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Dr Carl Sagan takes us on a great reading adventure, offering his vivid and startling insights into the brains of humans & beasts, the origin of human intelligence, the function of our most haunting legends and their amazing links to recent discoveries.


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Dr Carl Sagan takes us on a great reading adventure, offering his vivid and startling insights into the brains of humans & beasts, the origin of human intelligence, the function of our most haunting legends and their amazing links to recent discoveries.

30 review for Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

  1. 4 out of 5

    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 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 overcame all our natural predators through weaponry or guile in the eons past. A moment of reflection on our past brings up that question : why did the other humanoids not survive while our ancestors did ? How did they all gt wiped out ? Natural selection could not have been the only answer.This book is one that shook me out of cerebral complacency and like a good author, Sagan opens the cobweb laden windows of my brain and lets the light in. This is a book length introspection into the nature of human intellect. From the first tottering steps of our primate ancestors to today's technologically addicted life forms, how has the journey been for that mass of tissue between our ears ? This is what Sagan attempts to answer. In simple,lucid and easy to comprehend prose the author breaks down the story of how our brains assumed today's form and reflexes. It is a tour de force that mixes and matches history,paleontology, psychology and other branches of human understanding to come up with a fascinating study. The evolution of the brain and how the most primal fears in our psyche still rule our subconscious is a fascinating observation and forms the best part of this book. The aspect of the Triune brain and the R-complex's involvement in human behavior is what Sagan calls the Dragons chained away in the dungeons of our minds. Our basic aversion to reptiles and the dreams populated with snakes coupled with the dreams of a fall from a height are all speculated upon by Sagan in teh backdrop of our dreams. They were quire revelatory and while I might at a later point in time (with more reading)debate these points, they did rekindle my interest in the human brain's inner workings. I finished reading, put down the book and ran my fingers through my hair and muttered You are a rockstar to my brain. The kind of rockstar who you can never fully figure out is how it might react to that comment ! This book is highly recommended and it is no fluke that I rate all of Sagan's books so far as five stars. This is stuff that will genuinely interest the skeptical mind.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    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 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 trillion times. This is an unimaginably large number, far greater, for example, than the total number of elementary particles (electrons and protons) in the entire universe."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan won the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction in 1978 Natural selection has served as a kind of intellectual sieve, producing brains and intelligences increasingly competent to deal with the laws of nature. There isn’t much discussion of dragons, beyond a short snippet on Komodo dragons, in this book but Sagan uses this metaphor as a catchy title to highlight that this fear may be part of our own mammalian evolution. The dragon concept is buttressed by so many old tales thro Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan won the Pulitzer Prize for Non-Fiction in 1978 Natural selection has served as a kind of intellectual sieve, producing brains and intelligences increasingly competent to deal with the laws of nature. There isn’t much discussion of dragons, beyond a short snippet on Komodo dragons, in this book but Sagan uses this metaphor as a catchy title to highlight that this fear may be part of our own mammalian evolution. The dragon concept is buttressed by so many old tales throughout numerous civilizations that Sagan implies there must have been a fearsome dragon or related animal in our distant past that shaped our evolution. I am not convinced per se but the rest of the book is much more serious than this topic. Carl Sagan is arguably the greatest science writer and educator of recent times. In this book his mind, through his theories, is on full display for all to see. He steps through various evolutionary ideas about how man (and his brain) has evolved. As has been stated in other reviews of this book, a mark against it is that some sections are now outdated. Science evolves. Yet, for me, it is remarkable even when discussing a mundane game of ‘Pong’ that Sagan is able to foresee many of our challenges we face today. He even talks about the danger of computers and video games pre-empting children from learning the proper fundamentals of math and science. As a parent, there is little argument from me on this point. At its core this is a thought provoking book that resonates. It is short at only nine chapters so I will review the chapters here — because many are true gems and the rest are pretty good. Chapter 1 — The Cosmic Calendar In this chapter Sagan famously maps the age of the universe, nearly 14 billion years, into a single year. We see that if the Big Bang starts on January 1st at 12:01 am, then humans don’t arrive to the timeline until December 31st at 10:30 pm, and all of our recorded history can be confined to the final 10 seconds of the year! Powerful stuff. Chapter 2 — Genes and Brains The average human brain has 10^13 synapses. This means there are 2^(10^13) possible states of a single brain, a number that approaches the number of atoms in the universe. We also learn that “The simplest organisms on Earth today have just as much evolutionary history behind them as the most complex”. In other words even simple diatoms are well honed and efficient machines. Chapter 3 — The Brain and the Chariot Humans have a very high brain to mass ratio relative to any other animal on the planet. Sagan goes on to discuss sleep and posits a theory that land mammals sleep so much because they can hide and are less vulnerable than marine mammals. For example dolphins rarely sleep, sometimes only for a minute at a time. I will take it a step further and say that land mammals may also sleep so much because it is difficult for most, not all, mammals to find food in the dark. Isn’t it better to burn as few calories as possible through sleeping those night time hours away. Whatever the real reason, this trait goes back to the end of the dinosaur era. Chapter 4 — Eden as a Metaphor “paleontologists have deduced that “bipedalism preceded encephalization,” by which they mean that our ancestors walked on two legs before they evolved big brains.” It seems that hunting developed brains further in this regard. Chapter 5 — The Abstractions of the Beasts. My favorite chapter. It’s largely about how humans have developed verbal speech and a large part of our oversized brains are dedicated to this function. But it also discusses how incredibly smart chimpanzees are and how presumptuous humans are about or lack thereof intelligence in all animals. It seems that this view is because they don’t have vocal chords. Scientists have taught select chimps sign language and they have learned to use words correctly and in context (nouns, verbs and adjectives) to the tune of vocabularies in excess of one hundred words. The chimps can even sign curse words when humans introduce illogical steps into a food reward scheme. The average human uses just 1,000 common words in everyday speech and some mentally impaired humans don’t even reach that level. Sagan implies that due to the chimpanzee’s small brain volume it is unlikely they can ever achieve normal human level language. However it is clear that chimps (and many other animals) feel anxiety and think in ways that are much more in line with humans than I ever knew. The implication here is that the inability to verbalize word constructs, i.e. language, is what has kept other animals from evolving. Although dated, this chapter alone is worth the price of the book or a trip to the library. Chapter 6 — Tales of Dim Eden This chapter primarily revisits the topic of sleep first broached in chapter 3 and talks a good deal about dinosaurs. Maybe this section should have been combined with The Brain and the Chariot. Chapter 7 — Lovers and madmen This chapter is heavily focused on brain hemisphere functions and the tie-in to evolution. Very informative. “M. S. Gazzaniga of the State University of New York at Stony Brook suggests that hemispheric specialization occurs because language is developed in the left hemisphere before the child acquires substantial competence in manipulative skills and geometrical visualization. According to this view, the specialization of the right hemisphere for geometrical competence is a specialization by default—the left hemisphere’s competence has been redirected toward language.” Chapter 8 — The Future Evolution of our Brain. “In general, human societies are not innovative. They are hierarchical and ritualistic. Suggestions for change are greeted with suspicion: they imply an unpleasant future variation in ritual and hierarchy: an exchange of one set of rituals for another, or perhaps for a less structured society with fewer rituals. And yet there are times when societies must change.” Wow. This is such a well articulated statement. Most of us recognize this type of change is the fundamental impediment to solving many of our country’s problems and by extension in solving the world’s environmental and population problems. Sagan goes on to wade into the abortion debate as well. He also talks about tech and its benefit and possible detriment to children. Not a cohesive chapter by any stretch and outdated perhaps, but still thought provoking. Chapter 9 — Knowledge is our Destiny An intriguing chapter where Sagan speaks of aliens. It is his belief that while their physical forms will be unfamiliar to us, their minds will be similar “Organisms throughout the universe should therefore be sensitive to optical and/or radio radiation, and, after the development of physics, the idea of electromagnetic radiation for interstellar communication should be a cosmic commonplace—a convergent idea evolving independently on countless worlds throughout the galaxy after the local discovery of elementary astronomy, what we might call the facts of life. If we are fortunate enough to make contact with some of those other beings, I think we will find that much of their biology, psychology, sociology and politics will seem to us stunningly exotic and deeply mysterious. But I suspect we will have little difficulty in understanding each other on the simpler aspects of astronomy, physics, chemistry and perhaps mathematics.” 4.5 stars. The writing here warrants five stars. At 40 years and counting and the fact the book could have been longer, this is more like a 4 star book to me. Cosmos and Pale Blue Dot still remain my favorite Sagan books and are beautiful works. Sagan has long since passed away but I greatly miss his insights and his non-righteous quest for the truth. It really shines through in virtually all of his writing. Highly recommended.

  4. 5 out of 5

    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 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 brain and consciousness.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    Carl Sagan is a big name, or at least he used to be. But other than the series Cosmo or the movie with Jodi Foster, he was known for his speculation in... everything. :) In this case, it's consciousness. By the title, he's referring to the lizard brain. And considering the fact that he was writing this out of the 70's and he disclaimed the hell out of it, it's meant to be a conversation starter for laymen. All good. And it's good, too. If I was reading this 40 years ago or even 30 years ago, I'd Carl Sagan is a big name, or at least he used to be. But other than the series Cosmo or the movie with Jodi Foster, he was known for his speculation in... everything. :) In this case, it's consciousness. By the title, he's referring to the lizard brain. And considering the fact that he was writing this out of the 70's and he disclaimed the hell out of it, it's meant to be a conversation starter for laymen. All good. And it's good, too. If I was reading this 40 years ago or even 30 years ago, I'd nod energetically at a lot of the ideas. The writing is good, the ideas sound, and the subject is still obviously open today. So what did I have a problem with? Actually, my complaint is rather prosaic. It's just dated. HEAVILY dated. It's like the line from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy where Prosser still thinks that digital watches are a good idea. There are better books that do the job of this one, but for the time I'm sure it was pretty fantastic. Not everything was dated. Philosophy and basic math and the broad strokes were good. But the fields of mental health, computers and computer games, the current development of cloning, AIs, and a huge extra list WAS. Alas. Time marches on.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Shepherd

    1977 - As much as I miss the genius that was Carl Sagan, I am not above a little good natured razzing of the era in which this book was written. “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.” (pg 214) Th 1977 - As much as I miss the genius that was Carl Sagan, I am not above a little good natured razzing of the era in which this book was written. “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.” (pg 214) Those of you old enough to remember Pong should take a few moments to reminisce about the technology of 1977 before moving along to the science of 1977. “A great deal of what we consider important about the last few tens of millions of years of Earth’s history seems to hinge on the extinction of the dinosaurs. There are literally dozens of scientific hypotheses that attempt to explain this event, which appears to have been remarkably rapid and thorough for both land and water forms. All the explanations proposed seem to be only partly satisfactory. They range from massive climatic change to mammalian predation to the extinction of a plant with apparent laxative properties, in which case the dinosaurs died of constipation.” (pg 136) It wasn’t until round about 1980 that the Alvarez hypothesis (an asteroid collision killed the dinosaurs) was proposed. To be fair, I’m certain that Sagan’s comments on constipation extinction were anecdotal and tongue-in-cheek. “The most recent dinosaur fossil is dated at about sixty million years ago. The family of man (but not the genus Homo) is some tens of millions of years old. Could there have been man-like creatures who actually encountered Tyrannosaurus rex?” (pg 142) The answer to that question, based on the preponderance of the evidence, is a big, huge, fucking NO. What Sagan is doing here, and I am admittedly quoting him somewhat out of context, is pondering the possible origins of the cross cultural archetype of the dragon. To break this down, the oldest known Australopiths (man-like but not the genus Homo) date to roughly 3.85 million years ago. The credible evidence for dinosaurs peters out at about 65 million years ago. That’s a gap of approximately 61 million years. That’s 61 followed by six zeros. The only evidence of a primate-like mammal that MIGHT have been contemporaneous with T-Rex is “Teilhardina,” and it was much more mouse-like than man-like. Like all great thinkers, Sagan’s science and philosophy evolved over time and, in spite of the evidence I’ve presented here, there is more right with The Dragons of Eden than there is wrong. Time may have diminished its fire, but it hasn’t extinguished its spirit. “Curiosity and the urge to solve problems are the emotional hallmarks of our species; and the most characteristically human activities are mathematics, science, technology, music and the arts - a somewhat broader range of subjects than is usually included under the “humanities.” Indeed, in its common usage this very word seems to reflect a peculiar narrowness of vision about what is human. Mathematics is as much a “humanity” as poetry.” (pg 77)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Fran

    In this Pulitzer prize winning book, Carl Sagan, indubitably one of the finest scientific minds of our time, expresses his thoughts about life, most particularly about intelligent life, and its relation with the environment that gave it origin and shaped it. Aided by anthropological notions, evolutionary biology, psychology, and computer science, Sagan gives a well balanced perspective of how human intelligence evolved. However, notwithstanding Sagan's expertise in astrophysics, he warns us that In this Pulitzer prize winning book, Carl Sagan, indubitably one of the finest scientific minds of our time, expresses his thoughts about life, most particularly about intelligent life, and its relation with the environment that gave it origin and shaped it. Aided by anthropological notions, evolutionary biology, psychology, and computer science, Sagan gives a well balanced perspective of how human intelligence evolved. However, notwithstanding Sagan's expertise in astrophysics, he warns us that in the neurosciences he's more of an amateur scholar than consumed expert. That, added to the age of the book, results in much of the book being speculative work. Interestingly, some of his assumptions have been latter integrated to the commonly accepted model for the evolution of the human brain. One of my favorite sections of the book takes on the biological function behind human intelligence. I particularly like when Sagan considers the complexity of biological life forms, putting in perspective the real significance of our cultural and technological advances. Anyone interested in human evolution will find this book exciting. The meaning of the evolution of extra-genetic intelligence (brains in animals and humans) and extra-somatic intelligence (writing, books, computers) in humans, the nature of instincts buried in our older "reptilian brain" regions, the conflict between the left and right neocortex and the purpose of each, this is exciting stuff that we can all see at work in our lives, giving evolution an extra layer of reality. After finishing reading, I was left wondering if the next evolutionary step would imply a complete detachment of our mind from the primate emotional instincts, and reliance only on the rational, more advanced brain. Is our brain on its way to become alike to Artificial Intelligence? I think Sagan did an extraordinary job with this book. His writing is engaging and easy to understand, even if you're not too much into the sciency stuff. Most impressive is how diverse, interesting and mind opening are the many well-informed topics contained in the ca. 250 pages of this book. A more recent book, "Up from Dragons: The Evolution of Human Intelligence (2002)" coauthor by Sagan and John Skoyles actualizes the concepts and hypotheses first presented in Dragons of Eden. But, don't get fooled, Up from Dragons is not a replacement reading to Dragons of Eden, it's a follow up for it will be a shame to miss Sagan's great original prose.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ash

    "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 "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. Probably one of the best non-fictions I have ever read. Some info that made me love this book: -> how much info do our genes carry -> evolution of human brain -> various components of human brain -> right and left hemisphere of brains -> what exactly is intuitiveness -> why do humans and other mammals sleep -> difference between dream sleep and dreamless sleep -> REM sleep -> what do our dreams mean -> why do some people sleep for longer time while some sleep for lesser time -> extraterrestrial intelligence -> what causes some of the mental illnesses -> why animals cannot talk -> Reptiles vs Mammals Pulitzer Prize Winner

  9. 5 out of 5

    Orhan Pelinkovic

    A great summary of the evolution of the brain (intelligence) in humans and how the homo sapiens brain compares to other spieces. Very informative and a great read. I've read the Ballantine Book 1977 publishing The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan / 288 pages / 77,454 words. A great summary of the evolution of the brain (intelligence) in humans and how the homo sapiens brain compares to other spieces. Very informative and a great read. I've read the Ballantine Book 1977 publishing The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan / 288 pages / 77,454 words.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Traveller

    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. 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Wilson

    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 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 severed corpus collosum. If you never read this book, I highly recommend you find it in a bookstore just to check out these studies. Here is a slightly-less technical version: http://nobelprize.org/educational_gam...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    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 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 some of the rights we afford our own children to members of other intelligent species. I read this book outside at the Ennui Cafe on Sheridan and Lunt in East Rogers Park, Chicago. The weather was beautiful, the lake perfect.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ivana Books Are Magic

    I do read non- fiction occasionally, you know. When I do, these are the kind of books I want to be reaching for: educating and fascinating. Dragons of Eden: Speculations on Evolution of Human Intelligence is exactly what the title suggest. If you're interested in evolution, this book is a great choice. It is not very specific, it is more a series of essays but it is easy to read and understand. Indeed, what I like so much about this book is that it is so easily understandable. Sagan must have be I do read non- fiction occasionally, you know. When I do, these are the kind of books I want to be reaching for: educating and fascinating. Dragons of Eden: Speculations on Evolution of Human Intelligence is exactly what the title suggest. If you're interested in evolution, this book is a great choice. It is not very specific, it is more a series of essays but it is easy to read and understand. Indeed, what I like so much about this book is that it is so easily understandable. Sagan must have been a talented teacher; he clearly has a talent for transmitting knowledge. Plus, Sagan obviously had an interesting and curious mind. The way the book was written is simple, but the matters addressed are anything but. There are a lot of complex questions hiding in this book. Evolution as such, the human brain development and the intelligence are some of the topics explored. Since these are the all topics, I always found interesting, it is understandable that I quite liked this book. I don't have some great background knowledge about biology and evolution as such, yet there was not anything that I have not understood in the book. As I said, the book is easy to understand. Intelligence and brain evolution is a fascination topic. How did the human brain develop? However, what I liked most about this book was the question of intelligence in animals. That for me is one of the most fascinating themes. I something feel people invent definitions just to exclude animals from things we call "human". Who can claim animals don't have language when chimps are capable of using sing language? Nevertheless, in every linguistic book you'll find: “Language is a solely human accomplishment...." I don't think it is. I really don't. I think that some highly evolved apes such as chimps and orangutans are perfectly capable of acquiring a language. There are apes that have learned sign language. You cannot take that accomplishment from them, not unless you want to say that sign language isn't a real language. It obviously is, and those apes are using it, so they are quite clearly, capable of mastering a language.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nandakishore Varma

    I read this one quite long back... and really loved it at that time. I only remember two things from the book, however. The first one is where Sagan speculates that God's curse on Eve, "you shall bring forth your children in pain", refers to the increased cranial size of intelligent homo sapiens. It is common knowledge that childbirth in humans is much more painful than in animals because of the larger size of the head due to an enlarged brain: thus, could the story of Eden contain a veiled refer I read this one quite long back... and really loved it at that time. I only remember two things from the book, however. The first one is where Sagan speculates that God's curse on Eve, "you shall bring forth your children in pain", refers to the increased cranial size of intelligent homo sapiens. It is common knowledge that childbirth in humans is much more painful than in animals because of the larger size of the head due to an enlarged brain: thus, could the story of Eden contain a veiled reference to evolution? The second is a sentence: "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Spoken in the context of missing fossil records, I remember thinking at the time that this could also be applied to God!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Any book on the brain written in the 70s is going to be outdated. For example, Sagan wasn't sure if different parts of the brain affected different things. But an enjoyable read. He does make one important point clear early on: the "mind" is just a function of the brain. Dualists who think they are two different things are flat out wrong. I have had people look me straight in the eye without even blinking and say that if a person's brain were destroyed, their mind would still function normally. Any book on the brain written in the 70s is going to be outdated. For example, Sagan wasn't sure if different parts of the brain affected different things. But an enjoyable read. He does make one important point clear early on: the "mind" is just a function of the brain. Dualists who think they are two different things are flat out wrong. I have had people look me straight in the eye without even blinking and say that if a person's brain were destroyed, their mind would still function normally. That's always an end-of-discussion comment for me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    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. 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    "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 "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 completely honest: the subtitle itself indicates these are "speculations" which presumably have not been verified. In fact, the book represents a kind of popular science (really, science itself) not seen much anymore. It takes confidence and a willingness to take criticism and the harsh judgement of history, to produce such a work. It's value is of the highest order: that of creative thinking. "This book itself is an exercise in pattern recognition, and attempts to understand something of the nature and evolution of human intelligence, using clues from a wide variety of sciences and myths. It is in significant part a right-hemisphere activity; and in the course of writing I was repeatedly awakened in the middle of night or in the early hours of the morning by the mild exhilaration of a new insight. But whether the insights are genuine – and I expect many of them will require substantial revision – depends on how well my left hemisphere has functioned." [italics mine] The writing is the usual poetic Sagan style, highly readable and yet capable of conveying deep thoughts. The difficulties, however, are serious. It's hard to know what is speculation, what was accepted as fact in 1977, what has been proved true, and what's been superseded. Read the book to marvel at Sagan's mind, not to learn current knowledge on how the brain works. I could list many factual things wrong: excessive reliance on the triunal brain (putting too much emphasis on the brains's "reptilian-complex" as a driver of aggressive behavior and everything else anti-intellectual, for example), offering up the wrong theory for the extinction of the dinosaurs (he says it was a supernova explosion: hard to believe that Sagan, himself a planetary scientist, had not even considered in 1977 the now generally accepted asteroid impact theory!), and I could go on at length. But...there really is no reason to point out the errors. Again, the purpose of this book is not to serve as a textbook, but to stimulate thought—to speculate. The core of the book is his ideas on evolutionary memory, those experiences of proto-humans which to assure species survival were recorded in DNA. This is controversial, for sure, but it's curious how he links several creation myths—Greek, Genesis—to "dragons," which he defines as now-extinct larger, more dangerous reptiles which preyed upon mammals, including humans. "We are descended from reptiles and mammals both. In the daytime repression of the R-complex, in the nighttime stirring of the dream dragons, we may each of us be replaying the hundred-million-year-old warfare between the reptiles and the mammals." Maybe he's suggesting these were actually dinosaurs, maybe not, but he is suggesting some sort of evolutionary survival memory preserved to assist success, such as fear of snakes. This following should give you a flavor of the book. He's stretching mightily to merge poetry with science: "The pervasiveness of dragon myths in the folk legends of many cultures is probably no accident. ... Is it possible that dragons posed a problem for our protohuman ancestors of a few million years ago, and that the terror they evoked and the deaths they caused helped bring about the evolution of human intelligence? Or does the metaphor of the serpent refer to the use of the aggressive and ritualistic reptilian component of our brain in the further evolution of the neocortex? With one exception, the Genesis account of the temptation by a reptile in Eden is the only instance in the Bible of humans understanding the language of animals. When we feared the dragons, were we fearing a part of ourselves? One way or another, there were dragons in Eden." Only Sagan could get away with this poetic image and remain scientific: from almost any other it would be pseudo-science; here it is rational speculation, although certainly offered without any proof. Less seriously, it's fun to read Sagan's view on computers—as of 1977. In almost every book he wrote, he couldn't resist gushing about them! It's possible to string these parts together from his thirty-year-long book publishing career and have a respectable history of computers and their affect on culture and scientific research. Dragons of Eden is a humorous gem in this regard, as, for example: "The computer terminal is a commonplace on the Dartmouth campus. A very high proportion of Dartmouth undergraduates learn not only to use such programs but also to write their own." I remember very well the vast rooms full of terminals which all the students used, it felt almost like prison at times! I intend no criticism, but the extended excerpt below is, shall we say, embarrassing in its outright geekiness. You probably won't be able to resist laughing at his amazement with the invention of computer games, now so completely endemic: "Computer graphics are now being extended into the area of play. 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 deep intuitive understanding of the simplest Newtonian physics…" Although his book won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1978, Dragons of Eden can no longer be recommended to the general reader. It has aged far too much to be reliable. Still, it retains much interest and beauty for the dedicated Carl Sagan fan.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mukesh Kumar

    Pure bliss. In the inimitable manner of Carl Sagan, engrossing, enlightening and amusing in equal measure.

  20. 5 out of 5

    David Kaczynski

    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 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

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vishal

    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 intelligence would require a thoroughly comprehensible understanding of terrestrial human and non-human intelligence 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, th 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 intelligence would require a thoroughly comprehensible understanding of terrestrial human and non-human intelligence 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, then some universal aspects of intelligence will transcend the evolutionary and biochemical differences. In other words, some features and characteristics of intelligence would be similar in intelligence emerging throughout the Universe. He knew this and he spent considerable time in studying evolution of intelligence on Earth. This book is an outcome of his research, intended to present his insights, speculations and related findings for a reader with enthusiasm in Science, and for the young readers who wish to pursue Science it can work as a book stimulating their interest and teaching them to draw insights. Carl states the premise of the book to be ancient myths which turn out to be remarkably in coherence with modern scientific findings. One of the examples he states is the constant mythological depiction of arch-rivalry of dragon and the man. Now this myth is found to be consistent with findings regarding the fierce competition between Reptiles and Mammals in the early emergence and evolution period of the Mammals, which the Mammals won because of their smarter brains, co-operation and protection of the young; behaviors significantly in contrast with those of the Reptiles. Another is the constant conflict of motives and interest between aggressive R-complex, part of the human brain inherited from our reptilian ancestors, and rational Neo-cortex which is unique to primates. It must be noted that vague correlation of ancient myths with current scientific findings doesn't imply that ancient myths contain any iota of rationally obtained scientific truth in them, but rather the fact that myths are just representations of our vague intuitions and casual observations of our surroundings. This intuition could have been supported by the observation that infants of human and non-human primates are born with an inherent fear of snakes, and this fear could plausibly be related to perennial rivalry and hostility between reptiles and mammals, and consequently giving rise to the aforementioned myth. The book begins with a rudimentary introduction of evolutionary theory, mutation, accretion and propagation of favorable mutations, information content of the DNA and how it manifests itself in living beings and their apparent complexity; eventually arriving on the evolution of brain. He explains the various parts of brains in different taxonomic divisions, their functions and redundancy in the terms of pisces brain, R-complex(reptilian brain), limbic system(mammalian brain), neo-cortex in humans and other primates. He explains the origins of our aggressive, ritualistic, hierarchy and sexual attitudes by attributing them to R-complex and cynically remarks upon his observation that our political and social conditions are predominantly controlled by our reptilian instincts. Then he elaborates upon the origin of our emotions such as love and fear in the limbic system, which is also associated with recognition of smell and keeping of our short-term memories. With examples of different experiments by neurobiologists, he shows the effect of electrical stimulation of different parts of brain to determine their functions and how electrical stimulation gives output that is consistent with the phenomena of perceiving from external stimuli. A remarkable conclusion derived from his intuitions in this book, after comparing working principles of artificial intelligence and biological intelligence, is that free-will can be completely disregarded; and if someone denies consciousness to a fairly intelligence machine on the grounds of "just being a metallic machine", then we should disregard the intelligence of machines made of Carbon as well. Next, he embarks on the intelligence of non-human primates, their lifestyles, their symbolic languages and scientific experiments performed on them which show them to be as much intelligent as our ancestors, the Homo Habilis. Then he raises questions about imprisoning and maltreatment of the apes by us, whose level of rationalism and consciousness is shown to be comparable with microencephalic humans and aquatic mammals such as dolphins and whales. He demands compassionate and ethical treatment of our fellow sentient beings, so that we can undo the harm caused by our ancestors who had wiped out all the species from the face of Earth which showed even slight upsurge towards intelligence. Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons, Homo Erectus, Australopithecine robustus and many other species contemporary to our ancestors were brutally massacred by our ancestors in their quest for survival. We can compensate for that harm by ethically treating our fellow sentient primates and helping them develop intelligence, efforts to teach symbolic languages to Chimpanzees can be considered as the first step towards that. We can also cherish in the fact that common communicative language contains about 1000 words and many lab Chimpanzees easily learn around 200 words, they seem capable of abstract reasoning, sense of humor, asking questions, creating new phrases and forming expletives as well. There is a brief account on our interpretation of dreams in a manner consistent with neurobiology, after a brief but lucid interlude on explaining the evolutionary origins of dreams and sleep. The logical incoherence, strong emotional content and fantastic element of our dreams are associated with, respectively, turning off the rational left brain, free reign to limbic and reptilian complex and free association induced in intuitive right brain. It is observed that, during sleep, our left brain indulges in memory buffering and stacking of information which disconnects it from our conscious brain and then right brain shows us patterns without any coherence or correlation while our limbic system and reptilian complex give rise to strong emotional and fear content of our dreams. This phenomena is also explained with help of metaphors and myths which can be considered as aid to our intuitive understanding of these ideas. Then we arrive at vivid descriptions of right brain, left brain and their connecting link: corpus callosum. Corpus callosum works as link to connect our intuitions with our reasoning and is pivotal to almost every advancement in the fields of Science, Art, Humanities and Literature. Our civilization could be said to be a product of corpus callosum. Conclusion resides on the speculations about advancements in association among humans and various artificial intelligence, to enhance our extrasomatic information content as well as develop a sophisticated retrieval system if we connect our brains to the artificial aid. This kind of association may be very crucial to our survival considering the upheaval of dangers posed to our civilization by our emotional immaturity and short-term vision, where swift and rationalized decisions are imperative to our success and prosperity as a species. Developing and associating with artificial intelligence can help us grasp the universal aspects of intelligence, speculate about what kind of non-human intelligence could exist and devising prudent and efficient means of communication with them; these lessons will help us greatly when we acquire messages from any extra-terrestrial civilization because only an intelligent entity comprising of human and artificial intelligence would be able to sift through it and arrive upon comprehension. With remarkably rapid advances in human enterprise and its facilities, the problems caused by it can only be solved with more knowledge and better understanding of our ethics and possible courses of actions which are not possible to be devised by slowly evolving human intelligence. Aid of rapidly evolving artificial intelligence is required to help us in our moment of peril caused by our adolescent technology and our immature civilization whose most of the individual brains are still governed by reptilian brain, with the instincts inherited from billions of years in past.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    "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 "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 deep intuitive understanding of the simplest Newtonian physics - a better understanding even than that provided by billiards, where the collisions are far from perfectly elastic and where the spinning of the pool balls interposes more complicated physics. This sort of information gathering is precisely what we call play. And the important function of play is thus revealed: it permits us to gain, without any particular future application in mind, a holistic understanding of the world, which is both a complement of and a preparation for later analytical activities. But computers permit play in environments otherwise totally inaccessible to the average student."

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elliot Ratzman

    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 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 leaps into speculations it is well written and is still a fine appetizer to the study of the brain and evolutionary psychology. Sagan also tries to tie in the myths of Genesis—esp. the Garden of Eden—into the development of the human mind. Refreshingly naïve, sure. Sagan entertains theories of genetic memory—wouldn’t this be Lamarckian?—to explain the persistence of Western religious myths. Not convincing, but nice try. Note that a movie about genetic memory, Altered States, came out the same year.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Naazish

    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 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 continuing to evolve? ; is it ok to kill apes who are in all probability as human as any of us and the one I enjoyed the most - when is it ok to take life in terms of abortion, mercy killing as well as mammals and animals. it is a book I'd like to read again. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    -Fun Facts About Brains -Why the Genesis Story Was Metaphorically Correct -Why Sigmund Freud Was Basically Correct -Why Are We So Mean to Monkeys -What If the Dino Extinction Supernova Annihilated Its Orbiting Worlds -Computer Games Are Fun -In the Future We Can Have Bigger Brains Thanks to C-Sections (eep) Carl Sagan was quite the philosopher, and his passion for the universe and for public education comes through loud and clear. A skeptic and rationalist with a romantic, fantastic vision - for one so -Fun Facts About Brains -Why the Genesis Story Was Metaphorically Correct -Why Sigmund Freud Was Basically Correct -Why Are We So Mean to Monkeys -What If the Dino Extinction Supernova Annihilated Its Orbiting Worlds -Computer Games Are Fun -In the Future We Can Have Bigger Brains Thanks to C-Sections (eep) Carl Sagan was quite the philosopher, and his passion for the universe and for public education comes through loud and clear. A skeptic and rationalist with a romantic, fantastic vision - for one so attached to evidence, he sure loved to speculate. I don't know enough about neuroscience or anatomy to say if the science in this still holds up...but his writing certainly does.

  26. 4 out of 5

    R K

    DNF READ LIKE A TEXTBOOK WRITTEN IN 1977 KINDA OUTDATED

  27. 5 out of 5

    James

    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 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 the author was trying to make. The next time I see a mole I'll watch for signs of intelligence. There are many tidbits of trivia, one is the fact , that the average person has a 10% chance of having a genetic mutation that can be passed on to the next generation. Needless to say, almost all of these are harmful.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    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 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 bestseller) learning the basic psychology, anatomy, and history of how our minds work.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Parth Agrawal

    "Science is only a Latin word for Knowledge and Knowledge is our destiny"- Carl Sagan I'll be honest, initial 50 pages of the book gave me all the reasons to give up this and start anew. The credit goes to the biological backdrop of the book but with time, I realized that my age old belief of biology, being an enigma and a damp squib, was based on all wrong perceptions. As the name suggests, the speculation on human intelligence by the author largely consists of the evolution of mankind from Homo "Science is only a Latin word for Knowledge and Knowledge is our destiny"- Carl Sagan I'll be honest, initial 50 pages of the book gave me all the reasons to give up this and start anew. The credit goes to the biological backdrop of the book but with time, I realized that my age old belief of biology, being an enigma and a damp squib, was based on all wrong perceptions. As the name suggests, the speculation on human intelligence by the author largely consists of the evolution of mankind from Homo Habilis to Erectus to Sapiens and, to be more specific, of the human brain. Evolution on Earth includes the whole spectrum of intelligence from stupidest to the most intelligent organism but one of the biggest revelation to me in this was the fact that the Brain mass has nothing to do with intelligence. A human Brain roughly weighs 1375 cubic centimeters and the deviations from the average number varies from as low as 1230( Einstein's brain weight) to as high as 2000 cc. The better metric to determine the relation between intelligence and brain mass is the ratio of brain mass to the body mass of the organism. When graphical analysis of the ratios of various organisms was done it was found that the human beings topped the charts with the nearest organism to humans being the dolphins. Considering the individual evolutionary cycle of the family homo, it has been observed that there has been a substantial growth in this ratio from habilis to sapiens. No wonder that artists paint the future depicting humans as people with huge heads, small hands and feet which me may appear horrendous, but in the hindsight, I feel the remoteness of that happening isn't that low. Old historical conflicts. This is what human history majorly consists of isn't it? Who defeated who and whose dynasty went on for how many years. What's funny is that even their evolutionary history is rife with skirmishes forcing them to mold their very lifestyle in such a manner that it ensured safety of their kind from the environment. Mammals and Reptiles have been age old enemies and during the time of dinosaurs, reptiles were known to be diurnal animals. When intelligence was not the primary weapon of the species; as it could never directly be used as a weapon of offense or defense against the perpetrators; the primary weapons were claws, teeth strong muscles basically any physical aspect which could guarantee that either you could fight off the threat or run away from it. This helped the reptiles to win the battle most of the times against mammals as they were gifted with these weapons. Well as the dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the Earth, mammals started to flourish as they transformed from nocturnal to diurnal animals, their nature of protecting their young ones helped them to increase their populations and they started to use their gift of intelligence in a more constructive manner. All the story above was to highlight the significance of sleep in mammals, need of which until now has been inexplicable. We don't really know why do we need sleep. But shouldn't it just be about resting and getting recharged? No, because if that would've been the case, the average sleeping hours wouldn't have shown such large deviations. But some of the sleep related activities can be explained like when we sleep we are at our most vulnerable state and that's why we are protective about our young ones sleeping as they won't be able to defend themselves, like we loose our sleep when we are stressed as that alarms the R-complex part of the brain that some distress is overdue which is perceived by the brain as life threatening. The latter half of the book elucidates on how do we juggle between the two hemispheres of brain. The left hemisphere of the brain is known to be the rational part whereas the right side of the brain is the intuitive one. We all love the right part don't we? it hardly believes in rules and regulations, it's free creative and promotes doing whatever you feel like. Actually what you feel like is controlled by this right side only. It is good with patterns, shapes, creativity and innovation but the most important activity that it has a role to play in is dreaming. When we dream, the right hemisphere shuts down the left hemisphere and that's why we have so many stories that so many famous people found the solution of their problems through a divine manifestation in their dreams. Actually what happened was the right brain has a tendency to form patterns with anything it has got. So it is not always necessarily true that the patterns of that sort exist. Now, here comes the functional requirement of left brain as one of the most important characteristics of human beings which consists of writing and reading resides in left brain and it believes in nothing unless it checks out the validity of that pattern by continuously doing experimentation to validate the hypotheses. Carpos Callosum is the name of the nerve which connects these two sides and helps the two parts to collaborate but as the saying goes: "Carpos Callosum is the charioteer who is trying to direct the chariot to its destiny with the left and right horses pulling the chariot in opposite directions." I used to equate Science with rationality and by that logic, science should be all about left brain. But the pattern founding has been and will be done by the right brain only. What left brain does is that it just verifies whether the pattern really exists or not. How do we make our right brain more observant you ask? It gets exercised by arts, music, painting-in short, by creating something new. Well that's not so cool isn't it? Owning something something shining and commenting something flashy is the new sexy it seems. Well, it's debatable and who am I to judge. On that note, I should really get going with my guitar classes it seems;);)

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Kelsey

    Very good considering that Carl Sagan is writing outside of his field. Great speculations on the evolution of human/animal intelligence. Minus 1 star for being heavily outdated (originally published in 1977). I'll definitely be reading a more recent book on the same topic; written by a neuroscientist rather than an astrophysicist. Very good considering that Carl Sagan is writing outside of his field. Great speculations on the evolution of human/animal intelligence. Minus 1 star for being heavily outdated (originally published in 1977). I'll definitely be reading a more recent book on the same topic; written by a neuroscientist rather than an astrophysicist.

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