Regnerus – AKA Shoddy Social Science

I’ve been slack this week; I was going to write about the Regnerus study “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships?  Findings from the New Family Structures Study”  But frankly, I haven’t had time to read it properly. (18 A4 sheets of text, single-spaced, in about 10-point font…)  Just like I haven’t had time to properly read this letter from 200 PhDs and MDs, questioning both its validity and the severe lack of peer review the study underwent prior to publishing.

I’m going to blame my slackness on two days of interviewing with The Observer. I  will be posting links to their articles when they go live, which should be tomorrow and Saturday!  So really, I’ll have produced four articles this week!  Also my poor dog, Alva, was sick, so it was a trip to the vet’s when I had intended to be reading… Anyhow, back to the story at hand!

I first came across the Regnerus study in my recent indulgence with the ACL. They used it to substantiate their claims that same-sex parenting was not in the best interests of the child.  I challenged its validity then based purely on the limited information I had about the sample at the time… but that’s another post.

I’m not a Social Scientist.  I can’t critique this study like I would a Computer Science paper.  But I am a science guy.  I can read the study and make sense of it.  And to some degree, I can poke holes.

Rather than talk about the whole paper today, I’m going to pick on one section of the Conclusion…

While it is certainly accurate to affirm that sexual orientation or parental sexual behaviour have nothing to do with the ability to be a good, effective parent, the data evaluated herein using population-based estimates drawn from a large, nationally-representative sample of young Americans suggest that it may affect the reality of family experiences among a significant number.

Loosely translated I think this says: “We’re not saying you’re bad at parenting.  Just that you’re bad parents.”  Which, when you boil it down, is awfully similar to “love the sinner, but hate the sin.”

Well, it just so happens that the first issue with the paper itself that the critique letter touched on was that the data was crap.  It was manipulated in such a way that the study could easily mistake bad outcomes from broken homes for bad outcomes from  same-sex relationships.

I love science; I’m very much a geek.  It pains me to see the scientific method twisted like this to produce results that fit the agenda of a particular interest group…  The study was designed to find fault with gay parenting, and that’s exactly what it did.  Soon, I’ll go into more detail on how this happened and how it was published in this previously well-respected journal…

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