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AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH: Rupert Sheldrake Meets Bruce Lipton (Part 1)

December 14, 2014

We have already met both Rupert Sheldrake and Bruce Lipton on this site. Both have PhDs in biology. Both present their idle speculations as fact. Both are utterly mystified as to why proper scientists ignore them. And in the following video, titled A Quest Beyond the Limits of the Ordinary, they both meet each other.

How will this go? Are we about to witness an inspiring fusion of groundbreaking new ideas? Or will this be more like an episode of the old MTV cartoon show Beavis and Butthead, only using quantum physics instead of toilet jokes?

bnbBeavis & Butthead not paying attention in high school

The action starts with Sheldrake suggesting that whereas Lipton’s work started at the cellular level and “worked upwards”, Sheldrake’s own work looks from the “top down”.

When I was working in developmental biology I got very interested in “organizing fields” — morphogenetic fields — which organize living systems, as it were, from the top down. 

This morphogenetic field, he informs us, was first postulated by Alexander Gurwitsch in the 1920s. He does not inform us, however, that its only known habitat is a fuzzy area inside his own head — and not in any place where it might influence other living organisms.

What’s more, Sheldrake presents this idea of an organizing field as if it’s radical, and a threat to modern science. But it’s not radical at all. It’s a completely mundane idea. We already know of such “top down” organizing principles — scientists refer to them as the laws of chemistry and physics.

When applied in the life sciences, these laws of chemistry and physics can be used to explain things which Sheldrake finds utterly mystifying. Like this:

If you take, say a hollyhock plant, the leaves, the flowers, the petals, have completely different structures and yet they have the same veins and the same chemicals…

This is basic high school botany. But Sheldrake, the fool, presents it to his audience as if it’s a baffling enigma. He continues:

…So the chemicals alone couldn’t explain it.

Well the chemicals alone do explain it perfectly well. Atoms are not like inert billiard balls rolling around aimlessly, needing an external hyper-physical organizing agent to boss them about. Living organisms are indeed extraordinarily complex, but the chemical processes governing their growth and development are extremely well understood.

What Sheldrake would need is some well documented anomalies that are not well explained by the known laws. But instead, what he offers his audience is the supposedly baffling mystery of how mushrooms grow. 

In hushed awe-struck tones, he describes how mushrooms send their threads out through the soil, and then “when the right moment comes”, the threads grow together and sprout miraculously up into a mushroom.

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

It may have baffled Herr Professor Doktor Gurwitsch in the 1920s, but it’s not baffling to anyone today who’s capable of opening a high school botany text. This is all basic — really really basic — botany with a splash of genetics. And Sheldrake has been too busy gawping at mushrooms to realize it.

The focus now shifts to Lipton

Wooly, useless, ignorant, cognitively docile and Prince Charles-like as Rupert Sheldrake is, he’s not as poisonously stupid as his interlocutor, Dr Bruce Lipton. As we have seen elsewhere on this blog, Lipton is a cancer quack who promotes the healing power of analogies.

So what has this got to do with Sheldrake and his non-existent “morphogenetic fields”? Are Lipton and Sheldrake really looking at the same thing from different directions?

I am sorry, but before this can be considered, I must subject the reader to a sudden burst of Lipton talking about his research and half his fucking life story along with it. He regularly subjects his audiences to hours of this. Much of it uses New Age trigger words, so his audience has a kind of dim trance-like feeling that they know what he is talking about — which, I suspect is much more than Lipton has.

Lipton:

I was still stuck in the chemical world and I identified that on the cell membrane there are these structures called receptors and there’s an interesting parallel here and that is that we are made in the image of a cell, actually, so that if I talk about a cell or if I talk about a human we’re still talking about the same thing. So the skin of a cell is very much similar to yours in the sense that it’s a boundary that contains the inside but it also has the ability to read the environment because we have eyes and ears and nose and taste and all these other receptors. Cells have on them the same things but in micro form, in a sense, so they’re reading the environment and the truth is that actually my second grade image when I first saw cells I saw them as sentient beings, I didn’t see them as just moving around in the water. They were, like, the amoeba would go look at something and then back away and then move somewhere else, or the paramecium, and I saw them as people, and it turns out to be that here’s a very interesting relation if, you know, we talk about at some point in regard to fractals, that we are made in the image of the cell. Every function that is in our human body is already present in every cell and anything you can identify in here is in a cell, digestive, nervous, reproductive systems. Every cell has even got an immune system and so the relevance that was really fun for me is that my understanding of the nature of what the cells were reading in their environment, it changed their lives and then I started to recognize this because I was cloning these cells in a petri dish and the simple thing that you’ve learned right away in culturing cells is that sometimes the environment isn’t that good when you culture them and then you put the cells in these cultures and the next thing you know is they’re sick and dying and they don’t look very good, but I found if you take those cultures and then put them into a better environment the cells immediately recover, grow and start to flourish and then all of a sudden it hit me. I said Oh my goodness I realized this, that while we see ourselves as single individual entities that’s a misperception because the living things are cells. We are communities of cells about 50 trillion cells, it’s been suggested, are making us up. Why that’s relevant is that in a simple reality we are like skin covered petri dishes and if we put our petri dishes in a good environment then we flourish and do well and if we put it in a bad environment we start to reflect what was going on in that environment and that we can come back and then get back into a good environment and recover, and why this became important is for me it took the emphasis to understand the nature of health and vitality was to look outside the cell and not look inside the cell which became to me a physical complement of the world. So the cell becomes a complement of its environment and so then the issue is what is that environment and my conventional teaching only left me in the physical world of molecules and atoms and the material world and it was at some point after I left my conventional job that I picked up a book by Heinz Pagels called The Cosmic Code and it was about quantum physics…

Stop!!!

Okay…. Some deep breaths…

It’s over now. You won’t have to read that ever again.

But I would like to pick out some very small portions of it and take a closer look….. 

…..But we can do that next time, in Part 2, okay? 

You may use the comment section if there is anything you need to talk about.

(Part 2 is here.)

Posted by Yakaru

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27 comments

  1. I couldn’t take it! I could only read one or two sentences, if you can call them sentences, of that long quote. These people are insane.

    The human body is a pretty amazing thing without saying that it is made up of amoebas.


  2. Interestingly I’ve been investigating the work of one of my local quacks who seems to be running a therapy business that is heavily influenced by Sheldrake and Lipton. I believe that Sheldrake has a hand in the business, he was a speaker at their last conference, Lipton is a speaker at their next. The therapy is called Matrix Reimprinting which of can be shortened to MR just like Morphic Resonance. It’s inventor is a mnodest chap called Karl Dawson, here’s one of his sites: http://www.e-f-t.co.uk/why-energy-medicine.html. Bob Carroll at the Skeptics Dictionary has written this article: http://skepdic.com/news/newsletter130.html.

    I can’t help but feel that this yet another commercial branch of the Sheldrake woo empire and mote dangerous quackery – in spite of the disclaimers.

    Here they are “curing” a woman of her Bipolar Disorder.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btFuQ8g37mY

    Not the comment: “From a Meta-medicine prospective Bipolar disorder in Women is a Sexual Frustration conflict which (usually) goes back to sexual abuse in childhood. In men bipolar disorder is a territorial conflict.”

    And it’s all backed up by the “Science” of Sheldrake and Lipton………disgusting!


  3. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Beavis and Butthead. lol. Brilliant. This is one of my favourite meetings of all time. Can’t wait for more anal-ysis.


  4. @Mariah,
    Liptonites always come come trooping in here indignantly shouting that
    a) it’s straight science what Lipton is teaching (add link to random epigenetics paper);
    b) that the studies have all been done but they have been suppressed (so we can’t link to them); or
    c) that they’re not defending Lipton, but everything he says might be possible so we should believe it until it’s disproven.
    All of them claim to understand it. Each contradicts the other.

    So I want to confront them with what he actually says, though regrettably this inevitably endangers innocent bystanders who might read some of it. If you have access to a welding mask, that might help.

    @Woody,
    I agree — people like Sheldrake, or Chopra usually insert the odd disclaimer where necessary, but the people they associate with are either ruthless & stupid or just ruthless (as Dawson may be) or just stupid as Lipton is. (I doubt he would personally want to hurt a fly.) The stuff you linked to is truly horrid. I may get around to looking more closely… I often don’t have the stomach for things, I confess.
    Lipton was also raving about The Matrix too. No good has come of that film.

    @Lettersquash,
    The more I think about it, the more similarities I see. Lipton is also into wordplays — mem”brain”, etc. Maybe it will be a little easier to get through it all, with Beavis & Butthead to entert—ain us!


  5. Thanks, Andy. I took a moment out of my day to email Karl to tell him to stop being a cancer quack. He replied immediately: “Not sure what you mean, I teach a trauma release therapy and if anything advise my Practitioners to stay clear of Cancer clients”.

    So I pointed him to http://www.e-f-t.co.uk/eft-for-serious-diseases.html where he’s touting his DVDs for “serious and autoimmune disease, including chronic fatigue/M.E., thyroid problems, chronic pain, cancer, and others” and he came back thanking me profusely for pointing out this mistake (“recently I had two old websites moved over to a new provider and they activated several obsolete pages, one of my jobs this week is to go through these websites and update them”)

    Two misakes, apparently –

    1) The DVD isn’t about cancer, it’s actually about “autoimmune diseases such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic fatigue, Illnesses that many people have had lots of success in overcoming with EFT”.
    2) He’s not selling the DVDs anymore (he mentions that they’re “out of date”) and he’s removed the Paypal buttons so no-one can buy them.

    Funny, both of those together, isn’t it? The DVDs are just mistakenly described on the webiste, but he’s also not going to sell them anymore.


  6. Sounds like he doesn’t want anybody going to the ASA. I’ll check his site out in a couple of days to see if there are any changes. His operation is quite near to where I live I thought I might get a journalist to try come along and try one of his course and find out if what tells his students something different to the disclaimer on the website. I just don’t want to hand over the £525 to an obvious charlatan.

    Aparrently on his other site he has recruited a couple of academics from Staffordshire University (ranked 113th in England) to support his woo! Here’s their paper, it’s a pretty low quality service evaluation but I found out that “Professor” Tony Stewart billed the NHS nearly £40k for it.

    http://matrixreimprintingus.com/mrus/wp-content/uploads/EFT-Effectiveness-in-Sandwell-Matrix.pdf

    Despite being a professor the only qualification that Stewart has is a Master of Public Health degree.


  7. Always an idea to get a few screen grabs or maybe use freezepage to keep records. The ASA in the UK does seem to be feared at times by quacks. Feel free to (briefly!) post any updates on this thread.


  8. Well. I believe I am actually dumber for having read that.


  9. This article is a classic example of disinformation.


  10. I’ve generously let your comment through moderation, Rob. So that means you’ve achieved at least one thing this week. The discussion is disinformation, not my article about it.


  11. Of course you did, you wouldn’t want to prove my point by censoring it now would you? Maybe if you had used fewer ad hominem attacks in your article it might have gone through my bullshit filter. I’d still disagree with you, but I might not have called it disinformation.


  12. What in the article was disinformation?

    Also, what was ad hominem?

    It’s not an ad hominem attack to call someone a fool if it’s accompanied by examples of foolish behavior — and I have covered that extensively here and elsewhere.

    Incidentally, your accusation that I have dishonest motives and unfair practices regarding comment moderation is an ad hominem attack.


  13. Rob, I think you’re probably working with an older firmware version. The latest firmware update removes the dependency on ad-hominem attacks, which were found to cause too many false positives in bullshit detection.


  14. If you truly believe what you’ve written, watch this and try explaining to yourself how it is possible.
    [Link to youtube of Sheldrake –ed.]


  15. Dear Anon,
    Had you read the post, you would have noticed that I criticized Sheldrake for claiming that no one knows how mushrooms grow. His claim that no one knows how pigeons home is slightly better, but still utterly useless. Unlike mushroom growth, there is considerable debate about which of numerous plausible mechanisms are in fact in play.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homing_pigeon#Navigation

    Sheldrake has contributed absolutely nothing to this issue whatsoever. Everything that science doesn’t know is not automatically a point for Sheldrake.
    Your comment is lazy and pointless. Please deal with the issues in the post if you wish to comment again.


  16. It’s been six months since my last comment regarding the Sheldrake/Lipton inspired therapy, “Matrix Reimprinting”.

    I never had the opportunity attend the course. I did however notice a wider, financial connection between the academics and NHS personnel involved in co-authoring the paper cited above. I contacted “NHS Protect” (http://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/Protect.aspx) with details of my findings, they came to my office take a statement the evidence is now with the Crown Prosecution Service awaiting a decision on further action.

    I noticed that Sheldrake was a guest speaker at their annual conference last year https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzMj2lk1sTk and this year it’s the turn of Lipton. http://matrixreimprintingevents.com/ A bargain at only £297!

    NHS Protect works closely with the Police in the UK. Maybe if we see a few arrests for fraud and they’re well publicised people will think twice before taking up these ridiculous therapies and courses, a few of their sites have already been taken down.


  17. Well done Andy!

    And thanks for the update. This is welcome news.

    While Sheldrake doesn’t spout overt quackery in the way Lipton does, he is used by quacks as a “respectable face” — much like Chopra. People protest that Sheldrake isn’t quack, but look who he shakes hands with.


  18. Thanks Yakaru. My only concern is that, given the degree of motivated reasoning, in the woo sphere any punitive action will be twisted to make these charlatans appear to be Christ like characters to be metaphorically crucified by the interests of big pharma.


  19. Yes, but it makes it easier for people who already have doubts to get sucked into it, and those are the people who I think we are trying to reach — those who are thinking “Huh? Is this for real?” That’s what I see from my site stats anyway. People search for “[name] + fraud” or some such. Seeing a serious investigation being undertaken shifts it out of the realm of “could be quantum physics” into “could be fucking dangerous”.

    Plus what happens in the UK (at least in this area) has effects right through Europe. I see that here in Germany, where alt med / quackery is state sanctioned.

    Hope you’ll keep us up to date about how this unfolds.


  20. Will do, I’m told it’s a slow process. Watch this space!


  21. It’s been sometime since my last post. Here’s the result of the prosecution that I mentioned over 18 months ago. The culprits were charged with Financial fraud, which, of course, does not disprove the Sheldrake and Lipton based therapies. But I do think that it’s indicative of the arrogant character of the proponents of such theories.


  22. Thanks for the update, Andy. The conviction is good news, but the verdict seems far too soft. In effect, they have to do 200 hours work for stealing a 150k pounds (which they will easily pay back). Not a bad worst case scenario for fraudsters. Judges always seem soft in those cases where a hefty sentence would have a genuine deterrent effect. Even a month or two in jail would have made others think twice.

    It’s also clear how easy it is for people like Sheldrake to benefit from supporting quacks without incriminating himself directly as a quack. (Lipton is less cautious than Sheldrake, and I suspect if he was ever investigated for promoting fake cancers he would be convicted — assuming the prosecutors can figure out wtf he’s talking about, and then explain it to a jury!)


  23. I see the original sheldrake-lipton video on youtube has been taken down for copyright infringement, which also makes me wonder who holds the copyright and whether any of the other copies on youtube are ligit. You could link to one of them instead and see how long it lasts, I suppose.


  24. Hi Yakuru, The sentencing was indeed lenient, I think that the Judge fell for the defence story that this pair are really saints whose only purpose in life is to save humanity. Funny a quick look at the accounts of their company shows that since they have had no access to NHS funding they are financing their business by not paying their creditors to the tune of £103,000 lastyear. So we know where the money is coming from to pay back the original theft.

    Lettersqaush – Maybe you should be searching the “Morphic Field” for the original video, or maybe just pop over to the Sheldrake or Lipton website where I think that you’ll find they are willing to share the copyright material…………… for a fee!


  25. Hi, Andy. I was really just alerting yakaru to the broken link so he could update it, as the post doesn’t make much sense without it. At least some of the talk is posted on Sheldrake’s website, but the organisers of the conference might hold the copyright rather than either of the speakers. It’s fine to publicise material for which you don’t have copyright if that is done under certain circumstances. The account at youtube was closed, rather than just the video taken down, and it says after multiple complaints, so the poster could have been a serial offender, and the issue might not have been the talk at all.

    Well done on the Matrix Reimprinting issue, by the way. I don’t know how this all fits together, but the financial fraud is obviously a different issue from fraudulent medical claims. I’ll have to research that a bit more.

    I’m pleased to see that Karl Dawson’s website now shies away entirely from claims about cancer or other serious physical diseases, and even says, after a list of the usual placebo-susceptible things EFT ‘can be used for’, “This is just a partial list of the possibilities. Again, in the words of Gary Craig ‘ Try it on everything.’ But he also suggests and is obviously a matter of common sense that ‘You should not go where you are not qualified.’ For example, in the case of serious psychological illness.” I like to think my email complaints pushed him towards this position. He claims to have invented Matrix Reimprinting. He says on his About Me page, “In 2007, Karl created the Matrix Reimprinting techniques. Since then the techniques have grown and developed. These techniques, which are a profound advancement of the previous EFT protocols, employ quantum physics and the new sciences with the use of the bodymind, for rapid personal evolution.” Clearly, not going where you’re not qualified doesn’t include QM. You just google a bit for that stuff.

    I wonder if anyone else thinks they invented MR. That would be a whole other dimension of weird, pseudoscientists bringing law suits about who invented a particular brand of magical nonsense.


  26. Oh, I forgot, you posted the original link to Dawson’s e-f-t site, Andy. I should read the comments again before I post!


  27. Okay, I’ve updated the video. (Hope it works – it’s easier to embed a video in the comments than in the post, due to a wordpress oddity.) There are several versions of it on You Tube and a heap of shorter extracts posted by various confused parties.

    Here in Germany there is all kinds of Dawson-style alt-med, thanks to the existence of the profession of “Heilpraktiker” — (health practitioner), — which involves low or non-existent medical standards to “complement” the medical profession. One recent case had “psychotherapists” getting paid by the govt to treat “traumatized” refugees with woo. One person they “treated” turned out to be a terrorist who was using it to bolster his asylum claims, until he accidentally blew himself up on the way to his target in Ansbach.



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