Dieter Lenzen, Hamburg University President: "Our duty to listen to, weigh and discuss such a hypothesis"
Photo: Marcus Brandt / dpa
The President of the University of Hamburg, Dieter Lenzen, spoke for the first time about a controversial corona study from his house, which had provoked strong national opposition.
In it, physics professor Roland Wiesendanger names a number of allegedly "serious evidence" that the coronavirus spread through a laboratory accident in Wuhan, China.
In fact, a colorful hodgepodge of serious and dubious sources forms the basis for his theory, including YouTube videos and conspiracy theorist pages (read more here).
Lenzen said in a video message to the university employees on Tuesday afternoon that it was "our duty to listen to, weigh and discuss such a hypothesis."
One should be concerned if it were conceivable that a laboratory accident could cost the lives of millions of people.
"It is our task in future discussions in science, and certainly also in the university, to discuss whether this hypothesis could apply." It is "better to bring an uncertain hypothesis up for discussion than to conceal one that is ultimately correct".
At the same time, Lenzen admitted errors in handling the publication.
He moved away from the concept of study.
Wiesendanger's "thesis paper" is an analysis.
Criticism was met within the university that Wiesendanger's statements were elevated to the rank of scientific research by press releases.
The Dean's Office of the Faculty of Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Sciences distanced itself publicly.
The elaboration is »not a scientific study with quality-assured content and standards«.
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According to the speech that SPIEGEL has received, Lenzen said in his video message that he did not want to provoke anyone with the procedure.
"If you have this impression, then I ask for your forbearance." In order to "avoid misunderstandings," one wants to separate more clearly between research results and "science-political theses" in the future.
A "transfer agency" was founded to disseminate research results.
For the “provision of theses and interventions for society” “other quality criteria” would apply, “namely those of discourse”.
He did not give any details.
Lenzen declined an interview with SPIEGEL.
The Hamburg Senator for Science, Katharina Fegebank (Greens), was reluctant to comment on Wiesendanger's publication.
Scientific freedom is an "immovable good".
At the same time, "for all forms of scientific research, if the data is unclear or uncertain, it is advisable to exercise caution in evaluating".
Fegebank emphasized that the World Health Organization had only recently submitted a report on the outbreak in Wuhan.
You come to "other possible scenarios" than Wiesendanger.
"It will take several studies to understand the origins of the pandemic."
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