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Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 27 (No quantum physics yet)

February 1, 2018

Before starting, a request to anyone reading this — please be especially prepared to correct or improve anything I write about all this, no matter how trivial. I’ve been quite out of my depth with the biology so far, and am only covering it because Lipton has made such an appalling mess of it. With physics I am not only out of my depth, but wandering about on the ocean floor, being scared by jelly fish. (And thank you for reading!)

Lipton spends a few pages talking about why he didn’t study physics at university. Then he says,

It wasn’t until 1982, more than a decade after I had finished graduate school that I finally learned how much I had missed when I skipped quantum physics in college. I believe that had I been introduced to the quantum world in college, I would have turned into a biology renegade much earlier.

Forgive me, but I think it is far more likely that had Lipton studied physics he would have crashed out because he failed to comprehend the math, rather than becoming a “renegade biologist”. But he will have his chance to make me eat those words in the course of this chapter.

He continues:

But on that day in 1982….

This leads to a story about him sitting on the floor of a warehouse, when the phone rings and… That’s right, Lipton has decided that it’s not enough to tell people about physics; he also has to tell another rags to riches conversion story about how it entered his life. We can skip this one.

After a few more pages of his story, we get this explanation for the pointless excursion:

welcome to my unorthodox lecturing style! For the linear-minded, we’re officially back to quantum physics….

He appears to mean by this that his lecturing style mimics the apparent irrationality of some aspects quantum physics. If you find him hard to follow, it’s because you’re too intellectually sluggish.

And for the benefit of the “linear minded” let me point out that I didn’t skip anything important. We are not “back to quantum physics” at all because he hasn’t said anything about it yet. He seems to have gotten himself so worked up that he hasn’t realized that.

….[we’re officially back to quantum physics], through which I was delighted to learn that scientists cannot understand the mysteries of the Universe [sic] using only linear thinking.

That seems to confirm it — he really does think his “non-linear” lecturing style aids the comprehension of reality.

Then suddenly a new subheading appears out of nowhere.

Listening to the Inner Voice

And the story that had been rattling on and on pointlessly starts up again. A few pages later the story reaches its climax, as he buys a book and starts reading it. This is The Cosmic Code by Heinz Pagels, the guy who Lipton doesn’t realize went to court to call people like Lipton frauds, (as mentioned in the previous post). Using the authority of Pagels, Lipton says that “hyper-rational” biologists have limited themselves to Newtonian physics.

Physics, after all, is the foundation for all the sciences, yet we biologists rely on the outmoded, albeit tidier, Newtonian version of how the world works. We [biologists] stick to the physical world of Newton…

Factual error.

Lipton reported earlier that he used an electron microscope in his research, which is not Newtonian. He should have noticed that medical technology has advanced considerably since the time of van Leeuwenhoek.

….and ignore the invisible quantum world of Einstein…

Factual error. Quantum physics is routinely applied in medical imaging.

…in which matter is actually made up of energy and there are no absolutes.

So does this mean we can discard all those blocks of highly technical Biology 101 cut-and-paste stuff that Lipton has been overwhelming his readers with? Pity, so far those stodgy cut and pastes were the only parts of the book where Lipton hasn’t made a complete fool of himself. (Literally, the only parts.)

At the atomic level, matter does not even exist with certainty; it only exists as a tendency to exist.

We will have to wait for Lipton to explain the relevance of this for those of us who exist above the level of the atom.

All my certitudes about biology and physics were shattered!

Indeed, that does appear to have happened.

Medical science keeps advancing, but living organisms stubbornly refuse to be quantified.

Aside from the cliched nature of this rhetoric, this seems an odd way to approach quantum physics, where everything is quantified to degrees of accuracy that are unthinkable for our “Newtonian” perceptual world.

Where is Lipton going with this anti-mathematical approach?

Discovery after discovery about the mechanics of chemical signals, including hormones, cytokines (hormones that control the immune system), growth factors and tumor suppressors, cannot explain paranormal phenomena.

Ah– that’s where this is heading: into paranormal phenomena….

He continues, giving a list of “paranormal phenomena” that he claims “Newtonian biology” “can’t explain”. Of course, Newtonian physics usually deals very swiftly paranormal claims — false positives, selection bias, post hoc reasoning and misreporting all fit easily into the Newtonian world.

He offers not a shred of evidence for their existence and — notably — without saying how quantum physics can explain them.

Spontaneous healings

This term does not belong in anything purporting to be a science book. Spontaneous remission (or -regression) would be better, though even that is vague.

psychic phenomena

There has never been a single well documented “psychic phenomenon”, let alone a plural of it.

amazing feats of strength and endurance

Lipton might be surprised to learn that “amazing” is not a scientific term. You need to quantify it, establish it happened, and argue that it’s “impossible” under the known laws of biology.

the ability to walk across hot coals without getting burned

This is a specific claim at least, but that also makes it extremely easy to categorize as a factual error. As this article points out: 

“If you walk briskly across a short distance on a substance that is a poor conductor of heat you are likely to survive unscathed. If, on the other hand, you attempt the same feat on a good conducting surface you will end up in the serious burns unit. Charcoal or wood embers are poor conductors and ideal for firewalking.”

acupuncture’s ability to diminish pain by moving “chi” around the body

Factual error #1 acupuncturists do not claim that it “moves chi around the body”.
Factual error #2 chi is not a scientific concept, as there is no evidence for its existence.
Factual error #3 despite regular claims to the contrary and a plethora of poorly conducted studies, there is no good evidence that acupuncture diminishes painor helps with anything else.

Lipton continues:

Of course, I considered none of that when I was on medical school faculties. My colleagues and I trained our students to disregard the healing claims attributed to…

Why did he train his students to “disregard” these things? Why not to understand them and consider the evidence? My guess is because he did not know how to do such a thing, and hasn’t learned it since. He continues his list:

acupuncture

Again? We had this literally two sentences ago. Did he proofread any of this?

chiropractic

This is a deadly dangerous and bogus form of treatment based on the entirely unsubstantiated claim that supposed misalignments of the vertebrae are the cause of all known diseases. It might surprise some people to learn that having your neck violently jerked about or your spine twisted can be dangerous.

massage therapy

Factual error #1 There is nothing in massage therapy that “can’t be expained by Newtonian physics”.
Factual error #2 It is of course a perfectly normal, well studied, well supported, and therefore frequently utilized therapy. Lipton should know this.

prayer

This doesn’t work. That was demonstrated by the very Goddy and usually anti-scientific Templeton Foundation, which carried out the only large scale and properly conducted study on intercessory prayer ever undertaken. the only measurable effect was that some patients actually seem to do worse f they think someone is praying for them.

We denounced these practices as the rhetoric of charlatans because we were tethered to a belief in old-style, Newtonian physics.

Anyone who denounces massage therapy as the “rhetoric of charlatans” is an idiot. The other things don’t work, but are often pursued by charlatans but also by well meaning people who don’t understand the placebo effect or false positives or confirmation bias.

The healing modalities I just mentioned are all based on the belief that energy fields are influential in controlling our physiology and our health.

Factual error. Again, massage therapy is not based on such an idea. What a stupid claim Lipton is making there.

All this came under the heading “Listening to the Inner Voice”. Why?

So far this has been a bit dull, even by Lipton’s standards of dullness. And we still haven’t had any quantum physics yet, but maybe that will come under the next sub-heading: The Illusion of Matter.

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12 comments

  1. It’s weird. It should have been perfectly obvious to me that this book is going to be full of the usual pseudo-scientific bull crap, and I’ve watched the man speak so I know what a twonk he is, but I had no idea it could be this painfully embarrassing. The self-absorption, almost as if he got the Nobel Prize for Biology years ago and he’s writing his memoirs! The total lack of focus! The I-haven’t-even-bothered-to-google-a-bit idiotic arrogance! I hope you’ve booked a holiday after getting through this, Yakaru!

    I was just reading some reviews on amazon, and I despair sometimes. Many of them show symptoms of the writing style you describe. Even the complaints, like ” very heavy read to the non scientific layperson” (the cut and paste bits, presumably). It’s “written in such complex heavily scientific language that it feels like wading through treacle to get to the interesting points” (the latter presumably being the fantastical nut-jobbery). “Very difficult to stay with the book. Very factual , boring to read.” (Very factual-stroke-bullshit anyway). A different complaint: “Very subjective, almost a life history of his personal revelations on beaches and so forth.” …as well as the expected straw-man-finally-conquered, “One of the main themes epigenetics is very interesting and certainly a relief from the popular societal belief that we are a victim of our genes.” If only Brian Corner and others knew what they were victims of. Thanks for helping shed the light, Yak.


  2. When I finish it? You mean this is going to end sometime? I hadn’t thought of that. I thought this was just going to be what I my life is like now….

    And we’re not even half way through yet.

    Interesting to hear about the amazon comments. I haven’t had the nerve to look. In a way I kind of miss having his fans turning up here to accuse me of misrepresenting him, and then suddenly switching to being “neutral” when asked what exactly he teaches. (And of course as we’ve seen, Lipton himself often doesn’t know what he teaches.)


  3. “I thought this was just going to be what I my life is like now….” LLOL.
    That’s LiteralLOL (or Welsh perhaps).


  4. Thanks for the solidarity!

    My neighbours have no doubt been wondering about all the hysterical and literal laughter coming out of my apartment for the last half an hour. The next post will be up soon.


  5. Hi guys. This Lipton quack is shortly to appear in a holistic medicine conference in New Zealand to spew his rubbish. I seriously told the organisers he is a quack…and wow…what pushback I got. The idiocy is palpable. David


  6. Thanks for the notification, and I find it great that you have warned the organizers.

    It probably doesn’t work so easily with conference organizers, but when people attack me for criticizing him here, I always ask them to briefly explain the relevant aspect of his ideas. That always sends them scurrying. No one — not even Lipton — has the foggiest what he’s talking about. Unfortunately, that has been the key to his success. If they did understand it, they would not be so impressed. (Hence this painful series of posts on his work!)


  7. Doesn’t seem to have had an effect at all, just a long winded reply about pharm conspiracy, ancient ideas suppressed by religion, references to Eastern medicine, and how Lipton is boldly on a track that other doctor’s are scared to follow. The force is deep in these people. I am over it.


  8. There’s no talking to some people, especially if they’re on their own territory, and making money off it. I think it does such people good to hear a bit of dissent occasionally. But it’s disturbing to watch people harming themselves and others like that, and especially with such a flaming idiot like Lipton.

    I’m about to mention in the next post that he will be appearing at a conference on chiropractic. I’ll be quoting him accusing modern medicine of “linear thinking”, by which he means medical practitioners today only find a single cause for each illness and prescribe a drug for it, rather than seeing illness “holistically”. Of course, it’s quackery like chiropractic that traces illnesses all back to a single cause — in this case, a supposedly misaligned vertebrae.


  9. Thanks for your reply, I am going to have another go at the organisers of the quack fest I’ve told you about. I agree with you about the more weird aspects and beliefs in chiropractic and do not subscribe to the idea that illnesses can be traceable to misaligned vertebrae.
    However a few times I have had my back, neck and rib irritation and pain corrected by a couple of minor and gentle adjustments by a very gentle chiropractor who isn’t a nut and who doesn’t subscribe to the more weird ideas that go with the practice so in my personal experience it isn’t ALL bad. A physiotherapist would probably have done the same thing anyway.


  10. My impression of chiropractic is probably similar…. I would distinguish between techniques and the ideology behind them. Some work okay for certain things. Also some practitioners are more careful than others. (There have, however, been fatalities from neck adjustments.)

    There is of course plenty that could be done in the medical profession in the direction of just being nicer to people and providing a caring, supportive space, which is something even extremely esoteric “healers” do very well. Personally I’d have no problem even with someone offering ‘angelic healing’ or whatever, if it weren’t for the crazies running around saying throw away your medicines, Big Pharma is trying to kill you.

    I know first hand that there are plenty of genuinely good people who work a bit to the left of mainstream medicine, but they’ve never found a way of sifting out the scammers and the quacks.

    With Lipton, what has surprised me the most is how many basic facts of biology he gets utterly wrong. He says the ‘Central Dogma’ of genetics (to do with the way DNA manufactures proteins) is genetic determinism, which is simply isn’t. (The latter is a fanatical ideology from a wayward branch of social theory.) Yet he accuses all biologists of believing it. then he even gets genetic determinism itself completely wrong. I’m looking at his ‘quantum physics’ at the moment, and his basic factual errors would be hilarious if they weren’t deadly. And he claims that he is presenting mainstream physics which no other biologist has understood apart from him. He thinks, for example, that relativity theory is a part of quantum physics. And he tries to explain what E=mc2 means, but after 5 attempts can’t even say the equation properly.

    I could go on, but I won’t!

    Have fun anyway, if you do communicate with those event organisers again! (And feel free to drop in any reports!)


  11. Wow…the pushback was ferocious with respect to Lipton…talk about conspiracy theorists. And it appears I may be a paid troll too. This organization (International Holistic Cancer Symposium) is also promoting a live link with Ty Bollinger ( !!!) as part of their presentation in Auckland on March 23.. I have to give up. The stupid seems too strong for me right now. If you have a look at the facebook page you might find the stuff I dealing with.


  12. I looked at the IHHCS site. Amusing and sickening that they claim to promote a “scientific evidence-based approach” to cancer, and then invite Lipton.

    Maybe when I’ve got this book review finished and can sum up his insane ideas I will confront people like this… I don’t know. Usually I write this stuff aimed at people who are having first doubts and want to check out if something is for real, rather than confronting the crazies and the scammers. there are just too many of them, But I don’t mind doing the tat too occasionally if it is worth it.



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