Empirical Data Confirm Autism Symptoms Related to Aluminum and Acetaminophen Exposure (Not in Taylor’s original list, second Taylor number = 18, current Taylor number =22)
Correct citation: Seneff S, Davidson RM, Liu J, Empirical Data Confirm Autism Symptoms Related to Aluminum and Acetaminophen Exposure Entropy 2012, 14(11), 2227-2253; doi:10.3390/e14112227
Authors' Affiliations: At the time of publication, Seneff was a Senior Research Scientist at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Jingjing Liu is also at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; at the time of publication, she may have been working in Seneff's lab. Davidson is a physician practicing internal medicine. His license is current.
The authors have an array of expertise unrelated to autism or to the etiology of autism. One would not expect an internist (Davidson) to know very much about autism or about vaccinology. One would not expect a senior computer scientist (Seneff) whose area of expertise is in computer conversational systems, (speech recognition, natural language parsing, discourse and dialogue modelling, language generation, and information summarization) to know anything at all about autism or autism etiology. The junior member of the team (Liu) has no research interests related to autism (spoken language systems, natural language processing, information retrieval).
Nature of Journal: Entropy is an open-access journal published by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI . Impact factor 3.197. The watchdog Scholarly Open Access does not currently regard it as "a predatory journal" but there have been questions about the academic standing of several papers published. Some of the journals may be stronger than others. Entropy is not yet indexed in PubMed.
Where does this paper fit on the pyramid of evidence? It is a hybrid. The first half is a review of the literature that link various environmental exposures to autism. The second half is a sort of case series.
Methods: Both halves of the paper have fatal flaws.
First, the review section. The authors do not appear to have a grasp of what autism is, or the concept of "autism spectrum disorder", or how the diagnostic criteria for autism have expanded over time. (If you are unclear yourself, see R.R. Grinker's Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Through the Years for disambiguation.) The paper's authors seem to believe that there is a monolithic "autism spectrum community", composed entirely of parents of autistic children, all of whom believe that vaccinations caused their children's autism. In fact, the "autism spectrum community" consists of (1) autistic adults, almost all of whom reject the autism-vaccine myth; (2) parents of autistic children who reject the autism-vaccine myth; and (3) a tiny minority of the parents of autistic children who embrace the autism-vaccine myth.
The review section is quite credulous in the sources cited, beginning with DeLong, moving through the Geiers, and includes a stop by Boyd Hayley. The review section is simply incompetent.
The analysis section is worse.
.... In this section, we will present the results of several experiments we conducted with the VAERS database, using standard statistical techniques based on word frequency information.
What part about the following disclaimer from VAERS did the authors not understand?
A report to VAERS generally does not prove that the identified vaccine(s) caused the adverse event described....VAERS data should be used with caution as numbers and conditions do not reflect data collected during follow-up. Note that the inclusion of events in VAERS data does not infer causality.
The analysis section is very hard to follow. The authors jump from from speculative autism causation theory A to speculative autism causation theory Z theory, even within the same paragraph. Many of the A-Z theories are mutually exclusive, a point which seems to escape the authors. Perhaps they were motivated by "“Spaghetti-Logic” i.--throw every vaccine-autism link / theory against the wall to see if any of them would stick.
A more detailed discussion -- or demolition-- of this paper can be found at: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2012/11/20/dumpster-diving-in-the-vaers-database-again/.
Remember that the compiler of this list of papers made the following assertion:
Here we provide for the reader research that demonstrates the link between vaccines and autism, and the mechanisms by which vaccines can cause autism.
Does this paper effectively demonstrate a link between vaccines and autism? No.
Does this paper demonstrate the mechanism(s) by which vaccines can cause autism? No.