Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated With Facts: Part 66 (Lipton tells ‘conscious’ parents to throw their babies into a swimming pool)

July 20, 2019

Welcome back to the Encyclopedia Liptonnica. (I have some other posts in the works, and they’ll be up soonish, but for now it’s back to Lipton.)

Alas, I must return to some stuff I skipped in the previous post. Regular commenter @Lettersquash cleared up the mystery of why Litpon keeps saying “downloading” instead of “learning” — it’s from The Matrix. (He has written an insightful article about the confusion that film caused for so many people.) As well as this, he coaxed me into looking again at the material I had hastily passed over, and of course, as he had noticed,, it contained a very silly factual error.

And looking more closely at the whole passage I realise I was wrong to hurry through it without considering what it was actually saying. I had registered that it was wrong and stupid, but thought it was irrelevant enough to ignore. I’m a bit embarrassed that it didn’t instantly strike me as insane and dangerous.

Anyway, backtracking…..

Moths fly toward the

That’s exactly where I cut it off last time. And of course, yes, the next word is


and of course it’s stupid. If moths flew toward the light, they would fly straight up towards the moon and would die without reproducing and there wouldn’t be any moths anymore. Instead, of course, they use a light source (previously the distant moon) as a positional marker to orient themselves. Thus, they will circle an artificial light and spiral down into it. Lipton could have used this as an example of how an instinctive behaviour causes problems when the environment no longer suits it, but he doesn’t seem to know about it.

This is nitpicking, but Lipton has a PhD in biology. He should know this and should be using it to support his argument if he’s going to mention it at all.

The sentence continues:

sea turtles return to specific islands and lay their eggs on the beach at the appropriate time…

Again, he’s failed to explain what’s happening: they return to the island they were born on, using the earth’s magnetic field for navigation. I don’t know which kind of turtle he is referring to, so maybe “the appropriate time” refers to seasonal migration, possibly triggered by changes in water temperature. All this involves many layers of highly complex (‘instinctive’) fixed action patterns, which undermines his earlier point that the more highly developed an organism’s nervous system, the less complex its instinct.

and the swallows return to Capistrano on a specific date…

And again he thinks it’s mysterious and spooky. Why not say “around a specific date”?

yet, as far as we know, none of these organisms have any knowledge of why they engage in those behaviors. The behaviors are innate; they are genetically built into the organism and are classified as instincts.

Ok, but he hasn’t integrated this at all with his other claims about genetics having no influence on behaviour at all.

Organisms higher in the Tree have more complexly integrated nervous systems headed by bigger and bigger brains that allow them to acquire intricate behavioral patterns through experiential learning (nurture).

He babbles on a bit longer, accepting even that humans do have some instinctive behaviours, and quotes a couple of anthropologists to convince parents that their children are more capable of learning than are sea turtles.

So far in this book, Lipton has repeatedly dismissed the whole of genetics as “genetic determinism”. He has claimed claimed that reflexive behaviours like knee jerking are identical to “reflexive” responses learned through Pavlovian conditioning. Now he suddenly and dramatically — and unbelievably stupidly — contradicts all of that, and vastly exaggerates and misrepresents the role of genetics.

We do have, of course, behavioral instincts that are innate— consider the infant’s instinct to suckle…

Yes! This is an accurate statement, more or less!

…to quickly move his hand away from fire…

No! This is a stupid statement. That is not an instinct but a reflex triggered by pain.

…and to automatically swim when placed in water.

What???? No! Factual error. Um… And kind of dangerous.

We are born with the ability to swim; infants can swim like graceful porpoises moments after they are born.

This chapter is written specifically for parents and is called “Conscious Parenting”. Conscious parents don’t drown their children. This is insane. Here is some advice from a website for parents.

No. It’s not true that babies are born with the ability to swim, though they have reflexes that make it look like they are.

A reflex called the bradycardic response makes babies hold their breath and open their eyes when submerged in water, says Jeffrey Wagener, a pediatric pulmonologist in Colorado. (Parents can cause this same reaction by blowing in their baby’s face, a response that disappears after about 6 months.)

Also, until around 6 months, babies placed in water tummy down reflexively move their arms and legs in a swimming motion, which makes them look like natural swimmers. “These reflexes don’t mean the baby can swim, though,” says Wagener.

Babies aren’t old enough to hold their breath intentionally or strong enough keep their head above water. In addition to the risk of drowning, it’s dangerous for an infant to swallow large amounts of pool water.

Still, many infant swim programs rely on these reflexes to help babies “swim.” However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn’t recommend swimming programs for children younger than 1 year old. After the age of 1, the AAP suggests checking with your child’s doctor to find out if your baby is ready to participate in a swimming program.

This is just insanely stupid from Lipton. I hope and pray that the tens of thousands of parents who read Lipton and trust him don’t try this out.

He continues:

But children quickly acquire a fear of water from their parents — observe the response of parents when their unattended child ventures near a pool or other open water.



Children can drown extremely quickly if they swallow water. So many children drowned in Australia that a law was passed forcing ANYONE, with or without children, to put a fence around their pool. In many countries it is illegal to leave infants unattended around water, to prevent exactly the kind of scenario that Lipton is telling parents is absolutely no problem at all.

Children learn from their parents that water is dangerous.

Water IS dangerous you fucking moron!

And children don’t learn to fear water if they see their parent panic.

Parents must later struggle to teach Johnny how to swim. Their first big effort is focused on overcoming the fear of water they instilled in earlier years.

Nonsense. Complete and utter rubbish.

Instincts are built in behaviors that are fundamental to the survival of all humans, independent of what culture they belong to or what time in human history they were born.

This is not only wrong, it also completely contradicts everything Lipton has previously said about genetic influences, which was also wrong. Remember he said that reflexes are all somehow learned through conditioning. Now suddenly they’re all survival instincts!

Part of his problem is that he uses a popular catch-all term — instinct — in territory where more exact language is required. A fixed action pattern is a simple reflexive action triggered by an external stimulus. Flinching (pulling the head down, raising the shoulders) at a sudden explosive noise is a fixed action pattern. Instincts are bunches of such things kind of stuck together. Insects have very complex groupings of these, like the dance of bees to communicate a geographical location; humans tend to have very simple ones which require learning to make anything of them. (Though bees can learn too.)

We inherited these from our mammalian past (though there is a tendency even among scientists to imagine they all evolved ‘on the Savannah’). They are not all designed, as Lipton thinks, to ensure our survival. Many were once useful to some little furry fellow once upon a time, but wound up coming along for the ride throughout the ages, because there was no selection pressure to get rid of it.

Humans are a partly random grab-bag of leftover instincts, some of which are still useful, some pointless, some kinda weird, and some a pain in the ass. A great deal of learning builds on the basis of these. We can learn not to flinch, not to hit out, not to cower before an dominant figure, etc. But the fixed action patterns themselves are like a half formed basis for a significant proportion of our behaviours, and the impulses are still there, regardless of whether we allow them to be expressed.

But the fixed action patterns we are born with, like the aforementioned bradycardic response, are not perfectly designed complex programs for survival as Lipton tells his readers.

But through evolution, our learned perceptions have become more powerful especially because they can override genetically programmed instincts.

I have no idea what he means by “through evolution”. By “learned perceptions” I guess he means attitudes picked up from parents. But such attitudes — depending on whatever the heck he is referring to — may be at least partly inherited (something Lipton thinks is impossible), and are in any case layered on top of a foundation of fixed action patterns.

It is stupid to say they are “more powerful” because they can “override” instincts. They can only do so to a degree, and only in certain conditions — again depending on what the hell he is referring to.

The body’s physiological mechanisms (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow/bleeding patterns, body temperature) are by their nature, programmed instincts.

Lipton is revealing his complete and utter ignorance of genetics, behavioural genetics, animal behaviour, and the entire fields of human psychology and physiology.

No. Heart rate is obviously not an “instinct”. Nor is blood pressure. And bloodflow, believe it or not, is dependent on heart rate and blood pressure, and therefore also not an instinct.

Bleeding patterns — whatever in God’s name that’s supposed to mean — are also not an instinct.

And body temperature is of course determined by external conditions and heart rate, and is of course not a freaking instinct either for heavens sake.

However, yogis as well as everyday people using biofeedback can learn to consciously regulate these “innate” functions.

Factual error. Heart rate can be altered to some degree by controlling the breath and controlling movements. These can be consciously controlled, but you can’t “consciously” order your heart to beat differently.

There may, however, be instincts that prevent stupidity. If so, Lipton is indeed capable of overriding them.

Comments welcome, but please try to address the issues raised in the article!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: