Archive for the ‘Bruce Lipton’ Category

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Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated with facts: Part 11 (Two distinct styles & punked by Darwin again)

October 16, 2017

And now back to this marathon of wading through Lipton’s bestseller. We are still in Chapter 2, It’s the Environment, Stupid!

I will start quoting a few of Lipton’s more technical passages. I’ve been leaving these out so far and only indicating their contents, as they are often uncontroversial and sometimes irrelevant or too detailed for a popular work. But it is perhaps worth quoting them sometimes though, just to show how striking the contrast is between ‘Technical Lipton’, who explains normal biology in normal terms, and ‘Lipton the Destroyer’ who has it in for the whole of genetics and biology.

I am certain that ‘Technical Lipton’ simply copies and pastes passages from his old biology essays from university. He often opens such passages with a snide but nevertheless vague attack on modern genetics or Charles Darwin, then pastes part of an old essay, (which frequently in fact support the very ideas he is trying to attack); and then ends the paragraph with a sudden switch back to vague but livid invective from ‘Lipton the Destroyer’ for a closing sentence.

Maybe I am being unfair by guessing he’s copying and pasting old essay content, but two very distinct styles are plainly visible.

‘Technical Lipton’ explains the discovery of the structure of DNA.

In 1910, intensive microscopic analyses revealed that the hereditary information passed on generation after generation was contained in chromosomes, thread-like structures that become visible in the cell just before it divides into two “daughter” cells. Chromosomes are incorporated into the daughter cell’s largest organelle, the nucleus. When scientists isolated the nucleus, they dissected the chromosomes and found that the hereditary elements were essentially comprised of only two kinds of molecules, protein and DNA. Somehow the protein machinery of life was entangled in the structure and function of these chromosome molecules.

The understanding of the chromosome’s functions was further refined in 1944 when scientists determined that it was DNA that actually contained hereditary information. [Avery, et al, 1944; Lederberg 1994] The experiments that singled out DNA were elegant. These scientists isolated pure DNA from one species of bacteria— let’s call it Species A— and added the pure DNA to cultures containing only Species B bacteria. Within a short time. Species B bacteria began to show hereditary traits that were formerly seen only in Species A….

That seems fairly straight forward to me. Well structured, and clearly explained. The style is remarkably different from both the vocabulary and syntactical structure that ‘Lipton the Destroyer’ uses when he suddenly starts attacking Darwin and hectoring his former colleagues.

The way he cites sources as if for an academic paper makes me think he is simply pasting in stuff from his old essays. Obviously, in a science book for a popular audience there is no reason to interrupt the text with citations to support a noncontroversial historical event that is quite irrelevant to his topic. I’ve never seen any science writer, even in specialized books, cite things in this way before. But it is the standard referencing style for university essays.

And in this case, like every other case in this book it’s pointless. No one doubts that Avery did this in 1944, nor do they care that Lederberg wrote a paper to honor them 50 years later, but there it all is, cited in the text and referenced in the bibliography:

Avery, O. T., C. M. MacLeod, et al. (1944). “Studies on the chemical nature of the substance inducing transformation of pneumococcal types. Induction of transformation by a deoxyribonucleic acid fraction isolated from Pneumococcus Type III.” journal of Experimental Medicine 79: 137158

Lederberg, J. (1994) Honoring Avery, MacLeod, And McCarty: The Team That Transformed Genetics. The Scientist 8: 11.

This is why Lipton’s fans have left comments on other posts here insisting that his claims are well supported in his book. They haven’t realized that the only thing Lipton has bravely supported here is the fact that Avery did groundbreaking work in genetics in 1944.

And then, the very next sentence from Lipton is this:

….Once it was known that you needed nothing other than DNA to pass on traits, the DNA molecule became a scientific superstar.

And with that, ‘Technical Lipton’ is again replaced with ‘Lipton the Destroyer’. The entire book alternates between these two modalities. No substantive effort is made to connect the hyperbole to the sensible content, beyond blank assertions that geneticists think that DNA is now the superstar.

He continues the snarky style for the opening sentence of the next paragraph:

It was now left to Watson and Crick to unravel the structure and function of that superstar molecule….

This is the hyperbolic intro to some more of his sensible sounding Bio 101 essays.

….DNA molecules are long and threadlike. They are made from four nitrogen-containing chemicals called bases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine or A, T, C and G). Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA’s structure led to the fact that the sequence of the A, T, C and G bases in DNA spells out the sequence of amino acids along a protein’s backbone [Watson and Crick 1953]. Those long strings of DNA molecules can be subdivided into single genes, segments that provide the blueprint for specific proteins….

He adds a slightly hyperbolic sentence to end the paragraph:

…The code for recreating the protein machinery of the cell had been cracked!

(This refers to an earlier description of “protein as a machine”, which I didn’t include last time.) Then more Bio 101 notes.

Watson and Crick also explained why DNA is the perfect hereditary molecule. Each DNA strand is normally intertwined with a second strand of DNA, a loosely wrapped configuration known as the “double helix.” The genius of this system is that the sequences of DNA bases on both strands are mirror images of each other. When the two strands of DNA unwind, each single strand contains the information to make an exact, complementary copy of itself. So through a process of separating the strands of a double helix, DNA molecules become self-replicating…..

Note the way this praises “the genius of this system”, and is entirely free of his usual invective and sneering. Then he tacks the usual vague, inaccurate and snarky final sentence onto the end:

….This observation led to the assumption that DNA “controlled” its own replication… it was its own “boss.”

Despite the quote marks around “controlled” and “boss”, Lipton is not citing Watson & Crick, or any other geneticist. This is because the sentence is devoid of meaning. Geneticists don’t use such vague terms.

The “suggestion” that DNA controlled its own replication…

Again, no one suggested or even with nonsensical scare quotes “suggested” this. At least no one except Lipton. Note too, how Lipton presents Crick and Watson as anthropomorphizing DNA.

…and also served as the blueprint for the body’s proteins led Francis Crick to create biology’s Central Dogma, the belief that DNA rules….

This is just weird. Crick didn’t think along these lines. The idea is meaningless. Note that Lipton has not once clearly told his readers what the “Central Dogma” is, despite referring to it repeatedly and making its refutation his central issue.

We may as well note here too, that when Crick jokingly made up the term Central Dogma, he didn’t know what a dogma is. Being ignorant of church customs, he thought it meant law. Had he chosen a better label, he probably would have saved everyone a lot of pointless arguments.

The dogma is so fundamental to modem biology it is essentially written in stone, the equivalent of science’s Ten Commandments.

Factual error. The central dogma works — that’s why, despite constant challenges by hotheaded biologists who charge at it like a wounded elephant, it is still on the books.

What Lipton needs to do is show why it is wrong. And of course he doesn’t. He can’t do that if he doesn’t know what it is.

In the dogma’s scheme of how life unfolds, DNA perches loftily on top, followed by RNA.

Factual error.

Here is the original diagram from Crick’s 1958 paper.

Crick: (left) possible paths of flow of chemical “information”, and (right) actual flow

Lipton is wrong to say the diagram indicates primacy or bossiness of DNA. The first triangle shows all possible flow paths of information between three elements. The second shows the flow paths which he held (correctly) to be the actual ones. Lipton wrongly claims that Crick meant it as a power hierarchy where DNA “has primacy” or is the “boss” of all subsequent chemical reactions that supposedly occur ‘under’ the DNA.

RNA is the short-lived Xerox™ copy of the DNA. As such, it is the physical template encoding the amino acid sequence that makes up a protein’s backbone. The Primacy of DNA diagram provides the logic for the Age of Genetic Determinism.

Factual error.

As we saw this is not the “logic” of anything in genetics. Lipton has simply not understood the diagram and is making false accusations against his “stupid” colleagues.

And worse, he is insisting again on his stunningly stupid error that the central dogma is genetic determinism. As Wikipedia would have told him, genetic determinism is “the belief that human behavior is controlled by an individual’s genes”. It is not the central dogma, and only looks like it is if you don’t know what the central dogma is. Note too that wikipedia has no problem dismissing it as a “belief”, whereas Lipton implies it is central to all of biology.

Because the character of a living organism is defined by the nature of its proteins, and its proteins are encoded in the DNA, then by logic, DNA would represent the “first cause” or primary determinant of an organism’s traits.

Factual error.

This is not how science is done. There is no idea that DNA must logically have primacy over the rest of the organism in this vague manner that Lipton imagines. He is misleading his readers here.

Then Lipton suddenly veers off to talk about Copernicus and the Church, and the human genome project. We need not follow him down this rabbit hole, but we can note the point he was trying to make. The human genome project found that humans have fewer genes than some researchers expected. Some saw great significance in this, and some, including Lipton, still do. It is however insignificant and irrelevant, so we will ignore it. Anyone interested in the issue Lipton’s is excited about can read this on the topic.

After this pointless detour, it’s suddenly back to the central dogma again. And Lipton is about to finally about tell his readers exactly what the central dogma is…. And of course he gets it wrong.

The Central Dogma. The dogma, also referred to as the Primacy of DNA, defines the flow of information in biological organisms….. [T]he flow is only in one direction, from DNA to RNA and then to Protein.

Factual error.

As we saw in the diagram above, a dotted line runs from RNA back to DNA — in other words, in two directions. We covered this in Part 1, but you can read a real biologist explaining it all here.

The DNA represents the cell’s long-term memory, passed from generation to generation.

Correct!!!! Even the analogy!!!!

No new “information” flows from outside the DNA back in…. But this is exactly what the central dogma says. And despite what Lipton just wrote in the previous sentence, he now suddenly agrees with it — maybe because he is copy and pasting from an old essay.

RNA, an unstable copy of the DNA molecule, is the active memory that is used by the cell as a physical template in synthesizing proteins. Proteins are the molecular building blocks that provide for the cell’s structure and behavior.

Ok, but note the use of the word “behavior”, with its metaphorical meaning.

DNA is implicated as the “source” that controls the character of the cell’s proteins…

Factual error.

DNA is not the “source” of proteins. It determines which proteins are manufactured, out of chemicals in the cell.

This is not science. And all these words, source, controls, character, behavior, are too slippery to describe processes that are well understood. We already know that Lipton wants to anthropomorphize all this. He can if he wants to argue for it, but he can’t do it and call it the Central Dogma of genetics.

…hence the concept of DNA’s primacy that literally means “first cause.”

Factual error.

There is no “concept of DNA’s primacy” in genetics. Lipton has invented this and ascribed it to the science of genetics. Is he deliberately lying to his readers? The only hits google turns up are for either Lipton or people quoting him.

Lipton is giving his readers false information about science and then “correcting” it with even more false information.

Then Lipton suddenly veers back again to the Human Genome Project finding fewer genes than expected. It’s not an issue (see earlier link), but Lipton insists that this is inexplicable for science.

We can no longer use genes to explain why humans are at the top of the evolutionary ladder.

Factual error.

There is no evolutionary ladder. And any idea of humans being at the top of such a thing was blown out of the water in one decisive hit by the very scientist Lipton has cited and attacked more often than any other.

That book, of course, demolished the notion of some species being superior to others, and instead defined ‘fitness’ as relative to an organism’s particular habitat. Had Lipton read and understood this book he would have spared himself a great many errors. Instead, he finds himself yet again getting punked by Charles Darwin.

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Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated with facts: Part 10 (Lipton blows up his central thesis)

October 8, 2017

In this post Dr Bruce Lipton finally gets specific about a central claim of this book.

Lipton has made the extremely bold claim that geneticists have made basic and fundamental errors, due partly to poor lab technique and partly due to getting distracted. This has led them to draw mistaken conclusions about the nature of DNA, and this has in turn affected the behavior and life decisions of the general public. The cause of their distraction was Crick and Watson’s discovery of, as he wrongly claims, the “genetic code”. (Of course, what they discovered was not DNA’s code but its structure.)

Lipton promises the world a “New Biology” of which he himself is a founding father.

For his fans, this frontal assault by a cell biologist on the neighboring field of genetics no doubt sounds compelling. Lipton has bombarded his readers with details from university level cell biology, and cited dozens of highly technical scientific papers, which, unfortunately, his readers will have no access to unless they have access to a university library. And even if they did, there is no way they would understand any of it unless they already have a strong background in biology.

What his readers will not have realized, is that these papers have so far not supported, nor even in any way related to his assault on genetics. Nor are they likely to know enough genetics to realize that Lipton himself does not know enough genetics to make these claims either. (Hence his basic errors, like thinking Crick and Watson discovered the “code” of DNA.) Nor is it likely to have registered with them that he has still not named a single geneticist or referred to any specific piece of genetics that is actually wrong.

Instead, he has been attacking the popular press for its portrayal of genetics. But he is not going to revolutionize biology by making vague attacks on the Daily Mail.

We are on page 51, in Chapter 2, It’s the Environment, Stupid. Next subject heading– Protein: The Stuff of Life

It is easy to understand how genetic control became a metaphor as scientists with ever-greater excitement zeroed in on the mechanisms of DNA.

No, it is not easy to understand, because Lipton has merely asserted that this is what happened. The 1990 paper by Nijhout that Lipton cited last time, did not say this. It will simply have to stand as a blank assertion from Lipton.

And how on earth can “genetic control” become a metaphor? A metaphor for what? Lipton is talking about a belief in a literal, real world, mechanistic process. Lipton doesn’t seem to know what the words he is using mean.

Then he suddenly lurches again into basic high school cell biology:

Organic chemists discovered that cells are made up of four types of very large molecules: polysaccharides (complex sugars), lipids (fats), nucleic acids (DNA/RNA) and proteins. Though the cell requires each of the four molecular types, proteins are the most important single component for living organisms. Our cells are, in the main, an assembly of protein-building blocks.

He continues with some basic teaching about amino acids and proteins, comparing acid molecules to beads on a pop bead necklace.

Each bead represents one of the twenty amino acid molecules used by cells.

Factual error. Twenty two amino acids create proteins, not twenty. Inconsequential mistake, but lazy. He should know this.

And to be even more accurate, you should know that the amino acid necklace, which forms the “backbone” of the cells’ proteins, is far more malleable than a pop bead necklace, which falls apart when you bend it too much.

This is a bad analogy. Amino acids are not the “backbone” of a protein: they are a protein. It’s like saying the wagons form the backbone of a train. This might sound picky, but I already know the games Lipton plays with analogies, so I am noting his lack of clarity.

Also, I want to note this odd formulation: “forms the “backbone” of the cells’ proteins”. One backbone for all the cells? It’s a deliberate usage of the possessive plural of cells. But what does he mean?

The structure and behavior of the linked amino acids in protein backbones…

Now it’s getting really weird. A moment ago amino acids were the backbone of a protein; then they were the collective backbone of all the proteins in all the cells. And now proteins themselves are backbones — and note that the quotation marks have disappeared. What is going on here?

….better resemble that of a snake’s backbone.

This is just weird. A pop bead necklace wasn’t a good enough analogy for Lipton because it would break if twisted around like a chain of amino acids. But now a snake’s backbone is better?

Myoglobin — just like a snake’s backbone, according to Lipton

And why is he insisting on backbones?

The spine of a snake, made up of a large number of linked subunits, the vertebrae, is capable of coiling the snake into a wide variety of shapes, ranging from a straight rod to a knotted “ball.”

Okay, if you insist, but it still seems like a weird analogy.

The flexible links (peptide bonds) between amino acids in a protein backbone enables each protein to adopt a variety of shapes. Through the rotation and flexion of their amino acid “vertebrae,” protein molecules resemble nano-snakes in their ability to writhe and squirm.

Now amino acids have turned into “vertebrae”, which at least gets rid of the previous error about amino acids being “the backbone of a protein”. But vertebrae don’t lock into each other in the crazed way that amino acids do. Nothing like it. In the previous post we saw Richard Dawkins likening it to a bead necklace made of odd shaped magnets that latch onto each other and slot into each other’s nooks and crannies” at all kinds of awkward angles. That is nothing like a segments of a spine, which, anyway, is made to bend by muscles, not by the vertebrae themselves.

Lipton has presented all this extremely poorly and chosen a bad analogy with snakes and vertebrae.

Then it gets far more complicated, with Lipton going into detail about positive and negatively charged regions of molecules that attract or repel each other. This is all fine, but unnecessary for his purposes and he keeps switching back and forth between the necklace, backbone, snake backbone and vertebrae analogies. It looks very much he’s been cutting and pasting his lecture notes and adding in comments here and there.

We can skip over most of it, but I will highlight this odd sentence:

Improperly folded proteins, like people with spinal defects, are unable to function optimally. Such aberrant proteins are marked for destruction by the cell; their backbone amino acids are disassembled and recycled in the synthesis of new proteins.

What a strange sentence from someone who has been raging against the ‘Darwinian struggle for life’. Is it even relevant to his topic?

Then he suddenly and inexplicably leaps to this — (I swear, this is the very next sentence!)

Living organisms are distinguished from non-living entities by the fact that they move; they are animated.

What in God’s name has this got to do with protein-backbone-vertebrae-amino-acid-snakes? And what has it got to do with “It’s the environment, stupid”? But ok, we can go along for the ride. Though, let’s just rephrase that sentence more accurately:

Living organisms are distinguished from non-living entities by the fact that they are alive.

Lipton recounts a lot more of this complicated lecture notes stuff, and then abruptly stops in the middle of nowhere, and announces a new section.

The Primacy of DNA

He opens it with what is supposed to be a zinger.

You’ll notice that in the above section I didn’t discuss DNA at all. That’s because it is the changing of the proteins’ electromagnetic charges that is responsible for their behavior-generating movement, not DNA.

Well who ever said it was?????????????

Show me any text-book in any language that claims that DNA itself actively and directly causes the twisting and turning that is caused by chemical properties of proteins. That DNA determines the specific amino acids and therefore their chemical structure, is clear. But no geneticist has ever said that DNA keeps on influencing them once they’re constructed.

How did we get to the widespread and often-cited notion that genes “control” biology?

How did we get there? Easy — we aren’t there! The only people I can find on google who use this “often cited” term — “genes control biology” — are Lipton, and people who are quoting Lipton. He is trying to revolutionize biology by attacking a belief that literally no biologist holds or has ever held.

In the Origin of Species, Darwin…..

WHAT?????????????????????????

This again??????????????????????

Lipton says the whole of genetics is wrong and has cited not one single geneticist nor one single paper or study to support this stupid claim. Not one. Instead he has criticized the media and the public. And the closest he comes to attacking his actual target — genetics — is to attack Charles Darwin who died in 1882!

…..suggested that “hereditary” factors….

Factual error. Darwin never once used that term, but Lipton has been using it repeatedly.

….were passed on from generation to generation…

Exactly — he merely “suggested” and did not assert this, because he wasn’t certain how it happens. This is what sensible people do when they are unsure of something. Only liars, cheats and idiots don’t do that.

….controlling the traits of the offspring.

Factual error.

Darwin did not say anything of the sort. What does this even mean — “controlling the traits of the offspring”? All traits? All the time? Utter rubbish. Darwin did not talk like that, and this is all completely irrelevant, as he had no influence on genetics.

Darwin’s influence was so great…

Factual error.

Darwin had no influence whatsoever on genetics. None at all. I don’t really know how to illustrate how stupid, how wrong and how made up from start to finish this all is. All I can do is indicate wikipedia’s entry on genetics. In 12,000 words it mentions Darwin once, and that is under pre-Mendelian theories, and only to say he got it wrong.

…that scientists myopically focused on identifying that hereditary material…

Factual error.

This is pig ignorance and utter stupidity from Lipton. His PhD should be revoked for this sentence alone, and he hasn’t even finished it yet.

Rather than recount the history of biology in the twentieth century, I will simply note one area: population genetics. Darwin did indeed have a profound influence on this field, but not on the genetics aspect of it. Darwin contributed the notion of natural selection — aka the environment — which shapes the genetic composition of whole populations.

In other words, the only influence that Darwin had on the field of genetics was to ram home the profound and decisive influence of the environment on the genome of every creature and every species on the planet. Lipton is making a screaming idiot of himself here.

…which, they thought, controlled life.

Factual error.

As we saw above, no geneticist claims that, and no one apart from Lipton even uses that vague and utterly stupid phrase.

Two sentences; five factual errors. Each of them howlers. And those two sentences form a central pillar of Lipton’s entire thesis.

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Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated with facts: Part 9 (With a lesson from Richard Dawkins on embryology)

October 3, 2017

Before starting Chapter 2, we can review a little real science from Richard Dawkins.

The following is from his utterly mind-blowing and brilliantly written chapter on embryology in The Greatest Show on Earth.

Text books repeat time and time again that DNA is a ‘blueprint’ for building a body. It isn’t. A true blueprint of, say, a car or a house, embodies a one-to-one mapping from paper to finished product. It follows from this that a blueprint is reversible. It is as easy to go from house to blueprint as the other way around, precisely because it is a one-to-one mapping… If you take an animal’s body, no matter how many detailed measurements you take, you can’t reconstruct its DNA.

Dawkins, who is MUCH easier than Lipton to summarize, talks of an embryo “self-assembling”, likening it to origami that folds itself.

In the field of development, self assembly occupies a position analogous to natural selection in evolution, although it is definitely not the same process. Both achieve, by automatic, unplanned means, results that look, to a superficial gaze, as though they were meticulously planned.

Dawkins describes this process as “verging on the miraculous (but never quite getting there) in the fact that a single cell gives rise to a human body in all its complexity.”

He contrasts this with “top-down” design.

An architect designs a cathedral. Then through a hierarchical chain of command, the building is broken down into separate compartments, which break down further into sub-compartments, and so on until instructions are fiunally handed out to individual masons, carpenters and glaziers…

Dawkins recounts a myth that the great cathedrals of Europe were built without a plan, by devout workers who simply set blindly to work. Her notes that termite mounds and anthills are built bottom up like this — and so too is the development of an embryo.

The metaphor of a recipe is then considered. “Unlike a blueprint, a recipe is irreversible.” He then considers the metaphor of a sculptor, and finds it

mostly way off the mark…. There is, admittedly sharp resemblance to one particular process in embryology, called apoptosis. Apoptosis is programmed cell death, and it is involved, for example, in the development o fingers and toes. In the human embryo, the fingers and toes are all joined. In the womb, you and I had webbed feet and hands. The webbing disappeared (in most people: there are occasional exceptions) through programmed cell death…

Dawkins has just spent the previous seven chapters discussing natural selection, so the idea is now clear enough for his readers to be able to easily see the analogy between natural selection (which kind of sculpts the genes of a population over generations), and apoptosis. (Notice too that Dawkins managed to use that highly technical term twice in a row, thanks to an intervening full stop, to familiarize his readers to the word.)

Dawkins shifts easily between scales of magnitude, showing how sheets of cells appear to twist themselves into new forms, and then diving down into the cell, to the level of amino acids. Building these is what genes do in a fairly straight forward one to one correspondence for a triplet of base pairs to an amino acid. Amino acids build a protein, (my summary is doing great violence to Dawkins’ description here).

The auto-origami by which protein chains fold themselves is ruled by the laws of chemical attraction, and the laws determining the angles at which atoms bind to one another. Imagine a necklace of curiously shaped magnets…. becoming tangled up as the magnets latch onto each other and slotted into each other’s nooks and crannies at various points along the length of the chain.

Dawkins notes that the chemical processes inside cells can be enormously sped up by the catalyzing effects of enzymes: specific enzymes speed up very specific processes, making them go a million or even a trillion times faster. This results in a choreography that is extraordinarily complex viewed on a larger scale — so extraordinarily complex that it would be barely possible to design it. But it all happens according to local rules that are in fact deceptively simple.

The overall effect of this auto-origami is likened to the way starlings swarm about. They look almost like an individual body: the density of birds is the same at the edge as in the center, but beyond the edge, the density is zero.

 

A bunch of flocking starlings

To simulate the behavior of this flock, it would be next to impossible to write a program to coordinate the movements of the whole flock. But programming the behavior of a single bird — taking cues for its flight paths from the birds around it — would be enough.

The key point is that there is no choreographer and no leader. Order, organization and structure — these all emerge as by-products of rules which are obeyed locally and many times over, not globally.

The important point here is that there is no central designer, planning it all out; no central scrutinizer checking that each enzyme is entering the designated niche.

We can add into this the notion of gene switches. There is a good minute long video here explaining it.

Genes are switched on and off, during embryological development and for the rest of an organism’s lifetime, by signals external to the DNA. Sometimes external to the cell; sometimes external to the organism itself — air-borne pheromones trigger the production of various sex hormones, being but one striking example. These triggers come from what Lipton would call “the environment”.

I hope something of the power and clarity of Dawkins’ writing has made it through the fog of my summarizing. This is the book mentioned in Part 6 as being ranked on Amazon bestsellers as 50,000th compared to Lipton’s book here ranked 3,000th.

Anyway, this gives some context for what follows from Lipton. And now on to Chapter 2.

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated with facts: Part 8 (Chapter One: An Accounting)

October 1, 2017

Now that we have finished Chapter 1, we can take stock of Lipton’s performance so far.

He claimed that “a cell’s life is controlled by the physical and energetic environment and not by its genes”.

He tries to support this idea with the claim that the “Central Dogma” of genetics is wrong. He announces an attack on this central pillar of biology, and proclaims himself to be the herald of a “New Biology”. Unfortunately, as we have seen, Lipton thinks the central dogma is “the belief that genes control life”. It isn’t.

Lipton is in fact talking about genetic determinism, which he wrongly thinks is the central dogma. He explicitly equates the two, even though they are easily distinguishable. And the attack is completely pointless, as genetic determinism has already been demolished, not only by research into the neurobiology of behavior, but also by research by geneticists themselves. Environmental triggers have been found to switch genes on and off, making even gross physiological development highly influenced by the environment, to say nothing of learning and culture in later life. Yet repeatedly throughout the chapter Lipton refers to geneticists “believing that genes control life”.

So how will this play out? Lipton hasn’t gotten specific yet about what exactly he sees wrong with the central dogma, but he has promised us that a revolutionary and devastating attack on it is imminent. How will he do this if he doesn’t know what it is?

And how will it go, if the thing he is really attacking — genetic determinism — has already been demolished by the same geneticists he thinks he opposing?

Then come the attacks on Darwin. Lipton thinks Darwin said life is merely random chance. But he didn’t — natural selection involves selection, which is not random. Lipton also says that biologists have dogmatically followed Darwin in thinking life is merely random, but how could they if he didn’t say it?

Lipton thinks Darwin said the environment “plays no role”. But he didn’t — natural selection is done by nature — the environment — and plays a central role in evolution.

Lipton thinks Darwin saw nature only as an aggressive struggle for life, and ignored cooperation. But Darwin wrote extensively on cooperation. And altruism and cooperation are entirely in accord with ‘Darwinian’ evolution.

Lipton thinks Darwin ignored evolutionary interactions between species. But he didn’t — indeed Darwin’s great revolution in biology was seeing nature as a whole interdependent system.

Lipton thinks Darwin recanted later in life and admitted he had placed too little emphasis on “the environment”. But Darwin was only talking about inheritance, and not generally about the environment, as Lipton had it. And Darwin’s concession that maybe Lamarckian inheritance is real was itself an error — an error which Lipton himself is repeating.

Lipton thinks Lamarck’s system involved the inheritance of only those characteristics that have survival value. But Lamarck didn’t say that — that idea was Darwin’s.

Lipton claimed that Lamarckian inheritance (of acquired characteristics) was wrongly dismissed by biologists on the basis of one experiment in 1894. If such a significant and pervasive idea had been dismissed purely on the basis of a single experiment, Lipton would be right to complain about it. But it wasn’t.

Worse, the experiment that Lipton is referring to was not even intended to test Lamarck’s theory. The researcher who did the experiment was indeed responsible for finding the crucial flaw in the idea of Lamarckian inheritance, but Lipton does not tell his readers anything about this at all.

In other words, Lipton not only avoided mentioning the crucial flaw in his own theory, but also seems to have deliberately concealed it from his readers. Instead of telling his readers about the ‘Weismann barrier’ (and all the subsequent 120 years of research confirming it!), Lipton gave his readers Weismann’s name and directed them to the wrong piece of research.

Maybe this is not the deliberate deceit it appears to be. I hold it for entirely possible that Lipton is not mentally capable of evaluating his own ideas well enough to recognize and conceal their most critical weaknesses.

In any case, this is another devastating failure for Lipton’s argument.

Another central claim is that genes are “memories” in a literal sense — whereby DNA records life experiences. For this to be true, Lipton would need to demonstrate that the central dogma is wrong. Despite all his bluster he has not even attempted to do this yet. And as we just saw, he avoided the problem completely when he failed to address the ‘Weismann barrier’.

This is a third devastating failure for Lipton’s case. He can’t go anywhere with his Lamarckism until he deals with this problem.

He attempts a further attack on both Darwin and the central dogma by talking about evolution and gene sharing across different species of microbes. He implies that this can be transferred to the level of mammalian evolution, including humans, but fails entirely to address the rather obvious fact that microbes and mammals have enormously different anatomies and methods of reproduction.

Furthermore, although evolution in microbes is very different to humans (we do not transfer genes across species boundaries — not even in Tasmania), this evolution is not Lamarckian. It is still standard ‘Darwinian’ evolution. It does not establish that evolution might occur by non-Darwinian means, nor that DNA records life experiences.

So this is a fourth devastating failure by Lipton: another crucial door to Lamarckism that he has failed to open.

Another central claim of the book is that the organelles of a cell correspond quite exactly with the organs of a human individual. Lipton seemed several times to be on the verge of spelling out these correspondences, but so far has not done it. This is indeed a central theme of the book, but again, it is hard to tell where he wants to go with it. It remains unresolved.

All the while Lipton has been filling up the text with large blocks of highly technical information that looks like it has been copied and pasted from his old biology essays. He cites dozens of highly technical papers from scientific journals. His readers would need access to a university library to read them, and even then they wouldn’t be able to understand them.

This is bad communication. Scientists, when writing for a popular audience avoid doing this….. Unless of course, they are trying to impress or intimidate their readers. Lipton’s fans who have commented here in the past have often insisted that Lipton’s books are better than his lectures and are backed up with research. I can now better understand why they say this.

The problem, however, is that these articles do not support any of Lipton’s central arguments. In fact they have even directly contradicted some of his claims. These blocks of technical information could easily appear in an introduction to genetics text, and be used to support the exact opposite of what Lipton is claiming — not a revolution in biology. In other words, Lipton’s claims are not supported by his data.

Another prominent thread that regularly appears and disappears in chapter one is criticizing the media for distorting the popular understanding of genetics. This is of course irrelevant to his thesis. He can’t revolutionize biology by attacking the Daily Mail.

Even more curiously, he claims that “Like the tabloids, biologists jumped on the gene bandwagon.”

This is in fact another central claim — that geneticists do in fact know that the genes are switched on and off by environmental triggers, but they have forgotten it.

This is extremely confusing, because it accords entirely with the (actual) central dogma. So if he wants to attack the central dogma using this, it means that he will be relying on standard genetics that accords with that very same central dogma. So he can’t claim to be the herald of a “New Biology”.

It appears to be horribly likely that Lipton is about to attack genetic determinism, thinking this to be an attack on the central dogma. His readers might be so befuddled and confused that they will believe that he has indeed attacked the central dogma. If this is really what we are about to witness, (and I don’t know if it is), it would explain why the only publisher willing to touch this revolutionary “New Biology” is the cancer quack Louise Hay’s publishing house.

Of course, we have only just gotten through chapter one. Maybe he will rescue himself from these devastating mistakes. Or maybe he will not even realize he has made them, and build a huge structure of blooming buzzing confusion based squarely upon them. We shall see.

Posted by Yakaru

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Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated with facts: Part 7 (Lipton also misses Darwin’s ideas on coevolution)

September 29, 2017

In the previous post we found Lipton continuing his long unbroken string of straight forward factual errors. He repeatedly attacked Darwin while supporting Lamarck, but oddly advocated several of Darwin’s key discoveries — which he wrongly ascribed to Lamarck. He attacked a 19th century biologist, August Weismann and misrepresented his work, while ignoring the discovery (the ‘Weismann barrier‘) that ultimately sunk the idea of inheritance of acquired characteristics.

He then moved inexplicably to the topic of evolution in microbes, which — although Lipton didn’t realize it — occurs according to classical Darwinian evolution. Due to the inescapable fact that microbes have very different anatomies and reproductive processes from humans and other organisms, they have other possibilities for evolution which, though still ‘Darwinian’, are simply not available to creatures that reproduce sexually.

One of these is horizontal gene transfer, whereby a microbe can simply swap genes directly with its compatriots. Lipton seems, incredibly, to be implying this is also possible for humans to do with each other and with other species. If this is not what he means, he hasn’t given any other indication of what he is talking about or even why he suddenly switched to this topic.

We left him last time writing this string of assertions:

This sharing of information is not an accident. It is nature’s method of enhancing the survival of the biosphere. As discussed earlier, genes are physical memories of an organism’s learned experiences.

As shown in the previous post, Lipton has offered nothing at all in support of any of that. We continue:

The recently recognized exchange of genes among individuals disperses those memories…

String of compounded factual errors here.

“Experiences” do not alter DNA, nor do they get transferred or recorded by DNA. Lipton is talking as if he has already established that they do — in contradiction of the “Central Dogma” — but he hasn’t. He has cited dozens of technical papers which his readers can neither access nor comprehend, but not a single one of these papers supports these assertions.

Nor can these non-existent alterations to DNA be called “memories” any more than you could say that a rock remembers getting hit by a hammer because it still bears the cracks. (Especially if the rock hasn’t even been hit with a hammer!)

This sharing is not an intelligent process, guided by some kind of intentionality. It is classical Darwinian mutation and natural selection. Many random mutant forms arise (as Lipton himself has previously noted); some successfully transfer themselves to another organism as a virus and propagate themselves; others don’t, and decay. If this process were somehow intelligent, we would not see crappy ineffective mutants being generated. We’d only see successful ones, or ever-improving attempts.

…thereby influencing the survival of all organisms that make up the community of life.

Lipton’s readers can permit themselves to notice that the “community of life” of which Lipton so warmly speaks, includes Ebola.

Now that we are aware of this inter- and intra-species gene transfer mechanism, the dangers of genetic engineering become apparent………

Lipton suddenly veers off topic again, and again cites half a dozen highly technical papers to which his readers have no access and would not understand of they did. We don’t need to follow him, beyond noting that genetic engineering is indeed horizontal gene transfer, and that it is far safer than what nature does with its random spreading of plagues.

Genetic evolutionists warn that if we fail to apply the lessons of our shared genetic destiny, which should be teaching us the importance of cooperation among all species, we threaten human existence. We need to move beyond Darwinian theory, which stresses the importance of individuals, to one that stresses the importance of the community.

We hear from Lipton, as from many other Darwinophobes within and without academia, that Darwin ignored cooperation and community, and was fixated on the bloody and vicious ‘struggle for life’. This term is indeed the title of the third chapter in the Origin. But if we read that very chapter, we find Darwin discussing what is today called coevolution. (“Many cases are on record showing how complex and unexpected are the checks and relations between organic beings...)

In another book by the sadistic and brutal Darwin, on gruesome topic of The Fertilisation of Orchids, we find what is now called the Darwin orchid. This has a 30 cm tubule, with nectar at the bottom. Darwin predicted that a moth with a 30 cm tongue will have coevolved to fertilize it. Twenty years after Darwin’s death, it was found.

The moth that Darwin predicted

(Plants of course use nectar to attract insects, which then get pollen stuck on them while they are extracting it. A plant ‘wants’ an insect to spend enough time getting nectar to get sufficient pollen attached to them to fertilize other plants and thus spread the plant’s genes. But an insect wants to get nectar quickly, so an ‘evolutionary arms race‘ ensues, with plant variants that make it a little harder for insects to get nectar spreading more genes, and insects better at getting in and out quickly getting more nectar.)

British scientist Timothy Lenton provides evidence that evolution is more dependent on the interaction among species than it is on the interaction of individuals within a species.

…As did Darwin, as demonstrated above; and discussed in his 1859 Origin of Species; and followed up by another 150 years of research.

From here, Lipton suddenly lurches into a fallacy about evolution called group selection, which is sometimes advocated even by reputable biologists. Lipton does not care to inform his readers that this idea is highly tenuous and rejected by most biologists, for good reason. Instead he kicks it further and invokes the popular idea of “Gaia”, which sees the earth as a single organism. Ok, but that idea is rhetoric that has added nothing whatsoever to science.

Then he talks about mass extinctions and how destructive humans are to the environment.

And then he suddenly jumps to this:

In my years of teaching in medical school, I had come to realize that medical students in an academic setting are more competitive and backbiting than a truckload of lawyers. They live out the Darwinian struggle in their quest to be one of the “fittest” who stagger to graduation after four grueling years in medical school. The single-minded pursuit of stellar medical school grades, without regard for the students surrounding you, no doubt follows a Darwinian model, but it always seemed to me an ironic pursuit for those who are striving to become compassionate healers.

As well as his ignorance of Darwin’s work on coevolution, Lipton demonstrates his ignorance of Darwin’s ideas on cooperation too. As wikipedia notes, “Prominent biologists, such as Charles Darwin….. have found the evolution of cooperation fascinating…..”

Lipton recounts that his students, under his influence dropped their supposedly Darwinian competitiveness and cooperated with each other. He says they were behaving “like smart cells” to do this.

I didn’t tell my students to pattern their lives after the lives of the cells, because I was still steeped in traditional, scientific training. But I like to think that they went in that direction intuitively, after listening to my praise of cells’ ability to group together cooperatively to form more complex and highly successful organisms.

This might be a nice metaphor in the eyes of some, but why bother? There is in fact a far more compelling example of how a group of individuals can band together as a community in pursuit of common goals and survive — of course, the story of human evolution.

Lipton closes the chapter with another attack on Darwin and “defeatist” modern genetics and proclaims himself as herald of a “New Biology”.

Part 8 is here.

Posted by Yakaru

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Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated with facts: Part 6 (Lipton ascribes Darwin’s ideas to Lamarck)

September 23, 2017

I apologize to any readers who don’t want to hear any more about the mad Dr Lipton, but I am going to continue, because this book is a bestseller. For comparison, Richard Dawkins’ book on evolution, The Greatest Show on Earth, is ranked at 54,865 on Amazon’s sales ranking.

Amazon details for The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

Lipton’s 10th anniversary edition of Biology of Belief is ranked spectacularly higher at 3,962.

Amazon details for The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton

As yet no biologist has offered a serious or lengthy critique of Lipton. They are all too busy with Creationists to notice what this one of their own is doing to the public understanding of their field. And Lipton’s readers assume they are getting both straight science from Lipton, and a cure for cancer.

So if biologists won’t take on Lipton, someone has to.

Anyway, we are still in Chapter 1, on p. 41, about one fifth of the way through the book.

Lipton is still talking about Lamarck, and is about to land his audience in the middle of an obtuse discussion about the history of science. Then he will suddenly veer off into a discussion about evolution in microbes.

But first, to Lipton’s pointless discussion of biology in the early 1800s.

Before dealing with Lipton’s ranting, we can inform readers that Lamarck is perhaps unfairly identified exclusively with the idea of inheritance of acquired characteristics. He took the idea for granted, as did many if not most of his colleagues. It is for historians of science to discuss how he came to be associated with the idea, and whether or not the attribution is fair. Lipton’s audience really don’t need to be dragged into this, but Lipton is going there, so we must follow.

Lamarck had a highly complex theory of how new species develop: over many generations, creatures effectively adapt themselves to their environment. Two inherent forces are active: a “complexifying” force which drives physiology to become more refined over many generations; and an “adaptive” force, which causes organs and tissues that are used more regularly to be retained over generations. Those that are rarely used will atrophy and eventually disappear.

Not surprisingly, given the state of biology in the early 1800s, Lamarck posited no physiological mechanisms for these processes.

Now, back to Lipton.

Lamarck’s theory was an early target of the Church.

Factual error.

Neither Lamarck (a Catholic), nor his theory was attacked by the Church.

The notion that humans evolved from lower life forms was denounced as heresy.

Two factual errors.

The Catholic Church has never denounced this as heresy. Lipton has clearly invented this. And Lamarck never specifically addressed human evolution. It was of course Darwin who most famously copped flack for this from the clergy as well as from other scientists. He faced far more opprobrium than Lamarck, and still is even today, from people like Lipton.

Lamarck was also scorned by his fellow scientists who, as creationists, ridiculed his theories.

Misleading. Virtually all scientists (including Lamarck and the young Darwin) were creationists until Darwin published the Origin. And Lamarck was not scorned. This paper notes — “while it is true that Lamarck endorsed the idea of the inheritance of acquired characters and made use of it in his evolutionary theorizing, neither Lamarck nor his contemporaries treated this as Lamarck’s “signature” idea. Certainly he did not claim the idea as his own. Instead, he treated it as commonplace, which it was. He believed it was so transparently obvious that it needed no assemblage of facts or trial by experiment to confirm it.”

A German developmental biologist, August Weismann, helped propel Lamarck into obscurity when he tried to test Lamarck’s theory that organisms pass on survival-oriented traits acquired through their interaction with the environment.

Misleading statement. As we saw in the previous post, August Weismann discovered in 1892 that sex cells are separated off from the rest of the cells in the body very early in embryological development, demonstrating why acquired characteristics are not passed on. (This used to be termed the “Weismann barrier“.) This discovery meant that Lamarckian inheritance was no longer tenable. He did not “try” to test Lamarckism.

In one of Weismann’ s experiments, he cut off the tails of male and female mice and mated them.

Correct!!! Well done, Dr Lipton.

Weismann argued that if Lamarck’s theory were correct, the parents should pass on their tail-less state to future generations.

Factual error.

Weismann was explicitly not testing Lamarck, but rather testing popular claims of “inherited mutilation” — animals being born with missing limbs from an amputee parent. More importantly, this experiment was not the work of Weismann’s that decisively led to the demise of Lamarckism — that was the Weismann barrier. Lipton has not told his readers about this at all, but that is what they need to know about, and he is avoiding it here.

The first generation of mice was born with tails. Weismann repeated the experiment for 21 more generations…

Factual error. Weismann only did it for five generations.

…but not one tail-less mouse was born, leading Weismann to conclude that Lamarck’s notion of inheritance was wrong. But Weismann’s experiment was not a true test of Lamarck’s theory.

Misleading, as noted above.

Lamarck suggested that such evolutionary changes could take “immense periods of time,” according to biographer L. J. Jordanova. In 1984, Jordanova wrote that Lamarck’s theory “rested on” a number of “propositions” including: “…the laws governing living things have produced increasingly complex forms over immense periods of time.” [Jordanova 1984, page 71]

Completely irrelevant.

The Weismann barrier is the issue here. And not merely Weismann’s work on it in 1892, but all the subsequent work done on the issue over the last 125 years as well!

Maybe Lipton will deal with this at some point, but for now we must follow Lipton down this pointless rabbit hole….

Weismann’s five-year experiment…

Factual error. It was five generations. Pure laziness and carelessness.

…was clearly not long enough to test the theory.

Again, Weismann wasn’t testing Lamarck’s hypothetical system for gradual evolution.

An even more fundamental flaw in his experiment is that Lamarck never argued that every change an organism experienced would take hold.

Lipton is still wrong about the experiment, but he is in fact right in saying that Lamarck postulated that only some characteristics are passed on.

Lamarck said organisms hang on to traits (like tails) when they need them to survive.

Factual error.

Lipton is attributing one of Darwin’s key ideas (survival value) to Lamarck. Lamarck did not tie retention of traits to survival value — he would have truly preceded Darwin had he done so. Rather, as noted earlier, Lamarck tied it to the use or non-use of a characteristic.

We can also note here that even if he doesn’t know where it came from, Lipton is approvingly using one of Darwin’s key discoveries.

Although Weismann didn’t think the mice needed their tails, no one asked the mice if they thought their tails were necessary for survival!

Factual error and very silly statement.

Weismann did not assume that the mice didn’t need their tails because he wasn’t testing Lamarckism. But most importantly, Lipton is claiming that the mice retained their tails not because of the Weismann barrier, but because tails have (Darwinian!) survival value.

Despite its obvious flaws, the study of the tail-less mice helped destroy Lamarck’s reputation.

Factual error repeated, and followed by a misrepresentation of science.

What was destroyed — by the discovery of the Weismann barrier and not by this rather frivolous experiment — was the idea of inheritance of acquired characteristics. Lamarck’s reputation is irrelevant to everyone except historians of science…….

…..And irrelevant to all those except anyone who wants to say that it was only Lamarck’s “reputation” that was destroyed by vindictive dogmatic scientists, and not his ideas.

One reason some scientists are taking another look at Lamarck is that evolutionists are reminding us of the invaluable role cooperation plays in sustaining life in the biosphere.

Factual error.

As shown in the previous post, there is nothing “cooperative” about Lamarckism.

Scientists have long noted symbiotic relationships in nature. In Darwin’s Blind Spot [Ryan 2002, page 16], British physician Frank Ryan chronicles a number of such relationships, including a yellow shrimp that gathers food while its partner gobi fish protects it from predators, and a species of hermit crab that carries a pink anemone on top of its shell. “Fish and octopuses like to feed on hermit crabs, but when they approach this species, the anemone shoots out its brilliantly colored tentacles, with their microscopic batteries of poisoned darts, and sting the potential predator, encouraging it to look elsewhere for its meal.” The warrior anemone gets something out of the relationship as well because it eats the crab’s leftover food.

Well and good, but that is routine co-evolution of the kind Darwin himself described in 1859. This is classical Darwinian evolution and clearly has nothing whatsoever to do with Lamarck.

And as biologist Mark Ridley points out in his review of Ryan’s book, “Both symbiotic evolution and nonsymbiotic evolution depend on [Darwinian!] natural selection.” Ridley points out that half of Ryan’s thesis is non-controversial and accords with modern evolutionary theory, and the half spuriously imagines opposition from “Darwinians”.

But today’s understanding of cooperation in nature goes much deeper than the easily observable ones. “Biologists are becoming increasingly aware that animals have coevolved, and continue to coexist, with diverse assemblages of microorganisms that are required for normal health and development,” according to a recent article in Science called “We Get By With A Little Help From Our (Little) Friends.” [Ruby, et al, 2004] The study of these relationships is now a rapidly growing field called “Systems Biology.”

Yup. Non-controversial textbook ‘Darwinian’ stuff, unrelated to Lamarck.

Ironically, in recent decades, we have been taught to wage war against microorganisms with everything from anti-bacterial soap to antibiotics. But that simplistic message ignores the fact that many bacteria are essential to our health. The classic example of how humans get help from microorganisms is the bacteria in our digestive system, which are essential to our survival. Tire bacteria in our stomach and intestinal tract help digest food and also enable the absorption of life-sustaining vitamins. This microbe-human cooperation is the reason that the rampant use of antibiotics is detrimental to our survival. Antibiotics are indiscriminate killers; they kill bacteria that are required for our survival as efficiently as they kill harmful bacteria.

What???? Hello????

What has this got to do with Lamarck and the Weismann barrier?

Recent advances in genome science have revealed an additional mechanism of cooperation among species. Living organisms, it turns out, actually integrate their cellular communities by sharing their genes. It had been thought that genes are passed on only to the progeny of an individual organism through reproduction. Now scientists realize that genes are shared not only among the individual members of a species, but also among members of different species.

Please note, this is all about microorganisms and not about giraffes. Or mice. Or humans. Giraffes, mice and humans do not and cannot exchange genes with one another! Forget the Weismann barrier — this would involve crossing the species barrier, as well as some legal barriers. This seems to have escaped Lipton’s attention.

The sharing of genetic information via gene transfer speeds up evolution since organisms can acquire “learned” experiences from other organisms. [Nitz, et al, 2004; Pennisi 2004; Boucher, et al, 2003; Dutta and Pan, 2002; Gogarten 2003]

Amidst all of this tumult spanning centuries, giraffes, mice, microbes, co-evolution, antibiotics and August Weismann, have Lipton’s readers noticed that Lipton has not even tried to demonstrate how “learned experiences” get transferred to DNA?

And, incidentally, the first paper cited, Nitz, et al, has been retracted as it seems to have misrepresented its findings. The others are highly technical works on microbes. Why is he listing these in the body of a popular work for a lay audience who are completely unfamiliar to the subject? He wouldn’t be trying to impress them with his learning, would he? Or implying that the papers cited support his irrelevant assertions?

Given this sharing of genes, organisms can no longer be seen as disconnected entities; there is no wall between species. Daniel Drell, manager of the Department of Energy’s microbial genome program told Science in (2001 294:1634): “…we can no longer comfortably say what is a species anymore.” [Pennisi 2001]

Again, this is about microbes. Even non-biologists are right to note at this point that microbes have strikingly different anatomies and ways of reproduction from humans and giraffes and mice. Therefore, their evolution will also be strikingly different.

This sharing of information is not an accident.

Sudden switch of language. Lipton has stopped using clear and careful scientific terms and switched to the colloquial again.

It is nature’s method of enhancing the survival of the biosphere.

Lipton has now stepped right back from his teleprompter and is riffing again. After using seven citations to hammer home an obscure and so far utterly irrelevant fact about microbes, Lipton suddenly blurts out that “nature” engages in long term planning.

And then he drops the subject completely and switches to this:

As discussed earlier, genes are physical memories of an organism’s learned experiences.

Factual error.

Genes are no such thing, and Lipton has not even tried to argue that they are, beyond asserting it. Each cell (except red blood cells and gametes) have a complete copy of an organism’s genome. Alterations to switches for DNA (and other highly complex stuff) are recorded locally and not passed to cells in areas which don’t need to record these them. And even if they did, the Weismann barrier would stop the changes from being passed on to off spring.

In any case, let us simply note here that Lipton is claiming that an organism’s “experiences” alter its DNA. This remains — despite a few dozen references to highly technical papers way over the heads of his readers — a blank, unsupported, unargued, unreasoned, assertion.

He claims to have climbed over the Weismann barrier, without even telling his readers of its existence, let alone explaining how he did it.

Part 7 is here.

Posted by Yakaru

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Bruce Lipton’s ‘Biology of Belief’ – Annotated with facts: Part 5 (Lipton & Lamarck vs Darwin)

September 20, 2017

The only people who attack Darwin today are those who understand neither Darwin, nor evolution, nor how science works. For anyone living after about 1920, there is no point in doing it whatsoever. It’s like claiming that modern aerodynamic theory is wrong, and beginning by attacking Orville and Wilbur Wright.

Had there been no Darwin, evolution would still have been discovered and the theory of it would be more or less exactly what it is today.

Anyway, we are about to see Lipton argue that Darwin got evolution wrong. But Lipton doesn’t tell his readers what evolution is — and maybe that’s good, because he doesn’t know what it is himself. Nor does he know the history of the science before or after Darwin, and leads his readers astray. So we need to clear a few things up before proceeding.

It was already clear to scientists before Darwin that some kind of evolution, or transmutation of species, occurred somehow. Comparative anatomy revealed similarities between species that clearly could not have arisen by chance. But scientists didn’t know how such transformations could arise.

Comparison of the skeleton of humans and birds in Pierre Belon’s Natural History of Birds, 1555. (Source)

Uniquely, Darwin (in 1859) proposed a combination of two elements:

(a) natural selection, which acts upon

(b) variable (and heritable) characteristics within a population.

By selecting certain variants better suited to survival and/or reproduction, nature essentially does the same thing as a farmer, who chooses stock for breeding. Darwin was fairly certain he was right about natural selection; and that the selected traits must be heritable. But he didn’t know how new variable traits could arise in the first place.

Today, biologists bluntly state that variation is pretty much exclusively the result of genetic mutation. But this was of course unknown in Darwin’s time. New variants could, hypothetically, arise in so many ways, and Darwin lacked the conclusive evidence for evolution that we have today.

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck had supposed 50 years prior to Darwin’s Origin that evolution occurred through the inheritance of ‘acquired characteristics’. So, according to Lamarck, a short-necked giraffe-like creature that stretches its neck will pass on its elongated neck to its offspring, until, some generations later, we get a bona fide giraffe.

Darwin, ever cautious about his claims, even conceded in the sixth edition of the Origin, that such Lamarckian inheritance might indeed occur.

In any case, while natural selection became widely accepted in the decades after Darwin’s death, the cause of variation was still unclear.

Eventually, August Weismann developed idea at the end of the 19th century that clarified the matter. Weismann noticed that the reproductive sex cells (gametes) develop very early in the embryo and are separated off from the cells of the rest of the body (somatic cells). Thus, while somatic cells may eventually come to embody “new” characteristics like larger muscles, the genetic material in sex cells remains stable (bar some shuffling) and do not pass on such new characteristics to offspring. This was the end of Lamarckism.

(We can preempt an objection here: it has recently been discovered that sensitivity to stress (an acquired characteristic) can indeed be passed on “epigenetically” (i.e. not via alterations in DNA sequence) in a few species under certain conditions. This effect disappears after a generation or two, and therefore likewise cannot play any role in evolution. It makes an interesting footnote, perhaps, to the Central Dogma, but that’s all.)

Most importantly for our purposes, however, is that right or wrong, Lipton hasn’t really understood the implications of Lamarck’s ideas. He believes Lamarckian evolution would somehow be “less aggressive” than Darwinian evolution. But inheriting acquired characteristics would clearly lead even more swiftly to the development of even more aggressive and ruthless traits in predators.

Great White Shark (Source)

And even if acquired characteristics could be inherited, Darwinian natural selection would still inevitably act upon the various forms. Indeed it would cull those who had inherited detrimental characteristics. Sick or wounded parents would pass on their wounds and and illnesses to their offspring, who would of course be disadvantaged from the start and be culled far more swiftly without ever knowing what it is like to have a sound body and the chance to run away. The iniquity of the fathers would be visited upon subsequent generations. Life under Lamarckian evolution would be even more nasty brutish and short than it is now. Some acquired characteristics suck. I don’t know why modern fans of Lamarck don’t realize this.

Lamarckian evolution would, however, be far easier to observe and test, than real evolution is. So if it were indeed true, evidence for it would be accessible in the space of one generation…. One fruit fly generation. So where is Lipton’s evidence? We shall see….

When we left Lipton, he was misquoting Darwin. He continues:

Couple that with Darwin’s notion that evolution is random…

Factual error.

Darwin said the exact opposite. That was the whole point of it. Natural selection involves, um, selection, which by definition is not random. It is only genetic mutation that is random. (How can a biologist get that wrong?)

…and you have a world, as poetically described by Tennyson that can be characterized as “red in tooth and claw,” a series of meaningless, bloody battles for survival.

And just what does Lipton think nature is like? Nearly every animal in the wild dies a horrible death. The ones who get shot by a hunter are probably the lucky ones. They don’t starve or freeze or get burned alive in a forest fire, or eaten by their own parent, or contract some horrible disease, or fall in a hole, or get their foot stuck in something and never get free…..

That would all still happen whether there is evolution or not. It has nothing at all to do with Darwin. All Darwin did was manage to make some sense of all this misery.

Evolution Without the Bloody Claws

This is stupid. Is Lipton trying to say that evolution does not really involve bloodshed? So, lions don’t eat gazelles?

Though Darwin is by far the most famous evolutionist, the first scientist to establish evolution as a scientific fact was the distinguished French biologist Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck. [Lamarck 1809, 1914, 1963]

Factual error.

Lamarck did not establish evolution as a fact. He got heredity wrong, and missed out natural selection completely.

Even Ernst Mayr, the leading architect of “neo Darwinism,” a modernization of Darwin’s theory that incorporates twentieth-century molecular genetics…..

Correct statement! That’s what Mayr did!

…..concedes that Lamarck was the pioneer.

Factual error.

Mayr said no such thing. See below.

In his classic 1970 book Evolution and the Diversity of Life, [Mayr 1976, page 227] Mayr wrote: “It seems to me Lamarck has a much better claim to be designated the ‘founder of the theory of evolution, as indeed he has by several French historians… he was the first author to devote an entire book primarily to the presentation of a theory of organic evolution. He was the first to present the entire system of animals as a product of evolution.”

The book is correctly cited, and the quotation is correctly reproduced, but Mayr is talking about something totally different — the pre-Darwinian history of the idea of evolution. He was not “conceding” that Lamarck’s ideas supersede those of Darwin or subsequent biologists in any way at all.

Mayr in fact called the previously mentioned August Weismann (and not Lamarck) the “second most notable evolutionary theorist of the 19th century”, so Lipton’s appeal to Mayr’s authority has failed here.

Not only did Lamarck present his theory fifty years before Darwin, he offered a much less harsh theory of the mechanisms of evolution.

Erroneous.

As argued above, a Lamarckian shark would be even more of a killing machine than it already is, if it could inherit the finely developed musculature of its parents.

Lamarck’s theory suggested that evolution was based on an “instructive,” cooperative interaction among organisms and their environment that enables life forms to survive and evolve in a dynamic world….

Factual error.

Lipton needlessly introduces another technical term, an extremely obscure and abstract one, (instructive), without explanation, and then gets it wrong. (You can get an idea of its usage from here. Note that it is merely one descriptive model for one aspect of evolution in the immune system– not at the giraffe level.) Instructive evolution could hypothetically be Lamarckian, but it is not cooperative. A giraffe that stretches its neck to eat high leaves is not cooperating with the trees, but trying to eat them! Nor is it cooperating with other giraffes who can’t reach the leaves, but rather competing with them, in a bitter — and very Darwinian — struggle for survival.

Lipton has missed this aspect of Lamarckism completely.

Interestingly, Lamarck’s hypothesis about the mechanisms of evolution conform to modern cell biologists’ understanding of how immune systems adapt to their environment as described above.

Factual error.

The immune system is not an example of Lamarckian evolution, but rather neo-Darwinian evolution. (This is why it is often mentioned in text books as an example of evolution, and is even conceded as such by Creationists.) The previous link showed that “instructive” evolution is only one possible way of modeling what happens in the immune system anyway — “The same process may be ‘instructive’ from a holistic, ‘selective’ from an atomic perspective.” (This is all highly specialized. I don’t know why Lipton subjects his readers to such highly specialized abstractions for so little gain.)

According to Lipton’s version, a Lamarckian (instructive) system would have a section of DNA using an invading virus as a template to ‘instruct’ itself how to adapt — in the same metaphorical way it could be said (according to Lipton) that a giraffe is being “instructed” by the environment when it stretches its neck to reach leaves. But in the immune system a gene does not stretch itself like a giraffe stretches its neck to fit the environment; rather many DNA segments are spat out as random variables which are selected from, in a quintessentially Darwinian manner.

Or, as one cell biologist puts it:

“By randomly [i.e. not “instructively” or cooperatively, or Lamarckianly] assembling and recombining these DNA segments, immune cells create a vast array of different genes…”

That is Lipton’s own description of this process, quoted in the previous post!

So, did I get him? Is this all over?

Part 6 is here.

Posted by Yakaru