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Entrevista al académico Mariano Artigas

Interview with the academic Mariano Artigas

Posted in: Zenit
date of on-line publication: September 28th, 2004

Evolutionism and religion

Mariano Artigas has just published a book on evolutionism and its relationship with Philosophy and religion, graduate "Las fronteras del evolucionismo" (Eunsa) in which he states that there are questions that science cannot resolve.

Artigas (Zaragoza, 1938) is a member of the International Academy of Sciences in Brussels ( Philosophy ) and of the Pontifical Academy of Saint Thomas in the Vatican. 

He holds a PhD in Physical Sciences and Philosophy and is Full Professor of Philosophy of Nature and Science at the University of Navarra.

Science is "one of the most important achievements of human history", he says in this interview with Zenit, but warns against "scientific imperialism that pretends to judge everything by science: that is no longer science, but a bad Philosophy that is usually called scientism".

Does the degree scroll "The Frontiers of Evolutionism" indicate that there are questions that fall outside the skill of science?

Artigas: I will answer you with the words of Stephen Jay Gould, one of the most important evolutionists of the 20th century. He spent most of his life as a professor at Harvard University. He was the author, together with Niles Eldredge, of the theory of "punctuated equilibrium", which appears in all treatises on evolution. He died of cancer in 2002, aged 60. He was an agnostic. In his later years he published two books on the relationship between science, Humanities and religion, and argued that science and religion are "two non-overlapping magisteria", because science studies the composition and workings of the natural world, while religion deals with spiritual and moral questions.

Gould claimed that it makes no sense to seek answers to questions about the meaning of life in natural science.

Another well-known evolutionist, Richard Dawkins, professor at Oxford University, is an atheist and an attack on religion, but he recognises that the study of evolution cannot provide answers to moral problems.

His view on evolution and creation is interesting: "Evolution can only occur if there is something capable of evolution: evolution from nothing is a contradiction in terms. That is why evolutionary theories cannot be used to affirm or deny creation. Can you shed any more light on this statement?

Artigas: The Christian idea of creation refers to the fact that everything that exists depends on God for its being.

Evolution, on the other hand, refers to how beings in the created world proceed from one another through an inheritance with modification. These are two different planes.

This was already recognised by quite a few Christians in the 19th century, and has long been generally accepted by almost all Christians, except for a few fundamentalist Protestant groups that are in the minority in the United States but make a lot of noise.

What happens is that it is not easy to imagine what God's action is like, because we have no other similar examples.

You do not claim to criticise the scientific theories of evolution, but there are some Christians who do. What do you think of them?

Artigas: That is their right. Anyone can criticise scientific theories, which are publicly formulated and supported by known arguments.

But such criticisms, to be serious, must be supported by well-founded reasons. American "scientific creationists" have used rather unconvincing arguments, and have used the Bible as if it were a scientific treatise, extracting from it doctrines that go beyond the meaning of the holy books.

But what do we do with the Book of Genesis?

Artigas: Well, to extract from it the religious doctrines it contains, which are very important and which have been emphasised by the Church throughout the centuries: for example, that God is the creator of all that exists, that he has a special providence for human beings, that in his origins human beings turned away from God, that God has plans of salvation for the human race and has developed them throughout history.

Centuries ago in the West, the Church was concerned with almost all culture; the development of modern science has helped to make clearer the scope of religious truths and to distinguish those truths from the veneer in which they have been presented (the six days, the apple, the serpent).

There should be no problem combining evolution and God, and yet there is conflict. How is it resolved?

Artigas: Studying and avoiding prejudices. Thinking about what it means that God is the first cause of the being of everything that exists, and that creatures are second causes, that they really cause, but they depend completely on God, although God respects the capacities that He Himself has given them.

Warning that science is one of the most important achievements of human history, but avoiding the scientific imperialism that pretends to judge everything by science: that is no longer science, but a bad Philosophy often called scientism.