Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated with facts: the final summing up

April 13, 2020

I have noticed an up-tick in people looking for information on Bruce Lipton and I assume this must have something to do with the Coronavirus and COVID-19. A brief check and I see that he is indeed contributing his ideas to the discussion. Clearly many people are trying to figure out if there is any merit to his claim that you can use thoughts to “control your biology”, so I will offer a brief summing up of my exhaustive 77 post review of his book The Biology of Belief.

Sadly, Lipton’s book The Biology of Belief fails entirely, and in the most ridiculous manner, to provide any support for his claims. It is baffling that someone with a Ph.D in biology can get so much basic factual information in his chosen field so wrong. Worse, the argument that he constructs doesn’t even connect up with the case he is trying to make. Unsurprisingly, the result is so incoherent, contradictory, and confusing that even Lipton frequently confuses himself and forgets what his own teachings are, and more than once winds up demolishing the case he was trying to make.

In order to make the summary that follows a little clearer, I will start with an analogy.

Lipton — a cell biologist who once co-authored a highly technical research paper — is like someone with a detailed knowledge of a particular New York subway station. He knows all the exits, all the stairways and passages, the dimensions of the platforms, and even has a detailed knowledge of the door-opening mechanism on the trains. After talking about all this, authoritatively and in exhaustive detail, he suddenly claims that you can take the Number 27 line and travel directly to a particular station in Paris….. Or Mars…. It’s all possible, thanks to quantum physics and epigenetics.

Our subway expert has gotten horribly confused as soon as he tries to switch from one level to another, and steps outside his narrow field of expertise.

That may sound like I’m exaggerating, but Lipton’s errors are indeed of such orders of magnitude. He proposes that cells, (the subway station in the analogy), are each individually controlled by the brain and can be ordered to start, stop, do this, do that, simply by thinking about it. This is because each cell has its own brain, which is somehow — he never says how — connected directly to the brain in your head.

So you can drink typhoid-infected water, and if you don’t believe you’ll contract typhoid you won’t. As proof, he repeatedly tells of a man in 1880 who drank typhoid and was “completely unaffected”, as he did not believe in the existence of the germs. Lipton uses this case to attack biologists:

Instead of trying to figure out how the man avoided the dreaded disease, scientists blithely dismiss this and other embarrassing “messy” exceptions that spoil their theories.

But Lipton does not identify the man or provide any references. In fact, the man was a certain Max von Pettenkofer, and although he really did consume typhoid bacteria, Lipton gets every other detail about it wrong. Scientists did not “blithely dismiss” this incident, but rather studied it more thoroughly than Lipton himself did. And Pettenkofer was not “entirely unaffected”, but became severely ill, suffered from what medical historians report as “violent diarrhoea”. And it wasn’t “mind over matter” that stopped him dying, but rather, the fact that he had already had typhoid as a child and was probably still partially immune.

This kind of mistake happens to Lipton several times in the book– he cites a case, gets the details completely wrong, and correcting the mistakes shows the case to demolish the claims he was trying to support. But his audience won’t know, unless they research the whole thing themselves. A complete failure for Lipton, and a deadly mistake for those who don’t realise he is often lying to them and concealing the checkable details, or simply too stupid and ignorant to realise how far out of his depth he is.

And yes, Lipton really does claim that each cell in your body literally has its own brain. His proof of it is the spectacular centre-piece of his book. It’s one of many places where he, the self-proclaimed founder of a New Science, “over-turns mainstream biology”.

Mainstream biology, Lipton explains, believes that the brain of the cell is the nucleus. You see, the cell is a tiny image of a human being, with its own nutritive system, waste-removal system, and all the other things that an individual person has. Biologists of course, do not believe anything of the sort. Biologists do not think the cell has a brain. It is embarrassing even to have to point this out. The human brain of course has about 86 billion cells, with about 300 trillion connections, making it the most complex thing in the known universe. A single cell is indeed complex. Nevertheless, it is still at least 300 trillion times less complex than your brain. Isn’t it….

And of course, no structure in the cell is functionally similar to the brain. What’s more, just because you draw analogies between certain parts of the cell and certain parts of the body as Lipton does, it does not mean that all parts of the cell must therefore have all the characteristics that a human being has — as Lipton idiotically assumes. (Here Lipton gets a basic biological concept, homology, completely wrong by confusing it with “analogy”.)

But okay, let’s give the guy a chance. We will follow him as he attempts what he hopes is the spectacular central argument of his book.

What would happen, Lipton asks, if someone were to have their brain removed? Of course, they would immediately die. Therefore, according to modern biology, if you remove a cell’s brain, the cell will die too.


In retrospect, scientists should have known that genes couldn’t provide the control of our lives. By definition, the brain is the organ responsible for controlling and coordinating the physiology and behavior of an organism. But is the nucleus truly the cell’s brain? If our assumption that the nucleus and its DNA-containing material is the “brain” of the cell, then removing the cell’s nucleus, a procedure called enucleation, should result in the immediate death of the cell.

And now, for the big experiment… (Maestro, a drum roll if you please).

The scientist drags our unwilling cell into the microscopic operating arena and straps it down. Using a micromanipulator, the scientist guides a needle-like micropipette into position above the cell. With a deft thrust of the manipulator, our investigator plunges the pipette deep into the cell’s cytoplasmic interior. By applying a little suction, the nucleus is drawn up into the pipette and the pipette is withdrawn from the cell. Below the nucleus-engorged pipette lies our sacrificial cell – its “brain” tom out.

But wait! It’s still moving! My God… the cell is still alive!

(Biology of Belief, p.64)

There are a large number of problems here.

As Lipton correctly points out, the nucleus is full of DNA. What biology would predict — and would have predicted since the late 1800s — is that if you remove the nucleus, the cell will fail to replicate. No biologist since that time would be in the least surprised by Lipton’s demonstration. There is even biological term, enucleated, for such cells.

This is a central argument for Lipton, and it has already failed. Biologists don’t think cells have a brain, not the nucleus, nor anything else. Therefore removing it and not killing a cell does not overturn biology. And far from being a revolutionary new discovery thanks to the brilliant Doctor Lipton, it is a procedure that is carried out routinely and even has its own wikipedia page.

But Lipton is so excited about all this that he wants to push it even further, and “solve” the next (completely non-existent) problem: what, then is the brain of the cell?

Let’s put the membrane to the same “brain” test to which we put the nucleus. When you destroy its membrane, the cell dies just as you would if your brain were removed.


….Which is not only pointless but wrong as well.

The above footage is of membrane-less cells extracted from a fruit fly embryo.

Let’s put this clearly. Lipton fabricated the idea that biologists think cells have brains. He then fabricated the idea that they think the cell’s brain is the nucleus. Wrong on both counts. Then he staged a demonstration to “disprove” the latter non-existent claim, according to his own entirely fabricated standards. And he failed.

He failed even by his own entirely bogus standards to disprove a claim he fabricated himself and attributed to his opponents.

And then he made it even worse, with another demonstration to “prove” his own entirely specious claim that “the membrane is the brain of the cell” and failed again — even according to his own self-defined and entirely fabricated standards.

For someone who thinks he’s knows so much more about biology than his colleagues, and that he is revolutionising their field and exposing them as dumb frauds, that is a spectacular degree of both ignorance and incompetence.

The main claim of Lipton’s book is that the mind, especially affirmations (mentally repeating “positive” words) can cure cancer. People who buy the book, including cancer sufferers hoping to cure themselves, assume he is presenting scientific evidence that supports this claim. But despite all the technical jargon, complicated babbling about cell biology and vicious accusations about “materialistic science” being nothing more than a blindly dogmatic ideology, he never in fact even attempts to back up that central idea. Instead he blandly mentions the idea in passing, and assumes that his readers already agree.

Even more bafflingly, he declares that negative beliefs held in the subconscious need to be consciously overruled or they will cause cancer. Here is the passage, on page 127.

You can repeat the positive affirmation that you are lovable over and over or that your cancer tumor will shrink. But if, as a child, you heard over and over that you are worthless and sickly, those messages programmed in your subconscious mind will undermine your best conscious efforts to change your life.

This is difficult to achieve as the subconscious is, he declares, “millions of times more powerful than the conscious mind”. He promises to outline a solution for this terrifying weakness:

We’ll learn more about the origins of self-sabotaging subconscious programming in Chapter 7, Conscious Parenting, and how to quickly rewrite them.

Sadly, he has talked himself into such a hysterical state of incoherent blithering, that by the time he gets to Chapter 7, he forgets to say anything about it. Luckily for him though, absolutely none of his readers have noticed this.

If you think I am exaggerating all this, go ahead and read the book! It’s all in there, albeit it in a form that is so incoherent and jargon-filled that nearly all its readers give up after a couple of pages and simply assume it says whatever they want it to say.

Or check what I’m saying by reading some of the 77 blogposts I wrote, going through the book page by page. He frequently tries to impress his readers by including lengthy blocks of highly complex lecture notes that seem to have been copy-and-pasted into the text. Readers glance at these and assume they must be the complicated scientific justification for his assertions — muscle reflexes in cloned endothelial cells, the evolutionary history of slugs, and the like — but they don’t link up at all with his arguments.

Here is a very brief run down of a mere half a dozen of Lipton’s stupidest errors.

1. He claims that modern biology is an ideological dogma, blinded by an adherence to Darwinism. But modern medicine has little if anything to do with Darwinian evolution (with the obvious and spectacularly successful exception of immunology). He sides instead with Lamarck, in a controversy which flared up briefly in the 1870s and was decisively cleared up in favour of Darwin in the 1890s and confirmed by every single relevant finding ever since. And Lipton gets Lamarck’s ideas wrong, ascribing natural selection to Lamarck instead of Darwin.

2. He claims that something known jokingly in genetics as The Central Dogma is wrong. It is true that there are two versions of this: a good one, and an slightly simplified one which leads to some confusion as it doesn’t account for retro-viruses. Geneticists who are unaware of the better version sometimes get excited about “over-turning the central dogma!”, when really they’ve only shown the simple model to be outdated. Initially I thought Lipton was making this error in his book, and devoted two complicated blogposts to it. Given that quite a few geneticists have fallen into this trap, I was prepared to cut Lipton some slack on it,  but then I realised he doesn’t know what the Central Dogma is! He thinks it’s genetic determinism. But this idea, associated with eugenics, was exposed as pseudo-science in 1930s. Later versions of it which accompanied the discovery of the structure of DNA were swiftly dispatched by zoologists who pointed out that even Aristotle’s biology 2500 years ago had a more complex understanding of the biology of behaviour!

…So that is what Lipton is referring to each of the dozens of times he complains about “genetic determinism”. (Even more stupidly, he commits exactly this error himself when he advises parents to toss their baby into a swimming pool and watch it instinctively “swim like a dolphin”. Don’t that! Your baby might instinctively perform the brachiating motion that looks like swimming, but it hasn’t developed the necessary musculature and will drown.)

3. He claims that it is due to fractals that the cell is a miniature replicate of a human being, with all the same attributes and skills. Fractals — repetitions of a form at various scales — does apply in the odd case, (for example one part of the lung is structured partly in such a manner), but it does not apply to whole humans, and doesn’t occur throughout the entire body through every scale! In the Middle Ages some theologians believed that male semen contains tiny little human-seeds that simply expand when planted in a womb, but there is nothing like this idea anywhere in modern biology, apart from Lipton’s weird notion that “the cell” is also such a case.

4. Lipton claims that modern medicine has refused to utilise advances in physics. I will simply invite the reader to recall any medical intervention they’ve experienced which involved some kind of a machine. (Lipton realises the absurdity of this claim himself when he includes a scan of a cancer tumour, but dismisses it as a “rare case” of medicine using modern technology.) Lipton himself mentions the discovery of X-rays in 1895, but fails to realise that where physicists swiftly lost interest in that particular phenomenon, medical science immediately began using it for diagnosis.

5. Lipton claims that the reason modern medicine rejects modern physics is because biology is ideologically committed to “Newtonian physics”. Baffling as this claim is in itself — the inverse square law of gravitation is rarely if ever invoked by medical practitioners — Lipton gets Newtonian physics wrong. He thinks it is “linear thinking”

Figure from Biology of Belief, p.104

…and is incapable of dealing with any occurrence that is not sequential. By this measure, a map of the New York subway lines would have been too complex for humans to construct until the advent of quantum physics. (Yes, Lipton’s argument really is that simplistic.) Moreover, Lipton clearly never heard of Newton’s invention of calculus.

6. Even more stupidly — and this is really gobsmacking — Lipton thinks that this…

Figure from Biology of Belief, p.105

…is quantum physics.

Yes, that is really what he thinks quantum physics is! I am not joking!

And modern medicine’s rejection of it makes anything more complex than A->B->C is incomprehensible to a modern medical doctor.

And he pushes this stupidity even further of course, with an absolutely hilarious attempt at explaining the equation E=mc2. He fails completely, despite taking five runs at it, wherein he devises five different and completely wrong versions of it. Even that is too hard for him, and he is too stupid to realise — despite having dedicated the book to Einstein.

I am only scratching the surface of this man’s spectacular and hilariously stupid mistakes. But horrifyingly, the book is aimed at cancer sufferers who are often scared or desperate, and it is way too complicated for even his most loyal fans to penetrate beyond a page or two, so they take it on trust that cancer or any other illness can be healed via “mind over matter” as he promises.

Anyone who recommends this book has not read it. Any such person deserves to lose all credibility and never be trusted again on any matter pertaining to science, health, or reality. Nor should they even be trusted on information about alternative medicine, as Lipton’s descriptions of treatments like homeopathy, acupuncture, and all the other modalities he name-checks are just as inaccurate as his everything else!

I say to anyone who claims to have read this book and wants to defend it, go right ahead — comments are open. Otherwise stop recommending this deadly dangerous book.

Posted by Yakaru


  1. Reblogged this on lettersquash | John Freestone and commented:
    This deserves reblogging, especially now. It’s Yakaru’s summary of his incisive critique of Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief.

  2. Thank you sooo much for your text ❤️!
    My mother recently posted a hilarious bullshitvideo of this guy, after reading your article, I can‘t stop laughing 🙈..!

  3. Thank you, Anna! There is plenty to laugh about with this strange person….

  4. nice post

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