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16 Reviews
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting and intelligent
An interesting and intelligent book taking the reader on a well thought out journey through the development of the brain and intelligence. I have no doubt that the particulars of neuroscience have progressed since the late 1970's but as with many scientific fields the fundamentals tend to remain relevant and Sagan does appear to have a good grasp of these.

As...
Published on 11 Nov. 2010 by GJ_Reading

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very very poor quality printing makes it almost unreadable
I'm a stickler for this review process being about the actual product; people moan about delivery and packaging when they should be reviewing the actual product. So here's an unusual book review prior to even finishing the book and the reason is that books, like everything else, not only have to be readable in terms of their content, story line and grammar, they have to...
Published 12 months ago by D. Rice


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting and intelligent, 11 Nov. 2010
An interesting and intelligent book taking the reader on a well thought out journey through the development of the brain and intelligence. I have no doubt that the particulars of neuroscience have progressed since the late 1970's but as with many scientific fields the fundamentals tend to remain relevant and Sagan does appear to have a good grasp of these.

As an introduction to the ideas and a springboard for further investigation this book is thoroughly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dragons of Eden., 25 Feb. 2013
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A hard read but a worthy one. Love this man and all his works, one to keep for posterity and study.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Speculations, but scientifically informed all the same, 13 Jan. 2013
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T. West (England) - See all my reviews
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The one barrier to this being a five star book is perhaps, by Sagan's own admission, his lack of expertise in this field, which always makes a reader more skeptical, even if he has done the reading, provided an extensive bibliography and is obviously passionate and articulate on the subject at hand.

Some of the information may be a little dated, and in retrospect, while he claimed Bronowski a little anthropocentric in his disregard for the significance of chimp signing, sometimes he comes across as all too enthusiastic and seems a little anecdotal in his case for chimp linguistics, although there is no doubt that Washoe did sign in the Gardners' program, which he covers in some detail.

Of particular interest to me was the discussion of human brain evolution from Australopithecus Africanus onwards, and how each species' brain was an improvement on the old, to the detriment of our cousins within the genus.
The many evolutionary steps necessary to become better hunters and tool-makers are described succintly and with a clear idea of how each adaptation builds up a picture of modern humans; the way primates are scared of snakes from birth (the oft mentioned dragons), the function of dreaming in primates and higher mammals and the relationship of wide hips to big brains in humans; a woman with wider hips can give birth to babies with larger brains, so all size zero women are asking for stupid babies, which is quite apt. I have read that there was no actual 'informant' involved with his writings on marijuana, and that research was first hand. Some of the material on the triune brain is covered in an episode of Cosmos, and I'm sure this book fed into the research for the series. Sagan seemed as interested in the phenomenon of intelligence as he was planetary science, and later science education and critical thinking along with his wife, Ann Druyan.

I think the last chapter is perhaps the most interesting, as it deals with the future of our species and possibilities for Extraterrestrial intelligence, the latter of which I might have wanted more of.
He hits upon something I had noticed quite independently; the tendency for Britain to produce a larger number of polymaths than other countries, and cited some of my other intellectual heroes; Bertrand Russell, A.N. Whitehead, J.B.S. Haldane and Jacob Bronowski (I would've added Peter Medawar as well). He wrote that it was important for society to allow for such broad and powerful thinkers - multi-disciplinarians, but that the evidence shows a steep 'decline' towards specialisation. I can see this borne out across various media - there is scant evidence of polymaths living in the UK today.

I would recommend this book for anybody interested in gaining a thinking layman's idea of neurophysiology and the evolution of the brain, and how human and animal intelligence relate to each other. Anybody looking for more authoritative and specialist works on neurobiology and evolutionary psychology might not find this as helpful, as it is speculative, although you can't deny Sagan is gifted, perhaps as much as any scientist-author, in crafting such illuminating and lucid prose.

Definitely worth reading, even if you're also looking for something along the lines of Oliver Sacks and Steven Pinker who have backgrounds in the fields discussed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, 9 April 2014
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Carl Sagan's "The Dragons of Eden" is a mesmeric mix of insight and wonder. Just like in "Cosmos" he manages to create a book which has the intrigue of a novel but is also packed full of information. If you're oin two minds about reading this book please don't be! This little treasure is just sublime.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cerebral speculations, 12 Dec. 2007
Back in 1977, Sagan delved into the 3-layer evolution of the mammalian brain over the last 100 mn years. A worthy attempt to unravel the most complex biological assemblage (per kilo) yet known.
Sagan is somewhat simplistic in the way he stresses the layering (neocortex), reptilian core etc.. instead of increases in interconnectivity & his theorising may no longer be accurate in the 21st century. He depicts the Homo Sapiens brain as an organ riven with inner conflict & adversarial hangovers.
Hence the age-old dragons slain & re-slain (presumably our collective DNA memory of nocturnal mammal v. dinosaur?)
Very entertaining popularisation of science nonetheless.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very very poor quality printing makes it almost unreadable, 7 Jan. 2014
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D. Rice "Belstane" (Kirknewton, Midlothian United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I'm a stickler for this review process being about the actual product; people moan about delivery and packaging when they should be reviewing the actual product. So here's an unusual book review prior to even finishing the book and the reason is that books, like everything else, not only have to be readable in terms of their content, story line and grammar, they have to be well made:

This book came highly recommended but I'm still suffering from the disappointment of finding that a book I was looking forward to is printed on junk paper with very faint type which varies in density not only from page to page but across each page. It's also printed in a positively archaeological font so I can tell it's not going to be a joy to read and if I could be arsed and wasn't bothered about the cost to the environment, I'd simply ask Amazon to take it back. Just flicking through it, the illustrations are dreadful. I realise that litho printing uses dots to render images on paper but you're not supposed to be able to distinguish the individual dots at arms length. The author uses several graphs to illustrate his point but on the wole these are unreadable because the different symbols used to identify different species on a scatter grapher are indistinguishable one from the other. The original book was first printed in 1977 and if this is what we had to put up with back then, then I'm surprised anybody read anything. All in all, the print quality is like a fourth generation photocopy shrunk to half size.

Whatever you buy on the internet, you're entitled to expect decent manufacturing quality and this does not offer anything near an acceptable quality. Like at least one other reviewer, I'd recommend you not to buy this paperback item and do as I probably will, seek the hard cover version.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great book but the printing is sub standard., 6 Feb. 2013
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I bought this particular softcover edition and ended up buying it again, but went for a hardcover copy this time. The reason being this softcover edition has been printed abysmally with hardly any room between the type and the top and bottom of the pages (the footer and header). It seems by trying to save money on printing, a really good book has been sabotaged in the process. The hardcover edition is fine but steer clear of this softcover if you appreciate your books being decently printed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dragons of Eden - Carl Sagan, 14 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: Dragons of Eden (Mass Market Paperback)
I'll just say it, this is a great book. As you'd expect, Carl opens his mind to the reader and his infectious enthusiasm hits you almost straight away. For the lay person, such as myself, there was a bit of (admittedly basic) mathematics which I struggled with for a bit, but it is by no means difficult for somebody who isn't as inept as me. Just be prepared for the possibility of investing a bit of brain power into the analysis of some numbers and equations (something I found surprisingly rewarding!)

All in all, Carl's speculations on the evolution of human intelligence are as interesting as one would expect, and the book is filled to the brim with his wit, intelligence, love and above all charm that makes his explanations of science so seductive and beautiful. Even though this book is now out of print, if you can get your hands on a copy, I would say that you are unlikely to regret doing so.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fantastic, 19 Dec. 2011
Informative, challenging and engaging, this book tells us how close and how distant we are from the rest of the animal world. Marvellously entertaining and thought-provoking.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great book by a great man, 30 Nov. 2012
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The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is because of it's age otherwise a fascinating jaunt into the misty depths of human cerebral evolution.
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Dragons of Eden
Dragons of Eden by Sagan Carl (Mass Market Paperback - 1 May 1978)
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