What Spiritual People Don’t Understand About Science: Part 9 — Biologists don’t think animals are machines

October 12, 2019

Along with blind and mysterious attacks on Charles Darwin, (to be covered soon in this series) a common accusation leveled by spiritual teachers against biologists is that they conceive of living organisms as machines.

I’ve already covered Rupert Sheldrake doing this (here), but pretty much every spiritual teacher who claims to be in some measure “scientific” will inform their audience that about 400 years ago Rene Descartes declared that animals are nothing more than a collection of levers, pulleys, and other mechanisms, who clunk and ratchet about until they stop functioning.

It is true that Descartes presented physiology in these terms. He really did think that just as the difference between a rock and a clock is simply a matter of complexity, so too is the difference between a clock and a dog. For Descartes, a dog was no more “alive” than a clock. Nor for him did a dog any more have an inner life than would a clock.

Descartes granted humans, uniquely, a soul. This non-physical, immaterial soul grants consciousness to the human body, and can reach down into the brain and steer the body about, guiding its movements and actions. In itself this idea was not an entirely new notion: previous thinkers (Galen, for example) thought the soul inhabited the ventricles, the several empty channels that run through the brain. But Descartes decided that the pineal gland, as it was a single structure in the centre of the brain, unpaired like many other recognisable structures on either hemisphere, was the “seat of the soul”.

This conception raised a number of problems, all of which were raised at the time.

Where did all this complexity come from? Descartes said God designed it, built it, wound it up and set it off running. God then withdrew and watched the various components clunk out their fate, with only humans able to choose a non-determined path.

What exactly is life? Many animals do unmistakably appear to have an inner life. Descartes simply ignored this. As the biologist Ernst Mayr wrote in 1982:

[Descartes’] proposal to reduce organisms to a class of automata had the unfortunate consequence of offending every biologist who had even the slightest understanding of organisms. Descartes’s crass mechanism encountered, therefore, violent opposition…

Here we come across the first problem with the claim by spiritual teachers that modern biology is simply an extension of Descartes; that biologists simply took Descartes’ assumptions and ran with them. According to Sheldrake, Mayr should be reporting that Descartes was right, and his ideas were immediately accepted.

Instead, we find that many of the objections that spiritual teachers raise against Descartes today are not devastating criticisms to which modern biology has no answer. In fact, exactly the same objections were raised by biologistsas soon as Descartes published his work.

And now it gets weird. Because some of Descartes’ ideas that were roundly criticised, disproven and discarded by biology were in fact adopted by various spiritual traditions. Embarrassingly for any spiritual person who realises this, these ideas are still being promoted today, by the very same spiritual teachers who have built their career on their attacks on Descartes.

Even more embarrassingly for them, it leads them to make exactly the same mistakes that Descartes made: errors that were already cleared up 450 years ago! And then they wonder why biologists today get a little impatient with them when they indignantly trot these same ideas out as being “answers to the questions biologists refuse to ask.”

The pineal gland as the seat of the soul was kept alive somehow until Helene Blavatsky picked it up and stuck it into Theosophy, cobbled together in the late 1800s out of Christian mysticism and some stuff skimmed off from Hindu scriptures. It can still be found in New Age teachings today, still associated with the 6th Chakra, Ajna, or “third eye”. But where in yogic traditions this “Chakra” is analogous to the ability to visualise, the idea that it’s the pineal gland that does this is obviously stupid, as we now know that it’s a gland.

But Descartes should have known he was wrong about the pineal gland at the time he wrote about it. He argued that it is suspended on very fine fibres and that it can somehow vibrate in accordance with the subtle winds of the spirit, that everything else in the physical world is oblivious to; and that only humans have it. Had he been a more careful anatomist, he would have seen for himself that these fibres don’t exist, and had he checked with other anatomists, they could have told him this. And the pineal had already been found in animals as well.

The next problem that was solved hundreds of years ago, but which spiritual teachers still haven’t caught up with is a more serious one: Descartes’ theory of matter.

Descartes conceived of matter as consisting of tiny inert particles. According to him, these are like tiny oddly shaped billiard balls, whose interactions are determined by their shape. It was God, the unmoved mover, who set the grand clockwork in motion.

According to spiritual teachers, biologists still believe this, only without God. And where, these teachers indignantly ask, does the complexity of life come from? Ha! Biologists have no answer.

As Rupert Sheldrake says, claiming that no one knows how mushrooms grow:

How on earth did these separate threads know what to do? They’re all [chemically] the same to start with, but some form the cap, some form the gills, some form the stem, some form the membrane at the top. How on earth did these cells know what to do, to harmoniously coordinate with the rest?

Different parts of a plant–

have completely different structures and yet they have the same veins and the same chemicals, so the chemicals alone can’t explain it.

Yep, those little inert billiard balls can’t organise themselves, can they? Biologists, according to Sheldrake, simply refuse to consider this issue because they know they have no answer.

Unfortunately for Sheldrake and his multitude of colleagues, botanists don’t have a nervous breakdown at the sight of a mushroom. And while embryologists no doubt feel wonder and awe (and maybe a bit of shock too underneath it all) watching an embryo develop, they don’t lose any sleep over what to say if a student confronts them with a Sheldrakean question.

There are two developments that Sheldrake and all the rest have missed out on. One is chemistry. The only people today who use Descartes’ ideas on chemistry are Sheldrake, Lipton, Chopra, and all the rest. Any spiritual teacher who says “it can’t just be random chance” is in fact a follower of Cartesian chemistry — which was unpopular in the 1600s, and completely discarded by science due not only to Newton (which spiritual teachers today don’t realise — gravitational theory is anti-Cartesian), but also in part to alchemy.

Yes, alchemy. Alchemy contained the notion that particles, whatever they, are not inert; rather they are dynamic thingies, have more properties than shape and react to each other in more dynamic ways than simply bouncing off each other, as Sheldrake thinks they do.

This means that where Sheldrake thinks that atoms must need a (supernatural) “higher organising principle”, Paracelsus could have told him in 1450 that the elements can organise themselves in highly complicated ways. Such ideas were transformed into the foundations of modern chemistry by Robert Boyle and others, shortly after Descartes’ time. This in turn revolutionised biology.

(Paracelsus also conceived of the human body as a kind of alchemical lab, where chemical reactions occur — an important contribution to biology. Spiritual teachers still like Paracelsus, but his actual contributions to science have of course dropped off their radar.)

But chemistry alone indeed “can’t explain it”, as Sheldrake notes. But what he hasn’t noticed is that biology is a separate subject to chemistry. Although laws of physics and chemistry are the basis for biology, biology is above all a study of systems. Evolution, for example, wasn’t discovered by going into more and more detail, but rather by taking a step back and looking at how the whole thing functions. Evolutionary theory looks at the various processes by which diversity and complexity arise. Common descent demonstrates that life is indeed one. You might call it “holistic”. But for some reason, spiritual teachers won’t have a bar of it.

Biology freed itself from the conception of matter as inert billiard balls, but modern spirituality hasn’t. And it never will, because that would ruin everything. Inert billiard balls need “higher powers” to organise them. “Inanimate” matter needs a vital force, an energy, to animate it, otherwise life itself is impossible. And the distinction between animate and inanimate is built squarely on a foundation of inert billiard balls.

And this holds the door open for “quantum physics” to come to the rescue, with its “energy”, which can be renamed a life force, which can then organise all those little billiard balls.

But it’s too late. Biology has already explained all this and has moved on. That’s why biology has progressed, and spiritual teachers are still stuck in their dumbed-down version of the science of the 1600s.

Posted by Yakaru


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 73 (Dr Lipton talks to us about death)

September 22, 2019

We’re in the epilogue.

Lipton actually knows what an epilogue is (even if he can’t decide whether or not to capitalise it or treat it as a separate chapter rather than a subheading). He even told his readers what an epilogue is: An epilogue is generally a short section at the end of the work that details the fate of its character… in this case moi.”

But then he starts introducing new material — which doesn’t belong in an epilogue at all does it, Dr Lipton. You know that — remember?

So now, in the middle of the epilogue, he suddenly starts talking about human leukocytic antigens. Why? Because they are some kind of coating on certain proteins in the immune system. They detect foreign substances and reject them. They were discovered by researchers trying to figure out why some organ transplants don’t work — these are the things involved in rejecting an organ transplant.

Ok, but what has that got to do with anything?

Well, Lipton wants to make it clear to his readers that all humans are unique. Ok, but I learned that on Sesame Street. Why use something as complicated as human leukocytic antigens — of which absolutely none of his readers have ever heard — to explain such an obvious point?

Well, because he thinks that human leukocytic antigens….. Um…. Well…. Um….. I’d better let him explain it….

He treats his readers to yet another burst of copy-and-paste lecture babbling:

A well-studied subset of these receptors, called self-receptors or human leukocytic antigens (HLA), are related to the functions of the immune system. If your self-receptors were to be removed, your cells would no longer reflect your identity.

He blabs on about all this for another page and half, until he gets to the point:

So far scientists have never found two individuals who are biologically the same.

Lipton is very excited about this revelation. He babbles about it some more until he reveals a further revelation.

While scientists have focused on the nature of these immune-related receptors….

Bah– those dogmatic fools!

…it is important to note that it is not the protein receptors, but what activates the receptors that give individuals their identity.

Um….. Nope. And Nope, And WTF????

What is he doing? Is he saying that human leukocytic antigens give humans their sense of self?

No. No, he isn’t saying that. Rather he is saying that scientists, because of their materialistic Newtonian bias, believe that. Which they don’t. Of course they don’t. They do not.

Nevertheless, Lipton ascribes that belief to them, and then sets out in his usual brilliant fashion to refute that non-existent belief.

Each cell’s unique set of identity receptors are located on the membrane’s outer surface, where they act as “antennas,” downloading complementary environmental signals.

Factual error. What happens here is chemical reactions and not information transfer.

This is an important distinction, and Lipton, with a Ph.D in biology, should know it, and know that he needed to apply it here. But he didn’t. And it will derail the train-wreck he is attempting to pull off. (Trust me– that apparently clumsy wording is intended.)

These identity receptors read a signal of “self,” which does not exist within the cell but comes to it from the external environmental.

Factual error. Completely wrong. And they’re not identity receptors either.

As Wikipedia puts it: The immune system uses the HLAs to differentiate self cells [recognised cells] and non-self cells. Any cell displaying that person’s HLA type belongs to that person and, therefore, is not an invader.

But for Lipton, the receptors don’t do anything much at all. Rather all things in its environment are somehow marked self or non-self.

I think what has happened to Lipton here is that he noticed the terminology of “self” and “non-self” used in the literature, and gotten excited that it might be a good metaphor for something. Then before figuring out what that metaphor might be about, and how it might work, he forgot that it was only supposed to be a metaphor and started taking it literally.

I think that’s what happened to him.

Consider the human body a television set.

Um…… What??????? I wasn’t expecting that. What??????? What???????

You are the image on the screen.


Um……………… Ok, so the TV is the body, and the ego, or the mind, or the “you” identity, is the image on the screen….

But your image did not come from inside the television.

Um, what? The image is on the surface, and being perceived by someone watching it from the outside, otherwise it’s just a bunch of flashing pixels.

Your identity is an environmental broadcast that was received via an antenna.

What? Your identity is the broadcast itself???? Then who is watching it???

One day you turn on the TV…

Who is “you” in this analogy???

Well, ok… I guess turning on the picture is analogous to waking up, is it?

…and the picture tube has blown out.


What is that analogous to???? Jesus Christ!!! Is this some horrific personality disorder????

Your first reaction would be, “Oh, #*$?!! The television is dead.” But did the image die along with the television set?

This is physical death!!!!

The TV set is the human body! He just said it a moment ago! You wake up and your body is dead! Holy shit! And how the hell did you wake up if your body is dead???? How did you wake up????

Um………. Ok, so your body is dead and the “you” that was projected on its screen is gone with it.

To answer that question you get another television set…


It’s your body!!!!!! Your body is dead!!!!!!!! It’s DEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How the hell are you going to walk to the TV shop, get another TV-body, and carry it home? Who or what is the “you” that does that?

….Ok, he’s done me. I wasn’t expecting anything as insane as this…. Thank god I’m not in a restaurant or I’d be looking up about now and seeing a row of concerned and puzzled faces staring at me.

Um… Well… Ok…. Let’s play along. You wake up and realise that your body is dead…. So “you” get another body somehow, from the TV shop — which I guess is your mother? Then what?

…you get another television set, you plug it in, turn it on and tune it to the station you were watching before the picture tube blew out.

I’m really quite speechless.

So your immortal soul is a TV station, and your body is interchangeable. In other words, your body is not unique at all. Not only is your body generic, but your fucking goddam immortal soul is generic as well!

So what the fuck happened to the uniqueness of your body?

He started off saying your body is unique, and he’s wound up saying it’s the same as a fucking TV set that can be thrown away and replaced with another one!

This exercise will demonstrate that the broadcast image is still on the air, even though your first television “died.”

No — your first television — your first body — didn’t “died” — it fucking died! It’s dead and dumped on the scrap heap. You don’t have a body. And your “you” has disappeared with it. That’s quite a predicament.

The death of the television as the receiver in no way killed the identity broadcast that comes from the environment.

No, you fucking moron, the “identity broadcast” came from a fucking TV station. And people built that — human beings. TV sets don’t build TV stations. And they broadcast exactly the same programs to millions and millions of TVs. To any TV that’s plugged in.

And that’s your soul, Dr Lipton?

And they don’t just broadcast to TVs. They do it so that human beings can watch the TVs. Who is the viewer in this metaphor, Dr Bruce???? Who????

Are the TVs simply watched by other TVs?

You haven’t thought this out very well at all, have you.

In this analogy, the physical television is the equivalent of the cell.


Read that again.

In this analogy, the physical television is the equivalent of the cell.

In this analogy, the physical television is the equivalent of the cell.

But you just said it was the body! At the start of the paragraph! — “Consider the human body a television set.”

That was 2 minutes ago and you wrote it yourself, you idiot!!!!

What the fuck. Okay. In this analogy, the physical television is the equivalent of the cell from now on.

So now your body is not like a TV set, but like a collection of 37.2 trillion tiny TV sets. Yes, that sounds much more sensible.

The TV’s antenna, which downloads the broadcast, represents our full set of identifying receptors and the broadcast represents an environmental signal.

Hang on, no. 37.2 trillion antennae download your soul into your body’s cells 37.2 trillion times and you, Dr Lipton, you experience your soul like that.

Because of our preoccupation with the material Newtonian world…

Now the guy who tells us that the human body is a bunch of TVs and the soul is an environmental signal set starts lecturing us about our materialism.

…we might at first assume that the cell’s protein receptors are the “self.”

No. No one has ever assumed that. NEVER. And not because of their supposed materialism.

That would be the equivalent of believing that the TV’s antenna is the source of the broadcast. The cell’s receptors are not the source of its identity, but the vehicle by which the “self” is downloaded from the environment.

And let’s look at that now. The “environment” — from where you “download your self” — is a TV station that broadcasts programs which are you self, but each program is unique, but can be picked up by any TV set — or rather 37.2 trillion TV sets which are identical and tuned to the same station, which is really you. You’re not the 37.2 trillion TV sets, and you’re not watching any of the TV sets — the programs can all experience themselves somehow as long as the TVs sets are all working. But if all the TV sets break down, “you” — the TV station — can walk down to the TV shop — your mother, who is not a TV, because TVs don’t give birth to other TVs — or maybe your mother is the factory that makes the TVs?…. You, the TV station, walk down to the TV shop to get another TV — or another 37.2 trillion TVs and plug them all in somehow, because that’s what TV stations do, and the picture, which you think is you even though you’re a TV station and not a picture, flashes back onto the screen, or onto the 37.2 trillion screens, depending on which paragraph you’re in.

When I fully understood this relationship I realized that my identity, my “self,” exists in the environment whether my body is here or not.

Right at the moment, Dr Bruce, my indifference to the existence or non-existence of your body is also increasing.

Just as in the TV analogy, if my body dies…

And now he’s flipped back to the TV being the body again, and not a single cell.

…and in the future a new individual (biological “television set”) is born who has the same exact set of identity receptors, that new individual will be downloading “me.”

So after Lipton’s dead, another body will be born and instead of being a unique individual with its own dreams and aspirations, it will start downloading the same old Station Lipton that is jabbering on here. That poor sod.

I will once again be present in the world. When my physical body dies, the broadcast is still present.

Yep, America’s Funniest Home Videos will still be jabbering on somewhere in the cosmos… But look at that again: “If my body dies, and a new individual is born with the exact same set of identity receptors…” Yes — IF. And given that there’s no such thing as “identity receptors” that broadcast won’t be picked up by anything at all. This is what happens when you try to use an analogy to get yourself reincarnated.

And worse still, come to think of it, the chance of another new baby Bruce/TV set with identical “identity receptors” being born is something Lipton himself precluded earlier with the fact that biologists have never found identical humans.

My identity is a complex signature contained within the vast information that collectively comprises the environment.

And with that, we can end on a rare happy note. While matter/energy can’t be destroyed, information, like the “complex signature” of Lipton’s soul, can — and indeed will — be obliterated with no problem at all.


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 72 (Lipton gets evolution completely wrong, & it’s irrelevant to his book, but he attacks Darwin anyway)

September 20, 2019

Lipton has been building up to this. I mean, how could anyone use an affirmation to make them feel better about themselves without first debunking population genetics and the neo-Darwinian synthesis?

As I’ve all too frequently mentioned, Lipton promised to explain how to overcome the problem that the subconscious is (according to him) “millions of times more powerful than the conscious mind”, and will derail any affirmation you throw at it. He has of course, located a serious difficulty with affirmations. Saying something like I trust in the process of life. I am safe, to yourself can merely confirm the existence of fears about the future. You can wind up denying the feelings, while also cementing them in place, rather than learning to deal with them and allowing them to change.

Lipton, to his credit, is one of very few New Age authors who highlights this danger even to the point of vastly overstating it.

But not so much to his credit is that his solution so far has been to tell people to start dealing with it while they’re still in the fetal stage. That really hasn’t been much help to anyone.

And now he adds another solution — to attack Charles Darwin.

He continues his history of science from last time.

If the Spirit/ Science split needed any more reinforcement, it got it in 1859 when Darwin’s theory of evolution made an instant splash.

This is only true if one accepts Descartes belief that spirit and matter are split in the first place, and Lipton does accept that, though he thinks he’s against it. It is not true if one accepts the Romantic philosophers’ ideas about spirituality residing in the wildness of nature, rather than the authoritarian, hierarchical creator/designer God of Descartes and Lipton.

Moreover, many theologians accepted evolution as a fact, and realised they’d be better off embracing it rather that fighting it. (By a nice coincidence, 1859 was not only the year Darwin published The Origin; it was also the year that the Catholic Church removed Copernicus from their banned books list.)

Darwin’s theory spread across the globe like today’s Internet rumors.

Factual error. It spread because biologists realist it explained a vast amount of otherwise puzzling phenomena. Aka Occam’s razor.

It was readily accepted because its principles dovetailed with people’s experiences in breeding pets, farm animals and plants.

Half true at best. But Lipton fails to say that Darwin said instead of a farmer selecting which animals to breed, nature itself does it. Darwin realised that such natural selection is merely much slower than artificial selection, not goal directed in the manner imagined by creationists (i.e. nearly everyone) until then.

Darwinism attributed the origins of humanity to the happenstance of hereditary variations, which meant that there was no need to invoke Divine intervention in our lives or our science.

Utter rubbish. Lipton is an ignoramus.

Factual error #1: Darwin didn’t know about genetics or random mutation.

Factual error #2: Lipton leaves out natural selection, without which evolution would not occur — there would just be random variation within species. This is a rookie error made by all Creationists, but Lipton is an even bigger dimwit, as he actually knows about natural selection. In fact he already mentioned it — but he ascribed the idea to Lamarck instead of Darwin. The useless idiot.

Modern scientists were no less awed by the Universe than the cleric/ scientists who preceded them, but with Darwin’s theory in hand they no longer saw a need to invoke the Hand of God as a grand “designer” of Nature’s complex order.

Again, having left out non-random natural selection — i.e. Darwinism — Lipton makes scientists look like dogmatists following some vague unidentified ideology.

Preeminent Darwinist Ernst Mayr wrote: “When we ask how this perfection is brought about, we seem to find only arbitrariness, planlessness, randomness, and accident…” [Mayr 1976]

As always, for every quote used by a Creationist, there is an equal and opposite rest of the quote. Mayr was not conceding the point but rather setting up an explanation for how the appearance of design arises so compellingly in nature.

The fact that Lipton has dug out the quote and then misrepresented it, shows that in this instance he is clearly lying.

While Darwinian theory specifies that the purpose of life’s struggles is survival…

Factual error. Reproduction is more important from a gene’s point of view than survival. A peacock’s tail-feathers are not much use for avoiding foxes. Every single biologist on the planet — bar one — knows this.

And that utterly stupid error of the most basic biology invalidates the rest of the sentence, and every other sentence for the rest of this epilogue.

[While Darwinian theory specifies that the purpose of life’s struggles is survival,] it does not specify a means that should be used in securing that end.

WHAT???????? Animals — individual animals — follow their instincts and whatever they’ve learned. They just live their life and don’t have anything personally to do with evolution. That all happens at the population level, over very many generations.

Apparently, “anything goes” in the perceived struggle because the goal is simply survival— by any means.

What an ignoramus this man is. He’s spent one third of the book attacking genetic determinism without knowing what it is; one third on quantum physics without knowing what that is; and the other third attacking Darwin without knowing what he said.

Factual error. Darwin never said that animals either do or should be focused on nothing but survival by any means. Why do some parents and some siblings sacrifice their lives for their kin? Darwin explains it. Why do some animals, even across species, team up and work together? Darwin explains it. Why are the males of some species so brightly coloured even though it attracts predators as well as mates? Darwin explains it. Why can we feel such a deep and mysterious kinship with our fellow creatures? Darwin explains it — all life is one. But that’s not good enough for Lipton who seems to have gotten his biology from Hitler, not Darwin.

Rather than framing the character of our lives by the laws of morality, the neo-Darwinism of Mayr suggests that we live our lives by the law of the jungle.

Again, utter rubbish. Mayr did not say that at all. Read the book you quoted from, dickhead.

Neo-Darwinism essentially concludes that those who have more deserve it.

And again, utter rubbish. That’s 1930s Social Darwinism, which was neither social nor Darwinian. The appalling eugenics from the early part of the 20th century was based on selective breeding not natural natural selection. It neither needed nor used any of Darwin’s actual ideas.

He goes on to blame Darwin for poverty and slavery, and then suddenly starts a new section.

We Are Made In the Image of the Universe

On that early morning in the Caribbean, I realized that even the “winners” in our Darwinian world are losers because we are one with a bigger Universe/God.–

Um… What??? So being one with the universe makes you a loser? I don’t think he meant to say that. His editor has obviously nipped out for a smoke.

He marches bravely on, stating that as a cell receptor receives a certain chemical, that means it is the mirror image of that chemical. Then he gets to what he calls his “aha moment”, though to everyone else it’s a “WTF??? moment”.

This means that every protein in our bodies is a physical/electromagnetic complement to something in the environment. Because we are machines made out of protein, by definition we are made in the image of the environment, that environment being the Universe, or to many, God.

This is one of the few clear pieces of logical reasoning in the book. And of course it’s utterly stupid. The first sentence again:

This means that every protein in our bodies is a physical/electromagnetic complement to something in the environment.

Factual error. Proteins don’t “complement” things in the environment. For everyone else, one’s own proteins are part of the environment.

Because we are machines made out of protein…

As Descartes would have said…

by definition we are made in the image of the environment…

Factual error. Regardless of what the hell he means by that, proteins are not “in the image of the environment”. This is a protein:

Lipton’s image of God

In what way is that “in the image of the environment” for Christ’s sake?????

…that environment being the Universe, or to many, God.

Lipton has a special talent for errors of scale, and this is another big one. Okay, so your cheeseburger is God. Fine. Can we stop now?

No we can’t because having proven the Bible correct, Lipton goes back to attacking Darwin, this time for destroying the environment. He rants on for a while and then gets back to his cells again, and realises that individuals are unique. Yay! Another fact.

What makes each person’s cellular community unique? On the surface of our cells is a family of identity receptors, which distinguish one individual from another.

And then, believe it or not, he suddenly launches off on another copy-and-paste lecture-note rant. This is supposed to be the epilogue, summing up, not introducing vast swathes of new and complex information. He goes on for a page and a half using organ transplants to establish that people really are unique.

Yes — he was really talking about organ transplants to convince people that we are all unique. I won’t quote any of it.

And after he’s done with organ transplants, it all gets much weirder than I was expecting from this book. Much weirder.


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 71 (The final assault on Darwin)

September 20, 2019

Having initially expected to be finished with this series about 65 posts ago, and having expected to get through the Epilogue in post, I can now say, probably accurately, that the Epilogue will require three posts. This might also be wrong. Materialistic science still can’t explain how Lipton can get so many things wrong in such a small space. But with the concepts of quantum time dilation and quantum entanglement, physicists have shown….

He’s previously hinted at the contents of the epilogue: I submit in the epilogue of this book that human intelligence can only be fully understood when we include spirit (“energy”) or what quantum physics-savvy psychologists call the “superconscious” mind.”

So that’s where he’s trying to get to. Maybe this “superconscious” mind will soon shed its inverted commas, enter literal reality, and solve that problem he forgot to fix up in Chapter 5 — how to stop the subconscious, “millions of times more powerful” than the conscious mind, from stopping affirmations from working and making his already useless affirmations even more useless.

And maybe not. Let’s see.

Deep breath. Cue Caps lock for some reason:


He begins with a quote from Albert Einstein. Unusually for a spiritual book, it’s not an outright fabrication, but merely doctored to alter its meaning:

The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the power of all true science.

— Albert Einstein

The original translation was, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

So that’s only four significant alterations in the space of two sentences. Not bad, given the usual fun and games spiritual hucksters have with Einstein. (I won’t bother to chase up the original German, but will note that the differences can’t be down to language. The second is about inspiration and the creativity; Lipton’s subordinates science to the mysterious.)

We’ve come a long way since Chapter 1, when I faced my panicked medical students and started my journey to the New Biology. But throughout the book I have not strayed far from the theme I introduced in the first chapter— that smart cells can teach us how to live.

Not strayed far???? What the hell have epigenetics, quantum physics and affirmations curing cancer got to do with “smart” cells telling us how to live?

Now that we’re at the end of the book…

No we’re not — there’s still fifteen pages to go!!! On average that’s another 7 or 8 posts!!!! …Ok, I’ll calm down….

I’d like to explain how my study of cells turned me into a spiritual person.

No it didn’t, it made you into a complete gibbering… Ok, ok….

I also want to explain why I am optimistic about the fate of our planet, though I concede that optimism is sometimes hard to maintain if you read the daily newspaper.

It is worth noting that the book is from 2004, and that elsewhere he predicted that the world would end in 2012, but that the catastrophic “final hoo har” (yes, that’s what he called it) would be a breakthrough experience, a paradigm shift, wherein all the good ones survive — just like a cancer sufferer needs to hit rock bottom before figure out how to defeat their cancer (using the techniques he forgot to explain in the previous chapter).

But anyway, on with Lipton’s message of hope.

I’ve specifically separated my discussion of Spirit and Science from the preceding chapters of the book by entitling this section the Epilogue…. When the awareness that prompted this book first came into my head twenty years ago, I saw something in it that was so profound it immediately transformed my life. In the first instant of my big “aha,” my brain was reveling in the beauty of the newly envisioned mechanics of the cell membrane. A few heartbeats later I was overtaken by a joy that was so deep and wide, my heart ached and tears flowed from my eyes. The mechanics of the new science revealed the existence of our spiritual essence and our immortality.

Yep, E coli is a many splendid thing.

For me, the conclusions were so unambiguous I instantly went from non-believer to believer.

One of the lamest appeals to authority (his own) that I’ve ever heard.

I know that for some of you the conclusions I am going to present in this section are too speculative.

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Conclusions drawn in the previous chapters of the book are based upon a quarter of a century of studying cloned cells and are grounded in the astonishing new discoveries that are rewriting our understanding of the mysteries of life. The conclusions I offer in this Epilogue are also based upon my scientific training — they do not spring from a leap of religious faith.

How the hell can you base conclusions on “scientific training” instead of science? We are about to see, I suppose.

I know conventional scientists may shy away from them, because they involve Spirit…

Indeed they do, because biologists spent at least 400 years looking for a life force. They made absolutely no progress whatsoever. Anyone who wants to start it all up again risks making exactly the same mistakes and wasting exactly the same amount of time and contributing exactly the same amount of nothing to science.

…but I am confident in presenting them for two reasons.

The first reason he gives is, bizarrely, Occam’s razor. We can skip over his explanation of it, to where he says:

The new science of the magical mem-Brain in conjunction with the principles of quantum physics offer the simplest explanation that accounts for the science of not only allopathic medicine…

Factual error. Most medicine and physiology deals with basic chemistry, not quantum physics. And of course, the cell membrane is not a brain, as Lipton himself already unintentionally established. (Recall that he argued that the membrane must be the brain of the cell as cells can’t live without a membrane. But he was wrong: they can. Thus even by his own strupid logic, the membrane is not the brain of the cell.)

…but also for the philosophy and practice of complementary medicine and spiritual healing as well.

Lipton, being an ignoramus, is trying to use Occam’s razor without knowing how to. It is not a giant dragnet that trawls the ocean floor for whatever it can pick up, but rather an incisive way of excluding unnecessarily complicated explanations. In every instance in this book, Lipton has ignored the simplest explanations, because they would have sunk his theories every single time. That’s what happened, for example, to his “proof” that the cell membrane is the brain of the cell.

Also, after so many years of personally applying the science I have outlined in this book, I can attest to its power to change lives.

Kinda vague for a testimonial, don’t you think? He recalls how–

…I ran wild-eyed into the medical library because the nature of the cell’s membrane that was “downloaded” into my awareness in the wee hours of the morning convinced me that we are immortal, spiritual beings who exist separately from our bodies.

This is Lipton using Occam’s razor.

I had heard an undeniable inner voice informing me that I was leading a life based not only on the false premise that genes control biology…

Well in this case, this mysterious source of information may have been telling him the truth. It is entirely possible that Lipton is such a moron that he was indeed living his life according to the utterly false and in fact meaningless idea that “genes control biology”. But where did he get that stupid idea from? Certainly not in any biology class.

…but also on the false premise that we end when our physical bodies die.

Factual error. The only people in the position to know whether that premise is true or not are dead.

I had spent years studying molecular control mechanisms within the physical body and at that astounding moment came to realize that the protein “switches” that control life are primarily turned on and off by signals from the environment… the Universe.

Again, an error of scale.

As vast an error of scale as can be.

The entire universe is not involved in switching on a gene. It can’t be. How can stars that blew up long before the earth was formed and whose light still hasn’t reached us reach down into someone’s kidneys or small intestines and flick a switch in a single cell, and then, in perfect sequence, flick another in another cell?

Who was it who was the first person whose mind was brilliant enough to conceive of the magnitude of Lipton’s error? Ah yes, Dr Einstein (to whom this book is dedicated!!!), and his relativity theory. Lipton, to his credit, has at least recognised some kind of affinity.

The fact that science led me to spiritual insight is appropriate because the latest discoveries in physics and cell research are forging new links between the worlds of Science and Spirit.

Factual error. He has tried throughout this book to say what he means by this and to give evidence for whatever it is, but as we’ve seen he’s failed in the most hilariously stupid and deadly dangerous ways every single time.

These realms were split apart in the days of Descartes centuries ago. However, I truly believe that only when Spirit and Science are reunited will we be afforded the means to create a better world.

Factual error. Descartes proposed that two otherwise separated realms (living spirit and inanimate matter) were in fact united in the human soul. Lipton is doing exactly the same thing. In fact it was Darwin who separated spirit from matter by relating biological adaptations to habitat rather than to God — thereby seeing nature as an autonomous kingdom, not slaves to a divine overlord; and not with one species closer to that overlord than another.

A Time of Choice

The latest science leads us to a worldview not unlike that held by the earliest civilizations, in which every material object in Nature was thought to possess a spirit.

Factual error. It doesn’t.

The Universe is still thought of as One by the small number of aborigines who survive.

Factual error. It isn’t. Sounds like Lipton read and believed Marlo Morgan, who invented her own tribe of “real” Australian Aborigines and said they believe in New Age divine oneness.

It should also be noted that a certain “relativity theory” by a Swiss-German physicist demonstrated that the universe is not “one” at all, and that there is no absolute space and time as Newton, Descartes, and all other believers in divine oneness, thought exists.

Aboriginal cultures do not make the usual distinctions among rocks, air and humans; all are imbued with spirit, the invisible energy.

Factual error. “Aboriginal cultures” is such a vague term that to ascribe attributes to it is pure racism — born albeit of even purer ignorance.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? This is the world of quantum physics, in which matter and energy are completely entangled.

Factual error. No it isn’t. That’s not what entanglement means.

Then attempts a brief history of the science/spirit split, but gets confused. Strangely, he blames Copernicus for separating science and spirit, but forgets to say why.

Then he gets to Descartes again, whom he does not recognise as the fellow into whose dualistic bed he has jumped.

A century later French mathematician and philosopher Rene Descartes insisted on using scientific methodology to examine the validity of all previously accepted “truths.” The invisible forces of the spiritual world clearly didn’t lend themselves to such analysis.

Factual error. In fact, Descartes invented a spirit world and then analysed how it connects with the physical body. But he made some foolish anatomical errors that immediately made all his speculations implausible. Just like Lipton has 450 years later!!!!!!!!!!

In the post-Reformation era, scientists were encouraged to pursue their studies of the natural world and spiritual “truths” were relegated to the realms of religion and metaphysics.

Factual error. Scientists were very often vitalists of some kind up until the late 1800s or so, for the most part. All avenues of inquiry were exhausted and contributed nothing to scientific knowledge. Just like Lipton 200 years later.

Ok, so I didn’t get as far through this as I thought I would. But at least we got up to the part where the final assault on Darwin is about to begin. It will be up soon.


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 70 (The end, almost)

September 15, 2019

Initially, I was expecting to do half a dozen posts on this at the very most. But here we are at post number 70, and well over 100,000 words (longer than the book itself!), and yet still only on page 178 of this stupid book. I contend that this is the only way to cover it. As evidence I cite the fact that while a few have criticised Lipton, absolutely no medical practitioner and no biologist have even attempted to recount his central thesis or explain any of his ideas. (Nor have his fans — they are equally baffled.) As we have seen, Lipton himself doesn’t know what his own ideas are and gets them wrong.

Thus I contend that I could not possibly have reviewed this book in any other way than quoting a chunk of it, and trying to figure what in god’s name he is really saying. In every instance, this has taken at least two and often four or five revisions before a long enough journey outside the ballpark could be made to identify his actual meaning.

And we’re still not done. But this post will get us to the end of chapter 5, which is also the end of the book, bar the epilogue, which we can get through in one more post.

Lipton, it may be recalled, has promised, at least half a dozen times at various places in the book, to clear up some loose threads in this chapter. The most important is a difficulty with using affirmations to cure cancer, which he explicitly identified, namely it doesn’t “always” work.

Of course, there is neither evidence nor any plausible mechanism by which affirmations can ever cure cancer. The technique could be a part of a stress management program and thereby have positive effects, but there are profound weaknesses in it too: dividing emotions and thoughts into “positive and negative” is infantile and inaccurate; and it can backfire as it can wind up implicitly reinforcing one’s psychological weakness.

Lipton, despite citing hundreds of studies, doesn’t deal with any such problems. (In fact he never even attempts to argue the case for using affirmations. Instead he assumes his readers use the technique and accept its efficacy as fact.) He identifies one problem with it, however: that the subconscious is “millions of times more powerful than the conscious mind”. This is what makes it look like affirmations don’t work. And this is why people give up “too soon” and become “positive thinking drop outs”. He is specifically referring to cancer sufferers with that. (He had just shown a PET scan of someone with a tumor on their breast.)

And he promised to explain how to overcome this problem in Chapter 5. So far he has only said that the problem can fixed in childhood by programming the fetus or even the gamete, to have only “positive” beliefs. With epigenetics. Somehow.

But for those who have already passed through the fetal stage and have read this far to find out how to cure their cancer, he has so far said nothing.

Has he simply forgotten what he promised them?

We’ll find out.

Lipton has been on a long-winded, non-sequiturial and environmentally deterministic rant about lack of touch being the cause of all violence. He cites about dozen studies.

These findings provide insight into the violence that pervades the United States. Rather than endorsing physical closeness, our current medical and psychological practices often discourage it.

Factual error. He provides not one example of a medical or psychological authority saying don’t touch your kids and don’t let them play. He is probably thinking of the 1930s, but maybe not. Who knows? Has anyone in their lifetime heard medical authorities in the US talking like that?

From the unnatural intervention of medical doctors in the natural process of birthing…

Again we see Lipton’s intelligent design creationism showing through: “unnatural interventions” in “natural” child birth. Had he been paying attention in biology class, he would have known that giving birth is inherently dangerous. Had he been paying attention during the birth of his own children he might have learned that it can be a bit less painful and far less dangerous with the availability of medical staff. (That said of course, there is much to criticise about birthing practices, but he makes no valid points about it whatsoever.)

…for example, separating the neonate for extensive periods from the parents into distant nurseries…

Again, he’s back in the 1930s. And the lunatics who introduced it were radical behaviourists – i.e. environmental determinists, not “genetic determinists”. The practice was ultimately debunked by those who recognised that the need for touch is an instinctive need. Had there been “Darwinistic” obstetricians, as Lipton claims are ubiquitous, they would have stopped the practice immediately.

…..and the advising of parents not to respond to their babies cries for fear of spoiling them. Such practices, presumably based upon “science,” undoubtedly contribute to the violence in our civilization. The research regarding touch and its relationship to violence is described in full at the following website: http://www.violence.de.

Again, the fools who gave out this advice (in the 1950s and 60s?) were environmental determinists, like Lipton.

And again no link to the miscreant authorities who Lipton claims still hand out this advice today. (Instead there’s that HTML link in the text, which his editor, had she been awake, would have switched to a reference. Lipton managed till now to do that himself — clearly even he is getting exhausted by this unrelenting babble.)

Then he launches into yet another tirade in which he claims — entirely without evidence — that the later success of some impoverished children in Romania who were given up for adoption is due to the biological parents having practiced “conscious conception” before and during pregnancy, and not due to genes or the practices of adoptive parents.

He thinks this is a knock out blow for the (non-existent) genetic deterministic geneticists, but of course it is not supported by the studies he cited, and moreover it completely contradicts the argument he just made about babies needing touch.

But what about the Romanian children who come out of deprived backgrounds and become what one researcher called “the resilient wonders.” Why do some children thrive despite their backgrounds? Because they have “better” genes? By now you know that I don’t believe that.

It is surprising how little he knows about the nature-nurture controversy, for someone who according to the studies he cites, must actually have encountered at least the basics. “Better” genes? Only eugenicists ever used that kind of talk, and outside of white supremacists and Royal Families, there’s none of those left.

The lesson for adoptive parents is that they should not pretend their children’s lives began when they came into their new surroundings.

This is the closest Lipton gets in the whole chapter to saying something sensible. Also, remember that food doesn’t grow in the supermarket.

We skip a lot more veering about from topic to topic from Lipton and pick it up again here:

They [adoptive parents] may not realize that their children did not come to them as a “blank slate” anymore than newborns come into the world as blank slates, unaffected by their nine months in their mothers’ womb.

Again, the genes — those things that Lipton previously claimed makes it a good idea to toss babies into swimming pools so they can instinctively “swim like a dolphin” rather than drown — have disappeared again.

According to Lipton, the resulting blank slate only gets written on not even by the environment, but by epigenetically transmitted and deterministic affirmations.

Better to recognize that programming and to work, if necessary, to change it.

HOW????? HOW????? How do you “work to change it”??????? THAT was the whole freaking point of this chapter! It’s the subject of the whole book!!!!!!!

The subconscious is “millions of times more powerful” than the conscious mind, and he was supposed to be explaining how to overcome this problem. Instead he just says “change” the behaviours of your kids.

For adoptive and non-adoptive parents alike, the message is clear: Your children’s genes reflect only their potential, not their destiny.

WHAT??? So now genes DO do something after all — they preprogram potential. Which, as we’ve seen, they don’t! And it contradicts all his previous denials that they have any influence at all!

And of course what is missing any mention of the cases where genes DO determine fate. A mutation in the dystrophin gene, for example, means you will have muscular dystrophy, regardless of parental “misperceptions” prior to conception.

He blabs on some more, completely incoherently, and then says:

Here is my challenge to you. Let go of unfounded fears and take care not to implant unnecessary fears and limiting beliefs in your children’s subconscious minds.

Yes — the fears and limiting beliefs you implant in your children should only be the necessary ones. (Sleep well and deep, dear editor.)

Most of all, do not accept the fatalistic message of genetic determinism. You can help your children reach their potential and you can change your personal life. You are not “stuck” with your genes.

Um, you are stuck with your genes. They don’t change. Nor should they. If they were so easy to change our species wouldn’t have been able to evolve in the first place. Minor flaw in Lipton’s philosophy there.

Take heed of the growth and protection lessons from cells…

Ah yes, the cells. I’d forgotten about them. Cells as a homologue for human anatomy: an idea ruined by the fact that Lipton doesn’t know the difference between a homologue and an analogue — a distinction that was cleared up for all biologists except Lipton in 1849.

…and shift your lives into growth whenever possible.

Um…. Dr Lipton…. this book was supposed to be about **stopping** the growth of cancer cells, not encouraging it. That’s quite a serious flaw, isn’t it.

And remember that for human beings the most potent growth-promoter is not the fanciest school, the biggest toy or the highest-paying job.

Stick that on your fridge. And then throw your fridge into a canal that is only 6 inches deep so everyone has to look at it on their way to work for the next 2 million years.

Long before cell biology and studies of children in orphanages, conscious parents and seers like Rumi knew that for human babies and adults the best growth promoter is Love.

Yep, not love, but Love, with a capital L. That’s the best growth promoter.

A lifetime without Love is of no account

Love is the Water of Life

Drink it down with heart and soul

And that’s end of page 180, and suddenly, the end of the book too.

And not a word about how to overcome the “millions of times more powerful” subconscious, which he promised more than half a dozen times throughout the book to explain in this chapter, and which is the whole point of his book — how to use affirmations to cure your cancer.

He just forgot that bit I guess.

The next and final post: the Epilogue.


Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 69 (Bruce Lipton doesn’t understand genetics)

September 14, 2019

Probably only two or three more posts after this one and we will be done with this unexpectedly lengthy project. Normally book reviews are not longer than the book itself, but in this case there is no other option. In fact I have erred rather too much on the side of brevity. The one achievement I am rather proud of, however, is that I have gotten to post number 69 without ever having screwed up the numbering of the posts.

Anyway, I’m sitting in a pub on the Rhine, with a good German beer as a pacifier.

Lipton continues his bizarre and entirely uninformed assault on the supposedly Darwinian obstetric profession:

The importance of parental programming undermines the notion that our traits, both positive and negative, are fully determined by our genes.

Lipton has expended a great deal of energy on this fight against genetic determinism throughout the book. Sadly, his readers do not know that absolutely no geneticist whatsoever makes the claims that Lipton attributes to them. Nor are obstetricians especially known for their Darwinism (for heavens sake).

As we have seen, genes are shaped, guided and tailored by environmental learning experiences.

Factual error. “Environmental learning”, whatever that might be, does not “shape” or “tailor” the genes themselves — that is why there’s an “epi” at the front of “epigenetics”. Nor, of course, do the studies he cited suggest anything of the sort.

We have all been led to believe that artistic, athletic and intellectual prowess are traits simply passed on by genes.

Factual error. We have not “all” been led to believe any such thing. Only those who weren’t paying attention in high school biology could have wound up believing that.

But no matter how “good” one’s genes may be, if an individual’s nurture experiences are fraught with abuse, neglect or misperceptions, the realization of the genes’ potentials will be sabotaged.

Genes, of course, aren’t intrinsically good or even “good”, they just are — they just do what they do. From an evolutionary perspective, the effects of a mutation depends entirely on the environment in which the gene finds itself. How ridiculous that a fanatical environmental determinist like Lipton doesn’t know this.

Furthermore, genes don’t have any “potential” beyond coding for a protein when they are told to. The effects of the protein depend on a multitude of variables at each step of the way after that, helping construct an enzyme, which helps make an organelle or some tiny part of a cell, which makes a tiny part of some slightly larger structure.

Let’s clear this up before we go any further. Say a particular gene codes for an adrenaline receptor in a neuron. Two siblings have received two different versions of this gene from either parent. With one version, slightly more adrenaline gets dumped into a neuron than with the other. What is heritable then, is a tendency for slightly more adrenaline to course through the nervous system in one sibling than the other.

What effect this difference will have depends on a multitude of factors. What other emotional characteristics does this individual have? What kind of body — strong or weak? What other temperamental qualities? What kind of parents? What kind of community? What kind of culture? In a passive culture more adrenaline could lead to the person becoming dominant or violent; or it could make them over compensate and wander about all fake-holy and emasculated like the Dalai Lama — depending on their personality or physical strength. Or in a military culture the higher adrenaline level might not have any consequences at all, having been subsumed by training and discipline. Or the person might be physically gentle but ruthless in business; or industrious in charity work; or meekly submissive in all things apart from ruthlessly beating their children at Monopoly; or a pain in the ass neighbour who plays the drums too loud without ever finding the beat.

(Or maybe they’ll find themselves typing angrily away at their 69th post about a stupid book by a deranged cancer quack while tanking up on German beer.)

…And would it ever make any sense to talk about the gene having reached its “full potential” in any of the above cases, or any other time ever? (Lipton is not the only one guilty of this kind of talk.)

And the studies he cited had nothing whatsoever about “misperceptions” affecting anything at all.

More importantly, what exactly does Lipton mean by “misperception”? How does he define it? How *can* he even? His whole cancer quackery — affirmations — depends, effectively, on lying to oneself.

He is always babbling about mind over matter — for example telling the body that the poison it is imbibing is not really poison, or the hot coals are not really hot. That stupid idea is obviously a “misperception”. This is a serious flaw in his already atrociously flawed quackery. It undermines the whole basis of it, even by his own twisted logic.

But back to his stunningly ignorant account of genetics.

Liza Minelli acquired her genes from her superstar mother Judy Garland and her father filmmaker Vincent Minelli. Liza’s career, the heights of her stardom and the lows of her personal life, are scripts that were played out by her parents and downloaded into her subconscious mind.

Yes, Lipton really is so stupid that he thinks there are specific genes for film-making and acting, rather than genes that can support certain behavioural tendencies in a multitude of ways, in a multitude of possibilities.

If Liza had the same genes, but was raised by a nurturing Pennsylvania Dutch farming family, that environment would have epigenetically triggered a different selection of genes.

Factual error. Some kind of factual error. Did he really say that? I find it hard to believe that Lipton thinks genes (he probably means alleles) get “selected” *after* conception, after fetal development, and well into childhood? Into adulthood? Or when??? (Of course even before conception alleles are randomly shuffled into chromosomes, not selected.)

Whatever the case, Liza Minelli would still have a nice voice and people would be happy to hear her sing in the fields; she’d still be just as athletically gifted.

The genes that enabled her to pursue a successful entertainment career would have likely been masked or inhibited by the cultural demands of her agrarian community.

What??? The genes wouldn’t have been “masked”. They’d still be there, only their influence would have different effects due to the different environment. What she’d be missing might be some training at critical developmental periods, and a reputation and contacts opening a great many doors for her. Lipton’s misconceptions about genetics are encyclopedic.

Having made an utterly absurd case for environmental determinism overruling his own hysterically stupid version of genetic determinism, he uses another example to contradict his own belief in genetic determinism.

He follows that example with another, which completely contradicts the first.

A wonderful example of the effectiveness of conscious parenting programming is superstar golfer Tiger Woods. Although his father was not an accomplished golfer, he made every effort to immerse Tiger in an environment that was rich with opportunities to develop and enhance the mindset, skills, attitudes and focus of a master golfer. No doubt. Tiger’s success is also intimately connected with the Buddhist philosophy that his mother contributed. Indeed, genes are important— but their importance is only realized through the influence of conscious parenting and the richness of opportunities provided by the environment.

Instead of special “golfing genes” like Liza Minelli’s special “acting genes”, Tiger Woods simply has Buddhist epigenetics and the kind of crass environmental determinism that has made many a childhood miserable, driven by fanatical parents trying to inscribe their personal ambitions onto the supposedly blank slate of their child — free from any genetic predispositions.

So — are we born with preprogrammed “acting genes” that our parents can mask or deselect? Or are we born as blank slates that passively receive everything our parents scrawl onto our soul? Lipton answers yes to both.

Next he suddenly veers off into yet another avalanche of copy-and-paste lecture notes.

He turns to sibling differences as the final knock down for genetic determinism. Incredibly — especially for someone with a PhD in biology — he doesn’t seem to know that siblings don’t have the same genes. He also doesn’t realise it ruins his version of environmental determinism as well, of course — which would erase sibling differences.

From that pointless tangent, he veers off on another, about letting children play. And of course it contradicts all of the already contradictory things he has just said. Now parents don’t need to teach their children anything, but just let them play.

After some long-winded babbling, Lipton says this:

Another myth I’d like to address is that infants need lots of stimulation in the form of black and white flash cards or other learning tools marketed to parents to increase the intelligence of their children.

Factual error. Flash cards are to help word recognition for children, and are in fact useful to get children to focus on reading whole words rather than spelling words out letter by letter. This is how we read for the most part. (And also why I’ve been missing so many typos lately!) But parents are indeed probably better off leaving that kind of thing to teachers. Read to them and support any interest they have in reading and writing, but leave the systematic stuff for school.

Then he hares off on yet another tangent, babbling again about play, and works in some more product placement for an author who provided Lipton with a blurb for this book.

Michael Mendizza and Joseph Chilton Pearce’s inspiring book Magical Parent-Magical Child makes it clear that play not programming is the key to optimizing the learning and performance of infants and children. [Mendizza and Pearce 2001]

We can skip all this, but I’ll note that what he says also contradicts everything he has just said about preprogramming children and/or selecting their pre-programmed genes.

After that he launches yet another copy-and-paste avalanche about research into links between lack of touch for babies and adult violence. In as much as the research has merit, it also contradicts both Lipton’s extreme genetic determinism and his extreme environmental determinism.

I sense exhaustion in anyone who has read this far, and will pull the emergency brake. With the next post, up soon, we will finish this chapter, and have only the Epilogue to get through.


What Spiritual People Don’t Know About Science — Part 8: “Science ignores the unmeasurable”

August 31, 2019

Science does not ignore the unmeasurable. But what it also doesn’t do is claim to have measured it. If you point to a rose and say it is beautiful, a scientist will not say “You can’t measure beauty, therefore there is no beauty.”

Science has a different approach. If something can’t be measured, scientists simply don’t measure it. They don’t claim to know that the rose is beautiful because God created it or because it has a portion of the divine in it. And they don’t then pretend to measure the portion.

For a couple of thousand years, scientists and philosophers di try to measure it though. They saw nature as divine. In fact, that was one of their motivations for studying it. They tried for two and a half thousand years to place every species on a great Scala Naturae or Great Chain of Being envisioned by Plato and Aristotle. It was effectively a measure of the quantity of divinity within creatures: from the cold and dry snake, to the warm and watery human. But they could never quite get animals to fit into just one position on the scale. Even Aristotle refused to kid himself it was perfect.

Eventually they figured it was better to follow one of Aristotle’s other great ideas. He had always encouraged his students to get over their instinctive revulsion towards worms and creepy-crawlies, and simply look at animals as they are. And dedicated as he was to his grand scale and his methodology, he also declared the importance of simply following the evidence and allowing knowledge to advance. He famously and wrongly argued, for example, that worker bees can’t be female because “nature gives no weapon to females”, but later added that the facts “…have not yet been sufficiently grasped; if they ever are, then credit must be given to observation rather than to theories…”

A scientist is perfectly capable of looking at a rose and finding it beautiful. They will probably be capable of seeing even more beauty in it than the average passer-by will. They might perceive it as a moment in an slowly unfolding process of seed to flower to seed, its evolution; the careful artwork of selective breeding by an earthly gardener unwittingly sculpting genes out of a wild beauty…. — all that stuff.

During a deep inhalation of the fragrance, the scientist might find themselves reflecting for a moment on how the flower uses its colour to attract bees: bees which, as they learned from other scientists, see in trippy ultra-violet colours that plants use to entice the bees to where the pollen is. They might too for a moment reflect on our own perception of beauty — the “beauty” supplied mysteriously, effortlessly and irresistibly from within; a gracious by-product, in this case, of our own evolution.

Flower seen with (left) visible light, and (right) ultra-violet and it might appear to a bee

But those experiential, perceptual, conceptual doors remain closed to those who insist on returning to the God-made-it door. That particular door, for all its popularity, usually has nothing but a brick wall behind it. It doesn’t lead anywhere.

The idea that God or the presence of a “divine element” made the rose beautiful, is not really a spiritual idea at all. In fact it’s just a bad scientific theory. (It originated, in fact, from Aristotle — divine element is his terminology.) And these days it’s just a lazy and quite banal speculation. It might cause some to hyperventilate with excitement, but really it’s just an abstract idea weighted down with private feelings of importance — which the feeler tries to somehow transfer to others, usually quite indignantly.

It must be admitted however, that science does indeed have an odd, perhaps even discomforting indifference to personal preferences and sensibilities. Doubtless this can lead to a personal dullness in scientists, and in the case of animal experimentation and military technology, a horrifying indifference to suffering, but that is not built in to science itself. Much of that (though not all) could well be classified under technology rather than science — an effort to gain control or dominance over phenomena, that could be used for good or for ill.

This distinction between science and technology can be made clearer by noting the way that all theocracies reject science, (with its unacceptable truths and free inquiry); but fall over themselves in their haste to embrace technology, (with nuclear weapons and such).

For spiritual folk, only the latter is science — the harsh destructive inhuman technology. But ask them what kind of science theocracies reject, and they will probably find themselves listing objections strikingly similar to their own: science says that we are apes, it says there is no God… Ultimately, it says things that undermine the knowledge I claim to hold and have based my identity, my worldview, and sometimes my income upon.

That impersonal follow the evidence wherever it leads mentality of science is an inconvenience for those who want to claim their own unchanging, inviolable truth.

Pity. They could have seen it as transcending egotism; as devoting oneself to a higher cause: a higher cause with no “earthly” or materialistic purpose. They could have found the impulse that Aristotle noticed and happily dedicated his life to following: “Humans, by their nature, desire to know.”

by their nature
desire to know.

Posted by Yakaru

(The other posts in the series can be found in the “Science” category on the sidebar and scrolling down quite lot. Aristotle on bees is quoted by Anthony Gottlieb, in The Dream of Reason. The final quote is the opening sentence of Aristotle’s Metaphysics.)