Welcome back to this long-running series on the discussion between quack biologist Bruce Lipton and pseudo-scientist Rupert Sheldrake. (Part 1 is here.)
Dr Bruce Lipton has invented a form of cancer quackery based entirely on complicated analogies. Cancer sufferers are in danger of believing his claims — after all, he has a Ph.D, and promises hope. But luckily his errors are easy enough to recognize, once his teachings are clearly explained: something you won’t find Lipton doing, but you can find here!
The central dogma of Lipton’s teachings is the (scientifically implausible) assertion that
We are made in the image of the cell.
Esoteric people associate this with the ancient mystical idea:
As above, so below; as within, so without.
They think that they can use this idea as a template to understand his rather garbled and convoluted teachings. But what they don’t realize is that not even Bruce Lipton understands Bruce Lipton’s teachings. In fact Lipton does not teach that we are made in the image of a cell. He doesn’t realize it himself, but what he actually teaches is that
Cells are made in the image of a person.
In other words, he has made a fundamental error of scale. As we will see, this is an important and unbelievably stupid inversion of his own illogical logic.
As I have covered elsewhere, Lipton teaches, in effect, that every characteristic a person has, is also to be found in “the cell”.
A person has sense organs to detect things; a cell has receptors to detect things. So receptors are the sense organs of the cell. This analogy only works on the most basic, even childish level, although I wouldn’t even use it with children because it’s too misleading. But for Lipton it’s not an analogy: it’s a fact. He thinks that cell receptors are literally sense organs — every bit as complex and sensitive. (Yes, he does say that. I am not exaggerating.)
And he pushes it even further, claiming that just as your sense organs perceive, so too do cell receptors “perceive”. But obviously perception occurs in a brain, and a cell does not have a brain…. You know that, I know that, but Bruce Lipton doesn’t know that.
He thinks they do have a brain. Why? Because you have a brain and you are “made in the image of a cell”. Therefore, a cell must have a brain, because this is dictated by Lipton’s teachings. So what part of the cell is its brain? Of course, it’s the cell mem-“brain”. And this mem-“brain” has perceptions, just like your brain does.
Crazy as it sounds, this really is what he is saying. It’s worth taking a moment to look at this, because Lipton thinks it’s his greatest discovery and he bases all his teachings on it. Of course, he’s got it hilariously wrong and we can laugh at him.
Lipton says that biologists believe that the cell nucleus is the brain of the cell. (They don’t — scientists don’t think that cells have brains.) And he thinks he dramatically proved them wrong once in his lab, by removing the nucleus from a cell and finding that the cell didn’t die instantly like it “should” if the nucleus is the cell’s brain.
Well, as it happens, cells can indeed live without a membrane, so by the same Lipton-logic, the membrane can’t be the “brain of the cell” either. Let me break this to you gently, Dr Bruce: cells do not have brains. People have brains, and some of them even use them.
But, regardless of all that, on with Bruce Lipton’s Amazing Cell-Brain Show.
Lipton blabs to Sheldrake:
….when I first saw cells I saw them as sentient beings, I didn’t see them as just moving around in the water. They were, like, the amoeba would go look at something and then back away and then move somewhere else, or the paramecium, and I saw them as people…
According to Lipton, the reason they scoot about like that is not just to do with the chemicals in the glob of goo they inhabit; it’s because cells have hopes and dreams. They have a brain; they perceive; they even have beliefs about the nature of their glob of goo. And of course, in true New Age style, their beliefs “create their own reality”. If they are happy with their lifestyle and perceive their glob of goo as a welcoming place, they will lead fulfilling, rewarding lives. But if they are unhappy and start harboring negative emotions in their teensy little brains, they will turn cancerous… This is where cancer comes from, according to Dr Lipton.
(No, I’m not kidding. If you bought his book The Biology of Belief but couldn’t make head or tail of it, this is in fact what it says.)
And now we will suddenly start talking about fractals, because that’s what Lipton does.
…and it turns out to be that here’s a very interesting relation if, you know, we talk about at some point in regard to fractals…
Fractals, of course, are a “repeating pattern that displays at every scale.”
(Image from Fractal Science Kit)
Esoteric people love fractals. Not only are they scientific, but they also seem to echo that “as above, so below” idea mentioned earlier. (Actually fractals don’t mean this at all. They mean something more like “as within, so even further within; without is by definition different.” But again, let us not spoil things with reality.)
Fractals are a favorite among Creationists too. The Creationist website, Answers in Genesis says: “Evolution cannot account for fractals. These shapes have existed since creation and cannot have evolved, since numbers cannot change…”
Well, indeed some structures in humans do form something like fractal growth-patterns: the lungs, and the cardiovascular system, for example. But, sadly for Lipton and his fellow Creationists, this is not evidence that we were designed by a divine Creator.
As biologists at Yale point out, “this fractal structure makes the lungs more fault-tolerant during growth” and increases surface area for absorption and transfer of oxygen and blood. In other words, survival advantages — aka evolutionary advantages.
Even more stupidly, Lipton thinks that the same degree complexity is maintained, up and down the scale — that a single cell really is as complex as a being composed of 37.2 trillion cells. He really thinks that cells are basically little humunculi each with their own brains and beliefs.
The big selling point of Lipton’s cancer cure is that if you change your own beliefs, this will somehow — he doesn’t say how — change the “cancerous beliefs” that cancer cells are harboring. Do that, and this will somehow — he doesn’t say how — stop your cells from being cancerous.
Confused? Incredulous? Well done. That means you understand more about Lipton’s teachings than he does.
The good news is that there is indeed a kind of fractal that is relevant here. It’s called Fractal Wrongness. This term was simply made for Dr Lipton. It means
the state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution.
Correction: Thanks to commenter “simon” for pointing out a stupid mistake I made when I initially published this post. I used the example of a protoplast as a cell without a membrane, but here a cell wall is removed, not a membrane. In any case, the membrane can be removed from cells, so the joke I was making still stands, and the text has been amended accordingly. Anyway, Lipton himself never specifies which kind of cell he is referring as the supposed in whose image “we” are supposedly made, so I could just as easily argue that according to Lipton’ vague standards, I was completely right. And as I noted in the comments, “simon” is demanding far higher standards of me than he does of Lipton.
Posted by Yakaru