Explaining SARS-CoV-2 Origins

Debate has intensified about how SARS-CoV-2 emerged, and some experts have cited the fact that most past pandemics emerged as natural zoonoses to argue that SARS-CoV-2 “most likely” emerged in that same way. This kind of argument substitutes the search for a causal theory explaining a specific event with an invalid assertion about the event’s likelihood. It assumes that grouping the unexplained event into a category with past events that have been explained may shortcut the task of explaining the unexplained event. Specifically, it ignores the fact that details, such as the unique attributes of each specific pandemic pathogen, impose unique constraints on any viable explanation of each distinct origin event. So, the best existing explanations of how past pandemic pathogens originated in no way constitute evidence of how SARS-CoV-2 “most likely” emerged. Arguments of that form distract from and misrepresent the effort to explain the true origins of SARS-CoV-2.

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