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The Truth About LSD: Research Reveals Many Therapeutic and Medicinal Benefits

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Albert Hofmann (1906-2008). Unbeknownst to him at the time, Hofmann created one of the most potent hallucinogens known to man at his Swiss laboratory in 1938.  LSD became the forefront of clinical research in the 1950s and opened new doors in the world of psychotherapy.

Albert Hofmann (1906-2008). Unbeknownst to him at the time, Hofmann synthesized one of the most potent hallucinogens known to man at his Swiss laboratory in 1938. LSD became the forefront of clinical research in the 1950’s and opened new doors in the world of psychotherapy.

Albert Hofmann’s Psychedelic Discovery 

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Ink tab depicts the day Hofmann discovered the psychedelic properties of LSD

“Bicycle Day”. Ink tab depicts the day Hofmann discovered the psychedelic properties of LSD

In November of 1938, Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann was studying the medicinal plant squill and the ergot fungus to create a respiratory and circulatory stimulant, and first synthesized lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as LSD. Hofmann shelved LSD for 5 years before he returned to look at the chemical once again. While in the midst of resynthesizing LSD, Hofmann accidentally absorbed a small amount of the chemical into his fingertips, and reported strange feelings and fantastic visions later that evening. Curious of his discovery, he later took what he thought was a threshold dose of LSD (0.25 Milligrams) to observe its peculiar effects. Little did Hofmann know that LSD’s true threshold dose is 20 micrograms, and he was sent on an extraordinary psychedelic journey into his own psyche. In what has become a hallmark story in history, Hofmann documented his bicycle ride home after his large dose of LSD,

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Here the notes in my laboratory journal cease. I was able to write the last words only with great effort. I had to struggle to speak intelligibly. I asked my laboratory assistant, who was informed of the self-experiment, to escort me home. We went by bicycle, no automobile being available because of wartime restrictions on their use. On the way home, my condition began to assume threatening forms. Everything in my field of vision wavered and was distorted as if seen in a curved mirror. I also had the sensation of being unable to move from the spot. Nevertheless, my assistant later told me that we had traveled very rapidly. Finally, we arrived at home safe and sound, and I was just barely capable of asking my companion to summon our family doctor and request milk from the neighbors.” (Albert Hofmann, LSD: My Problem Child)

Hofmann was unaware that he had just discovered one of the most potent psychedelics known to man. In the 1950’s LSD exploded in the United States when scientists discovered its clinical application, testing its therapeutic benefits in patient/client settings. Serotonergic psychedelics such as LSD allow its user a deeper exploration of their psyche, often unlocking more psychoanalytic abilities within their minds.

During the first 30 years of LSD research extensive testing was conducted, generating over 1000 scientific papers, dozens of books and multiple conferences. The verdict was in: psychedelics were opening new doors in the clinical therapy world, allowing researchers to delve into the deepest corners of people’s minds as well as treat the most challenging of mental disorders.

LSD became central to the counterculture movement of the 1960s, as peace and love were advocated by the public to end the Vietnam war.

LSD became central to the counterculture movement of the 1960’s, as peace and love were advocated by the public to end the Vietnam war.

Prohibition of LSD came in the 1960’s after the drug became a popular recreational drug among the world’s youth. In 1963 the FDA classified LSD as an Investigational New Drug, which was the first stage of its prohibition and which put new restrictions on its scientific and medical use.  Leading figures such as Aldous Huxley and Timothy Leary publicly advocated the use of LSD, and the drug soon became central to the counterculture movement of the 1960’s. People were expanding their consciousness like never before, and this threatened the governments desired and held control over peoples minds. Rumours spread about a person jumping out of their 4th story window while under the influence of LSD, and this caused hysteria to breakout in regards to the possible psychotic dangers of the drug.  Possession of LSD became illegal on October 24th, 1968, after which it was classified as a ‘Schedule I’ drug in the US. This silenced almost all scientific and medicinal research for decades, and LSD was put back onto the shelves once again.

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Therapeutic Applications of LSD

During the era when LSD research was first being conducted, there was a correlation among the studies that couldn’t be denied; scientists were noting the positive effects observed in patients being treated for a wide variety of conditions.

In a 1963 study performed by Charles Savage of Stanford University, 144 patients were given LSD and mescaline and were each given questionnaires to describe their negative or positive experience. Follow-ups on the subjects extended up to 2 years after the study. 83% of the subjects felt the experience was of lasting benefit, 88% of the subjects felt that it gave them a great understanding of themselves and others, 78% thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened to them, 83% said it gave them a new way of looking at the world, and 77% stated a transcendental experience beyond their usual comprehension.[3]

In Betty Grover Eisner’s book Remembrances of LSD Therapy’s Past, she outlines her years of clinical research revealing LSD’s powerful ability to treat psychoneurotic patients.

“Of the 22 subjects in the study carried out at the Brentwood V.A., five subjects were neuropsychiatric hospital patients and 17 were volunteer outpatients. Problems ranged from depressive states to borderline schizophrenic patients in the hospital. Our improved rate was just over 72%, as judged by the two doctors, the patient, and the individual closest to the patient. Follow-up interviews were held over periods ranging from six to 17 months, continuing success in behavioral adaptation being the criteria of improvement. For instance, one of the “non-improved” categories, a hospital patient, was cured of his alcoholism, the reason for his admission, only to become a compulsive gambler two years later. The rate of improvement was 16 out of 22 patients.”

Eisner goes on to describe one specific subject from the experiment who suffered from severe alcoholism and who experienced a drastic change in behavior,

“Probably our most dramatic patient was an alcoholic who had been hospitalized 23 times for bouts of drunkenness during which he usually became violent. J.D. had seven LSD sessions with discussions in between when he requested them. He improved to the point of being discharged from the hospital and has never been rehospitalized — some 35 years later (although, he did drink again). His weekly productions in the art clinic are a fascinating record of the drama of his recovery, although they do not picture the event which made his recovery possible: the abreaction of an incident where he had been captured by the Germans in World War II and had to kill two Germans in order to escape and return through enemy lines to his own Air Force unit.”

This kind of research is substantial considering that there are currently hundreds of millions of people in the world that are affected by alcohol dependency or abuse. Psychedelics, such as LSD, allow its user to gain a new awareness from which they are able to understand their thoughts and behavior like never understood before. Eisner goes on to discuss another remarkable schizoid patient who was treated with LSD,

“We gave the patient a series of LSD sessions of gradually increasing dosage and walked him past his psychosis so that he was able to be discharged the following month. Again, we have a record of his progress in the pastel drawings he did each week. This was a schizoid patient who was almost impossible to tolerate until he was under LSD, and then he could be related to. He had been unable to get a job or to maintain a relationship, but after 16 LSD sessions, he was able to do both. However, evidently we didn’t drain the reservoir of his hostility enough during his sessions. Incidentally, it was interesting to note how LSD lowered an individual’s barriers enough to make the person possible to relate to. No matter how unpleasant or hostile before, all patients were “lovable” once the LSD was working strongly.”

It’s curious that LSD was classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, deemed to have a high potential for abuse, no legitimate medical use in its treatment and a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision. There are no documented deaths from chemical toxicity of LSD; the recorded deaths are a result of behavioral toxicity.[5][6] The CIA was using LSD for mind control testing in the 1950’s as part of a now declassified program titled MK-Ultra, and rumours quickly spread that the government wanted to conceal the power of psychedelics for their private use only. The following statement is from a DEA publication,

“Although initial observations on the benefits of LSD were highly optimistic, empirical data developed subsequently proved less promising … Its use in scientific research has been extensive and its use has been widespread. Although the study of LSD and other hallucinogens increased the awareness of how chemicals could affect the mind, its use in psychotherapy largely has been debunked. It produces no aphrodisiac effects, does not increase creativity, has no lasting positive effect in treating alcoholics or criminals, does not produce a ‘model psychosis’, and does not generate immediate personality change.”[5]

But the studies state otherwise. For example, recent clinical studies revealed that patients suffering from an idiopathic disorder called “cluster headaches” could be treated with 2-bromo-LSD, an analogue of the hallucinogenic form. [7] Cluster headaches, sometimes referred to as “suicide headaches” because of the almost unbearable pain they cause sufferers, usually involve just one side of the face; patients often liken the pain to someone trying to pull their eye out for hours. They can occur in bouts lasting many weeks, with several attacks a day. The study presented the data of six patients with severe cluster headache who were given BOL once every 5 days for a total of three doses. All patients reported a reduction in the frequency of attacks, and five patients reported having no attacks for months afterward.[7]

According to an analysis of over 130,000 randomly chosen people, the use of LSD and other psychedelics does not increase a person’s risk of developing mental health problems.[10] The study was conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and the results found that significant correlations existed between psychedelic drug use and fewer mental health problems.[10]  The researchers found that lifetime use of psilocybin or mescaline and past year use of LSD were associated with lower rates of serious psychological distress; lifetime use of LSD was also significantly associated with a lower rate of outpatient mental health treatment and psychiatric medicine prescription. Recent clinical trials have also failed to find any evidence of any lasting harmful effects of psychedelics. So the black and white government fear-mongering films were just that after all, propaganda.

Stanislav Grof, another famous psychedelic researcher and author, suggests that psychedelics may offer a solution to the global crises currently affecting our planet,

“In the last few decades, it has become increasingly clear that humanity is facing a crisis of unprecedented proportions. Modern science has developed effective measures that could solve most of the urgent problems in today’s world–combat the majority of diseases, eliminate hunger and poverty, reduce the amount of industrial waste, and replace destructive fossil fuels by renewable sources of clean energy. The problems that stand in the way are not of economical or technological nature. The deepest sources of the global crisis lie inside the human personality and reflect the level of consciousness evolution of our species.

In one of my early books I suggested that the potential significance of LSD and other psychedelics for psychiatry and psychology was comparable to the value the microscope has for biology or the telescope has for astronomy. My later experience with psychedelics only confirmed this initial impression. These substances function as unspecific amplifiers that increase the cathexis (energetic charge) associated with the deep unconscious contents of the psyche and make them available for conscious processing. This unique property of psychedelics makes it possible to study psychological undercurrents that govern our experiences and behaviours to a depth that cannot be matched by any other method and tool available in modern mainstream psychiatry and psychology. In addition, it offers unique opportunities for healing of emotional and psychosomatic disorders, for positive personality transformation, and consciousness evolution.”[8][9]

A New Era of Healing and Therapy

Psychedelics and other planet medicines are now being given the "go" in clinical research, something that has been outlawed for decades.  What  new information will we discover through the therapeutic use of LSD and other entheogens?

Psychedelics and other planet medicines are now being given the “go” in clinical research, something that has been outlawed for decades. What new information will we discover through the therapeutic use of LSD and other entheogens?

It is clear that psychedelics may offer a solution to many ailments and trauma’s suffered by the general population. Furthermore, just as Stanislav Grof stated, the greater picture of ecologic and social crisis that is currently destroying our planet and stunting the evolution of the human species is more likely the external reflection of our unexplored and wounded consciousness.

Thankfully, in the last decade, psychedelic research has been ignited once again, as the government has begun approving controlled clinical trials. Scientists, who at one time had their careers silenced if they brought up psychedelics in the workplace, are now being provided the freedom to explore the medicinal applications of drugs like LSD, MDMA, psilocybin, DMT and mescaline. There has been a shift in the general understanding of entheogenic compounds like LSD; we are doing our own research and deciding for ourselves what is “dangerous” and what is not. We are looking inwards to heal, rather than turning to the common vices such as alcohol and the biggest killer of them all, pharmaceuticals. Sacred planet medicines such as ayahuasca (which contains the potent psychedelic DMT) are also gaining widespread attention in the Western World and are leading the way for us to gain deeper understandings of ourselves, our connection to the each other, and the planet. As more barriers and limitations are lifted from the scope of scientific research, we will continue to see new innovations and revolutions in fields such as medicine, holistic health and psychotherapy.

References:

1.)    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/235827?uid=3739448&uid=2&uid=3737720&uid=4&sid=21102880846417 (LSD Before Leary: Sidney Cohen’s Critique of 1950s Psychedelic Drug Research)

2.)    http://www.lycaeum.org/research/researchpdfs/0908.pdf (The Use of LSD In Psychotherapy and Alcoholism)

3.)    http://www.amsciepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2466/pr0.1964.14.1.111 (LSD: Therapeutic Effects, Stanford University Study)

4.)    http://alcoholismstatistics.net/ (Alcoholism Stats)

5.)    http://web.petabox.bibalex.org/web/20011116091659/www.usdoj.gov/dea/pubs/lsd/lsd-4.htm (DEA publication about LSD)

6.)    http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1011615-overview (LSD Toxicity Reports)

7.)    http://news.sciencemag.org/brain-behavior/2011/06/lsd-alleviates-suicide-headaches

8.)    Grof, Stanislav (1998). The Cosmic Game: Explorations of the Frontiers of Human Consciousness. SUNY Press.

9.)    Hofmann, Albert (1979). LSD: My Problem Child. L.P Tarcher, Inc.

10.) http://reason.com/blog/2013/08/21/lsd-other-psychedelics-dont-drive-you-cr

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Lebanese Hospital Becomes The World’s First To Go 100 Percent Vegan (Food)

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A hospital in Lebanon has become the first in the world to adopt a completely vegan menu.

  • Reflect On:

    Are people aware of the physical and emotional torture the majority animals we eat go through? Are people aware that a diet free of animal products can be very beneficial for human health. Are people aware that animal agriculture is destroying Earth?

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At the beginning of March, Hayek Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon became the first hospital in the world to serve 100 percent vegan only meals. Prior to this change, patients had a choice between animal based meals and vegan meals, and included with that was information about the health benefits of choosing plant-based foods versus the dangers of consuming animal products. The hospital made the announcement via their Instagram page, stating that “Our patients will no longer wake up from surgery to be greeted with ham, cheese, milk, and eggs…the very food(s) that may have contributed to their health problems in the first place.”

When the World Health Organization classifies processed meat as a group 1A carcinogenic (causes cancer) same group as tobacco and red meat as group 2A carcinogenic, then serving meat in the hospital is like serving cigarettes in a hospital. When the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) declare that 3 out of 4 new or emerging infectious disease comes from animals. When adopting a plant based exclusive diet has been successfully proven not only to stop the evolution of certain diseases but it can also reverse them. We then, have the moral responsibility to act upon and align our beliefs with our actions. Taking the courage to look at the elephant in in the eye.

Their various statements also point to the role that animal agriculture plays in spawning infectious diseases, citing the Centers for Disease Control’s estimate that 3 out of 4 new or emerging infectious diseases come from animals. “We believe it’s well about time to tackle the root cause of diseases and pandemics, not just treat symptoms,” they note.

This was a great statement. The modern day medical industry only seems to be focused on medications, and only medications that can turn a hefty profit, to treat and cure disease instead of addressing root causes. It’s good to see things changing, but a big problem remains. If a plant that grows in abundance, for example, has the potential to cure a disease, will we ever hear about it? Will the medical industry be interested in it? Probably not, but when a drug is made and patented from that plant in a specific way, that’s when we will. This is not to say that modern day medicine is useless, but today now more than ever a big problem exists, and this problem may be killing more people than it’s helping.

Arnold Seymour Relman (1923-2014), a Harvard professor of medicine and also a former Editor-in-Chief of NEMJ, was frustrated that “the medical profession is being bought by the pharmaceutical industry, not only in terms of the practice of medicine, but also in terms of teaching and research. The academic institutions of this country are allowing themselves to be the paid agents of the pharmaceutical industry. I think it’s disgraceful.” (source)

According to Forks Over Knives,

While Hayek is the first hospital to completely purge animal products from its menu, a number of hospitals have begun offering more plant-based options in recent years. Both New York and California have enacted laws requiring hospitals to offer a plant-based option with every meal. In 2018 NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue launched the Plant-Based Lifestyle Medicine Program to help patients transition to a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.

The American Medical Association passed a resolution in 2017 calling on U.S. hospitals to provide healthful plant-based meals to promote better health in patients, staff, and visitors. The American College of Cardiology has issued similar recommendations.

In my opinion, “veganism is a very fine form of nutrition” (Dr. Ellsworth Wareham, heart surgeon), and as mentioned above, there is plenty of science to back up that statement.  I’ve written about it many times before from a health perspective.

Here’s an article that goes into more detail and science if you’re interested, it also addresses history, and how our teeth and guts are designed and more. Here’s another one regarding a study that found a strong association between eating animal protein and a premature death from all causes, including multiple cancers and type 2 diabetes.

The studies cited in that article note that meat eating is strongly associated with up to a 75 percent increased chance of early mortality, and that protein from animals may cause harm, while protein from plants may help reverse disease and have a protective effect.

There are hundreds of these studies, and the ones I cite are just a few examples.

This is obviously a very controversial topic in the eyes of many, and it’s not hard at all to find conflicting information on the subject. I am no doubt bias in my beliefs and opinions here.

One thing is for certain, the way we treat animals on this planet is extremely heartbreaking and unnecessary. Animals are separated from their families, raised for slaughter and are kept in torturous conditions on a daily basis. It’s truly unbelievable and horrific. It’s the biggest genocide and example of both physical and emotional torture the world has ever seen. I don’t think anybody can witness what really goes on in most slaughterhouses can come out not being impacted.

On top of this, animal agriculture is one of, if not the greatest contributer to environmental degradation and pollution on our planet. Animal agriculture is actually the leading cause of deforestation. Every single day, close to 100 plant/animal/insect species are lost because of this practice.

Final Thoughts: At the end of the day it seems that, from a health perspective, processed meats, and other meats are no doubt harmful to human health. People can make the argument that other animal products may not be and that we are meant to consume them. People can also make the complete opposite argument. One thing that can’t be argued is, again, the torture, physical and emotional abuse that comprise the source of where animal products come from for the majority of people who eat them.

There is a big split, as with many other topics, amongst people on this issue. There are even vegan influencers who are creating splits within the ‘vegan community’ itself, which is unfortunate. I personally believe that, from a health perspective, animal products are not at all required for anybody and are again, overall, harmful to human health.

The more pressing issue, again, is the treatment of our animal brothers and sisters, and how we are constantly using and abusing them. It’s indicative of world that lacks empathy, compassion, understanding and love, as well as our inability to see ourselves in another. This can be seen in many aspects of the current human experience, be it war, human trafficking and more. That being said, it’s great to see human consciousness shifting towards a more compassionate, empathetic type of awareness. This is evident by the “vegan” movement alone, as it’s become quite large over the past few years and will continue to grow. Some of the biggest animal food producers have already gone out of business, and it’s great to see more people in the health community as well recognize that it’s a win for health, a win for environment, and most importantly, a win for the very emotional, intelligent, animals, who are similar to us in so many ways. We have so much to learn from them.

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Caloric Restriction vs. Fasting: Why One Can Result In Weight Gain While The Other Helps Burn Fat

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    In the video below, Dr. Jason Fung explains the difference between caloric restriction and sending the body into "starvation" mode compared to fasting.

  • Reflect On:

    Fasting has been used as a health intervention for thousands of years, and is being used today by doctors who are educated on the topic. Why is it completely ignored by mainstream medicine? Is it because "big pharma" can't make any money off of it?

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Some would say that the best solution to weight gain is eating right and exercising. I couldn’t agree more. Obesity is one of the deadliest problems humanity faces today, and just as important as diet and exercise is for addressing this issue, even more important are the emotional and personal reasons as to why so many people damage themselves and make themselves more prone to serious disease.

Apart from diet and exercise, initiating a proper fasting regimen can have tremendous health outcomes, especially for overweight people. It wasn’t but a decade ago when fasting to lose weight was considered unhealthy and dangerous. Today, we have a tremendous amount of science that’s been published clearly showing that fasting can be an effective health intervention for people of all body types, especially for people who are overweight and suffer from certain diseases. It’s an excellent way to help your body burn fat. Fasting has been used and is currently being used as an intervention for type two diabetes, cancer and more. Fasting has been shown to trigger stem cell regeneration, autophagy, which in turn can help clear out toxins and damaged cells, repair DNA, improve metabolism, lower blood sugar, boost brain function, reduce the risk of age related disease, lessen inflammation which improves a wide range of health issues from arthritic pain to asthma and more. It’s no wonder why so many ancient cultures from different parts of the world used fasting as medicine and as a health intervention.

As shown in the science, fasting is generally safe for everybody. This many not be true if you already have underlying health conditions or are taking certain medications. This is why it’s important to consult a health professional about it, but the issue is, the majority of health professionals are not well educated in fasting interventions. Those who have educated themselves have been treating their patients with fasting and are drawn to it due to its ability to provide so many benefits.

One of these doctors is Dr. Jason Fung, who on his blog and his YouTube channel, as well as the books he’s written provides a wealth of information and science regarding fasting. I often refer people to the work of Fung, or others like Dr. Valter Longo if they want to begin their own research about fasting. Again, there is a wealth of science and “scholarly” articles available on the subject for anybody who wants to search for it as well. It’s not heard to find.

In the video below, Fung explains why fasting is much different from caloric restriction or having your body go into “starvation mode.”  You can also check out his article, “The difference between calorie restriction and fasting” for some great information as well.

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The Deeper Questions Behind The “Lab Origins” Debate

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    It is being slowly accepted that SARS-COV2 originated in a laboratory. The delay in this admission has not been due to media "spin" alone but from scientists themselves.

  • Reflect On:

    How can we "trust the science" if the scientists are being disingenuous?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

As the majority of Americans gather around the prevailing voice of our trusted medical institutions, those opposing it seem to be digging in their heels as well. Why is this happening? After all, we are not arguing over religion or political ideology (or at least we shouldn’t be). This pandemic and its management falls squarely in the realm of science, something that should be objective and indisputable. How is the layperson supposed to make sense of the growing polarity concerning this issue? Unless one has related training in virology, epidemiology, statistics and a decent understanding of the history and the sequence of investigations that have led scientific opinion to consensus positions before this pandemic, there is no way to be “scientific”. How are we to know whether the edicts coming from our leaders are reasonable and founded? This puts us in a difficult position, one that we are unable or unwilling to acknowledge: we have to trust someone else. The question is, whom?

Mainstream Media is beginning to acknowledge that SARS-COV2 originated in a lab

There has recently been a shift in the mainstream narrative. Some of these mainstream sources have been willing to take a hard look at where this virus came from: the “lab origins” thesis. In this recent interview with evolutionary biologists Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, popular satirist and political commentator Bill Maher admits that “it would almost be a conspiracy theory to think it didn’t start in a lab.” The reasons for this are clear to anyone who has looked beyond the veil of simplistic statements and abjectly poor investigative journalism coming from mainstream sources. Gain of Function studies on SARS viruses were being conducted in publicly funded laboratories in this country for years prior to 2014. One could argue this was part of bioterrorism research just as easily as it was part of a pandemic preparedness effort. It is not so hard to see that in order to be prepared to combat a highly contagious and virulent pathogen we must be able to study the pathogen itself. Pandemic preparedness and bioterrorism research are basically the same thing.

As the story unfolds in the mainstream narrative, it is becoming apparent that the wet market hypothesis will soon be jettisoned for its sheer implausibility. Is it likely that this virus could survive in a bat or pangolin for generations while mutating in such a way that it could not only immediately survive in a human body but be so virulent as well? What are the factors that would be involved in allowing this new strain to behave unlike previous SARS viruses in terms of its copious presence in our nasopharyngeal cavities, apparent transmissibility in the asymptomatic and enduring pathogenicity when floating around in the air or lurking on surfaces? The answer is far more than one, making this wet market to global pandemic story all the more unacceptable.

As establishment science comes to its senses, we are left with the reality that the pandemic has most probably been the consequence of a laboratory research that got out of control. It may not be excusable or forgivable but at least we can take comfort that our attention has been refocused on what is plausible. However simply acknowledging the high probability of lab origins and moving forward with all the same initiatives to combat this virus is not enough. There are more questions that need to be posed first.

How did some Scientists “spin” the science?

This argument over SARS-COV2 origin is not new at all. It was being hotly debated a year ago for some of the same reasons I mentioned above. The lab origin thesis was effectively (and prematurely) purged from “acceptable” discussions when a paper entitled “The Proximal Origin of SARS-COV2” (KG Anderson et al) appeared in Nature Medicine (March 17, 2020). This piece served as the foundation of a wall of scientific opinion that was rapidly erected to contain the dangerous “conspiracy theory” that the virus was a product of human intention and ingenuity. If you were to read the piece it would be hard to not end up shrugging your shoulders and going along with the authors’ thesis. The authors are well-respected and published scientists that include W. Ian Lipkin, pathologist, neurobiologist and epidemiologist at Columbia University,  internationally recognized for his work around W. Nile Virus and SARS. They are assured in their conclusions and offer the reader, among other things, a comparative study of the peptide structure and genetic sequence of this virus and closely related variants. 

I am a physician and was led to this piece months ago in my research into this topic. I admit that I was left scratching my head. It wasn’t until I tuned in to a blog surrounding this and other issues hosted by Dr. Meryl Nass, a respected and dutiful researcher of pandemics and bioterrorism, that l was able to grasp where the misdirection was introduced. Dr. Nass correctly points out that it may not be possible to irrefutably prove that the virus was of lab origin or not, however it is the erroneous assumptions and unsound logic the authors of the Nature Medicine article use that point to the obscuration of the facts in a manner we could reasonably deem as deliberate.

After presenting us with a thorough description of the structure of SARS-COV-2 and analysis of its means of entering human cell lines via the Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, the authors introduce their challenge to the lab origins position. The authors state:

“While the analyses above suggest that SARS-CoV-2 may bind human ACE2 with high affinity, computational analyses predict that the interaction is not ideal and that the RBD sequence is different from those shown in SARS-CoV to be optimal for receptor binding. Thus, the high-affinity binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to human ACE2 is most likely the result of natural selection on a human or human-like ACE2 that permits another optimal binding solution to arise. This is strong evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is not the product of purposeful manipulation.”

Anderson et al are presenting their first line of attack on the Lab Origins hypothesis. Because their computational analysis predicts that a different and more “optimal” receptor-binding domain (RBD) portion of the spike protein on SARS-COV-2 could have been built, they say, it must have arisen naturally. The authors are assuming that if the virus was the product of bioterrorists they would have designed it differently. Is this sound logic? It is not. First, the authors are presupposing that their computational method is the only one available for use. Second, there is no reason to assume that a bioterrorist would choose the genetic solution that was “optimal”. Moreover, picking a “solution” identical to a computationally derived genetic sequence would leave an obvious clue that human hands were involved. This is in fact what the authors are correctly pointing out. 

This line of reasoning sheds light upon their foundational assumptions about the sophistication and intentions of would-be bioterrorists. Are they experimenters in laboratories building a novel coronavirus to a computer model’s specs to study it? Or are they true bioterrorists seeking to design a bioweapon that has no trace of human manipulation? Obviously one cannot know. Making either assumption cannot be part of any rigorous forensic analysis.

The authors go on:

“It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus. As noted above, the RBD of SARS-CoV-2 is optimized for binding to human ACE2 with an efficient solution different from those previously predicted. Furthermore, if genetic manipulation had been performed, one of the several reverse-genetic systems available for betacoronaviruses would probably have been used. However, the genetic data irrefutably show that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone.”

Here the authors are introducing yet another unfounded assumption: If the virus was designed as a biological weapon, why would a known coronavirus backbone necessarily be used as a basis for genetic manipulation? Certainly that option would be entertained by a team of bioterrorism researchers, but it is illogical to begin with that assumption. There are undoubtedly coronavirus backbones that have been genetically manipulated and remain behind closed doors and outside of public databases, i.e. unknown. It is equally logical to conclude that because no known backbone was used the virus was purposefully manipulated.  

In any case, genetic manipulation is not the only way to create a backbone of a virus. The oldest way is to use passage, a laboratory technique where a virus is cultured through a series of cell lines from different species resulting in a viable product that will survive in the target species. Other techniques are also readily available: exposing a known virus to mutagenic factors, collecting those that survive and repeating the process or simply mixing related viruses together to see what recombinant products result. None of these methods will result in a “solution” that would be in any way predictable at the outset. Indeed, that is the advantage of using such techniques. This is a fact that is well known to virologists, making the authors’ analysis all the more suspicious.

It is undeniable that the authors were using poor logic and unfounded assumptions to make unsound conclusions. This should have been obvious to the scientific community at that time, and this paper should not have made it through the editorial process of such a respected publication as Nature Medicine. The disquieting thing is that quite the opposite occurred. The article instead served as the seminal piece to squelch all arguments for the lab origin hypothesis once a flurry of subsequent publications cited it. Who should be held accountable for this? The authors? The editorial committee of Nature Medicine? The cadre of scientists that chose to use this publication to “manufacture consensus”? The mainstream media for failing in their responsibility to offer a balanced view of the debate around this article? None can be held solely responsible and all were required to perpetuate the distortion. The implications here are very serious and impossible to ignore.

Who can we rely upon to faithfully report “the science”?

Are there no stops to the dissemination of baseless “scientific” opinion? This is a question that rarely gets asked because we tend to assume that in the end, scientific consensus will be reached without the need for oversight. We are talking about science and scientists here, not policy makers or private industrialists with conflicts of interest and personal gains that hang in the balance. Yet the lines between science, industry and policy-making are blurrier the closer we look. In any case, who can we rely upon to ensure that the scientists are doing their job in formulating sound approaches to the problems at hand? There isn’t anyone, other than the scientists themselves. So what went wrong here? How did the Anderson paper end up deftly hamstringing a viable theory about the origins of SARS-COV2 a year ago using specious logic and unnecessary assumptions? Why didn’t anyone say anything? Despite what is generally known, many did.

Here’s where things get hopeful, depending on how you look at them. It would be wrong to dismiss all virologists, epidemiologists and researchers as slaves to corporate funded research institutions and group-think. Behind the veil of headlines that tout the rigor of the data and fuel the “trust the science” mantra there are collections of perspicacious and tireless researchers and journalists that have been pushing back against the established opinion and raising valid concerns about the hijacking of the narrative by members of their own ilk. Notably RFK Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense and Dr. Joseph Mercola have published an excellent paper that comprehensively summarized the ongoing work of Dr. Alina Chan of MIT’s Broad Institute who has documented the timeline and significance of how the spin has been manufactured by the scientific community themselves. Of course, many are familiar with Mr. Kennedy and Dr. Mercola not because of what they are bringing to complex discussions but because of their stigmatization as purveyors of “anti-vax” and “pseudoscience” opinions. Once so marked they are felled by the mainstream media machine with all the efficiency and discrimination of a logger’s chainsaw in an old-growth forest.

There are others that are broadcasting the same signal of reason. DRASTIC (Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating Covid-19) is a group of independent scientists, journalists and researchers that have been bringing attention to the suspicious ways that the debate surrounding the origin of SARS-COV2 has been marginalized within the scientific community itself (more about their work here). For example, “A Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals and medical professionals of China combatting Covid-19” appeared in the correspondence section of the esteemed medical journal Lancet in March of 2020. In this letter the authors explicitly characterize any dissent to the natural origins hypothesis as “rumour, disinformation and conspiracy theories”. 

What are we to make of such accusations leveled against scientists by scientists? This sort of rhetoric has no place in any scientific discussion of any kind and should be a matter of real concern for everyone. Has science been corrupted by the same forces that are undeniably turning investigative journalism into a means of promulgating propaganda in some instances? If that were the case, how then are we to “trust the science”?

The Predicament that we are in

We are in an uncomfortable situation. Unless we can independently dismantle the arguments like those in the Anderson paper, or can understand the significance of the appearance of a mysterious 12 nucleotide sequence in the SARS-COV2 genome that confers the virus with a polybasic furin cleavage site (resulting in a substantial increase in virulence described here), or can appreciate the implications of a situation where scientific journals publish papers without requiring authors to supply the raw data required for independent genomic confirmation, we are stuck. If the science is being spun or misrepresented or poorly reported, there would be no way to know it.

Determining the origin of SARS-COV2 is an important question that still needs to be answered definitively. Attempting to answer this question has brought light to more disturbing questions. We cannot expect the layperson to comprehend the scientific studies that underpin our approach to this pandemic, let alone critique the logic and assumptions made by the authors of these papers. Expecting that a news correspondent, mainstream or otherwise, is anymore capable of dissecting such information is not realistic either. Until we come to grips with this we will not be able to grasp the enormity of the crisis we are facing.

The Takeaway

An honest examination into the origin of SARS-COV2 suggests a danger more pernicious than the virus itself. How much of scientific opinion is dictated by non-scientific interests? How many other “consensus” positions are rooted in inexcusably poor reasoning and assumptions? If we can only rely on independent researchers to bring clarity to these topics, who is going to give them a voice? If there is a fact that can be extracted from this debate it would be that “trusting the science” and trusting what a media source says about “the science” can be two very different things. 

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