Mariano Artigas was born in Saragossa, Spain, on 15 December 1938. After secondary schooling he moved to Barcelona for the academic year 1955-56 in order to read Physical Sciences at the University there. Having taken his degree in June 1960 he started doctoral research in Physics. This he was to interrupt for a time in order to complete in Rome the parallel ecclesiastical studies he had hitherto undertaken in Spain as a lay member of Opus Dei. There he met the Founder of Opus Dei, Saint Josemaría Escrivá, and his future successor, Monsignor Álvaro del Portillo.
Years later, Monsignor del Portillo was to write a Foreword for one of his books: El hombre a la luz de la ciencia (‘Man in the Light of Science’ – not translated into English), a volume that contains in fact a dialogue with him on the subject of science and conscience.
His years in Rome, living in close proximity with these great figures and experiencing near-at-hand the development of the Second
Vatican Council, made a powerful impact on his personality and produced in him a deep-rooted zeal for service of the Church.
In later years his scholarly activity was to gain him a number of Vatican appointments: Consultant to the Pontifical Council for Dialogue with Non-Believers (April 1992); Ordinary Member of the Pontifical Academy of Saint Thomas Aquinas (December 1999); and Member of the Scientific Committee of the Archive of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (October 2002).
In July 1963 there took place the successful viva voce examination of his doctoral thesis, undertaken in the Philosophy Faculty of the Pontifical Lateran University: El problema de la substancialidad de las partículas elementales: estudio sobre la aplicabilidad de la noción de substancia a la microfísica(‘The Problem of Substantiality in Elementary Particles: A Study of the Applicability of the Notion of Substance in Microphysics’ – not translated into English). This thesis had been supervised by Professor Roberto Masi. The title, in fact, well exemplifies a leitmotif of his future scholarly publication: the manifesting of the compatibility of classical philosophy with notions of modern science, and the revisiting of topics from the classical and Thomist traditions with a language derived from contemporary science.
In the year 1964 Mariano Artigas was ordained a Roman Catholic priest and returned to Barcelona where, for more than twenty years as Chaplain of the Monterols hall of residence for students, he engaged in wide-ranging pastoral work. Many former students remember him as an approachable and ever-available priest with a great capacity for making the best possible use of time. In this period he managed to make pastoral duties compatible with publication of dozens of scientific articles aimed at an intelligent general public and with putting in the work necessary for the completion of his own academic formation. In October 1968 he obtained a doctorate in Physical Sciences from the University of Barcelona for a thesis, supervised by professors Roberto Samuells and Luis María Garrido: Relación y estructura en la mecánica newtoniana (‘Relation and Structure in Newtonian Mechanics’ – not published in English). That same year he began to give specialised lecture courses on the Philosophy of Nature and on Epistemology in his University. In the classes, lectures and studies of these years he gradually brought to maturity the contents and approaches of books he was to publish later on. He ceased teaching in the University of Barcelona after 1972 but from 1973 until 1978 acted as lecturer in Theology at the independent Instituto de Estudios Universitarios de Barcelona.
In June 1979 he obtained a second doctorate in Philosophy, this time from the University of Barcelona. The title of his thesis, supervised by Professor Francisco Canals, points up a subject that was to be given abundant attention in later publications: La confiabilidad de la ciencia y su impacto filosófico (‘The Trustworthiness of Science and its Philosophical Impact’ – not translated into English). That same year he published a critical study that drew on the doctoral thesis: Karl Popper. Búsqueda sin término (‘Karl Popper: An Endless Search’ – not published in English).
His scholarly activity during these years brought him into contact with recognised specialists like Karl Popper with whom he kept up a correspondence about a range of philosophical subjects including, for example, realism in science; Evandro Agazzi who had been President for many years of the International Academy of the Philosophy of Science; or Sir John Eccles, Nobel laureate in Medicine.
Agazzi was to write a Foreword for Mariano Artigas’s book, Ciencia, razón y fe (‘Science, Reason, and Faith’ – not translated into English), a title expressive of the author’s profound conviction of the harmony existing between science and faith, as well as of the need for reason, understood as philosophical rationality, to underpin this harmony. Science, Reason, and Faith are, in the thought and scholarly output of Mariano Artigas, like three pillars reinforcing and complementing each other. He held that the attempt to reduce any one of them to the other two would lead to the ruin of all three. He always defended both the need for each to maintain legitimate autonomy and their mutual, indeed tight, interdependence.
Sir John Eccles wrote a Foreword for his other book of 1984, Las fronteras del evolucionismo (‘The Frontiers of Evolutionism’ – not translated into English), which contains also an epilogue in the form of an interview with Eccles. The book was very soon translated into both Portuguese and Italian, and it is currently in its sixth edition. The work constitutes a practical example of what he proposes in his second book: the need to find keys to open the way to dissolution of controversies sometimes formulated by particular defenders of evolutionary theories and at others by persons defending truth in the content of Holy Scripture. At one and the same time there are expounded both the extraordinary advances made by the biological sciences and the limits of Biology in a broader rational context. In this manner, he shows up the reductionism of many affirmations frequently to be found in popular scientific books and articles.
In this period of his life Artigas produced also a short volume titled Introducción a la Filosofía (‘Introduction to Philosophy’ – not translated into English) and a first edition of a manual written jointly with Professor Juan José Sanguineti titled Filosofía de la Naturaleza (‘Philosophy of nature’ – not translated into English).
In 1987 he was appointed Ordinary Professor of Nature and Science in the newly created Ecclesiastical Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Navarre. This called for his removal to Pamplona where only few months later he was chosen Dean of the Faculty which began to operate in 1988. It was to be his task to develop this institution. He served as Dean for almost ten years, and thereafter twice held office as Vice-Dean, 1998 to 2001, and 2004 until his death.
Also in 1987, by a parallel appointment, he was made Associate Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Navarre. There he imparted courses in the Philosophy of Science to graduate students. Over the years ahead he was to give courses of lectures in Nature and Technology; Current Problems of Philosophy of Science; and Texts of Galileo on Scientific Truth. Indeed, the scope of his teaching was wider still, for in the Theology Faculty of Navarre he gave courses, among others, on Logic; Metaphysics; The Philosophy of Nature; The Philosophy of Science; and The History and Methodology of the Sciences. Later on, between 2002 and 2005, he taught several doctoral courses as Visiting Professor at the Pontificia Università della Santa Croce in Rome.
While performing his responsibilities as Dean he managed to carry on the research for which he had an authentic passion. He participated in numerous congresses celebrated in European and American countries where he presented communications, most of which have been published. These journeys enabled him to extend and deepen friendships with experts in the several subjects upon which he was working. The facility for maintaining friendships that sprang up during relatively short visits was a great virtue in him.
The tempo of his research and publication increased year upon year. Nearly two dozen of his books have been published. A few of the most recent works were co-authored with English-speaking scholars and first published in that language. A good number have been reprinted and translated to English, Portuguese, Italian, German, Japanese or Korean. His articles and other shorter contributions amount to around 300.
The very last years of his life were especially productive. While struggling with cancer he was able to see through to publication, with Thomas Glick and Rafael Martínez as co-authors, Negotiating Darwin: The Vatican Confronts Evolution 1877-1902 (Johns Hopkins University Press; Baltimore MA, 2006); with William Shea as co-author, Galileo Observed: Science and the Politics of Belief (Science History Publications; Sagamore Beach MD, 2006); and, with Karl Giberson as co-author, Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists versus God and Religion (Oxford University Press; New York, 2006), a first copy of which he received in hospital only a few days before he died. At this time he finished three other books which have been published posthumously: with Daniel Turbón as co-author, El origen del hombre: Ciencia, Filosofía y Religión (‘The Origin of Man: Science, Philosophy and Religion’ – not translated into English); Ciencia y Religión. Conceptos Fundamentales (‘Science and Religion: Fundamental Concepts’ – not translated into English); and, co-authored with Monsignor Melchor Sánchez de Toca, Galileo y el Vaticano (‘Galileo and the Vatican’ – not translated into English).
His merits have not passed unnoticed either among the public at large to whom he addressed so much of his writing, or by specialists. He was a member of the European Association for the Study of Science and Theology and of The International Academy of Philosophy of Science; an Honorary Professor of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos of Lima, Perú; and a member of the Committee that led the project ‘Science & Human Values’. In 1995 he received an award from the Templeton Foundation for his activity in the field of the relations between science and religion. Just a few days prior to his death he was named a Member of the International Society for Science and Religion, based at the Theology Faculty of the University of Cambridge.
Mariano Artigas passed away on 23 December 2006, in the Clínica Universitaria of Pamplona, at 00:15 hours. When three days earlier the doctor had announced to him that there was nothing more the medical team could do to prevent his death, he responded with great serenity and said that he was prepared, both physically and spiritually.