Elizabeth Marquardt…again

There is a potentially interesting event happening UK time 8 – 10pm tonight, 2 – 4pm Eastern Standard Time in the States.  Elizabeth Marquardt from the Institute of Family Values will be talking and answering questions about her new report One Parent or Five.  As a result of my previous post on intentional parenting and the the long correspondence that followed, it appears that she is going to address my thoughts on her work as well as those of Eric Blyth and Susan Kane, whose critical article appears in this week’s Bio-News http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_112120.asp?dinfo=2uL952VlWahLy5RT8ZNOYW3g.

It was possible to submit questions until 9am EST today and I have sent her a set of my own assumptions about what both donors and parents intend in their different roles and stated exactly where I am coming from in making these.  I have asked EM if she would make a matching set of statements.  I hope she will answer in a similarly direct manner.

In her response to Eric Blyth’s criticism of her below, EM requests EB to engage with the content of her arguments rather than concentrating on her methodology.  The problem I share with Professor Blyth is that it is difficult to engage with the content of something that has been put together or collected by means that you feel are not to peer-review standard.  And I think EB and I would also agree that describing parents by donor conception as “intentionally denying their child their child’s own mother or father even before conception” is a statement that is as far from our own positions as it is possible to get.  As far as I am concerned, donors do not intend to be parents and in fact intentionally donate in order to give others the opportunity to be parents.  It is hard to engage when the discourse does not run on the same track or anywhere near it.

Do tune in tonight if you can http://familyscholars.org/author/emarq/         I will be at my book club discussing a thrilling novel set in Moscow called Snowdrops.  I’m not sure who will have the best fun, but I will look forward to seeing how the event went on my return and if my questions were answered.

Nov 1/11. Family Scholars – EM’s response to Eric Blyth.  His crit can be seen from link below.


I appreciate Professor Eric Blyth taking the time to dig into the One Parent
or Five report and writing a comment for BioNews.

As you’ll see if you click through and read it, he is critical of the
report. He thinks a systematic critique of the concept of intentional
parenthood should look different, cite different sources, and use a
different method. That’s fine; if he decides to write such a piece I very
much look forward to reading it.

He also believes he sees an anti-gay parenting tone in the report, whereas I
feel like my discrimination is pretty equal-opportunity. I question anybody,
gay or straight, coupled or not, intentionally denying their child their
child’s own mother or father even before conception.

His tone overall is certainly better, a tad more friendly and engaging,
than a critique he co-authored last year
<http://www.bionews.org.uk/page_65970.asp>  on the My Daddy’s Name is Donor
report (which I responded to also at BioNews. So for that I am grateful.

I guess I am left with the question — Professor Blyth, aside from your
gripe about how I wrote the report, and that issue about perceived bias
about gay parenting, what do you think about the actual content? What I
said, the arguments I made, the possible implications of redefining
parenthood around the concept of “intent”? I’d be interested to hear.

Eric Blyth is a good guy who has done a lot of good on this issue. There’s a
continuum and I guess he and I are on different places, but I think our
larger concerns, especially with regard to donor conception, are more
similar than different.


About oliviasview

Co-founder and now Practice Consultant at Donor Conception Network. Mother to two donor conceived adults and a son conceived without help in my first marriage.
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3 Responses to Elizabeth Marquardt…again

  1. My parent's donor is my father says:

    “collected by means that you feel are suspect”

    What exactly are you suspect about in this regard? That is a serious statement and should be explained further.

  2. oliviasview says:

    Wording now changed to something more accurate.

  3. My parent's donor is my father says:

    Thank you for making that change. And as a rebuttal please see this post written by David Blankenhorn (re: Peer Review) in reference to that concern:


    “Peer Review and Scholarly Excellence
    DAVID BLANKENHORN 07.12.2010, 6:02 PM
    The Institute for American Values’ recently released report, My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation, has generated quite a heated discussion, especially in the blogosphere, about the subject of “peer review.” Many of the study’s critics, while all but ignoring the study’s findings, have insisted with remarkable self-righteousness that, since the research was not “peer reviewed,” the study as a whole is illegitimate and therefore unworthy of serious consideration.

    Two questions may help to shed some light. The first is particular. Was My Daddy’s Name is Donor peer reviewed? The second is more philosophical. What is peer review, and what if anything is the relationship between peer review and scholarly excellence? I’d like briefly to try to answer these questions.

    Here is “Dr.” Jack Drescher, who didn’t think much of the newspaper column he read about My Daddy’s Name is Donor, in a letter to the editor of the New York Times:

    But advocacy-group reports like this one are rarely subject to blind peer review, a minimum requirement for scientific objectivity. Without critical feedback from scientific peers, such reports usually support the pre-existing prejudices and assumptions of the authors or the organization financing the work. These “studies” offer little scientific understanding of the complex issues involved.

    And here is Rachel Gurevich, similarly troubled by the media reports she was reading about My Daddy’s Name is Donor, writing in About.com:

    This organization is certainly biased against assisted reproductive technologies, and their study has not been peer reviewed in an established professional journal.

    Many other critics made basically the same point. But before we simply watch as these incantatory phrases about “peer review” congeal into unquestioned truisms, let’s re-wind the tape and try to think afresh about this subject for moment.

    One. Sometimes scholars create and seek to disseminate works of scholarship. There are diverse formats for such endeavors. Sometimes the format is an “article,” sometimes a “book,” and other times a “report.” (There are other possibilities, such as “research brief.”)

    Now, there is simply no way for a would-be critic to know, based only on knowing that a particular work is called, say, a “report,” whether or not that work has been peer reviewed. Whether a work has been adequately peer reviewed depends only on whether and in what way it has in fact been reviewed by scholarly peers. Nor can the quality or even presence of peer review be accurately deduced simply on the basis of knowing whether the publishing entity is a think tank (e.g., the Brookings Institution), a journal (e.g. the Journal of Marriage and Family), or some other entity.

    So, if a would-be critic learns from the media that a “think tank” has issued a “report,” and on that basis alone starts shouting that that the work is bogus because it has not appeared in a “peer reviewed journal” – well, that person might as well be shouting “Biscuits!” or “Lug wrenches!” for all the light being shed on either the integrity of the report in question or the general topic of peer review.

    Two. In many of the social sciences today, the tendency toward hyper-specialization – or what the late University of Chicago president Robert M. Hutchins called “learning more and more about less and less” – means that growing numbers of scholars today have almost nothing to say to anyone outside of their increasingly narrow fields. Relatedly, many social scientists today lack even a rudimentary knowledge of the broad intellectual currents which have shaped their society and their disciplines. In particular, and notwithstanding frequently impressive displays of quantitative methodological sophistication, growing numbers of today’s social scientists seem to have reflected little if any on the epistemology and philosophy of the social sciences – types of knowledge which are essential for understanding how the disciplines can elevate and enrich one another.

    Three. The “peer review process” as it operates in university presses and social science journals today tends to be unserious and intellectually deadening. For starters, unless you are already a certified member of the guild in question, your work is highly unlikely even to be considered for publication, no matter how good it is. Second, since almost all of the peer review occurring in these publications is intra-disciplinary – sociologists reviewing the work of sociologists, economists reviewing the work of economists, etc. – any genuinely broadly-based review and collaboration is, almost by definition, out the question from the start.

    Third, usually the process itself is both agonizingly drawn-out and remarkably anemic. From what I have observed, here’s how it usually works. You write and submit, say, an article. The editor, who usually enjoys a great measure of control, either rejects it or sends it out to three reviewers, chosen by the editor. Months go by. The editor then gets back all of several (in my experience between about two and four) written paragraphs from each of the reviewers. The editor shows you at least some of the substance of the reviews, and, if the editor invites you, you then make any revisions that you want or are willing to make, based on the reviews. This process can continue indefinitely. More months go by. Then the editor decides whether and when to publish the piece. Usually, that’s about it.

    Moreover, one of the core functions of this entire process is preventing the publication of material that the editors view as politically or philosophically unwanted. What’s largely being “peer reviewed,” at least in the fields I know about, and on the topics I work on, is political content. In most instances, this fact is blatant and overriding. It’s the elephant in the room, and nearly everyone I know who has ever been involved in this process knows it. It is a great tragedy, not least because it frequently turns the entire process into something very close to a farce.

    Four. The Institute for American Values began its work in 1989, led by a number of distinguished scholars and writers, including Don S. Browning of the University of Chicago; Jean Bethke Elshtain (then) of Vanderbilt University; Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School; Norval D. Glenn of the University of Texas; David Popenoe of Rutgers University; Dr. Lee Salk; Dr. Judith S. Wallerstein; Dr. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, and others.

    One of our main goals in founding the Institute was – and remains – to develop a new and richer model of scholarly collaboration. We use the terms “collaborative research” and “sustained interdisciplinary deliberation” to describe this model. From the start, we have taken the challenge of working together as a collaborative very seriously, including when it comes to meeting the highest standards of scholarly integrity and conducting what is typically (by others) called “peer review.”

    Our reports are almost always collaboratively produced and they typically go through many rounds of careful review by scholarly peers. In the case of My Daddy’s Name is Donor, for example, there are three co-investigators, one of whom is Professor Norval Glenn of the University Texas, one of the nation’s most respected family scholars. Twenty-three other persons, most of them tenured faculty at U.S. universities, gave of their time to read drafts, provide critical reactions and helpful advice, and in other ways provide a supportive and challenging interdisciplinary community of “peer review” for this piece of work. Are you wondering who they are? Their names are listed up front, on page ii, of the report itself – no one has to guess or take our word for it when it comes to who exactly are the “peers” that “review” our reports. These groups of collaborators are typically distinguished, rigorous thinkers from across the human sciences.

    This is the way that we have worked together since 1989. We didn’t just stumble into these procedures, or put them together as an after-thought, or as a kind of window-dressing, and we certainly weren’t trying to imitate what we saw around us. It’s an honest, careful, good way to work together – a better way than one would find almost anywhere else, in my view, and also in the view of numerous others who have helped to develop and carry out this model.

    Five. Finally, of course, the proof is in the pudding, not the container that the pudding comes in. One can shout “peer reviewed!” or “not peer reviewed!” until Judgment Day, but what really matters is, first, whether the work is any good and, second, whether the work is relevant to anything important. On both of these criteria, I am more than happy to let our record of accomplishment speak for itself.”

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