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ChatGPT AI system says that vaccines do not cause autism

I thought I’d try out ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence bot that can answer complex questions, to find if there was a link between vaccines and autism. Guess what? The ChatGPT bot is definitely not anti-vaccine.

Below is the actual answer that it gave to the question “explain why vaccines don’t cause autism.” I wrote the question to be subtle in an attempt to confuse the ChatGPT bot, but it knew what I was asking, and it gave the perfect answer. I couldn’t do any better.

I’ve made no changes to the answer, though I did add some links to help with clarification.

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ChatGPT refutes links between vaccines and autism

There is a wealth of scientific evidence that vaccines do not cause autism. Here are some of the key reasons why:

  1. Multiple studies have shown that there is no causal link between vaccines and autism. Numerous large-scale studies have been conducted over the years, involving hundreds of thousands of children, and have consistently found no association between vaccines and autism.
  2. The original study that suggested a link between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly discredited. The study, which was published in The Lancet in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was found to be based on fraudulent data and was subsequently retracted by the journal. Wakefield was also found to have a conflict of interest and has since been struck off the UK medical register.
  3. The timing of the MMR vaccine does not coincide with the onset of autism symptoms. Many parents have attributed the onset of their child’s autism symptoms to the MMR vaccine, which is typically given at around 12-15 months of age. However, studies have shown that the onset of autism symptoms generally occurs before this age, and that there is no increase in autism rates following vaccination.
  4. The ingredients in vaccines are safe. Some people have raised concerns about the safety of vaccine ingredients, such as thimerosal (a mercury-containing preservative) and aluminum (an adjuvant used to enhance the immune response). However, both of these ingredients have been extensively studied and have been found to be safe in the amounts used in vaccines.

Overall, the scientific consensus is clear: vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious illnesses, and their benefits far outweigh any potential risks.

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My thoughts

Over the next few days, I’m going to put the ChatGPT AI system into a more rigorous test of various myths out there about science, and I might post some of the results.

What I like about this bot is that I can ask nuanced questions and get appropriate answers. Although I could have just asked “do vaccines cause autism,” that would have been too easy for the ChatGPT AI system to answer.

Because you might want to know, I did ask that question directly, and it gave a succinct answer:

There is a great deal of scientific research that has been conducted to investigate the potential link between vaccines and autism, and the overwhelming consensus among experts in the field is that there is no causal relationship between the two.

One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, analyzed data from over 95,000 children and found no association between vaccination and autism. Other large-scale studies have reached similar conclusions.

The notion that vaccines cause autism originated from a now-discredited study that was published in 1998, which has been thoroughly debunked by subsequent research. The study was retracted by the journal that published it, and the author was found to have acted unethically and had conflicts of interest.

It is important to note that vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent infectious diseases and protect public health. Vaccines have been rigorously tested and have undergone extensive clinical trials to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

The answer was almost the same, although some of you would like the second answer better.

Now, what do I think of AI? I don’t know. I actually took a title of an article I wrote and asked it to write it for me. The “article” that it wrote was somewhat better than mine, in that it used fewer words to say the same thing. But it lacked personality — I like to use subtle (or not-so-subtle snark) to make a point — ChatGPT is seriously neutral and somewhat bland.

One serious issue with its writing is that it doesn’t hyperlink to information in support of its claims. As a scientist, I want to know that a claim is supported by robust, reliable, and repeated evidence.

For example, ChatGPT says there are “numerous large-scale studies” that debunk the claim that vaccines are linked to autism. We all know that these exist, but maybe someone researching vaccines and autism will want to know what backs that claim. Lucky for them, I keep track of those “numerous large-scale studies.”

Here’s one thing that concerns me — these AI bots can write full articles on a topic. I’d hate to be a college professor these days because it’s going to be hard to find cheaters. Good luck with that.

Michael Simpson

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