Flawed research?: The University of Texas at Austin (UT) has launched an investigation into the research methods used by a sociologist whose recent report on the consequences for children growing up with same-sex parents has riled the gay community. (See our previous story.) Administrators began the investigation after activist and blogger Scott Rosensweig filed a complaint, Inside Higher Ed reports today. The research, conducted by tenured associate professor Mark Regnerus, concluded that children who spent all or part of their childhood in a home with same-sex parents were more likely to suffer from depression, contract sexually transmitted diseases, use alcohol to excess and use both tobacco and marijuana. Although Regnerus published his findings in the peer-reviewed, scholarly journal Social Science Research, gay groups claimed the research was biased and flawed. Two conservative organizations, The Bradley Foundation and The Witherspoon Institute, funded the research. Regnerus also caught flack from his colleagues at UT, who wrote a scathing denunciation of his work for the Huffington Post.
Despite the criticism, Erik Olin Wright, the president of the Association of American Sociologists, told Inside Higher Ed he did not think the investigation would amount to much. Regnerus disclosed the study's funding source from the beginning, and UT's Institutional Review Board approved the study's protocol. But we can expect to see more studies on the topic in the coming months. Those who disagree with Regnerus' findings are likely to try to prove him wrong with their own research, the accepted way for sociologists to disagree with each other, Wright says. It sounds like he's saying research can be manipulated to produce any outcome, but I'm sure that's not what he meant.
Really flawed research: Earlier this week, CampusReform.org reported that a religion professor at Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa, has concluded that Jesus was a Muslim. Never mind that Professor Robert F. Shedinger's conclusion defies the logical progression of both faiths-even Muslims say the Prophet Muhammad didn't live until several hundred years after Jesus. Laying aside the possibility of time travel, Shedinger says Jesus' teachings are really about social justice and therefore align more closely with the teachings of Islam. But he's really got it backwards. I think he really meant to say that the Muslim faith aligns more closely with the teachings of Jesus. A careful editor would have caught that.
A good editor also would have pointed out some key flaws in the conclusion, but I suppose that's a minor thing. Despite what appear to be a few holes in his theory, school officials declared themselves satisfied with Shedinger's work. "The administration is very very comfortable with the proposal, with the book, and with what his statements about this situation are," Jerry Johnson, the school's director of public information, told CampusReform.org. "[T]he ground he is breaking with this book is not anything exactly earthshaking." Really?
No surprises here: If the last research study offered a few surprises, this next one doesn't. Researchers at San Diego State University have concluded that Americans are increasingly focused on themselves, instead of others. The researchers analyzed phrases used in books published between 1960 and 2008. Their analysis showed an increase in phrases promoting individualism, which shows Americans are becoming more self-centered. No kidding.
"We got changes we expected in words like 'unique' or phrases like 'I love me.' We didn't get them in words and phrases more about independence. It shows the type of individualism that has increased," researcher Jean Twenge told USA Today.