Originally published 24 July 2012. No changes have been made, though I’m sorely tempted to comment on the weeds descending from Regnerus’s chin.
Doubtless the nastiest phenomenon in nature is when an impassioned school of shark turn on one of their own and savagely rip their brother animal to pieces, eating him alive. Not a pretty sight and a reminder the world in its natural state is not a paradise.
Similarly, it is a nauseating sight when a school of sociologists, including amateur sociologists we call “the press,” go mad and engage in a frenzied, no-holds-barred attack on one of their own. An ugly, stomach churning business.
Poor Mark Regnerus! A professor (as of this writing) at the Department of Sociology and Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin. There he was, innocently swimming along publishing papers, applying for grants, and grading exams, when the sea erupted around him! A blur of teeth, invective, insult, blood in the water—oh, the humanity?
And why? Well because Regnerus had the temerity to say things like this (if you are unused to raw, unmedia-filtered data, then I suggest you avert your eyes until after the summary):
- 23% of now-grown children of families with a lesbian mother said ‘yes’ to “Ever touched sexually by parent/adult“, versus 6% of those of families with a gay father and only 2% of those now-grown children from traditional mom-dad, Ozzie-Harriet families.
- 31% of now-grown children of families with a lesbian mother said ‘yes’ to “Ever forced to have sex against will“, versus 25% of those of families with a gay father and only 8% of those now-grown children from traditional mom-dad families.
- 12% of now-grown children of families with a lesbian mother said ‘yes’ to “Thought recently about suicide“, versus 24% of those of families with a gay father and only 5% of those now-grown children from traditional mom-dad families.
- And perhaps the worst of all (to Regenrus’s career prospects) only 61% of now-grown children of families with a lesbian mother said ‘yes’ to “Identifies as entirely heterosexual“, versus 71% of those of families with a gay father and with a full 90% of those now-grown children from traditional mom-dad families. So much for theories that acculturation plays no role!
And these are only the highlights from his peer-reviewed “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study” in the journal Social Science Research.
Now, I don’t buy the logistic regression p-values Regnerus displays, but the tables which summarize the raw data are intriguing. And horrifying to progressives. According to Regnerus, traditional kids vote more, are more liable to be employed, are less likely to have a sexually transmitted disease, are more likely to feel closer to their parents, are happier, are less impulsive, make more money, are in better health, use less marijuana, are less likely to get drunk, watch less TV, have far fewer sexual “partners” (there’s a progressive word for you: it means the exact opposite of what it says), and (my favorite) are less likely to have pled guilty to a non-minor offense.
Journalists and academics on the left reasoned: these results cannot be true because we don’t want them to be; therefore, they are not true. And that’s when the frenzy started. They began by pointing out what Regnerus admits in his article as a weakness: that the “lesbian” moms and “gay” fathers might not be (but also might be) full-time lesbians and gays, but have, at least once, engaged in a “same-sex” relationship, even if married to a heterosexual. This, according to progressives, invalidates the entire study, is not a “fair” comparison, is “deeply flawed” methodology, etc.
But this would only mean the conclusions would have to be re-written; e.g. “31% of now-grown children of families with a lesbian mother or a mother who at least once cheated on her spouse with another woman said ‘yes’ to ‘Ever forced to have sex against will‘, versus 25% of those of families with a gay father or a father who at least once cheated on his spouse with another man and only 8% of those now-grown children from traditional mom-dad families.” I don’t see how this helps progressives.
Neither do the folks at the New Civil Rights Movement who resorted to the standard political trick, when they could not disparage the results, they attacked Regnerus: “His professional integrity was cast into doubt…” etc., etc. The New Republic said “It’s a real relief to see the takedowns pile up in response to” Regnerus. It sure is! The LA Times used the phrase “hopelessly flawed.” And there was more, much more.
So much more that a team of academics who wanted nothing more than a return to peace and quiet were forced to issue an open letter which said “Although Regnerus’s article in Social Science Research is not without its limitations, as social scientists, we think much of the public criticism Regnerus has received is unwarranted for three reasons.”
- “The vast majority of studies published before 2012 on this subject have relied upon small, nonrepresentative samples that do not represent children in typical gay and lesbian families in the United States.”
- “what his critics fail to appreciate is that Regnerus chose his categories on the basis of young adults’ characterizations of their own families growing up, and the young adults whose parents had same-sex romantic relationships also happened to have high levels of instability in their families of origin.”
- Newer research “comes to conclusions that parallel those of Regnerus’s study.”
Then in chimed well-tenured professor Christian Smith (who took pains to say he was not a conservative) in the (lefty) Chronicle of Higher Education. Juicy summary follows:
Whoever said inquisitions and witch hunts were things of the past?…In today’s political climate, and particularly in the discipline of sociology—dominated as it is by a progressive orthodoxy—what Regnerus did is unacceptable…a heretic, a traitor…Advocacy groups and academics who support gay marriage view Regnerus’s findings as threatening…Sociologists tend to be political and cultural liberals, leftists, and progressives…One cannot be too friendly to religion…such as researching the positive social contributions of missionary work overseas or failing to criticize evangelicals and fundamentalists…the ideological and political proclivities of some sociologists can create real problems…It is also easy for some sociologists to lose perspective on the minority status of their own views, to take for granted much that is still worth arguing about, and to fall into a kind of groupthink…The temptation to use academe to advance a political agenda is too often indulged in sociology…political attacks like those on Regnerus are contemptible and hurt everyone in the long run, including progressives.
Young scientists, in any field, can learn much from Smith’s advice. Particularly this: don’t buck the consensus. Do what everybody else does, say what everybody else says. Support the findings people want to be true and denigrate that which everybody hates. What matters is how you get along with your colleagues, not the truth.
This works equally well in, say, climatology as it does in sociology.
Update New article on acculturation.
Thanks to Micah Mattix for altering me to this story.