For Science With a Conscience

Interview With Author Mariano Artigas

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PAMPLONA, Spain, MARCH 24, 2004 ( Science and faith have much to contribute to one another, says Mariano Artigas, who has just updated the sixth edition of his book «Science, Reason and Faith.»

In this ZENIT interview, Artigas, who teaches philosophy of nature and of sciences at the University of Navarre, says that «with a proper combination of the religious sense and of scientific and technical knowledge, many of the more serious problems that humanity suffers today could be resolved.»

Artigas is a member of the International Academy of Philosophy of Sciences of Brussels and of the Holy See’s Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas.

Q: Does Galileo continue to be an unresolved problem?

Artigas: When I speak of the Galileo case as an unresolved problem I am referring to the value of scientific theories. Cardinal Bellarmine said to Galileo that he would have no problems if he [Galileo] presented his theory as a hypothetical model, useful to calculate phenomena.

Pope Urban VIII said that one could not know if [Galileo’s] model was true, because God is almighty and perhaps the effects we observe are due to causes that do not agree with our theory.

Galileo believed that the new science sought truth and could attain it; he was a realist. So am I.

However, at present, the opposite idea is widespread. The Galileo case is very long and complicated; very few people know it well.

Recently I published «Galileo in Rome» [Oxford University Press], together with William Shea, one of the best specialists on Galileo. In that book we give all the data, to know exactly what happened, taking as an outline the six trips Galileo made to Rome.

Q: What are today’s «new Galileo cases»?

Artigas: There has been no other case like Galileo’s. The Church authorities learned the lesson. The closest would be evolutionism. There was opposition. In fact, I am currently preparing a book in which I use the documents, unknown until now, of the Holy Office’s archive. However, there was never a condemnation of evolutionism by the authorities of Rome.

Present-day problems such as abortion, sexual ethics or bioethics have nothing to do with the Galileo case. The Church accepts all of science’s data; it is simply not in agreement that it is morally correct to do everything that existing technology allows.

I would say that at present the danger is rather that there are cases that are the reverse of the Galileo case. That is, that there are scientists and philosophers who use the authority of science to pontificate on religious or moral questions that are outside the domain of science.

Q: In simple language, what is the Church’s position in regard to evolutionism?

Artigas: In 1950, in the encyclical «Humani Generis,» Pope Pius XII said that evolutionism was a hypothesis, that the origin of the human organism could be discussed as long as it is admitted that God creates a spiritual soul in each human being.

In 1996, Pope John Paul II referred to evolutionism as something more than a hypothesis that is supported by a series of independent proofs, and he affirmed that problems do not arise from science, but from materialist ideologies that are not scientific.

Q: How does faith help science and vice versa?

Artigas: Science occupies a central place in our civilization and, given its enormous prestige, there is a danger similar to that of absolute majorities in politics: not to pay attention to other approaches.

Faith shows that a spiritual world exists which science does not reach, and helps to give real meaning to science as the search for truth and service to humanity, in keeping with God’s plans.

In turn, science supplies many means to improve the quality of human life. With a proper combination of the religious sense and of scientific and technical knowledge, many of the more serious problems that humanity suffers today could be resolved.

Q: Do we depend totally on science or do we have a certain margin of autonomy?

Artigas: Science is a human product. We are the ones who make it. It is absurd that at times we are the victims of our own product.

I have already said that I am a realist. There is an order in nature that is there and that we cannot invent. We try through science to know it increasingly better and we learn to use it in a controlled manner. But science cannot tell us how to use that knowledge.

Science must be complemented by a meta-scientific reflection, of a philosophical, moral and religious sort. Science calls for the complement of conscience.

It gives us a power that is ever greater, but it is a mistake to think that everything that can be done is right. It is our responsibility to focus science and technology, which is based on science, correctly.

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