Monday, April 1, 2013
Conservatives are criticized for being “anti-science,” a charge that grew stronger last month when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement affirming that children living with same-sex parents “receive similar parenting whether they are raised by parents of the same or different genders.” This claim purports to be evidenced by science, which, if true, would contribute to the left’s argument that conservatives reject rationality whole cloth. Of course, though, AAP’s findings are unscientific and continue a liberal tradition of using science as a propaganda tool to further political ambitions.
Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, criticizes AAP’s statement saying that it is “clearly driven more by political correctness than by the actual state of research on [the] issue.” “An overwhelming body of social science research has shown conclusively that children raised by their own biological mother and father, committed to one another in a lifelong marriage, are happier, healthier, and more prosperous than children in any other family structure,” according to Sprigg. Perhaps it is this “overwhelming body of research” that has informed American courts for years and inspired them to favor biological parents over foster and adopted parents.
Echoing Sprigg’s claims, the American College of Pediatricians (ACP) issued a statement rejecting AAP’s conclusion. “The American College of Pediatricians reaffirms that the intact, functional family consisting of a married (female) mother and (male) father provides the best opportunity for children…The College, therefore, disputes the AAP claim that supporting same-sex unions promotes the ‘well-being of children.’”
ACP even criticizes the scientific research that undergirds the AAP statement. President Dr. Den Trumbull says, “No one concerned with the well-being of children can reasonably ignore the evidence for maintaining the current standard, nor can they or we ignore the equally strong evidence that harm to children can result if the current standards are rejected.”
An ACP report on Homosexual Parenting claims that domestic violence in same sex households is two to three times more common than in households with married heterosexual couples. Same-sex partnerships are “significantly more prone to dissolution” than traditional marriages, “with the average same-sex relationship lasting only two to three years.” Furthermore, the tendency for homosexuals to experience mental illness, engage in substance abuse, exhibit suicidal tendencies, and live shortened life spans than heterosexuals is not a function of societal disdain of the homosexual lifestyle, but exists, too, “at inordinately high levels among homosexuals in cultures where the practice is more widely accepted.”
Clearly, despite the AAP’s claims, the science is not settled on same-sex parentage. But, is it clear that same-sex marriage would be devastating to child welfare?
Dr. Jason Richwine, of the Heritage Foundation, writes that “the main challenge to research on the children of parents in same-sex relationships has been simply finding enough of them to analyze in the first place.” The ACP seconds that notion: “Data on the long-term outcomes of children placed in same-sex households is sparse and gives reason for concern.”
Given what is available, though, the data contradicts AAP’s basis for endorsement. “Studies that appear to indicate neutral to favorable child outcomes from same-sex parenting have critical design flaws,” says the ACP. In 2005, the American Psychological Association (APA) stated that no study has found children reared by homosexual parents “to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents.” Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at University of Texas, challenged that sweeping claim when he released a study in June of 2012 that used a large nationally representative dataset. Regnerus’ study found that “children from same-sex households experienced more negative adult outcomes compared with children from intact biological families.” Regnerus’ study was met with “remarkably hostile and unscientific backlash.”
The AAP, and those who attacked Regnerus’ work on grounds other than his methodology, have done a disservice to the name of science and to its place in American discourse. For the political left to try to use science as a tool to bludgeon its opponents can be expected—politics is blood-sport, after all. Those of us outside of the political realm are political animals nonetheless, scientists included. But it is wrong for scientists to bend research to support a political agenda as appears to be occurring on the issue of same-sex parentage.
Furthermore, the slander that conservatives are, by definition, against science is an onerous and pernicious lie. Conservatives in many cases fight the use of science as a propaganda tool, and unfortunately their skepticism of some realms of the scientific community is warranted. The nation suffers when politics so pervades science that political factions become the watchdogs determining scientific validity. Liberals and conservatives can peaceably disagree about political philosophy, but they should not live in separate planes of reality.
Photo Sources: "Same sex fathers 1" from http://static.ddmcdn.com/gif/blogs/dnews-files-2013-03-gay-parents-660.jpg; "Same sex fathers 2" from http://blog.lib.umn.edu/meyer769/myblog/gay-parents-3.jpg; "Mark Regnerus" from http://chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/files/2012/07/6985657.jpg