Colin Brazier: At the start of the pandemic, top scientists confessed they thought Covid came from a Chinese lab
The emails show that science was sceptical about the Chinese version of events.
If it happens, there will be many reasons behind the resignation of Boris Johnson. But the instrument of his downfall will be the humble email. In this case, an invitation sent to a hundred party guests by his private secretary at Number Ten.
But there’s another electronic paper-trail left by emails, which – amid the sound and fury of our Prime Minister’s woes – you may well have missed this week.
Which is a shame, because in the great, global scheme of things, these emails matter rather more than who does or doesn’t run Britain’s Conservative Party.
That we have these emails at all, is a victory for Republicans in America, who’ve successfully fought for their release. But lest you think that this somehow taints them with the stain of partisanship, think again. These extraordinary emails should concern every one of us, regardless of our politics or where we live.
What do they show? That, at the beginning of the Pandemic, the world’s leading scientists confessed to each other that they thought – on balance – covid came from a Chinese laboratory. At which point perhaps you shrug your shoulders. Maybe it did, but – as we’ve discussed before – the chances of pinning the pandemic on anyone definitively – are vanishingly slim. The Chinese communist party has taken steps to make sure the truth can never be universally acknowledged.
But these emails show something else. Something which cannot be gainsaid or challenged, because it’s there, in pixelated black and white. The emails show some of the biggest epidemiological brains in the western world holding back, shrinking from the consequences of their deductions, suppressing their doubts. Why? We’ll come to that in a moment.
But first cast your minds back to the early days of covid, right at the beginning. On February the 1st 2020, we now know there was a teleconference between a dozen scientists, the cream of the crop. Our government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, was one of those on the call.
Now, we don’t know precisely what was said then; but we do know what was said the very next day. Because that’s when the emails, which have now been obtained, started flying. And it’s obvious from them, that the possibility that the virus was man-made was ventilated. Which is unsurprising. You’d expect them to consider that possibility. But what is astonishing, is what happened next.
Take this email from the Dutch scientist Dr Ron Fouchier to Britain’s Sir Jeremy Farrar, boss of one of the world’s biggest research charities. Fouchier wrote that:
“Further debate about such accusations would unnecessarily distract top researchers from their active duties and do unnecessary harm to science in general and science in China in particular.”
Wow. Unnecessary harm to science? What about unnecessary harm to the facts? What about helping the relatives of the five and a half million people killed by covid understand why it happened and who, if anyone, was culpable? What about wringing compensation from the Chinese communist party for the £20 trillion in damage done to the global economy?
It wasn’t just a Dutchman’s doubts about full disclosure that were being shared with Sir Jeremy Farrar. This email was sent to him by Dr Francis Collins, formerly head of the US National Institutes of Health. It went like this:
“I share your view that a swift convening of experts in a confidence-inspiring framework is needed or the voices of conspiracy will quickly dominate, doing great harm to science and international harmony.”
Well, we wouldn’t want the atmosphere at those international science conferences to turn sour would we? But there’s more. The emails not only reveal a willingness to put a high-minded belief in the sanctity of science above everything else, they show that science was sceptical about the Chinese version of events – from the very beginning. But scientists chose to sweep those doubts under the carpet.
As James Comer, the Republican congressman who secured the unredacted emails said, the electronic correspondence reveals that experts like Dr Anthony Fauci took the lab-leak theory very seriously, until they realised the damage it would do the cause of science.
But before the big chill set-in, before the science mafia signed up to this bizarre code of omerta, a dozen leading global experts happily shared their sincere beliefs that, on balance, covid had not evolved naturally. One, Bob Garry, of Texas University, said:
“I just can’t figure out how this gets accomplished in nature.”
Sir Jeremy Farrar, who in addition to running the Wellcome Foundation, is also a leading figure on the SAGE committee, put it bluntly in one email when he asked:
"Whether you believe in this series of coincidences, what you know of the lab in Wuhan, how much could be in nature – accidental release or natural event? I am 70:30 or 60:40.”
In other words, he thought that covid was probably leaked from a laboratory.
I am not one of those who enjoys the casual debunking of science or scientists.
They have achieved wonders during the pandemic. But these emails reveal them to be human.
Yes, their breakthroughs have protected lives.
But they wanted to protect something else. These emails show them behaving like the worst kind of priesthood; reluctant to share their doctrinal doubts with the great unwashed, lest we stop believing.