23% of Americans think the coronavirus was created in a Chinese lab, a survey suggests. Here's why that conspiracy theory is bogus.
- Researchers surveyed people in five countries to assess which coronavirus-related conspiracy theories have taken root.
- The most popular theory suggests the virus was "bioengineered in a laboratory in Wuhan." Between 22% and 23% of Americans and Britons viewed that as "reliable."
- The study found that people who are older, numerically savvy, and trust scientists are less likely to fall for
- Genetic evidence discredits the theory that the coronavirus was man-made.
Lingering uncertainty how the coronavirus pandemic started creates fertile territory for conspiracy theories.
About one in four Americans and Britons think the idea that the virus was engineered in a Wuhan laboratory is a "reliable" claim, according to a recent study, despite abundant scientific evidence to the contrary.The research, published earlier this week in the journal Royal Society for Open
What's more, people who found the lab conspiracy idea reliable were generally more hesitant about getting a coronavirus vaccine."We find a clear link between believing coronavirus conspiracies and hesitancy around any future vaccine," van der Linden added.
People who trust scientists are less likely to fall for misinformation
The study authors sent an online survey to groups of 700 people in the US, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain, and to more than 1,000 people in the UK. They asked participants to rate how reliable certain statements about
Additionally, those who reported trusting their politicians to effectively tackle the crisis in Mexico, Spain, and the US were more likely to fall for conspiracy theories.
The study also found that respondents in Ireland, the UK, and the US who were exposed to coronavirus information on social media were more susceptible to misinformation.Van der Linden's team also found that as participants' susceptibility increased, their intent to get vaccinated or recommend the vaccine to friends and family dropped.
A 15% increase in the degree to which a respondent viewed coronavirus misinformation as reliable, on average, was linked to a 23% decrease in the likelihood they said they'd get vaccinated.
Although the lab conspiracy theory was the most widely believed among those included in the survey, statements that the pandemic was "part of a plot to enforce global vaccination" and that 5G telecommunication towers "exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms" were also popular.
Experts think the coronavirus came from batsMost experts agree that the new coronavirus, whose clinical name is SARS-CoV-2, jumped from an animal host to humans. Cross-species hops from bats, called spillover events, also led to outbreaks of Ebola and SARS.
Another study revealed an even closer match in May: A 97.1% similarity to a coronavirus called RmYN02 that was found in the bats of
Research suggests the virus is not a 'laboratory construct'A group of Chinese virologists linked to former Trump strategist Steve Bannon suggested last month that Chinese scientists made the virus using existing bat coronaviruses as a "backbone" or "template."
One of those virologists, Li-Meng Yan, told Fox
The virus probably didn't accidentally leak from a lab, either
Another theory suggests that the new coronavirus had animal origins, but that a sample of it collected for prior study accidentally leaked from a lab. Believers of this conspiracy generally point to the Wuhan Institute of Virology as the source of the leak, since scientists there study infectious diseases, including coronaviruses.
There's no evidence, however, that a lab leak occurred there or anywhere else."It's highly unlikely this was a lab accident," Jonna Mazet, a US epidemiologist who has worked with and trained researchers at the Wuhan institute, previously told Business Insider.
Mazet said she helped the staff develop and implement a "very stringent safety protocol."
Shi Zhengli, a virologist at the institute, told Scientific American in April that none of the coronavirus samples stored at the institute matched the new coronavirus' genome."That really took a load off my mind," Shi said. "I had not slept a wink for days."
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