Friday, June 15, 2012

When your argument proves too much

I had planned to write another piece before this one but since this study is making its way around the blogsphere I figured I should jump on it.

For the record, I think we as a society are addicted to studies.  The reasons for this are for another time, but suffice it to say when I link this study I will be humming "Don't stand so close to me."

A study came out recently that calls into question the idea that children of gay parents are just as healthy as children of straight parents.  Slate has posted this as well as a response critiquing the study by William Saletan.  Both are presented here as I think the reader would benefit from both.  And kudos to Slate for allowing the author of the study to present his view on the matter.

For my part I read both with a mild interest in the matter, given my attitude toward studies in general.  However, there was one counter-argument that caught my eye.  From the response:
These findings shouldn’t surprise us, because this isn’t a study of gay couples who decided to have kids. It’s a study of people who engaged in same-sex relationships—and often broke up their households—decades ago. 
To understand the study, you have to read the questionnaire that defined the sample. It began by asking each respondent, as the child of this or that kind of family arrangement, his age. If the respondent was younger than 18 or older than 39, the survey was terminated. This means the entire sample was born between 1971 and 1994, when same-sex marriage was illegal throughout the United States, and millions of homosexuals were trying to pass or function as straight spouses.
Here's the problem that this first critique poses for the same-sex "marriage" advocates.  If the problem with the sample is the time period that the sample is taken from, then this calls all research on the subject, both pro and con, into question.  The oldest a grown child can be post '94 is 18 years (give or take), which is hardly old enough to measure long term mental health.

One of the biggest planks of the pro-gay "marriage" movement is that the children that come out of such unions are no different than the straight parent families.  Yet if this critique is applied to all studies (in the interest of fairness), then ANY study that purports to show that children of gay parents are healthy is suspect as well.  Which is why Thomas Peters is perfectly justified in calling out supporters of "gay-marriage" studies for their sudden adherence to statistical methodology:
The central question that gay marriage activists must answer is why previous studies, with far fewer participants and conducted in far less rigorous manners, should be taken as more reliable than the Regnerus study? Gay activists who are now criticizing the methodology of the Regnerus study (unsuccessfully, I believe) are the same voices who were perfectly happy to ignore methodological problems with the previous studies. Double-standard, much?
What we have here is a classic case of an argument proving too much.  If we were to honestly apply this critique to any study of gay-"marriage" parenting, we find that all data from such studies that use such a period are just as suspect as the study being critiqued.  And even the counter to this study undermines itself when it appeals to previous research further down.

Now this is not to say that the study doesn't have problems.  I think the counter argument makes some good points.  But I've exhausted my interest in the topic, so the exercise is left to the reader.  But this is a good example of why one should be careful how one critiques anything.  In his attempt to argue against the study, Mr. Saletan has thrown the entire body of pro gay "marriage" parenting under the bus.

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