The Moral Liberal on The Persecution of Mark Regnerus


Carl L. Bankston III, professor of sociology at Tulane Universty in New Orleans and prolific author writes at the Moral Liberal blog:

Two of the greatest problems in social research are confirmation bias and the attribution of causal relations among concepts. The first refers to the tendency to find results that confirm our preconceived ideas. This may be more or less conscious: since researchers “know” that diversity contributes to educational achievement, they will look for evidence that demonstrates a relationship that is, to their minds, self-evident. It may be unconscious: our values and perspectives may shape how we decide to define issues. I see examples of confirmation bias every day in published and unpublished research, and in the casual statements of researchers.

... A look at the internet discussions generated by the persecution of Regnerus will show hysterical denunciations of this researcher and everyone associated with him as “homophobic bigots” who seek to “demonize” gays. I was heartened to see a defense of Regnerus signed by a number of prominent social scientists and an excellent analysis of the affair by Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith. But the attacks on Regnerus don’t just threaten to damage the career of a single researcher. They send a message to all researchers: if you don’t follow the prescribed line on every controversial issue, the activists will get out the tar and feathers.