Bruce Lipton Ph.D, doesn’t understand optical illusions

May 25, 2013

In the middle of an incredibly long and garbled lecture (which I wrote about here), there is a brief segment where Dr Bruce Lipton isolates a very straight forward topic for explanation. He wants to give a short demonstration of how perceptions can be fooled.

For people who don’t feel themselves qualified to judge whether or not Lipton really has a handle on all that complicated cell biology stuff he teaches and makes enormous claims for, this is a chance to see how deals with a task that is really easy to follow along with. Either he will fool your perceptions and explain clearly what happened; or he won’t fool your perceptions and won’t explain it very well. Whatever happens, this will be a situation in which every reader, regardless of qualifications will be able to judge Dr Lipton’s performance for themselves.

…….He is going to use some optical illusions, isn’t he. Everybody likes optical illusions, and it’s an extremely easy concept both to understand and explain.


He begins. He shows the audience a picture of two boxes, A and B, each shaded red. He asks which box is bigger, A or B?


B, says the audience, and they are right. So far so good. Probably the next one will be something like this, with the question, which line is longer….


………Won’t it?…….

Huh? What the fuck is he doing? He’s put a map of the world up with South America and Europe both shaded red like the boxes, and asks which is bigger…..


Ummmm, Bruce… You’re not going to do what I think you are, are you? No, surely not. Surely you’re not that stupid…. Are you?

Oh my God. He is.

Tell me, is there anyone reading this who is unaware of the fact that maps of the world distort the proportions? Is there anyone reading this who hasn’t noticed that if you wrap paper around a spherical object it, it gets crumpled? Is there anyone who doesn’t know why that is? Is there anyone who hasn’t already realized that this map shows something of an entirely different nature from the first picture? Is there anyone who does not already know that this presentation is not going to demonstrate that perception can be fooled, but is going to be horribly stupid?

The audience kind of mumbles a bit. Lipton is going to say all the answers at the end, so he moves on. Scandinavia and India are next and the audience is again asked to choose which one looks is bigger. Followed by Alaska and Mexico, and the North and the South.

Then he gives the “answers” — the true measurements in square miles for each of them.

7A Lipton-style optical illusion: note how the distorted surface areas appear to be distorted

Lipton continues:

So what’s the point about this, and the point about it is what? This is your perception. What’s it based on? The map. And so the reality is this. Let’s look at the map. The map was made by Germans…..

Please stop, Bruce. Please….

Yes, that’s right, Bruce Lipton Ph.D has confused visual perception with cultural perception. The first picture of the two boxes showed, presumably, the true dimensions of the boxes. By following them with pictures that don’t show the true dimensions, he was AAAAAAAAARG!  AAAAARG! AAAARG! I don’t even want to explain it. He may as well have said that box B is really the smaller one but it’s much, much closer.

13Note the way that distorting the proportions differently from the first map makes the proportions appear differently distorted

Then he proudly produces a Gall-Peters Map. Lipton seems to think that this is somehow the “right one”. Well, okay, some of the surface areas are more accurate, but it’s still a distortion. Moreover, it’s distorted deliberately so that it fits with Mr Peters’ ideological beliefs. The older Mercator maps similar to the first one Lipton showed, made Europe bigger not for ideological reasons, but for practical ones. They were used primarily for navigation for shipping, and the mathematics behind the projection was specifically suited to that task. They weren’t trying to make Chileans feel insignificant or something. 

And if we’re going to talk about cultural biases here, Mercator was actually Belgian, not German as Lipton stated. And Peters, (who was a German, incidentally) was accused of arrogantly exaggerating his own importance and of exaggerating the size of both Africa and Europe at the expense of less technologically developed countries at the lower latitudes.

But let’s go back and see where Lipton is trying to go with all this: 

And the relevance of this map is what? It’s not the world as you thought it was, right?  

Wrong, Dr Bruce. The relevance of that map to the point you were attempting to make is zero. 

The Third World is twice as large as the First World, and our perceptions have been off, our perceptions which make us act in response to our perceptions.

Whatever…. But when was the last time anyone used the term “The Third World”? This sounds all very 1980s to me. 

Remember, this is all in the middle of an incoherent two hour rant about cells. This whole segment is about 3 minutes long. Then he suddenly launches back into his tirade and starts babbling about perceptions being the equivalent of beliefs — patently stupid — and that our beliefs alter the beliefs that our cells supposedly have, and from there alter our DNA and cure our cancer.

As a mind cleaner, I offer this link to a funny cartoon that Bronze Dog linked to in the comments of the previous Lipton post.

Posted by Yakaru



  1. I know a German woman who sincerely believes in angels, and who believes she saw an angel at night when she was a child.

    For my part, by the time I was about 10 years old I still believed in Santa Claus, and late one Christmas eve when I was in bed I drowsily saw a single boot and part of Santa´s leg in red trousers as he disappeared around the edge of the bedroom doorway. I still have the image of that moment in my memory. I mean I can still think back and see what I saw in my surroundings late that night. Neither of my parents believed me when I told them I had seen him. I no longer believe in Santa Claus. But I still have the image of what I imagined 45 years ago fixed permanently in my memory.

    I consider those two instances to both be cases of beliefs appearing to determine perceptions.

    In regards to Dr Liptalk, what he and his audience believe to be boxes are actually coloured-in squares projected onto a flat screen. I realise many people would not question whether a square is a box and there is a convention that a square can be called a box. But some sticklers like myself would call a square a square. Save the word box for thing like cubes and cuboids.

    Dr Liptalk should drop the maps from his lectures. They provide an inappropriate analogy for the case he seeks to make. Better, he could use the sun and the moon. Both these look to be about the same size for an observer on the earth (only), but we believe that the sun is much bigger, hence our perception that they are the same size is discounted or ignored. (I am not sure what ancient people thought about the sizes of moon and sun, maybe Australian aborigines still have some traditional notion of the relative sizes of the moon and the sun ?)

    I think the rest of his discussions about epigenetics provide a hint that the typical Dr Liptalk listener or reader has a limited capacity to think logically and/or is gullible.

    It is difficult to tell whether Dr Liptalk is a fool, or is mixed up but rather intelligent person behaving sometimes like a fool (the “mis-underestimated” George W Bush being another example of this syndrome), or is play-acting. I think I would need to meet his wife and use some unethical interrogation techniques to find out what he personally is really like when away from his clients.

  2. Actually, I think he should drop the rest of his lecture and keep the maps bit. It was by far the most coherent and best presented thing I’ve ever seen from him.

    From my side, I don’t question his intelligence or especially his honesty. Religion/spirituality is basically a large set of escape clauses from the laws of physics and biology. He has simply never questioned it, and is highly motivated (by money and status) to continue not questioning it.

    He is, however, an extremely muddled and incoherent thinker, and a highly inarticulate speaker. This provides a smoke screen that hides the fact he uses analogy rather than chemistry and physiology to connect his ideas together.

  3. On the question of honesty and sincerity vis-a-vis Dr Liptalk, I find it is very hard to tell about anyone until you either get very close to them for an extended time or you know their life story. I will never get close to Dr Liptalk and I do not know his life story.

    As another case of a public figure in the spiritual line:

    For the last 40 years or so, if anyone had asked me what I thought of the Rev Billy Graham… without knowing very much about him other than media publicity I would have said something to the effect I thought he was a basically good virtuous person who was a Christian evangelical preacher.

    Now I am not sure.

    In the meantime what happened was that Christopher Hitchens came up with the information that Billy Graham used to conduct telephone conversations with Richard Nixon, as well as other US presidents he supported. In the case of Richard Nixon the telephone conversations were recorded and transcribed. The transcripts have not been published, however they do exist and are not secret.

    According to CH, the private man Billy Graham as documented in the telephone recordings is not the basically good virtuous person his public image radiates.

    I also lapse into the use of masks, I think nearly all adults do it.

  4. From the bit that I’ve seen of Lipton, I think he’s possibly a fairly good natured and well meaning person. It’s also entirely possible that he’s a cold hearted and ruthless psychopath like most of the other successful New Age teachers.

    Certainly many of the “normal” New Agers I’ve known are very decent and smart people — so it’s certainly possible to a believer in extremely silly and dangerous things, and still be a sincere and good person. But I’ve also found, without fail,the more successful or ambitious they are, the worse their character, and spirituality is the perfect cloak for it.

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