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Reply #32: Then explain the title of Jacques Monod's "Chance and Necessity" [View All]

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starroute Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jul-13-08 02:18 PM
Response to Reply #30
32. Then explain the title of Jacques Monod's "Chance and Necessity"
Full title "Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology." Published in 1970, it provides an epitomal example of the mid-20th century belief that evolution could be explained by a combination of random mutation and inexorable natural forces and that any impression of purpose was merely an illusion created by natural selection choosing certain solutions over others. (See more extensive description quoted below.)

It's true that after the adaptation of the modern synthesis in the late 30's-early 40's, science became somewhat less enamored of the idea of pure chance than it had been in the immediate aftermath of the discovery of genetic mutation at the start of the 20th century. But the modern synthesis was never able to do without the element of random mutation to provide the raw material for later selection -- or explain how randomly kicking the shit out of a well-functioning system could provide the starting point for achieving a better-functioning system with anything like the efficiency displayed by actual evolutionary processes.

Remember -- the people who arrived at the modern synthesis had no actual examples of evolution to study. Genuine evolution is normally an infrequent process, and it's only now, after years of patient bacteria-watching, that we're finally seeing documented cases of it. The modern synthesis described certain processes very well, but it never provided a satisfactory explanation of how evolutionary leaps could arise, and it's starting to appear increasingly unlikely that it can ever be tweaked to do so.

From a review of <i>Chance and Necessity</i> at Amazon:

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.

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