In true Christian fashion, Zacharias offers "the best reply to atheists" about God. But if you look at his reasoning, you see clearly how he manipulates people to rob from the poor and make himself rich, by fooling people into believing that they can ONLY ever have happiness, morality, meaning, and hope, by necessarily "believing" in his God and a "prosperity" religion.
As Ravi claims....
"Take the physical universe and you end up with a physical quantity that does not have a reason for existence in itself. It cannot explain it's own origin, which means the physical universe as we see it has to have something that is nonphysical as the "first cause" which must be non-physical."
Like a seasoned magician, Zacharias subtly seduces his audience of "believers" with his 'reasoning', even though he is really only using their unconscious biases to both overlook and accept his "assumptions" as unquestionably true. He does this by using the habit we have for finding "meaning," one that is 'natural' only to human beings (as far as we know), and pretending that we must have been 'given' such a habit - as opposed to having 'developed' it for the purpose of learning how to stay alive - from a "God," so it would eventually lead us back to him. Zacharias wants us to believe that our constant search for "meaning," in other words, is really just a homing beacon that God has implanted in us. And in this way, he artfully he pulls the rabbit of God out of the hat of his argument.
Take this exert for example:
: "the physical universe" or a "physical quantity" ... "does not have a reason for existence in itself."
But where does the idea that everything must "have a reason for existence in itself" come from? Like philosophy's endless attempt to find "order" or patterns to everything we can conceive, so "religion" uses god to likewise give "meaning" to everything. And without this meaning, so religion wants us to believe, our minds, hearts, and souls would all fall headlong into the void of despair and meaninglessness that leads to suicide and immorality. Only it doesn't.
He likewise assumes that the "reason" for everything will necessarily be one that will be plainly discernible to all human beings. And even more, he assumes that that meaning will lead everyone to know that God is ultimately the cause of, and thus the "meaning" behind, all of "existence." For Ravi, the only reason this has not already happened, apparently, is simply because people are too stubborn to accept what is so painfully obvious to him and everyone who "believes" what he does (although I suspect that, like most preachers, he doesn't actually believe a word he's saying). If only the rest of the world would "open up their hearts," they would see how his "truth" (i.e. lie) would set them free.
The only problem is that such an assumption may itself be fashioned out nothing but purely human "hope." And no matter how much we wish and pray to our "god" for it to be true that life "has a meaning" from God, that does not prove the existence of either one. For if Ravi's reasoning were true, there would NOT be the need for Ravi and company to rely on the kind of circular reasoning and emotional manipulation he so continually and shamelessly employs.
By assuming that life must have a reason, Ravi only presupposes that there must be a God who gives it that reason. Because to assume there must be a necessary "meaning" to everything is to also assume that there must therefore be a God that gives that meaning to the existence of everything. Hence, Ravi's "belief" is not so much in God, as in his own "meaning," which he worships as if it were both God and proof of God.
He is not "proving" that God exists with this reasoning, but simply manipulating his audience into believing he has proven "God" by getting them to accept that their "belief" that there must be a meaning for everything, comes from God. This, however, is a classic Christian circular snake oil syllogism.
After all, since "believers" already start with the underlying "need" to believe that life "must have a meaning," Ravi simply uses their underlying confirmation bias to lead them all to the very answer they want so desperately to be true - life has "meaning" because it comes necessarily from God. Otherwise, why else would murder be wrong?
In truth, life may only have intrinsic value if it does not come from God, and is not predicated on an assumption of eternity in heaven or hell. Indeed, why would murder be wrong, if killing someone carried the price tag of eternal damnation, on the one hand, and was no different than letting a person out of an earthly prison of suffering and death, and into an everlasting paradise, on the other?
This, in fact, was the same reasoning used to justify burning "witches" at the stake, for example, since
releasing them from their flesh in a painful way might expiate the persons sins enough for their soul to reach heaven. This is why a belief in God can so easily make murder seem like a perfectly moral, and indeed even mandatory, thing to do. (And if a person can always obtain forgiveness for murdering people, no matter how many millions it might be, than how does the idea of hell serve as any real threat or hope for cosmic "justice" in the end? And while Christians argue that "without God, murder is no longer immoral," which is an argument not entirely without some merit, that does not mean that with God we do not run into the exact same problem.)
But rather than accept that the "meaning" to life is one that we must give it, since doing so clearly requires a much harder kind of "freedom" than one that allows us to depend on a Father Figure who will always take care of us, no matter what, people naturally prefer to believe in God instead. And for no other reason than that defining that meaning for themselves is far too heavy of a cross for most people to bear; especially when such people have been conditioned most, if not all, of their lives to "believe" that life only has worth and meaning IF we "believe" in God. Hence, the manipulation of religion is self reinforcing, as the conditioning done to us as children is latter used to manipulate us into accepting the kind of reasoning being offered by Ravi.
This bit of charlatanism is an example of the snake oil syllogisms that Christians use in ALL of their arguments for the existence of (their own special brand of) God. They presuppose a number of things MUST be true, basically, and then use those assumptions as "undeniable proof" that God must therefore exist as well.
They simply ignore the fact that the very assumptions they are starting with - assumptions that always presuppose God as the answer - are what the atheist is ultimately asking the Christian to prove in the first place. In this sense, debating with Christians about these questions is a lot like watching the conversational carousel between Abbott & Costello, in their baseball routine, Who's On First? Ironically, all such assumptions are anything but "humble," as "believers" claim.
In fact, I can think of nothing more arrogant than to assume that we have the ability to "know"the mind of God," especially when you consider that men can't even understand the mind of women! Hell, us claiming to know the mind of God is like a single cell organism running around trying to convince all the other single cell organisms that it understands that complex life form called "human."
The assumption that humans can "know" the mind of an infinite, omniscient "God" (even though humans admit they cannot fully comprehend either "infinity" or "omniscience" ironically enough), is not only perhaps the most narcissistic of all human assumptions by far, but is clearly the byproduct of the "anthropic principle," which is the idea that "the universe was created for human beings" specifically, and not, say, space aliens or other species of "beings" that may be more advanced than humans, or bacteria, aardvarks, or even something we have yet to discover or are incapable of discovering, thanks to our fallible nature and finite understanding. If you look at the claims of Zacharias, however, all of this escapes ANY consideration of those who already want to believe everything Zacharias is saying, even before he bothers to say it.
His audience is clearly NOT listening for the purpose of determining if his reasoning is completely unassailable, and iron clad, but whether what he says makes them feel better about an idea that requires one to focus an inordinate amount of time and energy to continually affirm, lest we begin to suspect it is nothing but a story that empowers and employs the story tellers, and nothing more. We do not want to "know," we want only to be told we are right in what we "believe."
Zacharias further "roofies" his audience into their "beliefs" ("roofie" is slang for the date rape drug referenced in The Hangover called "rohypnol") by offering yet another veiled yet unproven assumption, when he continues..
: Since the universe cannot explain itself (why does it need to?), this therefore "means the physical universe as we see it has to have something that is nonphysical as the "first cause" which must be non-physical."
Really? That's what that means? Would we not necessarily need to already know what preceded our universe, before we can definitively conclude that it MUST have been something that was necessarily a non-physical "being" that caused it all? Perhaps our universe is just an outgrowth of another universe in a multiverse, for example, that popped out of the other end of a black hole. Or perhaps our understanding of the difference between the physical and non-physical matter, like matter and anti-matter and dark matter, is either an illusion itself, or the by product of our woefully limited range of perceptions and understanding.Who knows?
But the all too "human" limits of 'finite human understanding' or perception are never ever seen as an obstacle in discerning an infinite God by "believers" like Zacharias. While the "faithful" will be the first to tell you just how flawed we are in every other way, none of those flaws are ever enough to prevent us from knowing that an omnipotent and omniscient God exists, who has given us all the powers of reasoning and discernment to "know" this is true (which is why we can all be sent to hell if anyone dares to question his Church the same way Christ questioned the Sanhedrin). In fact, despite our addled sinful minds, we are all infallible enough to still know exactly what sort of God "he" is exactly, right down to knowing exactly what such a non-material yet temperamental "he" likes and dislikes.
Then again, even if we accept Zacharias's unproven and un-provable assumptions, there is nothing about those assumptions that then leads us to the conclusion that the universe must therefore be the result of a "first causer" and not a "first cause," or even 'first causers" or "first causes." Nor does it tell us anything about whether any of these possible "causes" was physical, non-physical, or some combination of both; or even something altogether as inaccessible to our finite understanding as Christians so often claim God to be.
Nor is there anything that leads us to necessarily conclude that "the non-physcial" he wants his audience to accept was even a conscious "being" like ourselves, that may have had ANY intent in what it (or they) was doing, or is (was) even aware of what it (they) had done, or even if it (or they) cared about it all one way or another, after the fact.
We do not even know if this "being" (or "beings") survived the creation it (they) may have made, or if that being or beings were more good than bad or vice versa, since there is just as much life in the universe as there is death.
Zacharias only continues to convince his followers of exactly what they already believe, however, by preying upon their human vanity even further, by arguing..
The question about the universe is "Not from design but to design."
This argument that the universe is "designed" is yet again, Zacharias falling in love with his own god-like ability to plainly see the graffiti of 'god' all over the walls of existence. He does this by confusing his own brain with a crystal ball, that was necessarily designed to be able to discern that God is subtly but unmistakably trying to communicate to humanity, not just through a blood drench Bible or Quran, but by creating a universe that would take thousands of years for humanity to even begin to figure out (remember Galileo and the Pope?) just so we could discover how "designed" for us it is. And for no other reason than that we could lighten the cross of pure "faith" that God exists, by finally being able to point to some real "proof" that he does.
The "design" that Zacharias and other Christians harp on as their "evidence" that God must exist, however, amounts to the unmistakable breadcrumbs that God has left in the forest (i.e. the universe) for a Hansel and Gretel humanity to escape a witch (i.e. Satan) who lures children with her gingerbread house (i.e. sin) so she can cook them in her oven (i.e. hell). And in this same way, the bible amounts to a fairy tale to teach God's children to behave.
For example, no one in Zacharias's audience dares to ask "what would an un-desegined universe look like, and how would it compare to one that was "designed"?" And "how can we tell the difference between a universe that "looks designed" but wasn't - especially since our human brains are always trying to find patterns in random chaos for the sole purpose (as far as we know) of keeping us alive - and one that looks designed because it was? And lastly, how do we know it was designed by one designer and not a committee of designers, like the American Constitution? And how do we know what it or they may have been designing it all for, exactly?"
We could go on and on with similar questions, but you get the point. No one even thinks to ask any of these questions, because they are not interested in finding "truth," but in finding reasons for why they are "right" to continue to simply believe their "beliefs" are true, even if they are not.
Zacharias continues to polish the apple of lies he seduces his audience with by lathering it with even more snake oil when he says..
By looking at all of this, "you immediately know that there is information there and logic tells you that where you see information, prior to that information is a mind"
But, again, this is pure circular reasoning, because by calling something "information" he is simply describing what we perceive with our human minds to begin with. If we break this "information" idea down to smaller chunks, we see that this is like saying "where you see color," prior to that color there is a painter who painted that color," or "where we hear sound, logic tells us there is a composer who composed that sound," or even "where we see numbers, logic tells us there must be an eternal mathematician behind it all." Again, this is an extension of the anthropic principle to assume that anything that we "perceive" must come from something that is like us, that is trying to communicate to us, the same way we send out signals into the universe in an attempt to determine if there is any intelligent life out there, beside ourselves. (And given these kinds of "beliefs," we may not even qualify as "intelligent life.")
Ravi then gives us examples of things that are PURELY MAN MADE, ironically enough, by saying:
"If you walk onto a planet and see a McDonald wrapper with letters of an alphabet, you immediately know that there is information there"
...But here he is giving us MAN MADE inventions, things like letters, alphabets and wrappers, and we are the HUMANS who are then interpreting all of this as 'information." "Information," of course, is simply the human way of describing our interpretation of what we perceive through our senses and try to make sense of - and nothing more, (as far as we know). That he wishes to conclude that any "information" is God trying to communicate his existence to us from the inside out, the way Reagan MacNeil wrote "help me" from within her own stomach in The Exorcist, doesn't mean that the "design" he perceives is simply God trying to let us know he's embedded in every atom, and he needs us to free him through our "faith," like a genii in a bottle.
For Zacharias, however, "information" is the means by which God is communicating both proof of his existence and ultimately "his" will and moral laws, apparently. And like the Little Orphan Annie radio show in a Christmas Story, the Bible is our Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder ring that does nothing but remind us to "drink our Ovaltine! (i.e. read our bible, go to Church, and give 10% of your income to people who claim to speak for God. Amen!)
But just because something looks designed does not mean it was, nor does it mean that a God is trying to get us to believe in a particular religion by embedding in the DNA of existence evidence that could lead us to the possible interpretation that maybe, just maybe, the universe was all 'designed" - and specifically for us, no less.
For Zacharias, the "design" is obvious because it is intended by God to prove the existence of another mind, other than our own, that must have created it in such a way that our human mind would be able to clearly understand what it is communicating. Of course, this idea that the universe looks designed so we would know there was a God is no different than arguing that the image of Mary or Jesus in a burnt piece of French Toast or a leaky sewer line under a bridge, were both designed so that we would know Christianity is the "one true faith."
Zacharias then proceeds to compare even MORE human inventions:
"You don't just think that handles Messiah hallelujah chorus just came together, or that the dictionary developed because of an explosion in a printing press..there is sequence in these things.. .Take the composition of the enzyme in the human component which is the building block of the gene and the gene the building block of the cell.. the possibility of the enzyme coming together by random ... the possibility of that happening by chance is 10 to the power of 40,000! That's more than the number of atoms in this universe!"
Whoa! Such an astronomical calculation leaves us reeling! And dizzy from the sheer size of such a calculations, atheists are expected to stumble, punch-drunk from so lofty a calculation, straight into the inescapable conclusion that God did it all in the conservatory with a candlestick. This then leaves the atheist to figure out which one of the more than 40,000 different versions of Christianity that exist in America alone they should immediately start handing over 10% of their income to in order to avoid eternal damnation, of course. I'm sure Zacharias would assure us that we should naturally join his own.
Using this reasoning, humanity would have first had to evolve to the point that it had the ability to calculate such estimations in the first place, before we could ever hope to have to discovered that it was so improbable that God was NOT the reason behind everything!
As Douglas Hofstadter explained in Gödel, Escher, Bach, however:
[O]ne can never give an ultimate, absolute proof that a proof
in some system is correct. Of course, one can give a proof of
a proof, or a proof of a proof of a proof—but the validity of
the outermost system always remains an unproven
assumption, accepted on faith.
1. Physical quantity cannot explain itself (but why does it have to?) which points to something non physical (not necessarily).
2. Intelligibility which assumes a prior mind points to something intellectual (Hence, whenever something is "intelligible," it must have come from "a prior mind," which is why we can see the image of the virgin Mary on a piece of burnt toast and feel safe in assuming it was placed there by "something intellectual").
3. That human interaction demands the existence of a moral reality (Hence, the fact that human beings are willing to act like such total shits to each other, according to this reasoning, means we are right to "demand" there must be a God, which is to say the more genocide we commit, the more confidence we can have in the existence of a God who will exact justice for it all. Genocide, in other words, is as strong a proof for the existence of God as probability and the mere appearance of design. This only leaves us to wonder what Zacharias is NOT willing to use as "proof" that God exists. Indeed, even pedophile priests, by this reasoning, only prove God exists. How convenient.)
Zacharias then sums it up this way:
A first cause that is spiritual
A first cause that is mind
A first cause that needs to explain morality
There are 4 fundamental questions in life:
Then he says, "combine those questions with the 3 explanations, and only God is big enough to explain it." Only God is big enough to make a pizza that big, in other words, which is why it is so apparent we are all living inside of God's empty pizza box, right under the remote control he was using to play World of Warcraft.
But notice that ALL of the things on this list conform to things a HUMAN MIND wants and demands. They do NOT necessarily conform to anything any other kind of mind may want, need, or demand, regardless if that "mind" is less or more advanced than our own. This, then, is the epitome of using the 'anthropic principle' as a magic wand to seduce his audience with the apple of his reasoning. And by doing so, he promises that, by "believing in God," they can all "be like God, knowing right from wrong." He just happens to be the one who gets to define which is which. Amen.