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Hard to recall a more frayed social fabric

Since co-writing a paper that said scientists should investigate the possibility that a virus from a laboratory in China caused the pandemic, Alina Chan (shown on campus at MIT), a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, has provoked scorn and, by her account, has received hate mail and violent threats.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Jonathan Saltzman’s report that a postdoctoral fellow at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has encountered hate mail and even death threats for merely suggesting, in a scholarly paper, that scientists should simply investigate the theory that the COVID-19 pandemic might have emanated from a laboratory in China tells us more than we want to know about the nation’s devolution into partisan hysteria and dysfunction (“Book by local scientist tests lab-leak theory,” Page A1, Nov. 14). I’m old enough (having been born in the middle of the Second World War) to have seen quite a number of social and political crises. (I became a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer just in time to deal with the divisive crisis caused by the unpopular Vietnam War.) However, I can’t remember its ever being this bad.

Those who have managed to retain their sanity in these insane times owe it to future generations to figure out what’s gone wrong. Perhaps we need another undertaking similar to the commission named to investigate the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.


Harvey A. Silverglate