The Origins Podcast with Lawrence Krauss

Matt Ridley: The Origins of COVID-19

April 7, 2022

(The Origins Podcast will appear every other Thursday.)

Matt Ridley is a veteran journalist and science writer, with a training in genetics. He is also a Conservative member of the House of Lords in the UK. Matt and I were able to discuss his training, and his move from scientist to journalist, as well as the spectrum of his experiences in his various roles. We then moved on to the centerpiece of our dialogue: His newest book, Viral, written with geneticist Alina Chan. Together they produced what I view to be a masterpiece of science writing and detective work, exploring the origins of Covid-19. Our discussion, like the book, allowed us to illustrate a lot of the science related to the virus, and the current pandemic.

There are numerous surprises. One of the most remarkable was the realization that much of the important detective work uncovering the possible origin of the pandemic came from self-trained internet sleuths who were able to uncover masters theses, as well as online registries that had either not been referenced in the professional literature, or incorrectly referenced.

One comes away from the discussion with the realization that we still do not know for certain the origin of Covid-19, in spite of claims to the contrary. Recent, highly publicized scientific articles suggesting the Wuhan Seafood Market as the origin still have to deal with the fact that no direct evidence of the virus has yet to be uncovered from any of the animals at the market. At the same time, there is clear evidence that the Wuhan Virology Institute was working on Covid viruses, including viruses from bats that had caused Covid-like symptoms coming from a cave located far away in China.

Neither Ridley nor Chan advocate any particular scenario for the current outbreak. But it is clear that open, transparent discussion of the available evidence is very important if the world is to understand better how this pandemic started, and how to possibly head off, or prepare for the next one.

I found our discussion, and the book, incredibly informative, and Matt is a lucid and experienced explicator of both science, and social issues. I hope you enjoy the in-depth discussion we had in this, our most recent episode of The Origins Podcast.

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