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Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors [Paperback]

Carl Sagan , Ann Druyan
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 7 1993 0345384725 978-0345384720 Ballantine Books ed
"Dazzling...A feast. Absorbing and elegantly written, it tells of theorigins of life on earth, describes its variety and charaacter, and culminates in a discussion of human nature and teh complex traces ofhumankind's evolutionary past...It is an amazing story masterfully told."
World renowned scientist Carl Sagan and acclaimed author Ann Druyan have written a ROOTS for the human species, a lucid and riveting account of how humans got to be the way we are. It shows with humor and drama that many of our key traits--self-awareness, technology, family ties, submission to authority, hatred for those a little different from ourselves, reason, and ethics--are rooted in the deep past, and illuminated by our kinship with other animals. Astonishing in its scope, brilliant in its insights, and an absolutely compelling read, SHADOWS OF FORGOTTEN ANCESTORS is a triumph of popular science.

Frequently Bought Together

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors + Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence + Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Price For All Three: CDN$ 40.21

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In a leisurely, lyrical meditation on the roughly four-million-year span since life dawned on Earth, Sagan and Druyan ( Comet ) argue that territoriality, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, occasional outbreeding and a preference for small, semi-isolated groups are elements in a survival strategy common to many species, including Homo sapiens. Yet society's problems, they assert, increasingly demand global solutions and require a dramatic, strategic shift which the authors optimistically believe humankind is capable of achieving. This engaging, humane odyssey offers a stunning refutation of the behavioristic worldview with its mechanistic notion that animals (except for humans) lack conscious awareness. Writing with awe and a command of their material, the husband-wife team cover well-trod terrain while they discuss the evolution of Earth's atmosphere and life forms, the genetic code, the advantages of sexual reproduction. The last third of the book, dealing with chimpanzees, baboons and apes, is the most interesting. Sagan and Druyan find chimps' social life "hauntingly familiar" with its hierarchy, combat, suppression of females and chimps' remarkable ability to communicate through symbols. First serial to Parade.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Astronomer Sagan is probably the biggest name in popular science writing, a fact that should assure that his latest book--written with his wife, Druyan--will find a wide audience. Sagan's goal is to explain how luck and natural selection combined to produce human beings after three and a half billion years of life on earth. Human behavior, he stresses, results more from similarities with our animal ancestors than from any unique qualities we may possess. Sagan flounders a bit early on in his effort to explain molecular evolution, but he picks up speed later when the focus shifts to primate behavior. Despite a preference for the overly dramatic phrase at the expense of scientific clarity, the argument is coherent throughout. While this is hardly one of the best books on human evolution, it will likely be very popular, especially in public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/92.
- Eric Hinsdale, Trinity Univ. Lib., San Antonio
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have You Ever Wondered Who We Are? May 12 2004
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding ourselves... Feb. 15 2003
...and the reasons why we do what we do as humans --that's the basic concept of this book which, as most books written by Sagan, is easy to understand and read.
He starts with the big bang, followed by one cell organism , gradually taking the reader into a tale of how it is that we as a species came to be. It gives plausible explanations of so many of the things that religion cannot explain. Biology, human nature and sociology are explained in a simple but interesting way . It leaves the human species uncovered on just what it is that makes us. Books such as Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors enriched my life. Sagan and Druyan were a great team and I for one miss Carl Sagan and his wise approach in explaining science.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One for my book shelf April 7 2001
I read through some of the other reviews and the negative ones are correct in that this is not a text book. But unlike my biology text books from college, I read this book in three days flat. Why? Because Druyan and Sagan's style is so enthralling, once you pick it up, you can't put it down. No, this is not a text book in any sense of the word. What it is, is enlightening and I recommend it for anyone with three digits in their IQ. You have to love these two authors for being at the vanguard of those who believe all life is sacred. "Partly because of the perceived difficulty of doing clean, controlled, non-anecdotal experiments on so emotional a being as a chimpanzee, finanacial support for many of these stuidies has nearly disappeared. In one case, the colony where apes had been taught Ameslan had fallen on hard times. Years had passed. Support was drying up. No one seemed interested in conversing with the chimps anymore. ... The inmates were about to be shipped to laboratories for medical experimentation. Before the end, they were vistied by two people who had known them in the old days. 'What do you want?' the visitors asked in Amselan. 'Key,' two chimps ... signed back from behind the bars, one after another. 'Key.' They wanted out They wanted to escape. Their request was not granted."
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5.0 out of 5 stars I Can't Believe I Typed That! Jan. 19 2001
To The Folks Who Read My Jan. 19, 2001 Review of This Book:
I apologize for that weirdness. "Proud to be a Primate" was, without any doubt, the stupidest book review I had ever submitted to It made me cringe to read it. I have deleted it. Replacing it below is my more sane opinion of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors:
I am grateful for the research presented in this book. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is magnificent! It reveals why Homo Sapiens must know, accept, & learn from our primate past. It is, for me, both a thrilling & harrowing read; a peek into the dark shadows of our past. Homo Sapiens, so far the most complex of the primates, stands to obtain a glorious future, only if we honestly acknowledge and learn from our true past. DNA has revealed quite a bit about us high-level primates. The future depends on how we use our inheritance: we must use our well-evolved smarts sustainably. We owe it to this planet, all our ancestors, & our children. I am proud to be a primate. The human race has come a long, long way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A search for who we were Jan. 3 2001
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors starts with a bold proposition: to unveil, at least partially, our "orphan file". Anyone of us has a myriad of ancestors in a non-interrupted line that traces back to the very beginning of life. We need to be grateful to every one of those forgotten ancestors who with their lives participated in this great experiment of random mutation and natural selection that led to the evolution of the now astounding variety of life on earth. It is indeed a bold proposition if we consider that most of us can track back no more than three or four generations out of the 100 billion generations believed to have existed before us.
The book, as it's always true for Sagan's books, is very well written with an accessible and witty approach. The problem I see is that it doesn't add much to the discussion. Most of what's on the book is also included in a more concise way on The Dragons of Eden that tries to trace the history of intelligence. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is many times prolix and repetitive. Nevertheless, Sagan's genius is exposed on the mysterious chapter 14 and on the last two chapters: The Animal Within and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors.
Now that I have read most of Carl Sagan's books I consider Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors to be an intermediate book. It's not as good as Pale Blue Dot or The Dragons of Eden (my two favorites) but better than Billions and Billions (sadly enough his last work). Overall Shadows is a very interesting book. It could be more concise but the many examples used to support the thesis are most of the times noteworthy such as the experiment in which monkeys are shown another imprisoned monkey through a one way mirror.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book
I had a fundamentalist upbringing and even was a missionary for a couple of years. I'm now 49. Twenty years ago the Cosmos TV series changed my life. Read more
Published on Feb. 13 2003 by Steve Schroader
5.0 out of 5 stars enlightening
Sagan/Druyan deconstruct the Western Chrisitan Myth of Intrinsic Human superiority over their mammal kinfolk. Read more
Published on June 1 2002 by Thomas D. Gulch
5.0 out of 5 stars "We are all kin"
Sagan and Druyan have created a masterwork in _Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors_. Written for the layperson, they clearly explain the origins and evolution of life on the... Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2002 by doc peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely book
Well, Bob, I started to lose mine as I turned thirty, but that's just the hair on my head. I've been accumulating body hair all my adult life; the older I get, the more I resemble... Read more
Published on Oct. 3 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars How does this prove we came from apes?
If we evolved from apes then shouldn't our bodies be completely covered with hair? You'd think they should, but no. Why did we lose our hair then, what benefit would that be? Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2001 by Bob Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Helps place us in perspective
This book shows how science, well-written, can be so much more rewarding and marvelous than the pseudoscientific creationist garbage that the fundametalist zealots are trying to... Read more
Published on June 30 2001 by Sorek
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favorite books!
I love Carl Sagan's books and this one is my very favorite. Fascinating.
Published on June 13 2001 by Hallie Kline
5.0 out of 5 stars simply great
Carl Sagan is one of the greates minds of the 20th century. He was a man passionate about science and life, and showed it in his books. Read more
Published on May 18 2001 by Forrest B. Crock
2.0 out of 5 stars Shadows of forgotten ancestors
Another book on evolution by a populist author not really for the serious Biology student. Read Origin of the species for the real thing Or the Beak of the Finch for good research... Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2001 by paul Wadsley
2.0 out of 5 stars Shadows of forgotten ancestors
Another book on evolution by a populist author not really for the serious Biology studen. nRead Origin of the species for the real thing Or the Beak of the Finch for good reseach... Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2001 by paul Wadsley
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