Slate’s Will Saletan Defends Flawed Parenting Study By Proving Its Irrelevance

Slate magazine invited Mark Regnerus to write a guest column about his biased, flawed paper about gay parenting, and Slate contributor Will Saletan humored the study without doing much to critique its obviously fraudulent methodology. Today, Saletan continued to defend the study, suggesting that there is a “liberal war on science” and that individuals should “trust science” and “embrace” this paper for what insights it supposedly offers about family stability. By completely disregarding concerns that LGBT groups expressed, Saletan duplicitiously demonstrated that he cares more about the political implications of the faulty paper than any high-minded regard for science that he might claim. And though he managed to finally point out some mistakes that Regnerus made, he still argued that the study had substance worth considering:

Shifting the conversation from orientation to stability doesn’t end the debate. But it does break the logjam. It frees us from dissent-silencing appeals to authority, such as the Bible or policy statements from the American Psychological Association. It opens social conservatives to the possibility of accepting gay marriage, since, as Regnerus points out, “whether some relationship arrangements are more systematically prone to disorganization than others” is an “empirically testable question.” By the same token, it challenges homosexuals to deliver. The Regnerus study shows how wretchedly unstable the households of most gay parents were in the years when gay sex and gay marriage were illegal. We have a chance now to do better. Don’t let the experiment fail.

That’s why we should take this study seriously. It tells both sides, including its author and its funders, difficult truths they need to hear. Family stability matters. And when same-sex couples are permitted, encouraged, and determined to provide that stability, kids do better. The left’s enlightenment about sexual orientation can be married to the right’s wisdom about family values. It won’t be easy. But it’s worth the effort.

Saletan comes off as overly eager to admit he’s wrong without admitting he’s wrong, and in the process he managed to prove just how irrelevant the study is. As he even admitted, only ten respondents indicated that they had lived consistently with same-sex parents for 13 or more of their first 18 years, so to suggest that this paper has anything legitimate to say about same-sex parenting is still a gross misreading. It absolutely requires buying into Regnerus’ conflation of “gay or lesbian parent” with “committed same-sex parents.” If Saletan really cares about “trusting science,” he can’t then frame his analysis around implications for gay parents when the study has none to offer.


Now, the observation that stability is good and instability is bad is fine, but to credit Regnerus’ paper with this conclusion is an overreach. If the purpose of this study was to identify the impact of broken families on youth, then why did Regnerus make it about gay and lesbian parents? In fact, he made the broadest generalization of the data possible in a specific attempt to draw conclusions about gay and lesbian parents, and it is those conclusions he has been discussing in every media appearance. Stability may be an “empirically testable question,” but it’s not the one Regnerus asked. Just because Saletan can contort the data to draw his own conclusions doesn’t make the study good science — it merely demonstrates his ability to spin.

Truth Wins Out’s Wayne Besen slammed Saletan today as a “conservative apologist posing as a liberal” with a “self-serving and dishonest writing style.” Saletan seems to believe he’s carved out some happy middle position that can appease both sides of the debate, but in doing so he’s managed to say nothing substantive at all.