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The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (1977)
by Carl Sagan
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While this book is somewhat dated (it came out in 1977), it still is a very interesting read and provides lots of food for thought. ( )
Have you ever wondered how the brain works and how our intelligence evolved? If your brain has presented to you this question, then this might just be the book for you. Your brain wants to know about itself! Whoa.
Firstly, this book was written in the 70's so its possible that some of the information contained here is out of date. Regardless of that fact however, Carl Sagan has that certain charm and special way of writing about subjects and makes it a joy to read. Although he does warn you that Chapter 2 gets super technical and jargon-heavy, the rest of the book is smooth sailing.
Sagan writes about the triune brain model and how the brain has evolved into 3 layers; the R-Complex which is where our reptilian brain functions stem from (aggression and territorial behavior) and is the oldest part of the brain, the Limbic System (social emotions) and the Neocortex (sight, sound, knowledge absorption). He also speaks about the left and right hemispheres and how they interact with one another to absorb knowledge and to be able to come up with solutions and theories.
There is information contained within these pages about our early ancestors like Australopithecus, Homo Erectus and Homo Habilis and show how the different sizes of the fossilized skulls show the progression of the size of the brain. Sleep and dreams are also talked about as well as how our distant cousins, the apes, can learn ASL and show some form on intelligence. It begs the question; If other mammals on this planet exhibit a form of intelligence, why don't we take better care of them and instead lock them up in zoos?
The book was a bit hard to get into but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sagan asks more questions than he gives answers so it turned out to be a great exercise for my brain (maybe that's what my brain wanted all along!) If you want to think critically and expand your horizons a bit, give this gem a shot!
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.
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.
Populair wetenschappelijke uiteenzetting over het menselijk brein. Het beschrijft de evolutie van de hersenen, de uit verschillende perioden stammende lagen, de verschillen tussen de linker- en de rechterhelft, en vergelijkt de menselijke intelligentie met enerzijds dierlijke, anderzijds kunstmatige. Het is goed leesbaar, redelijk betrouwbaar, niet erg overzichtelijk, en wekt met literaire middelen een indruk van visie die de inhoud niet waarmaakt. Bevat woordenlijst bibliografie en register. Zwart-wit illustraties.
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Wikipedia in English (3)
"A history of the human brain from the big bang, fifteen billion years ago, to the day before yesterday . . . It's a delight."--The New York Times Dr. Carl Sagan takes us on a great reading adventure, offering his vivid and startling insight into the brain of man and beast, the origin of human intelligence, the function of our most haunting legends--and their amazing links to recent discoveries. "How can I persuade every intelligent person to read this important and elegant book? . . . He talks about all kinds of things: the why of the pain of human childbirth . . . the reason for sleeping and dreaming . . . chimpanzees taught to communicate in deaf and dumb language . . . the definition of death . . . cloning . . . computers . . . intelligent life on other planets. . . . Fascinating . . . delightful."--The Boston Globe "In some lost Eden where dragons ruled, the foundations of our intelligence were laid. . . . Carl Sagan takes us on a guided tour of that lost land. . . . Fascinating . . . entertaining . . . masterful."--St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)153Philosophy and Psychology Psychology Cognition And Memory
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