Mark Regnerus and the progressive war against science

Here’s an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, written by a non-conservative professor of sociology. He writes about the recent research paper by Mark Regnerus on the effects of gay parenting on children.


Whoever said inquisitions and witch hunts were things of the past? A big one is going on now. The sociologist Mark Regnerus, at the University of Texas at Austin, is being smeared in the media and subjected to an inquiry by his university over allegations of scientific misconduct.

[…]Regnerus has been attacked by sociologists all around the country, including some from his own department. He has been vilified by journalists who obviously (based on what they write) understand little about social-science research. And the journal in which Regnerus published his article has been the target of a pressure campaign.

The Regnerus case needs to be understood in a larger context. Sociologists tend to be political and cultural liberals, leftists, and progressives.

[…]Many sociologists view higher education as the perfect gig, a way to be paid to engage in “consciousness raising” through teaching, research, and publishing—at the expense of taxpayers, donors, and tuition-paying parents, many of whom thoughtfully believe that what those sociologists are pushing is wrong.

It is also easy for some sociologists to lose perspective on the minority status of their own views, to take for granted much that is still worth arguing about, and to fall into a kind of groupthink. The culture in such circles can be parochial and mean. I have seen colleagues ignore, stereotype, and belittle people and perspectives they do not like, rather than respectfully provide good arguments against those they do not agree with and for their own views.

The temptation to use academe to advance a political agenda is too often indulged in sociology, especially by activist faculty in certain fields, like marriage, family, sex, and gender. The crucial line between broadening education and indoctrinating propaganda can grow very thin, sometimes nonexistent. Research programs that advance narrow agendas compatible with particular ideologies are privileged. Survey textbooks in some fields routinely frame their arguments in a way that validates any form of intimate relationship as a family, when the larger social discussion of what a family is and should be is still continuing and worth having. Reviewers for peer-reviewed journals identify “problems” with papers whose findings do not comport with their own beliefs. Job candidates and faculty up for tenure whose political and social views are not “correct” are sometimes weeded out through a subtle (or obvious), ideologically governed process of evaluation, which is publicly justified on more-legitimate grounds—”scholarly weaknesses” or “not fitting in well” with the department.

The Weekly Standard has more on what happened to Regnerus:

As of mid-July, a month after his paper was published, these are some of the things that have happened to Mark Regnerus. Three of his colleagues in the sociology department at UT joined with a fourth to -publish a widely distributed op-ed in the Huffington Post accusing him of “besmirching” the university through his “irresponsible and reckless misrepresentation of social science research.” Led by Gary Gates, the UCLA demographer who had declined Regnerus’s offer to help design the study, more than 200 “researchers and scholars” signed a letter to the editor of Social Science Research. The letter demanded that the editor “publicly disclose the reasons” why he published the paper and insisted that he hire scholars more sensitive to “LGBT parenting issues” to write a critique for the journal’s next edition. UT’s Director of Research Integrity sent Regnerus a letter informing him that a formal complaint of “scientific misconduct” had been lodged against him. The complaint, made by a gay blogger/activist/“investigative journalist” called Scott Rose, triggered an official inquiry into Regnerus’s research methods and his relationship with the Witherspoon Foundation; he’s now preparing to appear before a panel of faculty investigators. Requests have been filed with the Texas attorney general’s office demanding that Regnerus, as an employee of a state-run institution, make public all email and correspondence related to his study. And he has hired a lawyer.

A large number of his fellow social scientists—members in good standing of the guild of LGBT researchers—would like to destroy his career.

It seems that whenever it comes to secular progressive ideology – eternal universe, naturalistic origin of life, global warming, gay parenting – that it is ok for the secular leftist bullies to attack good science with coercive force.

I really strongly recommend that young Christians seeking to have an influence consider carefully how hostile, close-minded and bigoted that the modern secular leftist university is towards evangelicals. It doesn’t matter how good your scholarship is in the non-science and soft science fields.  It’s just not a good place to make a career anymore. The only way for things to get better is to start starving out all non-productive areas of the university. These are the areas that are the most politicized. Stop doing degrees in non-STEM fields. Stick with things that are beyond the reach of the secular left, like math, experimental sciences, engineering and technology. If you must go into a non-STEM field – like law school – then I really recommend that you keep your religious views and political views close to your vest until you are out of school.

6 thoughts on “Mark Regnerus and the progressive war against science”

  1. Thank you for this post, this an important story and deserves more attention. While you are right about the study and the completely unwarranted backlash against Regnerus, I believe you are 100% wrong about the Christian response. I am currently halfway through a doctoral program in child psychology at a large secular university. I have never felt a need to hide my faith or my beliefs. I have always made an attempt to kindly, humbly, and clearly express my views, even on topics such as abortion and homosexuality. While we have had some lively exchanges, I have never had any problems with faculty or other students – in fact, several professors commented positively on my ability to express my own views.

    Christians should absolutely NOT avoid secular institutions – we are called to go into all the world. Neither should we keep our views to ourselves. This world is starving for truth and meaning, and we need to have the courage to share it. The key to doing this in academia is to do it respectfully and appropriately, and to live what we profess to believe. Once you develop relationships with people who are different from you and show that you truly care about them, all sorts of amazing opportunities can follow. Is being open about your faith without risk? No, but nothing worth doing ever is.

    Also, while STEM sciences are extremely important, every area of study needs intelligent Christians. We should not be reactionary and afraid; we should be proactive and confident, going into whichever field we are called to knowing that God’s strength and love can work through us, and that He has the ability to break down any barrier.


  2. I’m a christian PhD student in sociology and I don’t agree with the conclusion to stop doing degrees in disciplines that are left leaning. That’s like telling missionaries that certain countries are off limits because they are hostile toward Christians. Ultimately, a successful, easygoing career isn’t my goal in life, but to share the gospel with others, even in a hostile environment.


  3. Long ago, when ‘Christians controlled’ universities and academe, they were tolerant enough to let ‘liberals’ ‘get their foot in the door’. But now that the Left so dominates, they do not often enough reciprocate the tolerance.


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