NOW ON KINDLE: The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).
Frank Visser brings light and sanity to the miasmal confusion of suspicions and misinformation. (David Quammen, November 23, 2020)
The Unholy Alliance of Corona Conspiracy Theorists
The Corona Conspiracy, Part 25
Only by extensive quote mining and with a huge confirmation bias do virus denialists interpret scientific articles as if they support their dubious opinions.
The corona conspiracy landscape we have traversed in the past chapters isin the words of David Quammenfull of "wild, unsupported ideas... flying everywhichway". A good example is the situation in the Netherlands, which I know best, because I live in Amsterdam.
We have a Pieter Borger, who headed a full frontal attack on the Corman-Drosten test protocol (see Part 20 and Part 24). Being a creationist, he doesn't believe in evolution but rather devolution. In his opinion, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is just a weaker version of SARS-CoV. Paradoxically, a less deadly virus can cause much more deaths, because it spreads more widely, as we have seen in the current pandemic, totalling over two million deaths within one year.
Then we have a Willem Engel (see Part 18), front man of the legal anti-lockdown battles against our government (most of which are lost), who recently said on public television, that the virus was created in a lab (which a researcher from Taiwan told him on the phone). Now, viruses that have been created in a lab are usually especially harmful (it is called "gain of function" research for a reason), so that seems all the more reason to be in favor of lockdown measures.
And third, we have a Patrick Savalle (see Part 20), who allegedly took the initiative to organize the team behind Borger's Retraction Request paper, but who himself has very vocally questioned the very existence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (because, "it has never been isolated"). So why bother about a test specifically built to detect the virus? Yet, Savalle is one of the very few virus denialists in our country (together with some hard core conspiracy theorists).
See the confusion? Three contradictory views about the nature of the virus, each with its own internal inconsistencies. It really gets complicated pretty fast.
Small wonder then, that regular scientists are baffled about all these dissenting and often mutually contradictory voices, that are clamoring loudly for a hearing in the online marketplace of ideas and often asking for, nay demanding a place at the table of science. Understandably, these scientists often decide to just ignore these voicesfuelling the paranoia on the side of conspiracy theorists: "See! Science has become politics! We have the True Science! In the end we will win!"
Fighting on Both Fronts
Roughly three broad groups seem to have formed around these ideas in society, battling against eachother.
The dissident scientists fight on two fronts. On the one hand they question the dominant scientific narrative that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is a deadly new virus and/or that it most probably has a natural origin, being "spilled over" from bats to humans. They argue that COVID-19 is not as deadly as science, and in its wake the main stream media, tries to make us believe. Or they claim that the lab origin hypothesis deserves more attention and is downplayed by scientists because of their conflicts of interest (in gain of function research, as practiced in Wuhan, of all places). And on the other hand they argue against the virus denialists for whatever their disagreements with science might be, there really is a virus to reckon with.
So both conventional and dissident scientists ally against virus denialists, but the opposite is also possible: some virus denialists ally with dissident scientists to discredit regular science (the Borger Report being a prime example, of which at least one prominent member is a virus denialist, see below). They figure that simply denying the existence of viruses is a bridge too far more most media channels, so for the moment discrediting regular science, by whatever means, is only a step in the right direction. But others see these dissidents as "controlled opposition", which has to be fought as well. They are merely puppets of the despicable government, which detracts from the True Science of virus denialism. So they have to fight on two fronts as well.
Not all dissident scientists deny the existence of viruses or believe in a worldwide conspiracy. But it is a gliding scale. If the virus is not as harmful as the main stream media tell us, this narrative must have been made up by an evil government. Even those who believe the virus is a bio-weapon fit this picture: obviously, this weapon is made or released by an evil or careless government. So all parties fit under the umbrella of anti-government sentiments. This forms an unholy alliance against established science and government.
Here's a typical example of such a virus denialism publicity campaign. Notice that scientists are called "fraudulent" and the dissident opposition "misguided":
Virus Denialists Unite!
Recently, efforts have been made by virus denialists to form alliances, and formulate their point of view in the strongest possible terms. This is helpful for our evaluation of virus denialism but it is a failed project from the start. Only by extensive quote mining and with a huge confirmation bias do virus denialists interpret scientific articles as if they support their dubious opinions that "viruses are actually exosomes" (Kaufman) and "even scientists concede they can't tell them apart" (Cowan). They seem to be blind to what these articles actually tell us about the nature of both exosomes and viruses, and their interesting but yet unresolved evolutionary relationship.
Not only have Kaufman and Cowan teamed up, but they have also joined forces with Stefan Lanka, the German virus denialist (see Part 7).
In this video Lanka (bottom left) claims that virologists use all kinds of difficult terms and jargon but some hours of self study and plain common sense should be enough to understand that viruses don't exist in the first place. And that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has never been isolated. There is an astonishing anti-intellectualism in this conversation. I mean, plumbers also use a lot of jargon in their specialized field. Every field of science does that, for a reason.
One member of the Borger team, Italian natural microbiologist and nutritionist Stefano Scoglio, also showed up in a call with Kaufman and Cowan, and turned out to be a true virus denialist:
In this video Scoglio (bottom center), who claims he has been nominated for the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine, casually discusses the findings of virological science and genomics and simply brushes it aside as "beyond ridiculous". In his opinion, genomes are nonsense and positive PCR tests mean at most "that people are ill". According to him they seem to only detect a high number of exosomes produced by sick cells, disregarding completely the high specificity of these tests to distinguish between various respiratory viruses. As always, exosomes are again to the rescue here! Unfortunately, virus denialists present zero evidence about what these exosomes actually contain. Science is so much more informative and accurate when it comes to exosomes and viruses.
As a true virus denialist in the Kaufman/Cowan lineage, Scoglio tells about how he got involved in virology only recently (though he had been involved in the "HIV stuff" in the nineties), and could not find any evidence in the scientific literature that the SARS-CoV-2 had been isolated. To which he adds sardonically:
I could not find anywhere a study that truly, actually isolated the virus. Of course, because it is not possible to isolate viruses [laughs]. [6:25]
Next, Scoglio goes on to explain how he thinks whole genome sequencing works, specifically "unbiased next generation sequencing", where he frequently gets interrupted by Kaufman, who pedantically tries to add his own two cents:
They take this liquid sample from a patient, and then they pass it through what is called an RNA extractor. They take all of the RNA. Essentially, after they have done that, that is the "isolated virus"... They use that as an isolated virus, which is ridiculous... Since they cannot actually isolate in this huge matrix of material what they are looking for, they sequence everythingthat's why it is called "unbiased"... It is completely casual, and completely artificial... they grow it, according to them, as a sequence, expand it, in a computer. It is completely hypothetical and completely random. [20:22]
So much for a Nobel Prize candidate's opinion on a virology-without-viruses. Perhaps a talk with Borger and McKennan of the Consortium can educate him on this.
You can view these videos at your own time, but again and again, these "courageous doctors" fail to understand the fields of genomics and bio-informatics (see Part 6). They suggest that virologists, when sequencing a body fluid sample, discard all human RNA they can find in it and call the remaining RNA "a virus". Truth is, these remaining fragments can reliably be "assembled" because they show overlap. That does the trick. Even though there may be some uncertainties left in this complex process of viral genome sequencing, every effort is done to make sure the sample contains a high viral load, as you can read in this WHO manual.
What is more, many different types of organisms can be differentiated. With the help of this technology viruses, fungi and bacteria, as well as human genetic material (with a rest category "unknown"), can be detected in human body fluid samples in a relatively short time span. Here's a graphic example taken from an article on unbiased next-generation sequencing applied to Influenza.:
When this host (human) genetic material is discarded, the non-human material shows up more prominently, with viruses (light blue) abundantly present in lung fluid (BAL or bronchoalveolar lavage), but much less so in sputum and swabs.
To conclude, I have never seen a more confused and amateuristic reading of what whole genome sequencing involves. Please read up for yourself how unbiased sequencing or metagenomics and nanopore sequencing is really accomplished.
Escaping from the Labyrinth
How do we make sense of this cacophony of opinions, distortions, and speculations about viruses present in conspiracy circles? How do we get out of this labyrinth of disinformation and misunderstanding of even the most basic scientific facts?
Here's a table of authors we have discussed in our Corona Conspiracy series, placing them in one of the three dissident/conspiracy categories. As you can see, about half accept the existence of virusesbut then again, virus denialism was our main topic of investigation:
* In order of appearance in The Corona Conspiracy series of articles.
I have been thinking long and hard about how the various positions in the corona conspiracy landscape relate to eachother. Is there any logical coherence? Here's a way to get a grip on this labyrinth of theories and speculations:
This is a three-step decision process, which first decides on the existence of the virus (which is a no-brainer for both regular and dissident scientists), then on the severity of the virus, and only then on its mode or origin. The second and third steps can be reversed, of course: first decide on its mode of origin (natural or lab origin) and then on its severity. But for practical purposes, it doesn't matter if we are confronted with a severe virus to know the details about its origin. We need to find ways and measures to fight it and prevent deaths.
Here are the available options as far as I can tell. I have added a really outlandish panspermia hypothesis claiming the virus came from outer space (seriously):
The biggest fault line in society is now between those who consider the SARS-CoV-2 virus a harmful and deadly one and those who question this assessment. If the virus is severe, strict lockdown measures are legitimate and necessary, if not, they are illegitimate and out of all proportion. Legal battles are fought these days over this question. The issue of natural vs. lab origin is secondary, and is debated mostly among activist virologists or right-wing anti-China conspiracy theorists. Relating the severity of the virus and the nature of its origin is a bit arbitrary: even a malicious virus could have escaped by accident, and perhaps a mild virus is useful as bio-weapon too. But Li-Meng Yan characterized the SARS-CoV-2 virus as an "unrestricted bio-weapon", so I have classified this interpretation under the severe category. (see Part 17)
In contrast, virus denialism seems to have had zero news coverage and zero impact on societyexcept for some conspiracy-friendly news channels and movementsthe efforts of Icke, Kaufman, Lanka, Cowan, Scoglio and company notwithstanding. Estranged from the real world of science, they imagine themselves to be the prophets of True Science or New Medicine or Real Biology. It is the extensive use of capitals that betrays their pseudo-science.
More than a thousand letters...
It is said that a picture tells more than a thousand words. What about a picture that shows these words, even its thirty thousand letters? Here's a fragment of the SARS-CoV-2 genome highlighting the "suspicious insert" of 12 nucleotides: CCU CGG CGG GCA, which code for 4 aminoacids: PRRA (see Part 17). You would not detect them if they were not highlighted in orange. But these "letters" of the RNA syntax point to a basic mystery that is yet to be solved. They make the virus more infectious to humans. How did they get there? By recombination or manipulation? Science is still looking for an answer. But one thing is certain: the viral genome exists, as does the virus itself.
Unspectacular as it may seem, this has become the iconic image for me for the current pandemic. Twelve letters that have sealed the fate of millions, have caused the death of two million people, and have wrecked the economies all over the world.
It is also a testimony to the advances of science into the field of genomics, that have enabled scientists to specify each and every letter of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, trace variants and mutations throughout widely diverging populations and offer fast and ever cheaper technological means to detect and analyze this virus. Virus denialists have basically nothing else to offer than a desperate "we have no idea what the source of all this genetic material is."
 Sally Fallon Morell, Dr. Thomas Cowan, Dr. Andrew Kaufman, "Statement On Virus Isolation (SOVI)", www.andrewkaufmanmd.com, February 2021.
 Brennetta J. Crenshaw et al., "Exosome Biogenesis and Biological Function in Response to Viral Infections", Open Virol J. 2018; 12: 134-148.
 Carrie Arnold, "Cells Talk in a Language That Looks Like Viruses", www.quantamagazine.org, May 2, 2018; reprinted as "A Hidden Promise in the Language Cells Use to Communicate", The Atlantic, May 8, 2018.
 Dean's Danes, "Freedom Talk - 4 March 2021", www.youtube.com, 4 Mar 2021. See also the sequel: "Freedom Talk 2: Lanka, Cowan, and Kaufman", odysee.com, April 7th, 2021. From which, a few gems from Kaufman:
"If there's no virus, it can't be the cause of any disease, right?"
Kaufman also touches on the lab origin theory in his own inimitable denialist way:
"If there are no natural viruses that cause disease, then how can they make one in a laboratory?" [smiles triumphantly]
 "Debunking Virology with Dr. Stefan Scoglio and Dr. Tom Cowan: A discussion on the lack of evidence for SARS-Cov-2 and other viruses", odysee.com, March 2nd, 2021.
 Stefano Scoglio is Director at Nutritherapy Research Center, Pesaro and Urbino, Marches, Italy. He sells blue-green algae extracts from Lake Klamath in Oregon under the name Klamax, and has published on its alleged healing properties. In "Effects of the Aphanizomenon flos-aquae Extract (Klamin®) on a Neurodegeneration Cellular Model", of which Scoglio is co-author, and which got published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity we find the following intriguing "Conflicts of interest" section:
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper. Dr. Stefano Scoglio is the owner and manager of the Nutrigea company that provided us the Klamath. The research was funded by Nutrigea. Nutrigea had the final approval of the manuscript.
Now, does that read as a major conflict of interest or not? Incidentally, this journal is published by Hindawi Publishing Corporation, founded in Egypt with its headquarters in London, which lets author pay to get published (gaining a profit margin of 50%).
On Researchgate, Stefano Scoglio has listed 25 research articles, the most recent being the Corman-Drosten Review Report, of whch he was a co-author (see Part 20). In the past twenty years he has tested his algae preparations in many areas (anti-oxydant effect, vitamine B12 blood levels, neurodegeneration, mood disorders, general well-being of postmenopause women, psiorasis, oxygen radical absorbance, tumor suppression, antimcrobial properties, ADHD). The relevant component of these blue-green algae preparations is phycocyanin, which is said to have some medical applications.
 World Health Organization, "Genomic sequencing of SARS-CoV-2: A guide to implementation for maximum impact on public health", 8 January 2021.
 Nicole Fischer, "Evaluation of Unbiased Next-Generation Sequencing of RNA (RNA-seq) as a Diagnostic Method in Influenza Virus-Positive Respiratory Samples", Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 53(7), July 2015.
 Alexander L. Greninger, "Rapid metagenomic identification of viral pathogens in clinical samples by real-time nanopore sequencing analysis", Genome Med. 2015; 7: 99.
 Bryan A. Johnson et al., "Furin Cleavage Site Is Key to SARS-CoV-2 Pathogenesis", Version 1. bioRxiv. Preprint. 2020 Aug 26.
 Edward J. Steele et al., "Origin of new emergent Coronavirus and Candida fungal diseasesTerrestrial or cosmic?", Adv Genet. 2020; 106: 75-100. July 2020.
83 Vaccine Myths from docbastard.net
To all those who claim SARS-CoV-2or any virusdoes not exist: the virosphere consists of 4 realms, 9 kingdoms, 16 phyla, 2 subphyla, 36 classes, 55 orders, 8 suborders, 168 families, 103 subfamilies, 1421 genera, 68 subgenera, 6590 species. Take that. https://talk.ictvonline.org/taxonomy/
A summary of early parts of this series has appeared in the Dutch magazine Skepter 33(3), September 2020, as "Viruses don't exist" (covering Parts 1-5). German: Skeptiker (December 2020); English: Skeptic.org.uk (January 2021)
Comment Form is loading comments...