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Has Science Superseded Religion?

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Welcome to this week’s Friday Philosophy post. Today we’ll be shining the spotlight on the English philosopher and politician Sir Francis Bacon, who lived between 1561–1626 AD and has been referred to as the Godfather of Science.

Who Was He?

Francis Bacon was a polymath, distinguished in a range of fields from law and literature to philosophy and science. He was born into a privileged family – his father was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of Elizabeth I, a position within the British nobility which he would eventually hold himself.

He became a member of parliament at the age of only 23, having been educated at Cambridge University. At the age of 36, Bacon published his book Essayes, his most famous work, in which he gave his views on a range of subjects both personal and political.

Two of the most famous British scientists, Charles Darwin and Issac Newton, both acknowledged their indebtedness to Bacon’s work. Immanuel Kant placed a quotation from Bacon at the beginning of the revised edition of his Critique of Pure Reason.

What’s the Big Idea?

Bacon is often credited as being the first philosopher in a line of thought known as British empiricism. The work of Bacon marked a shift away from Renaissance thinking, with its reverence for the knowledge of the ancient world, and into the modern science we are more familiar with today.

Bacon placed a real focus on promoting the usefulness of science when it comes to transforming people’s lives. He did a lot of work developing the scientific method, with a focus on experimentation, and he did significant work in refining the way scientific observations should be carried out.

My Reflections

It’s interesting to consider why in the present day there is so much conflict between scientific and religious thinkers. I believe much of the conflict is unnecessary because, despite being a theist myself, I am able to celebrate and appreciate the tremendous contribution scientific thinkers like Bacon have made to the modern world with all its material benefits.

Bacon was criticised for focusing too heavily on scientific experimentation to the exclusion of the kind of imaginative leaps that characterise human progress. I believe the world religions have produced wonderful contributions to the story of humanity, and more recently, so have scientists.

Because I am convinced that God exists, I don’t think there will ever be a time when humans unanimously agree that science has superseded religion. I find it hard to believe God would let that happen. On the contrary, I think the future offers tremendous opportunity for the greatest achievements of science and religion to be celebrated alongside one another.

In an age where the world is getting smaller (metaphorically speaking) due to the pacy march forward of technologies like the internet, there is more opportunity for interdisciplinary dialogue than ever before. Perhaps theologians can learn from scientists like Bacon, and scientists can also learn from theologians.

In next week’s philosophy post we’ll be shining the spotlight on Thomas Hobbes, who has been described as the the first modern materialist. If you’re interested in following this series, which looks at the most important philosophers in history, please consider subscribing to this blog. Thank you for reading!


  1. I was so looking forward to this post and you didn’t disappoint. You bring up the same issue I have with so many. That theology and science are somehow separate. They aren’t and they never can be. Science doesn’t exist without God. Science, in fact (and of course) points directly every time to God, how could it not? The problems only come in when we attempt to divorce the two. Then it becomes hard. Not every aspect of science is concrete and not every aspect of God is fantastical.

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    1. Thanks, Tara! I agree with you – if anything, science points to how amazing God is. As I noted in one of my books, God is the cause of the activity that allows scientific laws to be formulated.

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  2. Well said, Steven. I never understood the alleged conflict between science and religion either. I think one has to believe in the “god of the gaps” form of theism, which is really pagan, in order to see a conflict. But, as John Lennox told Richard Dawkins one time, God is the God of the bits we do know as well as the ones we don’t know. 🙂

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  3. I think a lot of the conflict comes from religious people citing the bible–or whatever their holy book is–as authority and expecting it to supercede science. As a bumper sticker I saw in the US put it, “The bible said it, I believe it, and that’s the end of the discussion.” (I may have paraphrased that slightly–it’s been some years.)

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      1. I’ll go with you as far as intolerant people on both sides of the debate. I’m not sure anyone who treats science in a fundamentalist way really is approaching it in a scientific way, though, since the method depends on challenging theories and replacing them when they don’t hold up.

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        1. Yes, I understand your point, Ellen. I do like that about science, the principle that theories are always subject to improvement. However, some scientists are unwilling to open their minds to the possibility of religious experience, for example, and I just think that’s a shame (as someone who has witnessed miracles and has no doubt that God exists).

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          1. I can understand, I think, your frustration with that. I’m very much not a believer and know people whose experiences lead them to believe in things I don’t. Their experiences aren’t transferable. The best I can do is accept that that’s their experience and that it doesn’t match mine. After that, we’re stuck. It’s sort of like trying to have a conversation in two different languages.

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            1. I totally understand, Ellen, and you put it very well. When I was an atheist there would have been no persuading me… or so I thought. People will only believe in God if He reveals Himself in someway (that’s my experience, anyway). I’d love for you to read the book I’m publishing in a couple of months which covers arguments for the existence of God. Perhaps I can send you a copy. Keep in touch and thanks for the discussion!

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  4. “Perhaps theologians can learn from scientists like Bacon, and scientists can also learn from theologians.” I believe your closing thought sums the matter well, Steven. As always, I appreciate the opportunity learn through your sharing.

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  5. Another good post. Despite the unrest in our world. I believe the time is ripe for integration of our various beliefs allowing us to come together in harmony.

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  6. Good post. I think it’s more accurate to science has become the new religion. Think of the atheist who meditates daily, follows a special diet, and believes that happiness and health are the only true aims in life.

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    1. Thank you for reading! My Friday Philosophy posts are always brief and I try to pack a lot into a few paragraphs. There’s so much more that could be said about Bacon (not that I’m an expert). Appreciate the comment!

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