The role of paradigm shifts in understanding is often discussed in the context of scientific progress. What are some prime examples of scientific progress initiating paradigm shifts in religion/philosophy? These by nature are more tradition bound and thus slower moving, and "yet they move"... For example, one that comes to my mind is the effect of Darwin's theories on Christian thought. The more recent, the better.


  • Modern neuroscience combined with evolutionary psychology have some "interesting" things to say about awareness, consciousness and free will... See Gazzaniga "Who's In Charge?" for instance or Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal". I don't know how much of an effect this research has had on philosophy, it's probably too early (30-40 years) to have had much of an impact. Apr 1 '18 at 23:11
  • Darwin may be an example but it's difficult to think of others. QM should have caused a paradigm-shift but seems to have had no effect at all. Jim suggests work in neuroscience and phil.of mind as an example but I can't see that this had changed anything. We'll need at least one major paradigm-shift if philosophy is ever to catch up with physics. Perhaps the hopelessness of the 'hard' problem will lead to one as Chalmers' recent writings might indicate. My suspicion is that academic philosophy has too great an inertia to undergo a paradigm-shift.
    – user20253
    Apr 2 '18 at 12:41

The revelation that Earth is round had a huge impact on Christianity, similar to Darwin's theory of evolution.

The ability of medical science to keep even the terminally ill alive and perform a variety of abortions has similarly affected Christianity and stimulated philosophical thought. One of the key questions is "What is life?" or "When does life begin?"

Those are questions that could have been asked in the distant past, but they've taken on a new meaning.

Suggestions that Earth itself might be considered something akin to a living organism (Gaia) has generated some philosophical discussion.

Humankind's growing impact on the environment, including genetically modified food, raises some urgent ethical questions. However, it isn't clear (to me) if they have really revolutionized philosophic thought.

  • And, analogously, the notion of death. Death has gone from being a binary state to a continuum: unresponsive patients can sometimes be healed of a much broader range of physical problems, such as "patient's heart has stopped beating" or "patient has not breathed in the last several minutes". If we crack cryonics and revive a suspended patient, I'm sure there'll be much soul-searching (heh) among those who believe there is either a soul or an afterlife. Apr 2 '18 at 9:59
  1. Newtonian Mechanics on Kant.
  2. Quantum mechanics, specifically the measurement problem, on modern philosophy's concept of ontology and epistemology.
  3. Computer science on philosophy of mind.

Just to name a few.

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