The ‘lab leak’ hypothesis clouds the real question that needs to be answered

Kent Kroeger
6 min readFeb 28

By Kent R. Kroeger (February 28, 2023)

The Wuhan Institute of Virology (Photo by Ureem2805; used under the CCA-Share Alike 4.0 International license)

“People don’t deem you controversial because you are wrong, they deem you controversial because they wish you were wrong.” — Chris Frank

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” — Charlie Chaplin

“Trust by verify.” —President Ronald Reagan

Nothing kills the advancement of knowledge better than asking the wrong questions.

Case in point…

Over the weekend, the U.S. Energy Department released their analysis of the origins of COVID-19, deciding that, with ‘low confidence’, the ‘lab leak’ hypothesis is the most likely cause of a pandemic that has killed nearly 7 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

The major news outlets — The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR — quickly emphasized that the Energy Department’s conclusions are with ‘low confidence,’ never mentioning that fact that the alternative hypothesis — that the virus had natural origins — garnered even lower confidence within this little known group of Energy Department scientists.

But that is not the tragedy of this latest news on the origins of COVID-19. The real tragedy is that nobody in the news media and scientific community seem curious enough to answer the bigger, more important, question: Was the original COVID-19 virus man-made?

If the original COVID-19 virus actually leaked from a Chinese lab, it still could have had natural origins. Does it really matter if a natural virus either leaked from a lab or found its way into a Wuhan seafood market? Yes, it does matter on some level, but not to the degree a man-made virus would in shaking the very foundations of virology and medical science in general.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology routinely collects such viruses. But what if the original COVID-19 virus was, first, created in the context of gain of function-type research — a research methodology openly employed in the past to pro-actively develop treatments and vaccines for potential pandemics like COVID-19?

Kent Kroeger

I am a survey and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion (You can contact me at: