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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index M > Jacques Monod Quotes

Thumbnail of Jacques Monod (source)
Jacques Monod
(9 Feb 1910 - 31 May 1976)

French biochemist who shared with his fellow researchers the 1965 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. They revealed how messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) is involved in protein synthesis within a cell. He headed the Pasteur Institute from 1971.


Science Quotes by Jacques Monod (20 quotes)

Photo of Jacques Monot on 29 May 1976.
Jacques Monod (29 May 1976) (source)

...the scientific attitude implies what I call the postulate of objectivity—that is to say, the fundamental postulate that there is no plan, that there is no intention in the universe. Now, this is basically incompatible with virtually all the religious or metaphysical systems whatever, all of which try to show that there is some sort of harmony between man and the universe and that man is a product—predictable if not indispensable—of the evolution of the universe.
— Jacques Monod
Quoted in John C. Hess, 'French Nobel Biologist Says World Based On Chance', New York Times (15 Mar 1971), 6. Cited in Herbert Marcuse, Counter-Revolution and Revolt (1972), 66.
Science quotes on:  |  Man (345)  |  Religion (210)  |  Universe (563)

A totally blind process can by definition lead to anything; it can even lead to vision itself.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1972), 98.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (150)  |  Blind (35)  |  Definition (152)  |  Philosophy (213)  |  Process (201)

Among all the occurrences possible in the universe the a priori probability of any particular one of them verges upon zero. Yet the universe exists; particular events must take place in it, the probability of which (before the event) was infinitesimal. At the present time we have no legitimate grounds for either asserting or denying that life got off to but a single start on earth, and that, as a consequence, before it appeared its chances of occurring were next to nil. ... Destiny is written concurrently with the event, not prior to it.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 145.
Science quotes on:  |  A Priori (16)  |  Appear (55)  |  Assert (11)  |  Chance (122)  |  Consequence (76)  |  Deny (29)  |  Destiny (26)  |  Earth (487)  |  Event (97)  |  Exist (89)  |  Infinitesimal (8)  |  Life (917)  |  Occur (26)  |  Occurrence (30)  |  Particular (54)  |  Possible (100)  |  Prior (5)  |  Probability (83)  |  Start (68)  |  Universe (563)  |  Write (87)  |  Zero (15)

Armed with all the powers, enjoying all the wealth they owe to science, our societies are still trying to practice and to teach systems of values already destroyed at the roots by that very science. Man knows at last that he is alone in the indifferent immensity of the universe, whence which he has emerged by chance. His duty, like his fate, is written nowhere.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 171.
Science quotes on:  |  Chance (122)  |  Religion (210)

Biology occupies a position among the sciences both marginal and central. Marginal because, the living world, constituting only a tiny and very “special” part of the universe, it does not seem likely that the study of living beings will ever uncover general laws applicable outside the biosphere. But if the ultimate aim of the whole of science is indeed, as I believe, to clarify man's relationship to the universe, then biology must be accorded a central position, since of all the disciplines it is the one that endeavours to go most directly to the heart of the problems that must be resolved before that of “human nature” can even be framed in other than metaphysical terms.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), xi.
Science quotes on:  |  Biology (150)  |  Biosphere (10)  |  Central (23)  |  Clarify (2)  |  Discipline (38)  |  Endeavour (24)  |  Human Nature (51)  |  Life (917)  |  Metaphysics (30)  |  Problem (362)  |  Relationship (59)  |  Universe (563)

Chance alone is at the source of every innovaton, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, only chance, absolute but blind liberty is at the root of the prodigious edifice that is evolution... It today is the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one that squares with observed and tested fact.
Stating life began by the chance collision of particles of nucleic acid in the “prebiotic soup.”
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 112-113.
Science quotes on:  |  Chance (122)  |  Evolution (482)

Chance and necessity.
— Jacques Monod
Title of Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971). See also the source quote by Diogenes Laertius, “Everything existing in the Universe is the fruit of chance and necessity.”
Science quotes on:  |  Chance (122)  |  Necessity (125)

Even today a good many distinguished minds seem unable to accept or even to understand that from a source of noise natural selection alone and unaided could have drawn all the music of the biosphere. In effect natural selection operates upon the products of chance and can feed nowhere else; but it operates in a domain of very demanding conditions, and from this domain chance is barred. It is not to chance but to these conditions that eveloution owes its generally progressive cource, its successive conquests, and the impresssion it gives of a smooth and steady unfolding.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 118-119.
Science quotes on:  |  Acceptance (41)  |  Ban (9)  |  Biosphere (10)  |  Chance (122)  |  Condition (119)  |  Mind (544)  |  Music (66)  |  Natural Selection (79)  |  Noise (24)  |  Nourishment (16)  |  Understanding (317)

Every living being is also a fossil. Within it, all the way down to the microscopic structure of its proteins, it bears the traces if not the stigmata of its ancestry.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1972), 160.
Science quotes on:  |  Ancestor (35)  |  Being (39)  |  Life (917)  |  Molecular Biology (23)

Evolution in the biosphere is therefore a necessarily irreversible process defining a direction in time; a direction which is the same as that enjoined by the law of increasing entropy, that is to say, the second law of thermodynamics. This is far more than a mere comparison: the second law is founded upon considerations identical to those which establish the irreversibility of evolution. Indeed, it is legitimate to view the irreversibility of evolution as an expression of the second law in the biosphere.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 123.
Science quotes on:  |  Biosphere (10)  |  Direction (56)  |  Entropy (40)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Expression (82)  |  Irreversible (5)  |  Law (418)  |  Process (201)  |  Second Law Of Thermodynamics (13)

In an objective system … any mingling of knowledge with values is unlawful, forbidden. But [the] … “first commandment” which ensures the foundation of objective knowledge, is not itself objective. It cannot be objective: it is an ethical guideline, a rule for conduct. True knowledge is ignorant of values, but it cannot be grounded elsewhere than upon a value judgment…
— Jacques Monod
In Chance and Necessity (1970), 176.
Science quotes on:  |  Commandment (6)  |  Conduct (23)  |  Elsewhere (7)  |  Ensure (8)  |  Ethics (30)  |  First (174)  |  Forbidden (8)  |  Foundation (75)  |  Ground (63)  |  Guideline (3)  |  Ignorant (27)  |  Judgment (72)  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Mingle (6)  |  Objective (49)  |  Rule (135)  |  System (141)  |  Truth (750)  |  Unlawful (2)  |  Value (180)

In science there is and will remain a Platonic element which could not be taken away without ruining it. Among the infinite diversity of singular phenomena science can only look for invariants.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 101.
Science quotes on:  |  Diversity (46)  |  Invariant (3)  |  Phenomenon (218)  |  Platonic (2)  |  Ruin (23)

In science, self-satisfaction is death. Personal self-satisfaction is the death of the scientist. Collective self-satisfaction is the death of the research. It is restlessness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, agony of mind that nourish science.
— Jacques Monod
Quoted in 'Ariadne', New Scientist (17 Jun 1976) 70, 680, which states it comes from Le Nouvel Observateur which revived the quote, “from an earlier interview.” If you know this primary source, please contact Webmaster.
Science quotes on:  |  Doubt (121)  |  Enquiry (75)

Man at last knows that he is alone in the unfeeling immensity of the universe, out of which he emerged only by chance. Neither his destiny nor his duty have been written down. The kingdom above or the darkness below: it is for him to choose.
— Jacques Monod
Concluding remarks in Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1972), 180.
Science quotes on:  |  Alone (61)  |  Chance (122)  |  Choice (64)  |  Darkness (25)  |  Destiny (26)  |  Duty (51)  |  Emergence (21)  |  Immensity (17)  |  Kingdom (34)  |  Mankind (196)  |  Universe (563)  |  Writing (72)

One of the great problems of philosophy, is the relationship between the realm of knowledge and the realm of values. Knowledge is what is; values are what ought to be. I would say that all traditional philosophies up to and including Marxism have tried to derive the “ought” from the “is.” My point of view is that this is impossible, this is a farce.
— Jacques Monod
Quoted in John C. Hess, 'French Nobel Biologist Says World Based On Chance', New York Times (15 Mar 1971), 6. Cited in Barbara Bennett, Linda Amster, Who Said what (and When, and Where, and How) in 1971 (1972, 168.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (1128)  |  Value (180)

The fundamental biological variant is DNA. That is why Mendel's definition of the gene as the unvarying bearer of hereditary traits, its chemical identification by Avery (confirmed by Hershey), and the elucidation by Watson and Crick of the structural basis of its replicative invariance, are without any doubt the most important discoveries ever made in biology. To this must be added the theory of natural selection, whose certainty and full significance were established only by those later theories.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 104.
Science quotes on:  |  Oswald Avery (4)  |  Biology (150)  |  Confirmation (15)  |  Francis Crick (58)  |  Definition (152)  |  Discovery (591)  |  DNA (67)  |  Elucidation (6)  |  Fundamental (122)  |  Gene (68)  |  Heredity (51)  |  Identification (11)  |  Importance (183)  |  Invariance (3)  |  Gregor Mendel (20)  |  Natural Selection (79)  |  Replication (7)  |  Structure (191)  |  Theory (582)  |  Trait (19)  |  Variant (2)  |  James Watson (33)

The future of mankind is going to be decided within the next two generations, and there are two absolute requisites: We must aim at a stable-state society [with limited population growth] and the destruction of nuclear stockpiles. … Otherwise I don't see how we can survive much later than 2050.
— Jacques Monod
Quoted in John C. Hess, 'French Nobel Biologist Says World Based On Chance', New York Times (15 Mar 1971), 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Atomic Bomb (101)  |  Population Growth (4)

The scientific attitude implies the postulate of objectivity—that is to say, the fundamental postulate that there is no plan; that there is no intention in the universe.
— Jacques Monod
Interview with John C. Hess, 'French Nobel Biologist Says World Based on Chance Leaves Man Free to Choose His Own Ethical Values', New York Times (15 Mar 1971), 6.
Science quotes on:  |  Objectivity (9)  |  Postulate (23)

There are living systems; there is no living “matter.” No substance, no single molecule, extracted and isolated from a living being possess, of its own, the aforementioned paradoxical properties. They are present in living systems only; that is to say, nowhere below the level of the cell.
— Jacques Monod
Inaugural lecture on taking the chair of molecular biology, Collège de France (3 Nov 1967). From Biology to Ethics (1969), 5.
Science quotes on:  |  Biochemistry (46)  |  Cell (125)  |  Life (917)  |  Molecular Biology (23)  |  System (141)

When one ponders on the tremendous journey of evolution over the past three billion years or so, the prodigious wealth of structures it has engendered, and the extraordinarily effective teleonomic performances of living beings from bacteria to man, one may well find oneself beginning to doubt again whether all this could conceiveably be the product of an enormous lottery presided over by natural selection, blindly picking the rare winners from among numbers drawn at random. [Nevertheless,] a detailed review of the accumulated modern evidence [shows] that this conception alone is compatible with the facts.
— Jacques Monod
In Jacques Monod and Austryn Wainhouse (trans.), Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology (1971), 138.
Science quotes on:  |  Chance (122)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Natural Selection (79)



Quotes by others about Jacques Monod (1)

The discovery of an interaction among the four hemes made it obvious that they must be touching, but in science what is obvious is not necessarily true. When the structure of hemoglobin was finally solved, the hemes were found to lie in isolated pockets on the surface of the subunits. Without contact between them how could one of them sense whether the others had combined with oxygen? And how could as heterogeneous a collection of chemical agents as protons, chloride ions, carbon dioxide, and diphosphoglycerate influence the oxygen equilibrium curve in a similar way? It did not seem plausible that any of them could bind directly to the hemes or that all of them could bind at any other common site, although there again it turned out we were wrong. To add to the mystery, none of these agents affected the oxygen equilibrium of myoglobin or of isolated subunits of hemoglobin. We now know that all the cooperative effects disappear if the hemoglobin molecule is merely split in half, but this vital clue was missed. Like Agatha Christie, Nature kept it to the last to make the story more exciting. There are two ways out of an impasse in science: to experiment or to think. By temperament, perhaps, I experimented, whereas Jacques Monod thought.
From essay 'The Second Secret of Life', collected in I Wish I'd Made You Angry Earlier (1998), 263-5.
Science quotes on:  |  Agent (27)  |  Binding (8)  |  Carbon Dioxide (20)  |  Chemical (72)  |  Agatha Christie (5)  |  Clue (14)  |  Collection (38)  |  Combination (69)  |  Common (92)  |  Contact (24)  |  Cooperation (27)  |  Curve (16)  |  Discovery (591)  |  Effect (133)  |  Equilibrium (16)  |  Excitement (33)  |  Experiment (543)  |  Half (35)  |  Hemoglobin (3)  |  Heterogeneity (3)  |  Interaction (28)  |  Ion (8)  |  Isolation (26)  |  Molecule (125)  |  Mystery (125)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Necessity (125)  |  Obvious (54)  |  Oxygen (49)  |  Plausibility (6)  |  Pocket (5)  |  Proton (12)  |  Science (1699)  |  Sense (240)  |  Site (11)  |  Solution (168)  |  Split (11)  |  Story (58)  |  Structure (191)  |  Surface (74)  |  Temperament (8)  |  Thinking (222)  |  Thought (374)  |  Touch (48)  |  Truth (750)  |  Vital (32)  |  Wrong (116)


See also:
  • 9 Feb - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Monod's birth.
  • Jacques Monod - context of quote “Every living being is also a fossil.” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Jacques Monod - context of quote “Every living being is also a fossil.” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Jacques Monod - context of quote “There are living systems; there is no living “matter.”” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Jacques Monod - context of quote “There are living systems; there is no living “matter.”” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Jacques Monod - context of quote “There is no intention in the universe” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Jacques Monod - context of quote “There is no intention in the universe” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Jacques Monod - context of quote “In science, self-satisfaction is death.” - Medium image (500 x 350 px)
  • Jacques Monod - context of quote “In science, self-satisfaction is death.” - Large image (800 x 600 px)
  • Origins of Molecular Biology: A Tribute to Jacques Monod, by Agnes Ullmann (ed.). - book suggestion.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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