on May 9, 2000
This book is composed of 10% science, 10 % anectdotes, and 80% speculation. It would make a good 3 page article in the Sunday supplements if the gibberish were taken out. Such as p87 "Are our nighttime dreams of flying......nostalgic reminiscenes of those days gone by in the branches of the high forest?"
on July 19, 2001
Now I definitely need to read more of Carl Sagan's books. This one is not very recent (he speaks of a new video game called "Pong"), but full of thought-provoking and interesting concepts concerning intelligence and evolution. I was pleasantly surprised to see that he had a chapter pertaining to dreamstates. ("Tales of Dim Eden") Also pertaining to Eden, he illustrates how the Genesis story of Man and his Fall can in some senses really be accurate, not (pseudo)scientifically (as in Creationism...obviously it is a book on evolution and phylogeny) but as a metaphor for several characteristics of the human races emerging onto the present scene of a civilisation stemmed from the frontal lobes. Which in the big picture has been very recent, to show this he condenses the life of the cosmos to a scale Cosmic Calendar of 365 days. Us Earthlings almost miss the New Year's party. Neurologically, the areas of the brain are explored and their respective functions as well as connections to mammallian and reptilian ancestors. (A triune model is used) Finally, he briefly touches on our search for extraterrestrial intelligence and, very appropriately to this setting, exposes the West's lack of appreciation for scientific knowledge the world which we inhabit and our irrational attraction to superstition and bogus claims of occult psuedo-science... something I just had to include somewhere in here.
on January 30, 2003
I've always considered Sagan my favorite story teller. He tells both wonderful fictional tales (like Contact), and tales that while certainly grand enough to be fiction, are actually tales of nature and science.
The Dragons of Eden is one such book. So large in its scope that one might think it would be disconnected and hard to follow, it in fact is the perfect balance of big picture and fascinating detail.
If you're even mildly interested in evolution, biology, zoology, neuroscience, or the nature of what really makes us who we are, this book is a must read.
on March 20, 2003
In The Dragons of Eden, author Carl Sagan depicts a world in which evolutionism reigns and earth's creatures develop in a mock "year" from single-celled organisms to the complex man prevalent today. First published in 1977, the information provided in the book, captioned "Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence," still remains an apparent encyclopedia for the scholar of man's development. Much of the book includes technological references, which, because of its age, are now obsolete; however, it still serves as a factual, thought-provoking reference with which one better comprehends the spawn of life on earth.
As a seasoned scientist, Sagan's vast knowledge in the field of science is clear through a study of his books. Though he became famous through his work with NASA, his entire bibliographical record consists of topics about space, nuclear winters, extraterrestrial life, and the history of man specifically. The Dragons of Eden is just one example of his outstanding literary résumé. Similar authors like William Poundstone and Stephen Jay Gould are known for their study of the mathematical, philosophical, and historical aspects of science, but none come close to Sagan's highly regarded reputation and thorough knowledge of the entire scientific field.
The genre of scientific novels appeal to a wide range of people, from scientists to lay men and women interested in the field. In spite of this, The Dragons of Eden seems to require a prior scientific knowledge if the reader intends on grasping some of the concepts addressed in the book. For instance, Sagan says, "the largest taxonomic divisions distinguish between plants and animals, or between those organisms with poorly developed nuclei in their cells (such as bacteria and blue-green algae) and those with very clearly demarcated and elaborately architectured nuclei (such as protozoa or people)." It is obvious that Sagan attempts to explain some of the material with the information inside the parentheses, but much of it is left unclear to the amateur reader. The scientific information Sagan proposes in this book far outweighs its literary aspect; it is more of an assemblage of experiments and scientific fact than appealing, interesting ideas that bring about fascinating new concepts.
As a scientific novel, the book, by definition, should produce new and thought provoking philosophies. The majority of the book, though, only focuses on the factual side of the concept of evolution. Nevertheless, a few examples and analogies are creative and interesting, like chapter five's focus on the study of chimpanzees and their use of man-made language. Rather than "throwing" scientific fact at the reader, Sagan provides an unusual and fascinating study that better explains the material he presented.
In Sagan's book, he scientifically develops the issue of evolution thoroughly and effectively without bringing in the contrasting viewpoint, creationism. Though the book concentrates on evolution, dispelling the opposing ideas of creation would have strengthened his argument and better convinced his reader to realize the true conception of man.
In order to appreciate and perceive the evolution of life on earth, Sagan's The Dragons of Eden is a perfect novel to examine. Every human being should have a great knowledge of his or her ancestry over the millions of years since homo sapiens evolved, and this book is a prime resource with which to do so. Though some scientific material may be foreign to the untrained reader, the book as a whole is a brilliant blueprint for the history of life.
on February 8, 1999
After having attemted to read this boring and schetchy book in my college Englixh class, I decided that Carl Sagan needed another career. He doesn't get his point across, if there is a point, at all. It took me several days just to read chapter two. It was all to choppy, technical, confusing, and as I said before, done right boring. I do not recommend this book to anyone unless they are insane or wanting to become insane. It would take an absolutely crazy athiest type of person to read this book. Two thumbs and two big toes down. Zero stars (that's not an option) in this girls opinion. It is not a far fetched idea to believe that thousands of others who made the mistake of reading this book would agree.