Conspiracy Time! UFOs & the COVID Lab Leak Hypothesis

There are two big news stories currently getting a lot of traction not just on social media but in well-respected mainstream newspapers and even in world governments. At first blush it seems like they have nothing in common: story number one is a report from The Times (in the UK) claiming “fresh evidence” that proves SARS-CoV-2 was developed in a Chinese laboratory as a bioweapon and accidentally released into the general population; and story number two is a former US official who claims to have evidence that the government is hiding the existence of crashed alien spacecrafts.

COVID and aliens: what do they have in common? Several things, actually:

  1. Both are masquerading as “news” when in fact there doesn’t appear to be any new information we didn’t already know for at least a year
  2. Both have no solid evidence to back them up and
  3. I already made videos about them both long before they hit the current news cycle

Let’s start with COVID. Almost exactly two years ago I talked about the evidence for and against the “lab leak” hypothesis. I suggest you go watch that if you’re interested in the subject, but here’s a quick recap: at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers thought there was a good chance that SARS-CoV-2 was human made, so the genetic makeup of the virus became an intense topic of interest. But a few months later, a coalition of virologists published their results in Nature, finding that actually it “is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.” All features of this coronavirus are found in existing related coronaviruses and the evidence suggests multiple clear paths of natural selection that can lead to this result.

The only evidence in favor of the SARS-CoV-2 being purposefully manipulated is from non-virologists arguing that it features a relatively rare sequence of the genome that is often used by researchers to “supercharge” a virus. But the large consensus of virologists argue that that sequence IS found in ALL coronaviruses at some frequency, and if it was NOT naturally selected for then we would expect to see that sequence drop out of the virus as it mutates. Not only did that not happen when this argument came up in 2021 but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t happened many variants later in 2023.

So what’s the deal with the Times exposè? Well, this groundbreaking news is unfortunately hidden behind a paywall, but lucky for us some actual virologists were able to read it and dissect it for us. I will direct interested people to check out this thread from Dr. Angie Rasmussen of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, who not only gives a very detailed breakdown of each of the report’s points but who also provides key context suggesting that the “anonymous” sources are the same people who have been trying to peddle this nonsense for the past several years; namely, Dr. David Asher, who helped write investigate COVID origins for Trump’s State Department and who thinks that a natural origin would involve a pangolin fucking a bat.

But yeah, she confirms it’s all the same stuff rehashed from 2021. I highly recommend diving into her thread and following all the links if this kind of thing interests you!

Okay, so how about them aliens?

First let me say that I most recently talked about THIS topic just a few months ago, and if you don’t feel like watching that video the basic news was that it appears that someone has been pranking public “intellectuals” like Eric Weinstein and Sam Harris, stringing them along and telling them that any time now they will fly them to the desert and show them some aliens. They’ve been doing this for YEARS, and while Harris seems to have figured out that he was being played, Weinstein remained convinced that at some point Lucy would let him kick that football.

On to the current news: David Charles Grusch served as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s representative to the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force from 2019 to 2022. Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAPs, are what we used to call UFOs. Grusch claims to have evidence that the task force has been illegally withholding evidence from Congress that for decades the government has been collecting intact vehicles “of exotic origin (non-human intelligence, whether extraterrestrial or unknown origin) based on the vehicle morphologies and material science testing and the possession of unique atomic arrangements and radiological signatures.”

Grusch is currently presenting his evidence to certain Congressional committees behind closed doors due to the fact that it involves classified information, which can only be viewed by people with the proper clearance and also the guy who cleans the bathrooms at Mar-a-Lago.

Now, I’ve been talking about UFO BS for, like 15 years. And while this MAY seem super exciting because CONGRESS is taking it seriously and the guy is well-respected and he had a very serious job and bla bla bla I would like to assure you that it’s all exactly the same shit that has happened repeatedly since, like, 1950. I’m not exaggerating, it’s literally been 70+ years of this shit. There have been the same incredible claims, and the US government has not only believed them but spent billions of taxpayer dollars investigating them. If you’ve never read Jon Ronson’s excellent book The Men Who Stare at Goats, please go do that right the hell now to learn more about how nearly every level of the US government, every branch, every department has, at some point, probably spent some time credibly looking into the stupidest shit you can imagine. The title of the book refers to a martial arts instructor who claimed he once killed a goat by staring at it very hard and who was subsequently recruited by the US Army to train special forces how to do it. How to kill goats by staring at them.

So yeah, let’s not get too enamored with someone just because other military personnel respect them. The average recruit doesn’t get into the military based on their ability to think critically.

When it comes specifically to US government officials being completely fooled by crackpots who think UFOs and aliens are real, you can get a very good overview in this Politico article, which details how a billionaire real estate developer and a group of “oddball” UFO fans convinced US Senator Harry Reid to give the Defense Department funding to research UFOs – funding that went, in part, right back to the billionaire real estate developer. That lucky fellow is Robert Bigelow, the owner of Budget Suites of America and also the former owner of Skinwalker Ranch, a property in Utah that, just prior to its sale to Bigelow in 1996, became famous for hosting a multitude of paranormal and extraterrestrial activities despite the fact that the family that lived there for 50 years prior say they never experienced anything of the sort. In 2017 Bigelow sold the ranch to Brandon Fugal, who trademarked the name and turned it into a book, movie, and TV series on the “History” Channel starring Erik Bard as “Principal Investigator and Chief Scientist” at Skinwalker Ranch.

Just to bring it all back around, Eric Weinstein is super impressed with Erik Bard.

Anyway, yeah, David Grusch appears to be joining a long line of kooks, frauds, and con artists who have convinced powerful people that they have evidence of Earth being visited by aliens. Why do I say “appears to be?” Well, because i haven’t seen what evidence Grusch has. Maybe it’s really convincing! But here’s why I’ll hold off on my “Welcome Alien Overlords” party.

Grusch has given some interviews and here are some important nuggets of info he has dropped:

He’s never actually seen the spaceships, but he has seen “some interesting photos” and “read some very interesting reports.”

Some of the spaceships are the size of football fields and contain alien corpses.

The spaceships might not be from space. They might be from another dimension. Another dimension? Another dimension.

Some reports state that aliens have killed people but now there’s an agreement between the government and the aliens so they stop doing that. That said, the government has killed people to keep this agreement secret

One of the spaceships fell into US hands when Pope Pius XII told the US that Benito Mussolini had one.

Yes. The pope helped the US military conduct a secret operation to steal a UFO from Mussolini. Yes, I’m working on the script now and should have it to a Hollywood agent by next Thursday. Details to come.

Oh, and Brett Weinstein, brother of Eric Weinstein, says that Grusch has been telling people that he and Brett are friends even though Brett says he’s never even met him. Brett suggests Grusch might be confusing him with his UFO-loving brother. Let’s see what Eric has to say about that…oh. Right. (He blocked me after my last video.)

So anyway I think it’s probably good to be a little skeptical of David Grusch just, like, in general. But there’s also reason to be very skeptical about ANY person who claims that aliens have crashed spaceships into Earth and the government is hiding it from you. Just before I finished writing this video, I happened across this excellent thread from James Harris of the American Information Integrity Alliance that details this very nicely, but just in case you’re in a hurry I’ll sum it up: just to get to Earth, an alien civilization would need incredibly advanced technology allowing them to travel at the speed of light, or have enough food and fuel for thousands of year, plus ships equipped to withstand cosmic radiation, all of which COULD absolutely be done. But this civilization that did all this, they get to Earth and just eat shit? Like, they did ALL OF THAT, they made it ALL THAT WAY just to lose all navigation abilities at the last minute and crash into a 7-11 like my neighbor’s kid did on the day she got her learner’s permit?

And then the government picks up the resulting mess and for the past 70 years has managed to do exactly nothing with it in terms of advancing our own technology? The same government that invested millions of dollars trying to develop telepathy so we could spy on Russia during the Cold War? That government hasn’t introduced any new technology from the alien spacecrafts sitting in storage?

It’s a big barrier! Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I’ll be impressed if Grusch has it.

And that brings me back around to the lab leak hypothesis. I, and every serious expert in these fields, maintain an open mind. The lab leak hypothesis was debunked by virologists who thought it was true. And as I said in my previous video on the topic, virologists continue investigating the exact origins of SARS-CoV-2 because it’s important to our understanding of disease and our ability to fight future pandemics. They’re not just putting their fingers in their ears and ignoring evidence because they don’t like the political party espousing a particular hypothesis. They are actively continuing to investigate.

The same is true for alien life. Astrobiologists, planetary geologists, astrophysicists, and astronomers aren’t saying that aliens can’t possibly exist. They’re working with organizations like the SETI Institute, where currently 100 scientists are conducting experiments to detect radio and light signals from extraterrestrial life and to better understand the likely prevalence of life throughout our universe. They would be fucking THRILLED to learn that an alien spacecraft has been found here on Earth. But from the day the Institute began their search for extraterrestrial life in 1985 up until this very day, they have not found a single “clear indication of life, past or present, beyond the Earth.”

So, yeah, I’m not going to hold my breath on either the lab leak hypothesis or the great UFO conspiracy turning out to be true, and neither should you.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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