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Academics intending to investigate the social effects of same-sex unions may think twice after the ordeal of Professor Regnerus

The Regnerus affair may have a chilling impact on academic freedom

By on Friday, 19 October 2012

Professor Mark Regnerus (Courtesy of Markregnerus.com)

Professor Mark Regnerus (Courtesy of Markregnerus.com)

I want to be clear, at the outset, that this is not yet another blog about Catholic teaching on the morality of homosexuality, nor is it (except indirectly) one more defence of the traditional family. It’s partly (but again indirectly) about the social effects of treating homosexual unions as though they were equivalent to marriage based on the union of one man and one woman: but again, it’s not about the morality or theology of active homosexuality.

It’s about the politics of it: it’s about the way in which the gay lobby operates. Just as most secularists are very hesitant to have a go at Islam, when they don’t think twice about mounting an attack on Christianity, so I detect a growing reluctance among Christians to risk getting on the wrong side of the gay lobby. The gay lobby doesn’t actually go in for assassination: you may not get shot or blown up: but the result can be pretty unpleasant all the same. And there is mounting evidence that this phenomenon is already having a clear effect on academic freedom.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the research of Professor Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas, who after a very large-scale survey found (publishing his findings, after the usual process of peer review, in the widely respected journal Social Science Research) that “children raised by homosexual parents are more likely than those raised by married heterosexual parents to suffer from poor impulse control, depression and suicidal thoughts” and that “They are also more likely to require more mental health therapy; identify themselves as homosexual; choose cohabitation; be unfaithful to partners; contract sexually transmitted diseases; be sexually molested; have lower income levels; drink to get drunk; and smoke tobacco and marijuana.”

I don’t want, here, to talk about these findings (I have already done that), rather I want to home in on the surrounding circumstances of their publication, for they reveal much about the ruthlessness of the gay lobby, and about the way it uses intimidation to prevent too many people with Professor Regnerus’s inclination to tell what he believes to be the truth on this subject from raising their heads above the parapet.

As for why this is a subject for a Catholic blog: Professor Regnerus is himself a Catholic and that is one of the reasons for his attack proffered by the gay blogger Scott Rose, who then made a complaint to his employers of academic misconduct, a complaint which was then promptly and thoroughly investigated by Texas University, who in the end found that Professor Regnerus had conducted his research with complete integrity. But there is a real question about that: why should a respectable university have jumped to it quite so quickly at the behest of an activist individual of this type, a person with no more status or authority than his own blog and his position in the gay activist world? The answer is that he had so successfully stirred up such vitriolic opposition to Professor Regnerus’s findings in the liberal media, that the university was actually frightened of him. So when he said “jump”, the university authorities at Austin, in the great state of Texas, jumped.

What Mark Regnerus was then put through is disquieting. Rose accused Regnerus of scientific misconduct in two letters, first charging him with deviating from “ethical standards” and later accusing him of “possible falsification” of his research. Rose claimed the study was compromised because it was funded by the conservative Witherspoon Institute and also because professor Regnerus is a Catholic, and therefore incapable of impartiality on such a subject (unlike himself, presumably).

The inquiry into their colleague’s integrity was conducted by a four-member “advisory panel” composed of senior faculty members, who (for all the world like a police force investigating fraud or paedophile offences) actually seized Regnerus’s computers and 42,000 emails. Once the inquiry was complete, the university commissioned a former associate director of the Office of Research Integrity in the US Department of Health and Human Services, to review the inquiry, which he found was “consistent with federal regulatory requirements of inquiries into research misconduct”.

So all’s well that ends well? Well, not quite. For there has now been established a precedent, which in the future those conducting academic research might well find intimidating. The moral seems to be, not so much that if you tell the truth and proceed with integrity all will be well but that if you want to be sure of avoiding that kind of gruelling ordeal, make sure you don’t choose a topic which might get you on the wrong side of the gay lobby: best just to steer clear of any such subject.

There is also the question of what a Catholic academic can now write about and research into. Earlier this week, there appeared an article in the New York Times, looking back on the Regnerus affair, tellingly entitled “Sociologist’s Paper Raises Questions on Role of Faith in Scholarship”.

“Because Dr Regnerus would not be interviewed,” says the article’s author, Mark Oppenheimer, “it is impossible to know his latest views about the relationship between his faith and research. But we can still ask if, in principle, belief in the divinity of Jesus could affect one’s social science. Put another way: “is there a Christian way to crunch numbers?”

“The answer, in my personal opinion, is no,” said Mark Chaves, a sociologist of religion at Duke Divinity School. But, he added, religious concerns “can very profoundly shape the kinds of questions we ask, and what we’re interested in, what we think is important and so on”. So while “in the narrowest sense it doesn’t affect his computations”, Dr Regnerus’s Christian faith may have drawn him to questions about same-sex relationships and family structure.

And a religious worldview, like any worldview, can dispose a researcher toward certain mistakes in thinking. Somebody critical of same-sex relationships may be more likely to group all such relationships together, as Dr Regnerus did.

Why that is a “mistake in thinking” is not explained: after all “grouping” relationships, or anything else, together is the necessary preliminary to discovering whether or not meaningful generalisations about them can be made.

“Dr Regnerus,” says Oppenheimer, “was a proud Christian witness, once upon a time. But these days he won’t discuss his faith, even with a Christian magazine. Two weeks ago, Christianity Today ran a lengthy interview with Dr Regnerus in which he said nothing about his religious beliefs. ‘I just didn’t think it was a profitable line of inquiry,’ Dr Regnerus said, in the one answer he would e-mail me. ‘I still don’t – sorry.’”

Can anyone blame him, after all he has been through? It is very sad – and disquieting – all the same.

  • nardialop

     Do you have the proof or you read it? Do they prove what you say or they are twisting the evidence?

  • chrism

    It’s funny that Marxist academics were never subject to such a witch hunt , not being required to ‘prove’ how value free  their research was . Thus I remember in 60′s the proliferation of Marxist  texts ‘proving’ the imminent end of capitalism . Nor for that matter were ‘racial’ research studies such as Jevons. I learnt in academia that the genesis of a hypothesis can never be the criterion for its falsification . That is left to the publication of such finding and the response of the academic community to it. [Hence the concept and meaning of a  'university'.] The enlightenment brought about this open society after  the restrictions of a theocratic totalitarian society.
    Makes you wonder what it is these people are afraid of that they should wish to muzzle society. 

  • John B

    “Our strategic plan goals are to maximize the association’s organizational effectiveness, expand psychology’s role in advancing health”
    Yes , I can see how that would be quite a worry with the spread of aids.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    For reference, here are three places where Regnerus and Witherspoon misrepresent their relationships to the public.

    In his published study, Regnerus falsely claims:

    “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.”

    Witherspoon made a stand-alone site to promote the study. Here is Question 13 from that site’s Q&A:

    http://www.familystructurestudies.com/faq#faq13
    13. What involvement did the Witherspoon Institute have in the design, implementation, or interpretation of the NFSS?
    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.

    In his recently published “Additional Analyses,” Regnerus says this:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12001731
    “No funding agency representatives were consulted about research design,
    survey contents, analyses, or conclusions.”

    Here is Brad Wilcox’s bio from the Witherspoon site, calling him Director of the Witherspoon Program for Marriage, Family and Democracy:
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/108824887/Wilcox-Witherspoon-Director-Evidence

    Here is Witherspoon’s 2010 IRS 990 form, describing the New Family Structure Study as “an achievement” of Witherspoon’s Program for Marriage, Family and Democracy:
    http://dynamodata.fdncenter.org/990_pdf_archive/550/550835528/550835528_201012_990.pdf

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    ” … homosexuality is “dirty, abnormal and morally bad.”

    Depraved and intrinsically disordered too.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    This has been a useful thread. 

    Any sane Catholic who is tempted to go along with the homosexual mafia can see in the responses of Scott Rose that what lies behind the initial stated defence of academic impartiality is merely an iron-bound ideological Kommissar-equivalent hatred of truth, of the moral law and of the Catholic Church, the protector of both. 

    Mask off, eh Mr Rose?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    Do you know of any that did not?  

  • nardialop

     Wow, I am speechless. Sue him and let the scientific community to work without being bullied.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    There is no “bullying” involved when investigative reporting documents that a researcher and his funders are lying about their relationship.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    Q.E.D. Science does not agree with your gay-bashing bigotry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    71% of U.S. Catholics support marriage equality for gay people.

  • karlf

    Why do some people have a homosexual desire that is felt and fulfilled in the same way as heterosexual desire?

  • karlf

    I think there is a lot of mileage in the point about masturbation.

  • awkwardcustomer

    ‘gay-bashing bigots’?  Could you refrain from hate speech please?

  • awkwardcustomer

    Yet more ranting. And hatred, and intolerance, and bigotry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    If the anti-gay bigot shoe fits, wear it. An anti-gay bigot is somebody who demonizes all gays and lesbians, and engages in various forms of heterosupremacy, including the general belief that all heterosexuals are superior to all homosexuals by virtue of their sexual orientation.  An anti-gay bigot also discounts as invalid all heterosexual persons who accept gay people and support their equality unconditionally.  

  • awkwardcustomer

    Can anyone be bothered reading this?

  • Alasdair Frew-Bell

    You do little for your case Mr Rose. Prejudiced Catholic bashing is as repellant as prejudiced gay bashing.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Gay people are just one of the tools being used by the Cultural Marxists to attack and dismantle Western culture.  As a self styled ‘victim group’ they are encouraged to see themselves as one of the vanguards of a new, open, tolerant society which will emerge when the oppressive and exploitative structures of the West are destroyed. They are what Lenin would have described as ‘useful idiots’.

    It’s all been tried before, of course, this remaking of the world and attempt to refashion the human race.  And it always ends in disaster, not to mention mass murder and mayhem.  You think science has the answers.  So did the Soviets.

    Most of the original Bolsheviks who brought about the 1917 revolution ended up being shot on Stalin’s own orders.  The revolution eats its own children.  Always.

  • awkwardcustomer

    ‘ultraliberals’.

    Best not call them Liberals, since they aren’t liberal.  Besides, they’re Cultural Marxists.

  • JeffreyRO55

    The Regnerus “study” has been completely debunked. He falsely equated causality to anecdotal links, along with many other research failures. He should have had his conclusions genuinely reviewed by real academics, not Christian academics with an axe to grind. Sadly, it has cost him his reputation. Brad Wilcox, at the University of Virginia, figures in this sordid saga, too: Wilcox was presumably a “peer reviewer” but also a study designer. That’s fraud.

    Christians are called not to bear false witness, as Mr. Regnerus has done against gay and lesbian citizens. Common sense tells us that there’s no reason one would be a good or bad parent, based on one’s sexual orientation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    Where have I said anything non-factual?  

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    ‘We are disappointed that many media outlets have not done their due diligence in investigating the scientific validity of prior studies, and acknowledging the superiority of Regnerus’s sample to most previous research….We are also disappointed that many of our academic colleagues who have critiqued Regnerus have not publicly acknowledged the methodological limitations of previous research on same-sex parenting…As social scientists, our hope is that more such studies will be forthcoming shortly, and that future journalistic and academic commentary related to such studies, and this contentious topic, will be more civil, thorough, and thoughtful than has been the coverage of the new study by Professor Mark Regnerus.’
    Statement from 27 US Social Scientists

    http://www.baylorisr.org/2012/06/a-social-scientific-response-to-the-regnerus-controversy/

    And (to save time) here’s what Scott Rose will say about it: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/a-baylor-university-institute-issues-letter-in-support-of-disreputable-regnerus-study/marriage/2012/06/30/42436

    As to Mr Rose:

    “His university conducted an official inquiry after activist blogger Scott Rosensweig (who goes by “Scott Rose”) accused him of scientific misconduct in the study and in how the results were reported in a scientific article about the study’s findings. Because the inquiry found the allegations to be unsubstantiated, UT-Austin says it will not conduct a formal investigation.” http://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/11180

    To sum up: Scott Rose complains about Regnerus to the University of Texas. The University of Texas investigates and concludes the allegations are ‘unsubstantiated’. He then complains about the investigation. (Including guest appearances in this combox.)

    So this isn’t really a story about Regnerus, so much as a story about the increasingly obsessive behaviour of Scott Rose. Of which this discussion has given ample evidence…

  • nardialop

     

    It do not matter what you believe or your agenda. Regnerus
    work is now part of the scientific literature and will be cited many times in
    the future. His paper is now a reference. If what you said were true the paper  would have been retired from the journal, and
    Regnerus would have been fired, but that did not happen and will not happen. Its
    relevance will be demonstrated through the time. It also will be an example of
    ideological persecution in the scientific community.

  • awkwardcustomer

    You’ve got it all worked out and defined, haven’t you.  But also: 

    An anti-straight bigot is someone who demonizes all heterosexuals, and engages in various forms of homosupremacy, including the general belief that all homosexuals are superior to heterosexuals by virtue of their sexual orientation.  An anti-straight bigot also discounts as invalid all homsexual persons who accept straight people and support their equality unconditionally.

    I’ve met this kind of bigot.  They exist.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Meaningless. 

    The readers of these pages are quite aware of the collapse of the Church in the USA. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Your use of language condemns your so-called commitment to “impartiality”.

    Pathetic. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Excellent post.

    I don’t know about Regnerus, but it’s clear from this thread that Scott Rosenweig aka Scott Rose is merely driven by militant homosexualist ideology. 

    He sounds like a Bolshevik Commissar, doesn’t he? 

    One and the same ideological family, of course.

  • Kevin

    So, hypothetically, assuming you were satisfied that an authority with no conflict of interest had deemed the study scientifically valid, would you accept its findings?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    “Regnerus fails the most basic requirement of social science research — assessing causation by holding all other variables constant.” Dr. Nathaniel Frank“
    “I think the study is so thoroughly flawed, in particular with respect to its categorization of ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian,’ that no conclusions can be drawn with sufficient confidence to report, publicize, or use them.” Dr. Andrew Perrin
    ” I think that actions of the editor, James Wright–including the review process, the publication of the article with invited commentaries from collaborators, the subsequent failure to give space to legitimate criticisms of the article, and other editorial misconduct–should be professionally sanctioned.  In addressing Elsevier, I think it would be appropriate to demand that they replace Wright with a new editor who will not violate the norms and values of scholarly publication.”  Dr. Michael Schwartz“
    “Politically-motivated groups bend facts all the time. The difference here is that this took place at a research university, which absolutely should have measures in place to insure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen. It sounds like there was some social networking going on, and that the $55,000 planning grant from The Witherspoon Institute got talked about, and then the work with the full $785,000 in funding followed. Somewhere along the way, though, the relationships that allowed this unacceptable thing to happen in a research university got obscured.”  Dr. Lori Holyfield

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    Actually, my point in commenting under this bigot pig’s misrepresentations of the facts of this case, is that even knowing that his bigot pig readers are not susceptible to evidence, they will be shown the evidence nonetheless.  The bigot pig who posted the above article, and all of the arrogant gay bashers who follow his line of reason, should have their rear ends under oath in a court of law, so we can see just how far they get with their lies, and refusals to acknowledge documentation of wrongdoing in this hoax ‘study.”  

  • Bored

     Dear Stupid,

    Hasn’t anyone told you not to answer a question with a question?

    Signed,

    Bored with Your Tiredsome Rants

  • Kevin

    So why would you consider a former president of this apparently august association to be “absurd”?

  • Kevin

    Bearing false witness certainly does violate Catholic morality.

    Do you have evidence that Regnerus deliberately perpetrated a “hoax”?

  • Kevin

    That is the fallacy of argument by forced analogy. For example one can write the following:

    The geocentric theory is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease

    Evolutionary theory is a hypothesis of which physicists have no need.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    The Baylor letter in support of Regnerus is another example of the blatant dishonesty involved in this hoax. One of the signers is Brad Wilcox, who recruited Regnerus for the study when he was Director of the Witherspoon program that organized the study and who as Witherspoon Program Director collaborated with Regnerus on the study design. (This isn’t to mention that Baylor University has a strict policy against acceptance of gay human beings).  The lead signer of the Baylor letter, Byron Johnson, is a Witherspoon Senior Fellow — but that is not disclosed.  An honest person would have made that disclosure.  Worse still, the letter misrepresents, (i.e., lies about) other studies in its attempts to “prove” the validity of the Regnerus hoax.  For example, its footnote 10 is a study on gay parents’ child outcomes by Daniel Potter.  The Baylor frauds allege that Potter’s findings are similar to Regnerus’s.  In point of fact, though, Potter wrote that differences were “nonsignificant net of family transitions.”  That is the complete opposite of what Regnerus alleges to have found.  Regnerus alleges that the differences he found were significant. The Baylor letter just flat out lies about other studies, as though nobody would fact-check what the signers were claiming.  

  • Kevin

    Calling everyone a “bigot pig” also violates Catholic morality.

  • Kevin

    The historical record will not be denied, but what does this have to do with the historical record?

  • Kevin

    How does science determine morality?

  • Kevin

    I would be interested to read the research behind this statement:

    “The Vatican had a power sharing agreement with Mussolini.  The Church and Mussolini baselessly demonized homosexuals and got them deported to concentration camps.”

  • Kevin

    Do you know of any? Then we can check.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Some Americans are pretty rough and don’t know how to behave. 

  • Kevin

    Do you have evidence to support the description of Oddie as writing “lies”?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    Right . . but the “infallible” Pope can baselessly announce that giving gay people equality endangers the future of mankind, yet he is not a bigot pig.  Got it.

  • Kevin

    science alone can not determine civil rights

    That is right, and it cannot determine morality either. So I do not see how science can disprove the hypothesis that something is morally bad.

  • Kevin

    Is that a scientific definition?

  • Kevin

    Is he everyone?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    Lorenzo Benadusi’s “The Enemy of the New Man; Homosexuality in Fascist Italy” is extremely well researched and documented. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rose/655434671 Scott Rose

    Oddie lies in attributing all criticism of Regnerus to a “gay lobby.”  The President of the American Sociological Association is heterosexual, and has signed a letter calling Regnerus’s groupings “absurd” and expressing concern about the corrupt circumstances of the article’s publication.  Dr. Jeremy A. Lazarus, heterosexual, and President of the American Medical Association, heads a professional group that signed the full prestige of the organization’s name onto a court brief analyzing Regnerus’s methodology as scientifically unsound.  These men are pillars of the scientific community, and they are heterosexual, yet Oddie, as an anti-gay bigot, ignores their science-based criticisms of Regnerus and tries to pin all the blame for recognition of everything that is wrong with the Regnerus paper on a supposed “gay lobby.”  He is lying, by representing to the public that the most serious criticism of the Regnerus article is political, not scientific, with a “gay lobby” as the source of the criticism.  He does not even engage with the science-based criticism of the Regnerus paper, or with the documented facts of the irregularities — the invalid peer review — through which it got published.  He is scapegoating gay people, through lies about the Regnerus situation. 

  • Kevin

    Is he wrong about where the complaint of academic misconduct came from? 

    Is he wrong about the peer review, the findings of the Texas Universiry inquiry and about the review of the latter inquiry by a former associate director of the Office of Research Integrity in the US Dept. of Health and Human Services?

    These seem to be the main points of his article.