The legitimate scientific community is united in concerns about the Regnerus study’s lack of intellectual integrity, and the fact that prior to publication, the study did not receive ethical and appropriate professional peer review.
Brad Wilcox is a Witherspoon Institute official. He also serves on the editorial board of the journal that published the Regnerus study, Social Science Research.
Wilcox had proven fiduciary conflicts of interest in serving as a paid Regnerus study consultant and also, apparently, as a peer reviewer of the Regnerus paper.
There follows a COMPLAINT against Brad Wilcox, filed with the American Sociological Association:
Dear Dr. Hillsman:
Wilcox is associated with:
1) The University of Virginia (Director, The National Marriage Project; Associate Professor, Sociology)
2) The Witherspoon Institute (Director, Program on Family, Marriage and Democracy; Editorial Board Member, Witherspoon’s “Public Discourse”)
3 Elsevier journal Social Science Research (Editorial Board Member)
These allegations relate to Wilcox’s unethical behavior involving a study by ASA member Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin; “The New Family Structures Study.”
Salient, documented facts of the matter include:
1) Wilcox’s Witherspoon Institute is the chief funder of the Regnerus study;
2) Wilcox, an editorial board member of Social Science Research, which published the Regnerus study, served as both a paid Regnerus study consultant and a peer reviewer of the Regnerus study;
3) After the sociological and scientific communities united in expressing concerns about the intellectual integrity of the Regnerus study, and about the suspicious process by which it was approved for publication, Wilcox signed a letter in support of the Regnerus study, which letter was promulgated by Baylor University, and which letter contains many deliberate distortions of the scientific record
WILCOX’S SPECIFIC VIOLATIONS OF THE ASA’S CODE OF ETHICS:
Number 1 of the ASA’s Code of Ethics, “Professional and Scientific Standards” says that sociologists: “rely on scientifically and professionally derived knowledge; act with honesty and integrity; and avoid untrue, deceptive, or undocumented statements in undertaking work-related functions or activities.”
Where Wilcox as I) a highly-placed official with Witherspoon, which funded the Regnerus study; II) acted as both a paid study consultant and peer reviewer of the Regnerus study for the journal Social Science Research, where he is an editorial board member, Wilcox failed to act “with honesty and integrity.” In acting as both a Regnerus study consultant and peer reviewer, Wilcox had multiple fiduciary conflicts of interest. As a paid study consultant, he had a conflict of interest in being a peer reviewer, because paid study consultants want studies for which they have consulted to be published so that their services as paid consultants will be in high demand. Moreover, the Witherspoon Institute as the chief funder of the Regnerus study is promoting it very aggressively, in anti-gay-rights political contexts, at least in part to be able to stimulate additional donations to Witherspoon; Wilcox as a paid Witherspoon official therefore had that additional fiduciary conflict of interest in acting as both a Regnerus study consultant and peer reviewer.
2) Number 1 of the ASA’s Code of Ethics, “Professional and Scientific Standards” says that sociologists: “rely on scientifically and professionally derived knowledge; act with honesty and integrity; and avoid untrue, deceptive, or undocumented statements in undertaking work-related functions or activities.”
In signing the Baylor University letter in support of the Regnerus study, Wilcox did not avoid deceptive statements, or act with honesty and integrity.
The Baylor University Institute for Studies of Religion letter in support of the Regnerus study was promulgated to counter the legitimate scientific community’s expressions of concern about the intellectual integrity of the Regnerus study, which Wilcox’s anti-gay-rights Witherspoon Institute had funded. The Baylor letter incorporates multiple deliberate distortions of the scientific record, in a propagandizing and fraudulent attempt, scientifically to legitimate the Regnerus study to the public; an example of such a distortion will be given below.
The lead signer of the Baylor letter, Baylor ISR Director Byron Johnson, like Wilcox is an official with the Witherspoon Institute, which funded the Regnerus study. Two additional Witherspoon officials signed the Baylor letter; none of them disclosed their direct connection to the funding of the Regnerus study. Wilcox had a fiduciary conflict of interest in signing the Baylor letter and therefore should at least have disclosed that conflict of interest. The Witherspoon Institute is heavily engaged in promoting the Regnerus study and through promotions of its activities hopes to solicit and receive monetary donations to the Witherspoon Institute.
Here is but one example of the distortions of the scientific record contained in the Baylor letter. In its sixth paragraph, the Baylor letter alleges that the Regnerus study’s findings parallel findings of Daniel Potter’s paper “Same-Sex Parent Families and Children’s Academic Achievement,” which was published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
The aim of the Baylor letter signers in alleging that the Potter study’s findings “parallel” those of the Regnerus study was this; Regnerus alleges to have proven correlation between same-sex parents and bad child outcomes; not only does the scientific community question whether Regnerus proved such correlations; it questions whether he actually studied children of “same-sex parents.” The majority of Regnerus’s test group respondents were born to and substantially raised by married couples of opposite genders; their parents therefore are their mothers and fathers; they do not have “same-sex parents,” though that term is written into the Regnerus study. The Baylor letter signers hoped to make the public believe that like Regnerus, Potter is alleging that he proved correlation between same-sex parents and bad child outcomes.
However, Potter in reality says that the differences his study found between children of same-sex parents and children of heterosexual parents are “nonsignificant net of family transitions.” The Baylor letter quotes from the very same sentence in which Potter says that the differences he found are “nonsignificant net of family transitions” but truncates the sentence, not including the phrase “nonsignificant net of family transitions,” and then the Baylor letter tacks on language clearly intended to get the public to believe that the differences Potter found were not “nonsignificant” but rather, significant.
The Baylor letter misrepresents the scientific record that is the Potter study in other ways. For example, the Baylor letter alleges that the children Potter studied had same-sex parents who “lived together.” In documented reality, however, Potter’s data came from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten cohort(ECLS – K). That data does not allow a researcher scientifically to determine whether parents of the children studied are “same-sex parents” living together. Potter speculated that some of his study subjects’ parents might have been same-sex parents living together, on the basis of unsound methods. What is more is that even supposing that some of Potter’s study subjects’ parents were actually “same-sex parents,” the Baylor letter is demonizing of actual same-sex parents by implying that same-sex parents who live together have scientifically been proven to correlate to bad child outcomes, though Potter says that differences found are “nonsignificant net of family transitions.” If same-sex parents truly are living together, then there are no family transitions, are there? The Potter study did not purport to compare stable gay-headed families with stable heterosexual-headed families. But the Baylor letter made a point of telling the public that Potter’s same-sex parents lived together and correlated to bad child outcomes.
The Baylor letter verifiably does distort the scientific record in an attempt to mislead the public about the Regnerus study. On multiple counts, Wilcox violated the ASA’s Code of Ethics by signing the Baylor letter. It must be mentioned in passing that Baylor University views homosexuality in a non-scientific manner. It thus is not appropriate for a sociologist to sign his name to a letter distorting the scientific record on studies involving homosexual persons. For reference, in a New York Times article about gay students at Christian colleges, a Baylor spokesperson said “Baylor expects students not to participate in advocacy groups promoting an understanding of sexuality that is contrary to biblical teaching.” And, in November, 2011, Baylor University was criticized for hosting a special sociology course of study titled Homosexuality as a Gateway Drug.
While individual schools, and individuals, might have first amendment rights to demonize homosexuals, doing so is inconsistent with many points of the ASA’s Code of Ethics, as promulgating demonizing lies against homosexuals as a class of persons is inconsistent with scientific knowledge about homosexuality. In signing his name to a letter containing deliberate distortions of the scientific record, in favor of a study his organization The Witherspoon Institute funded and is promoting in anti-gay-rights political contexts, Wilcox should have considered what the “Baylor University” brand represents vis-a-vis scientific knowledge of homosexuality, and civilized, respectful treatment of homosexual persons.
3)Section 10 of the ASA’s Code of Ethics is titled “Public Communications.” The section is introduced with: “Sociologists adhere to the highest professional standards in public communications about their professional services, credentials and expertise, work products, or publications, whether these communications are from themselves or from others.”
This allegation involves publication of an essay by Robert Oscar Lopez about the Regnerus study on the Witherspoon Institute’s venue “Public Discourse,” where Wilcox is an editorial board member. Since shortly after the publication of the Regnerus study, Lopez had been making comments on multiple internet sites, expressing irrational prejudices against gay persons in support of the Regnerus study. Regnerus saw Lopez’s comments and contacted Lopez first, to commence a correspondence with him about the study and “LGBT issues.” Shortly thereafter, an essay by Lopez appeared on Witherspoon’s “Public Discourse.” The Lopez essay is full of harsh, negative, and sometimes ridiculous judgments and inferences against gay people. For example, Lopez, who alleges he was raised by a lesbian mother, complains that he spoke with a lisp, and that the reason for his lisp was that he did not have any male role models. More seriously, the Lopez essay contains multiple misrepresentations of what the Regnerus study says. All of those misrepresentations are skewed in the direction of inciting readers against gay rights.
Wilcox, with editorial authority over Witherspoon’s “Public Discourse,” violates the ASA’s Code of Ethics, which says that “Sociologists adhere to the highest professional standards in public communications about their . . . . publications, whether these communications are from themselves or from others.”
Furthermore, Section 3 of the ASA’s Code of Ethics, “Representation and Misuse of Expertise,” letter (d), says: “If sociologists learn of misuse or misrepresentation of their work, they take reasonable steps to correct or minimize the misuse or misrepresentation.”
The Lopez essay, with its distortions of what the Regnerus study says, is being publicized to the four corners of the earth, largely by Wilcox’s Witherspoon Institute and/or Witherspoon officials who also have authority at other anti-gay-rights organizations. Neither Regnerus nor Wilcox have made any effort to correct Lopez’s false statements about what the Regnerus study says. Regnerus appears to have recruited Lopez for the purpose of cultivating him for promotions of the Regnerus study. Documentation should be examined to determine which Witherspoon figures were involved in processing the Lopez essay through to publication. Wilcox should have made an effort to correct to the public the very widely disseminated distortions of Regnerus made in the Lopez essay published on the Witherspoon site. But additionally, Wilcox in association with Witherspoon would have had multiple fiduciary conflicts of interest in promoting the Regnerus study through “Public Discourse,” as Wilcox served as both a paid Regnerus study consultant and a Regnerus study peer reviewer. If Wilcox personally was directly involved in processing the Lopez essay through to publication, then he was, essentially, promoting his services as a paid study consultant. That the Lopez essay verifiably contains distortions of what the Regnerus study says, makes especially troubling that Wilcox would in any way promote his study consultant services by means of that scientifically inaccurate vehicle.
Upon request, I shall furnish further matches between Wilcox’s behavior and items listed in the American Sociological Association’s Code of Ethics.
New York City-based novelist and freelance writer Scott Rose’s LGBT-interest by-line has appeared on Advocate.com, PoliticusUSA.com, The New York Blade, Queerty.com, Girlfriends and in numerous additional venues. Among his other interests are the arts, boating and yachting, wine and food, travel, poker and dogs. His “Mr. David Cooper’s Happy Suicide” is about a New York City advertising executive assigned to a condom account.
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