After Regnerus debacle, where are the apologies?

Now that an internal audit at Social Science Research has confirmed that Mark Regnerus’ “gay parenting” study was indeed so badly flawed it never should have survived peer review, it’s safe to say that we can move past examining the specifics of how it went wrong, and start looking at the deeper question of why so many in the media and the right wing readily accepted its conclusions with little critical scrutiny while dismissing the valid concerns raised by others. Given that their hailing of the study as a revelation about the supposed inferiority of same-sex parents was actually based on a paper that should have been immediately disqualified from publication, are they prepared to correct the record? What many of them described as a paper about “gay parenting” covered barely a handful of respondents who had lived with same-sex couples as parents for an appreciable fraction of their childhood, far too few to be representative of the true proficiency of same-sex parents. This is not merely a matter of partisan political opinion – Regnerus himself acknowledged these shortcomings. Are these reporters and activists willing to admit they were wrong?

Where is the apology from Maggie Gallagher, who wrote that the Regnerus study is “the best gay-parenting study we have to date” and shows that “the ideal for a child is a married mom and dad”, when the study’s “gay fathers” and “lesbian mothers” groups were actually packed with as many unstable families as possible?

Where is the apology from William Saletan of Slate, who decried legitimate criticism of the study’s faulty conclusions as part of a “liberal war on science”?

Where is the apology from Ed Whelan of the National Review, who described all other studies on same-sex parenting as “schlock social science” compared to the Regnerus study, and claimed that the new study discredits “the junk social science that so many proponents of same-sex marriage propagate”, even as he admitted that he doesn’t “regard Regnerus’s study as authoritatively and definitively settling much of anything”?

Where is the apology from Mona Charen, who claimed the study showed that “same-sex households provide children with the least stability”, when the study actually included hardly any actual households with same-sex parents?

Where is the apology from the Deseret News, which also erroneously claimed that the study’s results reflect “children growing up in lesbian households” – and then, ironically, called for “healthy skepticism for so-called consensus findings, especially with regard to hot-button social issues where the biases of researchers might influence design and interpretation”?

Where is the apology from Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, who uncritically repeated the study’s methodological sleight-of-hand of defining a child of “homosexual parents” as having at least one parent who ever had a same-sex relationship?

Where is the apology from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, who cited the study’s clearly insufficient data to demand that gay parents should be denied custody of their children?

Where is the apology from the American College of Pediatricians, a non-authoritative anti-gay group which cited the Regnerus study in an amicus brief in a federal case against the Defense of Marriage Act and again falsely claimed that it was about “children raised by same-sex couples”?

Where is the apology from political strategist Frank Schubert, who claimed that the study’s results warrant banning same-sex marriage?

Where is the apology from Christian Smith, who glossed over the study’s flaws and instead dismissed criticism of its shortcomings as “an academic auto-da-fé” against Regnerus?

Where is the apology from the 18 social scientists who claimed that “much of the public criticism Regnerus has received is unwarranted” and misleadingly described it as a “study on same-sex parenting”? (And if you’re impressed by that number, note that 200 researchers signed a letter which raised concerns about “the academic integrity of the peer review process for this paper as well as its intellectual merit”.)

We can keep going all day. I realize not everyone has an education in social science – I certainly don’t. But the mistakes of the Regnerus study are easily understandable by the layperson, and those in the media whose job it is to report on this have an obligation to do so accurately in the course of informing the public. Here, many of them have failed, and because of their lack of diligence, they’ve unjustly impugned parents like me and my partner in the minds of millions. They are responsible for that. Does this not warrant an apology? Can they admit that they were wrong, that these criticisms of the study’s structure and conclusions were indeed valid, and that they failed to recognize this? Or do they just not do this anymore?

After Regnerus debacle, where are the apologies?

13 thoughts on “After Regnerus debacle, where are the apologies?

  1. 2


    Most of those 18 “social scientists” have only a tangential relationship to the research on same-sex marriage and families. Most of them have none. Here’s their list and what they actually do and how many of them have actively spoken out against same-sex marriage before.

    Witherspoon Fellows and Senior Fellows marked with ^. Signatories to Witherspoon Institute’s 2005 “Marriage and the Public Good”, wherein they call same-sex marriages one of the dangers to heterosexual marriages, are marked with *:

    Byron Johnson *, ^
    Douglas Allen, Simon Fraser University (Economics)
    Peter Arcidiacono, Duke University (Economics)
    John Bartkowski, University of Texas at San Antonio (Just 1 of 13 colleagues from the same Dept supports Regnerus? Where are the other 12?)
    David Eggebeen* Penn State University
    Michael Emerson* Rice University
    Ana Cecilia Fieler, University of Pennsylvania (another Economist; International Trade and Development Economics; why not let English majors sign too?)
    Alan Hawkins, Brigham Young University (testified in the Iowa Varnum case against same-sex couples)
    William Jeynes, ^
    Loren Marks, (unsuccessful witness at Prop 8, whom pro-prop8 side decided not to use after he was confronted with citing selectively from prior research, ignoring what he didn’t like.)
    Margarita Mooney ^
    Stephen Robinson, University of North Carolina at Wilmington (yet another Economist)
    Christian Smith, University of Notre Dame
    Rodney Stark, writes books on religion
    James Stoner*,^ Louisiana State University (Dept of Political Science)
    Peter Uhlenberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    W. Bradford Wilcox, identified as ^ at Witherspoon as of 2011
    Bradley Wright, University of Connecticut (mostly involved in research on criminality, homelessness, religion, and a couple of papers on fatherlessness)

    Total: 5 Witherspoon Fellows or Senior Fellows, 4 Signatories to call to prohibit same-sex marriage, one witness in a same-sex marriage trial, one wannabee witness (who did a sloppy job in the run-up to the trial), a whole bunch of Economics and Polisci professors, and many people who mostly write on Sociology of Religion.

  2. 3

    Will Saletan said that shit? Oh, heck. He at least rubs up against the idea of being reasonable; he might be moved to write a retraction.

    The rest of them are, as Gandalf might say, “beyond our aid.”

  3. 4

    Don’t hold your breath for an apology as there likely won’t be one. They’ll likely keep whining that they’re being persecuted by the Big Bad Liberals because they dare to speak the truth about Teh Gays.

  4. 7

    This happens in so much of the media’s reporting on science.

    The media in general are very poor at distinguishing between flawed studies and trials and they do not apologise for that either.

    See media reporting on vaccination, climate change, violence in media etc etc.

    It sucks that in this case poor science is being used by bigoted people to further their agenda.

  5. 8

    Can they admit that they were wrong, that these criticisms of the study’s structure and conclusions were indeed valid, and that they failed to recognize this? Or do they just not do this anymore?

    No, no one admits to wrongdoing anymore. They think that they can get away with it and no one will notice. The sad thing is that, for the most part, they will get away with it. Rarely does anyone get called on anything anymore. I blame the fox news culture that goes with the philosophy of “get caught in a lie, Lie harder.” Starts from the top down.

  6. 9

    You are being unfair to Saletan. He never actually used that phrase in the article, and Slate articles are always titled with puns and re-imaginings of common phrases, including the well known “Republican war on science.” These titles hardly reflect the attitude of the author.

  7. 10

    Not only will you not see any apologies, even after the journal retracts the study, you will see an doubling-down by evangelicals and rethuglicans on the usage of the study to prove their point.

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