In fact, as internal messages among scientists later revealed, Andersen and his colleagues didn’t have anywhere near this level of certainty, either before or after the paper was published. On a Slack forum of scientists convened by Anthony Fauci, Andersen himself wrote, “Accidental escape [from a lab] is in fact highly likely—it’s not some fringe theory.” He had told Fauci the same thing just a few weeks earlier. Andrew Rambaut, a biologist from the University of Edinburgh also on the Slack forum, said, “I literally swivel day by day thinking it is lab escape or natural.” A few weeks later, the paper was published. How had Andersen and his colleagues moved off their position of doubt about Covid’s origins so quickly?
The question matters because the “proximal origin” paper became the ur-text for shutting down any further exploration of the idea that Covid might have emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan. It also conveniently shut down any discussion of the possibility that China and, by implication, the United States’ scientific funding apparatus—which had subsidized controversial “gain of function” research in Wuhan—were responsible.