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June 10, 2021 42 min
As COVID-19 spread throughout the world in the spring of 2020, most scientists accepted the pandemic origin story as told by China and supported by the WHO: the virus jumped from an animal to a human in a Wuhan wet market. Yet after examining how COVID-19 spread among humans and infected its hosts, a few scientists began to question the role of nature in its creation. They found evidence which pointed to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a research lab where pathogenic viruses were being studied, and enhanced, in their capacity to infect people. In the fall of 2019, they argue, one of these research subject viruses infected a lab worker and escaped, spreading to the nearby population and beyond. After many months of being dismissed as a conspiracy theory, a growing number of scientists and government agencies have begun to warm to this hypothesis, calling for further investigations into the Wuhan lab and more transparency from the Chinese government. Some scientists, however, are not persuaded. A number of virologists who studied the novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus genome sequence are steadfast in their belief that the virus is nature borne. Not only do its genetic sequences and protein structures mimic a bat virus, the way it infects humans does not suggest any biological engineering. The suggestion that COVID-19 leaked from a lab is a dangerous conspiracy theory not supported by the facts which could affect the study of other coronaviruses and harm our preparedness for future pandemics. Arguing for the motion is Dr. Steven Quay, an anatomic pathology specialist and the author of “Stay Safe: A Physician’s Guide to Survive Coronavirus.” Arguing against the motion is Dr. Daniel Griffin, an infectious disease expert and clinical instructor of medicine at Columbia University. QUOTES: STEVEN QUAY “The three key components of a zoonosis point to a non-traditional community acquired infection, which leaves me with the conclusion that COVID-19 came from the laboratory.” DANIEL GRIFFIN “We've seen many different infectious diseases go from animals into humans and become devastating. You don't need a mad scientist, unfortunately. In this case, the villain is nature.” Sources: CNN, BBC, Reuters, Tulane University The host of the Munk Debates is Rudyard Griffiths - @rudyardg.   Tweet your comments about this episode to @munkdebate or comment on our Facebook page To sign up for a weekly email reminder for this podcast, send an email to To support civil and substantive debate on the big questions of the day, consider becoming a Munk Member at Members receive access to our 10+ year library of great debates in HD video, a free Munk Debates book, newsletter and ticketing privileges at our live events. This podcast is a project of the Munk Debates, a Canadian charitable organization dedicated to fostering civil and substantive public dialogue - The Munk Debates podcast is produced by Antica, Canada’s largest private audio production company -   Executive Producer: Stuart Coxe, CEO Antica Productions Senior Producer: Ricki Gurwitz Editor: Kieran Lynch Associate Producer: Abhi Raheja
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