Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

by Carl Sagan

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“A history of the human brain from the big bang, fifteen billion years ago, to the day before yesterday . . . It's a delight.”—The New York Times

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. 

“How can I persuade every intelligent person to read this important and elegant book? . . . He talks about all kinds of things: the why of the pain of human childbirth . . . the reason for sleeping and dreaming . . . chimpanzees taught to communicate in deaf and dumb language . . . the definition of death . . . cloning . . . computers . . . intelligent life on other planets. . . . Fascinating . . . delightful.”—The Boston Globe

“In some lost Eden where dragons ruled, the foundations of our intelligence were laid. . . . Carl Sagan takes us on a guided tour of that lost land. . . . Fascinating . . . entertaining . . . masterful.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345346292
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/28/1986
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 87,579
Product dimensions: 4.15(w) x 6.86(h) x 0.74(d)

About the Author

Carl Sagan served as the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He played a leading role in the Mariner, Viking, Voyager, and Galileo spacecraft expeditions, for which he received the NASA Medals for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and (twice) for Distinguished Public Service.
His Emmy- and Peabody–winning television series, Cosmos, became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. The accompanying book, also called Cosmos, is one of the bestselling science books ever published in the English language. Dr. Sagan received the Pulitzer Prize, the Oersted Medal, and many other awards—including twenty honorary degrees from American colleges and universities—for his contributions to science, literature, education, and the preservation of the environment. In their posthumous award to Dr. Sagan of their highest honor, the National Science Foundation declared that his “research transformed planetary science . . . his gifts to mankind were infinite." Dr. Sagan died on December 20, 1996.

Read an Excerpt

THE WORLD is very old, and human beings are very young. Significant events in our personal lives are measured in years or less; our lifetimes in decades; our family genealogies in centuries; and all of recorded history in millennia. But we have been preceded by an awesome vista of time, extending for prodigious periods into the past, about which we know little—both because there are no written records and because we have real difficulty in grasping the immensity of the intervals involved.

Excerpted from "Dragons of Eden"
by .
Copyright © 1986 Carl Sagan.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1The Cosmic Calendar11
2Genes and Brains19
3The Brain and the Chariot51
4Eden as a Metaphor: The Evolution of Man85
5The Abstractions of Beasts111
6Tales of Dim Eden133
7Lovers and Madmen161
8The Future Evolution of the Brain197
9Knowledge is Our Destiny: Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Intelligence237

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The Dragons of Eden; Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's 2007, 30 years after Sagan wrote this essay on the evolution of human intelligence, and while it shows its age, it also gives Sagan the feel of a prognosticator. Many of the theories put forth herein have since been proved true, and many others, while remaining unsolved, have evidence pointing in Mr Sagan's favor. I don't have the background in biology to critically examine his description of the structures of the brain, but he did an excellent job laying out the formative processes involved in the evolution and growth of the cognizance of humans from their distant animal relatives. All in all, I am terribly glad that this book found its way into my hands, and I look forward to rereading it soon. To anyone remotely interested in the formation of the human brain, and of the evolution of intelligence, I can not recommend this book highly enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sagan provides very interesting ideas and concepts that should be taught more often in schools. Amazing read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first became interested in Carl Sagan through his t.v. special "Cosmos" and for Christmas I received a few of his books to read. While "The Dragons of Eden" isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, I would urge anyone that's even the smallest bit interested in learning the inner workings of our minds to read this book. Though some of the chapters seemed to fly by, when I reread sections Sagan's narrative all made the mysteries of the world less foreign and more understandable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is great. It got me interested in how animals have evolved through time. I learned many interesting things about the brain, and about things like dreams. It was written with Carl Sagan's personal charm and flair. It was sometimes hard to get but Sagan makes it easy enough for almost anyone to understand. Read this book if you enjoy learning about the brain!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first time reading a book about science. It gave an intriguing view of how the human mind works and how it evolved. I can't even began to express how much I learned from this book.
bridgitshearth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
These comments are all relevant but a little random.I was always disappointed that Sagan never updated this incredible book. I'd say to all of you: read Ancestor's Tale to get an update. This is Dawkins at his best and well, well worth the time it takes to read. He's much more humble as a scientist writing about his science than as a scientist as social/culture critic. Ancestor's Tale is definitely more of an opus than Dragons. The problem I always have reading Sagan is I am haunted by his voice. It must be significant how many of the reviewers read it when they were "younger" and remember its impact. Ditto here!
P_S_Patrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first book by Sagan that I have read, and I was fairly impressed. He takes on the subject of human intelligence, why it evolved, and compares it to that of other organisms, describing how their brains are similar and different. I found the style of writing good, and liked the way he tied in myths with some of the points, which made a lot of sense. The book doesn't get too technical anywhere, so will be suitable for any reader really. Overall this was a good read, and I would recommend it to those with an interest in human thought, biology, and the brain.
alexmaron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the book that changed me, that opened my mind when I was 14 years old. It is about inteligence and evolution and the explanations, examples and stories are amazing. Sagan was a real genius in terms of making science sexy.
psiloiordinary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence" is the subtitle.Written in 1977. I am sure that many of the subjects in this book have now progressed far beyond this collection of thoughts, nevertheless, this book provides an intriguing and wide ranging introduction to the topic. We are given an anatomical tour of the brain, comparisons of competing theories of how it developed and how it is organised. We are tempted with glimpses of truth resulting from comparisons between human and animal brains and behaviours, which also reveals that we are perhaps not so far removed from our nearest cousins as we might sometimes assume.Sagan even tries to ask questions about common human myths and ways of thinking and links them to what we know about the brain's development and operation.Much thought provoking stuff on left and right brain conflict and some fascinating insights into the effects of various brain diseases and injuries.A very useful further reading section included.A great book, up to his usual excellent standard.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sagan, usually so reliable a sage, gets drawn into the debate surrounding the issue of human intelligence. This is somewhat of a surprise - what is intelligence anyway? He doesn't suggest an answer but instead dissects some of the studies done on the subject without really getting anywhere. But can he? The field is ripe for philosophical discussion, but Sagan, a scientist of the first class, doesn't realise that the ground he's walking on is quicksand.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
me encanto! me gusta como te atrapa y hace participar en las deducciones de las teorias, te hace pensar informandote no afirmando arbitrariamente cosas. me hizo pensar de lo complicada que es nuestra fisiologia y que ligado que esta esto a nuestra inteligencia, y lo complicado de ella. me parece que es cientifico el que lo lea le tiene que interesar el tema , nuestra evolucion y porque llegamos hasta aca. todos los libros que lei de sagan me hacen pensar , saco en conclusion que somos capaces de estar mucho mejor pero hay tambien la partes del humano entrevero de lo inteligente y lo animal que no nos lleva por buen camino(como conjunto toda la humanidad). de todas formas es interesante que uno se plantee estas cosas y estos libros ayudan a esto mismo.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book included many intrueging facts about the human mind, but was hard to get into and I felt as though I was reading a textbook.