Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence by Carl Sagan (1977)

To read a science book can be dreary or boring; or it can be enlightening, imparting a wonderful education. It all depends on the author, and Carl Sagan was a wonderful author in this regard. He explains the concepts and ideas thoroughly, dosing an imparting of humour into the whole explanation and making it actually fun to read. Evolution is a heavy topic, and is also a political hot potato in the United States, where many bible groups believe that God (or intelligent design) is the creator of all life in the world, and more detrimentally to science, evolution is just a theory with no proof, a postulation by atheist scientists who do not recognize the importance of a supreme being in the whole aspect of creation.

The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence by Carl Sagan (1977)

Carl Sagan does not go against religion, he is more for the use of common sense and logic, backed by a scientific bent of mind, which looks for proof and theories that can explain life and its mysteries. So, Carl Sagan takes the theory of evolution, from the primordial single cell creatures to the age of reptiles to the evolution of highly intelligent species such as humans. He also takes on the human fear of reptiles, suggesting this fear to be based on early human's struggle against predators. Sagan also does a lot of detailing on subjects such as the search for a quantitative way of measuring intelligence (using the brain to body mass ratio), the evolution and structure of the brain, why do humans dream, etc.
The book won a Pulitzer Prize, and was a continuation of the Jacob Bronowski Memorial Lecture in Natural Philosophy which Sagan gave at the University of Toronto. The chapters of the book are:

The Cosmic Calendar
Genes and Brains
The Brain and the Chariot
Eden as a Metaphor: The Evolution of Man
The Abstractions of Beasts
Tales of Dim Eden
Lovers and Madmen
The Future Evolution of the Brain
Knowledge is Our Destiny:Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Intelligence

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