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Has Science Superseded Religion?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!

39 comments

  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.

    Liked by 5 people

  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. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  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.)

    Liked by 2 people

      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.

        Liked by 2 people

        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).

          Liked by 2 people

          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.

            Liked by 2 people

            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!

              Liked by 2 people

  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.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. 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.

    Liked by 1 person

    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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  6. Hi Steven!

    We’re in agreement here, I think.

    There are scientists like Richard Dawkings who believe that science and logic can prove that religion is false. This is sad because he’s a good scientist and doesn’t need to antagonise those who believe in God.

    It is also sad that some fundamentalist believers think that books like the Bible or the Quran have more authority than scientific theories that work and are repeatable and predictive if you follow the protocol. Even if you don’t own a car, Newton’s Laws of motion apply to cycles and buses and at the low speeds of these modes of transport, we do not need to consider relativity!

    For Theists, science reveals aspects of God’s scientific prowess and it’s no wonder that we can use it to our advantage!

    Peace and love to all,

    Dinos Constantinou

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dinos!

      Many thanks for your comment. I agree with much of the sentiment of your post.

      I actually hold the view that the laws of physics only work because God is allowing them to work. I believe that the reason why miracles that defy the laws of physics can happen, is because God is ultimately in control of everything that happens – even the laws of physics.

      On this subject, you might be interested in the idea of ‘Occasionalism’ (that things only happen on a particular occasion if God wills them to happen). I wrote an article about that theory which you can find here.

      There is much more about this in the new book I’m writing, which I hope will be of interest.

      Good to hear from you.

      Peace and blessings,

      Steven

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  7. Thanks for taking the time to look at my blog and liking my post. Your encouragement is a big boost for amateurs like me. Hope to create better posts and receive more feedback in the future.

    Nice post. I have been on both sides of the debate and appreciate your perspective.

    Best wishes,
    Norah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Norah!

      You’re welcome, thanks very much for reading my post and taking the time to leave a comment.

      You write about some interesting subjects, and I wish you every success with your blogging.

      Best wishes,

      Steven

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It seems to me that science cannot supersede religion because they serve different purposes, are based on different foundations, and are sometimes justified in different ways. To build an airplane, the belief system of physics works well, but the belief system of theism and the Bible does not. On the other hand, to find meaning in life, the belief system of physics doesn’t work at all: the Second Law of Thermodynamics says we’d all better commit suicide now because things will only get worse. A religious belief system based on the Bible, however, is better suited to guide life because it’s *about* life. That doesn’t make it automatically helpful: we all know of people who hate in the name of God, which one would think bothers God quite a bit. But it deals with the real issues of life, so it is well suited to be a helpful belief system.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Pri! Every Friday I write a post about a famous (or not so famous) philosopher from history, and a big idea they had. I started with the ancient Greeks and worked my way through to the 16th century so far. I have, of course, had to be selective, as there’s so many interesting philosophers one could write about 🙂

      Like

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