Mark Regnerus is at it again…

After the infamous Regnerus Study, you’d hope that Mark Regnerus would have fallen of the face of the sociological planet, would’t you?  Not quite, although his article for The Witherspoon Institute might just make it happen.

His article begins:

 Young adult men’s support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and fairness. It may be, in part, a byproduct of regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts.

It turns out there’s this interesting correlation between the amount of porn men watch, and the level to which they support same sex marriage – these figures come out of the New Family Structures Study which is no surprise, since this data underpinned Regnerus’ last paper.  He has however, steered well clear of the data which was so controversial last time – a good choice on his part.

What baffles me though, is that at the start of the article, you get the block-quote above.  The second-last paragraph starts

Of course, correlation doesn’t mean causation, and I’m not suggesting causation here.

He’s got this partly right, correlation does not mean causation, however, contrast this statement with the following one and the blurb paragraph, and he most certainly is suggesting a causative link.

And the last paragraph in its entirety:

In the end, contrary to what we might wish to think, young adult men’s support for redefining marriage may not be entirely the product of ideals about expansive freedoms, rights, liberties, and a noble commitment to fairness. It may be, at least in part, a byproduct of regular exposure to diverse and graphic sex acts.

Here, I’m going to take Mark to task over sloppy, sloppy language choices:

a byproduct is an unintended or unwanted product of a process, but it is still a product. A product of a process is caused by that process.

The Good Doctor has just said that young men’s support for redefining marriage may be a byproduct of pornography viewing.  One single paragraph after denying that he is suggesting causation, he states that he believes there at least a partial causative link.

I don’t want to get into the pros or cons of porn here.  Regnerus throws up a few straw-men though, particularly to make it look like he’s explicitly denying the causal link.

I can agree with him on one point, I don’t think that same-sex marriage support causes porn viewing.  But his answers to the “alternative explanations” are transparently insufficient – he suggests “Religion? Politics?” and goes on to say “While religiosity indeed matters for perceiving marriage as outdated, it does little to alter the stable link between porn use and same-sex marriage support”

My dear Mark, Religiosity has little to do with same sex marriage support or porn use?  Go back to your data.  Anti-gay sentiment is typically rooted in a religious societal undertone, and disapproval of porn is certainly high on the Church’s list. Someone with religious conviction is (I believe, though I have no data to back it up at the moment) less likely to view porn, and less likely to support same sex marriage.  The perception of marriage as outdated has little to do with either.  With that in mind, someone who is not religious is more likely to both view porn and support same-sex marriage because their world-view doesn’t paint those things as bad!  As for political affiliation, I have no idea – why would you bring it up.

The art of science, Dr Regnerus, is to come up with a hypothesis that explains the data, and then test to see whether it is true, not to come up with answers that could never explain the data, or worse, throw away a hypothesis that could because it doesn’t fit your vantage-point…

If you were given a shred of credibility in Social Science circles (and that open letter of 400 of your peers including 5 colleagues suggests you aren’t) I would weep for the state of Social Science.

Fortunately, it looks like everyone else thinks he’s a quack too.

Dylan Carmichael, signing off

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