A quick and simple illustration of Mark Regnerus’ ignorance and bias
November 12th, 2012
In June Mark Regnerus thrust his absurd and fatally-flawed study on the world, claiming that his research clearly revealed that children did better with married parents than with parents of which one had a same-sex relationship, “How Different are the Adult Children of Parents Who Have Same-Sex Relationships?” And anti-gay activists, being little constrained by logic or ethical considerations, pretended that this study (which did not look at same-sex couples) is a scientific condemnation of same-sex couples.
All the while, Regnerus pretended to stand above the fray, never correcting the false interpretations of his study but claiming nevertheless to be the unbiased and honest statistician seeking truth.
I don’t know if Regnerus is a bigot or just a self-important fool. But I do know that he knows virtually nothing about gay people and has little interest in doing so. Regnerus doesn’t study gay people, he looks for validation of his presumptions. And, just in case I needed confirmation of that fact, consider his rant objecting to the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study.
The NLLFS employs a convenience sample, recruited entirely from announcements posted “at lesbian events, in women’s bookstores, and in lesbian newspapers” in Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. As the late family sociologist Steven Nock warned, the level of sample bias such an approach introduces is significant. The lesbian parents whose children are being studied are whiter (94 percent), more educated (67 percent college graduates), of higher socioeconomic status (82 percent held professional or managerial positions), and more politically motivated than lesbians who do not frequent such “events” or bookstores, or who live in cities like San Antonio or Kansas City, or in smaller towns across the country.
Regnerus does make a valid point. The NLLFS is not a statistically valid random sample. It is not demographically representational. And it’s findings are, indeed, limited (though valuable). It’s not his noting these limitations that reveals his ignorance and bias, rather the following bald assumption.
And yet all this is not actually why I think it’s time for the NLLFS to shutter its operation. No, the reason is that its sample — 78 kids growing up in activist households — is no longer a source for valid, reliable information.
Wait, what’s that description again?
78 kids growing up in activist households
Got that? To Mark Regnerus, being a lesbian that participates in a study makes one an “activist”.
Now I am sure that if this were a study of, say, children of Catholics who were recruited at Knights of Columbus events, they would just be “people of faith” or “devout Catholics”. He might note the limitations of studying Catholics who were only recruited at such events, but he would certainly not dismiss the kids as “growing up in activist households”.
It appears that Regnerus falls into the group of people who think that gay people fall into two categories: embarrassed and shame-filled individuals who are trapped in a homosexual lifestyle, and ‘homosexual activists’. And if you go to ‘lesbian events’ and, especially if you participate in a study, you are an activist.
And this is a presumption that no one who actually knows anything about lesbians – or human beings – would make. It does suggest a higher level of social consciousness and a willingness to help a researcher and probably even a desire to make the world a more-informed place. And it may well even indicate a confidence that your family can hold its own. However, many people participate in research who are anything but activists.
But ignorance and bias are not holding Regnerus back, he seems to think that he need know nothing about real lesbians to wage his war on statistical lesbians. And his willingness to broadcast his ignorance and bias do not bode well for his professional future or career.
I hope Mark Regnerus is enjoying his moment in the sun. Because it doesn’t take too much discernment to see that his future is running parallel to that of Paul Cameron.