My rating: 5 of 5 stars ★★★★★
“Dragons of Eden” is of course way outdated (1977) and often more speculative than scientific, but it is a very charming, amusing and thought-inspiring book which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading. Framed within the Big History of the Universe converted to 1 year to illustrate the relative time scales, it presents a bunch of fascinating subjects very well:
- brain anatomy, the mind’s conflicting operative systems, and the evolution of intelligence
- prehistory with mammals and “dragons” (dinosaurs)
- dreams and why we sleep
- prehistoric suppression and (probably) eradication of other humanoids by humans, and the ethics of modern human society’s continued imprisonment and exploitation of apes for scientific research
- potential bases of mental illnesses
- anthropocentrism (which Sagan is very much guilty of himself btw)
- speculations about the future of humanity linked to space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (of course… as usual).
- there is also a comically outdated chapter about computers
I don’t necessarily agree with Sagan’s opinions or conclusions, and I don’t expect the science to be entirely (or even mostly) correct/up to date, but Sagan has a knack for explaining complex subjects so that they are both easily comprehensible and fascinating, and help shed light on the complex evolutionary plot of Life and humanity. A lovely read.