Researcher accused of scientific misconduct by gay rights activists

Professor Mark Regnerus

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus’ study on the social and mental-health of children raised in heterosexual households versus those raised in homosexual households has caused a lot of controversy since being published in the July issue of Social Science Research. So much so that according to Angela O’Brien of LifeSiteNews, he is being investigated by his employer, the University of Texas, for “scientific misconduct” after receiving complaints from a number of gay rights activists, including Scott Rose, a blogger who recently sent an open letter to UT president William Powers.

Rose’s letter, which can be found here, claims Regnerus is nothing more than a front man for people who want to “dehumanize and discredit gay people.” Adding that Regnerus’ study was “designed to make gay people look bad, through means plainly fraudulent and defamatory.”

Regnerus claims he doesn’t have a political axe to grind and that, as a scientist, he will “follow where the data leads.” 18 notable social scientists have issued a public statement affirming the “scientific integrity of Regnerus’ methods,” but that isn’t enough for Rose. Regnerus “took money,” Rose claims, to produce a “half-baked study” for the “political exploitation and demonization of sexual minorities.”

Regnerus’ study lit up the blogosphere when it was first published a couple weeks ago, and some writers here at CV shared their thoughts about it.

Thomas Peters wrote that “It’s time for gay marriage supporters to revisit some of their core assumptions about the reality of gay parenting and how this reflects on the wider debate about marriage.”

Lauren Hoedeman similarly claimed that “Whereas previously it may have seemed warranted to embrace the view that children of homosexual parents were not in general disadvantaged relative to children of heterosexual parents, now it is clear from Dr. Marks’ review that the jury is still out.”

Peters and Hoedeman are both right. However, the attacks on Dr. Regnerus point to an emerging and deeply disturbing trend in American society: If you call into question the overarching narrative promulgated by our cultural, intellectual and political elites, you are instantly labeled a bigot, a racist, a homophobe, or, in this case, intellectually dishonest.

Denny Burk, an Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College in Kentucky, wrote a great blog post about this exact topic just a few days ago. He argues that “the social pressure to abandon a Christian sexual ethic is getting more intense,” but “at some point, the social pressure will transform into governmental pressure, and Christians will suffer. We will look back on moments like this one as one more step down the path of intolerance of Christian views. Mark Regnerus is in the crosshairs now, but it will be all of us before too long.”

I can only pray that he is wrong.

Stephen Kokx is an adjunct professor of political science and featured columnist at RenewAmerica.com. Follow him on twitter @StephenKokx

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26 thoughts on “Researcher accused of scientific misconduct by gay rights activists

  1. G. K. Thursday says:

    What Braden and his interlocutors don’t realize (or admit) is that Big Science has no claim to be an arbiter of moral truth. The sociological limits of science have long been established (by Kuhn and many others). It is the sheerest scientism (I.e., making science into an oracular faith) to hold otherwise (this is widely acknowledged by philosophers and historians of science). This does not mean that Science has no part in moral decision making, but rather that scientific results themselves require a hermeneutic to understand and use them properly. The Roman Catholic hermeneutic, drawn from biblical sources in dialogue with other ancient ethical writings (Plato, Aristotle, etc.) and refined by some of the greatest minds in history over almost 2000 years, is known as natural law. By consistent application of natural law thinking, it is possible to parse Big Science for the truth (and filter out noise). Since readers of this comment probably have many questions about the validity of natural law, and it is a vast subject which cannot be adequately treated in a blog comment, please take the time to read more about natural law in the Catholic Encyclopedia online at the New Advent website. I would also recommend fr. Benedict Ashley’s recent book on “How Science Enriches Theology” for a very timely explanation of how Roman Catholic natural law thinking works vis a vis Science.

    So it is perfectly sensible for a Roman Catholic (like Kokx) to use natural law approaches to interpret scientific results. It avoids simple-minded scientism.

    1. Braden says:

      What you don’t realize (or admit) is that I never claimed science is a moral truth. My point is, to repeat for the nth time, it’s ridiculous to write an article about people criticizing a scientific study when this site rejects offhand other scientific studies. That’s it. It’s also ridiculous to draw sweeping world views of people you’ve never even met, based on an Internet comment.

      1. Joe M says:

        Braden. Can you point to where any study positive about gay adoption led to an author being investigated by their employer? — I suppose it could have happened. You tell me. If not, I think that you’re making a weak comparison and unjust criticism of Stephens post.

  2. Susan Abel says:

    Courage, Mr. Regnerus. Everyone benefits from absolute truth – those who reject it and those who embrace it.

  3. Francis Wippel says:

    What is so disappointing about all this is the level of selfishness involved here. Anyone who’s ever been married and had children knows that men and women bring different but essential elements to parenting that are unique to their own gender. To suggest than a man is just as capable of fulfilling the role of a mother as a woman, or a woman is just as capable of fulfilling the role of father as a man is, is laughably absurd. But this is what happens when some choose to ignore God’s laws of nature and assume that they know, and can do, better.

    What also happens is that children are no longer seen as gifts from God. Instead, having children is now reduced to a ‘civil right’ to which any adult who wishes should have. The best interests of the child are of no concern to those who support the idea that same-sex couples raising children should be considered as normal as what God has ordained from the beginning.

  4. RIck Sammons says:

    So someone WITHOUT a scientific background but with a political agenda (Rose) claims someone WITH a scientific background and without an apparent political agenda (Regnerus) didn’t do a scientific study appropriately, and a Univeristy President (Powers), who is hired by political appointments, is investigating. Who can tell me where this is headed? And those scientists that support Regnerus, I don’t think your input will outweigh the political correctness of the situation. Another reason to keep our government(Federal and state) out of our lives as much as possible.

    1. Paul S. says:

      This is false. The article appears to fail to mention that 200 of our nation’s most respected psychologists and sociologists have signed a letter not only questioning the science, but pointing out that there appears to be issues with how the study was published. They point out that the normal peer review process appears to have been circumvented. Also, the study does not compare heterosexual families to homosexual families. It compares intact families to non-intact families. The problem is that it is dishonestly presented such that it’s easy for others, like this website, to twist the facts just enough as to make it appear as though the study says something it doesn’t.

      1. patback says:

        Here’s a link to the letter that was signed by 200 of our nation’s scholars. It brings up a number of problems with the study as well as makes the case that the study appears to have been published using questionable tactics. http://bilgrimage.blogspot.com/2012/07/more-blistering-criticism-of-regnerus.html It’s disappointing that this post wouldn’t have mentioned that this letter existed, instead trying to frame the accusations against Regenerus as the work of “activists”. This is not respectful writing and is goes against the teaching of the Catholic Church.

        1. Rob says:

          Thank you, CatholicVote, for chastising others for not respecting sciencific inquiry, while completely ignoring the very aspects of scientific inquiry you criticize others for.

        2. Joe M says:

          patback. The criticism from the link you provide basically amounts to a conspiracy theory. “Why did it happen so fast?!” It fails to address the merit of the study at all. — This reminds me of the man-made global warming debate. Scientists release information that conflicts with a liberal agenda. So, they turn it into a “how many scientists can sign your paper?!” race. Science isn’t a matter of consensus or popular opinion. At one time, the consensus was that the world was flat. The consensus was wrong.

        3. stceolfrithtx says:

          “We further request that you invite scholars with specific expertise in LGBT parenting issues to submit a detailed critique of the paper and accompanying commentaries for publication in the next issue of the journal.”

          …Why not invite neutral parties instead?

  5. tz1 says:

    Have you not seen the movie ‘Expelled’?

  6. Braden says:

    Yet there exist many scientific studies that have proven the opposite point (which is completely fine…that’s the point of science, to keep producing more data to get to the data point of “truth,” if you will). But I don’t really see much “acceptance” from CatholicVote writers of studies that disprove their viewpoints.

    1. Luke says:

      Links to back up your claims?

      1. Braden says:

        Sure. http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=31152 The American Psychological Association study is cited as flawed by CatholicVote. This article references others who say Regnerus’ study is flawed, for many of the same exact reasons as critiques of the APA study (sample size and sample inequality). So we have two studies with opposite conclusions and critics pointing out the same flaws in both. Is it “science” that CatholicVote writers get to choose which one is right? Coincidence that it fits with their political views? Stephen Kokx in this article criticizes those who call into question “scientific” studies as vilifying minority voices…yet we’re supposed to believe that criticism of the APA study is A-OK and completely warranted, even though the criticism is the SAME THING. Look, the writers can hold whatever beliefs they want about gays and gay marriage. But to pretend that “science” is part of this huge liberal lobby is just silly in the face of the actual evidence.

    2. John says:

      I have seen analysis that calls the methodology of many of those previous studies into question as well. The difference is in the vehemence of the reactions to the Regnerus study. It is one thing to analyze the data and put them to the test. That is what is supposed to be done with any scientific study. It is quite another to let your emotional investment in one side of the issue so cloud your thinking that you fly off into a rage and assail the one(s) conduction the study and publishing its results personally and/or threatening to do so physically. Just because a researcher comes up with a result that differs for the point of view one has chosen to adopt does not mean that person did so intentionally or maliciously. Such a position is intellectually bankrupt.

      1. Braden says:

        The point is, in the name of science, what sort of authority does CatholicVote has to proclaim the “correct” study–which this site has clearly done? That’s just as ridiculous as Rose’s criticism. Last time I checked, this is a religious site with no scientific bona fides.

        1. Randall says:

          Logical fallacy: appeal to science. Catholic religion trumps science every time. If God says being gay is wrong (and He does, it’s in the Bible) then not all the science in the world can refute it. Everything in the Bible is irrefutable,but you liberal scientists can keep on wasting time and money trying to prove God and His Bible wrong. Go ahead, He’s got all eternity… he can be patient while you flounder around trying to disprove anything you can in the Bible (HINT: It’s NEVER gonna happen!)

      2. Michael says:

        It’s obvious that “science” on this site means accepting only what correlates with Catholic teaching. How else can you explain Thomas Peters’ article that Kokx links to (http://www.catholicvote.org/discuss/index.php?p=31248). This site is picking its own scientific winners and losers, in face of conflicting evidence. There’s nothing scientific about that.

        1. patback says:

          Unfortunately, they are also picking their facts. The truth is that the an article was published in the Mormon newspaper, Deseret News, before it was published in the magazine. This shows that there was some collusion that is uncommon of scientific journals and serious researchers. Also, the source of the funding was questionable with some of the funding coming from political organizations. This again, is unusual for serious research. Add to the fact that the study was published on the internet and then quickly revised once criticism began mounting about the wording of the study and how the groups were picked. Finally, the study carefully sorted groups to reach a particular conclusion. For example, the “heterosexual” families were carefully sorted to eliminate any families that have lost parents due to death or illness, divorce, or even families where one of the children committed suicide. Meanwhile, the other groups (only 3 of which include gay and lesbian parents in a committed relationships) included all those types of families. It’s clear that the “chips were stacked” to make the “heterosexual” parents come out ahead. This is not science, it’s propaganda.

        2. Joe M says:

          Michael and Braden. It sounds like you are admitting that Regnerus’ study could be correct. If it is, would that affect your position on gay adoption?

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