This is an ongoing review of Christian author and former homicide detective J. Warner Wallace’s book, Cold-Case Christianity.
Mr. Warner starts the first chapter with a story from his detective days. One of his first murder cases involved finding the body of a middle-aged woman in the bedroom of her apartment with signs of violent trauma. There were no signs of forced entry. There were photos on the bedroom dresser of the deceased woman and a man. The chief detective told the rookie Wallace: “The husband did it. It’s always the husband or boyfriend in these circumstances. Stranger killings without forced entry are rare.”
As it turned out, the husband did not do it. The twenty-five year old neighbor had committed the crime. The victim had opened the door since she knew him.
Wallace: We had already decided where the evidence would lead and were simply looking for affirmation. Luckily, the truth prevailed. All of us hold presuppositions that can impact the way we see the world around us. I’ve learned to do my best to enter every investigation with my eyes and mind open to all the reasonable possibilities. I try not to bite on any particular philosophy or theory until one emerges as the most rational, given the evidence. …you simply cannot enter into an investigation with a philosophy that dictates the outcome. Objectivity is paramount; this is the first principle of detective work that each of us must learn. p. 26
Gary: Sounds like a good strategy to me! However, I’m curious. How does Mr. Wallace define “rational”? Is it rational to even consider the possibility that invisible beings with supernatural powers operate in our universe? To a Christian or other theist the answer is obvious: Yes! But ask the same theist if it is rational to consider the possible existence of unicorns and leprechauns and they will look at you like you are an idiot! Oh well. I’m going to go with Mr. Wallace’s argument and see what evidence he presents that would make belief in invisible beings with supernatural powers rational.
Mr. Wallace: All homicide investigators presume that supernatural beings are not reasonable suspects, and many detectives also happen to reject the supernatural altogether. …We [detectives] presuppose a particular philosophy as we begin to investigate our cases. This philosophy is called “philosophical naturalism”. p. 27
Philosophical naturalism: the presuppositional belief that only natural laws and forces (as opposed to supernatural forces) operate in the world. Philosophical naturalists believe that nothing exists beyond the natural world.
Most scientists begin with this presupposition and fail to consider any answer that is not strictly physical, material, or natural. Even when a particular phenomenon cannot be explained by any natural, material process or set of forces, the vast majority of scientists will refuse to consider a supernatural explanation. p.27
Gary: Although I have no doubt that Mr. Wallace is an excellent homicide detective he is not a scientist. As a non-scientist he fails to understand one key point about science: the supernatural is not within the realm of scientific study and investigation! Scientists are scientists because they use the scientific method to investigate our material universe. That is the job description of a scientist. Scientists do not use palm reading, tarot cards, or holy books to investigate the universe. They only use one method: the Scientific Method. For Mr. Wallace to expect and insist that scientists go outside that method of study to investigate truth claims about our universe is like asking a homicide detective to investigate a murder using tarot cards.
It is an unreasonable request.
The supernatural is outside the expertise of scientists. It is not their field.
Wallace: Science is skewed to ignore any supernatural explanation, even when the evidence might indicate that natural, material explanations are lacking. pp.27-28
Gary: Yes, Mr. Wallace. Science is skewed (designed) to ignore the supernatural. That is why it is science and not theology. Science CANNOT investigate the supernatural. It would not know how to even start. By definition, the supernatural defies the laws of nature/science. But those are the very laws that guide scientific investigation!
But here is an even more important point: Just because science “lacks” evidence today for a particular event in our universe, does not mean that we should jump to the conclusion that there is no natural explanation. It very well may mean we just have not yet discovered that natural explanation. How many times in the history of human beings have theists declared something to be an act of a god to later be forced to retract that position when science discovers a very natural explanation for that particular phenomenon (droughts, floods, lightening, epileptic seizures, etc.)
Wallace: Even though I am a Christian today, I understand that much of the phenomena we observe can be explained satisfactorily by simple relationships between matter and the laws of nature. For this reason, I try to be careful not to jump to supernatural explanations when natural causes are supported evidentially. …I try to encourage my skeptical friends to reexamine their natural presuppositions, but I am careful to respect the claims of naturalists when they are evidentially supported. p. 32
Gary: That is very reasonable thinking. But a word of caution: Just because there is no apparent evidence for a particular natural explanation for an event does not mean that a supernatural explanation is more probable than a natural explanation for which we do not (at least at the present) have any evidence! Let’s go back to Mr. Wallace’s murder scene above:
Imagine that in addition to no evidence of forced entry, there are no detectable finger or foot prints in the home other than that of the victim. Imagine that detectives do not find any DNA in the home other than that of the victim. Due to a lack of evidence for a natural explanation for this crime, should we assume that a supernatural being committed the murder?
Answer: Of course not!