Monday, November 30, 2020

Four Aspects of Election Evidence

Quality, Quantity, Diversity, Significance

The recent election fraud lawsuits filed in Georgia and Michigan contain complicated evidences. The four key aspects of these evidences are: quality, quantity, diversity, and significance.

Regarding the quality of the evidences, the various testimonies come from both eyewitnesses and expert witnesses. In both cases, the witnesses appear to be sober, credible sources. In many cases, they are highly credentialed.

Regarding quantity, the lawsuits indicate they have hundreds of affidavits, and they specifically cite more than a dozen witnesses, and have almost twenty exhibits attached with the specific testimonies.

Regarding diversity, the evidence falls into three different categories:

1. That such fraud is physically possible.
2. Eyewitness reports.
3. Statistical analyses of the voting data.

These three categories of evidence are consistent with each other and provide different views of the situation.

Regarding significance, the level of the alleged fraud, and specifically number of votes involved, is easily sufficient to overturn the election result in those two states. For example, quoting from the Michigan lawsuit:

3. While this Complaint, and the eyewitness and expert testimony incorporated herein, identify with specificity sufficient ballots required to overturn and reverse the election results, the entire process is so riddled with fraud, illegality, and statistical impossibility that this Court, and Michigan’s voters, courts, and legislators, cannot rely on, or certify, any numbers resulting from this election.

These are the four key aspects of these evidences presented in the Georgia and Michigan lawsuits.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

North Muskegon Bests Muskegon

Go Blue!

The Lake Michigan communities North Muskegon and Muskegon had record voter turnouts in the recent 2020 election. In fact, at 780% and 205%, respectively, they were downright unbelievable. But nearby Zeeland township wasn’t too shabby at 460%. On the other side of the state, with a much larger population, the city of Detroit came in with a paltry 140%.

Sidney Powell Files Complaints in Georgia and Michigan, Part II

2020 Election: Michigan

Two days ago, Sidney Powell filed lawsuits in the states of Georgia and Michigan on election fraud. The lawsuits argue that the testimony and facts show that both states committed violations of both state laws and the US Constitution. Governors Brian Kemp and Gretchen Whitmer of Georgia and Michigan, respectively, lead the list of Defendants in the two lawsuits. Below are edited and redacted highlights of the Michigan lawsuit. There is much more material in the lawsuit of this nature.

In deciding to award Dominion a $25 million, ten-year contract (to a Dominion project team led by Kelly Garrett, former Deputy Director of the Michigan Democratic Party), and then certifying Dominion software, Michigan officials disregarded all the concerns that caused Dominion software to be rejected by the Texas Board of elections in 2018 because it was deemed vulnerable to undetected and non-auditable manipulation.

To facilitate and cover-up the voting fraud and counting of fraudulent, illegal or ineligible voters, election workers:
A. Denied Republican election challengers access to the TCF Center, where all Wayne County, Michigan ballots were processed and counted;
B. Denied Republic poll watchers at the TCF Center meaningful access to view ballot handling, processing, or counting and locked credentialed challengers out of the counting room so they could not observe the process, during which time tens of thousands of ballots were processed;
C. Engaged in a systematic pattern of harassment, intimidation and even physical removal of Republican election challengers or locking them out of the TCF Center;
D. Systematically discriminated against Republican poll watchers and favored Democratic poll watchers;
E. Ignored or refused to record Republican challenges to the violations outlined herein;
F. Refused to permit Republican poll challengers to observe ballot duplication and other instances where they allowed ballots to be duplicated by hand without allowing poll challengers to check if the duplication was accurate;
G. Unlawfully coached voters to vote for Joe Biden and to vote a straight Democrat ballot, including by going over to the voting booths with voters in order to watch them vote and coach them for whom to vote;
H. As a result of the above, Democratic election challengers outnumbered Republicans by 2:1 or 3:1 (or sometimes 2:0 at voting machines); and
I. Collaborated with Michigan State, Wayne County and/or City of Detroit employees (including police) in all of the above unlawful and discriminatory behavior.

Election workers illegally forged, added, removed or otherwise altered information on ballots, the Qualified Voter File (QVF) and Other Voting Records, including:
A. Fraudulently adding “tens of thousands” of new ballots and/or new voters to QVF in two separate batches on November 4, 2020, all or nearly all of which were votes for Joe Biden;
B. Forging voter information and fraudulently adding new voters to the QVF Voters, in particular, e.g., when a voter’s name could not be found, the election worker assigned the ballot to a random name already in the QVF to a person who had not voted and recorded these new voters as having a birth date of 1/1/1900;
C. Changing dates on absentee ballots received after 8:00 PM Election Day deadline to indicate that such ballots were received before the deadline;
D. Changing Votes for Trump and other Republican candidates; and
E. Added votes to “undervote” ballots and removing votes from “Over-Votes”.

Election workers committed several additional categories of violations of the Michigan Election Code to enable them to accept and count other illegal, ineligible or duplicate ballots, or reject Trump or Republican ballots, including:
A. Permitting illegal double voting by persons that had voted by absentee ballot and in person;
B. Counting ineligible ballots – and in many cases – multiple times;
C. Counting ballots without signatures, or without attempting to match signatures, and ballots without postmarks, pursuant to direct instructions from Defendants;
D. Counting “spoiled” ballots;
E. Systematic violations of ballot secrecy requirements;
F. Unsecured ballots arrived at the TCF Center loading garage, not in sealed ballot boxes, without any chain of custody, and without envelopes, after the 8:00 PM Election Day deadline, in particular, the tens of thousands of ballots that arrived on November 4, 2020; and
G. Accepting and counting ballots from deceased voters.

This Complaint presents expert witness testimony demonstrating that several hundred thousand illegal, ineligible, duplicate or purely fictitious votes must be thrown out, in particular: (1) a report from Russel Ramsland showing the “physical impossibility” of nearly 385,000 votes injected by four precincts/township on November 4, 2020, that resulted in the counting of nearly 290,000 more ballots processed than available capacity (which is based on statistical analysis that is independent of his analysis of Dominion’s flaws); (2) a report from Dr. William Briggs, showing that there were approximately 60,000 absentee ballots listed as “unreturned” by voters that either never requested them, or that requested and returned their ballots; and (3) a report from Dr. Eric Quinell analyzing the anomalous turnout figures in Wayne and Oakland Counties showing that Biden gained nearly 100% and frequently more than 100% of all “new” voters in certain townships/precincts over 2016, and thus indicated that nearly 87,000 anomalous and likely fraudulent votes from these precincts.

Expert witness Navid Keshavarez-Nia concludes that hundreds of thousands of votes that were cast for President Trump in the 2020 general election were transferred to former Vice-President Biden.

Harassment and intimidation examples of observers are too many to list here. For example, in part, Zachary Vaupel reported that an election supervisor called him an “obscene name” and told him not to ask questions about ballot processing and counting. Kim Tocco was personally intimidated and insulted by election workers. Qian Schmidt was the target of racist comments and asked, “what gives you the right to be here since you are not American?” Other challengers were threatened with removal from the counting area if they continued to ask questions about the ballot counting process. Challenger Kathleen Daavettila observed that Democratic challengers distributed a packet of information among themselves entitled, “Tactics to Distract GOP Challengers.” An election official told challenger Ulrike Sherer that the election authority had a police SWAT team waiting outside if Republican challengers argued too much. An election worker told challenger Jazmine Early that since “English was not [her] first language ... [she] should not be taking part in this process.” Election officials at the TCF Center in Detroit participated in the intimidation experienced by Republican challengers when election officials would applaud, cheer, and yell whenever a Republican challenger was ejected from the counting area. Articia Bomer stated, “I witnessed election workers open ballots with Donald Trump votes and respond by rolling their eyes and showing it to other poll workers. I believe some of these ballots may not have been properly counted.” Braden Gaicobazzi challenged thirty-five ballots for whom the voter records did not exist in the poll book, but his challenge was ignored and disregarded. When Christopher Schornak attempted to challenge the counting of ballots, an election official told him, “We are not talking to you, you cannot challenge this.” When Stephanie Krause attempted to challenge ballots, an election worker told her that challenges were no longer being accepted because the “rules no longer applied.” Democrats also impersonated Republican poll watchers. Affiants testified to systematic and routine collaboration between election workers, Michigan public employees and Democratic election challengers and activists present, in particular to intimidate, harass, distract or remove Republic election watchers.

The most egregious example of election workers fraudulent and illegal behavior concerns two batches of new ballots brought to the TCF Center after the 8:00 PM Election Day deadline. First, at approximately 4:30 AM on November 4, 2020, poll challenger Andrew Sitto observed “tens of thousands of new ballots” being brought into the counting room, and “[u]nlike the other ballots, these boxes were brought in from the rear of the room.” Mr. Sitto heard other Republican challengers state that “several vehicles with out-of-state license plates pulled up to the TCF Center a little before 4:30 a.m. and unloaded boxes of ballots … All ballots sampled that I heard and observed were for Joe Biden.”

A second set of new boxes of ballots arrived at the TCF Center around 9:00 PM on November 4, 2020. According to poll watcher Robert Cushman, contained “several thousand new ballots.” Mr. Cushman noted that “none of the names on the new ballots were on the Qualified Voter File (QVF) or the Supplemental Sheets,” and he observed “computer operators at several counting boards manually adding the names and addresses of these thousands of ballots to the QVF system.” Further, “[e]very ballot was being fraudulently and manually entered into the [QVF], as having been born on January 1, 1990.” When Mr. Cushman challenged the validity of the votes and the impossibility of each ballot having the same birthday, he “was told that this was the instruction that came down from the Wayne County Clerk’s office.”

Zachary Larsen, who served as a Michigan Assistant Attorney General from 2012 through 2020 and was a certified poll challenger at the TCF Center. Mr. Larsen reviewed the running list of scanned in ballots in the computer system, where it appeared that the voter had already been counted as having voted. An official operating the computer then appeared to assign this ballot to a different voter as he observed a completely different name that was added to the list of voters at the bottom of a running tab of processed ballots on the right side of the screen. Mr. Larsen observed this “practice of assigning names and numbers” to non-eligible voters who did not appear in either the poll book or the supplement poll book. Moreover, this appeared to be the case for the majority of the voters whose ballots he personally observed being scanned.

Jessica Connarn is an attorney who was acting as a Republican challenger at the TCF Center in Wayne County. Jessica Connarn’s affidavit describes how an election poll worker told Jessica Connarn that the poll worker “was being told to change the date on ballots to reflect that the ballots were received on an earlier date.” Jessica Connarn also provided a photograph of a note handed to her by the poll worker in which the poll worker indicated she (the poll worker) was instructed to change the date ballots were received. Jessica Connarn’s affidavit demonstrates that poll workers in Wayne County were pre-dating absent voter ballots, so that absent voter ballots received after 8:00 p.m. on Election Day could be counted.

Plaintiffs have learned of a United States Postal Service (“USPS”) worker Whistleblower, on November 4, 2020 told Project Veritas that a supervisor in Traverse City, Michigan potentially issued a directive to collect ballots and stamp them as received on November 3, 2020, even though there were not received timely, as required by law: “We were issued a directive this morning to collect any ballots we find in mailboxes, collection boxes, just outgoing mail in general, separate them at the end of the day so that they could hand stamp them with the previous day's date,” the whistleblower stated. “Today is November 4th for clarification.” This is currently under IG Investigation at the U.S. Post Office. 

In an Affidavit Jessy Jacob, an employee of the City of Detroit Elections Department, “on November 4, 2020, I was instructed to improperly pre-date the absentee ballots receive date that were not in the QVF as if they had been received on or before November 3, 2020. I was told to alter the information in the QVF to falsely show that the absentee ballots had been received in time to be valid. She estimates that this was done to thousands of ballots.”

Challengers reported that batches of ballots were repeatedly run through the vote tabulation machines. Challenger Patricia Rose stated she observed a stack of about fifty ballots being fed multiple times into a ballot scanner counting machine. Articia Bomer further stated that she witnessed the same group of ballots being rescanned into the counting machine “at least five times.” Dominion contractor Melissa Carone observed that this was a routine practice at the TCF Center, where she “witnessed countless workers rescanning the batches without discarding them first” – as required under Michigan rules and Dominion’s procedures – “which resulted in ballots being counted 4-5 times.” When she observed that a computer indicated that it had “a number of over 400 ballots scanned – which means one batch [of 50] was counted over 8 times,” and complained to her Dominion supervisor, she was informed that “we are here to do assist with IT work, not to run their election.”

The expert witness testimony of Russell Ramsland identifies an event that occurred in Michigan on November 4 that is “physically impossible.” The “event” reflected in the data are “4 spikes totaling 384,733 ballots allegedly processed in a combined interval of 2 hour[s] and 38 minutes” for four precincts/townships in four Michigan counties (Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Kent). Based on Mr. Ramsland’s analysis of the voting machines available at the referenced locations, he determined that the maximum processing capability during this period was only 94,867 ballots, so that “there were 289,866 more ballots processed in the time available for processing in the four precincts/townships, than there was processing capacity.” This amount is alone is nearly twice the number of ballots by which Biden purportedly leads President Trump (i.e., approximately 154,180).

The lawsuit also states that the same pattern of election fraud and voter fraud writ large occurred in all the swing states with only minor variations in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Wisconsin.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Sidney Powell Files Complaints in Georgia and Michigan

2020 Election: Georgia

Hours ago, Sidney Powell filed lawsuits in the states of Georgia and Michigan on election fraud. Both lawsuits are dated November 25, 2020, and both contain eyewitness testimony as well as expert witness testimony. The Georgia document is 104 pages and the Michigan document is 75 pages. The lawsuits argue that the testimony and facts show that both states committed violations of both state laws and the US Constitution. Governors Brian Kemp and Gretchen Whitmer of Georgia and Michigan, respectively, lead the list of Defendants in the two lawsuits. Below are edited and redacted highlights of the Georgia lawsuit. There is much more material in the lawsuit of this nature.

The scheme and artifice, revealed here, was to defraud was for the purpose of illegally and fraudulently manipulating the vote count to make certain the election of Joe Biden as President of the United States.

Mathematical and statistical anomalies rising to the level of impossibilities, as shown by affidavits of multiple witnesses, documentation, and expert testimony evince this scheme across the state of Georgia. Especially egregious conduct arose in Forsyth, Paulding, Cherokee, Hall, and Barrow County.

The massive fraud begins with the election software and hardware from Dominion Voting Systems Corporation (“Dominion”) only recently purchased and rushed into use by Defendants Governor Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and the Georgia Board of Elections.

Smartmatic and Dominion were founded by foreign oligarchs and dictators to ensure computerized ballot-stuffing and vote manipulation to whatever level was needed to make certain Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez never lost another election.

The Smartmatic software was designed to manipulate Venezuelan elections in favor of dictator Hugo Chavez.

A core requirement of the Smartmatic software design was the software’s ability to hide its manipulation of votes from any audit.

Video from the State Farm Arena in Fulton County shows that on November 3rd after the polls closed, election workers falsely claimed a water leak required the facility to close. All poll workers and challengers were evacuated for several hours at about 10:00 PM. However, several election workers remained unsupervised and unchallenged working at the computers for the voting tabulation machines until after 1:00 AM.

Defendants Kemp and Raffensperger rushed through the purchase of Dominion voting machines and software in 2019 for the 2020 Presidential Election.

According to a former electronic intelligence analyst under 305th Military Intelligence, the Dominion software was accessed by agents acting on behalf of China and Iran in order to monitor and manipulate elections, including the most recent US general election in 2020. This Declaration further includes a copy of the patent records for Dominion Systems in which Eric Coomer is listed as the first of the inventors of Dominion Voting Systems.

An expert witness explains that US intelligence services had developed tools to infiltrate foreign voting systems including Dominion. He states that Dominion’s software is vulnerable to data manipulation by unauthorized means and permitted election data to be altered in all battleground states. He concludes that hundreds of thousands of votes that were cast for President Trump in the 2020 general election were transferred to former Vice-President Biden.

Additionally, incontrovertible evidence Board of Elections records demonstrates that at least 96,600 absentee ballots were requested and counted but were never recorded as being returned to county election boards by the voter. Thus, at a minimum, 96,600 votes must be disregarded.

During the hand audit that 3,300 votes were found on memory sticks that were not uploaded on election night, plus in Floyd county, another 2,600 absentee ballots had not been scanned.

While in the audit or recount, observers witnessed Trump votes being put into Biden piles.

A witness recounts that at one point, “most of the ballots had already been handled; they had been written on by people, and the edges were worn. They showed obvious use. However, one batch stood out. It was pristine. There was a difference in the texture of the paper—it was if they were intended for absentee use but had not been used for that purposes. There was a difference in the feel. These different ballots included a slight depressed pre-fold so they could be easily folded and unfolded for use in the scanning machines. There were no markings on the ballots to show where they had come from, or where they had been processed. These stood out. In my 20 years of experience of handling ballots, I observed that the markings for the candidates on these ballots were unusually uniform, perhaps even with a ballot-marking device. By my estimate in observing these ballots, approximately 98% constituted votes for Joe Biden. I only observed two of these ballots as votes for President Donald J. Trump.”

As an observer explains, “I witnessed two poll workers placing already separated paper machine receipt ballots with barcodes in the Trump tray, placing them into the Biden tray. I also witnessed the same two poll workers putting the already separated paper receipt ballots in the “No Vote” and “Jorgensen” tray, and removing them and putting them inside the Biden tray, They then took out all of the ballots out of the Biden tray and stacked them on the table, writing on the count ballot sheet.”

As an observer explains, “I noticed that almost all of the ballots I reviewed were for Biden. Many batches went 100% for Biden.”

An Affiant testified, that while at the Audit, ‘While in Henry County, I personally witnessed ballots cast for Donald Trump being placed in the pile for Joseph Biden. I witnessed this happen at table “A”’.

The total number of mail ballots that voters mailed in, but were never counted, have a 95% likelihood of falling between 31,559 and 38,886 total lost votes. This range exceeds the margin of loss of President Trump of 12,670 votes.

As calculated by an expert witness, there exists clear evidence of 20,311 absentee or early voters in Georgia that voted while registered as having moved out of state.

An expert witness confirms that data breaches in the Dominion software permitted rogue actors to penetrate and manipulate the software during the recent general election. He further concludes that at least 96,600 mail-in ballots were illegally counted as they were not cast by legal voters.

This testimony and facts reveal a massive election fraud in Georgia. We next look at the Michigan lawsuit.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Trump Reelection News Conference


Yesterday the Trump Reelection campaign’s legal team held a news conference [here or here] to review their fact-finding activities and provide an initial look at the evidences and arguments they will be making in their lawsuits arguing that President Trump won the election in a landslide. The news conference was 90-minutes long, and there were 16 evidences disclosed from affidavits. They are listed below, with the approximate video start times.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Jerry Coyne and Determinism

A Video

You can see this video where I look at Jerry Coyne’s recent blog on determinism and the denial of free will, and a couple of scientific papers related to neurons and synapses. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Sabine Hossenfelder Promotes Determinism

We’ve Learned Nothing Since Laplace

Yesterday theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder became the latest in a long line of smart people to make the absurd claim of determinism (see blog or video), and that therefore there is no such thing as free will. This silliness traces at least as far back as Laplace and is based on the idea that any system evolves from time point 1 to time point 2 according to the laws of nature. As Hossenfelder puts it:

These laws have the common property that if you have an initial condition at one moment in time, for example the exact details of the particles in your brain and all your brain’s inputs, then you can calculate what happens at any other moment in time from those initial conditions. This means in a nutshell that the whole story of the universe in every single detail was determined already at the big bang. We are just watching it play out.

The first problem with Hossenfelder’s sophism is that it is non empirical. We experience free will continually in our personal experience. Hossenfelder’s claim amounts to a denial of untold mountains of evidence. Hossenfelder’s predictable solution is anti-realism. The problem, according to determinists such as Hossenfelder, is that our experience is uniformly false. We may think we have free will, but that is nothing more than an illusion.

But why is that true? Hossenfelder makes the Humean appeal to the laws of nature. They show how systems evolve deterministically, so therefore the data from our personal experience must be false. Hossenfelder fails to see the unjustified leap she has made. She has declared the laws of nature to be authoritative without justification.

Hossenfelder has identified a conflict: our experience says one thing, and the laws of nature say the opposite. Something must give, and Hossenfelder unilaterally and without justification concludes that the laws of nature win out. The fallacy is reminiscent of Hume’s argument against miracles that John Earman demolished twenty years ago.

As if sensing a problem Hossenfelder attempts to justify her leap. She explains that “These deterministic laws of nature apply to you and your brain because you are made of particles,” and that “we know that brains are made of particles.” Furthermore, “the laws of nature that we know describe humans on the fundamental level.” But rather than saving the theory, Hossenfelder is merely digging deeper into the fallacy, as she simply begs the question. These are all non-empirical truth claims that are beholden to the assumption of determinism. She simply asserts these claims, but why should we believe any of them are true?

Yet Hossenfelder is supremely confident in her finding. Drop this free will nonsense, she warns, or “you will never understand how the universe really works.” This is the classic intellectual necessity argument, so common in the evolution literature. In this case it is determinism that is required for scientific progress and truth.

This brings us to the second problem with Hossenfelder’s determinism, which is her many truth claims. As she explains above, “the whole story of the universe in every single detail was determined already at the big bang.” But if that is true then Hossenfelder cannot know anything. Everything she has typed out was, well, pre-determined by some initial conditions and some blind natural laws.

Why should Hossenfelder think for a moment that anything that occurs to her has any correspondence to truth? Above she made the classic intellectual necessity argument but, in fact, it is precisely the opposite. Her determinism undercuts her many truth claims, and knowledge in general.

There would be no reason to think anything we ever generate has any particular truth value. For instance, I could decide to type 2+2=5. In fact, there I did it. But of course, Hossenfelder would say that sentence was all preordained. She also would say it is not true. So certainly preordained sentences are not necessarily true. In fact, for Hossenfelder our notions, thoughts, commitments, and conclusions are merely a consequence of the arrangement of particles in our heads. Why should we think they would be true, if there even is such a thing?

Hossenfelder’s conclusion, that “the whole story of the universe in every single detail was determined already at the big bang. We are just watching it play out” is fitting. For it is the ultimate in meaningless, trivialization of the profound. She is mired in the absurd. Hossenfelder is the best and the brightest—a cutting edge theoretical physicist. The wisest that the world has to offer and look where she has landed. As Paul informed the Corinthians in the introduction of his first letter to them, God made foolish the wisdom of this world.

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A Response to Van Jones

He is Right

Civil rights activist Van Jones recently stated that white people, even the most liberal well-intentioned ones, have “a virus in his or her brain that can be activated at an instant.” I’m one of those white people and my response is that he is correct. Some may push back and say Van Jones is, himself, making a racist statement. I would say it is more of a realist statement—he is one hundred percent correct. But what the CNN commentator left out is that non white people also have the virus.

Van Jones' point about white people having a virus on the brain (nice metaphor by the way) is spot on, but the problem is not limited to white people. To help Van Jones understand this, I’ll provide two examples.

First, Lebron James is an African American who is somewhat politically active and a vocal civil rights supporter. James has made it clear that he believes the oppression of minorities is wrong and isn’t afraid to confront the problem. James also happens to be the best basketball player in the world. When not winning basketball games James helps to promote the game, both here and abroad. One lucrative international market for the game is Asia. There is big money to be had, but there is also substantial oppression of various people groups. In this case, James suddenly is much less vocal about the problem of oppression that elsewhere bothered him. There seems to be a virus that “can be activated at an instant.”

My second example for Van Jones is Van Jones himself. You see Van Jones is pro-choice. He supports the practice of murdering the unborn. Abortion of one of the fruits of our modern-day, Epicureanism—otherwise known as evolution—which makes the scientifically absurd claim that it is an undeniable fact that the world arose by itself. Evolution is underwritten by the metaphysics of naturalism and vehemently defended as a truism though, of course, it fails badly on the science.

Likewise, evolution has led to a number of failed dogmas, such as the insistence that it is good and proper to murder the unborn. Even though the science is undeniable that abortion is the taking of an innocent life. How is it that Van Jones can be so clear about oppression in the one case, and so blind in the other case? Could it be that there is a virus that “can be activated at an instant”?

Religion drives science, and it matters.

Friday, April 3, 2020

New Study Claims SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Originated Naturalistically

A Peer Review Failure

A recent study done by an international collaboration of five scientists, and published in the scientific journal nature medicine, has concluded that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus (also known as HCoV-19), responsible for the current global pandemic, originated naturalistically rather than via laboratory manipulation. Here I review their methods and compare their research with the claims made.

To investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the team used a Bayesian approach. Bayes’ Theorem, named after the eighteenth century Reverend Thomas Bayes, computes the probability of an event given some new evidence. While students will recall using Bayes’ Theorem to solve problems involving urns and colored balls, in fact it has a wide range of practical, real-world, applications.

Bayes’ Theorem has also been used to evaluate hypotheses and, in particular, theories of origins. Here, the use of Bayes’ Theorem is a bit more tricky. For example, one needs to know the prior probability of the hypothesis—that is, the probability of the hypothesis before the new evidence was obtained. One also needs to know the probability of the new evidence. And finally, one needs to know the conditional probability of the new evidence, given that the hypothesis is true.

Given these three quantities Bayes’ Theorem can then be used to compute the conditional probability of the hypothesis, given the new evidence. This may seem straightforward, and the calculation certainly is, but the required probabilities are anything but. For example, imagine using Bayes’ Theorem to compute the probability that the theory of evolution is true. Where would you find the prior probability of evolution? Or again, say your evidence is some new fossil finding. Where would you find the probability of that fossil, let alone the conditional probability of the fossil, given evolution?

Bayesian approaches are incredibly useful in practical problems in science, engineering, operations, manufacturing, and so forth. But in origins studies, this simple, straightforward approach is suddenly more difficult and fraught with danger. One can easily produce unjustified or otherwise erroneous results.

Various strategies attempt to remedy this problem of using Bayes’ Theorem in theory evaluation and origins studies. One strategy uses a Bayesian approach to compare two opposing theories. In other words, instead of simply evaluating the probability a theory is true given some new evidence, the theory is evaluated given the new evidence and the opposing theory as well. In this approach, the two opposing theories are compared to each other, and fewer probabilities are required at the start.

The cost of this simplification is the assumption that the two opposing theories are complementary. That is, one must be true, and the other must be false. There can be no other possibilities. This is often less straightforward than it seems. For example, imagine using this Bayesian approach to compare the theories of evolution and creation. Surely they are complementary, right? After all, either Darwin was right, or otherwise God created the species.

Such naiveté is, unfortunately, too common. Hybrid theories, involving some combination of evolution and creation could be physically possible. Or some other theory, that we haven’t even thought of yet, could be possible. In fact, an unfortunate but very real problem is the use of Bayesian approaches to rig the calculation in one’s favor. The probabilities can be arbitrarily adjusted, and a strawman can be used for the opposing theory.

Thus Bayesian approaches are fraught with various pitfalls, including unjustified prior probabilities, unjustified opposing theories, and unjustified assumptions about complementarity. With these issues in mind I am always interested to see how scientists use Bayesian approaches for theory evaluation. Will they avoid, or fall prey, to the pitfalls?

This brings us to the SARS-CoV-2 study, whose lead author is Kristian G. Andersen, Associate Professor and Director of Infectious Disease Genomics at the Scripps Research Translational Institute. The paper is not very long, and the section on their investigation of the opposing theory of the virus origins is even shorter. Nonetheless their theory evaluation method (i.e., their method for determining the probability of the theory that the virus originated naturalistically) was less than straightforward because nowhere did they provide an overview of their method. In other words, nowhere does the paper mention Bayes’ Theorem or that they use a Bayesian approach. It is implicit.

Well perhaps that can be forgiven. After all, Bayesian approaches are rather obvious once one sees the equations in use.

But here we find another concern: there are no such equations in the paper. Again, it is implicit.

Well again, perhaps it was an innocent oversight, or required redaction due to space limitations. After all, the prior probabilities themselves contain the important information, and given them one can probably reconstruct the approach and equations. As the old joke goes, “it is left up to the student.”

But here again, we find yet another concern. Not only is Bayes nowhere mentioned, and nowhere is the particular Bayesian approach mentioned, and nowhere are any equations given, but in fact, nowhere are any probabilities given.

In fact, the rationale and explanation for their rather important conclusion is remarkably terse. The paper uses two pieces of evidence to argue against the theory that the virus arose via laboratory manipulation. And their rationale amounts only to a few sparse sentences, which I quote here. First, we have:

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 [receptor-binding domain] sequence is different from those shown in SARS-CoV to be optimal for receptor binding.

The argument boils down to this: The receptor-binding domain (RBD) in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein binds with high affinity to the human ACE2 receptor, and in other species with high ACE2 similarity (sic, the paper erroneously refers to such high similarity as “high homology”), but that computational analyses fail to predict this, and instead predict “that the interaction is not ideal.” Therefore, they reason that the laboratory manipulation hypothesis is less likely because under that hypothesis, the observed SARS-CoV-2 RBD sequence would not have been designed. Instead, a designer would have selected a sequence with stronger predicted binding.

As you can see, this reasoning is fraught with unjustified assumptions about how a designer would have acted. The second argument is equally weak:

The second notable feature of SARS-CoV-2 is a polybasic cleavage site (RRAR) at the junction of S1 and S2, the two subunits of the spike. … Polybasic cleavage sites have not been observed in related “lineage B” betacoronaviruses, although other human betacoronaviruses, including HKU1 (lineage A), have those sites and predicted O-linked glycans. … 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.

The fact that “the genetic data irrefutably show that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone” means very little. The importance of this evidence is contingent on the assumption that a designer would have used such a “previously used virus backbone.” The authors assert this is probable, but without justification. The assessment of what an agent would do is notoriously difficult and prone to bias.

Neither of the two evidences is particularly compelling. This weakness is, to a certain extent, reflected in tentative language used, such as “most likely,” “It is improbable,” and “would probably.”

But when we reach the Conclusions section this tentative language gives way to a new-found confidence: “the evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not a purposefully manipulated virus,” and “we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”

Finally all shadow of doubt is removed in the Abstract: “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.” This claim is entirely unsubstantiated and without merit.

This wrapping of two weak, subjective, arguments with ersatz certainty and authority paves the way for a triumphant press release where Andersen announces, without justification, that “we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes.”

To summarize, the authors make ever escalating claims of certainty, from a rather modest beginning of two, interesting but frankly weak, observations. The paper oversteps its bounds and should not have passed peer review.