Can We Investigate the Universe Like A Crime Scene?

When a dead body is discovered, detectives must investigate the evidence to determine the most reasonable explanation. Did the deceased die naturally? Did he suffer some kind of accident? Did he commit suicide? Was he murdered? These are the four possible explanations at any death scene. Homicide detectives are concerned only with the last one. Of the four explanations, the first three do not require the involvement of anyone other than the victim. If his or her death was an accident, the result of some natural cause, or the result of a suicide, all the evidence we might find related to the victim’s passing will ultimately come from the very room where he or she died. Every death scene involves evidence of one kind or another, but intruders turn death scenes into crime scenes. For that reason, every death investigation begins as an intruder investigation. Without evidence of an intruder, deaths are likely to be the result of natural causes, an accident, or a suicide. One simple strategy in death cases, therefore, is to ask a foundational question: “Can I account for all the evidence in this room by staying in the room?”

During most of my early investigative career, I was a committed atheist and resolute naturalist. I rejected supernaturalism thoroughly, denying both the existence of a supernatural God and the possibility of the miraculous. I truly believed everything I observed in the universe could be explained and attributed to natural, physical causes and processes. Thinking of the universe as a “room,” I didn’t believe there was any evidence pointing to anyone outside. I certainly didn’t believe anything “extra-natural” or “supra-natural” entered this natural realm. But I hadn’t yet looked at the evidence carefully; I wasn’t an experienced investigator. Over the years, I learned how to evaluate and assemble evidential cases, and along the way—at the age of thirty-five—I was introduced to the New Testament.

I became interested in God’s existence only after investigating the gospels as eyewitness accounts. (I describe this investigation in detail in my book Cold-Case Christianity.) The New Testament accounts passed the same four-part test I apply to all my witnesses, yet I still rejected them on the basis of their miraculous stories. As a naturalist, I believed the accounts of miracles in the biblical narratives disqualified them as reliable history. But what if I was wrong in my anti-supernatural presuppositions? It was time for me to look carefully at the evidence for God’s existence. If a supernatural being did exist, the miracles in the Gospels would be possible and maybe even reasonable. The case for God’s existence was an integral part of the case for the reliability of the Gospels.

Like many of my death scene investigations, my examination of the natural universe required me to look at the characteristics of the “room” and determine if they could be explained fully by what already existed within the “four walls.” Was there any evidence inside the universe pointing to the existence or intervention of a supernatural being outside the universe? My most important question was, “Can I account for all the evidence in this room by staying in the room?

As I considered the natural “room” of the universe, I identified and listed four categories of evidence for consideration:

1. Cosmological Evidence
Our universe had a beginning.
Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for human life.

2. Biological Evidence
Life in our universe emerged from non-life.
Biological organisms appear to be designed.

3. Mental Evidence
Non-material consciousness emerged from unconscious matter.
As humans, we are “free agents” in our otherwise “cause and effect” universe.

4. Moral Evidence
Transcendent, objective moral truths exist in our universe.
Evil and injustice continue to persist, in spite of our best efforts.

These features of the universe must be explained, and they can be attributed either to something inside the natural realm or to something outside the natural realm. In many ways, our investigation of God’s existence is very similar to my death investigations:

Illustration from God’s Crime Scene

In both cases, several evidences in the “room” require explanation. Their origin must be identified before we can decide the correct nature of the scene. In my book, God’s Crime Scene: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, I examine the evidence inside the natural, physical realm of the universe to determine if there is someone we need to look for outside the natural, physical realm. After investigating these eight important pieces of evidence (in four very different categories) I determined the most reasonable inference is a suspect with the following characteristics:

1. External to the universe
2. Non-spatial, atemporal, and non-material
3. Uncaused
4. Powerful enough to create everything we see in the universe
5. Specifically purposeful enough to produce a universe fine-tuned for life
6. Intelligent and communicative
7. Creative and resourceful
8. A conscious Mind
9. Free to choose (and create) personally
10. The personal source of moral truth and obligation
11. The standard for good by which we define evil

This article was excerpted from my book. To learn more, please refer to God’s Crime Scene: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe, and be sure to request our free teaching outlines so you can share the case with others.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, and God’s Crime Scene.

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