In line with the paper’s assertion that the virus wasn’t a laboratory construction, the authors propose their pangolin theory which they trace to the “Huanan Market” (conveniently leaving the Seafood part out of the title). Let’s just ignore for a moment the fact that of the first known cases "13 of the 41 cases had no link to the marketplace" including the very first ones, thereby wrecking the whole market-pangolin case, and take a look at it anyway:
“Malayan pangolins illegally imported into Guangdong (over 1000 km away) contain coronaviruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. Although the RaTG13 bat virus remains the closest to SARS-CoV-2 across the genome, some pangolin coronaviruses exhibit strong similarity to SARS-CoV-2. This clearly shows that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein optimized for binding to human-like ACE2 is the result of natural selection.” (my brackets)
How does that clearly show anything? They’re similar - not the same. A virus detected in a Malayan pangolin by researchers in Guangdong (interestingly in October 2019 - just before the outbreak) indicated that “Pangolin-CoV is 91.02% and 90.55% identical to SARS-CoV-2 and BatCoV RaTG13, respectively, at the whole-genome level” That’s still short of the 96% match for the bat virus being studied at WIV.
Incidentally, were they also playing around with pangolin virus at WIV? Maybe seeing what happens if you combine the two? We don't know - probably never will.
If a virus is manipulated in a lab it’s not constructed from the ground up. As we saw in the WIV (Wuhan Institute of Virology) experiment, small elements of the original SARS virus were inserted into the backbone of an existing bat virus. That produces a new virus that is similar to the one that received the insertions.
The Proximal Origins paper also asserts:
“For a precursor virus to acquire both the polybasic cleavage site and mutations in the spike protein suitable for binding to human ACE2, an animal host would probably have to have a high population density (to allow natural selection to proceed efficiently).”
That means, in order to account for the many mutations to get from the 92% pangolin match to 100% for nCoV-2, you'd need a lot of animals together over a long period of time. However, according to wikipedia:
“Pangolins are solitary and meet only to mate.”
Regardless, the above is scientific conjecture based on the assumption that the first cases came from the Huanan Seafood Market. If that's wrong, which it is, then everything after that is wrong.
That means the "high density population" of pangolins being slaughtered at the Huanan Seafood Market is a moot point - but let's check it out anyway.
Have seen a lot of stuff related to the virus - it's hard to see anything else - but still haven’t seen any evidence that live pangolins were sold at the market. Surely that’s something that can be definitively ascertained. Lots of people live in Wuhan - many of them went to that market - wouldn’t there be verifiable reports? So how is it so hard to find evidence of “high density population” of pangolins being slaughtered there?
Interestingly, one person who has spent a lot of time in China, including Wuhan, and would have a pretty good idea about whether pangolin are widespread at markets there, is one of the paper’s authors, W. Ian Lipkin. In January he went to China to receive his medal from the CCP. When he returned he gave an interview. When asked about the consumption of pangolin, he said: “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of pangolin eating (in China).” https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/epidemiologist-veteran-of-sars-and-mers-shar...
That sounds like one of the authors debunking the theory he's put his name to.
The question then, is, ‘Why are they doing that?’
CCP money is a factor as we discovered by looking at the authors' income streams. The other thing in common as Kristian G. Andersen put it: proactive, real-time surveillance of human populations."
Maybe the last sentence of the paper is the most truthful one in it:
"Irrespective of the exact mechanisms by which SARS-CoV-2 originated via natural selection, the ongoing surveillance of pneumonia in humans and other animals is clearly of utmost importance."