Chance and necessity

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Chance and necessity. Philosophical questions of modern biology (French original title: Le hasard et la nécessité. Essai sur la philosophie naturelle de la biologie moderne ) is a book published in 1970 by the molecular biologist and Nobel Prize winner Jacques Monod .

It is primarily about the effects of the theory of evolution on the self-image of humans.


The title is derived from an alleged statement by Democritus "Everything that exists in space is the fruit of chance and necessity". Monod transfers this meaning to the basic elements of the theory of evolution - mutation and selection.


After analyzing what distinguishes animate nature from inanimate nature, it will first be shown how vitalistic and animistic worldviews have tried to explain the phenomenon of life. The then relatively new findings in molecular biology are then discussed, such as the mechanism of enzyme kinetics , protein biosynthesis and DNA replication and how these form the basis for the theory of evolution.

In the following, other subject areas are also briefly touched upon, such as thermodynamics or anthropology .

Jacques Monod would like to show that a worldview based on the findings of the natural sciences no longer leaves room for a belief in a predestined human being, but that many people are not ready to give up this form of anthropocentrism .

His scientific essay is related to the worldview of the philosopher Albert Camus . The quote from the myth of Sisyphus that appears as the motto on the first page reads: “Convinced that everything human is only of human origin, Sisyphus is always on the move. (…) Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that denies the gods and moves the stones. (...) This universe, from now on without masters, appears to him neither sterile nor void. (...) The struggle for the summit alone can fill a human heart. ”( Albert Camus : The Myth of Sisyphus: An Attempt on the Absurd . 1942)

Other concepts discussed in the book are those of dysgenics and the observation that ideas and conceptions, like living beings, are subjected to a selection process, for which Richard Dawkins introduced the term meme six years later .


  • Jacques Monod [1970]: Le Hasard et la nécessité: Essai sur la philosophie naturelle de la biologie moderne . Le Seuil, Paris, ISBN 2-020-02812-3 .
  • Jacques Monod [1971]: Chance and Necessity. Philosophical questions in modern biology . Piper, Munich, ISBN 3-492-22290-0 . Translated from the French by Friedrich Griese. Preface to the German edition by Manfred Eigen
  • Jacques Monod [1996]: Chance and Necessity. Philosophical questions in modern biology . DTV Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag ,,, ISBN 3-423-01069-X . Translated by Friedrich Griese; Preface by Manfred Eigen
  • Old truths, new bluff. Wolfgang Harich on Monod “Chance and Necessity” . In: Der Spiegel . No. 46 , 1971, p. 188-193 ( online - November 8, 1971 ).