Public Discourse 14 October 2016
Family First Comment: This is a fascinating and revealing read on how research has become advocacy and manipulation of figures – (written by a researcher who dared to research and publish the real facts!) “If I were up against 19,000 quality studies that disagreed with me, I would have long ago gladly capitulated. But that’s not the scientific reality. Instead, two datasets—each of which has significant problems here—are responsible for the majority of studies upon which this “consensus” (of same-sex parenting) is based.”
The claim that there are no differences in outcomes for children living in same-sex households arises from how scholars collect, analyze, and present data to support a politically expedient conclusion, not from what the data tend to reveal at face value.
It was nearly five years ago that I first received data back from the research firm that had carried out the New Family Structures Study (NFSS) protocol. Shortly thereafter, I began to question the scholarly consensus that there were “no differences” between same-sex and opposite-sex households with children. My skepticism didn’t sit well with the guild.
Social network analyst (and friend) Jimi Adams subsequently assessed patterns of “citation networks” in the same-sex parenting literature and concluded that there is indeed a consensus out there that claims there are “no differences.” I see it. I just think the foundation for it is more slipshod than rock-solid. It is the result of early but methodologically limited evaluations that formed a politically expedient narrative. It is not the product of a rigorous, sustained examination of high-quality data over time, across countries, and using different measurement strategies and analytic approaches.
Some liken the debate over the science of same-sex parenting to the one over climate change. They argue that the science is so extensive, the published studies so numerous, and the conclusions so overwhelmingly unidirectional that only scientists acting in bad faith would object. But that’s not where this field of study is. How can one possibly come to a legitimate consensus about the short and long-term effects of a practice (childrearing) of a tiny minority about whom generalizable data of sufficient size for valid comparative analysis were not available until the past decade? The answer, of course, is that you cannot.
What we have, rather, is a political consensus generated by lots of small studies of tiny, non-representative samples misinterpreted as applying to the entire population of same-sex parents. It is—by comparison to climate change—like saying that since the surface temperatures in Taiwan, Togo, and Texas have inched up a degree or two that the entire globe must have as well. Scientists know better than to declare such a thing based on limited evidence.
In fact, I am unaware of any other domain of science in which scholars have so little high-quality data to answer comparatively new research questions and yet are so quick to declare those questions answered and done with. We don’t do that in any other field or with any other question. What ought to be an empirical matter—an important one, no doubt—has instead turned into a moral test of fealty.
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