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'Agents Under Fire' Book Review

Brett Nichols

Posted on October 19, 2020 02:17

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A book review of philosopher Angus Menuge's book "Agents Under Fire."

In the book "Agents Under Fire," author Angus Menuge challenges the philosophical, naturalistic presumption that scientific explanations must be fundamentally mechanistic, are best understood as mechanistic, and that mechanistic processes are best explained causally by material processes. He challenges the position by reconnecting the agency within the scientific discussion and then utilizing the theological and philosophical tools to reveal the agency's logical necessity within scientific explanations. Menuge recruits the ideas of biochemist Michael Behe, mathematician William Dembski, philosopher Alvin Plantinga, and even René Descartes to reveal that the modern materialist reduction of agency destroys the rational coherence of reason within science.

Menuge is a Ph.D. graduate in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an internal minor in logic and an external minor in computer science/cognitive psychology. He is also a professor and chair of philosophy at Concordia University, Wisconsin, President of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, and the Cranach Institute director at Concordia University Wisconsin.

Menuge, a Christian with considerable means to gain from his arguments, primarily presents a fair and critical case to defend his thesis. Even notable philosopher and staunch atheist Michael Ruse who openly notes he disagrees with nearly every point in Ruse's book, seconds the cogency of Menuge's arguments within the foreword of the book. However, it must be noted that Menuge states that the most effective defense against materialism's ontology is Christian theism; thus, some of Menuge's points may not resonate as greatly with readers from other religious (or non-religious) backgrounds. Ruse still encourages skeptics to read Menuge's book -- if only to draw arguments against the author's claims. 

Each sequential chapter in Menuge's book aids in supporting claims of the latter chapter with consistent references to the previous discussion. Thus, the reader will rarely, if ever, find themselves lost while reading "Agents Under Fire." Another remarkable feature of "Agents Under Fire" is Menuge's gripping illustrations spread liberally throughout the book. For instance, Menuge discusses irreducible complexity within the bacterial flagellum with outstanding clarity and insight that allows his readers to feel engaged with his content in a more practical context, regardless of any inexperience with microbiology.

Menuge's ability to break down and illustrate intellectually demanding material with exceptional clarity makes "Agents Under Fire" an excellent recommendation for those of faith with shown interest in ID or simply a desire to uncover particular difficulties of a pure physicalist ontology. However, I would recommend some familiarity with the scientific topics before reading, if only for a more enriched experience. And due to the more complex issues surrounding ontology and metaphysics, some philosophical knowledge is definitely recommended before reading.

Ultimately, Menuge brings the arguments for ID and agency to the door of the materialist-saturated fields of philosophy of mind and biology. He argues that authentic agency, contrasting the positions of strong agent reductionism and weak agent reductionism, presents the only way to have any genuinely prosperous discussion of these topics. 

Brett Nichols

Posted on October 19, 2020 02:17

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