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Announcing: Treacherous ancestry

A comprehensive science communication experience to investigate whether SARS-COV-2 could have come about by "gain-of-function" research

With the GOP ramping up voter manipulation efforts for the general election, the “gain-of-function lab leak” myth is back in full swing

Yesterday, the GOP-led House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic announced in a grandstanding letter the public interrogation of Dr. Peter Daszak, President of the non-profit organization EcoHealth Alliance.

This announcement is the second one this week, following an earlier such proclamation addressing the editors-in-chief of the flagship scientific journals Nature, Science, and TheLancet.

The announcements were coordinated with multiple right-leaning news outlets such as Fox News and the Washington Times, who had long articles lined up the moment the announcement went public. Further such announcements of public interrogations are expected, ultimately leading to the GOP-led public haranguing of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who will likely be required to testify in early summer.

The origin controversy is political and polarizing. The “gain-of-function lab leak” myth is emotionally powerful; it stokes fears about reckless, unaccountable, and mad scientists who performed arcane experiments that led to a deadly chimeric pathogen causing the pandemic. A flask monster. The myth is also hopeful; it offers the illusion that if only somebody can stop them, we will be spared another tragedy like COVID-19.

And who would not want to vote for the politicians who promise to hold these mad scientists accountable? Right?

These efforts from the GOP are part of a larger media manipulation and voter mobilization strategy for the upcoming general election.

Yet these upcoming battles over the origin controversy are not just about a handful of scientists and public health officials, they are a sign that science and an evidence-based worldview as a whole have come under pressure this election season.

While Trump is consolidating power and acquiring old allies in the media, disinformation researchers and journalists who track manipulation campaigns have similarly been harassed, discredited, and smeared by elected representatives and their client propagandists.

As the NYT apt headline writers put it: Trump’s allies are winning the war over disinformation.

“... Half of politics is "image-making", the other half is the art of making people believe the image”
― Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics, Civil Disobedience, On Violence, and Thoughts on Politics and Revolution

In the presence of so much manipulation and power, standing up for an evidence-based worldview is as much a duty as an act of courage.

Science is an important guardrail of democracy because of its unique ability and role to solve informational conflicts and dispel false myths. That puts it in confrontation with usurping politics that aim to rewrite reality to fit ideology.

I am not an important person, I have no insights to give into what best to do in politics, nor do I command the attention of large audiences. But the small thing I can do is to address the “gain-of-function lab leak” myth the best I know how. With science, curiosity, and an appreciation for the vastness of our complex world.

This is where you will find me putting my effort in the near future.

See you next week with the release of my big article titled:

Treacherous Ancestry, a phylogeographic hunt for the ghosts of SARS-COV-2



Update April 12: Here is the full article now

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Protagonist Science
Protagonist Science
Science journalism, scicomm, and science fiction prototyping to bring science and society closer together.
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Philipp Markolin, PhD