Timothy Davis's Reviews > Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
Timothy Davis's review
Jul 16, 2011
After I read The Dragons of Eden, I learned that Carl Sagan explored more than cosmology. He also explored evolutionary biology-stimulated by his wife, the biologist Ann Druyan. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a book that Sagan and Druyan wrote together. It is much more scientifically rigorous and sophisticated than The Dragons of Eden, and deals not with the evolution of the tripartite brain, but on the evolution of consciousness itself. Druyan and Sagan write that we are like babies left in a basket on a doorstep, never knowing and always wondering what our ancestry is. For me, the most influential of the book's explorations involve the study of the levels of consciousness in other animals, aside from the human animal. Through study after study, many amusing and all interesting, Druyan and Sagan emphasize that the difference between the consciousness of the human animal and other animals is "a difference of degree rather than kind." Indeed, some of the studies indicate that some of the other animals may have consciousness that surpasses in degree that that of the human animal. The book stresses that we will not understand who we are until we view ourselves as part of a continuum, and the book also explorers the history of human resistance to this idea. One or two of the chapters were too difficult for me to understand as a non-scientist, but I was basically able to understand the book while only skimming the difficult chapters about DNA construction and such. It was nice to know that rigorous science was part of the book. This is one of those books that will change your outlook on the world.
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July 16, 2011 – Shelved