Saturday, June 29, 2013

This week's biggest loser - How Mark Regnerus became forever tainted

Mark Regnerus
Just to put a period on this week, the biggest loser might be Mark Regnerus. That swirling noise might be his potential for tenured status going down the drain.

Mark Regnerus' thoroughly debunked study of gay parenting (that wasn't really a study of gay parenting) was timed to impact the marriage cases before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has now spoken and the Justices were apparently not persuaded that child rearing was an issue.

Regnerus turned research on its head. Rather than starting with a hypothesis that was subjected to tests, Regnerus started with a predetermined outcome. The study protocols were designed to achieve the result that the conservative Catholic organizations, that funded the study, paid for. On April 7, 2013, Bill Keller of the New York Times had one of the best explanations:
In most cases, the parents subsequently broke up. In other words, this group wasn’t the offspring of committed gay couples but of failed unions, some of them probably sham marriages. It’s not even clear whether the parents who strayed were gay or lesbian, or simply experimenting. The second group consisted of kids who spent their childhoods in lasting, married, mom-and-dad families.

Guess which group had problems? 

The study was pretty well demolished by peers. ... Regnerus, when I talked to him, conceded that his study compared apples and oranges, because “I didn’t have oranges.”
In addition to shoddy scholarship, the holier-than-thou researcher demonstrated a stunning lack of integrity. Let us remember that Regnerus claimed on several occasions that there was no conflicts of interest between research and funding.

Nevertheless, Brad Wilcox,  Director of the Program on Marriage, Family, and Democracy at Witherspoon Institute, was  a paid consultant on Regnerus’ study. Moreover,  Witherspoon’s tax return describes the Regnerus study as one of “the two major accomplishments” of a program called "Family, Marriage & Democracy." Of course none of this was known to Regnerus. Sure. Regnerus wrote:
The NFSS [New Family Structure Study] was supported in part by grants from the Witherspoon Institute and the Bradley Foundation. While both of these are commonly known for their support of conservative causes — just as other private foundations are known for supporting more liberal causes — the funding sources played no role at all in the design or conduct of the study, the analyses, the interpretations of the data, or in the preparation of this manuscript. 
A similar statement appeared on the NFSS website that Witherspoon created:
In order to insure that the NFSS was conducted with intellectual integrity, beginning from the earliest stages the Witherspoon Institute was not involved in the Study’s design, implementation, or interpretation. 
Given the fact that Wilcox was employed both by Regnerus and Witherspoon  both of those statements are baloney. When Scott Rose launched his campaign to have the University of Texas investigate Regnerus for academic misconduct, he wasn't wrong     he was premature. Regnerus was cleared because the full extent of his malfeasance was unknown. What we now know is that there were clear conflicts. Worse yet, Regnerus tried to cover them up.

Witherspoon and National Organization for Marriage are closely associated. They have a common co-founder in Robert George. Robert George is on the boards of both organizations. Furthermore, Luis Tellez, an Opus Dei numerary, is a co-founder of Witherspoon and on the board of NOM. George is also on the board of the Bradley Foundation which provided some of the funding. Robby George always seems to be at the center of these things.

We have since learned much more including how the study's presumed-in-advance results were timed to influence the Supreme Court. We also know how Regnerus was coached with talking points for the media roll-out on June 10, 2012.

On January 29 of this year, Regnerus, with six other conservative academics, filed an amicus brief on both of the marriage cases. Numerous other briefs cite Regnerus' "research."

On February 28, 2013, the American Sociological Association, Regnerus' own professional association, filed an amicus brief:
In sum, by conflating (1) children raised by same- sex parents with (2) individuals who reportedly had a parent who had “a romantic relationship with someone of the same sex,” and referring to such individuals as children of “lesbian mothers” or “gay fathers,” the Regnerus study obscures the fact that it did not specifically examine children raised by two same-sex parents. Accordingly, it cannot speak to the impact of same-sex parenting on child outcomes. As discussed above, amici in support of BLAG and the Proposition 8 Proponents have themselves rejected such “inappropriate comparisons” between stable and unstable family structures, see Brief for American College of Pediatricians at 4-5, as did the district court in Perry, see 704 F.Supp. 2d at 981 (studies that make apples-to-oranges comparisons are of no moment).
Eventually Regnerus would be a presenter at NOM's "It Takes a Family" anti-gay hatefest earlier this month. From time to time, he has written pieces for Witherspoon's blog (Public Discourse) like this gem concerning the effect of same-sex marriage on traditional marriage.

The bottom line, from my perspective, is that Regnerus (with the zeal of a Catholic covert) put his faith above academic discipline. He will probably continue to claim that he has been victimized by bloggers, left-wing academics, political correctness, the gay lobby and anyone or anything else he can think of.

Regnerus doesn't seem to be tenured and I doubt that he ever will be. Of course I am really in no position to make that judgment. However, serious academicians know exactly what he has done. My guess is that Regnerus will end up at some conservative think tank like Witherspoon and be given a pretentious academic title ("Fellow" sounds about right).

What I find interesting is that Robby George always seems to remain unscathed. The same cannot be said for those who seem to do his bidding. Wilcox and Regnerus have both taken considerable hits to their reputation.

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