Being sceptical is one thing. Being just plain wrong is another. And in the broad spectrum of Covid scepticism, Dr. Sam Bailey takes the extreme biscuit both for believing and promoting the most abject misinformation regarding viruses. In a nutshell, she does not believe they exist. I am aware of others in the same camp and, slightly along the spectrum there are those who, while they may believe in viruses, do not believe in the existence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Of course, there have long been those like discredited Peter Duesberg who have, for example, claimed that HIV does not cause AIDS. I would like to hear Duesberg or Sam Bailey explain how haemophiliacs contracted AIDS from blood infusions. Somehow, I think they’ll have a stock response to that one.
They are all, demonstrably, wrong but stubbornly adhere to their views. I must make it clear that, while I think they are wrong and that their views are potentially damaging, they have every right to express those views. But I do wish that there was a forum for proper debate on these issues. The mainstream scientific community tends to hold people like virus deniers (and ‘anti-vaxxers’) in contempt and not worthy of debate. The mainstream media will not allow them airtime. This is wrong, especially in the age of COVID-19 as, while I am a fully signed up lockdown sceptic, these people are spreading erroneous views by other routes and are simply not being challenged.
However, I sense a similar attitude amongst the virus deniers who tend to promote their views on increasingly bizarre websites and within such a deafening echo chamber that they are completely unable to hear, yet alone contemplate, alternative views. They certainly don’t listen. If I am allowed to make the obvious case for the existence of viruses, by tackling some of the excesses of the virus deniers I hope that someone from their camp may be willing and permitted to provide a counterattack.
I must put my own lockdown and, indeed, Covid scepticism on the line here. I have been opposed to lockdown from the outset and, preceded only by Toby Young and Peter Hitchens, I think I was one of the first in print in the Salisbury Review with my own views. Patently, I am not a virus denier, but I do hold a fair degree of Covid scepticism in the sense that I believe that the harmful effects of the novel coronavirus, in terms of its ability to infect and the consequences of COVID-19, were grossly exaggerated. I have been in print many times on these issues, for example in Unity News Network and TCW Defending Freedom. I also signed an early petition raised by Piers Corbyn asking the U.K. Government if the novel coronavirus had been isolated. Not my best idea and one which led to a great deal of ‘whataboutery’ (the tu quoque logical fallacy) aimed at discrediting me. On the other hand, the Government response was enlightening/unenlightening – depending on your position – and could easily have been summarised as ‘no’. As a result, the Government did not cover itself in glory as it could have added ‘but’ and went on to provide the argument for the existence of the novel coronavirus. Instead, the virus deniers saw this as a ‘gotcha’ moment, and it merely fuelled their fire.
Dr. Sam Bailey
Dr. Sam Bailey is a photogenic New Zealand doctor who has abandoned medicine. She promotes her views through her own website and on whatever other platforms to which she can gain access. The virus deniers, including Sam Bailey, are prone to publishing lengthy videos nearly always involving the same people. Frankly, these are extremely tedious to watch. Her views have been debunked regarding the existence of viruses but, possibly unknown to many who are unwilling to wade into the depths and breadths of her views, she denies germ theory completely. If you have any doubts about this then I urge you to take the time to listen, in full, to her recent interview with James Delingpole on his Delingpod podcast. Here she is given free rein to express her views which become increasingly outlandish as the podcast progresses.
The Truth About Viruses
This essay is prompted by the most recent video from Sam Bailey: The Truth About Viruses published on March 9th 2022. She is to be congratulated for its brevity – it is only 17 minutes long – but it is presented in a typically sneering, sarcastic and patronising manner. Consequently, it is hard to know who she is trying to convince. However, whatever her style of presentation, the problem with The Truth About Viruses is that it is not the truth about viruses. It is hard to understand how Sam Bailey arrives at her views and it is not necessary to be a virus denier to be highly critical of the way the pandemic was managed. After all, anti (Covid) ‘vaxxer’ supreme, Dr. Mike Yeadon made it clear in his excellent interview with Neil Oliver on GB News that he believes a unique virus exists. The HART Group led by Dr. John Lee, who have mounted the most credible and well-informed responses to the UK lockdown, is not stocked with virus deniers. This is exemplified in David Clews’ interview with Dr. Ros Jones of HART on Unity News Network.
It is hard to know where to start but, since she denies germ theory itself – as properly understood – I will start here with Dr Bailey’s views on whether anything exists that can cause an infection and spread between people. Louis Pasteur comes in for criticism by Bailey in her Delingpod interview. I am sure Pasteur was not perfect but he did knock the theory of spontaneous generation a body blow with his swan neck flask experiment. The theory of spontaneous generation, to which people including Florence Nightingale adhered long after Hooke discovered moulds and Leeuwenhoek discovered bacteria, proposed that maggots arose spontaneously in meat, rats arose spontaneously in rubbish heaps and that, for example, nutrient media such as broth likewise became mouldy. Pasteur prepared a broth and placed it in a flask with a swan shaped neck (pictured). He left the flask tilted so that the opening of the flask pointed downwards, and the broth remained fresh. Once he tilted the flask so that the opening pointed upwards, the broth became mouldy. Conclusion: infection was not spontaneous but caused by air borne particles and these probably included both fungal spores and bacteria. The best thing about the swan neck flask experiment is that it is reproducible; I know because I have done it. Without expressing it as such, Dr. Bailey has batted the theory of disease back into the 19th Century. Edward Jenner was another scoundrel according to Bailey and, while his experiments would not have passed muster with an NHS ethics committee, you can see where Bailey is going and leading her disciples into the realm of the ‘anti-vaxxers’, a topic which I will not explore here.
It is clear in her most recent video that she has studied the arguments which purport to demonstrate viruses exist. She mentions, in passing, the famous TMV (tobacco mosaic virus) in a ‘that’s all very well’ kind of way. But the fact is that the TMV has been sufficiently purified for its structure to be studied by scanning electron microscopy; and that represents a very high level of both isolation and purity. A plant virus it may be, with no animal equivalent, but it is the case that disproves, in a Popperian way, the argument often repeated by the virus deniers that ‘no virus has ever been purified’. Some have been sufficiently purified for study by X-ray crystallography and that represents an extremely high level of purification.
How do we know viruses exist?
It is very hard to mount a coherent argument against the specific way Bailey argues as she cherry picks pieces of viral evidence, such as not adhering to Koch’s postulates or not always being purified or visible under a microscope. But the fact is that the existence of any virus is triangulated by an array of increasingly sophisticated laboratory techniques whereby theories may be tested, cultures grown, and infectivity demonstrated. In fact, a great many viruses have been purified, often against the odds. Viral proteins, including on the novel coronavirus, are largely glycoproteins and these alone, due to heterogeneity in structure, are very hard to purify to a level where, for example, they could be crystallised. While methods for the purification of glycoproteins have improved, I recall a glycoprotein expert once telling me that if someone holds up a test tube and claims it contains a purified solution of glycoprotein, he or she is lying.
The virus deniers trot out the Koch’s postulates argument repeatedly, even though Koch’s postulates were simply one way – long before the advent of amino acid and nucleotide sequencing methods – of demonstrating the presence of a bacterium. Koch’s postulates go something like this: find an infected animal; extract some infected tissue; introduce that to an uninfected animal, and if the poor thing becomes infected you have a bacterial infection. Koch’s postulates were never intended to be applied to viruses – the existence of which were not known when Koch postulated. In any case, bacteria are much more universally infective than viruses, which tend to be very specific. The original SARS, which almost certainly jumped species, is very unusual for that very reason and, for example, bird flu does not infect humans. The jury remains out on whether SARS-CoV-2, which possibly jumped species, did so spontaneously or after a ‘gain of function’ nudge.
I have corresponded with Siouxsie Wiles, a major debunker of the Koch’s postulates argument, at Auckland University in New Zealand over this point and over the point regarding ‘purification’ of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It transpires that the purification of the novel coronavirus argument is a straw dog created by the viral deniers. In fact, nobody has claimed that it has been purified. However, it has been ‘isolated’, which is a different concept whereby studies are carried out to check it is there. According to Siouxsie Wiles, the virus has been found in hundreds of disparate samples and subsequently sequenced. The viral deniers point to the way the sequence was merely pieced together in the early stages, thus proposing a hoax. But this is how viruses are sequenced. What they omit to say, and as explained in Chan and Ridley’s Viral, which I reviewed for the Salisbury Review, there are mega databases of coronaviruses, mainly held and reluctantly shared by the Chinese, whereby emerging sequences from the sequencing work can be assembled and compared. Molecular biologists know which sequences of nucleotides (the genetic letters) can run together and often precisely what they code for.
Of course, Bailey has this covered; the whole field of molecular biology, predicated as it is on Mendelian genetics is, of course, bogus. She points to some arbitrary and far too early date for the origins of molecular biology, but it originated at the University of Edinburgh in the 1970s under Professor Sir Ken Murray. I know, I was there at the time, and he lectured to me. In any case, as explained to me by Siouxsie Wiles, it is not necessary to purify the coronavirus and as Dr. Ros Jones says in her Unity News Network interview with David Clews, this is not how it is done; the virus is cultured. This is about as close to Koch’s postulates as you could get: grow the purported virus in a cellular culture and identify it by sequencing. Introduce what you have to some other cultured cells alongside a control culture. If the one with the purported virus shows subsequent evidence for the presence of the virus and the other does not, that is about as watertight an experiment as I can think of.
Bailey and co. try to debunk all the methods that are used in virology and to deny the whole field of laboratory science. The only possible retort can be that no method is perfect, and experiments often fail to show what is being hypothesised. That is an argument for rather than against science, which constantly tries to improve its methods. I recall a whole room being dedicated to a huge amino acid sequencer when I was a PhD student. Now, amino acid sequencing can be done on a microchip. I frankly doubt that Sam Bailey has any idea how sophisticated and painstaking scientific laboratory research is. Perhaps she has not done any herself?
I have had Covid, despite the remarkable claims by my virus denying friends to the contrary. How do I know I had it: it hit me like an express train; I felt terrible for two days and slept for 29 of 48 hours, rather like the flu. My taste was not lost but my sense of smell became incredibly deranged, not something that I had experienced after many bouts of flu in my 66 years. When I felt worst, I reluctantly took a lateral flow test (LFT). This showed up positive almost instantly and with a thick test line. As I felt better the test – which as it uses antibodies is highly specific but not very sensitive – took longer to show and the line became fainter. Of course, the virus deniers have this one covered under the rubric that immunology is also bogus, antibodies are not at all specific and will pick up anything. My ‘gotcha’ to this is: if I run a pregnancy test which uses antibodies to detect human chorionic gonadotropin, will it show me I am pregnant?
I have no real grasp of what our virus deniers think is wrong with people who ‘come down’ with a virus, and not necessarily Covid. They seem to explain it through a series of completely untestable ideas which include a mixture of mass hysteria and viral infections (which don’t exist) being the body cleaning out impurities. Eschewing modern medicine, Bailey and co. promote the need for fresher air, an organic diet, no medicines of any kind (Big Pharma all baddies) and generally returning to the land and a more primitive and less stressful way of life. All hail to them on that last point, but if that involves me wiping my backside with a stick, then count me out.
Dr. Roger Watson is Academic Dean of Nursing at Southwest Medical University, China. He has a PhD in biochemistry.
UPDATE: Dr. Sam Bailey has responded to this article. Find her piece here.
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