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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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).
TABLE OF CONTENTS | REVIEWS
Is SARS-CoV-2 the Phantom of the COVID-19 Opera?
The Corona Conspiracy, Part 30
Despite the absolute lack of evidence for the SARS-CoV-2=COVID-19 dogma, the political policymakers did not shy away from draconian restrictions launching attacks on liberty and basic human rights.
But in general, the line of reasoning of Virus Mania seems to confuse "absolutely no evidence" with "no absolute evidence".
I finished reading the latest edition of Virus Mania, co-authored by Torsten Engelbrecht, Claus Köhnlein, Samantha Bailey and Stefano Scoglio, which is a 500 page tome with close to 1500 endnotes. It can be regarded as the bible of virus denialismor virus skepticism if you want. As I wrote earlier, much can be denied about this pandemic and the virus that is at its center, including its very existence.
This third edition contained a new, 80-page chapter about COVID-19, and the last two authors were added to the team. I assume they especially contributed to that new chapter. Bailey is a health youtube celebrity, and Scoglio is member of the ICSLS consortium, that demanded the retraction of the Corman-Drosten paper about the PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 (see Part 20). Strange as it may sound, Scoglio opposed the PCR test not because it wasn't good enough, and should be improved upon, but because there is no virus to test for in the first place (see Part 25).
The Denialist Playbook
The narrative seems to come straight out of the denialist playbook, so admirably described by skeptic and evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll:
The Denialist Playbook
Engelbrecht cs doubt almost all of virological science and, as the sub-title of their book says, the medical industry or "Big Pharma" continuously invents pandemics to make a huge profit at our own expense. Now there is room for legitimate criticism of the role played by corporations when it comes to health and medicine. But, making the mistake that geniuses are usually excentric but not all excentrics are geniuses, a motley crew of freethinkers, alternative healers and outright impostors are seen as the real authorities. The magnification of potential harm done by new and experimental vaccines, a broad appeal to freedom of choice and lifestyle and a strong opposition to what is seen as "materialistic" science fit this pattern.
But things start becoming fully conspirational when this type of black-and-white thinking arises:
The book not only has four authors, but also three forewords: by "pioneer in virology" (and AIDS denialist) Etienne de Harven, "holistic psychiatrist" (and COVID-denialist) Kelly Brogan, and "physician-scientist" (and villain of our series) Andrew Kaufman, who is announced as "the world's most comprehensive critical analyst of viral dogma." Kaufman confidently states:
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) pandemic proclamation in March 2020, we have been facing an unprecedented global psychological operation attempting to completely change our culture, government, food system, health system, transportation, financial system, and all other system and aspects of our life. This attempt to take over the world is principally justified on the basis of a completely imaginary virus. In order to address this situation, the most important issue to research right now is examining the primary evidence for the claim that this virus, or any other virus, causes disease. (p. 18) (emphasis added)
Naturopath Andrew Kaufman, remember, has never published on virology, has completely misread and misused the work of virologist James Hildreth (see Part 2), and is mostly known through his video talks on YouTube (and now on Odysee, a conspiracy-friendly medium). In a recent video with Samantha Bailey called "Hunting for viruses", she asked him "but many people say to me 'Yes, but they have the genomes'". To which Kaufman replied: "They made them all up." The chasm opens.
So in all seriousness, we are made to believe that the over 2 million (whole and partial) SARS-CoV-2 genomes uploaded to GISAID are merely digital constructs without any relationship to a real new virus? At most, they reflect human genetic material (exosomes) according to these virus denialists. But they don't have empirical evidence for this claim (they usually don't know how sequencing works).
Torsten Engelbrecht is also of the virus=exosome school, which we have discussed extensively in earlier chapters (see Part 2). As he writes in his article "Phantom Virus"[1a]:
Exosomes are particles produced by our cells and contain nucleic acids, lipids and proteins, and are involved in various activities useful to our body, such as the transport of immune molecules and stem cells, as well as the elimination of the cell's catabolic debris.
Exosomes account for perhaps the largest share of EVs, and have been the object of numerous studies for over 50 years. Although few have heard of these beneficial particles, the scientific literature on them is huge, and only on PubMed, if one types "exosome," over 14,000 studies are provided! We cannot go into detail about EVs and exosomes here, but it is important to point out how they are indistinguishable from viruses, and several scientists think that in reality what is defined as a dangerous virus is nothing but a beneficial exosome. (emphasis added)
This "bluff your way into virology"or exosomologystyle of reasoning is vintage Kaufman (and Engelbrecht). The fact of the matter is that no exosome specialist believes these ideas. I consulted three of them: Jan Lötvall, Ken Wittwer and Edwin van der Pol (see Part 3 and Part 4).
"In the sciences, denialism is the rejection of basic facts and concepts that are undisputed, well-supported parts of the scientific consensus on a subject, in favor of radical and controversial ideas." (Wikipedia)
Methods of virus discovery
Indeed, genomic sequencing is the key in this whole discussionif we can even call it that. What strikes me most with these virus denialists is their complete lack of expertise in the genomic techniques of modern virology. Engelbrecht is no exception.
Some historical perspective is in order here:
Virus denialists typically refuse to accept the post-2000 (high throughput sequencing) or even post-1985 (PCR) developments. They prefer to hark back to the methods of old, when virus isolation and Koch's Postulates reigned supreme (or so they imagine it in their romantic version of the history of virology). But why would these non-virologists or hobby-virologists prescribe to professional virologists how to do their science? And imagine themselves to be up to date in that field of science? And why would we believe them at all?
Even within the domain of the various sequencing methods, which have become so much cheaper and faster than earlier versions of sequencing, developments go lightning fast. There is:
Virus denialists like Andrew Kaufman wouldn't even be able to spell these terms.
Metagenomics has even enabled the identification of viruses, bacteria, fungi and host material in a single sample (see Part 6 for more details about the principles of whole genome sequencing).
This is a real science, folks, and a very specialized and sophisticated one at that. Not one for the faint-hearted. And for all practical purposes, assembling the full genome of a virus has replaced earlier methods of establishing its existence, though recent papers about SARS-CoV-2 typically show additional electron-microscopic pictures and experimental results of cell cultures. Professor Zhang Yongzhen, the Chinese researcher who sequenced the first SARS-CoV-2 genome used the latest high throughput sequencing technologies.
Answering Beginners' Questions
Virus denialists do raise some questions that are, however, only legitimate at the elementary level: how can something that isn't alive cause disease? How can something be sequenced if it hasn't been fully isolated and purified? Is a viral genome just constructed in a computer instead of extracted from real life samples? Are all viruses bad for us or only some of them? How can we possibly know if the RNA we extract from a sample belongs to a new virus? How do we tell the difference between viral and human genetic material? But the real study begins here.
Understandably, professional virologists sometimes get tired of all these beginners' questions, but some take the trouble to answer them. This is from Austrialian virologist Ian M. Mackay, who hosts the popular blog "Virology Down Under":
There has been talk out thar in the wildlands of Twitter from people who don't believe the evidence that the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is real. Has the 'the COVID virus' ever been isolated in cell culture, visualised by electron microscopy, reacted with antibodies, genetically sequenced and otherwise characterised in many samples collected from people with coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) all over the world during the past nine months? Sigh, yes, and yes the 'COVID virus' is real. Here are a few of the scientific endeavours that show this virus has been isolated from clinically diagnosed, ill and laboratory-confirmed human COVID-19 cases.
He walks you through the following iconic scientific papers, which you are free to peruse at your own. Here are some of them:
After 40 pages of patient explanation and argumentation, he concludes:
I know there will be comments below (I'll make sure to publish some of the less offensive ones 😀) to the extent that 'I don't care what y'all say, I ain't seen no evidence, make it empirical, abide by the Koch'…or something.
This echoes the emphatic statement of James Hildreth, when I confronted him with Kaufman's opinions about viruses being exosomes: "The virus is real. The pandemic is real and is caused by the virus" (see Part 2).
Asking the Experts
Is there anything of substance to be found in the Virus Mania book, related to the existence and nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus? The authors use very strong language indeed (emphasis added):
There was (and still is) no scientific proof whatsoever for the theory that in December 2019 a new and highly dangerous subtype of a coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) started to cause lung diseases (COVID-19) in humans in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, and then spread practically all over the world. (p. 367-368)
"No scientific proof whatsoever" or a lot of circumstantial evidence?
Despite the absolute lack of evidence for the SARS-CoV-2=COVID-19 dogma, the political policymakers did not shy away from draconian restrictions launching attacks on liberty and basic human rights. (p. 370)
"Absolute lack of evidence" or "lack of absolute evidence"?
Complete purification is an indispensable pre-requisite for virus identification as stated in the textbooks. (p. 387)
Perhaps these textbooks are outdated, given the progress of science?
As a matter of fact, Engelbrecht approached several authors of the first papers about SARS-CoV-2 (Jason Roberts, Julian Druce, Leo Poon, Myung-Guk Han, Wan Beom Park, Na Zhu) and specifically asked them if the electron microscope images shown in their in vitro studies depict completely purified viruses. "However, not a single team of authors... could answer this question with a yes. And it should be noted that no one wrote back suggesting that complete purification is not a necessary step for solid virus detection." (p. 388)
Mark the deep irony here that Engelbrecht is lecturing world class researchers on the topic of virus detection. He avoids the topic of whole genome sequencing, which all of these researchers have practiced to the fullest detail. So he may not have been asking the right questions, and his respondents politely and diplomatically didn't bother to push further on this matter. But he adamantly adds:
If no such particle "purification" has been done anywhere, how can one claim that the RNA obtained is part of a viral genome? And how can such RNA then be widely used to diagnose infection with a new virus? We have asked these two questions to numerous representatives of the official corona narrative worldwide, but nobody could answer them. (p. 390)
So how do you extract a specific virus from this huge mixture of billions of indistinguishable particles, including naturally occurring exosomes? Well, you simply cannot... As if that weren't enough, the primers used are just an infinitesimal fragment of the alleged genome of the virus... How is it possible to select the specific virus you are looking for with such a minute sequence, and moreover in a sea of billions of virus-like particles? Again, it is just not possible! (p. 391) (emphasis added)
The authors give the following example which supposedly casts doubt on the plausibilty that a certain new virus can be found:
Let's imagine that all English literature, including many poems and short stories unknown to the public, are collected in a huge database, and that you want to look for an unknown poem which, however, you believe was important at a certain historical period. You don't know anything about this poem, except that it is a love poem. You will therefore have to enter keywords in the computer that make you find this poem, but you can't use more than 18 to 24 letters. So you type "my love I miss you", a phrase of 18 characters, and with this phrase you should find your poem among about 28 billion poems contained in the database, half of which are love poems. What are the chances of bringing out the specific poem you are looking for and not one different from what interests you? We would say next to zero... and that is what happens with RT-PCR in relation to a presumed virus that is said to be new and is therefore unknown. (p. 391-392)
Google to the rescue!
This line of argument has been used by Stefan Lanka as well (see Part 26), but as we argued: this trick only works for very small strings of letters. As soon as the search string becomes just a tiny bit longer, it gets more and more unique and specific.
Let's try this out. If I type this first sentence of the quote given about in Googleabout 35 characters longto my surprise I find only one hit.
And this is all the more remarkable because the words used in this search string are very common: "imagine", "English", "literature". And yet, Google finds this specific string of letters in just half a second! Searching through billions of web pages...
Without using quotation marks around the search string, the result is much more numerous, of course: over 55 million hits, and it is impossible to find out which ones are relevant for your search.
We can even shorten the search string (as long as we use quotes around it):
So it all comes down to making your search string as long as possible. Even a few extra words will narrow the search down tremendously. As Kary Mullis, the inventor of the PCR technology said: "You can find anything in anybody" (of course, provided it is there).
But this is not at all how de novo whole genome sequencing works. The full genome is reconstructed by analyzing RNA strings ("reads") which have been extracted from a real sample, and assembling these wherever they show overlaps (see Part 6). These reads can be hundreds of bases longso highly unique. As such a genome of 30.000 bases can relatively easily and reliably be put together. Detecting a virus by RT-PCR focuses on a relatively short part of that genome, which is unique for that genome alone, using two primers and a probe with a length of about 20 bases that taken together cover a much larger stretch of the genome. That's enough.
It is very disingenious to give some examples of short sentences and then claim that finding their source is practically impossible. See how Kaufman tried this sleight of hand during his webinar "COVID-19 Myths" (see Part 26). It shows a horrendous lack of expertise when it comes to modern day sequencing techniques.
To make things worse, Engelbrecht claims that "SARS-CoV-2 was 'pieced together' on the computer." (p. 392). He refers to the "physician" Thomas Cowan, who, when commenting on a scientific paper, has called these modern sequencing techniques a case of "scientific fraud". We have covered this in Part 19. It turned out he did not have the faintest clue how sequencing really works. He honestly thought the researchers had looked at only 37 base pairs out of the total of 30.000, when in fact they had used 37 pairs of nested PCRs spanning the genome. Quite a difference that makes a difference!
Again, a total lack of expertise does not hinder these virus denialists to make the wildest claims. There's a word for it: freshmen skepticism.
The authors argue in their Introduction that society has been under the spell of a one-dimensional microbe theory. This is a conception they want to counteract:
This book's central focus is to steer this discussion back to where a scientific debate belongs: on the path to prejudice-free analysis of facts. To clarify one more time, the point is not to show that diseases like cervical cancer, SARS, AIDS or hepatitis C do not exist.* No serious critic of reigning virus theories has any doubt that people or animals are or could be come sick... Instead, the central question is: What really causes these diseases known as cervical cancer, avian flue, SARS, AIDS and hepatitis C? Is it a virus? Is it a virus in combination with other causes? Or is it not a virus at all, but rather something very different? (p. 32)
*I assume "COVID-19" had to be added to that list as well in this new edition.
This makes eminent sense to me. But it is one thing to argue for a multi-faceted integral view of health and disease, acknowledging all relevant perspectives; it is something completely different to cast doubt on the very existence of viruses. That would be going to the opposite extreme. As I wrote in Part 19:
"In a widely read and influential paper by Morens and Fauciyes, the Fauci, who most conspiracy theorists consider to be one of the really bad guysthe following factors are taken into account: agent, host and environment, resulting in a balanced and integral approach to the pandemic. There is no need to deny any of these three main factors. They conclude:
The triad of causations of emerging and other diseases, as conceptualized for over a century, represents interactions between infectious agents, their hosts, and the environment. This conceptualization acknowledges the reality that, while infectious diseases themselves are necessarily "caused" by microbial agents, emergences that produce epidemics and pandemics are also significantly determined by co-factors related to the host and to host-environmental interactions.
The authors refer for this triadic model to a very elementary handbook of epidemiology, Principles of Epidemiology in Public Health Practice (CDC, 2010), which is freely available online. Note the use of quotes around 'caused', signalling that these conventional authors are very well aware of the multi-dimensional nature of explanations for the pandemics that have occurred. Note also they state this model is known 'for over a century'. So this is common knowledge, folks. Nothing spectacular or revolutionary."
While it may be true that society seems to have become obsessed with this SARS-CoV-2 virusit certainly is the most studied and publicized virus in all of human historyand yes, some aspects of the pandemic have been neglected, arguing for its non-existence would certainly seem to be off-balance to me. Remember Kaufman boldly speaking of "a completely imaginary virus" in his foreword to the book and Engelbrechts "absolute lack of evidence for the SARS-CoV-2=COVID-19 dogma"?
With this extremist focus, the no-virus theorists will continue to be relegated to the nether domains of the Internet, telling their audiences they are the real heroes.
So what do the authors of Virus Mania tell us exactly about SARS-CoV-2 (p. 367-447), and its predecessor SARS-CoV (p. 95-212)? Here's an overview of their main theses, with my comments:
*Italian physician and microbiologist (1956-2003) who cointed the term SARS and died of that disease after treating the first SARS patients.
These quite unorthodox views on SARS will raise eyebrows from the medical establishment. Without a virus spreading to other countries, the alternative explanation defaults to the theory that random cases of pneumonia were mislabelled as SARS, due to faulty PCR tests. How toxins from the waste industry are involved here beats me. The negative effects of antiviral medication is a relevant field of study. Incidentially, a case fatality rate of 10% I would hardly call "banal". (Wikipedia)
Here we see the same ungodly mix of legitimate concerns on the one hand and absolutist and paranoid thinking on the other. Are PCR tests "invalid and worthless" or do they need to be interpreted with care? Yes, corona death figures should be put into perspective, and yes, early death estimates were unrealistic, but that is to be expected. Over three millions deaths worldwide as of today is not something to be dismissed lightly, in my opinion (and can't be explained by the relabelling theory). And even though the list of COVID-19 symptoms seems to be quite long, the severity of that disease exceeds that of even a severe flu by some orders of magnitude.
The excess mortality debate has been fought with graphs and stats on both sides, but what I have understood is that, even when demographics is taken into account, it has been substantial (up to 10% in the Netherlands for 2020). Early drug and ventilation practices might have caused unnecessary deaths initially, but these practices have often been changed accordingly. Remarkably, HCQ gets a very bad treatment in this book (even though Trump touted it as a miracle drug). The dangers of the mRNA vaccins have been hotly debated as well, but as it looks to me, the effectiveness in preventing severe COVID-19 is unsurpassed, even though long-term effects are still unknown. And the no-isolation issue seems moot to me given the results of high throughput sequencing, of which the Engelbrecht team seems to be wholly ignorant.
The current pandemic has been a hard time for ambiguity-intolerant people. Almost every facet of it has been hotly debated.
The current pandemic has been a hard time for ambiguity-intolerant people. Almost every facet of it has been hotly debated (do masks help?, is medication available?, is it different from the flu?, have there been excess deaths?, are lockdowns effective? and so on). But in general, the line of reasoning of Virus Mania seems to confuse "absolutely no evidence" with "no absolute evidence". This also affects their understanding that the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself has never reliably been established.
 Torsten Engelbrecht, Claus Köhnlein, Samantha Bailey, Stefano Scoglio, Virus Mania: How the Medical Industry Continually Invents Epidemics, Making Billion Dollar Profits at Our Expense, 3rd edition, Books on Demand, 2021.
[1a] Torsten Engelbrecht co-authored a couple of articles on the conspiracy website Off-Guardian: "Phantom Virus: In Search of SARS-CoV-2", Jan. 2021; "Anthony Fauci: Dr. Baron of Lies", 27. Oktober 2020; "COVID19 PCR Tests are Scientifically Meaningless", 27 June 2020.
 Sean B. Carroll, "The Denialist Playbook: On vaccines, evolution, and more, rejection of science has followed a familiar pattern", www.scientificamerican.com, November 8, 2020.
 Samantha Bailey, "Hunting for Viruses with Dr Andy Kaufman Odysee Exclusive", Odysee, June 8, 2021.
 Mark Woolhouse et al., "Human viruses: discovery and emergence", Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Oct 19.
 Charlie Campbell, "Exclusive: The Chinese Scientist Who Sequenced the First COVID-19 Genome Speaks Out About the Controversies Surrounding His Work", Time, Aug. 24, 2020.
 Ian M. Mackay, "Sigh, yes, the 'COVID virus' is real", virologydownunder.com, October 6, 2020.
 "Doherty Institute scientists first to grow and share 2019 novel coronavirus", Jan. 29, 2020.
This is a time-lapse video of a cell-culture infected with the novel coronavirus. A single layer of kidney cells is visible at the start of the footage and slowly, black dots appear across the cell sheet. The virus cannot be seen, but evidence of its presence can be as infected cells which appear as black dots. As more cells become infected with virus they lift off the cell layer and appear as black dots. More and more infected cells become visible. The video footage starts following 40hrs of culture and finishes following 80hrs of incubation.
See also: Leon Caly et al., "Isolation and rapid sharing of the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) from the first patient diagnosed with COVID-19 in Australia", Medical Journal of Australia, 13 April 2020.
For those who want to dismiss all CPE displaying photos as an artifact of the cell preparation lab methods used (see Part 28 about Stefan Lanka's dubious claim), you can see a clear difference between the mock-infected and the virus-infected cells.
I contacted Julian Druce (Head of Virus Identification Laboratory, co-author of this paper, and approached by Engelbrecht in August 2020 about the isolation issue) by email, and he assured me that the virus has been photographed, cultured, sequenced and traced as to its variants (email June 20, 2021). More specifically, he also confirmed mock-infected cultures should have exactly the same treatment as an infected cultureexcept for the virus:
You are trying to analyze one variable with the infected vs. the uninfected. So the only difference should be the addition of the virus. All culture medium, temperatures and incubation conditions, everything else are the same. For example if a drug is in the equation (examining drug on virus), then you have two controls - one is uninfected with no drug, one is infected with no drug, and one is infected with drug - then you can verify and guarantee that all changes have a reference point.
So I am asking, why do control cultures in scientific papers never show the cytopathic effects that Stefan Lanka claims they do?
 Morens, D.M. & Fauci, S.A., "Emerging Pandemic Diseases: How We Got to COVID-19", Cell, Volume 182, Issue 5, 3 September 2020, Pages 1077-1092.
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)
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