God's Crime Scene

Day 1 of 7 • This day’s reading


How Can We Investigate the Universe Like a Crime Scene

Every homicide case begins as a simple death investigation. 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.

I considered these four possibilities for a moment as I walked toward Richard’s front door. Locked in his house, Richard lay motionless in a sealed room. Of the four explanations, the first three did not require the involvement of anyone other than Richard. If his death was an accident, the result of some natural cause, or the result of a suicide, all the evidence we might find related to Richard’s passing would ultimately come from the very room where he died. Without evidence of an intruder, this death was likely to be the result of natural causes, an accident, or a suicide.

If Richard’s death was a homicide, however, our team would likely find evidence someone other than Richard had been in his home. One simple strategy in cases like this, 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.

…Like our investigation of Richard’s living room, my investigation 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? Once again, 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
a. Our universe had a beginning.
b. Our universe appears to be fine-tuned for human life.

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

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

4. Moral Evidence
a. Transcendent, objective moral truths exist in our universe.
b. 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.