Conspiracy theories update.

It doesn’t seem to me that there’s actually much new evidence suggesting that the coronavirus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. There’s now a confirmed record of safety concerns about the lab. That evidence moves the dial a bit, I guess, but there’s nothing directly tying the virus to the lab.

What this news does illuminate is that the lab-accident theory has been plausible this whole time, while we’ve been calling people conspiracy theorists and banning them fromĀ social media for saying so. It is in fact deeply suspicious that a bat coronavirus started spreading among humans a few miles away from China’s top lab for studying bat coronaviruses and the threat they pose to humans.

Mind you, most of these people are sloppy – they drew overly certain conclusions from weak evidence, made unjustified claims about the virus being a genetically engineered bioweapon, and so on. But people make sloppy arguments all the time – should we really be deplatforming people for spreading a theory that might be substantially true?

One thing’s for sure: If at some point good evidence emerges that the virus did come from the lab, I’ll have to drop my claim that no fringe conspiracy theory has ever turned out to be right.

Conspiracies without theories, theories without conspiracies, and theories about conspiracies.

A post last month on /r/slatestarcodex asked whether professors who believe in conspiracy theories should get to keep their jobs. That question seems pretty easy to me – if their beliefs interfere with their teaching, then firing or some other kind of discipline is appropriate, otherwise not. What’s more interesting to me is one of the follow-up comments:

“MKUltra, the Gulf of Tonkin, Bohemian Grove, CIA involvement with the Dalai Lama, Cigarettes causing cancer, the testomony of ‘Nayirah’ before the Gulf War, Operation Mockingbird, CIA involvement in the importation of Cocaine, The Iran-Contra affair, even the Chernobyl nuclear disaster all started as conspiracy theories.”

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