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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence » User review

Living fossils

  • Feb 7, 2006
  • by
The topic of evolution is one of the more controversial subjects in science, even ignoring creationism, intelligent design and other religious-leaning dogmas. The branches of the tree of life, especially that branch where humans appear, are still in dispute. In this book, Dr. Sagan takes the reader along this tree from its very root and slowly upwards to humans. By taking this path, he can show how various characteristics that evolved aeons ago are still with us; that in some sense we and every other creature are living fossils. Along the way, he takes the occasional tangent onto other branches, and shows us what was, and what might have been if certain branches had continued.

Focusing on humans, the book makes the innovative suggestion that our dreams and subconscious feelings somehow link us to our past; that many of our shared instincts and much of what we think when we sleep was determined by our evolutionary history. The title of the book is one example. Humans evolved from smaller mammals who lived during the reign of dinosaurs. As the bottom layer of the food chain, these ancient mammals lived in the fear and awe of large reptiles. Any nightmares these creatures had probably included the threat of large reptiles. Hence the common fear shared by many humans of long, skinny reptiles such as lizards; fears that are wholly out of proportion to possible threat. These then are the dragons of our Eden.

All in all, this is a great book to read. Written by an astronomer and physicist, it offers insight into the life sciences that are worthy of attention. The strands that Dr. Sagan draws together make this work a good example of an interdisciplinary work. I recommend it.

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review by . April 27, 2001
This is a book that should be read by all psychologists, psychiatrists, explorers of Artificial Intelligence or basically just anyone with an interest in what human intelligence is. If there is one thing that research in AI has taught us, it is that we really don't understand what intelligence is. The scientific credentials of Carl Sagan are impeccable, as he is one of the premier astronomers of this century. However, in this book he engages in speculation about the organization and structure of …
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Newton Ooi ()
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Hi everyone, so here is the rundown of me. I like reading and writing, nonfiction for both. I love movies, especially original ones. I like nonfiction music, eating out, and basketball. I love to travel, … more
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About this book


Dr. Carl Sagan takes us on a great reading adventure, offering his vivid and startling insight into the brain of man and beast, the origin of human intelligence, the function of our most haunting legends--and their amazing links to recent discoveries.
"A history of the human brain from the big bang, fifteen billion years ago, to the day before yesterday...It's a delight."
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ISBN-10: 0345346297
ISBN-13: 978-0345346292
Author: Carl Sagan
Genre: Outdoors & Nature, Science
Publisher: Ballantine Books
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