To say that things don’t look good for discredited University of Texas professor Mark Regnerus would be an understatement. Apparently the paradox of your own university denouncing your work while at the same time you are testifying in a trial as an “expert witness” seems to be an angle which has the media humming.
That’s all folks have been talking about and no doubt attorneys for the state of Michigan – who called Regnerus to testify in defense of the state ban on marriage equality and second parent adoption – cannot be pleased.
The press coverage has been uglier than those pictures of celebrities without their make up. And naturally because I don’t like the machinations of anti-gay groups or their supporters, allow me to feature snippets from two of the most brutal articles.
The first is from Brad Dickerson of the Detroit Free Press. The headline, Defense of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban rests on scholar scorned by peers, should give one an indication of the article’s direction:
Academics have been running from Regnerus since 2012, when he reported that a broad-based population survey he had conducted at the behest of the conservative Witherspoon Institute supported the institute’s contention that children are more successful when they grow up “with their married mother and father.”
Opponents of same-sex marriage immediately began citing Regnerus’ study as scientific proof that laws banning such unions were justified by concern for the welfare of children raised in same-sex households.
But fellow academics have taken issue with everything from the origins of Regnerus’ study (two conservative groups that oppose gay marriage paid the associate professor $785,000 to commission it) to his population sample (which was limited to children born long before same-sex marriages became legal anywhere in the U.S.).
The most damning criticism centers on Regnerus’ admission that he deliberately structured his study to compare children whose parents had a same-sex relationship with those who grew up in opposite-sex households undisturbed by separation or divorce.
That’s nothing compared to the Slate article, The Shamelessness of Professor Mark Regnerus, written by Nathaniel Frank:
Regnerus’ research made waves for another reason. It had the massive weight of a religious conservative money and marketing machine behind it, and it quickly became clear that the study was only incidentally an academic product. After concerns mounted that the peer-review process might have been rushed, both the publishing journal and independent parties launched investigations. Two hundred social scientists signed a letter citing “serious concerns about the scholarly merit of this paper.” The journal that published the paper commissioned an audit assessing problems with the peer-review process. The audit found “serious flaws and distortions that were not simply ignored, but lauded” in the review process. It found blatant conflicts of interest in that “all three of the respondents to these papers have ties to the Witherspoon Institute,” the conservative religious organization that funded the study with roughly $700,000. Referring to the Regnerus study and a companion piece, the audit concluded that “neither paper should have been published.” In a separate interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Darren E. Sherkat, the designated reviewer, dismissed the entire study as “bullshit.”
Scholarship has to be funded by someone. But disclosures and transparency are supposed to let readers know this. Instead, Regnerus was caught lying about the role of conservative funding in his work. In the study, Regnerus writes that “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.” Yet in emails obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, Regnerus flatly contradicts this claim, showing Witherspoon was intimately involved with shaping the study. Regnerus wrote that he would like “more feedback” from Witherspoon’s president about the study’s “boundaries,” “optimal timelines,” and “hopes for what emerges from this project,” and he refers to a meeting hosted by the conservative Heritage Foundation, in which key supporters of Regnerus’ study discussed the need to generate research to help oppose gay marriage. According to live blog reports of today’s testimony, one of Regnerus’ emails asked what the study’s supporters “expect” from his research.
I almost feel sorry for Regnerus, but then I think about all of the innocent families that his flawed research could potentially harm.
Then I look for more articles.