Discussion about COVID-19 non-scientific origins considered harmful

[Text sta­tus: rough draft af­ter ini­tial re­view]

[Epistemic sta­tus: un­clear on ac­tual risk val­ues and how to re­duce it]

[Edit log: added miss­ing word, added a ex­plain­ing link to ban and a dis­claimer that a ques­tion in the end is rhetor­i­cal]

The im­por­tant thing is to get rid of the ar­row, not to in­quire where it came from.

-- Sang­harak­shita, about the “Parable of the Poi­soned Ar­row”

tl;dr, avoid­ing the ex­is­ten­tial risk of a nu­clear war be­tween the US and China is rea­son enough for the ra­tio­nal­ist com­mu­nity to ban dis­cus­sion of COVID-19 non-sci­en­tific ori­gins and ac­tively seek to re­duce the spread of this idea.


Dis­cus­sions about COVID-19 true ori­gins have been hap­pen­ing for a while. Scien­tists de­bate about the virus an­ces­try and laypeo­ple are con­ceiv­ing con­spir­a­cies about biolog­i­cal war­fare. When­ever a piece of news ap­pears new mes­sages start cir­cu­lat­ing among our fam­ily and friends. This meme is spread­ing.

China must pay Bri­tain £351bn in coro­n­avirus damages

For this kind of news it doesn’t mat­ter if the source is rep­utable or not, just how far it reaches and how strong is the pub­lic out­cry.

We’ve seen how far poli­ti­ci­ans are go­ing to cover their mis­takes and pre­tend they’re sav­ing their na­tion. The con­tain­ment failures that already and will con­tinue to hap­pen are in­creas­ing in­cen­tives to find a scape­goat.


We en­tered this year in the worst state of nu­clear war ever:

Closer than ever: It is 100 sec­onds to midnight

2020 Dooms­day Clock State­ment, Jan­uary 23, 2020

How close to mid­night do we want to get? How prob­a­ble is a nu­clear war in 2020.

This is not a de­tailed anal­y­sis, but a se­quence of dis­turb­ing pieces of ev­i­dence, that seem to point our gov­ern­ments are will­ing to com­mit ab­surd acts with catas­trophic con­se­quences.

  • The Covid-19 bioweapon con­spir­acy the­ory has not only failed to be de­bunked; it even seems to be get­ting a sec­ond wind, and promi­nent poli­ti­ci­ans from coun­tries around the world are em­brac­ing it.

  • Trump first de­nied the strate­gic re­serve to the states, heav­ily ag­gra­vat­ing NYC’s crisis. Then US started tak­ing sup­plies ship­ments from its own long­time al­lies and fel­low NATO mem­bers. Then it started tak­ing sup­plies from the states. Then went on TV say­ing this was all right and cor­rect, be­cause Amer­ica first, above all, and Amer­ica does not seem to in­clude the states. How many of us could have pre­dicted that? Last year, be­fore the pan­demic? Thirty days ago? This un­pre­dictabil­ity of the gov­ern­ment cou­pled with we global effects we’re see­ing is the most crit­i­cal com­po­nent of the risk.

  • This ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment is un­prece­dented in mod­ern days. Us­ing only US data: in 2008 it took eight months to go from 5% to 7.2%, but now it went from 3.5% to 17% in two weeks. His­tor­i­cally, mass un­em­ploy­ment was a trig­ger to na­tion­al­ism and war ten­den­cies.

  • Western democ­ra­cies are failing re­ally hard to con­tain the dam­ages caused by fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive gov­ern­ment. In the US and Brazil, my coun­try, we the fed­eral ex­ec­u­tive gov­ern­ment ac­tively harm­ing lock down efforts, prob­lems re­ported by the me­dia and de­nounced by congress, and still these ram­pant abuses are hap­pen­ing. Our so­cial in­sti­tu­tions are un­able to fix such prob­lems be­cause they’re hap­pen­ing too fast and there are poli­ti­cal in­ter­ests (e.g. re­elec­tion for leg­is­la­tive). The me­dia re­ports this as yet an­other power strug­gle.

  • The US started a nine­teen year old multi-trillion dol­lar war (still on­go­ing) over a tragedy that had a much smaller im­pact in lives (a tragedy still) and in the econ­omy. Ini­tially the pan­demic didn’t have a tar­get, but now it seems that China will be the villain.

  • After the peak passes and things seem to get un­der con­trol, how long be­fore the gov­ern­ments use China as a scape­goat for the pop­u­la­tion’s out­rage. How will this un­fold? If we see the ac­tions taken in the past few weeks, we can ex­pect sud­den grand ges­tures fol­lowed by quick es­ca­la­tion. How would China re­act to any ac­tion that may be seen as a threat? Mov­ing bat­tle­ships to­wards South China Sea? Mov­ing more and more troops to Ja­pan and South Korea? How will Rus­sia re­act with a po­ten­tial con­flict near its bor­ders?

I was run­ning with the scar­ily huge num­ber of 1-2% risk of nu­clear war in this cen­tury. How is it pos­si­ble to jus­tify a num­ber smaller than 1% right now? [non-rhetor­i­cal ques­tion]