The Dragons of Eden

The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan is a book that takes a look at another topic than he normally does (Astronomy). This book is about life, intelligence, evolution, and sometimes, of course, wanders back into space.

From the Wiki

“The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence is a 1977 book by Carl Sagan, in which the author combines the fields of anthropology, evolutionary biology, psychology, and computer science to give a perspective on how human intelligence may have evolved.”

I really enjoyed this book, but it was the most ‘outdated’ one I read. This is partly because it was written in 1977, partly because I think our theories about space are more cumulative and those in other fields sometimes overwrite/change the narrative more wholly in other fields (e.g. psychology). Still, a very good book.

Furthermore, it shows his general interest in science and love for learning more. In the book, he also argues for a balance between our ‘left’ and ‘right’ side of our brain. He says that we should need both sides. With perfect rationality, you can’t be creative (make bold conjectures). Without reason, only trusting your gut, you won’t test any of your theories (experimentation).

“Sagan discusses the search for a quantitative means of measuring intelligence. He argues that the brain to body mass ratio is an extremely good correlative indicator for intelligence, with humans having the highest ratio and dolphins the second highest, though he views the trend as breaking down at smaller scales, with some small animals (ants in particular) placing disproportionately high on the list. Other topics mentioned include the evolution of the brain (with emphasis on the function of the neocortex in humans), the evolutionary purpose of sleep and dreams, demonstration of sign language abilities by chimps and the purpose of mankind’s innate fears and myths. The title “The Dragons of Eden” is borrowed from the notion that man’s early struggle for survival in the face of predators, and in particular a fear of reptiles, may have led to cultural beliefs and myths about dragons.”