descendents of Adam and Eve, but it's more difficult for people who demand logic. Ever thought how, when and why did the universe evolve? Why were the apes and monkeys created with striking resemblance to humans? What's the reason that you were created? Ever thought what actually a 'thought' is -- a materialistic existence, or a physiochemical phenomenon? Ever thought how did your intelligence evolve? Ever tried making silly guess about how did human come up with this state of behavior and what is reason behind his complex thought generation? Can you identify the evolutionary purpose of sleep and dream, that of signs language and that of innate fears and myths? What decides the intelligence level? This is all discussed in an 'inteligen-to-meter', Pulitzer Prize Winning, 1977 book by Carl Sagan, The Dragons of the Eden- Speculations on the evolution of the human intelligence, to guage the ever arrogant human being on the basis of anthropology, evolution and psychology.
Carl Sagan's The Dragons of Eden puts light on brain anatomy and evolution and related physiology. It's an easy book that can be written on such topics and the fact that complex things are presented in interesting way makes it special. After reading it one can end up with the habit of concentrating on one's dreams, behaviors, and one looks for how lower animals like mice and dog behave. The author also tells about his experience of smoking marijuana and relates it to effects on the brain.
In his chapter, "The brain and the chariot," Sagan explains extensively about brains of animals like fish, cat and squirrel monkey. He covers topics like sexual behaviors, combative approach, ritualistic approach and hierarchical strategy of humans and other animals. He amazingly speculates that human embryo goes through gill stage just to show or 'boast' that his ancestors have the ones.
Carl Sagan is the best science teacher one can ever get because he explains things by absolute comparison. The Dragons of Eden is a great book where he talks about everything that you ever wanted to know about your brain. To include all, it tells you about the functions of your left and right cerebral hemispheres in perspective of neocortex development, the genes that carry intelligence, types of sleep and a more detail on Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, what's the reason behind variability of sleeping time in different people, and the interesting part of reptiles vs. us.
One enjoys reading it because, though, the phenomena mentioned are not simple but the language used is. The tone of the author maintains reader's interest and excitement to explore more about the ever fascinating thing that happened to this earth and the human brain. There is nothing in this book that a person who is not biology major cannot understand. What is enjoyable about this book is the facts, and the way of presentation that comprises of not just plain text but intervening tables and cute drawings by everyone's favorite M.C. Eshcer. The book rambles from one subject to another, from reptiles to the chemical composition of distant stars.
This non-fiction book, inspite of being written 30 years ago, still continues to impart fascinating knowledge about the topics and deserves being included in syllabuses of colleges. It still continues to match most of the scientific facts with few left raw, as per recent discoveries and one can't wait to re-read this beauty.
One of the most interesting things about the content of the book is the chart about brain-to-body mass ratio being a good indicator of intelligence. This intelligen-to-meter ranked humans at the top, dolphins to follow next but what was confusing was that small animals like ants being placed disproportionally high on the list.
The book gives a look into evolution of human mind and leaves its readers with a perspective on where do they stand in history of fifteen billion years. Does the human brain contain part of what was before of reptiles? There are many correlations given for this question throughout the book.
The most fascinating part lies in the Chapter 2 of the book 'The Cosmic Calendar' which tells us that if the history of universe, starting from Big bang to evolution of human civilization, was to be plotted on a 12-month year, the history of mankind would exist in the last seconds of the last minute of December 31. It discusses about the pain endured during child birth, and functioning of human brain and the fact it was a New York Times bestseller continues to attract book cravers, as much as that 2008 album, Dragons of the Eden, has titles of its tracks adopted from this book.
This book opens our eyes to the fact that how we came to be the dominant species of this world and one doesn't feel much good about it as it's the evolution that made us different from beasts. There is magnificent description over evolution of human nervous system and by that I mean the author tells us about what man is today is because of natural selection- the captivate phenomenon where biological traits become less or more pronounced in a particular population. In the face of natural selection, man has learnt to become impetuous and irrational, and the reason why aggression has become inescapable reality of our behavior also lies in the fact that we inherited/received this trait from early chimpanzee. This addition to the text of Dragons of the Eden also made it special among other books by Carl Sagan because unlike other books it has biological facets of facts.
Carl Sagan believes that each step in human brain evolution encompasses change in physiology of pre-existing anatomical parts of brain. He continues talking about the limbic system of brain- the system that governs moods, behaviors and memory. Carl Sagan explains that the behavior that human possesses today is just the modified form of behaviors that animals show. He exemplifies this by comparing how squirrel monkeys' facial expressions while greeting each other is comparable to what humans do in their social gatherings.
And a good news for those who love quotes, this book has its every chapter beginning with impressive quotes by eminent personalities of the times including John Mson, Plato, Plotinus; the quotes that strikingly tell what Carl Sagan explains in the following chapter.
After reading this book, one starts questioning animal intelligence that is it just language that makes human different? If so, then where do you place animals that have sign language ability? One starts believing that definitions are created just to make difference or else the difference doesn't exist.
The reason, I like this book, lies in the depth of knowledge the author has provided, and the tone that he has used to drive the reader to the history, then to the scientific facts and ultimately to psychology.
Pulitzer Prize winning, The Dragons of the Edens-Speculations on the evolution of the human intelligence by Carl Sagon is an easy-to-understand and fascinating book about evolution of human nervous system in perspective of anthropology, psychiatry and biology. This unique book among Sagan's collection traces the roots of the intelligence, behavior, sleep activity and dreams that human possesses today to the evolutionary relation with lower animals and other mammals and reptiles. It establishes bewildering correlations like brain-to-body mass ratio and the Cosmic calendar that places human civilization in the last seconds of last minute of December 31.The reader enjoys the nice continuity maintained by the author and the journey from the Big Bang to the day before yesterday. The book tells us that where do we stand in evolutionary history and what are our relationship status-reptiles vs. us. It also puts light over phenomena like natural selection, sign languages and greeting behaviors of different animals as compared to human beings. It's enjoyable for those who love discovering facts about everyday science, or those who love wandering about nature's different faces. But at the same time it may be annoying and disappointing for those who believe in God and creationism as Sagan believes that such things exist only in our imaginations and are no-where-else-to-be-found stuff. The author supports his ideas with strong scientific evidences.
With such velocity and pace, what would be the future of human intelligence, Carl also predicts that in absorbing way. One falls in love with neuroscience after reading this book. Moreover this book has contributed a lot to the knowledge of NASA
It is truly bliss to realize, after reading this book, that man has come to know about the trajectory of nervous evolution so well. But the fact, its 30 years old book makes some readers think that if one has to read about evolution then he ought to look for recently written stuff rather than turning 283 pages of 3 decades old book.
Sagan has spent most of his career as astronomy professor and he has written over 600 scientific papers and has been entitled as author, editor or co-editor of at least 20 books.…