Mariano Artigas (1938-2006) in memoriam

Mariano Artigas (1938-2006) in memoriam

Author: Santiago Collado González. School Ecclesiastic of Philosophy.
Published in: yearbook de Historia de la Iglesia, XVII (2008) pp. 418-425
Date of publication: 2008



training academics, ordination and the beginning of his priestly work

Mariano Artigas was born in Zaragoza on 15 December 1938. In the academic year 1955-56 he moved to Barcelona to begin the programs of study in Physical Sciences. He obtained the Degree of graduate in June 1960 and began the programs of study of doctorate in Physics which was temporarily interrupted because in 1961 he went to Rome to fill in the programs of study ecclesiastical which he had already begun in Spain. In Rome he had the opportunity to meet the Founder of Opus Dei, Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, and his successor, the Servant of God Don Álvaro del Portillo, who always followed his intellectual career very closely. Years later, Bishop del Portillo would write a prologue to one of his books: "Man in the Light of Science", a volume which also contains a dialogue with the Servant of God on "Science and Conscience". His Roman years, his proximity to these great figures and his close experience of the Second Vatican Council, development , left a clear imprint on his personality that would translate into a deep-rooted eagerness to serve the Church. In time, his activity earned him the appointment of consultant of the Pontifical committee for Dialogue with non-believers (April 1992), ordinary member of the Pontifical Academy of St Thomas (December 1999) and member of the committee Scientific Committee of the file of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (October 2002).

In July 1963 he defended his doctoral dissertation thesis at the Lateran University School of Philosophy . His work was entitled degree scroll "The problem of the substantiality of elementary particles: a study on the applicability of the notion of substance to microphysics". The thesis was directed by Professor Roberto Masi. The degree scroll of this work is a good example of one of the guiding lines of his intellectual production: to highlight the compatibility of the classical Philosophy with the notions of modern science and to reread the old themes of the classical and Thomistic tradition with the language provided by contemporary science.

In 1964 Mariano Artigas was ordained a priest and returned to Barcelona. There he was chaplain of the high school Mayor Monterols for more than 20 years. During this time he had the opportunity to develop a wide and deep pastoral work, especially with university students. Many of those university students remember him today as a cordial priest, always available for everyone and, at the same time, with a great sense of how to make the most of his time. During this period of his life he managed to make his pastoral work compatible with the publication of dozens of articles of scientific knowledge dissemination and with the work necessary for fill in his academic training : he obtained the Degree of Doctor in Physical Sciences from the University of Barcelona in October 1968. The degree scroll of the work was: "Relación y estructura en la mecánica newtoniana" (Relationship and structure in Newtonian mechanics) and was directed by Professors Roberto Saumells and Luis María Garrido. That same year he began to teach monographic courses on Philosophy of Nature and Epistemology at the same University. In the classes, readings and programs of study of these years, he matured the contents and approaches of the books he would later write, such as the manuals on Philosophy de la Naturaleza y de la Ciencia. He stopped giving courses at the University of Barcelona in 1972 and, from the following year until 1978, he taught teaching as lecturer in Theology at the high school de programs of study Universitarios.

In June 1979 he obtained a new doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Barcelona. The degree scroll of his research makes reference letter to a topic that will occupy abundant space in his later publications: "The reliability of science and its philosophical impact". On this occasion he was directed by Full Professor Francisco Canals. In the same year he publishes a brief critical study that is the result of his doctoral thesis : "Karl Popper. Search without end".

During these years, his intellectual activity led him to enter contact with personalities of the stature of Karl Popper, with whom he corresponded on various philosophical questions, such as realism in science; Evandro Agazzi, for many years president of the International Academy of Philosophy of Science; or the Nobel Prize for medicine, Sir John Eccles, award .

Agazzi prefaced his first book written in 1984: "Science, reason and faith". His degree scroll expresses Artigas' deep-rooted conviction, which appears in different ways throughout his intellectual production, of the harmony between science and faith and, at the same time, of the need for reason, understood as philosophical rationality, to achieve this harmony. Science, reason and faith are in Mariano's production and thought like three pillars that reinforce and complement each other. The attempt to reduce any one of them to the others would mean, in Artigas' thinking, the ruin of all three. He always defended the need to maintain their legitimate autonomy as well as their mutual and close interdependence.

Sir John Eccles prefaced his second book published in the same year, "The Frontiers of Evolutionism", which also includes an afterword in the form of an interview with Eccles himself. He became a sincere friend of Eccles. This book was soon translated into Portuguese and Italian and is now in six editions. Its contents are a practical example of what is advocated in the first: various keys are given to dissolve the controversies which often arise between the advocates of evolutionary theories and those who defend the truth of what has been revealed to us by faith. It also illustrates the extraordinary truths and advances achieved by the biological sciences, while pointing out the limits of biology as a science. In this way, it exposes the reductionism of many statements that are particularly frequent in books and articles on knowledge dissemination . From these years are also a short volume graduate "Introducción a la Philosophy" and the first edition of a guide written with Professor Juan José Sanguineti and graduate "Philosophy de la Naturaleza".

Teacher in Pamplona

The solid academic prestige he had already achieved at that time was undoubtedly a major reason why in 1987 he was appointed Full Professor of Philosophy of Nature and Science at the Ecclesiastical School of Philosophy at the University of Navarre. This appointment took him to Pamplona where a few months later he was appointed Dean of the same School, which began its academic activities in 1988. He therefore had the not easy task of starting up an Ecclesiastical School , with all the work that this entailed, such as, for example, the promotion of students. Artigas held this position for almost ten years. He then held the post of position for two different periods, between 1998 and 2001, and from 2004 until his death, Associate Dean of the same School.

In 1987, the year in which he was also appointed Professor of the School of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Navarra, he taught, for students of licentiate degree, the subject of "Philosophy of Science". He also gave the following courses to the students of doctorate of the same School : "Nature and Technology", "Current problems of Philosophy of science" and "Galileo's texts on scientific truth". At the School of Theology he taught, at different academic levels, courses on "Logic", "Metaphysics", "Philosophy of nature", "Philosophy of science" and "History and methodology of science", among others. Later he was also Visiting Professor of the "Pontificia Università Della Santa Croce", between 2002 and 2005, and taught at the same university several courses at doctorate.

The position of Dean, with its demands on his time for bureaucratic tasks, and his considerable teaching commitments, were not an obstacle for him to continue with his research work, for which he had a real passion. He took part in numerous congresses in various countries in Europe and America, presenting oral communications or papers such as visiting professor, which have been published to a large extent. These trips helped him to meet and make sincere friendships with experts in the different fields in which he was working. The ease with which he made lasting friendships during these brief periods of academic meeting was one of his appreciable virtues.

It can be said that the pace of its publications and research work grew year by year. In total, 19 different monograph titles have been published to date. Some of the most recent books have been published with other co-authors originally at language . A number of them have been reprinted and translated into English, Portuguese, Italian, German, Japanese or Korean. The number of articles and other contributions is close to 300.

The fruits of his constant and conscientious work were especially visible in the last year of his life. When he was already struggling with his illness he saw the publication of "Negotiating Darwin. The Vatican confronts evolution 1877-1902" (with Thomas Glick and Rafael Martinez as co-authors), edited by Johns Hopkins University Press; "Galileo Observed. Science and the Politics of Belief" (with William Shea), published by Science History Publications and, shortly before his death in his hospital bed, he received the first copy sent by Oxford University Press of "Oracles of Science. Celebrity scientists versus God and Religion" (written with Karl Giberson). In this last period of his life he completed three other books (one of which he wrote entirely in those months), two of which have now been published posthumously: "The Origin of Man. Science, Philosophy and Religion" (written with Daniel Turbón) and "Science and Religion. Fundamental Concepts". The third, which studies the work of the commission appointed by John Paul II to study the Galileo case, is also about to be published at the time of writing.

Intellectual contribution

The intellectual contribution that Mariano Artigas has made to Philosophy will have to be established by programs of study in the future. The importance of his contribution is already evident in the numerous reviews and reviews of his books in different media and publications. Although, so far, there is only one monographic work that studies his thought in a more general way * (1).

The thematic fields that he has studied, as we have seen in this work, have focused fundamentally on the field of Epistemology and the Philosophy of Nature. Another of the themes that runs through his entire production is the relationship between science and religion. In the words of Mons. Sánchez de Toca, undersecretary of the pontifical committee for culture and co-author of the book yet to be published: "In a certain sense, he can also be considered a pioneer in Spain of that new discipline known as Science and Religion" * (2). This subject has been addressed, to a large extent, through the historical programs of study of specific people who have had a notable influence on the world of science or scientific knowledge dissemination . It is worth mentioning the work developed to shed light on the Galileo Case: he has left us a trilogy of which the last book on the Vatican commission on the Galileo Case is the one about to be published by the publishing house BAC.

In connection with the Galileo case, mention should also be made here of the publication of an unpublished manuscript discovered by Artigas while rummaging through the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith* (3).

Mariano Artigas thought that the study of the Galileo case had a special importance because it concentrated, for the first time and in a singular way, all the arguments that in recent centuries have been used in the discussion between science and religion, and more particularly, between science and the Church. All too often, the facts of the "Galileo case" have been interpreted in a biased, partial and even untrue way: on more than a few occasions, employee has been used as a weapon against the church. This has been a strong incentive for Artigas, in his eagerness to serve the Church and the truth, to devote special attention to it, aware of its importance. He devoted great effort throughout his life to patiently clarify what had really happened, to undo common errors and to try to provide all the historical and epistemological elements necessary to be able to make a fair and balanced judgement of what happened. In his writings we do not find a story of good guys and bad guys but the vicissitudes of a character and of a complex historical episode, such as the appearance of a new rationality subject , scientific rationality, which changed the course of history and demanded an important philosophical maturation. At the time of Galileo's life, this philosophical reflection was just beginning.

As we have pointed out, the "Theory of Evolution" also occupied a large space in his intellectual production from the very beginning: as has already been mentioned, "The Frontiers of Evolutionism" was one of his first published books. Darwinism has been another area of frequent friction between contending factions. It has often been presented as a new confrontation between the Church and Science. Mariano Artigas has helped to show how the Church, with the experience of the Galileo case as a backdrop, has always treated the various evolutionist proposals with exquisite prudence. "Negotiating Darwing" is a clear example in which Mariano Artigas, with his two co-authors, shows how the Church has acted prudently in relation to these theories. Artigas examines the behaviour of the ecclesiastical authorities in the face of the writings of six evolutionist Catholics at the end of the 19th century.

In "Oracles of Science" he manages, together with his co-author Karl Giberson, to offer an example of how to approach the relations between science and faith in the study of approaches that come from authors who are on the fringes of or even against faith. In the words of Juan Arana: "In my opinion, Oracles of Science is a first-rate contribution to the field of relations between science and religion, and not only or mainly because of the careful, complete and accurate exhibition of the six scientists presented, but because the authors have managed to find a formula for discussing the religious connotations of science that constitutes a whole model to follow" * (4).

However, in my opinion, his three most significant titles, in which Artigas brings together the core of his contribution to the Philosophy, were written prior to those recently mentioned. One of them merited a award from the Templeton Foundation and contains what we could describe as his mature synthesis in relation to the subjects he had dealt with in greater depth until then: epistemology, Philosophy of nature and, in particular, the relationship between science and religion. It is entitled degree scroll "The Mind of the Universe". It was published at Spanish in 1999, and shortly afterwards, in 2000, it was published in English by the Templeton Foundation.

Cardinal Poupard writes in the foreword to the book: "Religion might seem to be absent from science, but it is not. It is precisely in this spirit that Mariano Artigas tackles in this book the challenge of building a viable connection, a "bridge" between experimental science and religion in general. This is not an easy task, especially if the specific character of both fields and the methodological gap that guarantees their mutual autonomy must be meticulously respected. (...) Artigas' analysis is marked by its simplicity and honesty, but it is certainly not superficial. In fact, he manages to build a philosophical bridge that serves to establish, on a solid basis, a genuine dialogue between science and religion. Considering the novelty of its perspective, its intrinsic value, and the fruitfulness of the perspectives it opens for the reader, The Mind of the Universe can be considered not only an outstanding contribution, but also an important advance in the area of the contemporary dialogue between faith and science" * (5).

The two books that, together with the previous one, I consider most important for containing his most genuine contribution to epistemology and to the Philosophy of nature, respectively, are: "Philosophy of Experimental Science", whose first edition was published in 1989, and "The Intelligibility of Nature" in 1992.

In "Philosophy de la Ciencia Experimental" he makes a detailed and fine analysis of what constitutes science as such: its method and its philosophical presuppositions. It is clear from grade how Artigas had walked through such an important scientific edifice as Physics. It is this science that he keeps especially in mind when he develops each of his arguments. This knowledge also allowed him to delve into other branches of science such as Biology.

In this volume Artigas dialogues mainly with the epistemological currents born at the beginning of the 20th century and with the most representative authors of this and later periods. He tries to respond to the neopositivism of the Vienna Circle and the oscillations between logical and sociological approaches embodied mainly by Popper and Kuhn. His perspective is essentially philosophical, metaphysical, one might say. But it manages to offer such a perspective without disconnecting from, or better still, immersing itself in the most genuine contributions of the authors of this time. Another book that encapsulates the knowledge that Artigas possessed of the most important actors in the epistemological discussion of this era is "The challenge of rationality", where he criticises some of the most prominent authors in this discussion.

Artigas is sample in this book as a convinced realist. His realism is not established on principle or according to an a priori, but seeks to impose itself by unravelling the intricacies of the scientific method. To achieve this, he clarifies what scientific objectivity consists of and why we can say that science arrives at authentic truths, or in other words, that science is a truly cognitive business . Very important at this point is the notion of "contextual truth", which is developed at length in the text and whose analysis would require more space than here available. I think that this notion constitutes the touchstone of his scientific realism and of his quest to specify the truth that corresponds, in an adequate way, to science. On this point, his proposal is both indebted and indebted, in a particular way, to the thought of Evandro Agazzi. A very special intellectual harmony was established between the two of them. Agazzi put it this way recently: "In addition to this deep friendship, there was also a very fruitful intellectual speech . In fact, everything I have heard here about Don Mariano's thinking is result of an interaction between what he thought and what I thought... He himself, as always a person of the greatest intellectual honesty, mentions this explicitly. I also have to recognise this because the development of my thinking is also result of having discussed and deepened certain issues with Don Mariano. And that is why I agree with agreement with almost everything in his way of conceiving science, Philosophy, religion and their relations" * (6).

In "The Intelligibility of Nature" he seeks to make a philosophical description of nature for which his contribution in the aforementioned book is core topic. In this volume he gives unity and consistency to his main contributions, already sketched in other previous writings, to the Philosophy of nature. He offers us a vision of nature consisting of a fabric in which entities and dynamisms are interwoven, articulated around patterns or patterns, in a unity whose description he develops throughout the book. It is especially in this work where his attempt to recover the notions of the traditional Philosophy is clearest, but assuming a starting point that is closer to a mentality that has been formed in the shadow and with the impulse of contemporary science. Artigas was aware that the crisis of metaphysics, to a certain extent a consequence of the prevailing scientism, is a serious obstacle both for the understanding of scientific activity itself and for an adequate understanding of nature.

It is important to note at this point his defence of the existence of a real hierarchy in the natural world. Defending a real hierarchy in nature carries with it ontological implications. The consequences are drawn throughout the pages of this book and are unfolded in constant dialogue with a large issue of important authors.

The realist approach of his Philosophy in general, and of this book in particular, leads him, as a natural consequence of his study, to confront the transcendence of man with respect to nature, the particular role played by science in this process and how the knowledge of nature leads us, in turn, to knowledge of what transcends it: the human being and God. This area is explored in the last part of this book and then, in greater detail, in "The Mind of the Universe".

As we have seen, the Philosophy of Mariano Artigas is far-reaching and invites us to study it in a calm and profound manner. The merits of his contribution have not gone unnoticed either by the general public, to whom he directed much of his efforts, or by specialists. To the aforementioned commissions and distinctions granted by various ecclesiastical bodies, we could add that of being a member of the European association for the Study of Science and Theology; corresponding member of the International Academy of Sciences Philosophy ; Honorary Professor of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (Lima, Peru); and member of the committee which guide the project "Science & Human Values". In 1995 he received a award from the Templeton Foundation for his activity professor in the field of relations between science and religion. He was recently appointed a member of the International Society for Science and Religion, association which is based at School of Theology, University of Cambridge.

As a fruit of this desire to serve the truth and to reach out to all audiences subject , in the last years of his life he catalysed the training of an interdisciplinary group of research which was graduate by its promoters "Science, Reason and Faith" (CRYF): the degree scroll of his first book. The group now has a website( which has reached almost one million visits since its inception in 2003 and whose activities have continued to develop and expand after his death. In the week of his death, I recall my last two interviews with him at the University of Navarra Clinic. In the first one we discussed some points concerning the meeting that we CRYF members would have the following day. Despite the status he was in, and being well aware of what he had, his head was full of projects for the future. At the second one, he carefully followed the report I gave him from the development of the meeting: he passed away four days later.


Prof. Artigas died on 23 December 2006 at the University Clinic in Pamplona at 00:15 in the early hours of the morning. When the doctor told him three days earlier that nothing more could be done and that the end was imminent, he replied with great serenity that he was prepared both physically and spiritually.

I will end with some words pronounced by the President of the University of Navarra in the speech that closed the academic act in memoriam of Mariano Artigas: "Certainly, Professor Artigas had the courage to face arduous and complex questions, which, at the same time, are relevant to the man in the street and his vision of the person and the world. Often going against the tide of the dominant scientific opinion, he knew how to think and dialogue with the best, at the ultimate frontiers of the Philosophy of Science, equipped with the weapons of rigour, honesty and an uncommon perspicacity, it must be said, which did not prevent him, by the way, from being very simple" * (7).


  1. Karol, M., Orden natural y persona humana. La singularidad y jerarquía del universo según Mariano Artigas, Eunsa, Pamplona 2000.
  2. Mons. Sánchez de Toca, Acto académico in memoriam del profesor Artigas celebrado el día 23 de noviembre de 2007 en la Universidad de Navarra. Document consulted online at [enquiry 27/12/2007].
  3. The document was published on article "Un nuovo documento sul caso Galileo: EE, f. 291 r-v", certificate Philosophica 10 (2001) 199-214.
  4. Juan Arana, Acto académico in memoriam. Document consulted online at [enquiry 27/12/2007].
  5. Mariano Artigas, La mente del Universo , Eunsa 2000, pp. 15-16.
  6. Evandro Agazzi, Acto académico in memoriam. Retrieved online at [enquiry 27/12/2007].
  7. Gómez Montoro, Ángel J. Document consulted online at [enquiry 27/12/2007].