Bruce Lipton PhD: Quack, ignoramus

April 13, 2012

UPDATE April 2020 — A more thorough (and less polemical) critique of Lipton can be found here: The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton: A Final Summing Up

People googling “Bruce Lipton quack” often get referred to this blog, as that phrase was briefly mentioned in a comment on one post or another. I always got a twinge of guilt that I hadn’t written about him yet, so here goes…

Bruce Lipton, PhD has made a name for himself as a more science-savvy version of Deepak Chopra. But Unlike Chopra, seems to have largely escaped the attention of the skeptic community. He peppers his talks with technical terms from biochemistry, hoping that no one with the relevant training will pay any close attention and call him to account. I have no relevant training, so I will deal with a fairly straight forward talk, and consider its merits.

This two minute video talk is probably a good place to start. No need to watch it. I’ve already sat through the whole two minutes of it and transcribed a few of his barely articulate and ungrammatical sentences.

 Cancer quack Bruce Lipton PhD with face-lifted cancer quack Louise Hay


Lipton tells us that the earth is going through its sixth mass extinction, which scientists say is caused by human behavior. Lipton agrees. But that’s where any agreement between Bruce Lipton PhD and modern science finishes. Lipton finds a rather curious origin for the whole thing:

Much of this human behavior is in fact related to a concept that we arose in this garden as a total result of accident, when in fact this is the complete opposite from the…the…I mean…we were, we were….it was purpose and design through the entire process.

I’d like to play dumb here and say that he couldn’t possibly be referring to evolution, because that doesn’t propose that life arose by accident or chance. But I can’t play dumb. I know he means evolution, because Creationists talk like this all the time. Now, I can understand why the average member of the public hears the words “random mutation and natural selection”, and focuses on the easiest word — random. It takes a bit of background reading to clear up the confusion: genetic mutations are only “random” within some clearly defined parameters; and beyond that, natural selection is not random, (which is why the word selection appears rather prominently in the term).

But Bruce Lipton isn’t an average member of the public. He has a PhD in developmental biology! Why is he ignorant of the most basic concepts of his own field?

 …I mean, we were, we were….it was purpose and design through the entire process.

This is straight up Intelligent Design creationism. New Agers usually don’t like to number themselves with fundamentalist Christians, and neither does Lipton. He seems to have pulled back from saying, “we were…we were designed.”

And the relevance about that is that when we bought into the Darwinian theory…

Hold it right there, buddy! Now this is really getting stupid. How can someone with a PhD in biology think that biologists “bought into” evolution? How can he not know why evolution is one of the foundational concepts of biology? (Hint for Bruce: it’s been confirmed and reconfirmed by every single finding in every possible field of study from plate tectonics to genetics.)

And his reference to “the Darwinian theory” is also telling. Creationists also make this error, thinking that evolution is “only a theory”, or only one theory among many. But “theory” in this sense means the practical application of established knowledge — obviously not Dr Lipton’s strong suit.

Lipton continues:

…when we bought into the Darwinian theory, we bought into a way of life that’s based on survival of the fittest and the struggle for life.

This is a common error even among academics. But that doesn’t make it any less dumb. Fittest doesn’t refer to gym training here; it refers to suitability to a particular habitat. As often as not, the fittest are the smaller ones or the ones who co-operate, or remain loyal, or the ones who turned vegetarian. This is really really basic stuff. Why doesn’t Lipton know it?

And the actual theory of evolution would be the survival of those that cooperate, and the, and the, community of life, and that’s a completely different way of looking at life.

You idiot, Bruce…..Cooperative and social behavior among animals is routinely considered in the light of natural selection. Darwin wrote about it at length, and since then, there’s about 150 years worth of research into it which you don’t seem to have noticed. You have some reading to do Dr Bruce.

So where is all this heading? 

We are right now facing a major extinction which may surprise people who look at the world and don’t see much going on, it’s like that’s the big surprise, we are already into the final hoo har.

The Final Hoo Har:

This is a central part of the Lipton Theory of Evolution, and it’s starting to make me think that normal Creationists aren’t so bad after all. It refers to the Friday before Christmas of this year. Yup, that’s right. “The Darwinian theory” doesn’t predict that the world will end on Friday December 21st 2012. But the Lipton Theory does! [Cue music]

And yet I’m not concerned, for the very simple reason that the earth is a living thing, and um…

Okay Bruce, the earth is alive. Obviously they didn’t include any geology in your degree, as well as missing out 150 years worth of biology.

…as you’re very familiar, terminal cancer patients can be called out, everybody said man you’re out of here you’re dead, and they have a change of mind, and when they have a change of mind they have what we call a spontaneous remission.

Cancer quacks are always fearless in the face of cancer, as long as it’s not their own stupid ass on the line. As you can see, this is what Bruce Lipton uses his PhD for: to convince cancer sufferers to trust him and buy his books.

But he’s not limiting himself to scamming the sick. If you’re healthy and concerned about the state of the world, he’s got some of that PhD knowledge to help you too! 

And what we are in need of right now is a change of mind. And when the human population grabs on to a new understanding of who they are in this picture, it will offer an opportunity for a remission, and this garden will come back in full form for those will be there understanding who we are in the garden.

That’s right folks, global warming, pollution, resource depletion and all that stuff all happened because we bought into the Darwinian theory!

But the Lipton Theory will solve it all!

Buy into it now and save the world from the Final Hoo Har!

UPDATE: See also Part Two — Bruce Lipton: Quack, Creationist, Buffoon, PhD

Further Update: I am now blogging Lipton’s entire book, Biology of Belief Part 1 here.


  1. […] In an earlier post, asking for targets for me to scrutinize, Yakaru suggested I look over Bruce Lipton. I was a bit slow in jumping into the topic, so Yakaru made a post of his own. […]

  2. One day you will wake up and realise you know nothing. And on that day you will be the happiest person alive. (Whatever ‘alive’ means)

  3. No surprise that a Lipton fan isn’t sure what “alive” means. The basics of biology are not exactly Lipton’s strong suit.

  4. I thought “fittest” simply meant those whose genes are perpetuated live on, as in Dawkins _The Selfish Gene_?

  5. Yes, basically it does. Lipton is buying into a very common misunderstanding of the term. It’s often taken to mean that evolutionary theory has no place for co-operation among animals or humans. As you’*d know from reading The Selfish Gene – book that is often cited as advocating ruthless “evolutionary competition”, the book actually deals demonstrates how human altruism could easily have a genetic basis.

    Of course, it’s quite an achievement for such a raving ignorant fool like Lipton to rise to the level of a common misconception.

  6. I have cancer, am a triple qualified health professional with 5 years training and was given his video to watch by someone who gave me a massage after completing a triathlon. (They somehow thought I was negative ???) Now I know why – they presumed that was why I had cancer.

    I wanted to throw my mug of tea at it in the first 2 minutes but in order that I can make an honest judgement I wasted another hour of my precious life becoming more and more angry. These guys are always starting their sales crap with claiming they have something ‘really interesting to share’. I don’t find sharing 25 year old science papers ‘interesting’.It was about as interesting as watching paint dry. I know this guy is a real nut job and I really worry that less positive cancer patients than myself (just completed a triathlon 2 days ago age 60 still in treatment) may take this BS to heart and beat themselves up for not being positive.

    Stress has always been around and our ancestors had much more of it than us and yet cancer is increasing now predicted to be 1 in 3 people. It will affect all our friends and families.Stress was blamed for ulcers until a Nobel prize winner proved it was bacterial.

    As for the poor parents of Autistic children being blamed for their child’s disease by not loving them is beyond the pale. We don’t KNOW what causes autism yet just as we don’t know everything about cancer.

    This guy should be locked up and branded as dangerous. A cancer gene was discovered last year and the person to discover it was nominated for a Nobel prize (my oncology professor) but hey!
    Why listen to an eminent and respected world class Professor of Oncology who also happens to be a consultant pathologist too and worked at Johns Hopkins,has peer reviewed over 300 papers when I can listen to a crock of irresponsible, money making, evangelical charlatan quack??
    My heart goes out to those vulnerable and highly suggestive cancer sufferers who don’t know any better than to take this BS onboard.

    The main beneficiaries of these videos and books are the salesmen/ex medics who profit from them. Mmmmm – wonder how much they have fleeced off the vulnerable.

  7. I am planning to do some more on Lipton. There’s a part 2 of that video I used above, also 2 minutes long. So that will take up another 1000 words at least to debunk the worst parts of it.

    It’s just a case of getting in the right frame of mind so I don’t start barking at the computer screen.

    My impression is that many people only need to get a bit of a hint that someone like Lipton is talking rubbish, and they quickly see through it. It’s clear looking at the words people have googled that many already have doubts.

    But for the fearful and the desperate it’s no doubt often a different story….

  8. […] commenter on the previous post, who has cancer, reported being given a Bruce Lipton video “by someone […]

  9. You are part of the system, a brainwashed individual that can’t see beyond the mechanics of the physical, that is why you are taking apart and braking down pieces of his argument because your brain is trained to work that way, yo have to dismantle the machine to look for the non local, like cutting the cable trying to see the electrical current with your eyes, good luck with that one.
    Yes there are genes that make you predisposed to certain conditions but what turns them on or off are the signals from the environment, if you really think you are that smart instead of making ignorant conclusions, get yourself to a lab and run the experiment on your own, or maybe your knowledge does not allow you to do that, if that is the case then shut up and don’t talk about what you do not know.
    I’m a Cuban Biologist with more than 30 years of experience and what Lipton talks about I know since the seventies and unlike you we do not have a pharmaceutical industry interfering with our scientific discoveries, that is why we cure people in our little island and you in the most advanced and egocentric nation of the world still dying victim of the most basic diseases like heart conditions.

  10. I will ignore your all your nasty personal accusations, and your unsubstantiated assertions, and your over-generalizations, and your obscure references, and your grandiose claims of superiority that you don’t seem to feel any need to back up…..

    …and will instead ask you to clarify a couple of things.

    You challenged me to do an experiment on genes —

    “get yourself to a lab and run the experiment on your own”

    — but you left out some vital information about the experiment. In fact you left out nearly all of the information about it.

    Despite being a scientist, you forgot to include information like which gene (there are lots of them in the world, I understand) which environment (lots of them too) and which experiment?

    “or maybe your knowledge does not allow you to do that, if that is the case then shut up and don’t talk about what you do not know.”

    It’s hilariously funny that you accuse me of being too much of a coward to run an experiment without telling me which experiment it is. I actually thought you were a Poe for a while.


    Also — and this important — where exactly did I deny that there are genes which are influenced by the environment?

    Please notice that I am not disagreeing with you. I am asking you what the fuck you are talking about. You are being incredibly vague.

    Second, you forgot to tell me what I got wrong in the post.

    I accused Lipton of misrepresenting evolutionary theory–
    * Evolution is not random, and he is plain wrong for forgetting the whole of natural selection.
    * Evolution is not “aggressive” as he portrayed it, and I explained why.
    * Evolutionary theory does include co-operation, and he was wrong to say that it doesn’t.

    And of course, Lipton’s claim that evolutionary thought is leading to environmental destruction rests squarely on these errors. That is why I called him an ignoramus.

    You failed to address any of that.

  11. I think you missed the overarching rationale of Pepe’s argument, and repeated your mistake when you accused Lipton of being “plain wrong” on certain matters. See this: “a brainwashed individual that can’t see beyond the mechanics of the physical, that is why you are taking apart and braking down pieces of his argument”. The issue is your materialism and reductionism. In your reply, you failed to acknowledge the spiritual, and broke down pieces of arguments, finding them “wrong”, which is a binary, accusative, confrontational judgement, which is exactly the attitude that leads a species to a final hoo har, or at least, a pretty nasty ding dong. Finally, although he was rude to call you “brainwashed” and “ignorant”, he did have the good manners to commend you to his deity.

    Great post btw.

  12. Now come on! Did I ever deny we might be heading for a nasty ding dong? I think not! LOL

    (Thanks for your humour!)

  13. this is a far better look into him, for what it is worth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=868CWFe-lpE

  14. Darin, first off, thanks for providing a link. and acknowledging that Lipton’s performance in the video I used isn’t much good.

    You linked to an interview done by someone who shares similar beliefs to Lipton, and seemed keen to present him is a good light — but Lipton, never-the-less, gets his butt kicked!

    He failed to name a single one of the “hundreds of studies” he claims support him. Not one. The interviewer repeatedly invited him to do so, but for some reason he didn’t do it. Why do you think that might be?

    Metaphors about humanity being a single organism are pretty old (I heard it in about 1990) but Lipton is claiming it’s literally true, and that he’s got the studies to show that energy fields affect cells and DNA. But as he fails to identify any of these studies, all we are left with is his rather hysterical speculations. It’s not science, and as a PhD, Lipton should be ashamed of his ignorance.

    If you can identify any of these supposed “hundreds of studies”, please post some of the names or references here!!! Otherwise, we can just stick to the nice metaphor and forget about Lipton’s worthless and fraudulent claims.

  15. “…talking to Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief. We’re gonna learn some shit today, freaks!”
    Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  16. I missed that bit! Well he certainly did a good job of manifesting it.

    He’s like a drunken New Ager who corners people at parties and raves at them about esoteric books he’s barely read and makes up all the details he can’t remember. It almost makes me appreciate proper pseudo-scientists.who at least conduct authentically fake research.

  17. Is this a satirical blog post?

  18. Is that a rhetorical question?

  19. I’ve listened to Bruce Lipton interviews regarding parenting and epigenetics (he speaks of how a baby’s genes are created and altered depending on the parent’s and child’s own environment.)

    I have not done much investigation into his claims but, aside from him being a terrible communicator, what he says does make sense to me.

    When it comes to diseases, a person who has led a stressful childhood is much more likely to have all kinds of diseases – from heart disease to autoimmune disease to lung cancer. (See the ACE study)

    I have no idea about this “cancer gene” but Bruce talks about the new science showing that environment does not simply turn genes on or off but that it actually alters the genes. Our blood carries information to alter our egg or sperm genes and then to the baby in utero to further alter the genes. And, when we are born our own experiences alter our genes. This is how we evolve.

    Regarding stress, my understanding of modern stress is that it is more chronic in nature than it was in the past. I also imagine that modern foods, technologies and environment put stress on the body and mind. So much of it is not what our bodies are designed to deal with.

    Bruce talks about the fact that our own mind can create or alleviate stress. Two people might have very different interpretations and reactions to the same environment. One might find it negative, unsupportive, stressful and other might find it positive. How they interpret the environment – how their mind reacts to the environment – will have a very powerful effect on the body chemistry and therefore their health. I think we can all agree that the happier and less stressed a person is the more healthy they will be.

    Based on all this, I would agree with him that a healthy mind would help create a healthy body. Not sure that I agree with the ability to cure cancer by changing our mind. Surely, there are other factors contributing to poor health – food, pollution, toxins etc.

    I wonder if you could share your thoughts re the above. Is it all completely loony?

  20. Thanks for your thoughtful and sincere comment — a rare commodity on this thread so far! There is a lot there in your comment, but I’ll do my best to cover what I can.

    Epigentics & Parenting
    I don’t know what Lipton says about this, but in general, it does seem to be true that extreme stress in childhood can cause changes to DNA.


    By studying the brains of suicide victims, Patrick McGowan from the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, found that child abuse modifies a gene called NR3C1 that affects a person’s ability to deal with stress. The changes it wrought were “epigenetic”, meaning that the gene’s DNA sequence wasn’t altered but it’s structure was modified to make it less active. These types of changes are very long-lasting, which strongly suggests that the trauma of child abuse could be permanently inscribed onto a person’s genes.

    Note here that this is about damage caused to DNA in infants through extreme stress. I suspect Lipton may be using work similar to this to twist into an argument that if DNA can be damaged, then it can also be somehow improved. If he does say that, he’s misusing such research. Note also that proper scientific research like this clearly identifies or investigates physiological mechanisms by which the changes occur, and clearly delineates the limits of the research. And it builds on current knowledge and uses other research to support its conclusions.

    What you’ll see Lipton doing is using tangentially relevant research as a launching pad for wild unsubstantiated leaps of speculation which he presents as fact.

    You can catch him doing that if you watch how he constructs his arguments.

    Your point about the modern world creating stress is a common one in New Age circles. There’s also, I guess a good measure of common sense involved in too, in that we usually feel happier wandering in a forest than down a crowded city street. But I think there’s also a good deal of marketing and image management going on there from those with “natural” products to sell.

    Our quality of life has improved dramatically over the last decades and centuries, as reflected in increases in life expectancy and average height, and decreases in infant mortality.

    You wrote:
    “Bruce talks about the fact that our own mind can create or alleviate stress.”

    I’d like to re-word that slightly, and change it to this: “It is completely obvious that our own mind can create or alleviate stress.” I’d be happy with that sentence in that form, because it really is not a new insight from Lipton. I’d place the issues you raise relating to it squarely in mainstream psychotherapy.

    I would add though, that in cases where stress is extreme enough to damage a child’s DNA, thought is useless against it. The victim needs to be removed to a safe environment.

    But suddenly jumping from there to cancer doesn’t make any sense to me. I think you might be following Lipton’s train of thought. I can understand why — he’s got a Ph.D and uses the terminology in a way that usually only experts are capable of doing. But he constructs very very flimsy arguments out of erroneous or irrelevant facts, strung together with speculations about mystical connections.

    The mind can affect stress, but where is the connection between stress and cancer? More to the point, where is the connection between overcoming stress and healing cancer?

    That is where Lipton’s work lies, and he hasn’t done it. He just sticks to speculating about it and using fancy terminology to mask the fact that the connections have not been demonstrated, either by him or anyone else.*

    What I see Lipton doing is making a long string of connections, something like this:
    Stress changes DNA;
    Thought affects stress;
    Therefore, thought affects DNA.

    Stress causes/heals cancer (wrong already);
    Thought affects stress;
    Therefore thought causes/heals cancer.

    See what he’s doing? It sounds logical, but it isn’t science. He is being deceitful when he calls what he’s doing science; and being dangerous when he cloaks it in the authority of his Ph.D. It’s just fancy and unfounded speculation. That’s why he publishes with Hay House and never in a proper science journal.

    This stuff is being widely researched, but Lipton has bypassed research and gone straight into sales mode.

    * One reference: http://bit.ly/UfzmiR
    This article outlines the research and concludes:
    “No mechanism by which the mind can alter the course of cancer has been convincingly demonstrated. But the jury was still out until the late 2000s, when well-resourced, carefully designed trials — with survival as the primary endpoint — repeatedly failed to show that psychological interventions were effective.”

  21. This stuff about thought affecting things touches on that problem with substance dualism and language. The thoughts are first person descriptions of physical brain events while stress and its physiological effects are a third person description.

    I’m not exactly sure if there’s an exact point to be made about it, but it feels wonky, and Lipton is the sort of quack who’d probably take anything as proof of dualism.

  22. Yep. I also think so. It’s both attractive and intuitively plausible that what we call “I” has all kinds of powers. It also rests on a whole complex of bad but highly attractive and marketable ideas that make up alternative medicine, which itself rests on an even bigger complex of bad but highly marketable ideas that make up New Age ideology.

    More blogging needs to be done on all this!

    I forgot to wish @mamajaba luck in sorting through it all. There’s a lot to sort out there, and it isn’t easy, but what I’ve often seen is that once we’ve managed to effectively debunk or see through one set of bogus claims, it gets easier. It’s a bit like the New Age has constructed a huge movie set and told people it’s reality, with facades saying “Quantum Physics Dept.” and “Cancer Research Dept” etc. One can wander through its streets for ages (reading thousands of books) and without realizing how much of it is fake.

    One only needs a small tool kit to unscrew a lot of this stuff, and at some point the whole lot collapses all at once.

    Lipton is probably a good place to start because despite all his fancy terminology, he constructs his arguments poorly and transparently enough for it to be fairly straight forward to dismantle them once one has realized that, yes they really are that bad.

  23. How could you comment abut this study?

  24. Thanks for your comment and the links.

    The studies don’t support Lipton’s ideas. They deal with developmental damage caused by stress, and they don’t find that belief causes genetic changes, in the way Lipton asserts. According to Lipton, DNA sequences can be changed by belief. But these studies show the complete opposite, namely that once the damage is done, it is permanent.

    What Lipton would need to show is that people suffering such damage could repair the damage by changing their beliefs. He has not shown shown that, despite the fact that genetics has, as these studies show, become sophisticated enough for such improvements to be clearly documented.

    What Lipton would need to do is to find people with such damage, help them alter their beliefs, and then get a second reading showing the damage has been repaired.

  25. Thank you very much.

    How could you comment about this study?

    anxiety/depression = negative thoughts that trigger/are triggered by negative feelings = become beliefs (long-term repetition)

    PS1: Lipton does not ever say that long term negative/positive thinking (beliefs) cause genetic changes, but epigenetic changes.
    PS2: Do not forget that prenatal period is the most exposed due to the most substantial development in terms of biology.

  26. @Inna,

    The above post criticized Lipton for not understanding the basics of evolutionary theory, and for claiming — without a shred of evidence — that belief is a cure for cancer.

    The studies you refer to don’t support Lipton’s teachings regarding cancer, or any of his other teachings that I know of.

    I have written a longer explanation of his ideas here —


    I suspect that you may be a little confused about exactly what Lipton’s teachings are, and how they relate to established science. Lipton flips back and forth between claiming that established science supports his views but is poorly understood by the public; and claiming that mainstream science is wrong. In fact, he totally misrepresents science and at times clearly does not understand it, and does not use any science at all to support his ideas. His teachings consist of blunt assertions and analogies presented as fact.

    Please make sure that Lipton is in fact saying the things you think he is. And in any future comments, please add some quotes from him, and relate these quotes directly to any studies you link to!

  27. I understand. I am not the partisan of Lipton’s ideas, but the sciences presented above says: thought and emotions affect cell’ s epigenome.

    “Therefore, the experiences children have early in life—and the environments in which they have them—shape their developing brain architecture and strongly affect whether they grow up to be healthy, productive members of society. This growing scientific evidence supports the need for society to re-examine the way it thinks about the circumstances and experiences to which young children are exposed.” (May 2010, National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University) http://www.developingchild.net

    But, definitely, you “hold the whole truth”; and, by the way, science is limited. Good luck with the site!

  28. @Inna,

    I am completely mystified as to what you mean. I didn’t write anything in the post or anywhere else, ever, that denies any of the research you refer to.

    I don’t think that I “hold the whole truth” and nowhere have I ever said that science is not limited. You are attributing views to me that I don’t hold, and then criticizing me for them. Why? And why here, especially? What did I do wrong?

  29. @Inna, that research may be true, and you may consider it exactly what Lipton says, and yet other things Lipton says may be untrue. Since much of what he says is confused and self-contradictory, it means little if you find something true in what he says. He criticises science for still being stuck in a mechanistic world view, but that molecules are machines. Which of his contradictory statements does he want us to take on board? Well, all of them, if possible. He doesn’t care.

    The requirement for a rational, scientific view is that it is coherent. I don’t want to post lots of detail, but if you consider his views carefully, piece by piece, you will find that they are not coherent, and many of them are demonstrably wrong. I’ll mention just one out of dozens: his ridiculous assertion that Newtonian physics doesn’t involve energy. Most of our human-scale physics (working out a vehicle’s acceleration or petrol consumption, or the trajectory of a cricket ball, for instance) can be computed to a satisfactory degree with reference to Newtonian mechanics, but not without involving energy – potential energy, kinetic energy, heat energy, etc., just not spiritual energy, which Lipton would like you to believe quantum mechanics or relativity have ushered in.

    Consider also that if his point was that thoughts affect biology via epigenetics, he would also have to accept the genes’ role in directing cell behaviour, but he states this an incorrect “assumption”, and makes the case that the cell membrane has that function. See, he just wants it all ways. I don’t think he cares much what points he makes as long as he can keep persuading people that he’s some kind of scientific-spiritual guru. He may just be an attention whore, or a huckster, or an ignoramus, or some combination. What he isn’t is right, and no, we don’t have to know everything to know that, we just have to know that one significant thing he asserts is garbage. Done, several times over.

    He may just be rather confused, but presenting some facts (as many as possible) that appear to back up your overall view, while they actually don’t, is a common tactic of the con artist. It also appears to be a common logical error we are all prone to making, and it’s quite possible he doesn’t intend any deceit. But epigenetics hardly supports Lipton’s pseudoscience any more than historical records of a Roman king called Herod support the ressurection of Jesus.

    Behind all this is the question of what Lipton’s main point is. Is it that thoughts affect human health? Yes? – well scientists everywhere have known that for decades if not centuries. Is it something more profound? Well, yes, but it’s just the usual vague newage blather that if we think happy thoughts everything will magically get better. The church of anti-materialism invites you to make a generous donation at the door in return for uplifting noises and scientific fairy-dust. How much are his dos, anybody know? It’s ok I’ve just googled. The recent “Uplift 2012” was about $130 per head per day, Four days at about $400 a head or more, say they sell just a poxy 2000 tickets, that’s nearly a million right there. Not bad money for old rope. Work (play) about two days a month, that’s $6m p.a. to add to the book and DVD sales. And one of his followers has the gall to call us materialistic cancer cells working for the evil empire! Lipton must piss himself all the way to the bank.

  30. “a raving ignorant fool like Lipton”

    Lipton is not an ignorant fool. He has a PhD for a reputable university and he knows biology and genetic theory very well. He is however essentially selling a religious idea and peppering it full of scientific concepts to give himself credibility with those who don’t understand the science. His destruction of a theory of Darwin, while knowing perfectly well that the theories he’s supposedly destroying are not modern evolutionary theories, is an example of his intellectual dishonesty. He is very much in the mould of Lafayette Ron Hubbard, and has worked out that religion dressed as science makes a lot of money. His scare tactics on cancer patients with untreatable disease, selling them a last-minute spontaneous remission is particularly cynical.

  31. i actually do think that Lipton is indeed foolish and ignorant. In all seriousness I don’t think anyone can fake having a mind as disordered and incoherent as that.

    I wouldn’t insist on it if I hadn’t waded through the first hour of this lecture —
    — to write a post on it. I wound up having to transcribe nearly the whole thing and read it back in order to work out what the hell he was talking about.

    I do, however think you are raising an extremely important consideration: that we shouldn’t underestimate just how calculated, cynical and at times evil many of these quackery and scamming operations are. I can’t count the number of times a cancer quack has swiftly trotted off to get chemo as soon as they get diagnosed with cancer.

    I’m sure there is plenty of deliberate deception on Lipton’s part, but he also moving in circles where he is surrounded by people who affirm his message and his status as a “scientist”.

    Ultimately, I decided to include some invective in this post in order to undermine his status and challenge his fans to realize that anyone with Ph.D should be ashamed to be talking such nonsense.

  32. Thank you for writing this. I was given a book by Bruce Lipton and found it completely bananas (I am a biologist). Then I looked up the reviews and wondered how people could be that ignorant and why nobody calls this guy out on his quackery. And here you are, someone who does.

  33. Thanks for your comment, @Mona. I appreciate it.

    Looking at the comments his fans leave here, they don’t understand his teachings (no surprise), and instead they simply make up their own version of them, and attribute that version to Bruce Lipton PhD.

  34. […] the modern science of genetics and misinformed the public. He is supported in this position by a group of commenters here on this blog, who point to numerous research articles in peer-reviewed […]

  35. Gee I wonder why the Placebo Effect plays such a large role in pharmaceutical drug testing protocols… Most drug companies now apply strict protocols which include double and triple blind studies that take into account the Placebo Effect and still can’t erase this pesky phenomena as a major factor in drug testing results. Talk about repeatability, if a drug company could patent and market this (Placebo Effect), that seems to have a repeatable measurable effect to one degree or another on every disease or illness on the planet. Wow now that would be something… Unlike the drugs that may or may not have an effect on a specific targeted medical condition with potentially nasty side effects included you have this “Placebo Effect” issue that seems to broadly effect everything in your physiology just based upon what you believe! Now it seems you got to beat the Placebo Effect to get any credibility for the trial drugs to be demonstrated as being an effective treatment for specific medical conditions…. I don’t know and I am far from being an expert in the medical or scientific world but I think Bruce Lipton is not too far off base with his theory that your beliefs and intent do effect your ability to heal yourself from disease.

    For you Debunkers out there go with the treatment or methods that “you believe in”. They will most likely work best for you, as your level of confidence is most likely based upon sound due diligence in concluding that your chosen method is the best treatment option for you which in turn supports your supports your belief. Maybe you are creating your own Placebo Effect… who knows but please don’t crap on other relative science based conclusions because they do not fit your perceived model of what is or is not effective in healing terminal disease. My advice is explore all the tools available to you when dealing with serious illness and measure the results but keep in mind some have very nasty side effects where as others do not…


  36. Thanks for your comment Kevin.

    I think you have misunderstood the nature of the placebo effect.

    –“Now it seems you got to beat the Placebo Effect to get any credibility for the trial drugs to be demonstrated as being an effective treatment for specific medical conditions,”–

    That’s exactly right. The placebo effect sets the standard for the effectiveness of doing absolutely no treatment at all. People do subjectively record improvement if they have received a sham treatment, and if you want to charge money for a treatment, or claim that it works, then that’s the standard you have to beat.

    I would accept your implicit statement that Lipton’s treatments would produce results identical to no treatment at all, but I would consider that a cause for concern. Obviously, attempting to “treat” any illness with something as effective as no treatment, is both dangerous and unethical.

    The placebo effect is not some mysterious healing power that science can’t explain. It’s a term that refers to the various ways that a false positive can be recorded. This can then be systematically included in the reckoning.

    –“Maybe you are creating your own Placebo Effect…”–

    Nice idea, but if that were the case, then no treatment would ever be better than the placebo control. If a treatment gets better results, then that’s an indication that there is a physiological response. If the treatment appears to bring about the predicted physiological changes, then it becomes a good tool for controlled and careful use.

    Fans of alt med often don’t realize that treatment is about balancing costs and benefits. Chemotherapy has a high cost, but it can also extend life. Lipton’s ideas have a very low short term cost, but they are, as you correctly imply, are as beneficial as doing nothing.

    –“but please don’t crap on other relative science based conclusions because they do not fit your perceived model of what is or is not effective in healing”–

    No, You didn’t understand the post. It is actually Lipton himself who has “crapped” on science. I simply pointed out that he did not even understand the ideas he was criticizing.

    The bottom line is this — if a treatment does no better than the placebo effect, then you can’t say that it works. And if it repeatedly fails to show any positive results, then one can decide not to waste any more valuable time on it.

    And above all, you have not understood Lipton’s claims:

    –“I think Bruce Lipton is not too far off base with his theory that your beliefs and intent do effect your ability to heal yourself from disease.”–

    He doesn’t claim that. Medical textbooks do — there’s a huge body of research about stress — but Lipton has not contributed anything at all to it. You are actually misrepresenting Lipton’s ideas quite badly, and I suspect you would be shocked if you really paid attention to what he is saying.

    See here, for example–

  37. Thanks for your input as well but I think you potentially miss understand the Placebo Effect to an even larger degree. It’s in the believing part… That is the” treatment” at the psychological level. Its not “no treatment” just not a physical treatment. If you think you are taking the magic pill that will cure or alleviate your condition you can get a positive effect as if you were actually taking a drug that has clinically positive verifiable effects. The Placebo Effect is unique to every individual and based solely on the power of their personal belief that what they are taking is helping them. That simple….

    For more on this do some research on Dr. David Hamilton who also holds a PHD in molecular science. His book the Science of belief is another good debunking candidate for you auspicious debunkers. He worked for a large pharmaceutical drug company testing and manufacturing drugs for many years but found that the Placebo Effect was consistently as effective on a broader scale in most cases then drugs themselves. Again does this mean that drugs don’t work. No absolutely not. Does this mean that the Placebo Effect is a control mechanism only and there are no merits to the Science of Belief healing. Absolutely not. Do not suggest this is like no treatment at all and is dangerous and unethical. Their is a reason why the Placebo Effect is a huge factor in all the new drug trials even though in this context it is not viewed as an actual treatment. Its default and Its hard to beat! If you can’t beat it you can’t get your drug to the consumer.

    Bruce Lipton is not perfect nor does he have all the answers or a bullet proof theory but he deserves some respect with regards to the research he has done in this field. If there is a better or even complimentary way, lets investigate it to its fullest potential to see if it becomes a useful tool for controlled and careful use. That’s all.

  38. I had another look at the Wikipedia entry for Bruce Liptalk. If you follow the Wikipedia link at footnote “4” to the research publications (as distinct from his theorising publications) you reach something called the US National Library of Medicine. In there you can see it returns about 17 research papers spanning the period 1955 to 1992, so perhaps there is more than one BH Lipton (assuming he did not publish his first research paper at the age of 11 vis-a-vis 1955) ???

    Someone would be doing us all a favour if they could conclusively find the specific research performed in examination of his theories, and then add a link to the Wikipedia page, directing us to the specific ? / later ? research ?

    Alternatively someone could alert the US National Library of Medicine that BH Lipton and BH Lipton are two or more different people, and maybe they could include given names in their database results, not just initials.

    Another very powerful capability and usually overlooked feature of the placebo effect is that it can be applied to research, just as well as it can be applied to healing, if you believe in something strongly enough and then carry out research to prove it (excluding mathematics from this) then 30% of the time you will prove what you set out to prove. The downside is that the other 70% could be proving something else and things get confusing from there on.

    Sadly, with mathematics the placebo effect does not seem to work at all.

    I am not sure if I inserted the following before or not:


  39. Okay, I’ll go backwards through you your points.

    –“If there is a better or even complimentary way, lets investigate it to its fullest potential to see if it becomes a useful tool for controlled and careful use.”–

    Agreed. And we can stop wasting time on the things that have been tried and have shown little or no merit.

    –“but he deserves some respect with regards to the research he has done in this field.”–

    He hasn’t done any research in this field. None. All Lipton’s teachings are speculation which he presents as fact. He has not grounded any of it in biology. I have already dealt with this here–


    I explain in that post how Lipton deceitfully uses analogy instead of biology. He is selling a bunch of groundless assertions dressed up as science. That post deals with your objections quite thoroughly, and I’d suggest you read it and post any future comments there rather than here.

    Incidentally, I hope you realize that you have not said a single word here about the things I criticized Lipton for in the article above!

    Also, the placebo effect is a medical term with a clear definition. If you redefine it as you have (“the healing power of belief”) it means you are suddenly talking about something other than the placebo effect. And in this case, you’re talking about an unfounded assertion.

    Physiology is a large part of medicine, but you, like Lipton, are ignoring it entirely, and trying to replace well supported science with unfounded assertions.

    There is indeed interesting research into certain aspects of the placebo effect — a field to which Lipton has of course contributed absolutely nothing — but that research does not support Lipton’s teachings in the slightest. See the post linked above.

    @Donald Telfer,
    Lipton’s quackery seems to have started around 1980 or so, from what he says. Since then, his only publisher as far as I know is Hay House. Anyone with access to university libraries in the US would be able to read his PhD thesis, though he certainly didn’t write his thesis on the healing power of analogies.

  40. I have to say, placebo is one of the shakiest issues. The wikipedia entry on it is quite good, and yet reading it I’m confused about what placebo is supposed to be, whether it is real or not, whether it’s useful or not, etc. There are so many contradictory studies.

    There still seems to be common confusion, even among researchers, between the broad definitions Kevin and Yakaru have used – i.e. whether placebo involves objective physical changes in our bodies, or merely makes us feel differently and report improvements subjectively.

    I don’t think it’s often noticed that the very notion of a separate mental activity having influence on physical substance is a dualism that does not fit with mainstream science. It implies that there is a person with beliefs residing inside their body (or floating somewhere?) and making changes to it. The brain is what thinks “beliefs” and also largely controls physiology, and neuroscience (as far as I’m aware) hasn’t ever found anything that could be considered a “thought” other than a physiological state or process. Depending on subtle changes in viewpoint, this can be seen as supporting the “think yourself well” brigade (since thoughts are just functions of matter) or challenging them (since they usually don’t like the monist idea that we are just lumps of matter that happen to do mental things).

    Also, what is a physical placebo? In a philosophical sense, we cannot assume that a pill is inert just because it’s made of chalk. At one time, sugar pills were used, but a quick google will show how powerful an agent sucrose is – people are apparently addicted to it, and it is implicated in a vast array of ailments. Chalk, pure water, celulose – we habitually categorise such things as inert, meaning they have no effect on the body, and then seek to measure their effects on bodies, attributing these effects to “mind over matter”. Water clearly has an effect on bodies. Try doing without it.

    And you can’t eliminate the physical placebo by just using beliefs or feelings. Nobody knows how to do that. How do you give someone a belief without making physical pressure waves in the air, or writing it down for them to read, making all sorts of electrical and chemical ripples through their brain, nervous system and bodies? What is a feeling other than brain and body activity?

    The more one looks into this, the thornier it gets. Just consider the defining paragraph from wikipedia, which says a placebo is “a simulated or otherwise medically ineffectual treatment for a disease or other medical condition intended to deceive the recipient. Sometimes patients given a placebo treatment will have a perceived or actual improvement in a medical condition, a phenomenon commonly called the placebo effect.” Now, to anyone with a rudimentary understanding of logic, that’s nonsense. If a placebo is by definition “ineffectual”, then nobody can demonstrate an “actual…placebo effect”. Contending that placebo effects are subjective, as Yakaru seems to, avoids the paradox, as does refuting the ineffectual part, as Kevin seems to. I’m not taking sides – I genuinely don’t understand it – but any researcher trying to measure the effects of something that’s ineffectual needs to see a doctor. 😀

    However, even if placebo effects were uncontroversial and well established, there is absolutely no evidence for the mechanism Lipton appears to be manically hand-waving towards, whatever it is. He just acts like someone who hopes his gut instinct has hit on the answer, and nobody will check too closely whether it matches reality.

    It is possible that belief is so strong – or perhaps mind is all there is – that we humans are lost in a kind of virtual reality (a view popular among the Law of Attraction people). Kevin hints at something along these lines with ”Maybe you are creating your own Placebo Effect” in relation to the non-believer’s choice to go with conventional treatment. It could well be that the whole of orthodoxy is just a big set of preconceptions that are being reaffirmed by sticking to certain experimental protocols, and it has its own inertia. It could be that you only get drunk when you drink alcohol because you know that’s what you always do when you drink alcohol. And perhaps you generally can’t get round this by unequivocally fooling the drinker, because we have some deep knowing about it. Effectiveness becomes subject to a mysterious navigating of the filters of Mind, and observed results just the mental filtrate.

    I don’t think Yakaru’s response quite answers it: “Nice idea, but if that were the case, then no treatment would ever be better than the placebo control.” Maybe the whole world could look exactly the way it looks, with good and bad treatments that appear to have actual, objective mechanisms, but we’re all deluded. Maybe that’s the kind of thing Lipton believes, when it suits him. He’s one of those people who run around saying everyone’s deluded, but they’ve woken up. Oh yeah, how did you wake up? They can’t explain. How do you know you’re sane? They can’t say. They can go on for hours at a time about how insane we are, but they can’t make a rational case for their own sanity. You have to give up reason. It’s a paradox. And then out comes the collection hat.

  41. This is not a criticism. But does the expression “a virtual reality” have something within its inner logic or illogic that is akin to the expression “measuring the effect of something that is ineffectual” ?

    Just toying with the English popular jargon, and the Socratic method.

    I am hoping someone will one day come up with an explanation of or rationale or definition for the alternative to virtual reality – a real virtuality.

    Or what about just abandoning the term virtual reality and using the word virtuality instead ?

    I don´t know whether placebo nicotine patches for smokers trying to quit smoking are as effective as authentic nicotine patches ?

  42. @lettersquash,
    As I understand it, placebo is a catch-all term, defined according to the parameters of a particular trial, as well in general.

    It’s not a specific single phenomenon like Travis is trying to use it.

    There’s plenty of room for exploration with all this stuff, and I’d love to see mainstream medicine pay a bit more attention to relaxation and simple caring-ness and stuff, but what that’s no need to throw out all the things we have learned or to abandon sound rigorous methodology.

  43. Interesting to see “Dr David Hamilton Phd’s” name crop up here. Hamilton has a Phd in Organic Chemistry, which he believes gives him absolute authority in everything sciencey sounding. He travels the country giving talks to middle aged women about Mind over Matter, Telepathy and the Law of Attraction amongst other woo.

    Here’s a youtube video of him discussing his ideas to cure cancer:

    He opens by misrepresenting controlled trials and the use of Placebos. He then makes a leap of faith when he asserts that neuroplasticity proves mind over matter. And by utilising this mind over matter we can always cure cancer.

    There’s no need to debunk this man here, it’s already been done here:



  44. Thanks Andy. Guys like Lipton ^ Hamilton will use science to to cloak themselves in “legitimacy” but that’s where their relationship with science ends.

  45. @Donald, good point about “virtual reality”, I think. 😉 But the whole thing got weirder as I thought about it. The idea of virtual reality is that it’s a representation of something real. But you can’t represent something unreal (even dreams and ideas are real phenomena), so the “reality” bit is superfluous. You can’t have virtual unreality. There are no unreal things. But then the representation is also real, so why call it virtual? Is representation a one-way relationship, and “real” and “virtual” just names we give to the different ends?

  46. Re: Dr Hamilton
    He uses the words amazing and incredible to describe results of trials (does he do this always ?). I am not sure why, considering the results are exactly what he would expect.
    There is a story on his website about his dog being attacked and injured by another dog. He took his dog to a vet (not a faith healer) who gave his dog painkillers, antibiotics and stitched up the wound. Subsequently the dog shows no awareness of the injury to its back, which it cannot see. I have seen a pig attacked with a machete, live on and show no awareness of a gaping wound in its side 30 cm long. In either case, the dog or the pig, the animal will recover with or without conventional treatment, and with or without a placebo effect, and with or without thinking itself well (? I could be wrong here – I do not know what the pig was thinking). To me, this tends to weaken the positive thinking cancer cure theory. There are probably other contributing factors to “miracle” cancer cures.

    “But then the representation is also real, so why call it virtual? Is representation a one-way relationship, and “real” and “virtual” just names we give to the different ends?”

    I suspect that sometime within the last 100 years someone needed to have words to label what they were developing (“it”) and what they were describing had not been discussed before. There was no single word for “it”, so they took two words and combined them into an expression “virtual reality”. Possibly the person or person´s behind this were the designers of computer games or the writers of science fiction, whoever first coined “virtual reality” were not scientists, not spiritualists, not philosophers. Maybe they had a sense of humour & liked to phrase things paradoxically.

  47. That’s a good example with the pig, @DT. The “placebo effect” is like a sticky label that some people want to stick onto whatever serves their rhetorical purposes.

  48. I must have used the placebo effect as a rhetorical device from time to time.
    I expected the pig would get a tropical infection and die within a few weeks, but it just spent most of its time lying in a pig wallow, which I would have thought was the worst most contaminated place, and the gaping wound slowly healed over. (This was in a native village, the pig had invaded a neighbour´s crops foraging once too often, hence the attack.)
    I´m not sure whether Dr Hamilton thinks conventional or unconventional cancer treatment for animals is the go, while at the same he is presumably writing and selling books to humans recommending the alternatives.

  49. I was just reading the comments here again and noticed that moving one from _Alive & Kicking_. It brought me down to earth, that raw anger at the deceit and harm caused by Lipton and similar quacks, from someone with cancer who then had the insult of the suggestion that it was because he was “negative”, and being given one of Lipton’s videos to suffer.

    But I do have a certain amount of faith in “mind-over-matter healing”, it might surprise people to know. I don’t know how effective it is, I do know Lipton’s waffling about it is worthless, but it’s a general principle I trust to some extent, rightly or wrongly.

    If I was diagnosed with something like cancer I’d go all out for the “natural” therapies. I’d be meditating a lot, staying very calm, not doing a damn thing I don’t want to, improving my diet, watching loads of comedies for laughter therapy, getting massages, doing yoga, walking, cycling, running, swimming, camping in the hills, you name it. And I’d have a hard time deciding whether powerful treatments with extremely toxic side effects are worth it.

    This isn’t to say that I believe mental states directly cure cancer (in case I sound like a complete hypocrite) – I really don’t know that, I don’t follow the research assiduously, I get the feeling that research is always inconclusive and a lot of it contradictory, so the jury is out anyway, but also, it’s a complex issue. As I used to argue on the LoA, thinking positively is good, and it affects physical reality, it just probably doesn’t do it by woo waves in the aether, while it might do it by changing your behaviour. In a similar way, being “positive” makes it more likely that you’ll make life-enhancing choices (exercise and eat healthy food, detox, etc.) and those things are likely to have some chance of curing the cancer, just as there is evidence that toxins and lack of exercise, along with genetic makeup and who knows what else, contribute to its causes. And that only begins to touch on some of the compexities of the issue. There’s this idea of whether we can just choose to be positive. If you’ve ever dealt with depression, you’ll know that it’s not always in our power, and if you’ve just had a serious diagnosis, actually being positive might be a big ask. Rushing around “being positive” could actually be “acting out”, suppressing fear rather than accepting and facing it, and just possibly increasing the risk factors (if there’s any truth in the stress connection at all).

    And then, if you have a life-threatening illness, it would make sense to be as happy as possible for the rest of the time you have (of course, it would be good if we could all apply that principle anyway, since life is a life-threatening condition, but we mostly pretend we’re invincible).

  50. From the very little I have so far seen and read of the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute online Epigenetics course (op. cit.), the contemporary environment for us and other organisms is a factor in the increasing incidence of cancer (or that is plausible to me because I think the environment has been changing, going back 200 – 300 years or so, and I think cancer has become more of a health issue over time – but the correlation does not prove the cause).

    I consider myself a person who does not get sick. I avoid doctors and dentists. It appeals to me to have the prospect or dream of thinking oneself well, but I seldom get sick in the first place.

    In one predominantly rural under-developed country where I lived the life expectancy was about 55 years, in the 1980s, whereas now it is about 35 years (partly AIDS, partly infant mortality) and I am not sure whether cancer was or is relatively common there or not. In the other rural under-developed country the life expectancy was and still is about 60 years, and what kills people is more likely related to obesity than cancer.

    In Australia and Denmark the life expectancy is about 80, and people with cancer or dying from cancer are in my daily experience or the daily experience of people I know.

    The rural communities visited in TV documentaries about human longevity (in parts of Sicily, or Okinawa, and so on, where comparatively more people live to 100 than elsewhere) I guess have never heard of Dr Hamilton, Dr Lipton, Louise Hay, Marlo Morgan etc. (Neither had I until 4 years ago.)

  51. Man, this whole blog post is so sad. We have a local MD who was terminally ill, had terminal colon cancer. On the last phase of her cancer… she came across lipton’s videos and cured herself without chemo and drugs. this is a medically documented case in my country and her collegues are still looking for some smart explanation… at least some of them, some that were more open actually experienced growth this way.

    What Bruce means by darwinism being too predominant in our society is that we’re attacking each other…it’s every man for himself, to be better than the others…to compete. Our ancestors were more authetically cooperative.

  52. @Iulian C.,

    Unfortunately, your claim that this is a “medically documented case” is useless without the documentation. Just because Lipton never provides references for the “hundreds of studies” that support his work, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to either. The comments section of this blog has higher academic standards than Bruce Lipton upholds. Please include the references!!!

    Also, you seem to understand either Darwin and modern evolutionary theory only slightly better than Lipton. You don’t seem to to think that it will cause the world to end last year, but you also don’t understand that “darwinism”, even the 19th Century version of it, actually includes a great deal about co-operation. I’m not surprised that you don’t know this, but I did criticize Lipton for his ignorance.

    Anyway, I’m waiting for all that “medical documentation”.

  53. @Julian C,

    How do you know that our ancestors were more “authentically cooperative”? For a statistical analysis showing contrary facts try Steve Pinker’s “Better Angels of our Nature” I’m sure your local library will have a copy.

  54. “Choice” an incredibly powerful word!! Consider it when you decide to turn on UTube, your TV or whatever means by which any of these messages are delivered to you.


    [CONTENT REDACTEDLarge amount of unsupported assertions and claims and no attempt to address the issues raised in the post. Chris, your next comment will be moderated too. This site is not a platform for you to make unsubstantiated claims. You will need to directly address the blog post, not ignore it, if you wish you wish to comment here again. -Site Admin]


    Drugs are the ultimate band-aid, they cover up or suppress the symptoms not heal.

    I chose to heal myself without conventional medicine-drugs and I did. The choice is yours!!!!

  55. Just read a transcript of a talk he gave based on his book: The Biology of Beliefs. He made some extraordinary claims without citing any research evidence to back them up. To set the proverbial tone, he began with an attack on the contemptible ‘dogma’ that has supposedly infected the minds of the scientific biological communities resulting in a huge misunderstanding of genetics. He’s definitely a Fools’ prophet.

    I’ve learned over the years to scrutinize individuals with academic credentials.

  56. Yeh — he can’t decide whether genetics has been distorted by the popular press and his teachings are supported by mainstream science, or whether mainstream science has suppressed “hundreds of studies” to maintain its reductionist materialist dogma.

    I wrote a more detailed post about one of his Biology of Belief lectures — https://spiritualityisnoexcuse.wordpress.com/2012/11/25/motivational-biology-with-dr-bruce-lipton-cancer-quack/

    He uses a bunch of analogies for biological processes and then claims they are real. That’s all he is doing, but he blithers on so incoherently that it’s difficult to see it.

  57. Appreciate the great discussions here re Bruce Lipton. I have heard him on webinars etc and thought what he said made sense. I am a parenting educator so I was interested in his talks re epigenetics and how environmental stress can change the gene marker. The comments made here have certainly helped me to see Bruce Lipton in a different light. I hadn’t thought about Bruce Lipton putting a new age light on his theories, I appreciate the people here drawing my attention to that. I am not religious, and it does worry me when beliefs are brought into science, politics etc…uggh

    I haven’t done the necessary research as others have done here to make any intelligent comments and I know little about biology. I won’t make any further comments except to say that I think its great to question peoples views, it certainly keeps me on my toes and forces me to question what I think is truth. So thanks to the people who created this site! Amanda

  58. Thanks for your comment, Amanda.

    I know little about biology, but much about the way information can be manipulated so that it appears convincing. In case you’re interested, the link below goes to a more detailed examination of what he’s doing — basically, presenting analogies as if they are facts.


  59. Be a scientist for at least 20 years, try to figure out what makes up our entire universe and what holds it together, then maybe you can start judging others who have had their education. After looking at science for so long, the only explanation is spiritual or of quantum mechanics. Peace Love Science

  60. You seem to know an awful lot about me, my education, my motives, and my character. You must do, because why else would you feel justified in passing judgment on me like that?

    Of course, I assume that you have been a scientist for at least 20 years, because if not then by your standards you would have no right to come here and judge me at all, would you?

    The truly strange thing about your behavior is that you haven’t even attempted to defend Lipton from ANY of the serious criticisms that I made in the post — I’ve called him a cancer quack, for god’s sake. And you said nothing about it.

    Go ahead, idiot. What did I get wrong? Tell me and I’ll retract it and apologize. Otherwise, explain why I should not criticize this dangerous / deadly cancer quack. Go on. I’m waiting.

  61. I’m glad DannyV cleared that up! I guess we can now close all of our schools, universities and research centres and go home a watch Bruce on Youtube instead.

  62. Quantum mechanics. Yeah. Far out.

  63. […] Bruce Lipton PhD: Quack, ignoramus […]

  64. Some say that Prof Bruce Lipton is Greg Jarvis..the astronaut that is supposed to be dead

  65. Who says this? I am curious. Very curious.

  66. Lipton’s theories are epigenetic woo just as they are quantum woo, it seems to me.

  67. (Re your post I must quarrel with it in that “We were designed” *would* be the passive voice, though. “It was design” is neutral but not passive.)

  68. Ach…. Thanks…. Given that I complain about Lipton’s grammar and syntax, I should do a bit better than that!

    I’ve altered the text from:
    That’s probably why he pulled back from saying “we were…we were designed,” preferring instead to put it in the passive voice.
    He seems to have pulled back from saying, “we were…we were designed.”

    I have no idea why spiritual folk love epigenetics so much. They usually seem to believe in some kind of epigenetic determinism, or even epi-eugenics!

  69. It’s taken a long time to read through all these comments and find some sense many on both sides. I’ve recently read all three of Lipton’s books and found them intriguing. I did notice the lack of references, and several red flags and how heavily they are laced with metaphor. And I googled “Bruce Lipton quack.” So, perhaps he’s not meticulous. I do plan to check out several things, like whether cells can live for an indefinite period of time without DNA, or children are around six before they shift into the beta brain state. And I plan to learn more about epigenetics from other points of view.

    But I don’t want to get so bogged down looking for aphids on roses that I lose sight of the garden. I sense a lot of intuitive truth in there somewhere. Now, lest I get called out for using “intuitive truth” in a discussion based on science, I’ll remind you that some of our greatest innovators like Einstein and Tesla made their most notable cognitive breakthroughs in altered states of awareness, something resembling a trance, not by cognitive reason. Elias Howe patented the sewing machine needles in use today after a dream featuring a cannibal throwing a spear with a hole at the tip. They all built on imagery and metaphor, Lipton’s tools of trade.

    So here’s an idea: keep the baby and check out its parts, but throw out the dirty bathwater. At the very least that baby will produce some fertilizer.

    Now, please do not read this as critical of anyone, or assuming anything about anyone. I’m just suggesting that instead of tearing every word apart to discredit, perhaps looking for some new idea that could be vetted and peer reviewed by somebody else could pay off in multiple ways.

  70. Hi Sharron, thanks for your civil, considered, and articulate comment. And thanks for reading through the comments too…

    A couple of points:

    The reason I am so harsh on Lipton is because he claims he has a cancer cure for sale. Cancer sufferers have commented here, saying Lipton was recommended to them as a way of treatment.

    He has a PhD in cell biology and claims that his teachings are straight up science. In fact, his ideas are not even coherent, to say nothing of being scientific. You can use mythological thinking to find inspiration and meaning in life, and deal with stress etc, but you can’t cure cancer using analogies — which is literally what his method consists of.

    I have written about this in detail here, following the way he constructs his teachings, switching from analogy to “fact” without even noticing himself what he is doing —

    ….Einstein’s thought experiments, were based not only on fantasy, but also on mathematics and a rigorous understanding of atomic physics. His results were then checked rigorously — something Lipton evades by not submitting his work for any form of scientific review whatsoever.

    Lipton simply asserts that the cell is analogous to an individual person, and then ascribes all the attributes of a person to an individual cell. The only evidence he ash for his claim that a cell can perceive, can make decisions, and holds beliefs, is that a person can do this, and a person is analogous to a cell, therefore a cell must be able to do all that too. This is not biology.

    Then he pushes it further and asserts that a cell’s beliefs affect the behavior of the cell, and bad beliefs and turn it cancerous. So you can cure cancer by altering a cell’s beliefs. And a person can alter a cells beliefs by altering their won beliefs — somehow, he doesn’t say how, this is magically transferred to the appropriate cell, which changes its beliefs and stops being cancerous.

    But a human is complex, has complex organs of perception, and an incredibly complex brain, because a human has 100s of trillions of cells. A single cell does not have that scale of complexity, and its “behavior” is sadly not amenable to persuasion. But desperate people suffering from cancer do not have the patience to sift through Lipton’s verbiage and state his case as clearly as I just have.

    I’ve written a quite a lot about Lipton here. My impression is that he means no one any harm, and believes his own teachings, but unfortunately he does not even understand his own teachings. He does have a clear grasp of biological terms but what he builds out of them is chaotic and deadly. People die because of this.

    Lipton should state it more clearly that his ideas are mythological, and he should remember that taking mythology literally as he does is to miss the point of mythology.

    At the moment, I have written the most extensive review of Lipton’s teachings. He has contributed nothing at all to science. I don’t know how many people are dead because of his teachings. No one keeps those kinds of records, but people, including cancer quacks themselves, die from implementing this kind of belief system.

  71. Thank you for taking the time to respond so fully. I’m in complete agreement with you about not selling analogy and metaphor as medical treatment. Bernie Siegel made this clear in LOVE, MEDICINE AND MIRACLES when he pointed out that such tactics made cancer patients feel guilt and a sense of failure when it they didn’t work. It’s one thing to consider such concepts proactively, but as Lipton himself says, if you walk on a bed of coals, the least doubt will blister your feet.

    When I cited Einstein et al., my intention was to suggest that others may find inspiration in a few of Lipton’s concepts and could follow up with the science themselves. Ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere. But let’s not get sidetracked there.

    The other point I’ll respond to is the belief thing. My understanding was that belief is a human phenomenon, not a cellular one. I do not recall anything indicating that he claims individual cells have beliefs, but he might have said something that came across that way to others. I teach classes in writing memoir and hammer hard on the fact that no two people hear and understand in exactly the same way. That has profound implications for those who write about “real” life experience.

    In any event, after reading so much here, I’ll definitely be restrained and take thought about how to best express my enthusiasm for his CONCEPTS in a helpful context.

  72. I really appreciate your response…. These are complex and important issues, and I appreciate the chance to clarify my thoughts and the way I present them! I’ve spent several decades wresting with many of these ideas.

    It’s not easy to find a way to live a purposeful and creative life, while also staying within the bounds of science. Usually I’m fine with people blurring or ignoring the edges a bit, but I am opposed to people telling their customers that such mythology is backed up by science. Not only is it a falsehood in this case, but it also cheapens and distorts spirituality, in my opinion….

    In other writings here I’ve quoted Lipton directly from lectures available online. For example:

    “there is no new function that’s present in your human body that’s not already present in every single cell.”

    “If a cell doesn’t listen to the community’s voice, then the cell is not part of the community. cancer cells have withdrawn from the community. They’re still in there but they’re not listening to the voice of the community. They’re doing their own thing. Why would some cells get out of the community? And the answer is why are people homeless? Why are people out of work, or why are people out of work or why are people suffering? If their community is not supporting them at some point the cells recognize at some point “My God what do I want to be in this for?” So there’s a point that cancer starts to recognize as a result of break down of the community.”

    This really is the central point of his cancer cure: that the cell has taken on negative beliefs, and then interprets its “perceptions” in the light of these beliefs. He thinks that the receptors on a cell membrane (the mem”brain” as he calls it) aren’t just latching onto an appropriately shaped molecule; they are actually “perceiving” in the human sense of the word, and if its “beliefs” are changed, its “perceptions” are changed too.

    He also totally misrepresents biology. Nowhere in biology is it claimed that a cell should die as soon as its DNA is removed. What is predicted, however, is that a cell will cease to duplicate itself if its chromosomes are taken out.

    The reason he thinks it is significant, is because he claims that biology thinks the DNA is the brain of the cell, therefore biology must predict that a cell will die without its “brain”, just as a person will die without a brain. But biology says nothing of the sort, and as someone with a PhD in cell biology, he should know that and not be misleading his customers. He thinks that by showing the cell can live without its DNA, he is disproving a major tenet of biology, and demonstrating that the membrane is the brain of the cell instead.

    I have sympathy for his readers. Generally, if you read a book about cell biology by a biologist, you don’t get errors of this extraordinarily high degree presented as fact.

    (And incidentally, and I hope I’m not overdoing it, but fire-walking, inspirational and challenging as it can be, is in fact entirely within the laws of chemistry and physics. The temperature is lowest close to the coals. It’s a fine use of the laws of physics for ritualistic purposes. One can walk swiftly over properly prepared coals for 10 meters or so without getting burnt feet. 15 meters with even properly prepared coals, and even the pro’s start hopping about and jumping off!)

  73. Ah, yes. I see now where you’re coming from. I didn’t read that lecture, but in his books he did say something like that. I just didn’t filter it the same way you did, flipping perception into belief. I was … perceiving … in metaphor mode, not thinking literally at all. The concepts do sound nonsensical when taken literally. Thanks for clearing that up.

  74. Well it’s certainly not easy to understand quite what this fellow is coming from. The whole point of communication in science is to overcome differing perceptions of the same material. In mythological mode, it’s quite the opposite, of course — deriving personal meaning from rich and multi-layered images.

    Where Lipton is really misleading his readers is in his representation of science. He fights against genetic determinism, claiming to know how to free us from being mere puppets of our genes. But modern genetics says nothing of the sort.

  75. […] Bruce Lipton PhD: Quack, ignoramus […]

  76. Firstly, I have to say that it was fascinating and somewhat exhausting to read through all the comments here. I would like to think of my self as a critical thinker who doesn’t take anything for granted, so while a lot of the things Dr. Lipton resonated with me, I still wanted to see what the critics have to say. Don’t even know if this thread is still alive, but here goes:

    I am not particularly interested to comment on the way he discusses his views on Evolution and also don’t know in depth how “aggressively” he advocates the “mind over matter” practices to heal cancer. However, I do want to say a few things in general.

    Firstly, the absence of proof is not a proof of absence. Most of you probably have heard this phrase at some point. Quite often, what it means is that obtaining proof for certain things is very difficult. One of the critiques for the preaching of “mind can heal the body”, is that there has been no sufficient scientific trials or experiments to back up these claims and the ones that have been done, allegedly showed that the psychological factor had no effect on the healing process of complicated physical conditions (such as cancer).

    All that said, you have to realize how difficult it is to conduct a reliable study like this. You would need a significant sample of a population to undergo a study. That means you would have to find a substantial number of participants with cancer to undergo a study where they try to use the “power of belief” to cure their condition. Now the key factor in this study is that they ACTUALLY, truly need to believe that this is possible…not just “try” to believe. This is the whole premise of what Dr. Lipton and others like him advocate. You can’t “kinda” be inclined to believe, you need to surrender to the idea wholeheartedly, otherwise it is a waste of time. Now go ahead and tell a dying cancer patient to do that, let’s see how successful you are at convincing them. I am not even talking about the legal and ethical problems of such experiment (for external observers). Denying proven treatment of patients in order to conduct a study? “Probably” condemning them to a certain death? Good luck with that.

    So this is the first problem and a possible explanation to the reason, why so far, it is not possible to produce “evidence” that this method works. Now, the very nature of belief is something quite abstract and I don’t think you can accurately measure these things with conventional scientific methods.

    Point #2: The indisputable truth of science. Science has been wrong before and adjusted its “facts”. For instance the “Maternal Impression” is coined as a “long discredited medical theory”, allegedly disproved by advances in the studies of genes and their effect on the body…and then put in doubt again when scientists suddenly discovered epigenetics claiming that “hold on a sec, maybe there IS something to it”. Granted, initially “Maternal Impression” was a bit far fetched, exaggerating the effects it can have on the fetus, but the point is…turns out that the truth was somewhere in the middle (more about that later).
    Another example: The debate whether light is a particle or a wave has been long lasting and both theories were advocated with a great amount of certainty…until it has been (quite recently) discovered that it is BOTH and can behave in one manner or the other. There are many other examples, I don’t feel the need to currently list them. Not to mention certain concepts like “Quantum Entanglement” which still can not be explained by any means of “conventional” physics.

    Now, point #2 is not to say that in X amount of years we will suddenly discover that gravity isn’t real and we can actually walk out the window on the 5th floor and float to the ground unharmed, I am only saying that some “certain” things are not as “certain” as we were once led to believe…EVEN when they are supported by a great amount of scientific research. Remember the placebo effect on the part of those who conduct the research that (I think) you mentioned. Look in a specific direction long enough, back it up with enough satisfying evidence and it would seem that THIS is the truth (just like with the wave/particle duality). Einstein himself was entirely convinced light is a particle providing some VERY solid evidence…he later abandoned his own theory referring to it as one of the biggest mistakes of his career.

    Annnyway…what am I trying to say here is: I really think that truth is somewhere in the middle and an open mind will try to take useful information in any shape or form, even if there is a lot of “noise” around it. I think that a lot of the things that Dr. Lipton says are VERY important and can make a significant change in people’s life if they find the RIGHT way to use this information…by no means I am advocating an unconditional surrender to the ideas. The sceptic in me also finds it extremely difficult to believe you can cure something as extreme as cancer by the sheer power of thought…but can you cure other illnesses? Can you immensely increase your body’s ability to naturally fight the decease, which in turn might make you respond much better to conventional treatments? Absolutely. That I believe.

    Perhaps, Dr. Lipton went a bit too far in his beliefs and perhaps he can be taken as “dangerous” considering what he “makes” people believe about cancer treatment. But…

    News flash: no one is MAKING you believe anything. The burden of proof (to yourself) is on you and your intelligence. If you chose to believe something without questioning it? It is YOUR problem (or blessing?). I, personally chose to take the useful information and disregard the rest. The analogy I can give is:
    When someone sells you “magic holly water” in a bag while they truly believe it can help you, and you decide to buy it and also truly believe (or so you think) it can help you and then it does nothing. Whose fault is that? Yours or the person who sells it? Probably, a little bit of both. So that brings us a full circle back to the beginning…can you really conduct a study of “power of belief” without asking people to jump into an abyss? Can you force people to take the red pill and wake up from the Matrix? What if there is no Matrix? But the moment there is a “what if”, the experiment is no longer valid and will yield a negative result. Schrödinger’s cat is both alive and dead. Particles will change their behavior by the sheer act of observation and “measurement interference”…True belief will not be a belief if there is any shred of doubt…doubt, which you need to make a conscious and calculated decision to abandon.

    Hopefully, with this “novel” (apologies for the length), I could provide somewhat of a middle ground, even if it is only a form of a thought experiment.

  77. Thanks for your carefully considered and thoughtful comment, Sky. I am impressed that you managed to read through the whole comment thread too.

    Here are my responses to some of the points you raised…

    Lipton takes an extreme, but bewilderingly vague position on “mind over matter”. He claims you can drink water contaminated with typhoid and survive if you have the right beliefs. He thinks this is because cells not only each have a brain — all 37.2 trillion of them — but that they can also have beliefs, and that these beliefs determine “reality — somehow, he doesn’t say how.

    And he says that all 37.2 trillion of them can somehow coordinate their beliefs to believe that typhoid is healthy, and so the body “survives and thrives”. Again he doesn’t say how.

    He also says that affirmations “sometimes” fail to cure cancer because the subconscious mind sabotages them. He promised repeatedly throughout the book to explain how to overcome this problem in Chapter 5, but he simply forgot.

    The book is a complete failure on that account alone.

    Lipton promised a cancer cure and forgot to say what it was; claimed the mechanism for it would work, but it is not based on human physiology, the basic facts of which he got spectacularly and idiotically wrong. Even his fantasy version failed to work, even by his own standards.

    You will also have noticed that despite going on at length about the issues you raise, he didn’t clear any of it up for you.

    Psychological factors do play a role in healing. Stress has been studied extensively since the 1930s and medicine should pay far more attention to reducing stress in its general handling of patients. But stress appears to only exacerbate existing weaknesses and health problems — it doesn’t cause cancer by itself, as Lipton claims.

    Stress management is clearly very important, and I think also difficult to study, because different people have vastly differing capabilities in implementing it.

    Speculating about possible mechanisms is fine, as long as it is labeled as speculation — something which alternative medical practitioners bullishly refuse to do and regularly appear baffled and infuriated when it is suggested to them that they use langauge properly in this manner.

    Similarly, alt med practitioners fail to systematically record case histories, don’t know how to distinguish inference from observation when attempting a diagnosis, and generally have the same kind of approach to diagnosis as would better fit in ancient Greece.

    Then they expect to get a seat at the table at medical conferences, and claim their exclusion is a vast conspiracy.

    They fail utterly to build on existing knowledge about human physiology and medicine, preferring to invent their own physiological systems and theories. Even Lipton does this, and he has a PhD in cell biology! Yet he thinks he can fantasise brains in cells and have them perform all kinds of tricks.

    Unless people are prepared to state their ideas clearly, their ideas cannot contribute to scientific progress or human well being!

    I must ask you, as you read Lipton’s book and do take these issues seriously, how did it happen to you, that you could read 200 pages, feel that much of it resonated with you, but nevertheless not have noticed that you don’t know what the author was actually saying?

    I would really appreciate an answer to that question.

    I really don’t understand why so many people read this bestseller, be prepared to comment about on it, and yet could not say anything at all about what the book itself actually says?

  78. You’re the quack. Probably funded by big pharma.

  79. And Lipton is funded by his victims.

  80. Like the dozens of other Lipton fans on this site, Jordan Bennato doesn’t understand Lipton’s ideas. That’s why he is incapable of defending them or pointing out a single thing I’ve gotten wrong.

    Or do you want to have another try, you dumbass?

  81. Thank you. As someone who has had spiritually transformative experiences but also loves and appreciates science, I truly disdain blind acceptance of ‘quacks’… I wrote a blog about what happened to me…and can readily acknowledge that what happened to me is, arguably, subjective…even though I believe I got ‘my own proof’ that it was all real.
    Science is shared proof… versus someone’s thoughts about what is real… Lipton’s quackery is dangerous.

  82. Yes — healing is a highly complex thing. I am not at all surprised when people experience things they find unexplained by medical texts. But, as you say, science is shared proof, and no matter how convincing a person might find their own (interpretation of their) experience, they must also accept that without independent verification or at least adequate documentation, it can’t become part of medicine.

    It may well be that someone has had a significant experience in healing (and there is a very great deal I’d like to change in medical practice to include meditation, (and even just getting doctors to be nice for god’s sake!), but opening to door to perhaps genuine anecdotal accounts also opens it to the deluded, to quacks, to conmen, and to complete idiots like Lipton.

  83. […] Bruce Lipton PhD: Quack, ignoramus […]

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