak is so unlikely!" (not a conspiracy theory any more, just unlikely)

I told @RebeccaSohn2: It would be like trying to guess what’s the likelihood of rolling a 6 without knowing how many sides of the dice there are.
The fact remains that we don't know what strains of viruses were collected and under study in Wuhan. We don't know all the research experiments that were done.

We have the scientific literature which describes some of these, usually studies of samples from several years ago...
Read 12 tweets
30 May
Today, karma finally kicked in. After spending the last year "just asking questions" and trying to fish out information relevant to the #OriginsOfCovid, I finally became a target of a conspiracy theory and an anonymous twitter mob.
I had been warned about this situation by well-intentioned colleagues, journalists, and even other anonymous twitter users. That a day would come when I would get attacked by anonymous users.

There was always a stream of online harassment, but it definitely peaked this week.
It definitely made me feel more empathy for other scientists who are in a similar situation. I had already been expressing empathy for them and actively asked people on twitter please not to attack because it just makes the conversation immediately adversarial and non-productive.
Read 10 tweets
30 May
I see this is raising eyebrows so I better nip it in the bud.

The work I did on human artificial chromosomes (HAC) had been widely presented at local meetings & on the lab website. I talked so openly about it that it could not be patented because it had been publicly disclosed.
The rest of the thread above rightly criticizes the meeting being “secret” - but I always thought that it had been labeled “secret” by the organizers to drum up media coverage (sorry, organizers!).

As far as I could tell, all of the research at that meeting was in public domain.
I’m sorry to reveal this gimmick but actually I think many of the scientists and organizers were eagerly awaiting journalists to call them to talk about the “secret” meeting.

In reality, most scientific meetings happen without any journalists paying attention.
Read 12 tweets

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