Whenever I say anything, I do so with the unspoken caveat that I may be mistaken. I want to take responsibility for some mistakes I have made in the recent dialogue.
Firstly, I should not have kept the same focus on evaluating examples of behavior once my dialogue with Justin had taken on a life of its own through the comments and had in effect become a wider dialogue. I originally cited the examples to try to identify what Justin meant when he said that some examples of nasty pushback were morally unjustified.
Secondly, when citing the examples, I should have either expanded them to full quotes or linked to the sources for context. I didn’t do this because I didn’t want to link to what I saw as cruel examples of personal abuse, and because I was trying (also by not identifying names) to keep the focus on the behavior rather than the people involved.
Thirdly, I should not have publicly highlighted the photoshop incident yesterday. I apologise to Ophelia for the extra hurt that I caused her by doing that. I admire the way that she has been standing up to personal abuse in recent years. I was trying to help to reduce the hurt being caused, and instead I helped to increase it.
Fourthly, I should not have assumed the motivations of anybody, regardless of how fundamentally I disagree with their behaviour, and I must have done so a few times though I always try not to. Seeing some of the sincere but wildly incorrect misunderstandings of my own motivations reminds me that I too can make this mistake.
I would like to thank the people who have emailed me with words of encouragement, and also those who (from different perspectives) have warned me of the dangers of engaging in dialogue with or associating with certain other people. While I accept the sincerity of this advice, I am always reluctant to exclude dialogue as a means of trying to improve things.
I am now too close to this dialogue to be able to objectively evaluate it, so I am going to republish a post that I wrote seven months ago, in July 2012, titled ‘Why atheist and skeptic groups should be inclusive, caring and supportive.’
This captures the spirit in which I am trying to approach this dialogue, based on my analysis of the situation long before the dialogue started, and I am going to reflect on it before I make my next contribution.