Dr Pamela Lyon

Dr Pamela Lyon
  • Biography/ Background

    An idiosyncratic, mature-age student with a chequered past (including newspaper journalism, independent social research, and institutional public relations), I earned my PhD with a thesis on the biology of cognition. In "The Agent in the Organism: Toward a biogenic theory of cognition" I argue that cognition is a natural biological phenomenon best approached like other natural biological phenomena: by studying simple model systems (such as bacteria) to understand the basics and then scaling up to more complex examples.

    Foundations for a Cognitive Biology

    (Australian Research Council Discovery Project DP0880559)

    I am currently following up work with Dr Jon Opie and others that began with this three-year, multidisciplinary research project, whose long-term aim is to develop a common conceptual toolkit for describing cognitive phenomena across diverse kinds of living things -- for example, bacteria, nematodes, flies, rodents, apes and humans. Cognitive research currently is carried out in many and various, highly specialized 'silos' in multiple disciplines that rarely connect. Meanwhile, molecular and behavioural evidence increasingly suggests that many cognitive mechanisms are highly conserved across phyla. It is hoped a theoretically well-grounded toolkit of basic cognitive concepts will facilitate the use and discussion of research carried out in different fields to increase understanding of two foundational issues: what cognition is and what it does. For more information on this endeavour, go to the Cognitive Biology website: http://www.hss.adelaide.edu.au/philosophy/cogbio/

    General background

    I am a naturalized Australian/American and have been married (more or less ecstatically) for 24 years to Richard Bradshaw, a partner in the law firm of Johnston Withers who has read to me the complete works of Jane Austen (including juvenalia) and so many other books we have lost count. We are footloose and child-free.

  • Qualifications

    PhD (2006)The Australian National University (Asian Studies; Crawford Prize)

    Graduate Diploma (1997) The Flinders University of South Australia (Philosophy; high distinction)

    Master of Science (1976) Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

    Bachelor of Arts (1975) University of California at Berkeley (Political Science; Summa cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa)

  • Research Interests

    Biology of cognition; philosophy of mind; history and philosophy of biology, microbiology in particular; evolutionary theory, especially as it relates to the evolution of cooperation (and thereby to ethics); the psychological dynamics of self-regulation; and Buddhist philosophy.
  • Publications

    Peer-reviewed articles


    P. Lyon, M. Cohen and J. Quintner (2011) "An evolutionary stress response hypothesis for chronic widespread pain (fibromyalgia syndrome)," Pain Medicine 12:1167-1178.

    P. Lyon (2007) "From quorum to cooperation: Lessons from bacterial sociality", Studies in History and Philosophy of Science: Series C, Biological and Biomedical Sciences 38(4):820-833.

    P. Lyon (2006) "The biogenic approach to cognition", Cognitive Processing 7(1):11-29.

    P. Lyon (2004) "Autopoiesis and knowing: Reflections on Maturana's biogenic explanation of cognition", Cybernetics & Human Knowing 11(4):21-46.

    Book chapters

    P. Lyon (in press) "Stress in mind: The role of the stress response in the evolution of cognition," in L. Caporael, W. Wimsatt and J. Griesemer (eds) Scaffolding Evolution, Development, Cognition and Culture (MIT Press: Cambridge, MA)

    P. Lyon (2011) "Extracting norms from nature: A biogenic approach to ethics," in P. Burdon (ed.) Exploring Wild Law: The Philosophy of Earth Jurisprudence (Wakefield Press: Adelaide).

    P. Lyon (2011) "To be or not to be: Where is self-preservation in evolutionary theory?" in B. Calcott and K. Sterelny (eds) The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited (MIT Press: Cambridge, MA), 105-125.

    P. Lyon and F. Keijzer (2007) "The human stain: Why cognitivism can't tell us what cognition is and what it does", in The Mind, the World, and the Body: Psychology After Cognitivism, ed. B. Wallace (Throverton, UK: Imprint Academic), pp. 132-165.

    Book reviews

    P. Lyon (2008) "Book review: Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life (Mark Francis (2007) Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press)", Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

    Other research publications

    P. McEvoy and P. Lyon (1994) The land is always alive: The story of the Central Land Council. Alice Springs: Central Land Council.

    P. Lyon (1992) The health of young Aborigines aged 12 to 25: A short report for Aboriginal communities. National Youth Affairs Research Scheme, Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment, and Training (DEET), Canberra.

    P. Lyon, J. Hill and J. Wynter J (1992) The way forward. Final report and grog action plan. Alice Springs: Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Planning Unit (CAAAPU).

    P. Lyon (1991) "The continuing dilemma: liquor licensing, Aborigines, and take-away alcohol in Central Australia", Aboriginal Law Bulletin; (August):11-13.

    P. Lyon (1991) Prevention, intervention and treatment strategies for Aboriginal alcohol problems: An annotated bibliography. Alice Springs: Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Planning Unit (CAAAPU).

    P. Lyon (1990) What everybody knows about Alice: A report on the impact of alcohol abuse on the town of Alice Springs. Alice Springs: Tangentyere Council.

    P. Lyon and M. Parsons (1989) We are staying: The Alyawarre struggle for land at Lake Nash, Alice Springs: Institute for Aboriginal Development [IAD] Press.

  • Professional Associations

    Australian Research Network in the Philosophy and History of Molecular, Ecological and Evolutionary Biosciences

    International Society for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science

    Australasian Association of Philosophy

    Society for Plant Neurobiology

  • Community Engagement

    Science columnist (weird wonderful world), The Adelaide Review

    Lecturer (2008), University of the Third Age (for retirees), Buddha House Centre for Advanced Buddhist Studies, Thekchen Shedrup Choeling (Tibetan Buddhist Institute)

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Entry last updated: Sunday, 11 Sep 2011