Universe Crime Scene

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?”

Universe Crime Scene

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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9 replies
  1. Ed Vaessen says:

    Let’s check all the eught pieces of evidence

    1. Cosmological Evidence
    Our universe had a beginning.
    True enough, but there is no reason to assume that it is a beginning in the classical sense in which causality (first this, then that) plays a role. According to many scientists, the universe is a four-dimensional object that has always been there and will always be there.

    Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for human life.
    Fine-tuned it is in this respect that when slight changes are made to natural constants, it would not be fit for anything, let alone life. The question to be asked is if we can regard their value as improbable. The answer to that is ‘no’. It is unknown if they could possibly have any other value than their present.

    2. Biological Evidence
    Life in our universe emerged from non-life.
    True.

    Biological organisms appear to be designed.
    True is so far that they are adapted to their environment. Darwin explained the natural process by which that was accomplished. It also explains why the ‘design’ looks so very clumsy at times.

    3. Mental Evidence
    Non-material consciousness emerged from unconscious matter.
    We cannot prove that consciousness is non-material.

    As humans, we are “free agents” in our otherwise “cause and effect” universe.
    We cannot say that either. Free will does not seem to exist. Our decisions are effects of causes.

    4. Moral Evidence
    Transcendent, objective moral truths exist in our universe.
    That is unproven. Morality has all the properties of something that is produced by creatures that belong to a group. It has changed over the ages and still is changing.

    Evil and injustice continue to persist, in spite of our best efforts.
    Alas, that is true enough.

    Reply
    • Kalmaro says:

      How can evil exist if right and wrong are suggestive?

      Not only that but how can anything be suggestive if no one has a choice of what they think but are subject to seemingly random chemical reactions in the brain?

      Its hard to say how an organism’s design is good or bad since we don’t know the purpose behind their designs. I agree that some things look odd though.

      While there are scientist claiming the universe is 4 dimensional, last I checked we haven’t proven that yet. At the moment they just have evidence and are interpreting it that way. Other scientists are interpreting the evidence differently so the debate is still ongoing.

      I’m curious about your response:

      It is unknown if they (universal constants) could possibly have any other value than their present.

      I’m curious about what drew you to that conclusion. It was my understanding that the constants could have been anything but they appeared to be tuned. You seem to be suggesting that there is a possibility that the constants had to be the way they are now.

      Reply
      • Kyle says:

        Because evil is the “wrong” side of the suggestive argument. It only means that others may define what is wrong differently.

        It can have the illusion of suggestion. Unless we can determine exactly how those chemical reactions work, it is for all intents and purposes random and therefore choice.

        You assume there is some purpose behind design. Purpose implies intent, when from an evolutionary standpoint it would be more accurate to describe design as a reaction to some cause or environmental factor.

        If the debate is still ongoing, why have you answered it with your god?

        What led you to believe the physical constants could be anything? I do have to disagree with one statement Ed made though when he mentioned if “that when slight changes are made to natural constants, it would not be fit for anything”. I would simply argue that life wouldn’t exist -as we know it-. A small issue to be sure, but one I feel bears pointing out. The only knowledge we have of life is that which exists in this universe. How are we to know the effects of change to those physical constants? Perhaps other forms of life would be possible.

        Reply
      • Ed Vaessen says:

        Kalmaro says:

        “How can evil exist if right and wrong are suggestive?”
        We humans define what is good and what is evil. So these things are never absolute or objective. We can only objectively observe that a law against violence or theft works out well in a society because it gives its members some certainty that they are protected against these things.

        “Not only that but how can anything be suggestive if no one has a choice of what they think but are subject to seemingly random chemical reactions in the brain?”
        I don’t understand this question. What is the relationship between suggestion and that what I think is the fundamental the lack of free will?

        “Its hard to say how an organism’s design is good or bad since we don’t know the purpose behind their designs. I agree that some things look odd though.”
        The appearance of design is not a proof for design. Nor can we prove that things that look as bad design are not designed. We have muscles in our ears exactly like dogs and horses have them, but while these animals can move their ears with them, most people can’t. The explanation that we as humans inherited vestigial organs makes more sense than the explanation that God wanted to provide a few human beings with the talent to make people laugh by wiggling their ears.

        “While there are scientist claiming the universe is 4 dimensional, last I checked we haven’t proven that yet. At the moment they just have evidence and are interpreting it that way. Other scientists are interpreting the evidence differently so the debate is still ongoing.”

        It indeed is. My reaction was meant to make clear that the premisses of Wallace are not proven to be true. If scientists are debating about the properties of the universe, he should not draw premature conclusions about it.

        “I’m curious about your response:
        It is unknown if they (universal constants) could possibly have any other value than their present.
        I’m curious about what drew you to that conclusion. It was my understanding that the constants could have been anything but they appeared to be tuned. You seem to be suggesting that there is a possibility that the constants had to be the way they are now.”

        I do. That possibility is there. We simply do not know enough about the constants to draw definite conclusions.

        In summary: my objection to the article of Wallace is that he presents 8 premises as if they are beyond discussion.

        Reply
        • Kalmaro says:

          @Kyle
          It sounds like your’re claiming that the constants we have in the universe are not are special as we might be led to believe because it could be that even if some were changed, a different type of life could be created. That’s actually an interesting ppoint, but that sounds like something that would be improbable. The constants being talked about cover a wide range of things, gravity being one of them and it was determined a while back that if the constant for gravity were different the universe likely would have collapsed in on itse;f eons ago.

          I’ll agree that constants alone do not prove that God ‘must’ exist but I do find that with there being so many and with them seeming to be so perfectly tuned for life, it’s hard not to consider it as significant.

          Also, I’m not sure how random and choice are the same thing. I might be misunderstanding something.

          @Ed Vaessen

          I see your point with evil being defined as what may go against helping a community flourish, but is that not assuming that a community should flourish in the first place, or humanity in general?

          My question on things being suggestive while our thoughts appear to be random came from me trying to understand how we can say we actually have opinions when our thoughts could just be random chemical reactions.

          The organs for giving humans the ability to wiggle their ears is interesting, but I don’t see that as a strike for or against God. It could easily mean that since a lot of animals share tthat trait, that they were designed using a similar blueprint.

          Your objections with his premises being beyond discussion I can understand. I think for Wallace, he does not really view any one premise as a reason for God to be real, but rather, all of the premises together build a pretty strong case. There’s a lot of stuff we still don’t know and frankly, can’t know about the universe. From what we have observed first hand though, I think evidence points better to there being a designer behind the universe.

          Reply
          • Ed Vaessen says:

            Kalmaro:
            “I see your point with evil being defined as what may go against helping a community flourish, but is that not assuming that a community should flourish in the first place, or humanity in general?”
            You use the word ‘should’ as if some objective standard exists that says exactly that. You speak as if something outsize humanity proclaims it and places big billboards everywhere in the universe, containing the words ‘Humanity must survive!’
            But the only thing we can be sure of is that communities generally feel a desire to survive and that by developing a morality they try to accomplish that.

            “My question on things being suggestive while our thoughts appear to be random came from me trying to understand how we can say we actually have opinions when our thoughts could just be random chemical reactions.”

            I do not know if these chemical reactions are random or not. By anyway, I think it are chemical reactions that work in us and build that what we call consciousness. We have opinions, but all these opinions are the result of these chemical reactions.
            It is good to realize this. It is also good to realize that your opinion, though possibly predetermined, can still be a very good opinion. We both will agree that laws against theft and murder are good. We both will agree that is is good that there are people that collect money to help others that are in need.

            “The organs for giving humans the ability to wiggle their ears is interesting, but I don’t see that as a strike for or against God. It could easily mean that since a lot of animals share tthat trait, that they were designed using a similar blueprint.”

            Why should God be limited in design? The maker of all natural laws could easily built ‘impossible’ creatures, like horses with wings. Such creatures would prove beyond doubt that evolution is wrong as evolution predicts that these ‘impossible’ creatures can never be found living now, nor should they appear in the fossil record. This God however seems to obey the laws of nature that only allow him some blueprints.
            You should therefor not be surprised that evolution theory stands so firm. Christian scientists that think evolution has happened and is happening still regard it as the best explanation and think God simply has set the natural laws in motion, needing no miracles at all. They are laws that explain why horses have no wings and why humans have muscles in their ears that in most cases don’t work.

            “Your objections with his premises being beyond discussion I can understand. I think for Wallace, he does not really view any one premise as a reason for God to be real, but rather, all of the premises together build a pretty strong case. There’s a lot of stuff we still don’t know and frankly, can’t know about the universe. From what we have observed first hand though, I think evidence points better to there being a designer behind the universe.”

            Mr. Wallace has not thought his premises through. Therefor he makes no impression. He should go back to the drawing board.

  2. Kalmaro says:

    @Ed Vaessen
    For some reason I can’t reply to you so I’m just making a new comment.

    I see, so you are not necessarily saying that our thoughts are random or not since you do not have enough information to make a decision. I can understand that.

    You said: “Why should God be limited in design?”

    Well I could easily turn that around and ask why God should not use a limited design? Perhaps He did not like the idea of flying horses, fire breathing dragons, etc. That route will go nowhere though because it is just speculation. The best I can come up with is that after he designed the animals, he saw they were good and saw no further need to make anything else.

    None of this to me seems like a strike against God. Your post implies that evolution is so set in stone that Christians are silly for going against it. That is just the feeling I am getting from your post. If that is the case though you first need to explain which evolution you are talking about. I think everyone will agree that organisms can go through small changes and mutations in response to their environments. That is something we can even see to day so I do not thing anyone is going to argue about that.

    What most Christians and even some secular scientist have a problem with is the idea that a simple organism could, over a long period of time, mutate in a way that is ultimately beneficial for it repeatedly and then form into a more complex and stable organism, and repeat this process indefinitely. The problem with that theory is that no one has seen it. We have never shown it to be possible and research into DNA has even made it seem less likely that it could ever happen. Organisms seem to have a host of information inside of them that does allow for small changes but nothing along the lines of what Darwinian evolutionist are proposing.

    So it could be that God did not bother giving us fantastical creatures we can see today because, we actually already fantastical creatures (seriously, scientist are astounded by some of the feats animals achieve. How do bees even fly…).Perhaps the real problem is that people keep pushing the goal post back and claiming that what they see now isn’t special because they’ve already seen it but I am willing to bet that they have never really looked.

    As for Wallace’s points, I think he builds an interesting case. Out of curiosity though, which point do you think is his weakest.

    Reply
    • Ed Vaessen says:

      Kalmaro:
      “The problem with that theory is that no one has seen it. ”

      Stop. Full stop. Emergency brakes on.

      These few words of yours tell us a lot about your idea about what scientific research is.
      Have you any idea what is wrong with them?

      Reply
    • Kyle says:

      I’ll just work off this chain.

      “That’s actually an interesting ppoint, but that sounds like something that would be improbable. ” – Improbable does not mean impossible. The likelihood that abiogenesis would occur is highly improbable, yet here we are.

      ” if the constant for gravity were different the universe likely would have collapsed in on itse;f eons ago.” – For there to be a “fine tuner”, there needs to be options. If you only have one setting, you can’t tune in to anything else. If a universe would not exist if the gravitational constant were different, that would imply it only has one value it can be. This negates a tuner. If you claim there are other “settings” it could be, you admit there is the possibility for other universes, ones that might not permit life. Ones that would also negate your god (or you have to claim to know his desires for creating a non life permitting universe).

      “seeming to be so perfectly tuned for life” – How so? How do you know this is the perfectly tuned universe? Imagine you are tuning in a radio. You get it close enough to the station to hear the song but there’s a bit of static, but you decide to keep it there. There exists a setting that could be better, but you have settled on the current setting. How do we know there is not better universe? What is your standard for perfectly tuned?

      “Also, I’m not sure how random and choice are the same thing. I might be misunderstanding something.” – The notion that we are “moist robots” implies that if you know all the initial conditions leading to a decision you should be able to determine what that decision is. Given our current understanding of humans and our technology, we have no idea everything that goes into those decisions. Maybe I stepped on a crack wrong today and my foot felt funny and unbeknownst to me that put me in an off mood so I ordered a different sandwich for lunch but it was made wrong so I complained… and that’s why I decided to stay home tonight and not do anything. If we don’t understand how everything that goes into a decision is related, even if it is completely determined we can’t know the difference between that and choice.

      “The problem with that theory is that no one has seen it. ” – Sure we have.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment

      Reply

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