The Dragons of Eden: a Book Review

The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human IntelligenceThe Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence by Carl Sagan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars ★★★★★

“Dragons of Eden” is of course way outdated (1977) and often more speculative than scientific, but it is a very charming, amusing and thought-inspiring book which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading. Framed within the Big History of the Universe converted to 1 year to illustrate the relative time scales, it presents a bunch of fascinating subjects very well:

  • brain anatomy, the mind’s conflicting operative systems, and the evolution of intelligence
  • prehistory with mammals and “dragons” (dinosaurs)
  • dreams and why we sleep
  • prehistoric suppression and (probably) eradication of other humanoids by humans, and the ethics of modern human society’s continued imprisonment and exploitation of apes for scientific research
  • potential bases of mental illnesses
  • anthropocentrism (which Sagan is very much guilty of himself btw)
  • speculations about the future of humanity linked to space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (of course… as usual).
  • there is also a comically outdated chapter about computers

I don’t necessarily agree with Sagan’s opinions or conclusions, and I don’t expect the science to be entirely (or even mostly) correct/up to date, but Sagan has a knack for explaining complex subjects so that they are both easily comprehensible and fascinating, and help shed light on the complex evolutionary plot of Life and humanity. A lovely read.

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