August 21, 2012

I Might Be Wrong

being wrongPick any single post I've ever written on any subject here at Atheist Revolution. I might have been wrong. I do not know everything, and I make mistakes. But far more important than that, my opinions are are nothing more than my opinions. They are not above reproach, even when deeply held. They are merely my opinions, and I do not get to be the ultimate authority on anything.

This is how freethought is supposed to work. We are supposed to be interested in open dialogue, even when it involves messages with which we may disagree. We are supposed to remain open-minded and accepting of the possibility that we may be wrong. We are supposed to remember that even our most cherished opinions may be wrong.

This does not mean that anything goes. Far from it. Evidence still matters. The probability of us being wrong is not constant across issues; it varies as a function of the evidence, the application of reason over prejudice and emotion, etc. I'm far more likely to be wrong about something like optimal methods for curbing illegal immigration than I am about whether Jesus returned from the dead (to feast on the brains of the living). But when we refuse to acknowledge the possibility of being wrong, we're doing something besides freethought.

Politically, I'm a left-leaning progressive. On most issues, I'm far to the left of today's Democratic Party in the U.S. I'm even quite passionate about many politically-charged issues. But I'm also fully aware that I could be wrong about any of them. Take marijuana as an example. I think that the U.S. should decriminalize it immediately and move toward legalization. I think doing so would offer many benefits and few negative consequences. But I recognize that I could be wrong about this.

I believe that sexual harassment at atheist conventions is a rare but significant problem and that effective anti-harassment policies could help. But I could be wrong about any or all of this. I believe that the man who asked Rebecca Watson back to his room during an elevator ride showed poor judgment, and I believe that some of her supporters have overreacted. But I could be wrong. I do not think the incident in which a couple who handed Elyse their "sex card" at Skepticamp Ohio constituted sexual harassment. But once again, I could be wrong. I think that those who are now suggesting that many of the social justice goals (with which I generally agree) should be integrated into the atheist movement are making a mistake. Secular humanism already captures this quite nicely. But I could be wrong.

I could be wrong about any of this stuff. And you know what? So could you. Perhaps we could better resist the urge to call each other names if we remembered that we might be wrong.

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