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Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence
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Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  10,062 ratings  ·  311 reviews
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."
ebook, 288 pages
Published September 26th 2012 by Ballantine Books (first published 1977)
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Rodrigo Franco Definitely, I just read it this year and it has aged very well. Some of the speculations on computer science and artificial intelligence still apply…moreDefinitely, I just read it this year and it has aged very well. Some of the speculations on computer science and artificial intelligence still apply nowadays. I don't know much about the brain but I think it gives you a general perspective of what is it and how it has evolved during time. I recommend it.(less)
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Stacey Mulvey
I'd read this book a few years ago, and loved it. It's a great introduction to brain anatomy, consciousness/subconsciousness, and evolution. An "easy" read, if any book that deals with these types of topics can be considered as such. Sagan is good at presenting complex material in an interesting and palatable way. It made me want to start paying more attention to my dreams. (He also relates one of his personal experiences of smoking marijuana, and his theories of the effects it might have on the ...more
This was an interesting book to read after all of the recent research and groundbreaking discoveries of the human brain. Clearly, Sagan smokes weed. However, there are times when he must be coming off his high that his insights are both subtle and poignant. Oxymoronic, to be sure, but so was most of Sagan's keen skepticism amidst his psuedoscientific platitudes.

I use big words.

That being said, some of the best parts of this book are the drawings related to studies conducted on patients with a s
Arun Divakar
The most hauting question that this book poses is this :

Chimpanzees can abstract. Like other mammals, they are capable of strong emotions.Why, exactly, all over the civilized world, in virtually every major city, are apes in prison?

For a species that has proclaimed itself to be the rulers of Earth, this is not a very difficult question to answer for us. It is a single word : suppression. We humans never much liked competition from other creatures and history tells us that this was how we overc
"Chimpanzees can abstract. Like other mammals, they are capable of strong emotions.
Why, exactly, all over the civilized world, in virtually every major city, are apes in prison?"

"Humans have systematically exterminated those other primates who displayed signs of intelligence."

Carl Sagan is the best science teacher one can ever get. Even though I am not a biology major, I was able to enjoy this book. A great book where he talks about EVERYTHING that you ever wanted to know about your brain. Proba
Interesting questions on the origin and development of human intelligence. Still worth a read despite lots of progress since he wrote this. Gives a good description of left/right brain competencies. Has piqued my interest in evolutionary development. The guy was taken from us too early but sure made a name for himself in what time he had.
Aug 11, 2007 Robin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who is curious about themselves and the world
I feel strongly that this book should be included in mythology courses because better than any textbook I've ever encountered it addresses the connections that exist between mythology and science. Not to say that mythology is scientific, but rather the ways of viewing the world, both contemporary and historical, that human beings seem to return to again and again often are the way they are for very sound biological reasons.
One of the most beautiful things I've ever read came from this book:

"If the human brain had only one synapse-- corresponding to a monumental stupidity-- we would be capable of only two mental states. If we had two synapses, then 2^2 = 4 states; three synapses, then 2^3 = 8 states, and, in general, for N synapses, 2^N states. But the human brain is characterized by some 10^13 synapses. Thus the number of different states of a human brain is 2 raised to this power-- i.e., multiplied by itself ten
Interesting read, as long as one takes into account that it's quite old and outdated by now, so it's not exactly cutting edge. (I read it pretty long ago myself).

Still, Sagan has a such a pleasant, conversational style, that even reading it for the speculations alone, makes reading the book a not unpleasant way of whiling away your time.

I like the angles he chooses to speculate from, especially the bits about instinct and how myths most probably formed in the human collective subconscious.
Христо Блажев
Да яздиш дракони в Райската градина:

След мечтата за Вселената, събрана в “Бледа синя точица”, дочакахме със скромните четирийсетина години закъснение и още една от книгите на великия Карл Сейгън – “Дракони в Райската градина”. От погледа към Космоса той ни насочва към поглед навътре – към нас, към мозъците ни, към еволюирането ни като вид, който осъзнава себе си и може да променя света, както и да търси разум не само в другите видове, живеещи с нас на пла
"To write a book in a subject so far from one's primary training is at best incautious. But...the temptation was irresistible."

That quote, found in the acknowledgements, sums up both the problems with this work, and also it's ironic charm. You must read this early work of Sagan not as definitive science, but as a prime example of his inimitable ability to connect science to other intellectual concerns such as myth, religion and history, thus stimulating thought in the process.

At least Sagan is
Noha soliman
استمتعت كعادتى مع كتب الرائع الجميل كارل ساجان
خاصة فى الفصل الذى ناقش به تعلم الشمبانزى للغة الاشارة
واطلقت العنان لخيالى لو ان كل الشمبانزى والقردة تعلم لغة الاشارة
واصبح بيننا وبينهم نوع من التواصل كيف سيكون شكل الحياة الاجتماعية بل الحياة ع الكوكب بعدما يصبح الشمبانزى كبشر ولكن فاقدى القدرة ع الكلام والنطق يمكنهم التعبير بالاشاره

كذلك الفصل الذى يتكلم عن المخ والشق الايمن والشق الأيسر للمخ وتأثيرهما ع سلوك الانسان وطرق تفكيره كان ممتع

انما المترجم اهدر كثير من متعتى بل ومن استفادتى بالكتاب وك
The copy of the book I got was published in 1977 and what isn't out of date is wrong. The subtitle is "Speculations on the evolution of human intelligence",
but little in the book is about that topic.

The book rambles from from one subject to another,
from cute drawings by everyone's favorite: M.C. Escher,
to the chemical composition of distant stars.

Perhaps the most interesting part is the chart that shows
Brain mass vs. Body weight.
On that chart moles rate quite highly.
Probably not the point
Elliot Ratzman
Mar 17, 2013 Elliot Ratzman rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elliot by: Phil Straus
Shelves: book-club
This book—“an exercise in pattern recognition, an attempt to understand something of the nature and evolution of human intelligence, using clues from a wide variety of science and myth”— was the popular science pick of 1977; I am sure it launched a thousand science careers. Sneak this text into Red State high school libraries! It is still in print despite being dated: a time capsule snapshot of the then state of evolutionary science, primatology, computers and brain science. Despite Sagan’s leap ...more
Jul 28, 2013 Tecni rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tecni by: Adosinda
Un ensayo muy interesante sobre la evolución fisiológica del cerebro desde sus primeros desarrollos hasta el Homo Sapiens, con el que he aprendido cosas que seguramente ya sabía pero que quedaron enterradas en un absurdo marasmo de educación multidisciplinar que me ha llevado a saber de todo y nada a la vez, lo que me hace una persona muy interesante a la hora de conversar (siempre que te guste mucho la forma y poco el fondo). Lo más interesante me ha parecido la existencia del Complejo R, la cu ...more
Sep 14, 2007 Ethan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: humans
"There is a popular game, sometimes called Pong, which simulates on a television screen a perfectly elastic ball bouncing between two surfaces. Each player is given a dial that permits him to intercept the ball with a movable "racket". Points are scored if the motion of the ball is not intercepted by the racket. The game is very interesting. There is a clear learning experience involved which depends exclusively on Newton's second law for linear motion. As a result of Pong, the player can gain a ...more
Carl takes you on a journey from the mountains to the oceans, from dinosaurs to extra terrestrial beings to explain evolutionary changes and the workings of our mind. While explaining these concepts in a simple, easily understandable language, he lays out the arguments and lets you figure out for yourself intriguing ideas such as how much sleep is enough; why some people can do with less sleep?; why we think the way we do; why do we have our appendages evolved in the way they are; are we continu ...more
Erik Graff
Jan 23, 2012 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sagan fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: sciences
Carl Sagan, like Stephen Jay Gould, is one of those scientists gifted as a teacher to non-specialists. This book is about intelligence, a topic both men dealt with, Gould most notably in his Mismeasure of Man. Sagan, however, deals with all intelligence, ending his book with a discussion of nonhuman intelligences, most particularly certain Cetaceans and primates. Noting that chimpanzees and gorillas appear to be intellectually comparable to human five-year-olds, he ends with a plea to extend som ...more
A look into the evolution of the human mind. Sagan closes the first chapter giving the reader a perspective on their position in history: If the history of the universe was represented by our 12-month year, the history of mankind would exist in the last second of the last minute of December 31. Exploring the pains of childbirth, warring subhuman species, and simplified understandings of how the human brain works, "The Dragons of Eden" is written in a way that anyone can enjoy (it was a NY Times ...more
David Kaczynski
Jan 31, 2008 David Kaczynski rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young philosophers, college students, anyone who is considering science in their career goal
Recommended to David by: Dan Loss
This is simply the best book I was lucky enough to receive as a gift. Written thirty years ago, Sagan's principles in science, philosophy, and humanity seem to grow more valid as the years go on. I used to be an existentialist nutcase in high school, but this book straightened me right out. I can't wait to re-read this beauty
Mukesh Kumar
Dec 02, 2012 Mukesh Kumar rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone. Science lovers.
Shelves: favourites
Pure bliss. In the inimitable manner of Carl Sagan, engrossing, enlightening and amusing in equal measure.
Trey Nowell
Pretty interesting book overall, did tend to go from one topic to another and then come back to the topic with a tiny bit of rambling. I also consider the book for its date written, and amazed Sagan could foresee so many things coming to fruition in technology (such as cloning and everyone having multiple computers). It must have been even more amazing 35 plus years ago to see how much information our genes contain. Tackles issues regarding human brain has developed over time, its components, th ...more
Carl Sagan was a planetary scientist with primary interest in exobiology and extraterrestrial intelligence. He was perfectly aware that speculation, study and understanding of extra-terrestrial intelligences would require a thoroughly comprehenisble understanding of terrestrial human and non-human intelligences such as primates and aquatic mammals. If emergence of intelligence is convergent end point of many different evolutionary histories, as evident in our expectations of intelligent aliens, ...more
Greg Metcalf
As I was reading this book again, since a first reading close to twenty years ago, a friend mentioned that if he was going to read a popular science book, he'd read a new one, not one from the seventies. That comment kind of got stuck in my head. It would certainly be interesting to read about how far sign language development with chimpanzees, for example, has come, which must have just gotten started when Sagan wrote about it here. But this book is Carl Sagan playing with possibilities. In a c ...more
Carl Sagan, famoso divulgador de la ciencia hace un excelente trabajo especulando como es que la evolución en general ha llegado a crear la inteligencia humana que nos parece tan normal pero que es tan compleja.

Con breve conocimiento de nuestra propia evolución, este libro ha sido excelente para entendernos más como especie y como seguir creciendo con el conocimiento de nosotros mismos.

Por otro lado, los últimos dos capítulos muestran claramente la fecha en la que se escribió el libro ya que C
This was one of Sagan's better books (of the three I have already read). It does well to illustrate not just the evolution of the human brain, but human intelligence as well. It also points out that us humans aren't the only higher mammals with linguistic capabilities and the ability to reason. I love Sagan's humor, period, and this book has plenty of it (my favorite example regarding Ptolemy's assertion that an ostrich was the offspring of a flea and a giraffe mating: "It would have been, one w ...more
This book is dated, but good. I love reading about research on the human brain. Sagan makes lots of corny jokes and asides that are not really appropriate but sort of endearing. The evolution of the brain is the focus and Sagan talks a lot about the "reptilian" brain, the part that we had before we became human. Also the discussion of what really makes us human is so interesting. On the radio some modern researcher said that the brain is a record, a story of what has happened to that particular ...more
Mar 23, 2008 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone from !! LOL!
This somewhat difficult read will certainly open your eyes to who and what we are, and how we came to be the dominant species on the planet. You may find yourself not too proud to be human, as the origins of our much-touted intellegence which separates us from the beasts comes into focus. Evolutionary Anthropology rewritten for the masses, but still sometimes tedious and hard to follow; I found myself rereading several pages just to absorb all the information. I'm looking forward to more Sagan, ...more
Although many advances in science and technology have occurred since its publication, this book astonishes with both breadth and depth, and in very few pages. Sagan peels back the husks of ignorance on layer after layer of the brain's mysteries, revealing (among many other things) how the serpent of Eden remains part of human nature due to evolutionary history. The writing lacks brio but is clear. I'm at a loss for words in trying to summarize... it's unique among books that I know, a real treas ...more
Lots of people misses the point with calling this book outdated, and even random. What the author has to say about the human brain itself can be purely wrong, it doesn't necessarily matter in the sense of human intelligence, because this book is about human intelligence, not the human brain. Also note the title that clearly says "speculations".

I'd even say, that this book is a rather fun and easy read about the concept of intelligence in general. Through several biological and linguistic phenome
Christian Dechery
Reading Sagan is always a pleasure. Although this book is now sort of "old" since at the time it was written it cites many of the cutting edge technology, his reflexions on how intelligence evolved, and is still evolving are timeless and remarkable. I felt that there was something missing though - perhaps a main theme to be developed througout the book?
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Further reading on chimpanzee signing? 11 26 Feb 02, 2013 09:10AM  
  • Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
  • Conversations with Carl Sagan
  • On Human Nature
  • The Human Zoo: A Zoologist's Study of the Urban Animal
  • The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction
  • At the Water's Edge: Fish with Fingers, Whales with Legs, and How Life Came Ashore but Then Went Back to Sea
  • The Panda's Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History
  • Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
  • Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life
  • So Human an Animal: How We are Shaped by Surroundings and Events
  • Wandering Through Winter: A Naturalist's Record of a 20,000-Mile Journey Through the North American Winter
  • Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
  • How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God
  • The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist
  • The Ascent of Man
in 1934, scientist Carl Sagan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. After earning bachelor and master's degrees at Cornell, Sagan earned a double doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1960. He became professor of astronomy and space science and director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, and co-founder of the Planetary Society. A great popularizer of science, Sagan produced th ...more
More about Carl Sagan...
Contact Cosmos The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium

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“Those at too great a distance may, I am well are, mistake ignorance for perspective.” 18 likes
“And after we returned to the savannahs and abandoned the trees, did we long for those great graceful leaps and ecstatic moments of weightlessness in the shafts of sunlight of the forest roof?” 12 likes
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