Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Regnerus as victim resurfaces at Witherspoon

Part of Regnerus' "Poor Me"

On Tuesday, embattled Professor Mark Regnerus took to the Witherspoon Institute blog to defend his work. It is an interesting choice of venue. Given that Witherspoon is run by an Opus Dei numerary, the orthodox Catholic Regnerus is appealing to his own constituency. It also causes readers to remember that Witherspoon funded a large portion of this research and that his study had a religious purpose. On the surface, and before critical review, Witherspoon got what they paid for and few people were fooled. Regnerus claims victimhood (which requires a fair share of chutzpah).
… after three years, and two separate inquisitions by my own university, I’ve come to conclude that “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” as the saying goes. Or in my case, until I capitulate and admit I was wrong. I’m not above admitting mistakes, but neither am I prone to the sort of reeducation that is being pursued.

After three years, Regnerus still doesn't get it (or he is being disingenuous). Nobody is interested in his capitulation. Frankly, given his reputation, it would be of little value. By the end of this day, National Organization for Marriage might cite this piece claiming that Regnerus was a victim of political correctness. That is also false. Regnerus is a religious hack who tortured logic and evidence to produce a result that conformed to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
And so it is that a Washington Post blog recently covered the release of a study that re-analyzes the data I collected and described back in 2012 in my pair of studies of the adult children of parents who have had same-sex relationships, continuing a contest over the meaning of the New Family Structures Study (NFSS) that’s nearing three years in length now. Social science has become a spectator sport.
If people who want to limit the rights of their fellow citizens would stop citing Regnerus' discredited study as some sort of gold standard then there would be no need to continue to analyze its findings. Many of these people are associated in some way with Witherspoon. “Social science has become a spectator sport” is just more “poor me!” Regenerus fails to mention that his own professional organization, the American Sociological Association, submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges. In their brief they completely dismantle Regnerus' work.

Furthermore, let us not forget that Regnerus' research had a specific purpose other than scientific and scholarly advancement. It was funded and timed to affect deliberations in United States v. Windsor in the summer of 2013.

Commenting on the recent re-analysis by Powell and Cheng:
… it’s a very different thing to suggest that the many respondents who report that they lived with their “lesbian mother” or “gay father” for a year or less are suspect cases, or “misclassified.” They are what they are, and I was very clear about how I classified respondents. Instead, the authors attempt to simplify social reality by problematizing particular combinations of household structures simply because they are complex.
While that is essentially true Regnerus was an active participant in a political campaign that misstated how participants were classified. He was an integral part of the enterprise that deceitfully declared that the study proves that children raised by gays do not fare well. He is still part of that effort. The intended inference is that gay couples are poor parents and, thus, should not be permitted to marry. It was not only dishonest but nonsensical. The only logical connection is that children raised by same-sex parents are disadvantaged if their parents are unable to marry.
What Powell and Cheng do is continue a long line of privileging only a fraction of the social reality of households exhibiting same-sex parental relationships. In that way, they are enacting what another sociologist, Erving Goffman, called “impression management.” (Think Facebook.)
That's ridiculous. Powell and Cheng simply point out the limitations of the study participants and how they are classified to make a meaningful appraisal of gay parenting. Regnerus even admitted this in a 2013 interview with Bill Keller at the New York Times.
Regnerus, when I talked to him, conceded that his study compared apples and oranges, because “I didn’t have oranges.” He was unable to articulate what bearing his study had on gay marriage except that it “paints the reality of people’s lives as fairly complicated.”
Regnerus eventually concludes:
Social science was never going to save marriage’s male-female infrastructure. I never presumed it could or would. What it can do—and that’s what I will always love about it—is reveal what is going on. It has a difficult time laying blame or taking credit, because causality is always challenging to discern. I just wish the charged atmosphere could begin to sustain a healthy and fair debate. Not just yet, it seems.
“Save?” Irrespective of Regnerus' claims, the folks at Witherspoon (presumably Luis Tellez and Robert George) presumed that a study that was critical of same-sex parenting would have an effect on the Supreme Court. Regnerus cannot claim that he was unaware of Witherspoon's expectations in that regard. Witherspoon's Brad Wilcox was even a co-designer of the original study plan which was an undisclosed conflict of interests.

The atmosphere is not charged. A “healthy and fair debate” starts with the premise of intellectual honesty on the part of the participants. That is something that Regnerus has never demonstrated over the last three years. He has prostituted his skills and erudition on behalf of his religion. The scholarly community, it seems, is reacting to the stain on their profession as well as the poorly executed study.


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