by Publisher's Weekly
This casual and lively book deals with some of the most basic philosophical questions we have: why are we here? How did life arise from nonliving particles? What is the fate of the earth? Sagan (What Is Life?), son of astronomer and science writer Carl Sagan, draws on, among others, science, philosophy and “the speculations of science fiction” in attempting to answer these questions. He begins with a quick introduction to James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, that the Earth is a living, self-regulating organism, and that life is not just a “passenger” on Earth but an integral part of the planet's systems. In chapters titled “Earth,” “Water,” “Air” and “Fire,” Sagan touches on the oceans and atmosphere, the evolution of life on Earth, the laws of thermodynamics and human consciousness, always circling back to Lovelock's theories. Sagan is equally comfortable discussing scientists like Richard Dawkins and Lewis Thomas, and science fiction authors like Philip K. Dick and A.E. van Vogt. The chatty style and ranging mind communicate a broad understanding and should appeal to inquisitive readers who want to know more about Earth and our relationship with it.
Science A GoGo.com
True to the Sagan legacy, Dorion Sagan, son of astronomer and science writer Carl Sagan, doesn't shy away from life's most fundamental questions. Drawing on the multiple disciplines of philosophy, science, and even science fiction, Sagan muses over why life exists, how it could have sprung from lifeless particles, and what life's ultimate fate might be. While the questions and topics are weighty and troublesome, Sagan, the author of 16 books, including Into the Cool: Energy Flow, addresses them with a light and informal, yet knowledgeable manner. Many chapters in Notes From The Holocene are informed by the theories and writings of well-known scientists and science fiction writers, such as luminaries James Lovelock and Philip K. Dick. Collectively, Dick, Lovelock, and others, including Richard Dawkins, help Sagan paint a vivid picture of our Earth and humanity's place within its fragile ecosystems. As Lovelock says in his Gaia hypothesis – which states that the Earth is a living, self-regulating organism – humans are but one of many important parts of a much larger organism. While Lovelock's theory is a central theme in Notes From The Holocene, Sagan branches out and ties together discussions regarding Earth's oceans and atmosphere, thermodynamics, and human consciousness. Notes From The Holocene is an important and thoughtful book.