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Bench Memos

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“An Academic Auto-da-Fé”



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In the Chronicle of Higher Education, sociologist Christian Smith addresses the “larger context” of the smearing of Mark Regnerus for his study disputing the politically correct orthodoxy on same-sex parenting.

Smith explains that the fact that sociologists “tend to be political and cultural liberals, leftists, and progressives,” while not itself a problem, can lead “some” of them to “fall into a kind of groupthink” that is “parochial and mean” and can tempt them “to use academe to advance a political agenda,” to “indoctrinat[e] propaganda,” and to discriminate against academics “whose political and social views are not ‘correct.’” For a good start on who has earned Smith’s criticism, see the 200 or so signatories on this letter against Regnerus.

Smith condemns Regnerus’s attackers for cloaking “their true political motives” behind a “devious” strategy of irresponsibly charging Regnerus with conducting “bad science.” As Smith observes:

Without a doubt, had Regnerus published different findings with the same methodology, nobody would have batted a methodological eye. Furthermore, none of his critics raised methodological concerns about earlier research on the same topic that had greater limitations, which are discussed in detail in the Regnerus article. Apparently, weak research that comes to the “right” conclusions is more acceptable than stronger studies that offer heretical results.

Smith sums it up:

The very integrity of the social-science research process is threatened by the public smearing and vigilante media attacks we have seen in this case.



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