Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Danny Yee
James Hannam
Thymos.com

Jacques Monod

Chance and Necessity

The philosophy of biology is a fast moving subject, as new biological discoveries are coming thick and fast. Hence even a classic like Jacques Monod's 'Chance and Necessity' looks pretty dated after 35 years. But sometimes it's good to go back to see what the important issues were at an earlier time. The book requires a little knowledge of biology, but anyone who has read a few popular science books should have no problem with this one. It's a short book, but a wide range of topics are discussed - vitalism, the second law of thermodynamics and the philosophy of mind are just a few. The reader can also see the beginnings of the idea of the electronic computer as a metaphor for biological processes.

Monod contrasts the scientific view with earlier pre-scientific ideas. Previously the purpose of life was clear but the knowledge of how it worked was pretty vague. Now the detail of the working of living things is becoming more and more precise (Necessity), but the sense of purpose seems to be receding (Chance). A recipe for despair? Monod's answer is that we do have to invent our own sense of purpose, but the scientific worldview and the quest for knowledge give us an obvious choice.

Amazon.com info
Mass Market Paperback 199 pages  
ISBN: 0394718259
Salesrank: 161171
Weight:0.35 lbs
Published: 1972 Vintage Books
Marketplace:New from $101.38:Used from $38.76
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 192 pages  
ISBN: 0002151189
Salesrank: 929618
Weight:0.95 lbs
Published: 1972 HarperCollins Distribution Services
Marketplace:New from £114.41:Used from £41.15
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Amazon.ca info
Mass Market Paperback 198 pages  
ISBN: 0394718259
Salesrank: 900496
Weight:0.35 lbs
Published: 1972 Vintage
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 140.41:Used from CDN$ 44.02
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Product Description
"For some time now, the unpleasant idea has been dawning on mankind that it may owe its existence to nothing but a role of some cosmological dice. But until recently hard proof has been missing and the larger philosophical implications have remained obscure. What Jaques Monod is here to say in his difficult but important book is that the proof is now available and the implications may necessitate a revolution in human thought."