Notes from the Field: Clarifying, Sparring, and Making Progress

by Melissa Travis

This past weekend, my church hosted its first ever apologetics conference. We had a lineup of eight Christian apologists speaking on a variety of topics such as “Why God Allows Evil,” “An Atheist’s Journey to Faith,” “The Challenge of World Religions,” and several others. J.P. Moreland was our keynote speaker for the weekend, and in true J.P. fashion, he inspired, motivated, and made our brains sweat.

I taught a session entitled “Intelligent Design 101.” This was my second opportunity to publicly present that particular set of material. SO MUCH FUN! How awesome to have a room of about 70 people who are interested in hearing you talk…for 45 whole minutes…on your FAVORITE topic?! Heavenly, I tell you. I discussed the origin of life issue and the inference to an intelligent agent.

Three things that are very important to me whenever I address an audience on any ID-related topic are:

1) Teaching them to correctly define all terms

2) Showing them how to detect straw-man arguments

3) Explaining where to draw the boundary lines in real-life discussions about design versus naturalism

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The talk proceeded as planned, and I managed to finish on time (for a change). The Q & A time started off with some great questions about the Stanley Miller origin of life experiments, chance and necessity, and engaging with skeptics. Then, something crazy fascinating occurred. A gentleman in the second row, one that had listened with rapt attention through my entire presentation, spoke up in response to another audience member’s comment.

He opened his statement with,I’m an atheist and…”

I wish a video camera had been rolling, rather than just the recording microphone on my lapel. Many heads in the room whipped around in shock. It was as if those cartoon thought clouds appeared over their heads with the words, “Oh my! There’s an actual atheist in our midst!” They turned in their chairs in order to better see this curious phenomenon…


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