I was first introduced to the ordained minister and Cambridge physicist, Dr. Rodney Holder, when watching to Bill Craig's presentation `The Origin of the Universe: Has Hawking Eliminated God,' a critique of Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design ("TGD") [Bill Craig's book review `Much Ado About Nothing' in Philosphia Chiristi is the best critique available]. The topic was `Has contemporary Physics Eliminated God as a Cause of the Universe,' and Holder shared the stage in critiquing TGD. Holder's book, Big Bang Big God ("BBBG") is an abbreviated version of his essay, `Quantum Theory and Theology," in the Blackwell Companion to Science and Religion released in 2012. For those readers lucky enough to have purchased the above-referenced book, there is no need to purchase the BBBG. Dr. Holder's BBBG is fairly small and the topics are written with a rich brevity that will not disappoint those curious about the intersection of cosmology, natural theology and meta-scientific issues--especially the present state of cosmology.
BBBG is meant for all interested readers on issues ranging from fine-tuning, level I to IV multiverse views, the nature and definition of science and the intersection between science and Christianity. The contents of BBBG presuppose that the reader has some familiarity with the topics Holder writes about, but this does not undermine Dr. Holder's target audience or his main argument. This is actually one of the accomplishments of BBBG as the summaries and definitions of the topics presented include rigorous simplifications of the ideas of other scientists and philosophers of science that make BBBG an unintentional primer on whether the fine-tuning of our universe containing embodied conscious agents (a term borrowed from Robin Collins) signifies that there is a Creator behind our universe; or, does it signify that our universe is simply a chance byproduct of a vast (or infinite) array of universes, also known as level II to IV multiverse models, taken from Max Tegmark, also discussed in BBBG. Holder states "For convenience, we restrict ourselves to two explanatory options: (1) God creates a single universe fine-tuned for us to be in it; and (2) there is no God but there is an uncaused multiverse" (pg. 166). Holder's argument is that the multiverse option fails for scientific and philosophic reasons and Holder does a good job in leaving no stone unturned. BBBG ends by presenting a Bayesian form of his argument, which is then presented more formally in the appendix.
In order to arrive at this bifurcation, Holder jumps right into modern Big Bang cosmology and does an excellent job of getting to the point without needless exposition. The reader is exposed to the views of practically every relevant scientist or philosopher of science that contribute to the two explanatory options above. Dr. Holder is more than descriptive and offers numerous critiques of models and scenarios such as "closed causal time loops," a view of John Wheeler and Paul Davies that states we are caused by past events, and we are even the ones responsible for causing ourselves, which is an alternative to invoking God as Creator (chapter 10 of Paul Davies, The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life?). Holder finds such ad hoc views as paradoxical and painfully question-begging when asserting both that non-conscious matter pre-exists and causes my conscious existence and that I cause its existence. Holder states ". . . even if we do ascribe creation of reality to the human observer (Copenhagen view of quantum theory), this is far from `creation out of nothing' since the superposition of states must have pre-existed the observation. The reason for the existence of the self-excited circuit in not explained--and requires explanation for the same reason that the existence of anything at all requires explanation . . ." (pgs. 77-78). Holder backs up his critiques with endnotes for the reader to explore the arguments themselves.
There are so many views and critiques I fear I will lose the reader. One more example should prove interesting for the reader to consider purchasing BBBG. Dr. Holder presents the multiverse view of Paul Davies and Nick Bostrom. Whether the reader ends up scratching their heads because of Davies/Bostom's views or because they may not believe what they are reading is a wholly different issue, but this does encapsulate the present state of affairs in modern cosmology.
Under the heading "The Prevalence of Fake Universes," and following a discussion of Tegmark's level I through IV multiverse viewpoints, Holder arrives at the issue of the likelihood that we reside in a "fake universe." Holder presents Paul Davies' view that as soon as we entertain the possibility of a multiverse, there is no good reason to rule out universes that contain "computer simulations" of other universes. What Davies means is that "in a multiverse [level II through IV] technological civilizations like ours will emerge in some subset of universes, and civilizations more technologically advanced than ours will attain the capacity to simulate consciousness" (emphasis added). Davies continues that it is only a small leap to simulations of conscious beings to simulate an entire virtual world for them to inhabit (pg. 152, quoting pg. 496 of Paul Davies article `Universes Galore: Where Will it all End' from Universe or Multiverse? ed. by Bernard Carr).
Philosopher and self-proclaimed 'transhumanist' Nick Bostrom's justifiably takes Davies' view a step further ending in the conclusion that "we"--yes, you the reader--are very likely computer simulations (Bostrom's `simulation argument') and we could be the simulations of the human ancestors of post-humans, rather than real humans. Using an argument from probability Bostrom concludes that simulations are likely to be overwhelmingly dominant and that we should conclude that our universe is more likely to be a simulation than a real universe; and, "we are therefore not real biological persons but simulated ones" (pg. 153). These are live options in present cosmology. As Hilary Putnam would state, we are essentially a "Brain in a Vat." I will skip the critique and bring this review to a close.
For those readers whose theological leanings are closer to William Lane Craig a caveat would be in order. Holder embraces theistic evolution (implicitly presupposed in the book, but I am unsure if his views are monistic or dualistic). Also, one finds Dr. Holder making unnecessary, almost caustic, assertions against Intelligent Design such as ID ". . . seeks precisely to locate God in Gaps is the scientific story of biological evolution" (page 76). This is a common distortion of ID theory and it is an assertion made by one unfamiliar with the arguments and counter-arguments. Whether one agrees or disagrees that the above are caveats is besides the point of this review as there are too many good arguments in BBBG to pass up. I recommend purchasing Dr. Holder's book and look forward to reading other reviews that will undoubtedly bring other issues I have intentionally left out.