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Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0394718255 ISBN-10: 0394718259

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (September 12, 1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394718259
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394718255
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 4.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,019,142 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)

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Customer Reviews

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What Dawkins does for the evolution of complexity, Monod does for the very start of life.
Robert Carlberg
Presumably much of what is still reasonable of Monod's writing has stood the test of time and should be considered foundational.
Yothgoboufnir
Monod writes superbly & succinctly for the thoughtful lay reader -- in a very short book.
jordanjazz@aol.com

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 80 people found the following review helpful By TheIrrationalMan on January 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Jacques Monod, the Nobel Prize winning biochemist, allies himself, in the title of this admirable treatise, to the atomist Democritus, who held that the whole universe is but the fruit of two qualities, chance and necessity. Interpreting the laws of natural selection along purely naturalistic lines, he succeeds in presenting a powerful case that takes into account the ethical, political and philosophical undercurrents of the synthesis in modern biology. Above all, he stresses that science must commit itself to the postulate of objectivity by casting aside delusive ideological and moral props, even though he enjoins, at the same time, that the postulate of objectivity itself is a moral injunction. He launches a bitter polemic against metaphysical and scientific vitalisms, dismissing them as obscurantist, as well as the animist projection in history and evolution, as represented by Teilhard de Chardin and, especially, the Marxist doctrine of dialectical materialism. He refutes teleological explanations of nature as being contrary to the postulate of objectivity, drawing attention to self-constructing proteins as teleonomic agents, followed by an explanation of the role of nucleic acids, reproduction and invariance. This leads him to dismiss Judaeo-Christian religiosity, which accords man a significant role as being created in God's image, as a nauseating and false pietism and he even goes so far as to recommend eugenic reform. Writing with great clarity and flair, and often in a forceful and idiosyncratic idiom, he puts forward a compelling case, though some knowledge of modern biology is presumed on the part of the reader.Read more ›
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
When it came out in 1970 this book caused a sensation. As well as explaining better for the general reader than ever before or since the revolutions in molecular biochemistry and genetics, Monod introduced the concepts that flowered into evolutionary socio-biology, Dawkins theory of memes,Dennett's and Ruse's philosophy of Darwinism and much more. One reads this short essay for enlightenment and stimulation; it is also shocking and crushing in its evaluation of the animisms(Monods word for religions) that have ruled human thought and behaviour. Although the conclusion is bleak and austere it is also exhilarating. Theists have attempted to respond, notably Mark Ward with 'God, Chance and Necessity' Even with 20 years to polish his arguments Ward loses lamentably in direct comparison to Monod's masterpiece of clear prose and devastating argument. Not a comfortable read but part of facing up to reality in the post religious era. A new edition with a forward by Maynard Smith has just come out in the UK.
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29 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Robert Carlberg on April 8, 1999
Format: Paperback
What Dawkins does for the evolution of complexity, Monod does for the very start of life.
Creationists like to believe that life is too complex, too perfect to have begun by chance. Monod shows, in excruciating detail, exactly how they are wrong. Dead wrong.
This is a landmark, crucial book.
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Format: Paperback
Jacques Monod (1910-1976) was a French biologist---widely regarded as the "father of molecular biology"---who was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1965. He states in the Preface to this famous work, "Biology occupies a position among the sciences at once marginal and central ... no other science has quite the same significance for man; none has already so heavily contributed to the shaping of modern thought, profoundly and definitively affected as it has been in every domain---philosophical, religious, political---by the advent of the theory of evolution.... this essay does not attempt to extract the quintessence of the molecular theory of the code. For the ideological generalizations I have ventured to deduce from it I am, of course, solely responsible. But I do not think I am mistaken in saying that ... these interpretations would find assent from the majority of modern biologists."

He states, "With the globular protein ... nothing but the play of blind combinations can be discerned. Randomness caught on the wing, preserved, reproduced by the machinery of invariance and thus converted into order, rule, necessity. A totally blind process can by definition lead to anything; it can even lead to vision itself." (Pg. 98)

He asserts, "Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution: this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the SOLE conceivable hypothesis." (Pg. 112-113) He adds, "The universe was not pregnant with life nor the biosphere with man. Our number came up in the Monte Carlo game." (Pg.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Roni Wechsler(bnaharon@weizmann.weizmann.ac.il) on January 31, 1998
Format: Paperback
In the face of the rising tendency in many of us to stick to misticism and religion, Monod's Chance and Necessity is like a refreshing but shocking ice-cold splash on a drunkman's face. In a rational precise path, Monod leads the reader to realise that the only right way to perceive life is to accept the ultimate truth: its all nothing but a game of dice by nature.
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