Dear All,
  I've been lurking for a while while I try to figure out something useful to 
contribute, but figured you should at least know I'm here...
   I'm a postdoctoral research fellow at Cambridge (UK), working in 
palaeontology - specifically, the early evolution of various invertebrate 
groups, and the relationship of physiochemical environmental factors to 
evolutionary patterns. I also have an outside interest in such matters as 
self-organised criticality, in relation to the origin and evolution of life. I 
have a slightly mathematical background, in that I intended to pursue 
theoretical physics before discovering as an undergrad that I enjoyed looking 
at fossils even more. I have practically no background in computing. 
  My interest in this area lies primarily in the philosophical perspective, and 
I admit, in a somewhat less rigorous style than I've experienced here. Saibal 
invited me to this list after reading some comments on another message board 
discussing whether information merely describes physicality, or actually 
defines it. My approach to the area is largely non-mathematical, involving 
mainstream philosophy, and a large pinch of oriental philosophical/religious 
aspects combined with parapsychology. As you can imagine, it has been difficult 
trying to usefully find a way into the discussions!

  As a brief introduction to the sorts of things I've been reading, try:

Penrose, R. The emperors's new mind.
Capra, F. The Tao of Physics
Dennett, D. Consciousness Explained
Evolution books by Steve Jones, Dawkins, Gould etc., as well as a large number 
of specialised papers on Proterozoic and early Phanerozoic evolution.

Complexity and chaos-based books, including those by Kauffman, Lewin and Gleick

Various oriental texts, but particularly the Wen Tzu, Tao Te Ching, poems of Li 
Po, "Cultivating Stillness" 

David-Neel, A. With mystics and Magicians in Tibet

Plus several of the "classic" books on philosophy - Hume, Berkeley, Descartes, 
and anything else I can find, for background.

For the parapsychological side, try the Journal of the Society for Psychical 
Research (very mixed content, but some definitely interesting bits - I 
recommend browsing)

As you can tell, this is a slightly unorthodox selection. However, I am, like 
you, a professional scientist, so please try to think of it merely as a 
different approach to the same problems, rather than a frivolous pursuit to be 
immediately dismissed! I look forward to the point when I can follow your 
arguments fully enough to be able to join in...

All the best,

Department of Earth Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Street
Cambridge CB2 3EQ
Phone: ( +44 ) 1223 333400
Fax: ( +44 ) 1223 333450

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