The following is an excerpt from an article by Paul Thacker.
Colin Butler picks apart contradictory statements in the science media, and asks why science writers ignore China's disinformation on virus research.
In the last six weeks, the official line from scientists and science writers on the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic has fallen apart. Once dismissed as a “conspiracy theory,” the idea that the COVID-19 virus could have come from a lab in Wuhan is now openly discussed, and researchers and journalists are picking apart the heretofore leading hypothesis that the pandemic started from a natural spillover from bats.
One scientist who has dissected the narrative promoted by science publishers is Colin Butler, a physician, epidemiologist and Honorary Professor of public health at the Australian National University. In an editorial titled, “Plagues, Pandemics, Health Security, and the War on Nature,” Butler highlighted a series of errors and contradictory statements published by Nature, Science, and Scientific American.
“I was taught that, especially in science, you should be honest. And if you're caught lying, you should be embarrassed,” Butler tells The DisInformation Chronicle. “But I've found so many inconsistencies in Chinese stuff, it's like they don't care if they’re caught lying.” Here is an edited and condensed version of our talk.
DICHRON: Tell me about your history with Peter Daszak, who runs EcoHealth Alliance. He’s been constantly in the media for funding and defending Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute for Virology. And Daszak orchestrated that February 2020 statement in The Lancet that called it a “conspiracy” to say the pandemic may have started in a Wuhan lab. [Note to readers: After this interview was complete, The Lancet COVID-19 Commission announced that Daszak was recused from Commission work on the origins of the pandemic.]
You were an editor with Daszak on a journal.
BUTLER: Back in the early 2000s, I was part of this group called the International Association for Ecology and Health, which published a journal called EcoHealth. They had conferences every two years where I would sometimes give talks. Around 2008 or 2009, Peter Daszak became the senior editor, and I was later invited as one of four co-editors.
I thought, “Oh, this is terrific.” Daszak was well-known, and publishing prolifically, so it'd be good to be associated with him. But I later resigned around 2013.
The world's most cited paper on emerging diseases is by Kate Jones and was published in Nature. Daszak is the final, or senior author. It came out in 2008 and has been cited more than 6,000 times, last I checked. I read this paper and found lots of errors. I reckon most people who have cited it have never read it carefully. We all think in groups and herds, so if a paper is well known, then cite it.
I wrote an article in 2012 that spent some space analyzing flaws in this paper. I also edited a report for the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, known as the TDR, that looked at some of the problems in this paper. I sent both of these to Peter, and there was just zero response. So I was losing respect for him. (Continued...)