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?
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.
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…
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